Gods With Anuses: A review of The Denial of Death

 

Here is a review I wrote about Becker’s Denial of Death. This was for a class on the sociology of death. I believe Becker was truly on to something and I feel TMT could be utilized to fix some things.

Gods With Anuses:  A review of The Denial of Death

“The road to creativity passes so close to the madhouse and often detours or ends there.”

― Ernest Becker, The Denial of Death

 


denial of deathThe Denial of Death is Ernest Becker’s treatise on what he believes to be the strongest driving force responsible for the human condition. The human unwillingness to accept the fear of death; to accept that people are actually biological animals; human is the near god, perhaps the only self-aware organism that also shits. Becker believed in the duality of the human animal. One side is the pure biological, an animal not particularly exceptional when compared to others in the animal kingdom. On the other side is the emotional, thinking animal that requires symbols in an attempt to create some semblance of meaning in his own existence. Becker tells us that the emotional side must lie and create an illusion as a defense in order to rise above the anxiety of being a biological animal that eventually dies.

The main crux of the lie was the need to attain the heroic. Becker theorizes that the human animal strives to attain immortality through the heroic, a way to be victorious against death. This need to be a hero remains hidden in the average man. Society also tends to view those who would seek to be a hero as narcissistic thus discouraging an open an honest quest to reach the status of hero.

In The Denial of Death, Ernest Becker develops his point by taking us through the details of various neuroses and disorders. At one end of Becker’s spectrum of disorders is the schizophrenic, a person that fails to develop the lie and therefore must face the reality of death without any type of defense. The schizophrenic is then forced to create his own illusion of reality that is so completely removed from that of society that he becomes split. On the other end is the clinically depressed, according to Becker the depressed are so bogged down by the threat of exposure of the life-lie that they give away their lives to death.

A major point is the defense of the great life lie. People will go to great lengths to defend their illusive version of reality. Their fear is increased and almost unbearable at the thought that someone else’s lie may disprove their own. This line of thinking may very well be an underlying cause of war, discrimination and many other crimes against humanity throughout the world. One might suggest that the elimination of organized religion would cure this problem; however, organized religion often becomes the scapegoat. As Becker points out any type of group belief system, such as society, is essentially a form of religion. They are belief systems that help people avoid the anxiety of death and any affront to these beliefs is akin to an act of war.

Throughout the book Becker refers to the work of Freud switching out Freud’s theories on sex anxiety with that of death anxiety. Becker also does a posthumous analysis of Freud in an attempt to show that his theory on death anxiety also applies to the father of psychoanalysis.

Becker seems to believe that a merger of religion and psychology may be able to solve the problems of death anxiety. Although typical ancient religion will not suffice post enlightenment, some form of belief in the metaphysical is possibly enough to relieve this anxiety from human so that they may be able to cope. Unfortunately I’m not confident that the average person will be able to grasp this and be accepting of the points of view of others. An example of this is the recent Boston bombings and the subsequent call for the annihilation of Czechoslovakia (a country that no longer even exists and was not related to the suspects in any way),

I learned a great deal from this book, perhaps more than I have yet fully absorbed. I am not suggesting that this book is necessarily a motivational tome but I feel that it has encouraged me to pursue my own immortality project without apology. I also learned that I possess a minutia of knowledge in reference to psychology. I look forward to reevaluating this book after reviewing the works of Freud and Rank.

In reading what others have said of The Denial of Death some reviewers have found a nihilist slant. In my understanding of nihilism this label simply does not fit. While Becker does essentially tell us reality is a lie, he also tells us it is a necessary lie. I don’t get any feeling of hopelessness from the book.

I should note that I have only read through this book one time thus far. I believe it is worthy of at least an additional critical reading and fairly certain that my opinions and understanding may change to some extent. I think Becker’s own immortality project has been quite successful.  I believe that Terror Management Theory, based On The Denial of Death, has the potential to alleviate a great deal of suffering in the world.

I would selectively recommend this book. I feel it would primarily be of interest to those with a more than passing interest in philosophy, psychology, sociology or theology. Although I do believe it could be of benefit to others if they were to read it with an open mind. I attempted to discuss the ideas presented with various people and was generally met with one of two responses. Either that it sounded like psychobabble mumbo-jumbo or it elicited a bit of anger from others. One person in particular was appalled at the idea that our fear of death was a driving psychological force in our lives. I’m not sure that everyone is willing to accept that at least part of reality for the human animal is a lie.

 

 

Gore Vidal America’s Gay Anti-Hero.

I wrote this paper for a class last semester. With the passing of the legendary Gore Vidal I decided to post this.

From America’s noble beginnings all the way up until present day, people with an “alternative” sexual orientation have been stigmatized, gay men especially.   In America’s infancy gay men were forced to live in fear.  Louis Crompton states “in 1776 male homosexuals in the original 13 colonies were universally subject to the death penalty” (2).   This began a period of bigotry and misunderstanding that would plague America for many years.   Gay men lived false lives, while not being afforded the freedom America is known for.   Gay men were forced to either live a lie or face an early demise.  Gay men who chose to be themselves were forced to do so in hiding.  Society was free to invent their own stereotypes without any evidence to disprove them.

 

America was founded on a principal of freedom, yet many groups faced horrible intolerance and persecution.  History books educate us on the problems that many minority groups faced; however, the persecution of the gay man has not made it into the books yet.  In literature gay men were represented as effeminate, immoral and mentally ill.  Most stories of gay men were told as cautionary tales that ended badly for any gay character.  These representations served to reinforce stereotypes and encourage mistreatment.  Most stereotypes are a product of ignorance.  The Arts are a great forum to educate the masses.  In “Stereotypes And Identity Reflected In Literature” Caroline Carvill tells us “Literature reflects the preconceptions, perceptions, and misperceptions of its time, its authors, and its readers.” Authors who are willing to take risks and provide the reader with an alternative view can create change.

 

The American people continued to retain a close-minded attitude toward gay men in the nineteen-forties.   America had an-out-of-sight-out-of-mind mentality when it came to queers and queens and fags, as they were commonly referred to.  Due to the nature of society many gay men found their way to what was known as the gay underground, an equivalent to living on the “down low” today.   Prior to novels such as the City and The Pillar most of America was clueless as to what a gay man really was. Gore Vidal risked his own happiness to expose America to the “normal” gay man.

 

 

Vidal discusses his views on homosexuality by saying:

Actually, there is no such thing as a homosexual person, any more than there is such a thing as a heterosexual person.   The words are adjectives describing sexual acts, not people.   The sexual acts are entirely normal; if they were not, no one would perform them(Vidal, Relax…).

 

Gore Vidal has led an interesting life.  Eugene Luther Vidal was born in 1925 to an affluent family.   Vidal grew up in his grandfather’s mansion, sheltered from the problems that plagued America at the time.  Thomas P.  Gore, Vidal’s grandfather was a blind United States Senator.  Gore recruited his grandson to read for him, giving Vidal complete access an extensive library.  Inspired by his grandfather, Vidal took the name Gore.  Vidal went on to attend the exclusive St. Alban’s School.  It was at St Albans that a young Vidal met the only man he ever loved, Jimmie Trimble.  Vidal joined the army at seventeen. While in the army he wrote Williwaw and In the Yellow Wood.  Critics lauded Vidal as a great young author.  While working as an editor Vidal penned The City and the Pillar(Pemberton…).

 

The City and the Pillar featured a protagonist who was far from the assumed version of gay in America.    Jim Willard was an athlete and an overall average and normal guy.    The book traces his life as he yearns to reconnect with his best friend Bob with whom he shared a single night of passion.  The night was shared just before Bob departed for the Navy.  As Jim goes along his journey we are introduced to characters of the gay underground, a counterculture movement that many were forced to live in in order to be free.  The underground featured a cast of characters who were wide and diverse.  Many are represented in The City and the Pillar.  Jim discovers his own sexuality through his interactions over an eight year span.  All of Jim’s trials are in an effort to reconnect with his long lost love.  The City and the Pillar gave us a glimpse of the futility of living in the past; a theme that very often rings true for people of any sexual orientation.  The City and the Pillar showed us that ultimately gay men face many of the same problems that straight men face; that gay men are not different than “normal” men; that the tragedy of love can exist in all relationships, no matter the gender of the participants.   This was a wakeup call for most of America.

 

The City and the Pillar caused great fallout for Vidal.  Critics were very harsh.   Vidal’s career was completely jeopardized.   In The City and the Pillar Revised Vidal tells us “The New York Times refused to take advertising for the book, and most of the reviews were hostile” (156) The Times daily reviewer refused to even review the book and put a ban on any of Vidal’s future work(Vidal. Point 52)..  Vidal became a victim of the prejudice he was fighting against. His next few novels were ignored and this left him with financial problems

How Many Care?

How Many Care?

The scene on the South Side was a blood bath. As he lay dying so few were crying, the mob called for his blood. Had they not remembered when he found a doctor to fix Joe’s cleft palate or had talked Jane down from the ledge? What about when he sat with Grandma Dorothy and comforted her as she left the world? This was just a sampling of all he had done.

“Those are all things that any man can do, if you’re indeed an angel then grant me riches or make me young again.”

They would not understand he could not deviate from God’s plan. He could not reveal his powers or even fight back, he had to sit and take the vicious attack.

“Come on mister angel show us your might. If you are what they say make me famous tonight.”

The mob did not get it, they could not understand. They missed the small miracles that were part of God’s plan. They kept attacking with vicious delight, kicking and clawing and stabbing. The man had done nothing but help where he could. The greediness would not let them see all that he had done good. When the mob thought they had achieved their goal of ending the life of this apparent fraud, something strange happened.

Suddenly a glow emanated from the man’s back. Wings emerged from the blood and the scars. As he took flight a voice came from the heavens.

“My servant was sent to teach you a lesson. Yet so few of you opened your eyes to this blessing. Miracles happen when you help one another. This is something that many of you have lost sight of. He has done his job, he will now depart may all that has happened lift the darkness from your heart.”

Would this occurrence renew compassion? Would these people live in a different fashion? Most of us knew what the answer would be, “me help you, what’s in it for me?”

A Poem I wrote

I wrote this for class and to get some things off my chest. It has gotten some pretty good responses.
Juxtaposition of Pleasure and Lament

I miss her

 

Juxtaposition of Pleasure and Lament
By
J.R. Scott

The raven returns to the city once rotten,
Seeking the one who’d thought she’d forgotten.
A Dozen had passed since raven departed,
Both feared the great reunion’d be thwarted.

The moment of truth when the call came,
Could it be true, they both felt the same.
As much as he battled, tears he did cry,
Just gazing at, that shade of tiger’s eye.

A feeling long forgotten or so he had thought,
An overwhelming instant of swoon he fought.
Amazing years later, emotions still strong
A final chance, to right severe wrong.

But once again timing was not with them,
That joyous moment turned into bedlam.
He was not the hero, that she remembered,
Years and the world, had left him battered.

Fear of locking her to a life less than deserved
The whole of the parts left him unnerved.
She tried to console him, and said he was her king.
He could not get past, the simplest of things.

So full of fear of holding her back,
For only a moment he was off track.
Had he stood and fought, stead of pushing away,
Perhaps a different tale, would be told today.

For that fair raven his heart has ever burned,
Each new encounter a painful lesson learned.
Yes Snow and Raven, hurt each other easy,
Yet he was her king, and she his Khaleesi.

The latest of battles left him severely wounded,
Memory disappeared quickly from his head.
But one distinct memory, he could not let go
The image of the raven, that he used to know.

From the heavens Raven was sent
All the tears shed, all well spent.
Oh dear fair Raven, such a stunning creature,
The depth of her heart, the most resounding feature

Oh indeed at times he does still weep
For Flawed perfection once in his reach
The fairest of maidens, he has since met,
Have been amazing, but none like her yet.

Accepting of the blame that kept them apart,
He pays his daily penance with dagger to heart.
For his misdeeds, forever cloaked in guilt,
his heart remains ensconced, in briar laden quilt.

He shall suck it up and leave it to fate,
And hope for forgiveness fore it’s too late.
In the moment, no choice left but move on
But deep within his heart, the fires still strong.

Oh there were others that touched him deeply
Beautiful freckles and smiles of “Spring beauty ”
The little Italian “Teacher,” and even “the rat”
The raven was his dearest, no question of that.

Oh the days when he questioned his own worth
Raven made him feel like the greatest on earth
The thought of her, and the songs that she sang
Bring toothy grin, with great twinge of pain

So if the winds should carry this to Ravens ear
Know that the Bastard forever holds her dear
As he fights his battles, and once again he’s won
Know that he’s still inspired, by his number one

Maybe in another life or even nother day.
Leave it to the Gods, all he can do is pray

Though when questioned, he’ll protest and deny hope.
He wishes her the best, and misses her the most

 

Ah the musings of J.R. Scott

America’s Healthcare Crisis: The Answer

My Proposal: Let Them Die
James R. Scott

Our great nation currently faces many issues that threaten our future prosperity. I would like to address one of these and a solution that I have come upon to combat it. Currently we have approximately 50 million uninsured citizens in America. Some may argue that some form of universal health care may provide a solution. I believe in a simpler solution. I believe that refusing treatment in emergency rooms and prison infirmaries to anyone without insurance is the answer. Eventually the uninsured will die off. This answer also solves several other issues with which America is currently struggling. This initiative will free up jobs, cells in prison, and also reduce the ranks of those who would have eventually collected social security. This measure will also in time revitalize an aging workforce. This plan is not an instantaneous solution; it will take time to see the results. I propose this initiative be called the “Let Them Die Plan.”

I must confess that this idea is not fully mine. The inspiration comes from former governor and presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty and Ron Paul. In an interview with Greta Van Susteren, Pawlenty states “One thing you could do is change the federal law so that not every ER is required to treat everybody who comes in the door even if they have a minor condition. They should be –If you have a minor condition, rather than being at the really expensive ER, you should be at the primary care clinic.”(Van)

While I believe Pawlenty is on the right track. I feel that he is certainly taking a far too soft approach on the issue. Ron Paul also addressed this issue in a speech to the tea party. Paul suggested that care for the uninsured should be the responsibility of churches. It is unfair to put this obligation on these organizations whose primary goal is to enlighten the ignorant heathens of the world. Paul also adds that remaining uninsured is an issue of freedom. If someone chooses to not have insurance they are making the choice not to receive treatment. A man should be free to choose his fate (Tea).

There are two key areas in which health care is actually provided without payment in this country, in the emergency room and prison infirmaries. In order for hospitals to accept Medicare patients, they are required to provide treatment to unstable patients regardless of insurance. This law does not legally force hospitals to treat these patients; however a hospital that is unable to accept Medicare could not possibly stay in business for long. The hospital is not required to cure these patients just treat them to a condition of stable. Hospitals do bill these patients after release but are rarely reimbursed for the costly services they administer. Prison infirmaries also are required to treat ill prisoners. When these patients in either case are treated this care is prolonging the inevitable, and also straining an already taxed system.

The prudent thing to do would be to let these people die off. In Epidemics II.5 Hippocrates states “The physician must be able to tell the antecedents, know the present, and foretell the future- must mediate these things, and have two special objects in view with regard to disease, namely, to do good or to do no harm” (Hippocrates). Uninsured persons will have very little access to future medical care. If a patient is treated to a stable condition in a hospital and then released this in essence is just prolonging the inevitable. I feel that it would be more humane to the patient and beneficial to the nation as a whole to allow nature to take its course. On his way to death, seeing that his fate was inevitable Socrates said “I regard this as a proof that what has happened to me is a good, and that those of us who think that death is an evil are in error.” (Plato, The Apology). Death is not the evil that many see it as. In this case the greater good is of more importance.

The argument may be brought that the families will suffer a loss. This fate is inevitable. I argue that this will actually lessen the burden on the family. When a family member is ill or in some false sense of recovery invariably someone must take up the reins and provide care for them. This care is not only costly it provides a great deal of stress to the elected caretaker. If however treatment is refused in the first place any goodbyes and pleasantries could be resolved in a timely fashion and the family could move on with their lives.

This plan is an efficient solution to the unemployment crisis that plagues our nation. A sick worker is a less productive worker. Allowing the infirmed to die off would provide opportunities for displaced workers to once again provide for their families.

Less demand on hospitals may mean less work for its employees I believe that there will be plenty of jobs to go around when the sick are allowed to die off. Approximately 22 million uninsured patients are treated in emergency rooms each year. Some of them will recover on their own. If even half perished, that would free up a great deal of jobs to be filled by the unemployed. This boost will add a new crop of healthy motivated workers because the herd will have essentially been thinned out by the process. This process would be cyclical. As one sick worker dies a new healthy worker would be available to take his place.

This plan also lessens the burden on social security. Social security disability currently accounts for a large percentage of the funds paid out by social security. Even if someone is insured when they are first approved for disability, eventually that insurance runs out if they are not allowed to return to work. I do not see a need for prolonging the process. In the cases where an individual has insurance, a triage should be made. This triage should then be referenced to a scale that predicts possibility of full recovery. If there is no possibility of full recovery then insurance should be revoked and this person should no longer have a right to be a drain. If by some miracle they recover then they can rejoin the ranks of productive society and once again retain insurance. The scale could be something similar to the current level of disability scale.

To demonstrate that I feel this idea is a grand idea. I submit that even I should be held to this standard. I had a stroke and was taken to the hospital by family. I was admitted and treated for a number of days. When released I was far from well. I was given instructions to follow up with numerous specialists however will not be seen by any because I am without insurance. I have not and will not fully recover. My productivity has suffered and my employer was obligated to let me go. This opened a seat for someone who will provide my former employer with much more value for their dollar. I also attend college; it is a struggle for me to attend. I believe that the grant money used for my attendance would better serve someone else. If my chance of recovery is questionable someone whose health is not questionable would be a much wiser investment for the people’s money. While I believe it is the duty of the citizen to avoid becoming a drain, sentimentality of the family may become an issue. I would have allowed the blood clot to eventually take my life and in turn remove myself as a burden. For this reason I believe this program has to be mandated by the government in order to remove the responsibility from the family. This program will also remove a sense of guilt that families may feel at not attempting to get the sick treated.

The argument for universal healthcare may be raised. In some perfect utopian society this idea may indeed be a possibility. I do not see how such an endeavor could be funded. I have even heard talk of rerouting funding from programs such as our military. In a time when our country is constantly under fear of attack by foreign invader it would surely be folly to reduce national defense funding. Merely to repair citizens who are going to eventually perish anyway. I have also heard the argument that funding could be freed up in areas such as research. Some would say that certain areas of research are unnecessary or even ridiculous. I feel that cutting edge research such as knowing the average penis size in the gay community is far more important to the citizens of this great nation than pulling a few extra years out of sickly people.

Furthermore even this universal health care would not address the problems of unemployment and would do nothing to reduce future candidates for social security. If everyone is provided with healthcare, the average lifespan in this country would increase and in turn there would be more people living to retirement age and draining social security. For this reason I feel the “Let Them Die” plan would be far more beneficial to our nation.

 

 

References

Hippocrates. MIT. The Internet Classics Archive. Web. 09 June 2012. .

Plato. “The Republic.” MIT.EDU 360 B.C.E. Web. 09 June 2012.

Tea Party Debate. Fox News, 22 Feb. 2010. Television

Van Susteren, Greta. Interview. Fox News, 22 Feb. 2010. Television

The idea originated in a philosophy class and got scrapped. I ended up getting a chance to completely rework it for a LIT class.

Going to Start Posting my Essays

So I’ve been writing a great deal for school. I’ve been thinking what good are these papers once they have been graded. I have discussed this with some of my professors. One even recommended that I improve on some of my papers and possibly have them published in an academic journal.

It is something I am thinking about but why should I pay someone else to publish my work. I know it looks good on grad school applications; it’s also great resume material. For now I’ll just hold on to those papers until I decide what to do with them. The mediocre stuff I think I’m going to publish it here.

That way if I decide to improve on it down the road I still retain full rights. That being said I find this stuff published anywhere else; I’ll do whatever I have to. Content thieves are still thieves.  Feel free to take excerpts as long as you link back. Give credit where credit is due, it’s a good practice, and It’s still a good way to start a conversation.

I’m saving the top stuff for now.