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Anti-Muslim converts to Islam — Enantiodromia!

Sunday, January 28th, 2018

[ by Charles Cameron — balancing explanations — psychological, sociological, anthropological ]
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Carl Jung‘s definitions of enantiodromia read:

In the philosophy of Heraclitus it [enantiodromia] is used to designate the play of opposites in the course of events—the view that everything that exists turns into its opposite….

I use the term enantiodromia for the emergence of the unconscious opposite in the course of time. [CW 6, 708 & 709]

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There could hardly be a clearer set of instances of this individual psychological principle than this, as reported by David A Graham in the strong>Atlantic yesterday:

The Strange Cases of Anti-Islam Politicians Turned Muslims
Three recent incidents seem to highlight a quirk of sociology.

More details:

Last fall, Arthur Wagner was part of something remarkable: His political party, the anti-Islam, anti-immigrant Alternative für Deutschland, entered the Bundestag, becoming the first far-right party in the body since the 1950s. This year, Wagner has done something even more [ .. ]remarkable: He has converted to Islam and left AfD.

Even stranger, Wagner is not the first person to leave a far-right, anti-Islam party in Europe and become a Muslim. Arnoud van Doorn, a member of Geert Wilders’s Dutch Freedom Party—which is another far-right, anti-Islam party—left it in 2011, converted to Islam in 2012, and soon after made hajj, the pilgrimage to Mecca Muslims are obliged to make at least once in their lifetimes. And in 2014, Maxence Buttey, a local councillor for the National Front (FN), France’s analogous far-right party, converted to Islam and was suspended from the party committee.

In the United States, a grisly story made headlines last year when an 18-year-old former neo-Nazi in Tampa who said he had converted to Islam confessed to killing two (apparently still) neo-Nazi roommates, though that case is so grotesque, and the use of violence so far from mainstream Muslim practice, that it defies comparison to the European examples. (The suspect also shouted a nonsensical, non-Muslim phrase.)

In all cases, the shift from anti-Muslim to Muslim is counterintuitive.

The same article quotes friend JM Berger, commenting after the Charlotesville shootings —

The process and structure of radicalization and extremism are the same in different kinds of movements, even when the content of the extremist belief is different (such as with neo-Nazis and jihadists)

— all this as part of a sociological explanation of conversions to and from extremisms.

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The sociological explanations are well-represented by these paras:

There seem to be some people who are joiners, eager to become part of larger groups. Almost everyone will know someone like this, perhaps someone who is constantly searching for new social groups or joining new organizations, or perhaps even a spiritual seeker-type who flirts with a succession of faiths. The cliche about the “zeal of the convert” exists for a reason.

According to Michael Hogg’s uncertainty-identity theory, people seek to reduce questions about who they are, where they fit in the world, and how people view them. “One way to satisfy this motivation is to identify with a group (a team, an organization, a religion, an ethnicity, a nation, etc.) a process that not only defines and locates oneself in the social world but also prescribes how one should behave and how one should interact with others,” Hogg writes.

I don’t think these sociological explanations really conflict with Jung’s theory of enantiodromia, but the latter seems more exact – “turning into the opposite” rather than “showing a propensity for eextremes” — because in my view, Jung’s version hits the mark so exactly.

I’m too fatigued to fisk Graham’s article more extensively, but my main point is that enantiodromia is “closer in” than the sociological motive, focusing in the indiviual rather than the group.

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Issues of this kind crop up quite frequently. IMO we need some kind of useful understandings of the boundaries between anthropology and sociology, and of the complex relations of both with psychology.

Who is President of the United States?

Friday, January 12th, 2018

[ by Charles Cameron — going all diagnostic on you! ]
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Roberta R. Greene in her Social Work with the Aged and Their Families (p. 100) lists questions nurses routinely asked by physician using Kahn’s Mental Status Questionnaire. I’m only too aware of these, having been subjected to these questions regularly over the past year..

5. What year is it?
6. How old are you?
7. What is your birthday?
8. What year were you born?
9. Who is President of the United States?

They are going to ask President Trump these questions, I immagine, as part of his overall medical evaluation. But that last one:

Who is President of the United States?

That’s an ouroboric question right there — what will he say?

If he says, President Trump, then he’s third-personalizing himself, and that’s diagnostically called illeism: Julius Caesar uses the third person in describing his French campaigns in De Bello Gallico.

But if he avoids that third person usage —

Me! It’s me!

That would suggest he may be uncertain of his victory over Secretary Clinton back when — after all, she won the popular vote!

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Oh the ouroboros! Oh the dilemma!

I had one of those medical questionnaires this morning. My conclusion: the questionnaire or routinized test has not yet been devised that doesn’t seem faintly ridiculous..

Please note that Roberta Greene’s work currently costs $100 as a book book. Urgh. Kindle $45.95 us a little better.

Uday and Qusay Trump motif traces back to Bill Maher

Sunday, January 7th, 2018

[ by Charles Cameron — more striking examples of form in the news, “pressed down and flowing over” ]
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Michael Wolff‘s book Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House has been quoted extensively, but one accusation struck me forcibly, both because of its viciousnes and because it has a formal property of double, parallel construction. The comparison was between Trump‘s sons Donald Jr. and Eric, and Saddam‘s sons, Uday and Qusay:

Don Jr. and Eric — behind their backs known to Trump insiders as Uday and Qusay, after the sons of Saddam Hussein — wondered if there couldn’t somehow be two parallel White House structures, one dedicated to their father’s big-picture views, personal appearance and salesmanship, and the other concerned with day-to-day management issues.

Crudely but vividly put in a Pinterest graphgc [I’ve reduced its scale, but you get the idea]:

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Under the header, Maher Rips Trump Sons — Calls Them ‘Uday and Qusay’, Breitbart reported in September 2016 what seems to me most likely the original source of Wolff’s unsourced remark:

On the Friday airing of HBO’s “Real Time,” host Bill Maher slammed the two sons of Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, Donald Trump, Jr. and Eric Trump.

Maher partially cited a Trump quote from his 2008 book, “Think Big,” which he used as a segue to attack the Trump children.

“Donald Trump also once said, ’Sometimes people will come into my office and they will be great. They will look great, they’ll sound great, they dress beautifully. Everything is great. Then after you hire them they turn out to be morons,’ which explains his sons Uday and Qusay.”

“I mean Trump, Sr. at the what House is bad enough without these two American psychos putting plastic over the furniture so that they can axe murder prostitutes while discussing Phil Collins,” he continued.

According to Breitbart, then, Maher would seem to be the ur-source — with just a hint that Trump himself may be partially responsible at that:

which explains his sons Uday and Qusay.

The Trump sourcing strikes me as so attenuated as to be worthless, but the tie to Maher seems undeniable — whether it’s Wolff’s only source or not.

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Here are a couple of other items in the news which have caught my eye on account of their formal propeties. Here, from Real clear Politics, is the first:

President Trump said there was no collusion between himself on the Russians, but there was collusion between Hillary Clinton and the Russians and the Democratic National Committee and the Russians.

That strrikes me as a clear instance of what psychologists term projectionAri Melber writes in his intro to psychologist Dr. Justin Frank, who discusses the issue with him:

Trump uses ‘projection’ as a defense tactic

Trump is an expert at projecting his own faults onto his political rivals as a defense mechanism

There are plenty of other arguable examples of Trump’s likely instinctive use of projection, but to my mind the most powerful are those that use the same words or phrases — eg: “collusion between [self, other] and the Russians” — in a short span to contrast the denial [against self] and accusation {against the other].

It’s a widely-found psychological trick — and a beautiful formal setup. The saying about “the pot calling the kettle black” summarizes it nicely, as Ari Melber obviously knows:

And dig this example:

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A second form to keep an eye out for, and one of my own favorites, is the serpent-bites-its-tail motif, or ouroboros.

Discussing Trump saying he’llannounce his “Dishonest and Corrupt Media Awards” tomorroww:–

“I will be announcing THE MOST DISHONEST & CORRUPT MEDIA AWARDS OF THE YEAR on Monday at 5:00 o’clock,” Trump wrote. “Subjects will cover Dishonesty & Bad Reporting in various categories from the Fake News Media. Stay tuned!

Everyone in comedy took immediate advantage, proposing themslves (!) for awards:

but it was Ari Melber, host of MSNBC’s The Beat, who nailed the ouroboric implications of Trump’s challenge with this question:

Will he be physically able to give an award to anyone other than himself?

It may not feature groovy graphics, like the two late-night comedians’ tweets do — but that explicit Trumpian self-reference really stings!

Enough. I’m getting dizzy, and that’s something my doctors would scribble about it I mentioned it. Gotta save them pencil-wear — I’m not so simple as a list of symptoms, added to a single numbered diagnosis,

Giving Critical Thinking Some Critical Thought

Wednesday, November 29th, 2017

[Mark Safranski / “zen“]

This is a useful, quick read…

Why Do Smart People Do Foolish Things?: Intelligence is not the same as critical thinking and the difference matters

….The advantages of being intelligent are undeniable. Intelligent people are more likely to get better grades and go farther in school. They are more likely to be successful at work. And they are less likely to get into trouble (e.g., commit crimes) as adolescents. Given all the advantages of intelligence, though, you may be surprised to learn that it does not predict other life outcomes, such as well-being. You might imagine that doing well in school or at work might lead to greater life satisfaction, but several large-scale studies have failed to find evidence that IQ impacts life satisfaction or longevity. University of Waterloo psychologist Igor Grossmann and his colleagues argue that most intelligence tests fail to capture real-world decision-making and our ability to interact well with others. This is, in other words, perhaps why “smart” people, do “dumb” things.

The ability to think critically, on the other hand, has been associated with wellness and longevity. Though often confused with intelligence, critical thinking is not intelligence. Critical thinking is a collection of cognitive skills that allow us to think rationally in a goal-orientated fashion, and a disposition to use those skills when appropriate. Critical thinkers are amiable skeptics. They are flexible thinkers who require evidence to support their beliefs and recognize fallacious attempts to persuade them. Critical thinking means overcoming all sorts of cognitive biases (e.g., hindsight bias, confirmation bias).

Read the rest here.

Most people will say (without critical thought) that critical thinking is a good thing but fail to define what they mean by that term. Usually right before they complain that schools and higher ed aren’t imparting the desired but undefined critical thinking skills to their students. While this stereotypical complaint is accurate as far as a generalization, it underestimates how much imparting such skills in students is generally opposed in practice by Left and Right. Argumentative peons who can think for themselves? Really, when in history has this ever been popular? Seldom with rulers and not often with the ruled; sheep do not enjoy the bark of the sheepdog even when the dog is defending the flock from the wolf.

There are idiotic factions on the Right, often socially conservative home schooler types who openly complain about “critical thinking” in the public schools as s kind of liberal conspiracy to replace content knowledge. It isn’t. Though the reverse idea, to minimize the idea of a canon of core content knowledge,  has appeared in ed fads, including aspects of the (deservedly) controversial Common Core Standards which was pushed by a cabal of billionaires, establishment GOP hacks, the Pearson corporation and the Obama administration in order to nationalize the school curriculum and vastly increase standardized testing. It is this recurring pattern of of political-academic-big business charlatanism in American education that gives this perennial right wing complaint traction. The public ed community in the past 40 years has pushed a lot of dubious programs and theories on students and the taxpayers. And still are; often in service of bureaucratic or political agendas like corporate ed reform.

The political  Left is no better and in some ways, worse. If ever there was a cultish, anti-critical thinking, movement for brain dead indoctrination, it’s the social justice/identity politics movement. Rarely have more intelligent people been made to say stupidly nonsensical things on a college campus than in the past two years. It’s play-acting Red Guardism  and vicious moral one-upmanship but as an ideology, SJW identity politics works socially as a self-referential, closed system to inoculate the believer from any need to consider contrary ideas and justify, if need be, violently suppressing them in others.

Critical thinking involves a capacity to use logical reasoning, the skills at the top of Bloom’s taxonomy, probabilistic reasoning and several other important intellectual skills in pursuit of rational, skeptical inquiry. It’s powerful.  So powerful that it has been an engine of mankind’s progress whenever it has been given enough freedom to flourish. The flip side is that critical thinking in essence and outcome is also ultimately subversive of all ideologies and regimes. Without exception – and there is the rub. There’s a reason in other words, that Athens put Socrates to death. And we are no better. We do it daily on Twitter, albeit metaphorically because millions of Americans today can neither think critically nor stand to see others do it if it calls their cherished sacred cows to account.

We can teach critical thinking skills along with content. It’s not hard, assuming you can think critically yourself. We don’t systemically do this because we create ed systems designed to prevent it (public ed) or hire an army of people opposed to critical thinking on principle (university diversity bureaucracy). I’ll end my rant on this thought: immediately improving American education across the board at all levels could be done without costing one additional cent, but it means getting a lot of self-serving, politicized, rubbish out of the way.

This would be sad either way, but

Monday, August 28th, 2017

[ by Charles Cameron — it seems particularly sad to “left-leaning” me ]
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I don’t really fit left or right, but as a near-“non” where it comes to violence, I’m particularly saddened by this:

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Given my quasi-Mennonite sympathies, and even thought it may be irrational in the final analysis, I’d be less saddened if the “sides” were reversed…

Source:

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