Thursday, 14 June 2012

Brian Aldiss and Karl Marx

Rereading a Poul Anderson novel in order to discuss it on the Poul Anderson Appreciation Blog, I found an Introduction by Brian Aldiss, to the Master SF Series edition, that is relevant here. In the novel, the IQ of every animal and human being on Earth suddenly increases.

Aldiss, discussing means of attempted self-enhancement, therapy, Eastern religions, drugs and "the State", describes Marx's prediction that the State would wither away as foolish. (1)

By quoting Marx and Engels in State and Revolution, Lenin shows that bourgeois and bureaucratic states must be overthrown by the qualitatively different workers' state which will then wither away. Familiar states are instruments of coercion by a small social minority over the vast majority. A workers' state, for the first time in history an instrument of coercion by the majority over a recently dispossessed minority, will have no reason to remain in existence when the dispossessed minority has failed to reproduce itself as a class but it would be foolish indeed to predict that "the State" as we know it will ever wither away.

Aldiss, Brian, "Introduction" IN Anderson, Poul, Brain Wave, London, 1976, AT pp. 5-8, p. 5.

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Society and Psychology

A comrade addresses our social problems by speaking at a meeting and opposing economic exploitation. A Zen trainee addresses his psychological states by facing a wall and understanding mental processes. These are responses to issues that are interconnected but on different levels, "outer" and "inner." The best people that I know include Party comrades and Zen trainees.

By meditating facing a wall, I realize that I have been almost completely wrong and mistaken:

insufficiently attentive to interpersonal and social interactions;
unempathetic and uncompassionate;
accepting and defending a belief merely because I had been indoctrinated in it;
thinking that merely abstract reasoning would resolve major issues about reality, society and morality;
entirely abstract and theoretical in outlook;
responding and behaving neither honestly nor spontaneously but in accordance with an idea of what was expected;
not addressing practical issues earlier in life because accustomed to someone else, adults, controlling and dictating (as an adult, I now fundamentally disagree with their beliefs and values);
not appreciating the value of study until a very late stage of education;
attending to issues that happened to interest me but not to other issues that were equally important.

I could have wound up as a celibate priest or bachelor and absent-minded academic. Fortunately, wider reading, marriage, family life, unemployment, political activity, other kinds of work, professional retraining and meditative practice, in other words life, intervened.

We can and must disagree about the state of society but each must attend to his mental states. I was brought up to confess sins to a priest or, in the absence of a priest, to God. I now think in terms of actions and consequences, not of sins (Buddhist, not Biblical, teaching), and attend to them myself although without any quick absolution.