Subject: ON MEMORY, REASON AND WILL POWER, AS MENTAL CONCEPTS FULED BY FEELINGS WHICH MOSTLY ORIGINATE FROM THE EXPERIENCE OF STRONG EMOTIONS.
Dear Colleagues and Friends of CEIMSA,
Working from the evidence provided by neurologist Antonio Damasio in his original research first published in 1994 under the title, Descartes’ Error, Emotion, Reason, and the Human Brain, then further developed in his 2003 book, Looking for Spinoza, Joy, Sorrow, and the Feeling Brain, we gain insights into his theory of “the body as a theater for the emotions.”
Feelings are just as cognitive as any other perceptual image, just as dependent on the cerebral-cortex processing as any other image. . . .
Feelings let us mind the body, attentively, as during an emotional state, or faintly, as during a background state. They let us mind the body ‘live,’ when they give us perceptual images of the body, or ‘by rebroadcast,’ when they give us recalled images of the body state appropriate to certain circumstances, in ‘as if’ feelings. . . . [B]ecause of their inextricable ties to the body, they come first in development and retain a primacy that subtly pervades our metal life. Because the brain is the body’s captive audience, feelings are winners among equals. And since what comes first constitutes a frame of reference for what comes after, feelings have a say on how the rest of the brain and cognition go about their business. Their influence in immense. (1994:159-160)
Feelings, according to this theory, are ideas located in the brain (awakening other ideas, including: memory, reason, and will-power which are also located in the cerebral cortex), while emotions are brought to the brain from elsewhere, from experiences stimulating other organs, affecting electric currents in the neurons and biochemical secretions into the circulatory system. Thus, Emotionally Competent Stimuli (ECS) are at the origin of all feelings, and to a large extent govern the other thought processes within the human brain. However this is a two-way street, for thought processes can produce emotions, as well.
We have seen how a nonconscious conditioned memory can lead to a current emotion. But memory can play the same trick out in the open. For example, the actual near-accident that frightened you years ago can be recalled from memory and cause you to be frightened anew. Whether actually present, as a freshly minted image, or as a reconstructed image recalled from memory, the kind of effect is the same. If the stimulus is emotionally competent an emotion ensues, and only the intensity varies. Actors of every sort of schooling rely on this so-called emotional memory for their trade. In some cases they let memory overtly lead them to emote. In other cases they let memory infiltrate their performance subtly, setting themselves up to behave in a certain way. Our ever-observant Spinoza did not leave this one alone either: ‘A man is as much affected pleasurably or painfully by the image of the thing past or future, as by the image of a thing present.’ (2003: 57)
With Damasio’s theory of cognitive science in mind, we now turn to an examination of historical events: What were the “emotionally competent stimuli” which have historically produced feelings of professional expertise and social superiority? What ECS have been used in the past to depoliticize victims of despotic rule, to discipline them, so to speak, so they would accept certain feelings of inferiority or adopt a passive acceptance of abuse (i.e. hopelessness); and, of course, the question how was this overcome?
The historical sociologist, Michael Mann, offers some insights into these question by distinguishing four sources of power –ideologial, economic, military, and political—and tracing their interrelationships throughout history. In Volume 3 of his study of The Sources of Social Power (2012), he looks at the top-down discipline of Japanese imperialist troops in China at the time of the WW II. Chinese resistance produced a stalemate, and the overstretched Japanese lines of communication required troops to live off the land, thus making no distinction between Chinese soldiers and civilian enemies.
Tominaga Shozo remembers China vividly. He reported for duty as a junior officer in China in July 1941, along with twenty-one others. He noted that the experienced soldiers they met had ‘evil eyes.’ He underwent several days of officer training, at the end of which each trainee had to behead a bound Chinese prisoner with his sword. Tominaga worried about how well he would accomplish this, and was relieved when he was successful. He remembers, ‘At that moment, I felt something changed inside me. I don’t know how to put it, but I gained strength somewhere in my gut.’ He says he later realized he himself has acquired evil eyes. Tominaga says that the ordinary soldiers had a different final task –they had to bayonet a bound captive. He comments:
‘After that a man could do anything easily. The army created men capable of combat . . . . Human beings were turned into murdering demons. Everyone became a demon within three months. Men were able to fight courageously only when their human characteristics were suppressed. So we believed. It was a natural extension of our training back in Japan. This was the Emperor’s Army.’
In 1937, this was the Imperial Way on Chinese ground.
The Chinese called them an ‘army of locusts’ .... The 1937 Rape of Nanking was probably the worst atrocity, in which anywhere between 35,000 and 200,000 unarmed Chinese were killed, and thousands raped. . . . Japanese journalists witnessed the atrocities, horrified. One asked Lieutenant-Colonel Tanaka Ryukichi to justify the killings. He replied, ‘Frankly speaking, you and I have diametrically different views of the Chinese. You may be dealing with them as human beings, but I regard them as swine. We can do anything with such creatures.’ Japan used poison gas in China; a germ warfare program may have killed up to half a million. Chinese children were given buns laced with cholera, and planes dropped plague-carrying fleas and anthrax-laden feathers. Victims were cut apart to check the progress of the diseases. . . . The Japanese anti-Communist campaign of 1941 was also ferocious. The order was the ‘Three Alls’: kill all, take all, burn all. They devastated several Communist base areas. The Japanese Empire could be benign if unthreatened, but resistance brought on terrible atrocities. (2012: 385-386)
Michael Mann offers an analysis of another historical change in power relationships in the 4th Volume of his study, The Sources of Social Power (2013), where he discusses “the faltering of the Jim Crow system” in the southern United States.
The civil rights protesters needed an unusual degree of commitment if they were to break the Jim Crow system of racial segregation, unmatched in its capacity as a system of repression in the twentieth century. It has long mobilized overwhelming ideological, economic, political, and military power against blacks in the southern states, and it held back opportunities for black Americans everywhere in the United States. … [W]hite racism has been fundamental to American life (though it was to the European empires as well). Its southern economic core first lay in cotton share-cropping but was then industrialized through northern mills moving South, drawn by low wages and no unions, generating high profits for local white planter-merchant-business elites. Racial capitalism was buttressed by political power relations that disenfranchised blacks and poor whites and allowed white elites to control elections, constitutionally supported by states rights and federally supported by disproportionate southern power in Congress. I noted in Volume 3 when discussing the New Deal how political traditions of uncontested elections and the seniority system on the Hill gave southern senators and congressmen far more power than their numbers or the economic power of the South should warrant. Southern racism had a political lock on the country.
It was also buttressed by ideological power. Whites genuinely believed blacks were racially inferior and that their bodily presence was morally and physically polluting. Very strong emotions kept less privileged whites loyal to Jim Crow. Ideology was entrenched in everyday practices –separate toilets, washrooms, lunch counters, seats on buses, and so on. If blacks strayed into white personal space, whites felt a physical sense of shock and outrage, often rooted in sexual fears, especially of black men violating the bodies of white women. Racism was a true ideology of the strongest kind, for it operated at levels deeper than human reason and it intensified the immanent solidarity of each community. Of course, blacks did not believe they were inferior. This notion contradicted both the Bible and the American Constitution, both of which had a vibrant presence in Negro culture. Like the Chinese peasants discussed in Volume 3, [Mann, 2012] they knew they were exploited, but they had usually seen this as grim, unchangeable reality and so they had adapted psychologically in order to make this reality minimally tolerable. They showed deference to ‘quality folks,’ saying, ‘yes sir, no sir,’ showing they ‘knew their place,’ humbly petitioning rather than demanding, emphasizing their distance from ‘niggahs [who] don’t know how to talk or act at a decent dance’ …. These were ideological self-restraints –as long as redress seemed impossible. Among the Chinese peasants discussed in Volume 3, this pessimism about redress was what the communists were finally able to overcome, and this had opened the floodgates of revolution.
But Jim Crow rested finally on military power. Protest and resistance were intermittent but ubiquitous, yet were met with brutality by police, state troopers, and white paramilitaries like the Ku Klux Klan, and with everyday acts of impromptu violence, like kicking a black man off the sidewalk or beating him for looking at a white woman. Resistance was not advisable. It had been tried many times but had not worked. The power as military rather than political, for though some of it was committed by local authorities, they were acting against the law of the land. But the law was helpless. Of more than five thousand lynchings committed between 1882 and 1940, only forty resulted in legal action, and that was usually minor. There was, however, a decline in the number of lynchings from “World War I onward, due first to the substitution of more draconian institutions disprivileging African Americans, and then from the 1940s in growing sentiment that lynchings were outdated and ineffective –which was as sign of progress….
This formidable power structure put all blacks in the same boat, while all whites could enjoy the kicking. Race no class dominated the South and some of its features spread nationally. . . .
Yet broad destabilizing social changes were also in motion. Two world wars and restricted immigration from abroad had increased the demand for labor. Together with the forcing of blacks off the land and the decline of cotton, this produced the Great Migration of blacks from the rural South into cities across the country. . . . (2013: 68-69)
In 1954, the Supreme Court ruled unanimously that segregated schools were unconstitutional since the practice would be inherently unequal. White supremacists attacked Chief Justice Earl Warren, calling him a communist, accusing him of “trying to mongrelize the races,” and they passed petitions demanding his recall from the bench. President Eisenhower tried to explain their feelings to the Chief Justice, telling him that white southerners “are not bad people. All they are concerned about is to see that their sweet little girls are not required to sit in schools alongside some big black bucks.” Polls in 1958 showed that only 1 percent of white southerners and 5 percent of whites nationwide approved of interracial marriage. In 1959, twenty-nine states criminalized interracial marriages. By 1967, thirteen states had rescinded this law. (2013: 72-73)
As the Civil Rights movement grew, students played an increasingly important role.
Two thirds of the [Freedom] riders were college students, three-quarters were male, and a little more than half were black (lessening later). This infusion of younger blood and broader ideology was the most important white aid to the movement. Like the students in the Russian and Chinese Revolutions, these militants had fewer material interests at stake and were predominantly ideologically motivated. They were less cautious, more impatient, immediately leading sit-ins at white-only facilities across the South. [2013:74)
Despite the highly televised violence in the early 1960s, the federal government was reluctant to intervene. The Kennedy administration did not want to risk losing the vote of the white Southern Democrat. Using violence to defend segregation was a divisive issue among white supremacist and their collaborators, many of whom saw violence as counterproductive to their racist cause. Others defended the use of racist violence.
Knowing full well that the hold of racism over the South was ultimately maintained by paramilitary violence, they believed that lettng go of it was dangerous. To have to defend segregation only by legal means was clearly a retreat, perhaps the thin of a wedge that would soon destroy the system. . . .
Attorney General Robert Kennedy urged CORE and SNCC leaders, ‘Why don’t you guys cut out all that shit, Freedom Riding and sitting-in shit, and concentrate on voter education…. If you do that I’ll get you a tax exemption.” (2013: 76)
Student leaders ignored this advice, and continued to militate for change. The Kennedy Administration was obliged to send federal police to protect the lives of demonstrators in the South. Eventually most white people, including southerners, became appalled at the escalating racist violence on the part of segregationists, and the southern white supremacists became increasingly isolated.
Mann concludes his analysis of the interplay of the currents of power in the Civil Rights Movement, with a look at the results:
The movement was essentially over. It had achieved its integrationist goals mainly through African Americans’ growing collective confidence, nurtured inside their segregated communities and then mobilized by leaders who were integral to the community’s moral solidarity. They began with a strong perception of injustice, but the vital change was their belief that redress could be secured. This was both ideological and political. Their growing power had been encouraged by diffuse social forces –interregional economic power shifts plus wars, hot and cold. This had generated a growing division between North and South ensuring that white southerners ultimately lost northern support. Yet blacks had to make the political system unworkable before this happened, and they did not receive much direct help from whites. Particular boosts had come from the Supreme Court and from Truman, Kennedy, and Johnson. Labor unions and northern liberals gave some money, and the growth of liberal sentiments among elites and the universities gave more national resonance for black rhetoric. In the end, however, the most important whites were the northern conservative politicians and the southern capitalists (plus many ordinary southerners) who realized that the best way to stem an unacceptable level of disorder was to yield civil political rights. As I emphasized in Volume 3, if protest movements, especially in democracies, can threaten not so much revolution as a moderate level of chaos that destabilizes labor relations or politics, the more sagacious forces of order will react with concessions. As usual, this had the added advantage of dividing the civil rights protest movement and heading off more radical social citizenship demands. In this respect it was similar to the New Deal. . . .
In the end white politics reinforced the middle-class African American ideology of integration, ensuring that black economic demands and the Black Panthers would lose their support. President Nixon finished them off by offering affirmative action. The Black Panthers now split asunder, its remnants repressed by paramilitary police forces –rather like untraleftist class movements if the past.
Ideology also played a much larger role than mere strategic framing. This movement had a religious-cum-American nationalist soul, rooted in churches, generating self-righteous emotions. It also had a radical boost from the ideological leftism sweeping American universities in the 1960s, intensified by the Vietnam War. Thus both sets of civil rights militants, locals and outside agitators, developed a reckless courage that enabled them to risk life and liberties. In Weberian terms they were driven by value rationality –commitment to ultimate values –much more than by instrumental rationality. Though their tactics revealed instrumental reasoning, their ability to confront superior paramilitary power was value-driven. On the other side, segregationist ‘massive resistance’ also had a very emotional ideology grounded in regional nationalism, desperate fear of miscegenation, and ferocious anticommunism.(2013: 78-79)
Mann then appeals to the practical use of his analytical model, saying : “we need to entwine economic, ideological, military, and political power relations, using the four to explain the rise and partial success of the mass civil rights movement, and the decline and partial failure of mass white resistance.”(2013: 79)
The 4 items below offer readers a chance to test Michael Mann’s sociological theory by looking for the political, economic, ideological and military sources of power in today’s society, which we are told overlap and interpenetrate one another and eventually crystallize into social policy. Another theory, is the Marxist view of society, where understanding comes from looking for material contradictions, by abstracting extensions in time and space, viewing from different vantage points, and identifying different levels of abstraction, in order to discover specific qualitative shifts and quantitative trends which precede them, often scarcely recognized before the qualitative leap occurs. [For more discussion on this method of dialectical materialism, see CEIMSA Bulletin N° 253.)
Item A. is a an article by Carl Gibson on How The Government Killed Martin Luther King, Jr.
Item B., from Grenoble University undergraduate, Sophie Jeandet, is an Internet film by the French investigative reporter Colline Serreau on Solutions locales pour désordre global.
Item C., from Democracy Now!, is an recent interview with Robert McChesney on How Capitalism Is Turning the Internet Against Democracy.
ItemD., from Alex Lefebvre, is an invitation to next Wednesday’s meeting on “ la politique d’urbanisme à Grenoble” at the Maison des Associations..
And finally, for readers interested in learning more about the community organizing skills of the Black Panther Party, we offer a film dramatization of the last 14 months in the life of George Jackson.
Produced by Tcinque Sampson; directed by Samm Styles
Professor of American Studies
University of Grenoble-3
Director of Research
University of Paris-Nanterre
Center for the Advanced Study of American Institutions and Social Movements
The University of California-San Diego
Date: 3 April 2013
Subject: Martin Luther King.
It really isn't that radical a thing to expect this government to kill someone who threatened their authority and had the power to organize millions to protest it.
How The Government Killed Martin Luther King, Jr.
By Carl Gibson
From Sophie Jeandet :
Date: 4 April 2013
Subject: Le Desordre Global.
After this morning's class, I've been thinking about what you said to us about acting, sharing our knowledge with people different from is us and building some bonds with those who live jst next to us, but that we don't know anything about.
As for me, I really consider the importance of being independent toward those who are monopolizing the food market, controlling what we eat, what we can produce ourselves and what we can exchange with each others, and in so doing, enslaving us in a dependency circle toward them. I've been thinking about it since I read the book -which is first a movie - made by Colline Serreau, a French journalist.
If I'm talking to you about her, it's because I think that the solutions she proposes in her movie concerning this alimentary crisis deserve to be share, exactly the way you told us about this morning. I don't know if this woman is known in American and English culture - actually I don't think so. That's why I've intended to speak to you about her, so that she could be perhaps be better known than now.
Her book and movie is entitled, in French "Solutions locales pour désordre global". If you have the time to have a look at it, you should be interested in it.
Thank you for reading,
Solutions locales pour un désordre global, nouveau film de Coline Serreau
From: Democracy Now! :
Date: 5 April 2013
Subject: National Conference for Media Reform.
Longtime media-reform advocate Robert McChesney looks at how the future of American politics could be largely determined by who controls the Internet in his newest book. "'Digital Disconnect' talks about the difference between the mythology of the Internet, the hope of the Internet, that it would empower people and make democracy triumphant, versus the reality, which is that large corporate monopolies and the government, working together, are taking away the promise of the Internet to suit their interests," says McChesney, the co-founder of Free Press and the National Conference for Media Reform. His book begins with a simple claim: "The ways capitalism works and does not work determine the role the Internet might play in society."
Digital Disconnect: Robert McChesney on "How Capitalism Is Turning the Internet Against Democracy"
From Alexandre Lefebvre :
Date : 5 April 2013
Subject : [Vivre en Ville] réunion pûblique sur une autre politique de l'urbanisme (mardi 10 avril, 20h)
Le réseau citoyen ouvre le débat sur la politique d’urbanisme à Grenoble, avec une réunion baptisée "Dense donc cher ?"
Mercredi 10 avril à 20 h à la Maison des Associations (6 rue Berthe de Boissieux à Grenoble)
Avec la participation de Marc Wiel, urbaniste
Marc Wiel a été directeur des études à l’agence d’urbanisme de Grenoble de 1977 à 81, puis directeur de l’agence d’urbanisme de la communauté urbaine de Brest de 1981 à 2001. À côté de ses responsabilités de praticien, il mène des recherches sur l’urbanisme, et plus particulièrement sur les rapports entre transport et aménagement.
Pour Vivre en Ville,