Hot on the heels of last week’s post, I came across a couple of interesting articles in regard to the Covid crisis affecting the United States of America. The first was comparing the approach taken by most European countries who have managed to stabilise the infection rate of Covid in a way that America has yet to manage. The second, an article on the current US administration’s attempts by-pass Covid measures so that children and parents can be sent back to school  so that parents are freed to return to work.

Now, while I’m not a scientist, I do understand mathematics. Apparently, the reason why some countries now have control over the rate of Covid infection is because there is a recommended number that should be observed – that is, the rate of infection should be  4% and lower. Why?

If the community transmission of Covid rises above 5 percent, humans are no longer in charge. The pandemic is and the only way to reverse this – short of a worldwide vaccine  – is for lockdown measures to be deployed until such time that the rate of infection is measured and reported to be declining to a point where the community is safe.

So, what does this have to do with the human id and taking your medicine?

Well, it seems it has a lot to do with everything. The communal id (where a collective desire of like-minded people operates in a way that is detrimental to the safety, health and wellbeing of the community) occurs when measures are set aside before the rate of infection (and pandemic) is under control. And this – most notably occurring across a majority of states in the USA because other objectives are pressing in – notably, economic downturn, loss of manufacturing base, potential job losses that will affect and influence political fortunes in the future and so on.

The answer? Test people for Covid. Calculate the rate of infection for the community and if over 5% apply measures that are borne out of superego thinking where community comes first and the unabated wants and desires of individuals comes  second.  In short, take the medicine and save your community…

In the last post, we considered Freud’s thinking about how unabated individual desire in humans (aka ‘id’) affects the choices they make at a communal level (superego).

To understand how this plays out in real life, I had a clip from BBC News which I thought illustrated it perfectly – but it seems Boris Johnson is now at the end of that link so read below for a rough transcript of the video as to how Arizona became so infected:

‘ I didn’t really care much about Covid. It was a bit of a joke to us.’ After lockdowns were lifted and nightlife returned (image of large numbers of young people out on the town). ‘ We were like “yeah – Covid’s fake news. Younger people won’t get it..and if they (do) it won’t be serious.”‘ (insert: More than half the Covid cases  in Arizona are of people under 44). It is at this point, we see images of the person telling the story in an intensive care unit in hospital then later, exiting hospital and (later still) resolved to educate the community of the dangers of Covid 19.

So let’s break this down.

Postmodernism – the idea that there are multiple truths to everything, works on the principle of what we’d like to believe (rather than what is actually true) . This type of thinking plays to the Id as it allows the person to engage in the unabated choice they’d like to follow – in this case, abusing lockdown and doing what they desire.

As a result, the ‘Id’ acts in opposition to the ‘superego’ which would require a sensible and practical response – eg) social distancing? necessary journey? concern for others and oneself ? wearing a mask? (Actually, the list is endless!)

But then calamity – the postmodern construct is undone as the person becomes sick and is no longer able to hold on to the fanciful thinking that the virus (that has killed thousands of people) is fake or that they are somehow immune to it. Why? Because it now impinges upon them directly, threatening  their life and existence.

Faced with this ‘life’ and ‘death’ scenario, the ‘Id’ can no longer follow an unabated desire without consequence. Much as the person might not like the idea, he or she is now dependent on others for their survival and can no longer act alone without concern for the community or truth or whatever. In short, the person has to cede ground and embrace the superego so as to work and develop behaviour that seeks the communal ‘good.’

Obviously, the man in the video was fortunate in his conversion from postmodern dalliance to modernist, responsible thinker in that he survived to tell others. And yet, like those who believe the world is flat and cannot be convinced otherwise, we realise that postmodernism (like a virus) is here to stay – with all its consequences of ‘id’, ‘superego’ and ‘ego.’

Last week we looked at Freud’s psychological thinking about superego, id and ego and how each of these play out in the decisions people make and the outcomes that arise.

With this in mind, let’s develop this further to embrace the issue of freewill of those who, believing a conspiracy is being waged against them,  refuse to wear masks, sanitise themselves and/ or take precautions .

I first became aware of this during the early weeks of self-isolation when news reports from the States showed groups refusing to comply with mask coverings on the grounds that they considered it to be contrary to their rights as free people, US citizens, etc. Interestingly, I happened across another segment yesterday in which American people were giving recorded testimony stating their objection/refusal to wear masks as they believed it to be unconstitutional and hampering the ‘good lungs that God had given them.’

Now, whatever your thoughts on this, the interesting thing is what these statements and behaviour reveal about the person – moreover, what has dominance over their brain. While each of us has an ‘Id’ which is the seat of our unabated desire, for many of us, our sense of communal responsibility (superego) means that we are prepared to negate our behaviour for the common good. However, those refusing to self-isolate or even acknowledge there is a crisis fall squarely into a category that suggests their ‘Id’ is untempered by the superego. If it were, they’d be concerned for the health and wellbeing of others – irrespective of their politics or any niggling concerns of their own – but they’re not! And herein lies the problem of postmodernism and the issue of competing multiple truths which supposedly hold equal validity. We will consider this in the next post.

Til then…

Recently, I have become aware of how pervasive Freud’s thinking about Id, Superego and Ego is in our understanding of human interaction. Now, although I studied Freud and the psychoanalytic tradition 34 years ago, I can honestly say that I am only beginning to understand it  and that because of an excellent little passage in David Baboulene’s book ‘Story’ about the role of each function.

Basically, ‘ Id’ is our unfettered inclination that determines what we truly desire. Think of it like a cat that irrespective of whether it’s hungry or not will kill a mouse, bird, frog (even us if it could!). Why? because this is it’s predisposed desire and nothing deters it from that objective.

Unlike cats, humans although affected by Id are also aware of social conventions and expectation – this is the superego which facilitates us mitigating our raw desire to that which is open to and affected by societal awareness and a correct response – in other words, if I attack my noisy neighbour, there will be consequences. I may have to go to court. My name and face will be splashed across the front pages and people will shun me in the streets.

The last component, ‘ego’, is the last aspect that remains and describes the bipartite between the influence that remains after Id and Superego have worked their influence! We might not want to go to jail but it doesn’t change the way we feel about our annoying neighbour. So what has this to do with coronavirus and politics?

Well…Christians often use the issue of freewill to describe people’s good and poor choices. Whether they obey government advice about self-isolating for the sake of everyone (superego) or do what they want even if it results in people contracting the virus and dying as a result (Id). But what are we to make of a government prepared to change guidelines to facilitate a return to work – can we say that is ‘superego’ (designed with the best interest of everyone in mind?) or ‘Id’ (central to an individual, unchecked desire like becoming productive while some will lose lives?)

However you understand the recent coronavirus advice and the sensibility of what is proposed now and how it differs from what was advised 12 weeks ago, know this: Id and superego is at work and will tell us more about our individual want then fulfilling our consensus need.

Til next time!

 

Years ago, while fishing for salmon in Alaska, the guide informed us how they kept salmon eggs from fish they caught so they could use them on the line a short distance from the hook. Given that salmon  do not eat once they start the journey up river to spawn we questioned him further and he explained how the overriding protective instinct of the fish is to protect the eggs – even when these eggs are not their own – which they achieve by taking the eggs into their mouth to remove the from danger. Of course,  only to be snared and caught in the process for being a good parent.

Now, I start with that recollection because the current advice on coronavirus tat sets limits on proximity and physical contact with others is also now being cited as putting the young at risk by denying them access to school, emotional development, unhealthy isolation etc.

Which got me thinking: How important is physical contact for the young?

…and that’s when I remembered an account from the Blitz in WW2.

During this period, with the nightly bombing of London and other cities over two years, many new-born babies were without access to the mothers for reason of death or injury. As a result, a high infant mortality rate followed in virtually all of the hospitals. This troubled staff  who worked around the clock dealing with a steady stream of those injured by bombing but there wasn’t time to reflect or think on what might be done for the babies- until one nurse had the idea of picking them up and cradling them.

The rest I cannot remember very well other than the nurse shared her idea and it became common practice for nurses to pick up and cradle each infant for a few minutes before moving  on to the next and the one after that and so on. And, yes, the babies stopped dying. It seems human contact was the medicine they needed.

Linking this back to our current situation of Covid 19, while social distancing is a measure to stop the spread of the virus, it is a flawed solution in the long run as ‘we’ humans are made for contact. It seems to be inbuilt within us to have contact with others. For those isolating with their siblings and family it is not the same as for those isolating by themselves with limited social contact and loneliness. And what of the formational development of the child and teen? Right now, we are in unchartered territory and only time will tell the true consequence of our social distancing and isolation from one another.

As I write this, the whole world is in lockdown with the pandemic of coronavirus as it runs rampant through communities, killing some and sparing others. The speed with which the virus infects people without most knowing who or where they got it from is only surpassed by the bereaved families who out of the necessity to apply social distancing between themselves and the infected, have also had to suffer the inability to say an adequate goodbye to their loved ones.

Years ago – while doing my theological training – I remember a session in which the lecturer got us to think about the world in which we live and our interconectedness with the other entities with whom we share this world  (whether we like it or not). Things like mammals, reptiles, insects, fish, birds (that initially carried the coronavirus which later transferred to humans) but also viruses and bacteria which can be good and bad to humans.

Prior to writing this post, I began today by drinking some live active cultures that are good for me – yet, going out to the shops to buy groceries, I took every precaution not to contract coronavirus. Now, in the same way that one human (Gandhi) can make a huge contribution to humanity and another (Hitler) can bring destruction, death and wanton carnage, so too can viruses!  We saw this in last week’s post where the Maori population of New Zealand  learnt the hard way through death that they had no resistence to the common cold which barely troubled the European settlers who had brought it with them and infected thousands.

Q) How and why did this happen?

A) Because the Maori population in the 18thC  had not encountered the advanced stage of cold and influenza in the same way their European counterparts had with the result that the Maori’s did not have an immune system with antibodies that were sufficiently developed to ward off this encounter – more here

(Now, if you haven’t read the opening blog which makes the case that although God made the world ‘good’ (Genesis 1v31) for sustaining life, it is not harm free. Find out more by clicking here)

Okay, back to the college seminar and the presentation in which the lecturer explained how human ‘determinism’ is impacted by the world in which other life forms exist, inhabit and seek to continue. A virus – like humans – multiplies in order to survive. In the same way that human’s seek to produce progeny to populate future generations, so too the virus seeks to grow in the hope that it will not be entirely eradicated when encountering an antibody. In short, humans share a world with other living things that is finely-tuned. Tighten up  the structure of the world too much (e.g. Gravity) and the constituent parts cannot function. However, loosen whatever constraints impact humans and it will also mean that these restrictions are removed from viruses, diseases and bacteria also.

In short, the reason why we are currently experiencing a pandemic owes as much to our global economy and human connectedness in which people are free to travel from one end of the world to another in hours, taking with them a virus if contracted. Now, if the plane was yet to be invented, the impact of coroavirus would have been limited to the country it originated in and its neighbouring regions. That said, a choice faces all of us as humans. Would we give up air travel and/or take a 3 month trip to New Zealand by boat OR are we prepared to stay in our state of interconnectedness even at the risk that another pandemic may occur further down the line?

Hi all,

Following on from last week’s post which questioned how we should understand the Scripture in which God asserts that creation is ‘good,’ (Genesis 1v31) we begin today with the first in a series of posts that examines the mixed blessings of the world we live in which Creation can both preserve and take life. So let us begin with the common cold.

At University 34 years ago  (- can it really be that long?)  I did a module on ‘Colonialism and Imperialism.’ The module was interesting for many reasons but mainly because of its insight into ideas that I had not encountered before. However, it was the description of what happened to the indigenous Maori population of New Zealand that both compelled and horrified me in equal measure.

Protected from the outside world for hundreds of years, no-one could not have conceived what would happen to the Maoris with the arrival of settlers from Great Britain and Europe. Unlike their northern hemisphere counterparts who had developing immunity to the common cold (through a succession of viral resistance passed on to them through parents, grandparents, great grandparents, etc) , the indigenous New Zealand population had no such resistance when exposed to it.

As a consequence, a vast number of Maoris died in the first few years through exposure to viruses such as the common cold, influenza, chicken pox, etc as well as venereal disease and alcoholism. Why? Because they had never encountered these before and their bodies had not developed immunity and resistance. This was most pronounced in the young and  those in their twilight years.

As I write this post, the world is experiencing a pandemic of ‘Coronavirus’. As the infection rate is incredibly high and dangerous for the elderly and those with underlying health issues, the risk of death is incredibly high. Indeed, thousands of people have already died from it and it is not too hard to see how this parallels with the Maori experience of coming up against something for which they were unprepared. Ourselves too with this lastest strain of bird flu – the only difference being that we with thousands of year of being exposed to these ailments will have a better chance of combatting such a viral strain than those who have not.

So, what does this mean in terms of a world that is red in tooth and claw? A world where some people catch a cold and die while others, get a fever and survive? All of which begs the question: is our exposure to a virus and overcoming it a good thing? After all, it presents us as being wonderfully made with a complex system of antibodies that fight on our behalf. It’s good for life BUT a harm-free world it is not!

 

Hi all,

Recently, I have been thinking about what lies at the heart of all the tough questions people have about the world that God has made – you know, questions like:

‘Why does God allow natural disasters?’ Why do viruses exist?’ Why do people grow old and die?’ etc

Anyway, I have an answer. Actually, I’ve had it for some time though I think I have been unwilling to name it out loud for reason that it challenges a cherished verse of scripture.

I refer of course to Genesis 1 v31 where we are informed that ‘God saw all that he had made, and it was very good.’

Now, while a bald reading of scripture leads many christians to believe the world is perfect – that is harm-free and without fault or danger – it also creates a problem when avalanche or tsunami or coronavirus strikes as we are forced to resolve the question ‘In what way are these things good?’ *

Which leaves us with a dilemma – either the scripture is wrong or we are lacking in our understanding of the true meaning of what God is speaking to us?

To which my answer is this:

God creates a world that is ‘good’ in that it sustains human existence BUT it is not harm free.

It seems to me that too many believers read the word ‘good’ in Genesis 1v31 and take it to mean ‘perfect’ and posing no threat to humans. Yet, this is not true. We learn this from an early age because when we fell and banged our knee on the ground we registered it as not a ‘good’ experience. In fact, it’s painful – the ground is hard and gravity constant.

So what are the implications for our reading of Genesis 1 v31?

Well, maybe the words ‘for sustaining life’ should be added (like a footnote) to the word ‘good’ where it says  ‘God saw all that he had made, and it was very good.’

Don’t get me wrong, God has created a world that is good in providing for human need and sustaining life. That said,  any world dependent on techtonic movement and gravity being built into a system for sustaining life (through replenishing soil, creating uplift to facilitate water from hydrological cycle,etc) is going to result in casualties as avalanches, tsunamis, earthquakes, typhoons and a whole range of other things come our way.

In summary – for the most part our world sustains human life – though it will also disrupt , injure and take life also. The world is not ‘harm-free’ but for the most part it remains manageable.

Til next time!

* Over the next few weeks I will attempt to address these questions in regard to the joint benefits of the things that are seemingly harmful but also sustain life.

Can freewill ever be removed from humans?

March 5, 2020


A few years ago – a day or so on from the siege of a school by terrorists in Belsan (Russia) – I was listening to Radio 4  when newscaster Jonathan Humphries announced he would in a few minutes time, be interviewing Archbishop Rowan Williams for his take about what had happened at the school and why. Curious as to what the Archbishop’s response would be, while at the same time mortified at the resultant mauling he might receive from Humphries, I hung about to hear what he had to say. It is necessary to add here that Humphries’ atheist leaning was widely known which not only made him rather unsympathetic to the Church (or any faith for that matter) but a hard person to be interviewed by (imho).

Suffice to say, the interview started amicably enough with a couple of ‘serve’ and ‘return’ rallies by both men while they set out their positions – then SUDDENLY – it kicked off!

(Can I add here that the short transcript of the radio programme can be found by clicking this link and is far more succinct than my recollection of the event but for those of you who want the skinny on what was said….

…it all kicked off when the Archbishop, in explaining the siege and the actions of the terrorists, framed it in terms of the complexity of the terrorists’ use and misuse of freewill. To say this was akin to a large red flag being waved in Humphries face is an understatement who went off on a blistering tirade about how the terrorist’s actions had denied parents and children the opportunity of their freewill. The Archbishop’s response, acknowledging how indeed the terrorists had curtailed the freewill of children, family and teachers by taking them hostage for their purposes, also noted that even in a curtailed state, children and parents might still have been able to exercise freewill in a lesser measure through choosing to comfort the child next to them or the weeping parent outside.

If you want to know the rest and how it ended, you’ll have to read the transcript which isn’t long and real insight into the issue of freewill which is the core of understanding the tenets of the purposes of God and tenets of Christian belief. But for now, it will suffice to say that the issue of freewill affects us all and even when other’s actions may deny us the freedom to make the choices we’d prefer, it does not mean that God is absent nor that all options have been removed from us.

Today we start a new series which asks questions as to whether God has provided only one route for believers to be forgiven and restored. At the heart of this issue lurks a huge ‘elephant in the room’ because faced with the binary choice of believing one religion over all others, we soon come to appreciate this is not an either/or decision that should be taken lightly as the stakes are incredibly high – eternal life or eternal death?

One reason there is a dilemma for the individual is that all religions purport to be the elected guardians of the One true faith.  We see this in the monopoly of revelation that each religion pertains to itself: a unique truth that has been passed down to them by their Diety. Often, this takes the form of a holy manuscript or sacred text (Bible, Koran, Torah etc) in which instructions are given to the believer, requiring absolute devotion and obedience to that particular religion’s accompanying rites of passage, community allegience, and subscribance to the named Deity.

Naturally, the problem for the devotee is which religion to choose because the stakes are high – indeed, it might even be said it is a matter of spiritual life and death. Choose right and the person goes to heaven. Choose wrong and they are destined for ‘hell’ – whatever you understand that to mean?

Over the next few weeks, we will tease out more of the issues involved as we try to make sense of the different claims made about God, heaven and acceptance…