This essay is loaded with Allen Ginsberg’s “Howl” and insights into human nature all in one. To analyze this divide of the African Americans acting against themselves and White Americans, how it works, we need to understand the root of all conflict within every individual and go meta to even understand why it is there. The origin story: collective intelligence begins brewing among African Americans after the great slavery emancipation and migration to the north.
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Their insight starting off was simple, survival. By this we know there was always a need for unity within the African American community, but never a chance for that basic survival until that point. The African American minorities of that time found they could never join the prototypical American lifestyle and try to outdo their majority of whites. So, in reaction to hatred the beats were created in a movement of anti-culture. “Social histories of the 1960s often cite Howl (and the Beat movement more generally) as the most famous embodiment of a structure of feeling—youthful, dissatisfied, rebellious” (Lee, Ben. “‘‘Howl’’ and Other Poems: Is There Old Left in These New Beats?” p. 367).
Lead by selflessness and scholars, torn apart by a selfhood and destruction, in the poem “Howl” we see the clear divide among every beat that leads to the movements fall. “Howl” has its exuberant, unorganized theme for this very specific reason, yet I found this common thread through it all. There are a great many profound insights to be had ramping into this idea of the root of all conflict. What is the conflict here? What do the Beat saxophone soloists, bohemians, runaways and alike all have in common? They all share the same big picture understanding of their people being treated as equals.
Meaning they have seen a glimpse into their own self-actualization. Let’s not overlook the power of one person standing up in so starting an uproar. Even by the best motives this creates a much deeper problem and chain reaction. Conflict for art and advocating; they were selfless in a time when they could not even afford Harlem. “Whole intellects disgorged in total recall for seven days and nights with brilliant eyes”(Ginsberg, Allen. “Howl.” line 36) as they were restless, fearless in valuing truth. The spontaneity and authenticity of their work is the only means of expressing something beyond themselves, love. Sometimes this vision is so ill-defined it borders a brand-new beatific form of spirituality.
The young, desperate, proud, sad-eyed African American’s finally feel the creative sparks that a long-term future prompts and are happy against it all, by it’s all and everlasting peaceful expansion. A contrast of a high-quality consciousness to a low-quality consciousness. The white men thought these people were out of order, excessively proud of themselves and failures. They feared a change towards love and understanding and held onto their rigid beliefs, scapegoating blame, because this movement quite literally threatens their survival. In the setting of “Howl” true and irreducibly America there is no sovereign rule nor a common goal. White middle-class America is just as desperate of an attempt for culture as the African Americans. In psychology both party’s evil to preserve themselves is the same just re-contextualized.
Here we see the clash of two collective egos, which is a very loaded definition that works in many counterintuitive ways. The classic meta definition of ego is self, but there is more to ego than just that self-image. There is an unruly nature. It is more than just saying… [your name] so you can say “hey that’s me.” It ranges in degrees that simple and at the same time extremely complex because ego/selfhood is all-encompassing. Not only does the extent and depth of ego range total but these mechanisms operate largely unconscious like a parasitic nature with its name of the game to deceive even itself, by limiting itself metaphysically and survive at all costs.
Conflict comes through the birth of every person that incites evil and selfishness on the world. That’s not readily apparent now is it? No, neither is introspection in our Western culture because an ego demands a total rule. Ego is malicious. Ego is forced through acts of ideology itself because it is in our nature to be constantly at risk of losing itself/ everything. Selfishness, the newly created divides in society start with [your name]. And I call it a limitation in the sense that you are more than just a name. But that’s not apparent now is it? Yes, ego is that subtle. And the more complex, expansive and helpful an ideology is towards survival the better. And that survival exists with different groups dependent and independent of one another. For example, I’ll assume your name is an English name. The English language can too grow like a malicious collective ego of its own because it aide’s another’s survival. English was created by the British and they have grown enough of its diction and meaning to selfishly help themselves navigate and try to conquer the world in so spreading that separate entity of English too large to stop on its own.
That is how ego works on a micro to macro scale. Hidden in plain sight, the self is all-encompassing and does not realize it. Hidden in plain sight, the ignorant pride of racism is all-encompassing in certain cultures and has grown too large to stop on its own. Specifically, men from “Howl” who were so extreme in their pursuits they started to rightfully characterize “Moloch the heavy judger of man… Moloch who entered [ones] soul early” as a metaphor for a life destroyer (Ginsberg, Allen. “Howl.” lines 177-178 & 193). Convincing them to simply stop is like convincing the world to abandon English. Racism has become so crucial to their survival that racism became less inhumane. They are obviously wrong, but that’s not readily apparent to them now is it? Precisely because they project to avoid that self-deception. This is common, we make up nonsensical stories about a red herring or fox being the real trickster and fail to recognize that in ourselves. How rational is that? Similarly, there’s been times when man justified his acts of slavery, civil war, and bitter racism by pointing the trouble elsewhere. That is a single mechanism of a collective ego, avoiding its own self-deception with projection, and that is the essence of ego I’m trying to communicate here behind racial conflict.
It is hilarious to step back and hear people talk highly about our origins as if it was always perfect. It takes a very radical open mind to except that the mechanisms used to govern ourselves are highly distraught just trying to make sense of our external world! How rational is that? It doesn’t have to be. The repeated use of “who” (mentioned 65 times) at the beginning of nearly every line introduces us to those African American beats of “the best minds” whose lives were wasted (Ginsberg, Allen. “Howl.” line 1). “With dreams, with drugs, with waking nightmares, alcohol and cock and endless balls” (Ginsberg, Allen. “Howl.” line 19).
They self-medicated with drugs and whoring to achieve a sense of calm they have not yet experienced in their lives. “Eyeball kicks and shocks of hospitals and jails and wars”(Ginsberg, Allen. “Howl.” line 34). They go around promoting crime for crime’s sake because they have learned firsthand how arbitrary justice is. They have no place in society. Indifferent to them where their scholars and artists who gave them a voice and made a great many historical essays and artworks. Together they carry on American ideals of manifest destiny and build up their cultural identity from scratch after its many years lost.
All courageous in their own light and divided amongst themselves, together they form a collective ego of Beats. Beats exercised their self-worth sincerely by preserving their culture with what they could do, yet in the worst conditions still representing the worst parts of society. This is due to a very specific reason. “Americans may have distinctively appreciated aspects of narcissism, such as the emphasis on the self… narcissism as a means of describing American moral decline” (Lunbeck, Elizabeth. “The Americanization of Narcissism.” p. 253). White America is the overwhelming majority and as we know a single ego can be malicious. They ordained their own civilized society that could only exist with the inclusion of whites and the devious and abusive control over blacks. This divide is manifested through slavery, eugenics, segregation, the beats and so on throughout history. Now, I’ve mentioned self-deception/ being blind to/ ignorant of its own misdoings. I find that another major cog to the collective ego is lying/ thinking in terms of opposites. So, in explaining that idea, these racial problems are psychological problems and we need to address the paradigms and emotional strings attached where the lying takes place.
We all give into primitive behaviors. Racism is motivated by the fear of its own failure to exist. Whites fear for their own survival, at all costs, even at the risk of destroying every other culture on their behalf. People have a biological predisposition for fear, hatred, tribalism, and dominance over others that motivates said racism. And their underlying beliefs of that superiority could only suggest the overcompensation of something inferior within each and every one of them. And it is impossible for those on the inside of that collective ego mechanism to deny its moral virtues and integrity or else the whole system would fall apart and their lives will be threatened. So, they are starting from a place of weakness, making matters worse, destructive, without a clear way out. Conclusion: With the fear of death, and the failure to see the broader perspective, racism is pushed forward. This is the grandiose delusion that lies to all of its racist followers. They are mesmerized by its promise but don’t recognize how they create even more depth to the problem. As we can see that these facets of ego are barely premeditated and have ruined many lives.
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