Literature as Collective Unconscious

Literary criticism

The Tyranny of Forensic Science and the Law

Two episodes….

On Sunday evening, I watched “Madame Secretary” (which I already like better than “The West Wing” or “Commander in Chief”). It dealt with a West African dictatorship with a polygamous leader, who was planning some sort of coup or purge, and it was her duty or opportunity to stop it. Which she did.

Then I watched a Global Voices show on PBS about a tribe, also from West Africa, which is obsessed with boxing, and like the Dominican Republic is for our baseball leagues, these guys dominate boxing in England other parts of Europe.

I was reading “The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest”, the final work in the Stieg Larsson “Dragon Tattoo” trilogy, and when I opened it (I often read when I’m watching TV), it was a one-page chapter about the only documented Women’s Army, on the model of the legendary Amazons and also from West Africa in the “colonial age.” They actually fought colonial armies to a standstill. It was only in the 1800’s that they were finally defeated by regular troops with artillery and modern rifles. Larsson puts one-page chapters like this in his book, apropos of nothing, except that Lisbeth Salander more or less fits that profile, too, of “woman warrior.”

Now, I can imagine how the collective unconscious works in the electronic media. Even though there was no prior arranging to put a new episode of a CBS political drama right before a PBS documenatary about the boxers from the same region of Africa (although there could have been), that does not explain why I was reading “Hornet’s Nest” and the very chapter (I was reading the book sequentially, not skipping around) which also dealt with warriors of West Africa! Some people see these kinds of things as miracles, or God (or the Devil) manipulating them to Enlightenment or whatever. This was a particularly vivid example (amplified by the current Ebola crisis, also in West Africa), so it stands out.

Larsson has been dead for several years, and this book was published around the time of his death. I don’t own the book – I checked it out of the library. It has restored my faith in great literature – this being among the first such works grounded in the new cyberconsciousness.

Stieg Larsson more or less recreates himself in his protagonist, Mikael Blomkvist. As a novel, or trilogy, the Dragon Tatoo stories ring totally true. And they are laced with real political and moral issues, the main one being the tyranny of the psychiatric profession (and the rest of forensic science and medicine), and their sociopathic desire to punish, confine, and destroy — all in the name of “human rights”, “helping people”, “law enforcement”, “family values,” etc. as well as the traditional class and slavery issues. If you haven’t read them, they deserve as much or more of your attention as The Fountainhead or Atlas Shrugged.

It seemed like a good time to watch a DVD I had picked up – the original “Planet of the Apes,” with Charlton Heston. This was a serious attempt to put the original Pierre Boulle novel into film, and the screenplay was written by Rod Serling, so it may be a ways away from the book. Boulle also wrote the original “Bridge on the River Kwai”, to give you an idea of his stature. I’m digging through my books – I think I have “Apes” in a paper-back, somewhere. I hoarded good S-F books since I was in high school, but I never read this one.

I was blown away. The film was made in 1967, but is set beginning in 1972, and there are a lot of undertones about the counter-culture revolution which was happening, then. Heston plays an astronaut, using the first interstellar drive, along with two other men and a woman – they hope to start a colony and breed wherever they end up.

The 1967 technology and film style is so refreshing, after watching today’s CGI fantasies. Even the Star Trek Next Generation stuff, made in the late 1980’s and early 90’s is relatively “clean” and straightforward in the writing and development of story lines. Now, it seems like everything is through the eyes of madmen and political hacks, trying to serve Big Brother and little else. I also watched a 1956 British film of “1984” on the internet a couple of days ago, which also fits the category, here. The cast included Michael Redgrave (Vanessa’s father) and Donald Pleasance.

I don’t know if Boulle was a professional psychologist, but he seems to have a profound view of the nature of power, and how the “professional class” will sacrifice every human value and spontaneous impulse to the success of their work and status in their profession. The scientific Apes are little or no different from the state psychologists and “guardians” in Larsson’s dystopian Sweden, riddled with Cold War relics and dreams of expanding the Swedish Empire.

The reason I can say that Larsson’s work is “great literature” is that it references or alludes to dozens of other works and situations in the real world, history, the nature of the “national security” apparatus and how it trumps everything – most of all, basic human decency. In the Apes film, Taylor (Charlton Heston) is most interested in finding out why or how these “superior” apes, presumably light-years away from Earth, are descended from humans (kept in a sort of Yahoo-like slavery – see Swift’s “Gulliver’s Travels”). He finds some exceptional scientist-apes who are researching that very question, and they save him, and he eventually saves them to continue their work.

The whole academic game (or better, racket) remains the same. A very few people are actually scientifically curious and interested in bettering the human condition and the planet. The rest are opportunists and careerists, who learn how to manipulate the system and serve the ruling class, but little else..


Literature as ‘Collective Unconscious’

I don’t read a lot of fiction, or other “literature.” When I do read in that field, it is usually criticism or essays by people better-known for fiction. I still remember Ayn Rand’s formulation, supposedly taken from Aristotle, that the function of literature is not to record man as he is, but as he might and ought to be. She claimed that was the basis of “Romanticism,” too, but her definition of that period differs somewhat from what we learned in school.

I was probably attracted to Rand’s novels because she wrote them that way. And unlike most of my urban-sophisticate f riends, I actually knew a lot of people who seemed to be similar – rural and small-town, “lone-wolf”, hacker-type people who were going to change the world and fight evil, however defined, from outside the system. People who didn’t compromise or kiss-ass. Most of them didn’t have husbands, wives, or children. They were “prime movers” – independent spirits who occasionally found someone else on the same or a similar path, but they didn’t correspond even to culture heroes like actors or musicians. But they were the kind of people recognized as “geniuses,” “saints,” or otherwise remarkable examples of the human species.

Most of my adult life, I’ve read stuff like the Jame Bond books, the Hornblower series (fictionalized Admiral Nelson of Trafalgar), and even Tarzan and John Carter of Mars. Most earlier science fiction falls into this category, although it has since expanded to include all forms of art, literature, film, and poetry. We can have “anti-heroes” as well as heroes. Arch-villains as well as people who are not sociopaths or otherwise bent on harming others.

Yet, for the lower-class reality I inhabit, the villains are very often the heroes. We live as slaves, so we look up to the people who are slave-drivers or otherwise of “the ruling class”, hoping they will recognize our efforts, and in case of trouble, show some measure of concern and compassion. And we create a completely different sort of “survival code”, much like Lisbeth Salander’s in the Dragon Tatoo books.

Another context I’ve inhabited all of my adult life is the cyber-culture. I started working in a university computing center when I was 20. I didn’t like it, but it was a good job, and the people there were the nerds and Sci-Fi fans who were at the top of the field. I had always been inclined toward science – especially astronomy and paleontology, and even though I wasn’t very sophisticated about technology, working on cars, inventing things, etc., I always had friends who did these things – starting with my older half-brother, Jon Krug, who was a master craftsman, ham radio operator, etc. when he was still in high school.

To complete this review, I might write some more sections like….

Stieg Larsson’s world

Snowden and Assange

Why Assange is “wanted” in Sweden

How the Swedish Right (something like a “Scan-Am Mafia”) is responsible for many of the disasters since the end of the Cold War.

Nazi-Fascist elements in 20th century Scandinavian history