Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Extractive introjection & Arundhati Roy

What happens when I appropriate the affect proper to another to draw attention to myself? The psychoanalyst, Christopher Bollas, has coined the term 'extractive introjection' to describe this form of psychic confiscation and colonial control on the part of a parent or care giver.  In public discourse, something similar occurs when a person works himself or herself up into a state of rage or sorrow over the plight of some other group of people. Initially the move might appear to signal a superior sensitivity or higher sense of morality. However, the effect is the same as that of a parent who will not let the child experience anything for itself, communicate anything for itself, have feelings or emotions proper to its own circumstances, because the parent has asserted a monopoly over the child's experiences, feelings and communications.
Now it may be that there are certain rare medical conditions where the child's ability to experience things, feel things or communicate things is so damaged that, if the parent does not assert its right to be treated as if it did have experiences and feelings, third parties might fall into the ghastly sin of treating the child as less than human. Similarly, in Public discourse, it may be that there are classes of people who are 'invisible', whose voices can't be heard, and whose experiences and feelings are so devastating and overwhelming that a third party needs to act as their spokesman. Let us take the plight of Indian or Filipino domestic servants in posh areas of London. Some were mistreated by their employers. Their families back home were threatened. They were helpless victims of violence and exploitation. They could not speak out for themselves in public fora because their residence in the U.K was entirely dependent on their employers' whim and complaisance. Help came in the form of a local Church group which, working in concert with some concerned Filipino and South Asian women (not 'activists' necessarily), did something to remedy the situation. A Conservative M.P (supposedly the tool of the Capitalist class) backed this initiative and raised the matter in Parliament. The situation on the ground changed for domestic workers of this description. No one gained fame or garnered book sales or TV talk show appearances or boosted their political career as a result of doing the right thing by people who, in that instance, were not able to represent themselves. That changed. I understand that the support organization for these domestic servants- who are employed by overseas diplomats or high net worth individuals- is now led and managed by people drawn from amongst their own number, though, no doubt, other good people would be involved as is natural in any worthwhile project.
The agency and sense of self-worth of people in this line of work has been enhanced. There has been no 'extractive introjection'.

A quite different case- one in which an actor raised a hue and cry about an injustice suffered by people of a different gender and ethnicity- is that of Joanna Lumley's intervention on behalf of Gurkha soldiers unfairly denied a right to settlement in the U.K. This intervention was successful because Ms. Lumley was speaking up for, amongst others, Victoria Cross winners whose Himalayan dignity could admit no demand, like unto the one made of Shakespeare's Coriolanus, that grizzled warriors exhibit their wounds to win the country's favor. The savage smile of Ms. Lumley prosecuted her campaign with such blood thirsty civility and all terrorizing good taste that the Government quailed and none could, in foro conscientiae, upbraid them for a cowardice of which no man in England was not equally guilty. This too is the opposite of 'extractive introjection' being a tactic wholly savage and the polar opposite of everything essentially Civilized, Churchy, or in keeping with what is termed the Public Justification Principle by Collegial neurotics.

Worse than extractive introjection is 'Munchausen's syndrome' where a parent or care-giver actually inflicts hurt on the child so as to gain medical attention. As in the former case, the parent gets to look like a saint or martyr battling the world on behalf of their small defenceless child. The doctors are all callous bastards in the pay of Big Pharma. That is proved coz they keep saying there's nothing wrong with my kid. Well, I showed them! Obviously, since Big Pharma is actually controlled by like Globalized Finanzkapital which in turn is controlled by the lizard people from Planet X who have mind control powers, what happened is the doctors accused me of harming my own kid! How fucked is that?

Things like Subaltern Studies & Post Colonial literary theory & Arundhati Roy style 'activism' & Chomskian gob-shiterry is 'extractive introjection'. But it is the Munchausen syndrome of the politico-administrative class, which captures the interessement mechanism intended to tackle the underlying problem, which such 'extractive introjection' actually serves.

There is no question that Capitalism, or bureaucratic Socialism, or- indeed- any political ordering of Society, poses a threat to vulnerable groups of people. The literature of an earlier period went to the heart of the matter by focusing on what I might call the concurrency problem of the human heart. The Canadian economist, Stephen Leacock, summarised the Social melodrama of the initial stage of Industrial Capitalism in his essay titled 'Dead! and never called me mother!'- the reference being to the novel 'East Lynne' which came out in 1861. More generally, in popular literature of this school, which extends up to J.B. Priestley's 'An Inspector calls'-  the Capitalist understands too late that his salvation lies in ameliorating the condition of the workers. If the workers strike back at the Capitalists it generally turns out they kill their own brother or the 'good guy' or something like that. People have good hearts, it's just good intentions aren't coordinated properly; in any negotiation or interaction there is a concurrency problem. It appears there is need for a Messianic figure to, in the final words of the Old Testament, 'turn the hearts of the fathers towards their children and the hearts of children towards their fathers' so as to avert Apocalypse.
I recall reading a play in Hindi class back in '75 about a young zamindar who orders his Estate Manager to invite all his tenants to a feast for his sister's wedding. The Manager naturally provides low quality food and sets a high 'nazrana' tariff on invitees, thinking it a good opportunity to boost revenues and recoup the money spent on the sister's dowry. But there is a new spirit stirring amongst the peasants. They boycott the wedding even though the Zamindar has managed to rectify the situation and provided good food for them and cancelled the 'nazrana' tariff.
The Estate Manager feels he has been vindicated. Yield the peasants an inch and they take an ell.
But the Zamindar sees he has not gone far enough.  No doubt, once Vinobha Bhave came on the scene, he would have given up his land in Bhoodhan- at least, that was the correct answer to the exam question on the play.
Though the Social concurrency problem of the heart is significant, incentive compatible mechanism design alone tackles the underlying issue.
Arundhati Roy knows that literature of the 'Dead! and never called me Mother!' sort, appeals to all classes of people in India and can easily be turned into movies- but, if she wrote that sort of thing, she'd  look bad in elite circles. So that's the charitable explanation for her hysterical 'extractive introjection.'

But why be charitable to that wealthy fuckwit?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

[The Canadian economist, Stephen Leacock]

Leacock was an economist? I grew up in Canada, and they never told us that. Bloodsucking capitalist bastards.