8 April 2013: Shulamith Firestone

Shulamith Firestone, whose death is mourned by Susan Faludi in a piece in this week’s New Yorker, wasn’t a friend…she was too much the raging feminist and I too young, but we were at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago at the same time and active, she more so than I, in SDS, she in the feminist brouhaha that shook apart the New Left…in a fashion much deserved by the older male revolutionaries who were in some cases real jerks.

And now she’s died alone. It sounds laughable but I’m serious: it’s a pity she didn’t have Facebook.

This is because ever since I worked with John “A Beautiful Mind” Nash I have known that “social defeat” (no friends, living alone, disorganization) can exacerbate or even cause schizophrenia. Shulamith, unlike Nash, was an untreated schizophrenic at the time of her death who’d worked at/failed at a succession of crummy jobs, none having anything to do with her feminist dreams. Nash had access to email which can be, and has been, used as a virtual social medium.

When you have grandiose dreams as an adolescent and they are fulfilled in your twenties, it’s hard to accept the setbacks of your thirties (my son’s experience being somewhere in this). If you lack friends it’s even harder.

My own situation contains a potential for schizophrenic regress since all I have is a hospital bed and a flat on Lamma that owing to my condition I cannot use. But the “voices” that told me I was worthless in 1961 have long since morphed through creativity into “voices” that make useful suggestions.

For example, when I found lumps on my shoulder last April, these “voices” simply said, don’t obsess and see a doctor as soon as possible. Don’t even touch them in search of shrinkage or growth save once daily to record your perception of their change in size, They were the wise counselors and viziers of the King and I was the King who knew his tendency towards obsessive thinking.

Many “normal” people, it has been found, use these benign fantasies which can indeed metastasize into schizophrenia when there is social defeat: so the “voices” (really inseparable at this point from my higher ego and lower superego) help me avoid social defeat by having me go through checklists and do things, such as pay the rent and renew internet service through proxies (I being too ill to run around and do these tasks myself).

My dreams were in Shulamith’s world-view sexist and cheesie, I just wanted Recognition in whatever I tried as a thought leader but I didn’t want to put in the effort, which is the definition of “narcissistic personality disorder”. She wanted to end sexist domination even at the expense of changing nature itself, what with its brute facts: animal societies usually dominated by alpha males, etc. But compared to her I am most fortunate, probably because in the form of children I was introduced to personal responsibility.

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3 Responses to “8 April 2013: Shulamith Firestone”

  1. spinoza1111 Says:

    My deceased son suffered social defeat in Faludi’s sense last year and for an internal of clarity was coming to me for aid.

    I did what I could. Eddie desperately wanted a working relationship having been in several that failed. I tried to teach him traditional prosody so he could write poetry to sort out his feelings. I didn’t mind at all that he was using my writings, both published (the computer book) and published online here in this blog, to show he had a cool Dad.

    His reward? Getting the crap beaten out of him because he danced alone in clubs just as I do. Being let go of jobs for bogus reasons by greed heads that would steal his last paycheck.

    People sensed his weakness and like barnyard animals they, perhaps especially women, would run up to him in his roundedness and tear chunks out of him.

    The message of the Guth Messiah (that 2008 presentation of the Handel oratorio as an opera about a Messiah who kills himself? “Damaged existence cannot be lived well”: “there can be no poetry after Auschwitz”.

    One by one the dreamers die.

    • marilee ballou Says:

      I am lonely, I feel as though i have no friends, i feel accepted because that is suppose to be polite, but not really accepted, should i be frightened?

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