Zeldin: Intimate History of Humanity
- Written by Eric Walberg Эрик Вальберг/ Уолберг إيريك والبرغ
Chinese eye - sees nature as having its own life, untamed
Persian heart - romantic love
African ear - music
Mongol nomadic sense of freedom
-must search further than ancestors for roots of freedom and to understand emotions and ambitions
Man is faced with basic loneliness
-immunity from loneliness using loneliness as vaccine via:
1/ hermit - professional alien to seek internal peace
2/ turn inwards
3/ awareness of the absurd - be an eccentric
4/ sense that individual contains echoes of the incomprehensible coherence/ order of the world, has divine spark, recognise a link of generosity between themselves and others, rational and emotional connections which mean that they are part of a wider whole, which leads to altruism
-diminish FEAR of being alone: only then can one relate to others on terms of mutual respect
Desire is basic root in man
-'win' from WEN, to desire; 'lose' from LOS, to set free
-courtly lover did not want to possess his ideal; he played to lose; in war, possession is the goal, but in love it is really play, one of the conditions of creativity
-fascination with what is strange is, like play, a step to creativity
-this opposition of war and love is the kernel of the new stage in human relations (rise of new hospitality, compassion, creativity, friendship (vs traditional hospitality and friendship)
Basic desire: Sex
-for pagan religions, the world was one great self-sustaining sexual machine: the sky impregnated the earth with its moisture, and every copulation was part of this permanent process of self-renewal, an affirmation of kinship with nature. For followers of Shiva, sexual instincts were proof that they had something of the divine in them too.
-forms of sexual pleasure:
1/the gratification that one was part of a whole reinforced by feeling that one could contribute personally to keeping the world going, for nature had to be encouraged as well as thanked.
(Feasts of Love)
-Chinese made sex central to medicine. Men could stengthen themselves through frequent intercourse, which produced energy by uniting the m and f principles
2/ promiscuity, pornography, fetishism
3/ love, which is truly creative but a mystery because it is not selfish, and is therefore disruptive to business. In Kamasutra, love is perfect only when both parties are victorious
-sexual relations between men in four phases:
1/ conservative force, ritual, magic, integral part of pagan religion, whose gods enjoyed all forms of sex; only when sex ceased to be a divin amusement was homosexuality seriously persecuted.(Shamans, St Aelred of Rivaulx exalted it as a way of discovering divine love)
2/ 12c mass repression in Europe as part of campaign against heresies by Inquisition, making it dangerous and clandestine
-Wilde maintained that we should express desires openly and freely to rejuvenate world, but this was unlikely because people feared to admit what they are really like, so as second-best course, people should discover the satisfactions of pretending and concealing, acting a part and making a fool of oppressors and critics. Genet said there was no point in trying to be oneself because it was impossible to know when one was truly authentic.
Cominique Fernandez said without persecution of homos, which for him means being a pariah, reinforcing his sense of being different from others by being interested in matters which cannot be discussed openly: "Sex is not what interests me most in homos" and cannot be happy homos. Desire is the accomplice of the forbidden. It's not enough to be candid; you need desire, which is not tamable, cannot be articulated.
3/19c homos no longer a sin, but a disease, a sign of defective upbringing, or the result of a genetic disposition. The word homos coined in 1869 by Viennese Benkert to show that homos constituted a third sex independently of their will; hitherto the names they were known by were jocular, not medical, and the world 'gay' revives this tradition. This segregation created enormous anxiety, as homos probed into their deepest feelings, with remarkable artistic results, and rediscovered their history (Newton, Leonardo, Michelangelo, Beethoven?, Hans C Andersen, Horatio Alger. Renaissance Florence -> San Fransisco
-culmination in 'coming out of the closet, the proclamation of Queer Nation,
4/ but they want more than just to be themselves, having as their ultimate goal to escape from themselves, seeking partners from other cultures, other generations, different social classes.
TE Lawrence found Arab love to 'quit me of my English self'. Desire was the magic which made possible transitions into unknown territory. AIDS prompted investigation of new kinds of relationships 'based on esteem rather than passion or convention', new forms of love-making, more like women's conception of the erotic. Friendships between homos and heteros, where desire ceases to be aggressive, have become a significant new relationship.
-Les Nuits Fauves by Cyril Collard - desperate to escape from aimlessness, determined not to be ashamed of being so many different persons in his life, even while constantly doubting whether there was talent in any of them, refused to be categorised in any way, even sexually 'I am a man but sometimes I feel female.' To be alive means to participate in the 'planetary battle', to be a 'part of history' through the intermediary of the love of another person; not simply being Me, nor You and Me (but We)
-desire is no more inexplicable than taste. Over the centuries, it has been extraordinarily flexible and versatile, serving opposing causes, playing many different roles in history, sometimes mysterious
Age-long desire to have power over others
-first recorded theology (Sumeria): humans were created to relieve the gods of the need to work. Soon kings claimed to be gods and priests demanded price for their consolations -> elite => luxury living, arts, but for majority civilization was only a protection racket (mafia). Respect reserved for those who lived at the expense of others. The more prosperous a civilisation, the more people it attracts from outside, and the more it spends on defense -> collapse
-pecking order of hens rigid - when one taken away for weeks and returned to flock, it resumes old rank. Reward is flock lived in peace. Price is injustice - those at bottom of hierarchy suffer from stress and are scapegoats when danger. Same with rabbits, wolves, rats, baboons. Nature seems to say that equality impossible, only the strong get respect.
Chimpanzees - fight but in 40 minutes kiss and stroke former enemies and crowd applauds the kiss. Males make peace twice as often as remales, as though power for m depends on forming alliances, which are never permanent; females much less concerned with status and do not make obeisance to each other; their coalitions are of a small circle of family and firends, whom they choose for emotional reasons, and not on the basis of importance in the hierarchy.
-chimps do not punish children; thus do not maintain close ties with them either, unlike rhesus monkeys, who are more aggressive and punish children but maintain life-long bond with them.
-f chimps establish peace between m: after fight, one brings two m rivals together, sitting between them, allowing both to groom her, and then slip away to let them groom each other. While the f stimulate affection, the m call a truce to hostilities by developing common interests, or pretending to (one finds object, calls others to look, the rivals remain later and groom)
-aggression to 'win' respect (war) outmoded. I.e., in business, aggressive manager changed - power claims to be domestic game in which everyone wins. Managers encourage staff to find solutions for themselves. Power, terror don't gain respect. Democracy promises respect for everyone but stymied by gradations of disrespect created by money, education and appearance. Respect requires mediators, aribrators, encouragers and counsellors, 'peaceweavers (Icelanic sagas).
New form of power
The 'social intermediary' profession still in its infancy
-priests the first intermediaries, then merchants (Hermes a trickster and thief - the temptation to sin inherent in their occupation (Aquinas))
-catalyst term 1835 - the ambition most appropriate for those who see world as being in constant change, and who, without thinking they can control it, wish to influence its direction
-until businessman could be imagined in such a creative role, he remained modest, retiring to aritocratic life when he made his fortune. Only interested in immediate family.
[Islam's rapid expansion was a commercial as well as religious victory.]
-Maimondies Guide for the Perplexed offered a way out of 'irresoluteness': Character consists in keeping out of the way of fools, not in conquering them... I seek no victory for the honour of my soul.' 'Even when men insult me, I do not mind, but answer politely with friendly words, or remain silent.
-musicians the most important intermediaries of the emotions
Dealing with emotions, the enemy
1/ with the help of fear itself, by escaping from one fear to another, which contains more hope. Vikings set out on voyages because they felt an even more unbearable fear that their name and reputation, not just their body and soul, might vanish into nothingness after death. Needed immortal reputation [this is why people have children - to achieve immortality on earth]
2/ curiosity about something completely different Marco Polo such curiosity that he forgets fear
3/ reducing fear - Yoga: by ceasing to be person in normal sense. Give up possessions, triumph over bodily demands until mind dissolves. Become part of universal soul [reducing fear of survival -> more sex (Norwegian rat)] ie,
4/ sex and friendship reduce fear/ anxiety
Japanese solution is to turn it into an aesthetic experience, to find beauty only in what is impermanent, to insist that unless beauty and love were fragile and perishable, they would not be beautiful. But the desire to be moved at the cost of suffering is ancient. Helplessness in the face of the cruelty of the world is part of the sense of cosmic gloom on which every civilisation has been built.
-most elaborate remedy for gloom is consumer society (luxury for the masses), a revolution equivalent to a new religion
-19c England belief in improvement vs tradition (though this survives in cultivation of nostalgia/ antiques)
-consumerism lost sense of direction when it adopted 2 myths to guide it:
1/ private vices are the source of public proserity.
Avarice, pride, envy and greed, rather than friendlienss and kindness are the necessary bases of successful economy, said
Bernard Mandeville in Fable of the Bees.
2/ Frank Baum in Wizard of Oz claims anything is possible with consumerism, and fantasies can be turned into realities. But the appetite for things is insatiable; there is no ultimate satisfaction in things.
Since then, consumer society has evolved: 1/ 2/3 of developed country workers now work in services rather than by making objects. 2/ Consumers now buy services (involving personal contacts) more than objects. 3/ Cost of goods falls, but not services. Self-service limited by time, the most precious of all 'commodities'. More goods means more commitments for using up time. 4/ Luxuries are those things that money cannot buy (personal relations). It is consummation, not consumption, that peolpe seek, the intensity of experience, not things or free time. Weakness of Green Movement - asceticism, which world of want will always reject as lng as there is inequality. It cannot become a political force if only concerned with natural resources as opposed to the full range of human desires.
-leisure and consumption is not only goal. Other more satisfying links between humans, ie, travel, but problems: relations of m/f, cultural narrowness, problems of time and disintegrating family, which are also opportunities.
To deal with enemies: (1/ magic)
2/ fight them - increasingly difficult, creates war-inertia (war breaks monotony of life, when life at risk, value life more
3/ run away - the only result is to establish an order of dominance. Once caught in competition for superiority, you lose your independence. The purpose of life (Laborit - biologist) to survive, which requires calm and stress-avoidance. When rats being tortured can't escape, blood pressure permanently high, ulcers, lose hope, so that when cage is opened, they are too frightened to escape. Even fight relieves stress of torture (but leads to war-inertia). When you can't escape physically, you can in your thoughts. Of course, for work this means unemployment. So you become inhibited which is like the permanently caged rat. Try to escape from inhibitions by talking, writing, getting angry, or insulting those who annoy you? Otherwise, inhibitions will inhibit the immune system, which is the way to punish yourself when others fail to understand you.
5/ compassion - in 'the battle of the sexes' compassion is acquiring a new significance. Not just a gift of nature, but the essential quality which the partners have to develop to make the partnership work. Old style compassion meant helping others to clear one's conscience vs new style, which means discovering others as individuals, exchanging understanding with them. The anonymity of the unemployment queue is only half a victory. Mere tolerance will not avoid conflicts.
Ghandi might have placed less emphasis on the spread of general goodwill and more on the building of individual relationships, personal interest in the beliefs and thinking of others today.
His emphasis on tolerance was not enough. A saint can be an inspiration, but not a model: it is impossible to educate or force people to be tolerant for very long. Asoka, the legendary Indian ruler, is revered, but not followed. The tyranny of the majority is weakening as majorities disintegrate into more and more minorities. Mere toleration would end up with general indifference. Tolerance is only a stepping stone to understanding others, the great adventure that lies beyond it - more ambitious than the ancient obsession with conquest.
Carnegie: people fear making fools of themselves when they opened their mouths. Answer: smile, never argue, never tell anyone they are wrong, never find fault, be a Nice Guy. Do not be different from others, and they will be your 'friends'.
Friend - for most of history friendship has had nothing to do with affection. Rather a friend is a protector or someone useful to whom you sold your allegiance in return for favours. Only recently have services of government officials etc not been won as a personal favour and paid for with one's independence. Based on society of powerful.
Families - divorce up, size down, patriarchy weakening, children's rights, social institutions stronger and interfering with tradition family => family transformed into a loose consuming organisation (vs tight working unit)
-family traditionally where people have been generous to each other, but as a unit where its own interests come first, merciless to those members who fail to fulfil their obligations to it. To reduce this tension: 1/ reduced family size (less obligations, more rights for individuals in family, more ability to be open to outside) 2/ reinvent large family as circle of individuals united by affection and often closer emotionally than kin ever were, and without the ghosts of childhood (though requiring understanding of the others' own childhood ghosts) [generosity an expression of freedom]
-Naskapi Native American: you French love only your own children,but we love all the children of the tribe
-Mohave: delinquent child was called wild, crazy or obnoxious, but treated with tolerance, for it was believed that misbehaviour was induced by supernatural as well as temperamental forces, which were beyond an individual's control: such a child was recognised as a future shaman. Only gross violence was beyond the limit. Such complaisance possible because children belonged to the community, rather than to their parents, the attitude of Amerindians to all property. Generosity the supreme virtue. The chief not man with most possessions, but the least, for he gave most away, built up most gratitude. No buying and selling, only exchange of gifts. Destroying everything belonging to the dead eliminated temptation to build up family fortunes. Wealth had no prestige in most tribes, but dignity, wisdom and spirituality.
You could appropriate any object which no one else was using (only recognised USE value). Spreading affections so broadly meant no deep love for one. Marriages fragile. Little anger within tribe -> constant war (their only 'foreign policy' so couldn't adopt to demands of white invasion)
-for Swat Pukhtun of north Pakistan, society is full of enmity. They (and in Guatamala) develop close friendship m/m as ally against enemies. The Swat P ideal friend comes from outside tribe, a foreigner who they can treat lavishly. They migrate willingly to escape family jealousies. Generosity flowers most freely in cruel soil. [Zoroastrian word for God is Friend]
-seek artificial siblings to invent relationships from which envy would be excluded, but if brotherhoods limit themselves to two or a few individuals, if they have no foreign policy towards the rest of the world but war, they are in the long term self
-traditional gift-giving makes recipient debtor, and a benefactor can easily become an enemy. Generosity can avoid that only by being the joint effort of two people who have succeeded in putting themselves in the place of the other (the 'foreign policy' basis for family/ friend unit)
Foreign policy in human relations to deal with danger:
1/ magic though this -> fear
2/ war 3/ run away
4/ friendship/ love as magic uniting people (-> fear of losing love and leaving you open to enemies)
5/ generosity to others (-> fear of being made a fool of)
-can be taught to children, not just relying on instinct or imitation - teach them to play the role of another
[Time - 'retirement' and 'weekend' are recent. Artisans used to take Sunday, Monday and more days off depending on how much income they needed to subsist (Bank Holiday Mondays are token survivals).
-Judaism says take a sabbatical every seven years (stop tilling land, cancel debts, release slaves)
-sense of 'not enough time', obsession with 'keeping time' the result of commodity fetishism]
Ways of surviving with minimum of pain:
1/ obey, accept life as it is
2/ as negotiator, bargaining to get the best possible deal out of life
3/ concentrate on private life - to do this well means becoming a saint or sage, whose ambition includes being in some way useful to others. One can never be interesting enough to be the sole object of one's own attention.
4/ search for knowledge. Knowledge is still a serpent eating its own tail (professional jargon, esoteria), and it is ultimately a deadend
5/ talk, get rid of one's gloom by bringing out all one's secrets
-boast or sing like Beowulf and the Vikings and birds, to feel better, but beware, there are few good listeners
6/ travel - flight from normal living, from wealth and power and the glories of this world, from the worry for tomorrow. To become immune to the tragedy of life, to learn to commune with nature, to acquire peace of mind, after which he could go home, build a hut and never move again (17c Tu Lung, The Travels of Ming-Liao-Tzu)
7/ be creative. Originally only God was a creator. Only in the 1870s did the word 'creative' enter French slang, used by artists when the crowds in the salons could not understand them. Creativity was the male's substitute for childbearing. It demands both introvert and extrovert qualities, not necessarily in same person: the meeting of two individuals has often triggered more originality than genius in one.
Longer lifespans means it is time to rethink whether one wishes to spend it all travelling in the same bus. Even when one has decided about one's method of transport, one still needs to know where to go.
A new phase in history begins when ancient and simple hospitality (traditional hosp. free help to any stranger) is succeeded by a deeper hosp. Hosp. to strange IDEAS, and when encounters with the unknown modify their view of themselves.
-Russians, suddenly free to think and say what they pleased, but mind has to struggle to break away from its habits, political freedom does not automatically liberate it
-most thinking happens automatically, but parts of the process can be steered:
1/ You can ask different questions of your perceptions. The mind is blocked by old categories. We must be more hospitable to the nuances of life. Try new categories.
2/ Memories block creative thinking. You remember the same things, some memories have established a supremacy like tyrants, and information that comes in is used to reinforce them, instead of being dissected to reveal new facts. Turn you memory into a source of energy by drawing new implications from old memories, stimulating them with new questions or expanding them, incorporating experiences of others. Russians are fascinated by other countries but have difficulty in looking at their own memories through the eyes of an outsider.
3/ Use the imagination to unblock the traffic jams in the brain.
-impossible to feel fully alive unless one takes risks and uses imagination
-women's intuition neither magic nor genius but the result of close attention to minute signs and an interest in unspoken emotions, using past experience in the face of uncertainty PLUS an imaginative jump to spot similarities between the present and the past. That means being hospitable to facts which are usually ignored.
-for those who feel, life is a tragedy; for those who think, it is a comedy. For those who think and feel, it is an adventure, since you will be hospitable to all that is alive
-Chinese 16c Lu K'un Song of Good People: separation of upper and lower classes disastrous for human feelings. Need to put oneself in the place of others while realising that others are not necessarily like the self. Not just education, as educated children are rebellious. Expect nothing from govt bureaucracy.
Not end poverty through charity, because that perpetuates dependence. Recognise that all good people are sick. The only cure is to share personal experiences. Shared suffering the origin of a sense of community. Only the degree of insight people have into their own ailments, rather than their wealth made them deserving of respect. Individual self-interest always the basis of action, but could lead to community if hierarchy replaced by information exchange. Main cause of social discord not selfishness but inability to put oneself in other people's shoes.
Re-evaluate Islam, fundamentalism
-jihad means war, but also effort
-itjihad means the faithful required to work out individually how they should behave in matters not directly covered by the holy texts
-ikhtilaf means divergences which Abu Hanifah (700-767) declared to be allowed by Allah
-Sufi poet Rumi (1207-1283) to be human is to be confused, in love, unable to decide what is right and wrong, but through music and dance it was possible to discover what really mattered. He founded the order of Whirling Dervishes to dance oneself out of pain, uncertainty and separation into ecstasy, to be friend of God
-fundamentalists in Egypt reacting to lack of hospitality in cities. Cities both attract and reject, and underprivileged must help themselves, so fundamentalists include intellectuals and illiterate and poor who feel rejected. By accepting rigid traditions that each sex and age group must perform only certain roles, they limit competition; with advancing age, an individual can look forward to a new role. For Pentecostal fundamentalists in Latin American, by giving prestige to men in the family, they have restored their pride, and women's acceptance of a submissive role conceals the creation of a new kind of family, with wives more active and men more domestic and affectionate.
Fundamentalism a force as powerful as communism once was, a reply to injustice and bewilderment.
Debate about how to achieve a better life - by individual effort or collective action - has no point, because they are two sides of the same coin. It is difficult to do anything without help or inspiration from outside oneself. Christianity spread slowly over a rotting civilisation where individuals felt that official institutions were ceasing to be relevant to their needs and sought consolation from each other.
-today, a hero is not so much one who sets an example for others to follow, because the ideal relationship involves each partner being made more alive by the other; heroes must be able to receive as well as to give. One-way influence is dispiriting or corrupting. To benefit from a hero, one must be a bit of a hero oneself; have courage. Heroic relationship is an exchange of courage. Heroes are intermediaries, who open the world up to one another. Everyone can be a hero. Cannot demand respect only for oneself. Seek self-respect by helping others to respect one another. Traditional methods of legislation and agitation have never been enough to change mentalities.
History an endless procession of passers-by, most of whose encounters have been missed opportunities. But next time two people meet, the result coud be different. That is the origin of anxiety, but also of hope, which is the essence of humanity.