Evil Contagion

The Nazi and the Psychiatrist“, Scientific American Mind,  by Jack El-Hai, Jan/Feb 2011

The highest ranking captive of the Nazi leadership, Reich Marshal Hermann Göring, Commander of the Luftwaffe, was evaluated at Nuremberg by Major Douglas M. Kelley, MD, from Truckee, California, Chief Psychiatrist of the U.S. Medical Corp.  He found Göring to be forthright, engaging, composed, eloquent, smart, . . . even charming.  And Göring was unapologetic and defensive.  He planned to call Britain’s Lord Halifax as a witness to testify to his [Göring’s] willingness to pursue negotiated settlements before the outbreak of war.”

With the Rorschach inkblot and psychiatric assessment, Kelley diagnosed Göring as . . .normal.  He had no sign of mental illness.  He was sane.

My conscience was named Adolf Hitler“.

Göring displayed “extreme fondness for and tenderness toward his family and friends“, such that Dr. Kelley was moved to help locate and bring to him his wife and daughter. But there were the glimpses of the narcissism and cold calculation of the charming psychopath. Göring spoke of having a close associate murdered. How could he? “Göring stopped talking and stared at me, puzzled, as if I were not quite bright. Then he shrugged his great shoulders, turned up his palms and said slowly, in simple one-syllable words: ‘But he was in my way’ “.

Göring was responsible for the ‘Hunger Plan’, the Nazi plan to starve the conquered eastern Europeans and Russians, in order to feed Germans and depopulate the lebensraum.  He made decisions on execution versus forced labor, as the war circumstances required.  It was he who ordered Heydrich to devise the Final Solution, initially framed as being about forced labor and deportation, but he had to know it was in reality about genocide.

Of course, we rearmed.  We armed Germany until we bristled.  I am only sorry we did not rearm more. Of course, I considered treaties as so much toilet paper.

When asked why he had always been Hitler’s ‘yes man’, he replied: “Please show me a ‘no-man’ in Germany who is not six feet under the ground today.”

Göring was addicted to the narcotic, paracodeine, since just before meeting Hitler in the early 1920’s. Narcotics drugs, it is known, create and enhance antisocial personality. They effectively block feelings of empathy, shame, and guilt for its users. Was Nazi evil deepened by narcotics?  Hitler’s first mentor, and important early supporter, Dietrich Eckart, was a morphine addict.

Göring managed to commit suicide with cyanide, just hours before his scheduled execution.  This was his coup, his final refusal to bow.  How did he obtain the cyanide?  We don’t know.  Dr. Kelley had abruptly left Nuremberg before the psychiatric work was completed, for reasons unclear, taking his papers with him (only recently released by his family for this article).  He became alcoholic, and on New Year’s Day, 1958, at age 45, during a domestic drinking episode, he put a cyanide capsule between his teeth, and threatened to bite down. And then suddenly he did, and he died instantly.  His son was there. He believes it was an accident.

In the time of animals

1.5 million years ago, pre-modern hominids moved out of Africa, migrated across the Levant, into the Caucasus, past the Carpathian Mountains, north of the Danube, and on to the great vast “mammoth” steppe of grasslands, and great herds of animals.  This is where the big brain hominids could hunt and eat the big stomach mammals who lived on the grasses.  This huge savannah, which stretched across Europe and Asia and the Bering Sea land bridge all the way to Alaska and northern Canada, nourished these hominids who eventually became the Neanderthal, who then flourished in the southern temperate regions, north of the alpine mountains, along the north and south valleys of the Pyrenees mountains on the present day border of France and Spain, and west to the Atlantic.  This was the garden of eden. It was the time of the animals.

And then modern humans came, leaving Africa some 100,000 years ago, again traveling thru the Levant and on to the steppe, and then west and east, all the way to Australia.  In southern France and central Spain, about 40,000 years ago, they encountered the Neanderthal, and over next the 12,000 years, as the modern humans flourished, the Neanderthal retreated, first into small areas of France and Spain, and finally to a last stand near Gilbraltor.

We have no archeology of a war.  Neanderthal had bigger brains, and stronger bodies, but modern humans had something else, and that something gave them larger group cooperation, better tools, more successful hunting.  They unleashed a veritable ‘explosion’ of cultural creativity.

In the river ledge caves of the valleys of the Pyrenees, at Lascaux, Chauvet, and Altamira, and many others, there is the luxuriant, compelling art of these pre-historic modern humans.  There are life-size paintings of running, prancing, rearing, and charging horses, bison, tigers and reindeer.  The animals are regal and robust, boastful and healthy, herding and crowding, standing off and mocking.  They are relishing their lives on these great, lush grasslands, with gleaming eyes, suspicion, intention, pride, and fear.  They own the world. Their human artists hold them in awe.

It was the mind’s eye, in these caves, that painted these paintings. Modern humans had something new. They could hold their visual memories, consciously, long enough and intensely enough to recreate the vivid images of these animals in the darkness of the caves.  And not just descriptive details, . . no, also details of salience – posture, emotion, and personality.

Intelligence is the strong use of memory.  It is rich retrieval of memory, conscious analysis of memory, and parsing of the key elements of memories.  This power, the artistic power, the power of the mind’s eye, is the new power that came with modern humans.

Modern humans made success in virtually all of the ecological niches of the world, harvesting the bounty of wild animals.

And then, 10,000 years ago, from the fertile crescent came the farmers, and the Anthropocene, the time of humans, began.

Einstein and Bohr Reality

Like most people, I think that there is something real out there, entirely independent of us and our models, as the earth is independent of our maps.  But this is because I can’t help believing in an objective reality, not because I have good arguments for it.”   Steven Weinberg,  New York Review of Books, February 10, 2011.

Great Scientists today hold that it is an open question if anything is really real, and they are pretty sure that we can never really know. They echo the great debate of their towering forebears – Niels Bohr and Albert Einstein.

At the turn of the twentieth century, science turned its attention to the very small, and found the quantum.  Max Planck, (whose son Irwin was tortured and hanged by the Nazi’s in 1944, for participating in a plot against Hitler) was investigating the strange creation of light from the heating of matter, when he discovered that energy changes always occurred in discrete quantum jumps. These jumps were mysteriously instantaneous, with no travel in space in between.

Subatomic investigations soon revealed the strange fact that matter and light behave both as discrete particles that collide and bounce, and as continuous waves of flow that peak and trough with patterns of interference.  A wave’s mathematical equation seemed to represent the probability of a particle’s location, yet even a single particle was found to act like a wave. Detecting a particle’s location, by measuring its position or momentum,  would mysteriously make a particle appear out of the flow of the wave, and then the wave itself would disappear.  Reality was a strange chameleon.  100 years later this is still so.

Niels Bohr accepted this.  Albert Einstein could not.  For Einstein, an observer-independent reality, and a continuous, uninterrupted causality are fundamentals of truth. The Quantum’s instantaneous ‘jumps’- entanglement “spooky action at a distance”, particles created by the act of measurement, these could not be the full story, there must be “hidden variables”.

God doesn’t play dice.”  “Do you really believe the moon doesn’t exist when you are not looking at it?

In this, and only in this, Einstein has so far been wrong.

Bohr grasped that science was encountering a fundamental limit of knowledge.  We can only know what is knowable – measurable attributes, which must be either/or essences – like the quantum, like bits. We can only know the information of reality, not its ultimate essence. We can’t know what isn’t measureable.

any property or feature of reality “out there” can only be based on information we receive. . .  the distinction between information and reality is devoid of any meaning. . . information is quantized in truth-values of propositions. . .the quantization in physics is the same as the quantization of information.”  Anton Zeilinger,  Science and Ultimate Reality, 2004

Bohr may not have realized that he was bringing forth the science of information. At a meeting in Europe, he and Claude Shannon crossed paths. Shannon went on to create the modern theory of information, the theory that led to computers.

Einsteinstop telling God what to do!

 

Who was Jack Ruby?

Seth Kantor was a news correspondent in Dallas the day JFK was killed, and he knew Jack Ruby.  At Parkland Hospital, just after the assassination, Ruby tapped Kantor on the back, and said hello. Kantor is absolutely sure of this.  Later, Ruby denied ever being there.

What would make Jack Ruby seek out a news reporter he knew at the hospital on Friday and then, after Sunday, deny having been there?  It’s because Ruby was not involved in a plot to kill anyone on Friday. But by Sunday he was.”   The Ruby Cover-up,  Seth Kantor, 1978.

In 1959, the mob has difficulties with Castro’s Cuba.  A Chicago ‘messenger boy’ –  Jack Ruby, moves to Dallas, which is a ‘border town’, a stopover to Mexico and Havana. Jack Ruby visits Santos Trafficante, who was in comfortable house arrest in a Havana jail.  By 1963 Ruby is heavily in debt. On the same day that Lee Harvey Oswald moves to Dallas from New Orleans – June 5, 1963 – Ruby takes a call from New Orleans, and then promptly travels there, where he has phone conversations with Chicago gangsters. He visits Cuba. On November 11, 1963, he gives power of attorney over his finances to his tax lawyer.  He installs a safe.  He calls associates of James Hoffa, Carlos Marcello, and John Roselli. He meets with a crime syndicate pay master.  He becomes very anxious, and gets prescriptions for tranquilizers. He visits Las Vegas. On November 19, 1963 he tells his tax attorney that his debts will soon be settled.

During the JFR assassination, Ruby is nearby, at the offices of the Dallas Morning News. In the evening, he is trying to get into the interrogation room, with a gun in his pocket, where Oswald is held, but is turned away. That night he is with reporters when Oswald is brought before them. He corrects the District Attorney who misnames the Fair Play for Cuba Committee!  Very late that night he meets with a Dallas police officer, Harry N.Olsen, an officer with a poor record, an officer who rents from the sister of the woman who rents to Lee Harvey Oswald.

On November 24, at 11:17 AM, Ruby is at the Western Union station next to the police station, just before Oswald’s transfer.  A car horn sounds.  At 11:21 Ruby is stepping in front of a policeman to shoot Oswald, the fatal way, into the spleen and across the upper abdomen. He is visibly nervous until he knows that Oswald has died.

In June 1964, Earl Warren visits Ruby, who has been sentenced to die. The transcript is a must read. Ruby talks of things not asked that seem like hints. He asks eight times to be taken to Washington. He is emphatic that his life is in danger. “I can’t say it here . . .why my act was committed”.I have been used for a purpose“.

Ruby fails a lie detector test on questions about his comings and goings in the police station.   He passes on:  no he was not part of a conspiracy, no he did not know Oswald beforehand . . . .and no he was not at Parkland.

Murder Leaders

When criminals take over . . .

The utopias in summer 1941 had been four:  a lightning victory that would destroy the Soviet Union in weeks; a Hunger Plan that would starve thirty million people in months; a Final Solution that would eliminate European Jews after the war; and a General Plan Ost that would make of the western Soviet Union a German colony.”  The BloodLands, Europe Between Hitler and Stalin, Timothy Snyder, 2010.

In their Hunger Plan, the Nazi’s planned to feed German soldiers and German civilians by intentionally starving the millions of Soviet citizens they would conquer. They would destroy the cities, and the industry in Ukraine and Southern Russia, and “the terrain would be returned to natural forest“. They particularly wanted the forests of Poland, for hunting. The eastern Soviet Union and Ukraine would be returned to a preindustrial state, and Germany would become “a massive land empire in Europe” to eventually “rival the British and the Americans“.  They would do to the Ukraine, for Germany, what Stalin had already done, for Bolshevism, – starve the population of that valuable bread basket nation.  A Leningrad, starved “from the face of the earth”, would be given to the Finn’s.  This was directed, in writing, on May 23, 1941.

As time fades, there can be a temptation to think of the Nazi’s as like other conquering leaders in history, albeit brutal, sort of like we think of Genghis Kahn. But no, they were, from the beginning, vicious Ted Bundy killers, bent on murder. And murder they did.

To recount, only partially, in the East, in 1941, and these are civilians, not soldiers, mostly shot point blank outside of their homes:  72,000 at Ponary, Lithuania, in Latvia, 69,750, in Estonia, 5,000, in Bialystok, 1000, 19,655 in Eastern Poland, 13,778 between Belarus and Ukraine, 23,600 outside of Kamianets-Podilskyi, Ukraine, 33,761 from Kiev at Babi Yar, 12,000 at Dnipropetrovsk, 10,000 in Kharkiv, 6,000 in Mahileu, Belarus, 14,000 in Riga, 17,000 from Rivne, Ukraine, in the Sosensky woods. In 1942, the remaining 10,000 of Rivne, at Kostopil, Ukraine, 10,000 at Hirka Polonka, from Kovel, 14,000 near Kamin-Kashyrshkyi, 6,624 and then another 5,000 from Minsk, at Tuchinka.

Notes are found.  “My beloved Mama!  There was no escape.  They brought us here from outside the ghetto, and now we must die a terrible death.”  “One wants to live, and they won’t allow it.”  “I am strangely calm, though it is hard to die at twenty“.

Himmler is treated to ‘show’ executions in Minsk, and this is made into a movie, for enjoyment back in Berlin.  Another 3,412 are shot in Minsk.  German SS try to kill all Jews ‘in their territory’ by April 20 to honor Hitler’s birthday.  A ‘death facility’ built in Minsk kills 40,000, and 208,089 are killed in Belarus, 30,000 alone by one monster SS Commander, Oskar Dirlewanger .

As many Soviet prisoners of war died on a single given day in autumn 1941 as did British and American prisoners of war over the course of the entire Second World War“.

As the war against Russia failed, the Hunger Plan became the Final Solution.  Murder became the whole point of the war.  “A war to destroy the Soviet Union became a war to murder the Jews.”

Warning the Tsar

In 1914, Petr Durnovo, police chief and interior minister of Russia, wrote a letter to Tsar Nicholas II. He foresaw the disaster that World War I would be for Russia, and he urged the Tsar to change course. It was not meant to be.

In the early 1900’s, in America and in Europe and Russia, material progress was improving quality of life.  People were living better, and populations were growing. But productivity was not increasing as fast.  And so nations needed land, and access to colonies for food and resources.  And they went after them. And this led to war.

Durnovo foresaw that the continental empire of Germany would seek to extend its power into the seas, where it would clash with England.  As each would not have the power to overcome the other, both will build alliances with others, a world war would follow. Russia was allied with France, and had normally been friendly with Germany.  Since the Russ0-Japanese War, however, Russia renounced its “traditional policy of distrust of England” and created the Triple Entente with France and England against Germany. This was the looming disaster for Russia, for Russia would bear the brunt of any continental assault on Germany. Petr Durnovo knew the state of modern armaments and “military technique“.  He could foresee the ghastly results.

Durnovo was sure Russia would lose.  She was not adequately prepared, weakened as he saw it, by the Tsar’s naive political liberalization. “The fault lies, in a considerable measure, in our young legislative institutions, which have taken a dilettante interest in our defenses, but are far from grasping the seriousness of the political situation arising from the new orientation which, with the sympathy of the public, has been followed in recent years by our Ministry of Foreign Affairs“.  “Every previous war has invariably been followed by something new in the realm of military technique, but the technical backwardness of our industries does not create favorable conditions for our adoption of the new inventions.

He  reasoned that Russia didn’t need land, didn’t need colonies, and so didn’t need to go to war. He knew that Russia was on the precipice of social upheaval as the masses awakened. “An especially favorable soil for social upheavals is found in Russia, where the masses undoubtedly profess, unconsciously, the principals of Socialism. . . The Russian masses, whether workmen or peasants, are not looking for political rights, which they neither want nor comprehend. . . The peasant dreams of obtaining a gratuitous share of somebody else’s land; the workman, of getting hold of the entire capital and profits of the manufacturer. . .Beyond this they have no aspirations.”  He knew a great war would break the nation’s finances, and its frail political cohesion.

A defeated Germany, too, would degenerate. “The effect of a disastrous war upon the population will be too severe not to bring to the surface destructive tendencies, now deeply hidden.”  The widespread suffering “will offer fertile soil for anti-agrarian and later anti-social propaganda by the Socialist parties.”

And so after World War I came the Nazi’s and the Bolsheviks.

Architecture Artist

“. . a building has to start in the unmeasurable aura and go through the measurable to be accomplished. . . . the only way to get it into being is through the measurable. . . . in the end when the building becomes part of living it evokes unmeasurable qualities.”   Louis Kahn

Aesthetic creation invariably entails combined, patterned arrangements of essential elements, in spatial and temporal form, that evoke sensual and emotional and thoughtful experience.  There arises, in some mysterious way, joy and meaning.  People differ in their capacity for aesthetic enjoyment.  There is music, visual art, sculpture, literature, drama, and even food.   And there is place – architecture. Louis I. Kahn was an artist of architecture.

This small, strange man with a burn-scarred face practiced architecture in Philadelphia, and taught at the University of Pennsylvania. In the documentary film, My Architect, his son Nathaniel tells us his story. Louis Kahn had three separate families. . . simultaneously, . . .and he never owned or drove a car. He died a lonely, premature death in a Philadelphia train station.

In the early 2oth century, building materials – steel, glass, and other metals – became available in stronger and more diverse components, and this had a sudden and dramatic impact on the possibilities of architecture.  These materials made possible a quick and easy facade design, with artificial size, space and suspension.  The result was, well, . . . Modern . . . architecture: buildings that were new, dazzling, and original, but so quick and easy as to be able to hide structural methods and ignore thoughtful human purpose and scale – which they often then did.

Louis Kahn visited the ruins of ancient Egypt, and Greece, and Rome, and found inspiration. He saw in the ancient buildings that architecture could have “a sense of eternity, of timelessness, and of unchanging perfection.” He called this Monumentality.  Buildings could have gravity, and architects could deliver more than just what seems needed:  “Need comes from the known.  Supply only what is lacking brings no lasting joy. Did the world need the 5th symphony before Beethoven wrote it?”  “Give spaces as much nobility as possible, change corridors into galleries, lobbies into places of entrance”.

Above all, for Louis Kahn, buildings should reflect how they are made, and materials should be used in compliance with their natural character, revealing the methods of the builder.  Support and weight should be visibly sensible.  “No space is an architectural space unless it has natural light“. Architecture should enhance human community.  He lost an early battle to keep the automobile out of central Philadelphia design.

At the Kimball Art Museum . . .the Salk Institute . . .the Bangladesh National Capital . . .the Fisher House, one can feel Louis Kahn’s enduring gift, a timeless aesthetic of space.

the Bangladesh National Capital at Dhaka possesses a monumentality unlike anything to come before in the history of architecture – at once ancient and modern, literally hand-built largely of modest, locally produced materials, . . .its spaces are scaled to the highest aspirations of humanity.”  PhaidonLouis I. Kahn, Robert McCarter, 2005.

Romanization

Before globalization, there was Romanization.

In 42 B.C.E., Octavius, the nephew of Julius Caesar, became Emperor Augustus. Until his death in 14 C.E., as the deity of Imperial Rome, he Romanized the known Mediterranean world, and launched modern history.

In the lands of Galilee and Jerusalum and Jericho, between Sinai and Phoenicia and Syria, on the eastern shores of the Mediterranean Sea, lived a subsistence farming, communal people. Theirs was a culture of food purity, of bathing with running water, of sanctity of family and marriage, and of a covenantal relationship to an un-nameable God, a one true God.  Their lands belonged to this God, its fruits were to be shared in sacrifice to God.  Every seventh day was for rest, and for God.

In 63 B.C.E., the Romans came. While hunting pirates from Turkey who were raiding grain ships on their way to Rome, Pompey the Great marched thru Armenia, Syria, and then to Jerusalem, where he seized the Temple, conquered Judaea, and established the Roman Province, Syria Palastina. He eventually married Julius Caesar’s daughter, she died in childbirth along with their child. In civil war, at Pharsalus, against his brotherin-law, Pompey was defeated.  He escaped to Egypt, but was put to sword coming ashore.

Herod the Great came to rule in Syria Palastina, in collaboration with Rome.  He rebuilt the Jerusalem Temple into a wonder of the ancient world.  He built a great port city, Caesarea, and cities in the heartland – Tiberius in Galilee, and Sepphoris, just four miles from Nazareth.  With this Romanization, farming was commercialized and families were dispossessed, Roman patronage broke communal bonds, Roman money invaded traditional exchange, and – worst of all – piety to Roman power brought sacrilege – graven images near the Temple.

Local resistance grew.  A baptism movement developed.  Water immersion re-enacted the crossing of the Jordan of the ancestors, symbolically re-committing to traditional history.  The leader was beheaded by Herod’s son. An apocalyptic sect retreated into the caves near the Dead Sea. Collaborators and Roman officials were assassinated. A Kingdom of God movement arose in Galilee, advocating radical egalitarianism – shared living, non-violent resistence, and a dangerous rejection of Roman imperial divinity.  Their charismatic leader, in Jerusalem during Passover, protested the money commerce that invaded the Temple. He was swiftly arrested, and gruesomely crucified. His movement lived on, his followers moved out to Antioch, Corinth, Thessalonica, and Rome. They came to be blamed for a great fire in Rome, and Nero put their leaders to death. Revolts in Jerusalem and the surrounding lands attacked Roman legions. In a surprise victory, The Eagle Standard of the Twelfth Roman Legion was captured.  Roman honor was stained.  Nero dispached Vespasian, who, with his son, Titus, sieged and re-conquered Jerusalem. The Great Temple, all but the Western Wall, was destroyed.

While the Temple blazed, the victors plundered everything that fell in their way and slaughtered wholesale all who were caught.  No pity was shown for age, no reverence for rank: children and greybeards, laity and priests alike were massacred.”   Josephus, Jewish War,  6.6.271

Alan Turing, RIP.

In February 2011, Watson the IBM computer beat two humans in the game of Jeopardy!. Watson was programmed with massive information – some 200 million pages, 15 terabytes.  He can process 500 million books per second.  He ‘listens’ for key words in a clue, then matches them with clusters in his memory, then cross checks them against contextual information that is offered, and then ‘buzzes’ a decision when his statistical analysis finds the likelihood of a match.

Alan Turing would not be surprised.  “I believe that at the end of the century the use of words and general educated opinion will have altered so much that one will be able to speak of machines thinking without expecting to be contradicted.”  1950.  Turing was the British mathematician who broke the Nazi Enigma security code. He was also a homosexual, which was a crime in England during his lifetime.  A lover blackmailed him. Turing sought police help.  He would not deny his homosexuality.  Despite his great service to the war effort, he was placed on house arrest, and ordered to receive female hormone treatments.

Mathematicians in his time sought to unify the truths of numbers, geometry, language, and logic.  With mathematics and grammar, and self evident axioms and propositions, they sought a symbolic logic that could derive all knowable truth. Was this possible?  Kurt Gödel ultimately proved that. . . no, such a system was not possible.  There are inevitably truths in any system of logic that can not be proven within that system.

Turing’s genius was to see that in the mechanics of functioning devices, machines that really work must embody some kind of truth. He utilized the most basic element of logical mathematics, the binary system, 0/1, and then conceptualized the mechanical expression of the most basic operations, the Boolean operations: and, or, not, if and only if, and never. He created a process of physically ordering events in time along a moving tape, and applied ordered ‘sets-of-rules’ to discrete ‘events’ – positions on the tape.  He then proved, mathematically, that this Turing machine could compute anything logical or mathematical.  He had derived the theoretic essential elements of Mind, and defined the structure of the modern computer.

His mother would often say that he was so . . .”literal minded“.  This was autism.  Turing used his intellect to compensate for limited emotional understanding. Indeed, like Spock of Star Trek, he was machine-like himself.  He found himself defending machines against the outrage that machines could be intelligent.

And to him, humans weren’t so wonderfully thoughtful. They clearly and profoundly misjudge, after all, the simple meaning of sexual preference.  He mocked their faulty reasoning:   Turing believes machine think. . . .Turing lies with men. . . . Therefore machines do not think

Turing loved Walt Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, particularly the scene where the Queen plots with the Raven to entice Snow White to bite into a poisoned apple, so that she, the Queen, can then be ‘the fairest in the land’.  He was found dead, on June 8, 1954, alongside a bitten apple dipped in cyanide.

Apple Computer’s logo?

Panopticon

The private ego is the most precious thing we each have, and it is far more vulnerable now than ever before”  Tomorrow’s People, Susan Greenfield, 2003

Modern Madness, by Louis Sass, 1992, explores the disordered self of schizophrenia to illuminate the nature of normal psychology.  The self, it seems, is not a self, but is selves.  We are at least three, an immediate-being self, a social self, and a self-observing self.  Particularly in modern times, the self-observing self must also be the leader self, the self-managing self. We are this mental multiplicity, and we need to be integrated. Modern times may be working against this.

Michael Foucault wrote of the Panopticon, a prison architecture in which inmates were to be housed such that they were always under observation, while never able to see their observers.  This was proposed by the English philosopher Jeremy Bentham in 1885, and he theorized that this predicament would uniquely disarm a person psychologically, creating a state of mental confinement that would reduce the need for physical confinement. Somehow, in the naked presence of omniscient observation, one’s self-observing self would not be able to ground its functioning in a place of privacy, and thus weakened, it would be subject to outside direction and control.  In this theory, the self-observing self is built and maintained by direct personal experience – experience that we differentiate from the experience of others – and to achieve this, privacy is an absolute requirement.

Lady Greenfield, Oxford neurophysiologist, cross bencher in the House of Lords, controversial popularizer of science, has fears that modern forces are eroding the personal self.  The mind is plastic, she knows very well from her research, and its experiences determine its nature.  For her, that increasingly ubiquitous experience – computer screen experience – which is fast becoming the dominant mental experience of young people – with its hypnotic suspension of self observation, its enhancement of immediate being, its artificially instantaneous feed back, its blocking out of prosody and gesture, its insulation from social emotion, its replacement of body-kinesthetic experience, its displacement of personal pedagogy – is undermining the development and integrity of the self-observing ego of young people.  She notes the explosion of ADHD, the prescriptions for ritalin, and the growth of autism – the latter a condition very comfortable with computer screen experience. For Lady Greenfield, a diminished personal ego is susceptible to GroupThink, and to fundamentalisms. She worries that the internet is driving this weakening and collectivization of the self.  She cites Bertrand Russell:

Man’s collective passions are mainly evil; far the strongest of them are hatred and rivalry directed towards other groups.  Therefore at present all that give men power to indulge their collective passions is bad.”

Are we building a panopticon?