An English In Kentucky


















Monday April 8th 2019Tim Candler9


    It's been reasonably estimated that in the 7 years between 1346 and 1353 around a third of Europe's population was killed by a plague called the Black Death. It was unprecedented, terrifying, a horrible way to die. Within the population there were three general and very Hollywood disaster movie type reactions to the sense that something had gone badly wrong with the order of things. The one reaction might be characterized by the Flagellants, processions of men would travel from town to town, beat themselves and each other with leather straps studded with sharp pieces of metal. Reports suggest a visit from a Flagellant procession was comforting. The act was an open faced atonement for sins, it predated the Black Death, but became a popular movement during the Back Death and had to be quelled by the Pope. The other kind of reaction was blaming and then conducting pogroms against particular group, anyone who didn't look or sound right or pray right. The third reaction was devil may care, to hell with the rules, enjoy what we can, eat, drink, loot, pillage and behave in an absolutely appalling way. Of these three general reactions, you might be able to think of them as the 'Our Fault' variety and the 'Their Fault' variety and the 'Who Cares' variety.  Some psychologists have interpreted these sorts of reactions in terms of repression. A person represses unbearable feelings by looking around for opposite feelings and then behaves as though these opposite feelings, however perverse, are the person's real and true feelings.



      There's debate of course around Repression. Formal definition goes something like: it's a defense mechanism that pushes out of the conscious mind that which is unacceptable and hides it in the unconscious part of the mind, one result of which is anomalous sometimes desperate behaviors.  Sartre stubbornly disagreed with this Freudian view and he reckoned that all consciousness was consciousness of itself so the idea of repressing anything was just absurd, you either forget or you don't. The issue is whether Repressed feelings, lurking down there somewhere, waiting to pounce, and continually have to be repressed are testable. But to my snowflake mind sweating the possible causes of the reactions 'Our Fault,' 'Their Fault,' 'Who Cares' usually comes when it's kind of too late. The cure if there is such a possibility is much longer term. Can't actually remember a time when following a glance at the news headlines I've come away with anything other than a sense that society is stressed. More recently it does seem a little as though there's a cliff edge somewhere getting closer and much closer to an  existential challenge. And it does seem that denying the revelations of science is as much a 'Who Cares' reaction. Economic impasses from reckless Globalization has produced a 'Their Fault' reaction in many. And in a sense the snowflake is an 'Our Fault' reaction. But theoretically at least in a democracy it's up to each to conclude which of the reactions or mix of reactions might produce the more constructive solutions. Some have argued following the Black Death, labor scarcity raised the price of labor, the redistribution of wealth that resulted had the effect of increasing the demand for more specialized goods and trinkets, and heralded the dawning of a middle class.


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