April 26, 2008


Tyger! Tyger! burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?

In what distant deeps or skies
Burnt the fire of thine eyes?
On what wings dare he aspire?
What the hand dare seize the fire?

And what shoulder, & what art.
Could twist the sinews of thy heart?
And when thy heart began to beat,
What dread hand? & what dread feet?

What the hammer? what the chain?
In what furnace was thy brain?
What the anvil? what dread grasp
Dare its deadly terrors clasp?

When the stars threw down their spears,
And watered heaven with their tears,
Did he smile his work to see?
Did he who made the Lamb make thee?

Tyger! Tyger! burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?

April 25, 2008


Everybody has a shadow side. Poster courtesy of wikipedia.

The theme around here this week has been the psychology of C.G. Jung. If this is your first visit, please click on earlier posts. You'll also find links and comments about current events.

To sum up, the official Goat Rope verdict is that Jung was more of a shaman, cult leader or philosopher than a psychologist or social scientist. Many of his ideas, while interesting and entertaining, wouldn't hold up to serious investigation. Part of the problem was Jung's tendency to reach universal conclusions about the psyche on the basis of an individual's dreams, fantasies, or artwork.

And, as was noted yesterday, the dude had some serious political problems.

Still, I have to admit that every few years I go back and take another look and there are some things there that I think may be both true and useful. I remember an old saying that even a wild hog will occasionally dig up something good.

Such as...

*The unconscious. As far as I know, nothing in recent scientific research has discredited the idea that we have unconscious cognition and emotion. In fact, some of the latest seems to indicate that we're kind of unconscious even when we're conscious, as in running on automatic pilot. I think Jung was right over Freud in thinking of the unconscious not just as a cesspool of repression but a wellspring of creativity.

Some of the best advice I've had has come from dreams. And sometimes where I'm trying to figure out how to do something challenging, I deliberately try to push the problem out of my conscious mind so that the "it" down there can work on it. Usually it does better than I would have.

As for archetypes and all that, I'd say Jung was partly right and partly wrong. Undoubtedly basic images and motifs exist and show up time and time again in stories, art, etc. But you could make the argument that strong stories often repeated create archetypes rather than vice versa.

I don't think there's much room to doubt that the human mind is wired not only for language, but also for narrative and metaphor and there's probably a limited stock of both. And the structure of human life--day/night, seasons, birth/death, major life events--is bound to generate recurring themes. We're likely to learn more about that as brain and cognitive science develops, but it's a safe bet we're no blank slate.

*personality. Jung's theory of the various almost autonomous parts of the personality (the anima, persona, shadow, Self, etc.) make for an entertaining story, but are unlikely to be accepted by anyone who isn't a member of the club. Still, I like his idea of individuation or self-realization as integrating the various aspects of the personality (although he neglects the social dimension). As Nietzsche said,

What does your conscience say? — "You shalt become the person you are."

*the shadow. I have a particular fondness for Jung's idea of the shadow, that part of ourselves that we dislike and disown and often project onto other individuals and groups. Jung said

The shadow personifies everything that the subject refuses to acknowledge about himself and yet is always thrusting itself upon him directly or indirectly...

I'll give him that one. I think we all have a darker side which we would do well to recognize and integrate into our conscious personality. People who deny their own shadow side and project all evil onto the Other are dangerous...especially like if they happened to be president or something.

DEATH ON THE JOB. According to the AFLCIO, 5,840 workers died on the job in 2006, up from 5,734 the previous year:

each day in 2006, 16 workers were fatally injured on the job and more than 11,200 were hurt or made sick. But the price workers pay for toiling in dangerous jobs climbs even higher when the tally includes the 50,000 to 60,000 workers who die every year from occupational diseases.

West Virginia, by the way, has the third highest death rate.

BAREFOOT may be better.

BETTER LATE THAN NEVER. This article about mountaintop removal mining appeared in the Sunday Washington Post.

STARCHER VOWS TO STAY. WV (real) Supreme Court Justice Larry Starcher said that he intended not to recuse himself in a future case involving Massey Energy. He did so in the past in the hope of setting an example for "justice" Brent Benjamin, who owes his seat to vast spending by Massey CEO Don Blankenship. Benjamin couldn't take the hint. On the bright side, the WV Supreme Joke--I mean Court is making WVU look like a pillar of integrity.

URGENT DINOSAUR UPDATE. It's official. The dinosaur T. Rex has been proven to be genetically related to modern birds. In fact,

the scientists said, T. rex shared more of its genetic makeup with ostriches and chickens than with living reptiles, like alligators.

The chickens, peacocks, and turkeys at Goat Rope Farm will be insufferable when they read that...

SPEAKING OF THE FARM, it looks like the human race almost bought it 70,000 years ago.

Y'all have a good weekend!


April 24, 2008


Nazi troops rally at Nuremberg, courtesy of wikipedia.

El Cabero has been musing lately about the ideas of the Swiss psychologist C.G. Jung. If this is your first visit, please click on the earlier entries. The series started Monday.

Of all the possible criticisms that can be directed at Jung--and there are a boatload--the most serious involve his alleged early sympathy for the Nazi movement. Controversy continues about this up to the present.

Politically, Jung was not the brightest crayon in the box. He was a conservative Swiss with considerable wealth, thanks to his marriage to the former Emma Rauschenbach, an heiress. He was hostile to leftist movements and ideas. Like many wealthy Germans of his day, he may have been sympathetic or at least ambivalent about the early Nazi movement. It was all for law and order, after all...

Psychoanalysis in its early days had a disproportionate number of Jewish adherents, which is why Freud valued their alliance before they broke off contact. After the break with Freud, Jung dabbled in what Sig considered to be the black swamp of occultism. Among the many currents of the latter were efforts to promote so-called "Aryan" spirituality, much of which was eventually embraced by the Nazis.

In some of his speculations, he seemed to imply that various "racial" groups had their own psychological makeup. He wrote some rather loopy things on happenings in Germany, such as his essay "Wotan," which seems to argue that the German people were under the possession of the archetype of the god of the same name from Teutonic mythology. Here's an essay which discusses Jung's tendency toward "proto-fascist thinking."

Jung also retained positions of leadership in the International General Medical Society for Psychotherapy and the journal Zentralblatt fur Psychotherapie after these had fallen under Nazi influence. He later claimed that he did so in order to protect Jewish analysts and to keep the discipline of psychotherapy from being wiped out by the Nazis, who suspected its "Jewish" origins. These claims have been widely disputed.

There is an ironic twist to the story. After the US entered World War II, Jung was contacted by the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), a forerunner to the CIA. He was eventually dubbed "Agent 488" and provided opinions on psychological conditions in Nazi Germany.

Jung disputed allegations of Nazi sympathies in the postwar period, but permanent damage was done to his reputation.

At the very least, someone who wasn't able to spot the fact that Nazis were bad news early on does not deserve the status of oracle and font of wisdom.

ALL THAT GLITTERS ISN'T GOLD. This article discusses the first Gilded Age and the the one we're currently living through.

HUNGER. From the UK Independent, here's more on the growing global food crisis.

ONLY CONNECT. The US ranks 15th out of 30 developed countries in providing access to high speed Internet, as this EPI snapshot reports.

BINGO! I couldn't resist linking this article about how bingo suffers when smoking is banned. In El Cabrero's days as a volunteer firefighter, the most hazardous duty I ever did was working our bingo games. The smoke was so thick an air pack would have helped. Once when it was over I counted the non filtered cigarettes in one player's ashtray. I can't remember the exact number now but I think it was around 15 and the game lasted around three hours.

HAVE YOU HUGGED A BEE TODAY? Here's an item in praise of them.


April 23, 2008


Reynard the Fox, a trickster figure, courtesy of wikipedia.

El Cabrero is musing this week about the ideas of Swiss psychologist C.G. Jung. If this is your first visit, please click on earlier posts.

As I mentioned before, when I first ran across Jung in my youth, I was very impressed, although that wore off pretty quickly. Still, I find myself thinking about his ideas every so often. Here are a few of his main ones:

GOING DEEP. Jung believed that the unconscious included not just repressed memories and sexual desires a la Freud but also a deeper layer shared by all people. He called this the collective unconscious.

ARCHETYPES. The collective unconsciousness, according to Jung, manifested itself in the form of primordial images or archetypes that showed up in dreams, art, religion, legends, fairy tales, mythology, etc. He wrote that the idea of archetypes were

derived from the repeated observation that, for instance, the myths and fairy-tales of world literature contain definite motifs which crop up everywhere. We meet these same motifs in the fantasies, dreams, deliria, and delusions of individuals living today.

Examples might include the trickster, the wise old man or woman, the child, the mother or father, death and rebirth, etc.

(There is no doubt that such recurring motifs exist, but there are probably other and better ways of accounting for them and they don't always mean the same things.)

PERSONALITY. Jung had a complicated theory of personality, which included conscious and unconscious aspects. When I first read about his ideas, it almost seemed like lots of other folks are living inside us. He called the part of ourselves that we present to the world the persona, which is derived from the Latin word for mask. The darker side of ourselves which we tend to deny and repress he called the shadow. He believed that men had a mostly unconscious female aspect to the personality which he called the anima. Likewise, women were believed to have a male aspect, which he called the animus. The deepest layer of the personality was the Self,

which is not only the centre but also the whole circumference which embraces both conscious and unconscious; it is the centre of this totality, just as the ego is the centre of consciousness.

TYPES. Jung developed an elaborate system of classifying psychological types. Two of his terms that have entered into wide usage are extroversion and introversion, in which individuals orient themselves primarily to external people and objects or internal ones.

INDIVIDUATION. The goal of Jungian psychology is individuation or self-realization, which involves the integration and balancing of various aspects of the personality so that a person becomes "a separate, indivisible unity or 'whole.'"

There's a whole lot more, ranging from the ridiculous to the sublime but that'll have to do for now.

THE SURGING LONG TERM COST OF THE SURGE is the subject of this article from Foreign Affairs.

PRISON NATION. According to the NY Times,

The United States has less than 5 percent of the world’s population. But it has almost a quarter of the world’s prisoners.

Indeed, the United States leads the world in producing prisoners, a reflection of a relatively recent and now entirely distinctive American approach to crime and punishment. Americans are locked up for crimes — from writing bad checks to using drugs — that would rarely produce prison sentences in other countries. And in particular they are kept incarcerated far longer than prisoners in other nations.

SOUNDING LIKE A NEANDERTHAL. An anthropologist studying the vocal tracts of Neanderthal remains has simulated what they may have sounded like. It looks like they didn't hear or speak the same way we do.

SPEAKING OF LANGUAGE, there's a longstanding debate about the extent to which it shapes perception. It ain't quite resolved yet.

FOR MY FELLOW CLASSICS DORKS, here's an article from the New Yorker about Herodotus, the Greek "father of history." He's showed up here at Goat Rope a time or two if you feel like dumpster diving.


April 22, 2008


The cover of the new edition of MDR, courtesy of wikipedia.

When I was very young, I had a brief and passing infatuation with the psychological ideas of Carl G. Jung, the Swiss psychologist. It didn't take too long to outgrow it, but I have to admit that every few years I take another look at it.

It's a sporadic bad habit of mine, like occasionally gorging on Cheetos or secretly listening to Abba--which I will always publicly deny.

I hadn't thought about Jung for a while until I stumbled on Deirdre Bair's 2003 Jung: A Biography, a 647 page mammoth (not counting notes) that took me months to get through. Bair didn't have any particular axes to grind, which is not often the case with this subject. I also revisited Jung's "autobiography," Memories, Dreams, Reflections, which was largely written with the help of his follower Aniela Jaffe, and Man and His Symbols, his last work which also contained contributions by various followers.

Jung books tend to come in at least two main flavors: hagiography as written by followers and de-bunking by others. The best example of the latter is Richard Noll's The Aryan Christ: The Secret Life of Carl Jung and The Jung Cult, both of which were a hoot. Noll focused on Jung's alleged Nazi sympathies and described Jung's ideas as a carefully disguised "Aryans-only cult of redemption and rebirth."

Jung was born in 1875, the son of Swiss Reformed pastor Paul Jung and the former Emilie Preiswerk. Jung was named for his paternal grandfather, a prominent physician and professor. He also did nothing to deny rumors that he was an illegitimate descendant of the German writer Goethe. His mother's side was the most interesting; they were what my hillbilly ancestors would have called a little "tetched" or "keen," given to spiritualism, seeing ghosts, and telling strange stories.

Jung became a physician himself and specialized in psychiatry, working for a number of years at the Burgholzli, a mental institution. He became a correspondent and ally of Sigmund Freud, who was interested in gaining non-Jewish converts to psychoanalysis. For a while, Jung was the "crown prince" and heir-apparent, but the alliance fell apart with some bitterness.

There are two main versions of the split. Jung's would be that he was uncomfortable with Freud's dogmatic insistence on the central importance of sexuality or the libido. The other side was Freud's determination to prevent psychoanalysis from being contaminated by "the black tide of mud," i.e. Jung's tendency towards occultism.

For what it's worth, I think they were both right...

After the break with Freud, Jung's ideas definitely tended towards the weird, as he pondered through mythology, alchemy, astrology, and various sources of arcane lore for what he considered to be their psychological insights. In time, he gathered quite a cult following (in almost every sense of the word).

He wrote voluminously and largely (in my opinion) unintelligibly, although towards the end of his life he was able to reach a wide public audience through the two books mentioned above and appearances on the BBC.

I'll try to summarize what I think his basic ideas were tomorrow.

IRAQ WRAPUP. Here's a good summary of the various strands of the Iraq war mess.

EQUAL PAY DAY is today, but many women are doing worse as the economy tanks.

ENVIRONMENTALISM, VOLUNTARY OR OTHERWISE. This item from Alternet suggests you may start acting like one soon, like it or not.

E. COLI INDIVIDUALISM. Genes may not determine everything, even for bacteria.


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.