Edit- I have many thoughts about the dominant model of addiction used in medical treatment, rehabs and the like. The disease model, which is basically my conclusion in this piece, might itself be diseased.

That is what I intuited while reading WSB’s work, an ‘ugly’ artform that nevertheless made an impact on me that culminated in me giving up all drugs (weed’s a plant, right?) after over a decade of recreational use that was shading into addiction and stints in rehab. Now I’d like to put up some of the writing of WSB Jr. whose criminally underrated work is an interesting departure from his father’s paranoid style; a more lyrical account of a hard life ( tougher than mine surely) filled with drugs.

I am not a social conservative, but I respect a writer like Russell Kirk for examining the poems of Baudelaire next to Burke’s foundational writings in his history of conservatism. This is an example of a critique, within a larger article I can’t agree with. It is titled “Should we be threatening cocaine addicts with execution?” ( the answer is somewhat unclear, since he never discusses that substance), written by a man who is often brought up in discussions of social decline, Theodore Dalrymple.

https://www.spectator.co.uk/2013/11/should-we-be-threatening-cocaine-addicts-with-execution/

William S. Burroughs, the famous American who was an even worse man than he was a writer, which is saying something, and who addicted himself to heroin, wrote in his first book Junk, later retitled Junkie, how addicts called the doctors who prescribed their drugs ‘writing fools’, who willingly believed that their patients were unable to stop.

It is more than a little dismaying how easily social conservatives fall into an authoritarian position they would be horrified to see in themselves on any question other than the scourge of addictive drugs. The statesmen and thinkers associated with the founding of modern conservatism continually returned to the reality of evil, and the limitation of human institutions before its existence in this world, in us. No government can do anything about this. It is a part of conservatism that I believe in (while disagreeing with many of the conclusions reached), but is one denied by most of the movement’s voices. Dalrymple seeks to affirm this and ends by proposing state action of immense scope. Perhaps recognizing the inability of the statesman to change the existence of evil is beyond the reach of any political thinker today.

The Gnostic vision in W.S.B.’s strange and unsettling books finds a metaphysic of junk, which he identifies with evil and sin itself. This is especially present in those passages that foreshadow his nightmare visions in his later work; particularly those where he notes the ability of dope to linger as a feeling in the areas it has blighted (” If junk were gone from the earth, there might still be junkies standing around in junk neighborhoods feeling the lack, vague and persistent, a pale ghost of junk sickness.”) But the Gnostic idea of addiction as the totality of life’s pursuits takes a condition that reduces its sufferer to near absolute imprisonment in the material world as an all encompassing theodicy. Addiction as an explanation and a metaphor for all of life’s myriad activities (cuisine, sex, art and politics) is overdone, and the right criticism of Burroughs’ non-fictional ideas should begin here.

As for Dalrymple’s condemnation of the author with his work, this assumes that the best writing must come from the best character. This is a delusion. Burroughs is among the most disturbing and insightful writers. His later stories of rebellion against homoerotic insects and time travel are a response to his earlier studies of chemical degradation. This most disgusting and insightful writer starts from the bottom of the world, and wades into the gilded pool of Tiberius without hesitation. The place where the blood from the opened veins of noblewomen lingers on the legs of the Imperator-Who-Disdains-the-Title’s toy boys , the Emperor watching the executed fall to the rocks from his dreadful seclusion. The man who is most visible is often the most alone, and while condemned by society the writer shares neither the praise nor infamy of history’s passions. Society’s outrage is a wildfire that exhausts itself on shallow fuel. The true writer observes Caesar’s expression as the condemned are thrown to the hooks below– is he sweating profusely or serenely placid? History demands the description to the minutest detail. Morality only enters into the work as a color to the palette.

And…in this book there is evidence of what, at least in the case of heroin addiction, is obviously the case, namely that withdrawal symptoms from heroin are much more (though not entirely) psychological rather than physical. Burroughs describes how he is relieved instantaneously by drugs that can have had little physiological effect upon his symptoms.

Presumably in the last sentence Dalrymple means the effects of minor tranquilizers, marijuana and improvised opiate substitutes on the withdrawing addict. That he came to this conclusion without the slightest nod to any accounts of how these additional substances relieve the rictus frenzy of withdrawal (much less scientific data, where it is most warranted ) makes all of his following claims questionable at the least.

The notion of addiction as illness cannot possibly explain why, in the 1950s, there were at most a couple of hundred heroin addicts in this country (the UK) , and why now there are perhaps 250,000 of them, 150,000 of them injecting.

Epidemiological studies that chart the spread of the drug and comparing it to other pathogens would be a good start. I’m no scientist, but neither is Dalrymple. The data models used to “prove” this or that notion about the political psychology of social media users might have their proper domain in this area. I’m uncertain; Dalrymple could have investigated this further, but it would require him to add practical rigor to an exercise in moralistic literary criticism.

Pay it all back

Substance addiction induces a creeping isolation beyond the hostility it generates in the presently non-addicted. Addiction is a vaporous Red Death lurking in the shadows around the pit of the world. The slow sink into a cellular vegetative state, the brain all alight like an antique pinball machine, is a grotesque parody of art; “(that) which destroys action”.

The dreadful triumph of frigid vegetative states is also the parody of a renunciate’s solitude, the flesh becoming a locked music box. Dalrymple betrays his contempt for the scruples of any traditional faith when he launches his jeremiads against the addict; any worthy tradition will deal with the reality that life either contains, or is suffering– if you are not suffering presently or buying it off with the introduction of sensuous pleasures, you are not alive in any conventional sense of the word.

Once past his sensationalism about Mao’s drug “treatments”, he makes his strongest claim.

“If you examine the lives of impoverished heroin addicts, for example, you find that their existences are not helpless oscillations between desperately searching for a vein in which to inject themselves to avoid the pains of withdrawal on the one hand and the bliss of the oceanic feeling that comes with injecting heroin on the other. Heroin addicts are very busy people, what with obtaining their drugs from dealers and finding the means to pay for them. (Incidentally, criminality is much more a cause of heroin addiction than vice versa.)”

The fact that the “bliss” is short-lived once addiction sets in (and as Burroughs points out again and again, the euphoric action of dope is not of all-importance to the addict until addiction is reached, and then the diabolical logic of the substance takes hold) is ignored by Dalrymple, while it is commonplace in most drug outreach efforts today. The usual charges against addicts rarely coincide with reality– the ability to commit outrageous acts is near “bled-out” in the confirmed addict. The high is inseparable from the torments of withdrawal, when furtive thievery requires an almost heroic effort.

This is one of Burroughs’ early insights. Dalrymple has taken this much into his claims. But his refusal to look into the depths and unite his literary mind to them is his flaw as a thinker. And his claim about the blood-thirst of a tyrant shining insights into addiction betrays the palpable horror of a man face to face with relentless dis-ease.

11 Comments

  1. That is a detailed piece of writing. I share these topics of interest, from Burroughs to addiction. I also have some fondness for certain kinds of conservatives, an example being John Gray:

    https://benjamindavidsteele.wordpress.com/2015/05/31/cranky-conservatives-and-hypocritical-liberals/

    But Gray probably wouldn’t identify as a conservative. He is one of those idiosyncratic thinkers who would buck against labels being placed upon him. Let me respond to your post:

    “It is more than a little dismaying how easily social conservatives fall into an authoritarian position they would be horrified to see in themselves on any question other than the scourge of addictive drugs.”

    It’s less surprising when you look at the historical development of ideologies. There has always been a powerful authoritarian streak within conservatism that goes far beyond the position on addictive drugs. Conservatism originated as a counter-enlightenment backlash in defense of rigid hierarchy. This is the reactionary mind that Corey Robin writes about. Hayek is a great example of how easily the reactionary mind takes an authoritarian turn, an example of which Robin has often written. I’ve written about this issue or rather set of issues and here are a few posts that seem relevant, especially the last one which I know you’ve already seen.

    https://benjamindavidsteele.wordpress.com/2013/06/25/the-hayek-pinochet-connection-a-second-reply-to-my-critics/
    https://benjamindavidsteele.wordpress.com/2016/10/02/the-road-to-neoliberalism/
    https://benjamindavidsteele.wordpress.com/2015/10/01/the-moral-imagination-of-fear/
    https://benjamindavidsteele.wordpress.com/2017/09/30/the-many-stolen-labels-of-the-reactionary-mind/
    https://benjamindavidsteele.wordpress.com/2017/11/20/the-fantasy-of-creative-destruction/
    https://benjamindavidsteele.wordpress.com/2017/01/30/imagination-moral-dark-and-radical/

    I might note there is something specific that shifts the conservative from mere reactionary to overt authoritarianism. It has to do with boredom. Conservatives live to struggle and fight for it creates a sense of meaning and purpose. They need a worthy enemy who offers a sense of existential threat to inspire what they perceive as greatness. This is why they have no patience with anti-authoritarian democratic process, what they think of as boring bureaucracy. They want a ruling elite, sometimes justified as a paternalistic meritocracy or enlightened aristocracy, that will heroically take control and make the decisions. They aren’t against technocracy, as long as the technocrats fit conservative ideals and agendas such as business spokesmen like Reagan, business heirs like the Bushes, and businessmen like Trump — it being assumed that the business world guarantees personal merit and practical know-how for leadership. As such, conservatism easily slips toward authoritarianism, when the right authority figure is put into power.

    Still, conservatism isn’t exactly the same as authoritarianism. They diverge in certain ways, but where they specifically converge is on social conservatism. What is common to all authoritarian societies, from Nazi Germany to Stalinist Soviet Union, is a socially conservative mistrust and antagonism toward civil rights advocates, populist organizers, radical intellectuals, independent artists, sexual deviants, minority groups, etc. As soon as Stalinists and Nazis came to power in their respective countries, among the first to be oppressed, imprisoned, tortured, and killed were anarchists, Marxists, socialists, and labor organizers along with homosexuals or anyone else deemed a threat to the new sociopolitical order. There are certain conditions that draw closer together conservatism and authoritarianism, that is when social conservatism becomes a central factor in a society as it has in the US. Social science research has shown an increasing presence of authoritarianism among American conservatives. The opposite is found in present Russia where the political right, because of former communist rule, has been more defined by fiscal conservatism.

    It should be noted that authoritarians ultimately don’t care about ideology taken on its own terms. That is also found with the reactionary mind. There is a long tradition of conservatives denying they have an ideology. Only liberals and leftists have ideologies. This anti-ideology ideology has been clearly articulated at least since the Southern conservatives before the Civil War who were always going on about the danger of Northern -isms: abolitionism, suffragism, etc. That is what makes social conservatism so important because it isn’t about abstract ideology but about concrete social order, whereas fiscal conservatism is much more straightforwardly ideological in the conventional sense such as the battle of ideas during the Cold War.

    “But the Gnostic idea of addiction as the totality of life’s pursuits takes a condition that reduces its sufferer to near absolute imprisonment in the material world as an all encompassing theodicy. Addiction as an explanation and a metaphor for all of life’s myriad activities (cuisine, sex, art and politics) is overdone, and the right criticism of Burroughs’ non-fictional ideas should begin here.”

    I’d argue that Burroughs intuited something correct about the connection between addiction and power, as it manifests in social relationships and politics. This became clear to me in reading Johann Hari’s book, Chasing the Scream, in which he discusses such fascinating things as the rat park research.

    https://benjamindavidsteele.wordpress.com/2015/01/25/to-put-the-rat-back-in-the-rat-park/
    https://benjamindavidsteele.wordpress.com/2015/02/10/rationalizing-the-rat-race-imagining-the-rat-park/
    https://benjamindavidsteele.wordpress.com/2016/04/24/social-disorder-mental-disorder/
    https://benjamindavidsteele.wordpress.com/2017/09/26/another-way/

    From the last link, I sussed out how all of this links to hyper-individualism. And I then point out how this plays out in terms of authoritarian libertarianism, something that fuels the American conservative movement. Here is one small part of the post:

    “Many right-wing libertarians are in love with corporatism which was a foundation of fascism. Corporations are collective entities that are created by the public institution of government through the public system of corporate charters. A corporate charter, by government fiat, doles out special privileges and protections. Business often does well under big government, at least big business does.”

    Burroughs, of course, didn’t have the advantage of recent social science research. But speculating based on personal experience and anecdotal evidence, he seems to have gotten the gist of it correct. Addiction is about relationship. And in a high inequality society like the US, relationships are about power disparities. He did exaggerate a bit for effect since, after all, he was primarily a fiction writer. He was usually trying to tell a compelling story, although he did to some extent write about ideas in a more direct way.

    “Epidemiological studies that chart the spread of the drug and comparing it to other pathogens would be a good start. I’m no scientist, but neither is Dalrymple. The data models used to “prove” this or that notion about the political psychology of social media users might have their proper domain in this area. I’m uncertain; Dalrymple could have investigated this further, but it would require him to add practical rigor to an exercise in moralistic literary criticism.”

    The reactionary mind never lets facts get in the way of belief. This is because the reactionary mind is more at home in the fevered and fearful imagination. Facts are too mundanely boring out of which to build an impassioned faith and a zealous cause, although facts sometimes can make for nice window dressing.

    “Substance addiction induces a creeping isolation beyond the hostility it generates in the presently non-addicted.”

    Right there you are touching on Hari’s viewpoint.

    “Dalrymple betrays his contempt for the scruples of any traditional faith when he launches his jeremiads against the addict; any worthy tradition will deal with the reality that life either contains, or is suffering”

    One thing Corey Robin makes clear is that conservatism as the reactionary mind is not identical to traditionalism. Instead, the stance between the two is oppositional. Conservatism arose in response to a perceived failure of traditionalism. Conservatism sought to challenge, dismantle, and replace the ancien regime; to destroy the old rigid hierarchy in order to replace it with a new rigid hierarchy.

    Anyway, I enjoyed reading this post. It was nice being reminded of Burroughs. I hadn’t given him much thought recently.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. J. Aurelian says:

      “I’d argue that Burroughs intuited something correct about the connection between addiction and power, as it manifests in social relationships and politics. This became clear to me in reading Johann Hari’s book, Chasing the Scream, in which he discusses such fascinating things as the rat park research.”

      His images go beyond sheer grotesquery, although they definitely do that well. He’s not a writer I return to often, but he always makes a lasting impression. I’m more interested in writing posts on the fictional part of W.S.B’s worlds ( and it’s paranormal side ). As for politics, that’s a huge list of writing, but I’ll give you a more detailed response later, since many of those pieces go deeper than most political econ that shows up in my feeds. I’m moving closer to Georgism than anything else;

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      1. I’ve only ever been able to handle WSB in small doses. And even then what most attracts me is his voice, literally his voice in reading his own work. There is something about his voice that is stuck in my head as much as his images and ideas.

        About the links, I just threw out some stuff that might be of interest. You were covering similar territory to what I’ve been drawn to. I’m not exactly all that into politics, at least not on its own terms. But politics can be a useful way of exploring other things, as in our society so much of life becomes politicized and comes under the scrutiny of political scientists.

        I’m slightly familiar with Georgism. I’ve known about Henry George for a number of years, maybe going back to the early Bush administration or thereabouts. But I’ve never studied the topic in great detail.

        The main attraction of his thought is how it is an extension of Thomas Paine’s argument to tax land for the public good, since land is the ultimate arena of public life. All land was public, as Paine noted, before it was privatized. As we couldn’t return to the lifestyle of natives with large populations, Paine concluded that continuously taxing ‘privatized’ land was the next best thing, something like a ground rent in perpetuity.

        The reality is land never stops being public, even if one person temporarily uses it during his lifetime. WSB had similar, if more radical, thoughts about anarchism and temporary autonomous zones. What makes WSB unique is how he saw this as so far beyond mere economics and politics. For him, it was a spiritual vision as an antidote to counter the mind viruses that infected us, even though in the end he felt his attempt was a failure.

        BTW that is one of my favorite aspects of WSB’s strange worldview. He has such interesting things to say (and interesting ways of saying them) about mind viruses and the insidious power of language. These ideas can be seen as one of the precursors to memetics. And the gnostic quality of his take on things resonates for me, that being same allure of PKD’s epistemological anti-authoritarianism. I don’t as often talk about that side of the equation, but it is always there in the background.

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  2. I just came across a quote that made me think of this post. It’s by Hannah Arendt, from The Origins of Totalitarianism:

    “Just as terror, even in its pre-total, merely tyrannical form ruins all relationships between men, so the self-compulsion of ideological thinking ruins all relationship with reality. The preparation has succeeded when people have contact with their fellow men as well as the reality around them; for together with these contacts, men lose the capacity of both experience and thought. The ideal subject of totalitarian rule is not the convinced Nazi or the convinced Communist, but people for whom the distinction between fact and fiction (i.e., the reality of experience) and the distinction between true and false (i.e., the standards of thought) no longer exist.”

    I don’t know that WSB ever read Arendt, but that touches on similar themes of his work. It specifically reminds me of the link between politics, relationship (or rather lack thereof), and addiction. Also, it would fit in with the issues of a disconnection with reality and the power of ideology as an all-consuming worldview (such as communist realism and capitalist realism where alternatives are unimaginable).

    Arendt’s words describe the soul-deadness not just of a German Nazi or Soviet Communist but also of the drug addict and middle class suburbanite. The oppression of people, of course, involves oppression of the mind. And I’d argue that freedom can only be known in relationship. All else is cutting our souls down to fit a shrunken world.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. There was an interesting detail I just now remembered about Russel Kirk. It shows the difference between Kirk’s moderate, independent-minded conservatism and the reactionary, fear-mongering right-wing. If Kirk were around today, he would be denounced by the right and might feel more at home on the left or at least in the Democratic Party (I’d argue that the Democrats are now the conservative party, as the Republicans are now the right-wing party).

    http://www.theamericanconservative.com/articles/russell-kirks-conundrum-how-does-a-traditionalist-vote/

    “Faced with the non-choice between Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Thomas Dewey in 1944, Kirk said no to empire and voted for Norman Thomas, the Socialist Party candidate. There was no Fox News to tell him a conservative couldn’t do that.

    “For all that Kirk didn’t like libertarians — “chirping sectaries,” he called them — if he were in search of a peace candidate today he might well consider the Libertarian Party’s Gary Johnson. Or, closer to Norman Thomas, the Green Party’s Jill Stein.”

    Liked by 1 person

    1. J. Aurelian says:

      People like him grab my attention as voicing a form of Christian traditionalism that is far different from what I encountered as a kid in a fairly right wing environment. It seems like on the American right there are the remnant ideas of traditional conservatives, liberal capitalist interests, anti-liberal capitalists, and the tensions among all of them. Of course I have to keep in mind that Kirk started writing before the Civil Rights era and the fall of Communism. Since American vocabulary is heavily politicized by left and right I need it even to discuss things that aren’t political. The social science research might have something to say about that, but it’s not an area I’m well versed in .

      The modern Western world is so strange that nearly all of us have the opportunity to indulge in Nero-esque escapes into unreality at least some of the time, while young people are regimented more than ever and the corporate elite rot from the inside in an intellectual sense. It does my head in, but if I write anything that depicts modern life or an extrapolation I want to avoid cliche. I’m interested in writers who look at economies and technologies as idea driven processes that use us as much as we make use of them; I’m thinking of Kafka and Borges here.

      Like

      1. I’m the same way. It has nothing to do with agreeing with him. I’d surely disagree with him about many issues such as on drug policy. I’m not a social conservative nor a religious traditionalist.

        But I do find his attitude of value. I read about his putting moral character before political ideology, supposedly playing a role in why he could vote for a socialist (even as late as 1976, he voted for Eugene McCarthy, a progressive reformist candidate far to the left of Bernie Sanders). That is fascinating coming from a guy who is the godfather of modern American conservatism. It is hard to imagine many conservatives like that today.

        I understand some of what has changed. In the early 20th century, the main bogeyman for Americans was fascism and not communism. It was not only before the fall of communism. That 1944 election was during WWII when the Soviets were our allies, a war that Kirk served in. Interestingly, even though he left behind his early inclinations toward libertarianism, he remained anti-imperialist and anti-militarist. He criticized the use of atomic bombs dropped on the Japanese.

        This expressed a genuine sense of prudence, something that we no longer associate with conservatism. We forget that social conservatism wasn’t always aligned with what we now call fiscal conservatism. And related to Corey Robin, that is probably because of a misunderstanding of the reactionary mind, defined as it is by what it is reacting to. That involves the Burkean moral imagination, an inspiration for Kirk.

        Kirk, as a stalwart conservative, in many ways comes across as more liberal than many mainstream liberals today. Such labels are always relative. And maybe, as I argue, there never really is an absolute differentiation between what exists within the same dominant paradigm.

        About your last comment, what do you consider to be the cliches you wish to avoid?

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    2. I noticed you added something to the end of your comment.

      “I’m interested in writers who look at economies and technologies as idea driven processes that use us as much as we make use of them; I’m thinking of Kafka and Borges here.”

      I’m not entirely sure what you mean by that. But maybe it’s related to my interest in thinkers like Julian Jaynes and theories such as memetics. I haven’t thought about Borges much, as it has been a long time since I read him. I’m more interested in Kafka and a while back came across the idea of ‘gesture’:

      https://benjamindavidsteele.wordpress.com/2014/11/02/language-and-knowledge-parable-and-gesture/
      https://benjamindavidsteele.wordpress.com/2014/11/02/the-gesture-of-tank-man/

      Before I read about that, I hadn’t thought about Kafka in a larger context. But Giorgio Agamben, by way of Anke Snoek, helped me see Kafka differently. In the book Agamben’s Joyful Kafka, there is some useful perspective also on Kafka’s study of law.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. J. Aurelian says:

        I think it’s interesting to contrast Terence McKenna’s thoughts on a possible bi-cameral past with Jaynes’. Jaynes thought that this past was a time of puppet like automatism on the part of humanity. But McKenna seemed to view this past in a positive way, as something we would parallel in our own way in his more optimistic thoughts about the future.

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      2. It’s easy to be confused by Jaynes’ theory, the understanding of which I’ve struggled with for many years. The bicameral mind is almost unimaginable for us moderns obsessed with ego-minded consciousness and individuality. And even an intellectual comprehension doesn’t bring us much closer to a visceral and intuitive groking of what the bicameral mind might have been like, the psychological and societal reality of it as an all-encompassing worldview.

        McKenna, of course, wasn’t lacking in imagination and he did take bicameralism seriously. From my perspective, I see no inherent conflict between Jaynes and McKenna, quite the opposite. Certainly, McKenna in speaking about Jaynes never mentioned any disagreement, as far as I know, even as he did complain about the omission of psychedelics in Jaynes’ work (then again, it’s possible Jaynes discussed psychedelics in one of his numerous interviews; there is a new book of his interviews that I haven’t yet procured and read).

        A bicameral human wasn’t any more a puppet of the gods any more than a hand, eyeball, or brain is a puppet of the body. It’s simply that, if true, bicameral humans didn’t think of themselves as separate in the first place. They had a much more intimate experience of reality, society, and the divine. They weren’t outside of the perceived larger forces. But they also had a more pluralistic experience, even within their own bodies, such that they would refer to body parts as having their own minds. So, in a sense, the bicameral mind (lacking the authoritarian self-control of the ego-mind) allowed even more freedom for any given body-mind part or at least a different kind of freedom.

        Jaynes never saw the bicameral as negative, even as it is understandable that most modern Westerners would see it that way. These were actually amazing and impressive societies. Their having collapsed may have had more to do with arbitrary contingencies of history and environment, not implying their inferiority in any way. Different conditions could have led them to be far greater civilizations than our own. They weren’t inevitably stagnant and doomed. That is where McKenna is useful, considering his focus on not only a retrieval of something that was lost but progress toward something new. I’m sure Jaynes had his own hopes for the future as well and I’ve always assumed thoughts about the future were implied in his theories about the past.

        Now a conversation between these two thinkers, that would have been an entertaining listening experience. I suspect there would have been mutual amusement between them. This could be partly remedied by more comparative discussion of such thinkers and they do occasionally get mentioned together, but not often enough. It would also be useful for other theorists to be brought into the discussion, such as the role psychedelics have played in shamanism and may have played in the origins of all religions, from the Mystery Cults to Christianity (e.g., John M. Allegro). There have been numerous recent thinkers who have picked up some of these threads.

        The problem is that psychedelic research was legally suppressed for about a half century and so our scientific understanding has been stunted. That is changing, though. More discussions of this should be seen in the near future, as it becomes more mainstream and respectable (e.g., Michael Pollan). At the same time, Jaynesian-style thought is becoming a greater force, along with related theories such as memetics and linguistic relativism. Also, recent social science research has brought ever stronger evidence in support of the bicameral theory. Many of these areas will ever more converge, whether or not any given theory holds together over time.

        http://www.julianjaynes.org/jjsforum/viewtopic.php?f=11&t=282

        http://psychedelicfrontier.com/accepting-deviant-minds-hallucinations-real-self/

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      3. I’ve long thought that WEIRD beliefs about freedom are maybe, if anything, the complete opposite of a meaningful experience of freedom. That is assuming we could ever get to a meaningful definition by which to compare and judge.

        Who is an automaton is dependent on perspective. It is maybe our obsession with autonomous individuality that makes us most prone to authoritarian tribalism and groupthink, specifically in how Jaynes connects the rise of interiorized self-consciousness (i.e., isolating ego-boundaries) with the rise of authoritarian social hierarchies.

        What if we WEIRD moderns have become enslaved to and hypnotized by the dogmatic script of individual freedom? In such a heavily scripted society such as ours, our greatest hope for freedom might simply be in our awareness of and relationship to these scripts, which on a practical level means Benjamin Libet’s veto power. This is a greater concern for Americans living as they do in the WEIRDest of WEIRD societies.

        We might not be even close to as free as we think we are. And in our distorted beliefs and perceptions, those ancient people maybe were more free in a way we can barely begin to imagine. If nothing else, this offers a useful thought experiment.

        https://www.ribbonfarm.com/2018/03/01/luxuriating-in-privacy/#comment-271360

        “Considering that, it could be argued that privacy is part of the same social order, ideological paradigm, and reality tunnel that tires us out so much in the first place. Endlessly without respite, we feel socially compelled to perform our individuality. And even in retreating into privacy, we go on performing our individuality for our own private audience, as played out on the internalized stage of self-consciousness that Jaynes writes about. That said, even though the cost is high, it leads to great benefits for society as a whole. Modern civilization wouldn’t be possible without it. The question is whether the costs outweigh the benefits and also whether the costs are sustainable or self-destructive in the long term.”

        https://benjamindavidsteele.wordpress.com/2018/05/02/westworld-scripts-and-freedom/

        “We all are born into families and societies that enculturate or, if you prefer, indoctrinate us with ‘scripts’. Many seemingly conscious people manage to live their entire lives without leaving their prescribed and proscribed narrative loops: social roles and identities, social norms and expectations. When we feel most free is precisely when we act contrary to what is already set before us, that is when we use our veto power. Freedom is the ability to say, No! This is seen in the development of self from the terrible twos to teenage rebellion. We first learn to refuse, to choose by way of elimination.”

        https://benjamindavidsteele.wordpress.com/2016/08/06/nordic-theory-of-love-and-individualism/

        “American society doesn’t create independent individuals and autonomous agents, much less self-responsible citizens. Instead, it creates dependence and even codependence based on fear and uncertainty, based on threat and punishment, and based on manipulation by those who hold power and control the fate of others.”

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