lördag 17 november 2007

The vulnerable human being…

photo on Avishai Margalit.

[Updated November 18 and 19 in the end]. In an article in a Norwegian newspaper ypu can read about Homo vulnerabilis – the vulnerable human being...

In the article you can read about what we today talk about as “the most vulnerable groups”, something that has been more and more common in the societal debate the last years they mean. They write that the expression "the most vulnerable groups" can be a transcription for women and children, victims of abuse or nature-catastrophes, poor people that has been marginalized or the ones that are psychically or somatically sick.

And yes, of course these groups are vulnerable they write. But we are all vulnerable. Vulnerability belongs to the human beings basic conditions. In an ethical perspective the human vulnerability is a prerequisite, yes, even a resource…

However, much in our time can be read as assiduous attempts to deny and repress/suppress the innate human vulnerability… Yes, I think this is right. We don’t want to admit these sides in us!? We don’t want to get in contact with the power- and helpless child we once were, the weak and incompetent child, absolutely not. Contempt for weakness. And this is quite natural, the feelings that are connected to this (experiences of being a help- and powerless child, a child that was entirely handed out to her/his caregivers/parents and the clear, real insight that the child couldn’t change this situation, it was entirely impossible, how clever or sensitive or anything it even was – realizing the truth with all its implications) are so painful, so we want to avoid them as much as we can, mildly expressed!?

But we have also got a growing insight about how much feelings and emotions mean for the development of ethical insight and responsibility… Feelings are also compassion and empathy in others and others needs and feelings. Without our feelings/emotions we wouldn’t be capable of grasping/apprehending the ethical challenges where they occur, neither in near nor more distant relations…

Or said in another manner: It is the fellow human beings vulnerability which makes the need for ethical behavior obvious or needed…

If I deny my own vulnerability this (being compassionate, emphatic) will be difficult though…

We are back to a former blogpost, the addition in the end, about violence, not only the one between men and women (men being violent towards women), but about also the violence between men!?

And Bosch actually writes about this I think (denial of needs and thus our vulnerability, and the consequences of that): about the different defences we use… One of these is to deny how vulnerable I as child actually was (a protection against the realization the real extent of what the caregivers actually showed with their behavior, i.e., how little they knew about a child’s needs, and maybe also a realization that this was a sign of lack of love!? A realization that had meant death for the child, but as an adult can survive, even if it is probably so painful so we don't think we can or shall survive it), by adapting a defence she calls False Power anger or False power denial of needs. Or we resorted as children to the defence False hope: if we tried hard enough - then… Or to blame ourselves, what she calls the Primary defence.

It stands in the article about the mutual dependency human beings between… Probably very scary for many? To admit ones needs and dependence on others (phew, I know psychoanalyst influenced therapists talks about this too!! In a similarly contradicting and confusing manner as our parents raised us: you shall dare to admit your dependency, but not be dependent at the same time, or in other circumstances be independent, or? And knowing the difference and being able to control even this. Phew again! And all this is a question of wanting or not wanting, and of intellect!?? How sensitive and compassionate and empathic is this from the therapist's side?)? Because realizing this would trigger early things, when the child’s natural and justified needs weren’t filled, and the feelings connected to this that had to be suppressed, probably before they even reached the consciousness? So this is very understandable, but no excuse for behaving badly…

Insight, fantasy and understanding form the “power of judging”… And it is here, in forming this “power of judging”, where our own vulnerability becomes a resource they write (in my interpretation). Oh, this can sound so very moralizing – and isn't this very intellectual!!

They also write about building rocket- or missile-systems, both on an outer and on an inner level. The dream about invulnerability continues to sow distrust and exclusion instead of trust and mutual obligations in all fellowships…

But the invulnerable human being, if he/she existed, would be inhuman they write, because vulnerability constitutes the human, constitutes that we are human beings.

But vulnerability is often presented as a lack, a weakness, as something we should help others get rid of, telling them (and ourselves too?? Blaming ourselves for being sch failures, so incapable, so weak, bad, lousy -the Primary defence?!):

“You shouldn't be so sensitive!”

And how many of us aren’t raised to think of others??? At the same time! First we are told not be so sensitive – or vulnerable, and then asked to think of others… We shall be both less sensitive and more!! Confusing!?? We shall make ourselves invisible in a way!? And then we are blamed for hiding our light under the bushel (sätta vårt ljus under skäppan)!!!

See Bosch on children learned to share at a too early age… (“Being sensitive to out children’s pain”, in the midst of the linked blogpost about “Biologism”).

I also came to think of Kirkengen who refers to the Hebrew Philosopher Avishai Margalit (Kirkengen also writes about bio-medicine!!!).

And this evening there is a TV-program with the Swedish professor in religion-psychology Owe Wikström in a talk with the Swedish author Torgny Lindgren on compassion. A couple of years ago Wikström’s heart stopped when he was at a gym with his wife (physician). Suddenly he was totally handed out to other people! At the hospital he started to reflect over what he calls “the era of self-centeredness”.

“The popular-psychology’s picture of the happy human being is extremely concentrated on the individual. This creates a very cynical society, where all shall boost [puffa för] their own selves and realize themselves. Those who don’t manage this are cast into the shadows”,
he says. Contempt for weakness again.

These reflections resulted in the book “Sonja’s goodness” (he refers to Dostoevsky’s Sonja throughout the book! I haven’t read any of Dostoevsky's books though), a book in which he seeks literature where compassion is described. Books means a lot to Wikström!!

Wikström’s home site. About him at Wikipedia (only in Swedish).
About Avishai Margalit at Wikipedia.
More about him with links to essays by him. And even more about him here.

photo on Owe Wikström.
PS. Where are all wise and clever women?? Don't they exist? Are there no thinking women, except for some exceptions? Why?? I am referring and linking to men mostly!!??? It suddenly felt...

Det står om Wikströms bok:

"Nutiden överöser oss med slagord:

'Du kan bli framgångsrik', 'Du måste förverkliga dig själv!', Du har bara ett liv, unna dig storslagna upplevelser!', ' Tänk positivt!' [Halleluja!!].

Men alla vet vi, innerst inne, att tillvaron är oberäknelig. Hur mycket man än försöker så styr man inte sitt liv. Vi är, utan att vara särskilt medvetna om det, ständigt beroende av andras omsorger.

I Sonjas godhet frågar sig Owe Wikström vart medkänslan, omsorgen och samtalen om de goda handlingarna tagit vägen. Har osjälviskhet blivit omodernt? Vad sker i ett samhälle där individualism och upplevelsehets står i centrum? Är det omodernt att föra samtal om individens personliga ansvar för andra än sig själv? Förstärks självcentreringen av populärpsykologins tro-på-dig-själv-budskap och en upplevelseorienterad andlighet?

Utgående från en dramatisk personlig upplevelse diskuterar författaren hur det är att vara föremål för andras omsorg, utelämnad i den svages position. När tillvaron är som bräckligast minns han Sonja – den goda kvinnan i Dostojevskijs roman Brott och straff. Hon blir en sinnebild för det goda i människan. Samtidigt ger hon oss en föreställning om en typ av förebild som tidigare sågs som självklar. Att det är en litterär gestalt som på detta sätt väcker tankar om ömhetens betydelse leder över till en diskussion om böckers existentiella betydelse och deras roll som motkrafter. Frågor om ansvar och godhet diskuteras utifrån flera författarskap, främst Fjodor Dostojevskij men även Torgny Lindgren och J. M. Coetzee."

PS. Yesterday I ate lunch with a couple of teachers at the school I work on Fridays (noone is music-teacher though)... One of them is fairly recently educated, and her parents, at least her mother is teacher too (I think I have had her in ne class many, many years ago!!? But I am not educated as class-teacher in music. I am instrumental teacher). I have got the impression that this young teacher is educated from the college located in this town so I asked her about the "English-department"... How the education here is, if she had any idea. It turned out that she teaches the children at this school in English (to 6th grade, klass 6 in Swedish). Thinking if studying English on 25% speed/pace would be possible. I would really like to improve my English! If I could manage this with full time work... Keeping up my playing etc.

And I have also started to wonder about my Swedish grammar... :-) I would like to improve that too!! Have a lot of questions in both cases... But my Swedish is better?? So...

This is very symptomatic for me?: trying and struggling on my own? Afraid of being a nuisance by asking or causing problems (so it was all my school-years with all what that meant, I went the nature-science program in the gymnasium actually, but later I have developed more and more human interests in fact!! I was so "underdeveloped" then to say it straight!? Something I have realized on my own, or this is how I see myself), take too much time (When I was 7 I had four smaller siblings, this sits in my spine?! But IF people try to read what I write here they really have a hard job!!?? To catch up with it all! So that about taking other people's time... Hmmm... And is this also as a sort of Wall from my part, i.e., putting up a wall?). Trying to solve things on my own the best I can (the big-sister my whole life)?

Despite all high demands, challenging this side too. Or rebelling against this? Yes, there is also a counter-side? I challenge this perfectionist side by writing nevertheless... Which doesn't mean I can't get blushing red when I realize how I have written (IF I see it, but many times I see it?? I hope so!)... My eagerness to communicate: an impatience that is greater than any censors inside!?? With a tired smile... This work also offers opportunities to - what? Allowing other sides? Fantasy, hopefully... etc. But it also challenges sides in me?? Shyness? Wishes (in a way) to be invisible...? And other wishes: to be seen?

Of course the attention is limited when there are so many children, coming so close too... In a way we got attention (and then a lot??) and in another no attention?? And for what did we get attention? And for what not? And we were certainly learned to share and think of and care about others??? (I can see the long tradition here: families with many children!! Who should care about so many children?? But in another way parents can't control all these children, if the children so to say ride in all different directions!? Children can hide between each others too?)

And we were told to love each others!! Phew!! The results of this?? That we are close now? Tied up to each others and in a way not tied up?? And what has this all meant for our future family-building?? For our confidence in ourselves as human beings?? Sure of ourselves? Valuing ourselves?

Furiously, impatiently, angrily, temperamentally writing??

Addition November 18: It stood in the article about Owe Wikström

"- Det är en skimrande illusion att tro att 'ensam är stark'. När det kommer till kritan är man beroende av andra.

'I kondenserad form', skriver Owe Wikström i sin bok, 'visar varje sjukdom förödande tydligt hur svag människan innerst inne är. Den pekar på hur beroende hon är av and­ras omsorg, att få släppa kontrollen och förlita sig på att andra accepterar, förlåter och orkar ta över.'

Genom sjukdomen fick han alltså upp ögonen för 'det medmänskliga beroendet och en osjälvisk livsstil.' Han ville skriva om detta, och om det i förhållande till den egoism och självbespegling han tycker breder ut sig i samhället."
Shortly (??) it stood that it is a shimmering illusion to believe that "alone is strong". In the end we are dependent on others. If not earlier so when we get sick, and old etc. Wikström means that in condensed form, as he says, each illness shows devastatingly sharp how weak man is at heart. It points at how dependent she is on others care, to let control go and trust that others accepts, forgives and have the strenght to take over. My addition November 20: and that the one he/she is dependent upon doesn't misuse or exploit the dependency, sickness... How important trust is... To meet a trustworthy too!?? Genuinely trustworthy. And then dare to trust (not be so damaged so you can't then and when you need to rely on others!?).

Through the illness he suddenly got his eyes opened for "the fellow human dependency and an unselfish life-style". He wanted to write about this and about it in relation to the egoism and self-mirroring (??) he thinks is spreading in society.

Yes, there are forms of this self-centeredness that are less"good"? Or how one shall express it?

Addition November 19: see what Bosch wrote about sharing at an too early age... But it isn't only about that, but probably about a lot of other things on top that has made the later grown up need what he/she (thinks he/she) needs... Needs that should have been filled then and never can get filled later?? Even if that human being gets enormous power, is extremely successful and gets a lot lot money...

When I wrote yesterday I was so swift, now I have changed my translation above a bit...

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