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"Achtung, Baby!"

By       Message Blair Gelbond       (Page 1 of 2 pages)     Permalink    (# of views)   2 comments

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"Achtung, Baby!"

"All I can hear, I me mine
I me mine, I me mine
Even those tears, I me mine
I me mine, I me mine

No-one's frightened of playing it
Everyone's saying it
Flowing more freely than wine

All through the day I me mine"

--- George Harrison

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"Man wishes to be confirmed in his being by man and wishes to have a presence in the being of the other". Secretly and bashfully he watches for a YES which allows him to be and which can come to him only from one human person to another. It is from one human being to another that the heavenly bread of self-being is passed.

Martin Buber

Our journey to date has taken us through a brief tour of some of the road of what Elgin had described as the first half of our species development -- that of individualization and separation -- from nature and one another.

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We first briefly looked at our current planetary situation as a whole. We then moved on to review the background of a core division in our species, which occurred some 5-6 thousand years ago -- the ascent of androcracy/patriarchy, which is associated with the "power-over" milieu of males over females, man over nature, and men over other men. This resulted in the "mega-culture of authoritarianism", which can easily exist underneath and in contradiction to a democratically, integrative culture.

We briefly discussed the social character structure which was a natural outgrowth, which has been labeled the "authoritarian personality" and then looked at the way these tendencies get played out in business and small groups. We will now briefly touch upon one way this style can affect personal, individual relationships via the struggle for power in one to one relationships. Other manifestations not yet covered include domination in the educational, family, and ecological systems.

Eisler's warning bears repeating" that totalitarians and would-be totalitarians "still block our cultural evolution at every point today, aided by both old and new androcratic myths." This ethos of domination cannot facilitate this requirement precisely because of its "inbuilt emphasis on the technologies of destruction [and] its dependence on violence for social control."

The writings of Judith Jordan, Jean Baker Miller and other feminist scholars clarify the salient differences between these two modes of individual -- and other relationships:

"In the 'power-over' or 'power-for-oneself only' model there is an assumption of an active agent exerting control that [arises from] an actual or threatened use of power, strengths or expertise"The alternative model of interaction that we are proposing might be termed 'power-with' or 'power-together'... It suggest[s] that all participants in the relationship interact in ways that are based on connecting and enhancing everyone's personal power." (Surrey, 1991)

Derber has illustrated this in examining the domination of attention which often takes place in face to face relationships. He focuses on the giving and receiving of attention, a unique resource which is at the core of all relationships, and without which there is so social life at all. In exploring relationships in the individualistic West, Derber notes that in democratic-based contexts attention is shared and allocated according to need, whereas in competitive connections attention can be described by the term -- "conversational narcissism."

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Most of us have had the experience of individuals who manage to turn the topic of ordinary conversation to themselves and their own interests. Ego gratification becomes the dominating force, overwhelming any equality of exchange. In noticing this we do well to stay aware of the larger socio-economic and political system within which face to face behavior is occurring. The usually unspoken hierarchical patterns of power and prestige definitely affect this process. As dominant groups feel entitled to attention from others -"giving" rather than getting attention is the expected norm in subordinate groups.

Erving Goffman has discussed the dynamics of "deference and demeanor" in his groundbreaking books, including Interaction Ritual (1982). It should be said that a focus on receiving attention at the expense of the other person arise out of a "self-oriented" character style in individualistic societies such as ours. Eric Fromm hypothesized that a shared character structure develops in each society according to the requirements of the social order, offering the best opportunities for survival and success. The self-oriented character type develops a highly egocentric view of the world. In conversation such a style can be quite subtle since we are expected to maintain an appearance of genuine interest in others' topics. An exquisite face-saving system requires that we refrain from overtly expressing disinterest and openly disregarding the other person's focus of conversation.

However, for men especially, the practice of offering little more than civil attention is often set aside when sexual interest in another person prevails. Although not limited to privileged groups, it remains true that it is not unusual for wealth, occupation, influence, and education to command attention -- all the more reason why symbols of success are deployed as a matter of course. What is often unacknowledged is that various forms of insecurity and long-standing paradigms lay at the bottom of such a need.

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With a few minor corrections... Although I could not articulate this at the time, I have, since childhood been aware of the inequity ad suffering caused by abuse of power (i.e., "power-over", rather than "power-with": people, nature, etc) in (more...)
 

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