April 21, 2008


Rembrandt's "The Philosopher in Meditation," courtesy of wikipedia.

When El Cabero was in high school and as yet innocent of the ways of goats and the world, I stumbled onto Man and His Symbols by C.G. Jung et al, which at the time seemed to be The Coolest Thing Ever.

Jung (1875-1961) was the founder of analytical psychology and was for a brief time the "crown prince" of psychoanalysis and the heir apparent of Sigmund Freud, although the two had a rather unpleasant split.

The book was the last effort of his life, one intended to bring his ideas to a wide popular audience. Fittingly he, received the inspiration for it in a dream. According to BBC journalist John Freeman, writing in the book's introduction,

He dreamed that, instead of sitting in his study and talking to the great doctors and psychiatrists who used to call on him from all over the world, he was standing in a public place and addressing a multitude of people who were listening to him with rapt attention and understanding what he said....

The book, which includes an essay by Jung as well as sections by Joseph L. Henderson, Marie-Louise von Franz, Aniela Jaffe, and Jolanda Jacobi, was quite a hit and struck a chord in me at the time. Aside from text, it was full of cartoons and illustrations from the realms of art, religion, mythology, politics and popular culture. It promised to tie together and provide insights into all those fields. To sympathetic readers, it promised to be a key that could unlock many doors.

That was then, this is now.

I learned as I got older that despite occasional flirtations with empirical research, Jung's system was about as scientific as astrology or alchemy, both of which he studied for years. Along a continuum of disciplines, it was closer to philosophy or a religion (some would say cult) than social science.

Worse, Jung had some unfortunate associations with "Aryan" ideology and his reputation was permanently damaged by allegations of early sympathy with the Nazi movement. Debate still rages about the subject in some circles, but the official Goat Rope verdict is that his record at the time is enough for disqualification from the status of oracle.

Still, I have to confess that every so often I go back to browse in Jungian literature. I consider it a bad habit, like listening to "guilty pleasure" music or reading trash fiction. I've even found a few things there worth keeping, about which more this week.

MISTAKES WERE MADE. The National Institute for Strategic Studies, which is connected with the National Defense University and the Department of Defense, published a pretty scathing paper on the Iraq war written by Joseph J. Collins. Here's the newspaper version and here's the full report. Although the author is hardly a peace activist, he doesn't pull any punches. Here's the first two paragraphs:

Measured in blood and treasure, the war in Iraq has achieved the
status of a major war and a major debacle. As of fall 2007, this conflict has cost the United States over 3,800 dead and over 28,000 wounded. Allied casualties accounted for another 300 dead. Iraqi civilian deaths—mostly at the hands of other Iraqis—may number as high as 82,000. Over 7,500 Iraqi soldiers and police officers have also been killed. Fifteen percent of the Iraqi population has become refugees or displaced persons. The Congressional Research Service estimates that the United States now spends over $10 billion per month on the war, and that the total, direct U.S. costs from March 2003 to July 2007 have exceeded $450 billion, all of which has been covered by deficit spending... No one as yet has calculated the costs of long-term veterans’ benefits or the total impact on Service personnel and materiel.

The war’s political impact also has been great. Globally, U.S. standing among friends and allies has fallen... Our status as a moral leader has been damaged by the war, the subsequent occupation of a Muslim nation, and various issues concerning the treatment of detainees. At the same time, operations in Iraq have had a negative impact on all other efforts in the war on terror, which must bow to the priority of Iraq when it comes to manpower, materiel, and the attention of decisionmakers. Our Armed Forces—especially the Army and Marine Corps—have been severely strained by the war in Iraq. Compounding all of these problems, our efforts there were designed to enhance U.S. national security, but they have become, at least temporarily, an incubator for terrorism and have emboldened Iran to expand its influence throughout the Middle East.

GOING GREEN. Here's Michael Pollan in the NY Times Magazine about going green. As Candide said, "Let us cultivate our garden"--even though it is a pain in the knees, back, and rear.

A LITTLE GOOD NEWS for everyone who isn't getting any younger is that older people tend to be more happy. That may be true, but El Cabrero would be happier if his knees were younger.

SPEAKING OF HAPPINESS, this article from Foreign Policy concludes that democracy may not make people happy but happy people may make democracies.


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