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No mirrors in the cage

Frequently [mauvaise foi (self-deception)] is [mis-]identified with falsehood. We say indifferently of a person that he shows signs of bad faith or that he lies to himself. We shall willingly grant that bad faith is a lie to oneself, on condition that we distinguish the lie to oneself from lying in general. Lying is a negative attitude, we will agree to that. But this negation does not bear on consciousness itself; it aims only at the transcendent. The essence of the lie implies in fact that the liar actually is in complete possession of the truth which he is hiding. A man does not lie about what he is ignorant of.
- From Existential Psychoanalysis by Jean-Paul Sartre


Jesus, I made the same mistake once again. I shouldn't have started my previous post with a mention of MSR before taking the necessary precautions. MSR stands for Mirror Self-Recognition Tests, a method to test cognitive abilities in children and animals.

Most of "US" fear the mirror like some wild animals are scared to death at the sight of fire. Narcissists seem to be exceptions. But actually I suspect narcissism is nothing but the reverse side of the fear of self.

It belatedly dawned on me that I'd underestimated the ferocity of "OUR" instinctive response to the real existential threat only when I was working on a new piece which now deals with "narcissism of the Hottentots." Some forty years ago a former Japanese Ambassador to Argentina named Kawarazaki said in a speech to the effect that the Japanese are the only species that is uglier than the Hottentots. If I remember it correctly, the controversial remarks eventually cost him his job as a diplomat. But nobody could deny he was just too honest. The wicked Queen in Snow White says to the mirror on the wall: "Mirror, mirror, who's the fairest one of all?". Now I'm asking myself: "Why are there so many narcissists in the nation of yellow Hottentots?".

I am not a narcissist myself, whether or not I look pretty much like a Hottentot, or Pigmy. So I don't particularly like to look at my own battered, wrinkled face. But unlike most of US, I don't fear the mirror. Actually I don't even need a mirror in the first place because I already know what I am, inside out. I am an ailing 77-year-old now dying in dire poverty, who is still being robbed of 20-40% of his pension by the municipal government for his consumption of radioactively contaminated oxygen. It has never been the other way around in my lifetime; not once have I extorted someone else's fruits of labor in the way the small-time thieves at the City Hall are doing to me right now. It's a different issue whether it's their fault or mine. But one thing is for sure: this cannot be a paranoiac delusion.

The reason I mentioned MSR, anyway, is because no one seems to care about OUR constant failure in the mirror test. Among a variety of versions of MSR, there is an interesting method called "the Rouge Test" in which an experimenter surreptitiously places a dot, using rouge makeup, on the face of a human child or an ape. Researchers have reported that most of the time the subject before the mirror tries to remove the embarrassing stain from its own face.

They have never thought about modifying the rouge test so it can be used for adults. But if there was such a version around, I suspect most human adults would try to wipe out the red mark from the reflection in the mirror. On the other hand, they would claim the credit for someone else's achievement when they found in the mirror a man with a trophy in his hand. The test result would reveal how the human race has developed its sense of "we-ness."

In the above-quoted passage from his Existential Psychoanalysis, Sartre wanted to say a lie is a conscious falsehood whereas mauvaise foi (self-deception) largely remains unconscious. This is an utter truism. But beware, a truism is sometimes truer than the truth. That is why the French philosopher thought an ontological approach was necessary to unravel the mechanism of self-deception.

POSTSCRIPT: If you are not familiar with ontology, here's my way of defining it. It's something that demands the disambiguation of tricky (or convenient) pronouns, especially YOU, WE, and THEY, as they are used in public discourse. You wonder: "What good would it do to precisely define and redefine these words every time any one of them comes up in our debate?". I couldn't care less if you feel it's unnecessary.

Some ten years ago I became acquainted with a funny guy named Maeda at a fast-food outlet near my workplace in central Tokyo. Perhaps he was in his late-50s or early-60s. He had a big scar on his cheek. We talked a lot about politics which revealed Maeda was a kind of anarchist although his antisocial vocabulary was quite limited and by and large second-hand. On the other hand he was reluctant to tell me his personal background in detail. All I learned in subsequent conversations between us is that he was a former member of a yakuza syndicate, and now he was jobless because he had somehow been kicked out of the organization in which he'd spent his entire "career." He added he was applying for the welfare benefits because unlike company employees, he wasn't entitled to any pension program. He hinted that he had recently kicked the habit of drug abuse.

I don't have the slightest idea of Maeda's whereabouts because I haven't heard a word from him in eight years or so. But my assumption is that although he is now on benefits, Maeda is behind bars for peddling illegal drugs or abusing them himself. If I am right, it's a happy ending for his life because I hear there's no mirror available in jail for security reasons. I sometimes suspect so many people almost voluntarily fence themselves in a real or imaginary prison simply because the mirror scares them to death.

On the contrary, if Maeda's cell was equipped with a mirror by any chance, it would be like living in hell because day in, day out, he would have to face a man who harbors an irresistible animosity against the society which extends a helping hand to him through the welfare program. Nothing can be more excruciating than receiving support from one's enemy. By comparison, the embarrassment caused by the scar on your face is nothing but an April breeze.

Sartre once observed: "Hell is other people." To paraphrase this statement, hell is in the mirror. Since the French philosopher knew mauvaise foi is inherent to the human being as defined as lêtre-pour-soi and lêtre-pour-autrui, he never intended to preach the virtue of consistency as if we were a self-contained lêtre-en-soi. He saw human integrity in a person who has the courage to face his real self. ·

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No mirrors in the cage | 8 comments | Create New Account
The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.
No mirrors in the cage
Authored by: samwidge on Wednesday, July 31 2013 @ 02:47 PM JST

"Controversial remark"? Odd to think about Ambassador Kawarazaki's controversial remarks when discussing intellect. In the United States there is colossal pressure to regiment our speaking and our thinking. I recall that you said the Japanese were long since forced into moulds so that they can no longer speak or think independently.

Looks like both nations are following this one ugly path.

Crushing hate is directed at the people who do not speak or think in the way demanded by people who want Ultimate Control. We are lied to, lied about, cheated and robbed by these people. Then we elect them every season to leadership positions in clubs, associations and governments.

Every child studies the crimes of Josef Mengele. Every medical student studies the medical discoveries of Josef Mengele. Peace abounds until someone speaks of both sides of the man's life at the same time. Then the speaker is treated with threats and abject rudeness.

In all of this it would seem that victims and their haters are equally at fault.

The mirror is a poor toy in the hands of one who refuses to accurately see the self or anything else within it. It is no matter how hard we may try to force victims or haters to see themselves as they really are, they will fool themselves and claim that some alternate image exists before them.

One of my favorite poems comes from Rudyard Kipling, "When Earth's Last Picture is Painted." The last three lines are;

"And each, in his separate star,
Will draw the thing as he sees it.
For the God of things as they are!"
No mirrors in the cage
Authored by: Y.Yamamoto on Wednesday, July 31 2013 @ 04:41 PM JST

“Odd to think about Ambassador Kawarazaki's controversial remarks.”

His boss at Japan’s foreign ministry felt in the same way. But my take on the Hottentot remarks is very different. The diplomat was an honest person. So he described what he thought was ugly as ugly. He must have known he was deprecating himself as an ugly Japanese as well.

I know very little about Josef Mengele. But what if the outspoken ambassador hadn’t thought or spoken “in the way demanded by people who want Ultimate Control”? Let’s face it: WE are already controlled as you seem to suggest. Or are you not one of the “WE”? The American people seem to think it’s trendy to talk about “control” these days. But guess what, man has been controlled since millions of years before the American Century began – controlled by what Sartre calls Being-in-Itself. The history of mankind is the never-ending battle against the inertia of the material world. Ayn Rand may agree to this view.

“In all of this it would seem that victims and their haters are equally at fault.”

Basically the same question here: Are YOU a victim of hate crime, or a hater (of haters)? If neither is the case with you, I suspect you came from another planet which knows no air, no ocean, no life, no death, no love, no hatred. Actually I’ve never talked about one-way hatred single-mindedly directed to others. I’m always talking about self-hatred here because every hater just redirects his self-hatred toward others. There’s no such thing as hatred without self-hatred. Among other things Josef Mengele must have hated himself. If he loved to look at himself in the mirror, he was a narcissist. As you may know, narcissism, i.e. self-righteousness, always leads one to a hate crime.

“The mirror is a poor toy in the hands of one who refuses to accurately see the self or anything else within it. It is no matter how hard we may try to force victims or haters to see themselves as they really are, they will fool themselves and claim that some alternate image exists before them.”

Again, exactly who are this “THEY” or "WE" you are talking about? Where has your own "toy" gone?

I think our ways of viewing things are miles apart. But I always hope you keep your comments coming because they are thought-provoking, to say the least.

Yu Yamamoto
No mirrors in the cage
Authored by: Y.Yamamoto on Thursday, August 01 2013 @ 01:29 AM JST

There's another thing I should have asked you in my reply to your comment.

Like Kawarazaki, I am a notorious person for his outspokenness. In fact in this blog I keep saying something to be interpreted like: "The Japanese are the only people who are uglier than the Americans." None of the small number of Japanese visitors to my website have felt offended by the idea.

My question: As an American citizen, have you felt insulted by my "racial slur"? If you have, do you have any suggestion to make my blog more politically correct?

If you haven't, why? Is that because you are confident about Caucasian's supremacy over the Hottentots no matter what a Japanese say?

Yu Yamamoto
No mirrors in the cage
Authored by: Y.Yamamoto on Thursday, August 01 2013 @ 02:32 PM JST

Currently I'm playing a game with the air-conditioner, the audio equipment which I have been using as an alarm clock, and the PC. The game that I call "Which Survives Which" is now coming to its final stage. Like me, they are all dying. The 4.5-year-old PC is almost dead because its motherboard is on the verge of the ultimate failure. There's no winner in this game. If I survive them, I'll be just sitting around in the steamy apartment, totally disconnected from the outside world. Due to the stress from all this, the systolic reading of my blood pressure has been hovering around 190mmHG.

These are why I've been on a writing binge in the last 72-96 hours.

I'm no longer concerned about inessential matters. That leaves me pondering about the issues with evolution/devolution, dialectic and ontology.

In this essay, I wrote:

"In the above-quoted passage from his Existentialist Psychoanalysis, Sartre wanted to say a lie is a conscious falsehood whereas mauvaise foi (self-deception) largely remains unconscious. This is an utter truism. But beware, a truism is sometimes truer than the truth. That is why the French philosopher thought an ontological approach was necessary to unravel the mechanism of self-deception."

But after the exchange of words with you, I inserted a note below this paragraph. It reads:

"POSTSCRIPT: If you are not familiar with ontology, here's my way of defining it. It's something that demands the disambiguation of tricky (or convenient) pronouns, especially YOU, WE, and THEY, as they are used in public discourse. You wonder: "What good would it do to precisely define and redefine these words every time any one of them comes up in our debate?". I couldn't care less if you feel it's unnecessary."

As I have maintained in recent years, the Americans are the second-least intelligent people only next to the Japanese. I'm not really concerned about whether you think my "racial slur" is as unacceptable as Kawarazaki's Hottentot remarks. If you feel that way, I'm sorry for that. But I have no time to further explain that's NOT what I wanted to say.

Yu Yamamoto
No mirrors in the cage
Authored by: samwidge on Thursday, August 01 2013 @ 05:28 PM JST

My computer is a little older than yours and this is why I have difficulty in communication. I wish I could be in Yokohama with you. Our disagreements would ring through the neighborhood. We would have fun!

I could not possibly be offended by anything you might say. You are just as grouchy as I about the intellectual failures of the masses of people about us. We see different things in different ways. It is not the different results that matter, it is our willingness to see at all.

In some of the most recent American political battles I discover outrageous lies. It is as though wealthy/powerful people only wish to argue and to argue without seeing. They feel that they may win some small battles and become more powerful by saying something cute or catchy. They seem to believe that reality, integrity, honesty are all unimportant. Excitement for these folks is the only thing that matters.

Thus you and I are the victors. We don't care about fame or money. We care about reality, integrity, honesty.

That's enough for me.
No mirrors in the cage
Authored by: Y.Yamamoto on Thursday, August 01 2013 @ 08:48 PM JST

The machine is somehow breathing. So am I.

Believe it not, there is only ONE difference between the American people and me. The Americans keep singing: "It's a sin to tell a lie." To them, honesty means not telling lies. Whereas I keep talking about mauvaise foi. Billy Mayhew (?) wrote the pretty tune for young lovers in the 1930s, but some 10 years later, amid WWII, the French philosopher wrote an essay on phenomenological ontology to say "Little (or Big) White Lies" are quite OK. Hitler wasn't a liar.

Today I'm having my day because my old friend living in San Diego sent me 10K yen as cash advance for a small translation gig he wants me to work on. If the PC becomes dead before I repay, I think Lara will lend me one of her machines for free. Yesterday she promised that. Although it's a 30-second walk for a healthy person, I'm too weak to carry her PC from the building the Chens are living to my apartment. But "DK" will take care of the transportation and installation of the connectivity. All these guys are Type 3 visitors to my website.

They know empty lip-service doesn't help much.

Yu Yamamoto
No mirrors in the cage
Authored by: Diogenes on Wednesday, July 31 2013 @ 11:04 PM JST
I always thought Jose Ortega y Gasset nailed it. This is from "Revolt of the Masses."

"Take stock of those around you and you will...hear them talk in precise terms about themselves and their surroundings, which would seem to point them having ideas on the matter. But start to analyze those ideas and you will find that they hardly reflect in any way the reality to which they appear to refer, and if you go deeper you will discover that there is not even an attempt to adjust the ideas to this reality. Quite the contrary: through these notions the individual is trying to cut off any personal vision of reality, of his own very life. For life is at the start a chaos in which one is lost. The individual suspects this, but he is frightened at finding himself face to face with this terrible reality, and tries to cover it over with a curtain of fantasy, where everything is clear. It does not worry him that his "ideas" are not true, he uses them as trenches for his defenses of his existence, as scarecrows to frighten away reality."
No mirrors in the cage
Authored by: Y.Yamamoto on Thursday, August 01 2013 @ 01:01 AM JST

I appreciate the interesting quote from "Revolt of the Masses" very much.

Yu Yamamoto