Monday, October 06, 2014

More on the "innovation depends on inequality" debate

I’d like to follow on a bit on my post Sept. 30, particularly on my “aloofness” (or "schizoid personality" or "hyperindividualism") issue, as well as the debate over the nexus between innovation and inequality.  
I have a general perspective that there is more that can be done for people with medical needs, to extend their lives, even within a family, than there was decades ago when I was growing up.  Sometimes the efficacy of treatment depends on the willingness of other people (in and outside of a family) to sacrifice to support it.  Despite all the moral teachings in Sunday school when I was growing up, there wasn’t much said about this earlier in my life.  When someone’s “time was up”, he or she accepted it and didn’t expect more, because less could be done.
Likewise, much more can be done for the disabled, in all areas of life, whether injured in war or by crime, or born with disability, or having childhood cancers – than was thinkable when I was growing up.  But this capability would depend on the emotional support of those around the person.   In a “democratic” society, this seems critical to valuing human life (even more than does the “debate” over abortion).  
The media also sells the idea of “paying it forward”, and with self-giving generosity that generally wasn’t promoted as much in decades past.  Consider programs like “CNN Heroes”.   This seems like a paradox, given that there is so much gratuitous self-promotion and aggressive behavior on the Internet at the same time.
Even so, a lot of gender conformity was coerced when I was growing up, particularly the idea that men could “protect” women and children (the biological future) of a family or tribe.   Compared to today, the pressure was more related to competition and performance (leading naturally to “personal accomplishment”, as in sports especially) than now, when it has become more hands-on.  The greatest effects on me were early in life, and then toward the end, and less so in the middle, when I performed as a single working adult.  As “gay equality” progressed, in marriage and also the military areas, as I had written, new pressures, some of them unwelcome, came upon me directly and indirectly because of eldercare.  This puts aside the usual arguments about “personal responsibility” as connected to having (or not having) children.  My life became U-shaped.
It’s useful to look at instances where one has felt coercion from others, directly or not, whether from family, the culture, the law, or even outright enemies, even overseas.   The “common good” sometimes really has a big impact on what we can do with our lives, at least those of us who can’t compete with John Galt.  Certain kinds of “threats” do indeed trigger a “chain of logic” that is quite troubling, and that transcends any immediate situation.  This “chain” may have been more noted when I was a patient at NIH (and perhaps earlier at William and Mary) than other later times, particularly when I was in the Army, until perhaps more recently, post 9/11. 
It’s critical in a “liberal” society that life partners (usually, marital) can remain not only faithful but even interested and passionate after hardship, especially when that occurs from enemy or criminal hostility, as well as plain bad luck.  It’s important that people be able to find partners in the first place.  That means it’s important that others can step up, sometimes even in personal ways, when confronted suddenly by the challenges of others (Biblical “neighbors”) in perhaps unexpected circumstances.  Call this the ‘radical hospitality” issue, perhaps, but also delves into the emotions.
 When I displayed an unwavering interest in “upward affiliation” (George Gilder’s term), and the surrounding community lets this remain OK, there is an implied message that those who have stumbled (and become unappealing as a result) are disposable.   That is what seems so intolerable – we fought WWII over this, and then quickly forgot what our “victory” could mean in personal terms.   Consider, then the meaning of violence, when it is conducted as a kind of “warfare”.  It plays out differently in religious (radical Islamist) and far-Left-wing scenarios (Maoist-Communist) but to me any threat becomes very personal and an existential challenge – particularly regarding my own “karma” (inheritance, family, “did I get a break”, the way I met the draft, etc).    I cannot contemplate the idea of being remembered as a “victim” of anything, given my own life; a “casualty”, perhaps becomes an appropriate word.  I don’t offer “emotion” in the context of complementarity or jump into the “virtuous circle” that makes a permanent marriage possible, so I cannot accept it.  

There is a disturbing reflection of fundamentalism in my own thinking, where I don't see interaction with someone as "worthy" unless the person displays what I perceive as "virtue" (which can be fragile and subject to chance).  And it tends to place me in the position of expected readiness to become somone else's "backup", until I have more standing myself (in direct responsibility for dependent others).  It tends to turn normal libertarian ideas of personal responsibility on their own edges. I am also on a "coin edge" in another sense: it seems as though I am challenged, not so much to turn the other cheek, but to "pay backward" to others a break that I got as someone whose abilities lived in a twilight zone. Even here, there is another disturbing notion, "well-ordering", simply a consequence of mathematics: given any two individuals, I see one as "in front of" the other, as necessary from logic. This "rigid" style of thinking, a concern of therapists in the past, seems necessary for everything to "work" and for even personal mental or psychic pleasure to become possible. The "natural family" has been proposed by some social conservatives as a way to give everyone his own "value" to others in close proximity, but, again, that implies some authoritarianism. 

I do have a pet term for the "psychological defense" that someone "on the continental divide" like me uses, "fighting with your fingernails."  It's understandable and seems to gain recognition for "being different".  But it is left as OK, then the social context for some other people, probably less fortunate, becomes even more compromised and they have less incentive to fit into society than did the "divergent" like me.  
As for the Afterlife – I’ve talked about it.  Physics tells me that it must exist – once established, an element of consciousness and freewill can’t be destroyed (thermodymamcs).  But the conventional idea of Heaven (and Hell and Purgatory) doesn’t make a lot of sense to me.  I won’t be in a position to benefit from it, regardless, because, as an only child, I didn’t extend the family.   Someone who dies as a child (Mahler’s “Kindertotenlieder”) could not experience “eternal life” appropriately without another opportunity to become an adult.   So reincarnation has to make sense, even if most of us are on our first journey.  Teenagers coming of age today may one day learn that other planets are populated with people whose first chance was here.   The Law of Karma really does work – but at a Galaxy or Universe level.   Maybe there is such a thing as “a family of souls.”  

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