New Blog by Genevieve Vaughan
I decided to start this blog August 1, 2016, the day of Lammas, the pagan festival of the harvest. I am in Austin, Texas and this is also the 50th anniversary of the first individual-mass killing in the USA, which happened when ex marine and student, Charles Whitman, after killing his wife and his mother, went to the top of the tower of the University of Texas and randomly shot passers-by on the campus below. He hit 46 and killed 14.
People wondered how this could have happened. What could have been the psychological motivation that would push someone to do something so terrible? Since then according to an article in the Washington Post there have been 127 similar shootings in the USA. But it depends on how you count them. Probably there are many more with similar motivations but with less victims.
I have written about these mass shootings and other one-to-many mass phenomena in my books For-Giving (Ch 5 and throughout the book) and The Gift in the Heart of Language (chs 6 – 8) and I want to try to sketch what I think here. I used an analysis made by Jean-Josef Goux in his book Symbolic Economies: After Marx and Freud, where he studied what, using Marx’s term for money, he called ‘General Equivalent’ forms. The relation between money and the products that we buy with it is a general one-to-many relation, where money is the equivalent and all the other things are seen as relative to it. Goux saw this as the basic relation that takes place between kings and their subjects, generals and their armies, fathers and sons and, he said, also the Phallus and other body parts. I have tried to extend this to words and concepts and to use it as a way of understanding Patriarchy, which I believe is a kind of unrecognized one-to-many meme. I believe the one-to-many abstract pattern is the alternative to the model of the giving and receiving mother-figure that little boys are educated to relinquish as part of thei gender identity. The one-to-many meme is not about giving and receiving but about identity, supremacy, evaluation and dominance. It is the storyline of the script of ‘being a man’. I believe that this meme is not at all ‘natural’ or necessary. Instead it is the result of a tangle of patterns that influence everyone and that are engraved on our psyches ever more deeply by living in a society where money trumps all other values and relations. And I use the word advisedly. In fact now we have a presedential candidate who embodies the one-to-many position and as a billionaire is the representative of the General Equivalent, money. He speaks the script of the role when he says of the world situation ‘I am the only one who can fix it’.
So what I am saying is that I think that the same pattern underlies the personality of the candidate and the personalities of the shooters. This is a pattern of Patriarchy infected with money and money infected with Patriarchy. This meme also justifies our war-making foreign policy, where the USA is bent on dominance of the world, on being the One country over the many. And don’t forget the phallic and one-to-many aspect of guns, bombs and missiles. And of the University of Texas tower.
This whole syndrome is something we could do much better without. The Democratic Convention whatever its defects, had the theme of many-to-many, of doing things together. Will it be possible for a woman president to change the model back from the dominance of the One to the model of the gifting mother? Hillary Clinton will have the top one-to-many position but perhaps she can provide a transition, at least in the imagination, and that will be a great leap forward.
Please comment and feel free to send in your thoughts to the blog.