The Underground Lady [Page Fourteen]

Superstition is often the basis for social custom, and as such getting rid of superstition entirely is very unlikely, and, even where one is successful, it is not always socially sound.  For instance, the custom of mutual respect between guest and host is based on a superstition, and not really on some nascent form of collectivism.  The idea that what is going on involves the belief that if one is respectful of travelers when they come to one’s home, then others will in turn reciprocate with the same respect and helpfulness when one becomes the traveler, is a false assumption about the motivations involved.  First, most people in the ancient world, and in many places up until very recently, never traveled beyond their own village.  And second, rather than being based on some larger concept of society, the guest-host custom is based on the fear that if one is not respectful and helpful towards travelers, an evil spirit will wreak havoc.  Where this custom still persists—and it is getting harder and harder to find—people can even tell you the name of the particular spirit assigned this terrorizing duty.  But still, the guest-host relationship is a socially useful one, so all superstitious belief is not bad.

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On the other hand, most of the social customs backed by superstition are awful.  People do horrendous things to their own children, for instance, as part of ‘initiatory’ rites largely because they believe that certain spirits demand it.  Not only that but these rituals traumatize the young person and bind them to the tribe through fear and terror.  The initiated is then afraid that even worse things may be done to them if they violate the rules of the group.  Also, they are made to re-experience that trauma every time they observe someone else enduring the same rites throughout their lives.  Notice the element of repetition is a constitutive fact of the social unit.  This is an early version of the basic method of “rule-through-trauma, and then repeat,” now used by what has become the terror state.  In the meantime, socially sound customs backed up by superstition, like the guest-host relationship, have fallen by the wayside.  There has been a vicious process of selection and elimination of superstitious beliefs going on for some time.  The critical history of superstition has only recently begun to be written.

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Those who would advocate a return to all forms of superstition, will not find a fellow supporter in me.   The only way forward is forward.  This includes discovering how certain brutal beliefs have been preserved, and others, which encourage mutual aid, have been systematically extinguished.  We must advocate for mutualism on modern grounds.

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Very small objects can still be very powerful.  Think of quasars.  And the same holds true in the human universe—when we pay close attention to intensity rather than size, we can see this.

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Popular culture is expert at delivering intense experiences in very small packages.

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Pop culture has become incapable of expressing fine distinctions.  As much as pop revels in the small and the fragmentary, subtle shades of meaning evade it. 

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The only true cure for a lack of imagination is exercise, really, physical exercise.  (Pardon the Cato-like nostrum.)

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If you get a lot of physical exercise already, you should probably stretch your imagination more.

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I believe in some old types simply because they exist.

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Capitalism provides its adherents with explanations for practically all their crimes.  The source of its limited successes, as well as its massive failures, lies as much in its over-production of alibis as it does in its seeming endless production of new goods.

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“More is more” is based on a childish conception of the universe.   Once again, just think of quasars.

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We must recalibrate our collective attention and focus it more on intensity than volume.

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Insight is rare, the will and courage to use it, even rarer.  When the Underground Lady finds someone who is capable of insight, and its use, she loves them intensely, and she shows her love through many acts of personal kindness.

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Detachment must be alive—sentimentality kills it.

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True detachment is rare in a consumer culture, where everything gets judged according to a saccharine norm.

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There is no intimacy without sex.  The repression of sexual desire, and its rechanneling into the making and buying of unnecessary things, has produced a false light in an Eros without physicality.  Ridiculous.

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Capitalism is intensely anti-sexual.  Everything under capitalism is suggestive and naughty, but never erotic.  It is when one blends the erotic with the critical, that one gets in trouble with the authorities.  Joyce would never have been seen as a threat if he had not held the beliefs that he did about British imperialism in Ireland.  Not to mention his open perversity toward the whole matter of marriage.

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Pornography, when it is not insipid, that is, when it does not censor love, can be an effective critical tool. 

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But only the fool and the prude believe that there is any such thing as a “simulated sex act” in pornography just because the erotic is missing.

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