i just found these fantastic interviews with utah and had to share! enjoy!
by David Kupfer
Utah Phillips is a legend on the folk music circuit. A great storyteller and an unapologetic activist, Phillips sings about both current events and the old days of labor unions, hobos, trains, and tramping. Phillips, sixty-eight, has produced twelve albums and has appeared on seventy-three audio anthologies, doing both music and spoken word. One of his most recent efforts, The Past Didn't Go Anywhere, is a collaboration with the younger feminist folksinger Ani DiFranco. They met while both were boarding together in the same house in Philadelphia early in DiFranco's career. As her Righteous Babe Records company flourished, DiFranco asked Phillips to send her his material. "I want my younger audience to hear these stories," she said.
Born in Cleveland, Ohio, into a family of radicals in 1935, Bruce Phillips and his family moved to Salt Lake City in 1947, where he learned to play the ukulele. He hopped his first train as a teenager, and after serving three years in the army in Korea (where he says all that he learned was how to be a pacifist), he continued to roam the nation via the rails. Phillips found both inspiration and kinship from the hobos and Wobblies he encountered in his travels, and he morphed the stories and poems he learned into verse. He took on the nickname U. Utah Phillips as an homage to one of his favorite country singers, T. Texas Tyler. The son of labor organizers, Phillips was active in labor and leftist politics in conservative Utah during the 1960s and ran for the U.S. Senate in 1968 on the Peace and Freedom Party ticket. He garnered more than 6,000 votes but was blacklisted. Unable to find employment because of his radical views, he left the state in 1969 and hopped freight trains to get to his coffee house and campus gigs.
Phillips lives with his wife, Joanna Robinson, in Nevada City, California, where both are still active in the local peace movement. On March 20, they were arrested, along with forty others, for blocking a road and unlawful assembly in the largest peace action ever held in Nevada County. I met with the bearded, silver-haired Phillips at his home, a comfortable cottage filled with books. Looking somewhat like a rabbinical Kris Kringle, he is full of vim and possesses a great sense of humor, despite a heart condition that has severely curtailed his once-active performing schedule.
Question: What is the risk of folk music being commercialized?
Utah Phillips: Folk music isn't owned by anybody. It is owned by everybody, like the national parks, the postal system, and the school system. It's our common property. There is nobody's name on it. Nobody can make money on it. It's not copywritten.
A song has many different versions as it is passed through the generations. But this deep well of our people's tradition loses songs at the bottom. They are irrelevant. They are forgotten. Nobody knows how to sing them. So the well is going to run dry unless people are adding songs at the top to our common treasury. But you have to have the courage to take your name off it, to give it up, to give it a life of its own.Folk music deals with every aspect of human existence, political, religious, moral: dying dogs, old ships, an old rocking chair, the mystery of the number five, the lightning express, rack and ruin, death, earthquakes, and train wrecks.
Q: People used to learn about culture from their elders, and this knowledge was passed down in an oral tradition. Now in this electronic age, this passing-down method has changed. How do you feel about that? What have we lost?
Phillips: Joseph Campbell, late in his life, said, "All we really want is to be completely human and in each other's company." Everything in this country is unilaterally against that--our best and most natural selves.
The world I created for myself, and it was deliberate, was a world made out of speakers and listeners. Many times, going to the missions, going to the flop hotels, I'd get a line from some old Wobbly, some old communist, some old socialist, some old person living on short money, a lot of time alcoholic. I'd start asking questions. The first thing I'd ever get was suspicions. Because these old workers, the only question they'd ever been asked was how come you are late or how soon can you get out. I found thoughts and feelings and ideas and experiences that had been locked inside their heads for years. Once I overcame their suspicions, and they realized I was really interested in what they had to tell me, it opened up like a floodgate. So that's why I created my world, speakers and listeners, because it makes the country that I love so much so rich. The wellspring of my fascination and the endless carnival of America are the voices of people who will share their lives with me.
I don't write. You see this house is full of books, but I keep them in their place. I've made it my task to seek out my elders and learn things to help me get through the world with some sense, some panache, some style, some grace, some courage. In your life, sooner or later, you've got to say what you are going to authentically inherit and what you are going to put into the world.
Q: Is there one event or defining point in your life that precipitated you taking on your life's work?
Phillips: The oral history started out purely as curiosity when I heard [philosopher] Ivan Illich in Cuernavaca say that reading and writing are a technological intervention in the natural thought process. Bingo, I said!
My pacifism came after I joined the army and was shipped over to Korea. There was a little one-room orphanage there called Song-do. There were 180 babies in there, and they were GI babies. The U.S. government would not acknowledge this, and the Korean government had nothing to do with them. They were living on a 100-pound bag of rice a month. Some of those kids, when they were old enough, would go out and shine shoes. They would show up at the gate of our compound to shine shoes, and you'd swear they were looking for their fathers. In the winter, when the paddies were drained, it was the coldest winter I ever experienced in my life. The kids living outside would scatter and go camp by the dikes. They would dig little holes. I would get duty in the guard tower, and I would spot their fires. And in the morning, I would take my canteen cup out full of cocoa to the kids to give away. One morning, I found one of the kids had froze to death, and I carried him back in, and our Non-com said, "Give him to the Koreans." So I took him over to the Korean barracks, and could see the way they looked at me, how much contempt they had, how much they hated me. Even though they were allies, they hated me.
So I get back from Korea really pissed off, and I didn't want to live in the country anymore. I got on a freight train, rode for a while, made up songs I will never sing again, and came back to Salt Lake to make my stand. I was working in a warehouse. There was an old guy picketing in front of the post office where I would deliver packages. He was protesting war taxes. That was Ammon Hennacy from the Catholic Worker. Dorothy Day, a founder of Catholic Worker, had sent him out there to establish a house of hospitality for transients, homeless people in Salt Lake. "Love in action," she called him. So he started the Joe Hill House. I worked at the Joe Hill House for the next eight years.
(i'm going to slip a little bit in from another interview i found over on zmag here with utah, because it think it's such a powerful story.)
I was delivering packages one day to the post office, and there was an old man sitting in front of the post office with a jug of water and an enormous picket sign. He was taking a break from picketing. I noticed him every day when I went back to the post office. He’d either be picketing or sitting under the bush. He’d be talking to people and the big sign was announcing how he wasn’t going to pay war taxes. I watched him closely. I saw enormously hostile people come up to him. One guy took a swing at him. He reached out and took his hand and shook it. I saw that man come back the next day and say, “I despise what you believe in, but I’m going to stand here and make sure nobody hurts you.” I saw nonviolence in action really for the first time.
The man was Ammond Hennessy, Catholic anarchist, pacifist draftdodger in two world wars, tax refuser, and vegetarian. He called himself a one man revolution. Did hard time at Atlanta Federal Penitentiary during WW I for objecting. Still has the record for consecutive months in solitary. He was working when he was in his 70s, digging canals, dredging. He wouldn’t take a job if there was withholding. He gave nothing to the state and got nothing from it. It was a life of absolute voluntary poverty. He talked to people back and forth across the country. He was sent from the Catholic worker. He was a great friend of Dorothy Day, the founder of the Catholic Worker. He was sent out to Salt Lake to start a house of hospitality. Peter Murin, who taught Dorothy Day, said, “I want to live in a world where it’s easier to be good. But if you’re cold, lonely, and hungry, it’s hard to be good. You’re hanging somebody up. You’re going to get mad and break a window.”
He said, “Let’s just create corners on the skids, houses of hospitality where there’s no preaching, no conversion, no waiting for the sermon to be over to get your coffee and a doughnut. Just places where there’s food, clothing, warmth, and human companionship.” Compassion. And a completely nonviolent situation.
Now there are over 80 of them, and more coming. Many in different parts of the world now. The people live there—that’s their home. The people who come in are not clients, but guests. They’re visitors in your home. You live in absolute poverty, but radiantly, living well. That’s the Joe Hill house we started. The Catholic Worker House. After Joe Hill, the great songwriter with the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW). He was executed on November 19, 1919, by the state of Utah. Ammond was an admirer of Joe Hill for his commitment. So I started talking with Ammond and going to the Joe Hill house and he sort of picked me up, took me under his wing. Those Catholic Workers probably saved my life.
Q: What effect did Ammon Hennacy have on you?
Phillips: It was Ammon Hennacy who took over my life, told me that I really loved the country, that I couldn't stand the government, taught me why I needed to be a pacifist and taught me why I needed to be an anarchist, and taught me what those things really mean.
Ammon came up to me one day, and said, "You have a lot of anger in you, and you act out, you mouth off, and you wind up getting in fights, into brawls, here in the house, and you're not any good at it. You're the one who keeps getting pushed through the door, and I'm tired of fixing the damn thing. You've got to become a pacifist." And I asked, "What is it?" He said, "Well, I could give you a book by Gandhi, but you wouldn't understand it." He said you got to look at it like alcohol. Alcohol will kill an alcoholic, unless he has the courage to sit in a circle of people like that, and say, "My name's Utah and I am an alcoholic." Then you can accept it, you can own it, have it defined for you by people whose lives have been ruined by it, and it's never going to go away. You're not going to sit in that circle sober for twenty years and have it not affect you. He said, "You have to look at your capacity for violence the same way. You are going to have to learn to confess it, and learn how to deal with it in every situation every day, for the rest of your life, because it is not going to go away." And I was able to lay all of that down.
I didn't know what exhausted me emotionally until that moment, and I realized that the experience of being a soldier, with unlimited license for excess, excessive violence, excessive sex, was a blueprint for self-destruction. Because then I began to wake up to the idea that manhood, as passed onto me by my father, my scoutmaster, my gym instructor, my army sergeant, that vision of manhood was a blueprint for self-destruction and a lie, and that was a burden that I was no longer able to carry. It was too difficult for me to be that hard. I said, "OK, Ammon, I will try that." He said, "You came into the world armed to the teeth. With an arsenal of weapons, weapons of privilege, economic privilege, sexual privilege, racial privilege. You want to be a pacifist, you're not just going to have to give up guns, knives, clubs, hard, angry words, you are going to have lay down the weapons of privilege and go into the world completely disarmed."
He died in 1970 and is still a headache. If there is one struggle that animates my life and why I do what I do, it's that. I am still at it. That is what pacifism means to me.
Q: Who are some of your other heroes?
Phillips: Pete Seeger, because he invented my trade--what we do, going from town to town to perform. Pete Seeger's gift to my life is my life. And Daniel Berrigan saved my bacon. I had a very important question for him. Johnny Cash had called me and wanted to record an album of my songs. I said no, I eschew the entertainment industry. But friends urged me to take that money and give it to some cause that can use it. I asked Berrigan, and he said, "Yeah, they'll always tell you how much good you can do with dirty money." Dorothy Day once told me, "Fame corrupts the health of the soul." I found out, as I matured in the trade and was taken in by this enormous folk music family, that I don't need fame, I don't need power, I don't need money, I need friends. And that's what I found: deep, abiding friends, like Judi Bari [Earth First! organizer who was severely wounded in a suspicious car bombing and later died of cancer], who was full of joy, full of life, and laughed incessantly in the direst of circumstances. She was a consummate organizer and understood that it was essential to bring the environmental movement and labor movement together.
Two other great organizers who were also heroes of mine: Fred Thompson, who edited Industrial Worker newspaper, and Miles Horton of the Highlander Center. And I always admire Joe Hill. In 1915, when he was about to be executed by the state of Utah, he wrote to Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, who was raising funds for a new trial, "They've got me, and they are going to kill me whether I'm in jail or out of jail, so stop spending money on me. Put that money into the work, into keeping the presses rolling or getting workers into a fighting union." He wrote himself off. We don't have leaders like that.
Q: What do you think about the way labor history is taught in schools today?
Phillips: It is a shame and a crime that a young person can graduate from high school not knowing what a scab is, not knowing workers have the absolute right to collective bargaining, to form a union, to join a union. Why? Because the boss doesn't want them to know this. Who is on the school board? Who is in charge of the curricular process? Who owns the textbook company? The boss does. The boss wants young people to come trained with the answers but not asking questions. Every good educator knows that true teaching is to teach kids how to ask the right questions.
These kids are coming in untrained in fair labor practices. For the most part, most of them are not going to own the tools they work with, they are not going to own the workplace, they will simply be selling their own labor energy and trying to get a decent deal for it so they can get by. Some of them are going to go to college, going to go to community college, they are going to apprenticeship trade school to enhance their labor energy so they can make a better deal, and live better. It is still the same; you are a wage worker. How do you control the condition of your labor? How do you make a deal on a job that isn't going to kill you? Where you are adequately compensated? How are you going to make sure that when you get sick that you are just not out on the street? Or if someone in your family gets sick that you are not out on the street? What do you do about health insurance? What do you do when you are too old to do the work? None of that is taught in school. The district labor councils absolutely have to get to work teaching this in the public schools to make sure that our true history is taught to our kids.
These kids don't have a little brother working in the coal mine, they don't have a little sister coughing her lungs out in the looms of the big mill towns of the Northeast. Why? Because we organized; we broke the back of the sweatshops in this country; we have child labor laws. Those were not benevolent gifts from enlightened management. They were fought for, they were bled for, they were died for by working people, by people like us. Kids ought to know that.
It's a heroic, passionate, beautiful, richer, and more useful history than any history they are getting from the history books right now. The gift from my elders. I never got that history before I talked to people who lived it. That is one of the missions of my life: to make sure kids know these things, and respect the dignity of other people's labor. If you talk to people working on the job, and you ask them what is the most important issue, as a wage worker, you know what comes out first? Respect. We need to respect the wage workers. They contribute more to my quality of life than I do to theirs. I have to respect and honor that. I want to make sure that those tasks that enhance the quality of my life are done well. That the people doing that work are happy. They shouldn't have to worry about a sick child or an elder getting properly cared for, or job security, or proper retirement benefits. There is nothing unreasonable about that. I want people to go out and ask their garbage person for an autograph.
Q: What has your friendship with Ani DiFranco provided you?
Phillips: My access. She knew it was going to happen; she has a ferociously powerful intellect. She is a visionary. When posters go up for my shows, we get not just veteran folkies, but a whole new generation of music lovers, who would never have turned out were it not for my relationship with Ani. She has given me access to young people, and they are ready. I always hang out in the lobby after my shows, and young people come up to me and they are really bright and intelligent. It isn't the X generation, it's the Y generation, because everybody is asking why.
Q: How would you describe your life's purpose?
Phillips: I'm here to change the world, and if I am not, I am probably wasting my time.
Q: What can people do to defend their civil liberties?
Phillips: I'm a pacifist, but the most American thing you can do is to dissent, and the most un-American thing you can do is to stifle dissent. When you feel threatened by the suppression of your liberties, you exercise them to the nth degree, you scream your head off every chance you get. You talk to people you don't agree with. Really good advice: Every day, talk to at least two people who don't agree with you. It's the only way it is going to get done.
Here in Nevada City, where I am kind of marooned (due to my congestive heart failure, I can't travel nearly as much as I used to), we sent seven buses down to the recent anti-war demo, and afterward, I said, "Let's do a debriefing meeting." But my real idea was to have a continuing peace presence in our county and start a peace center. Everybody lit up. Now we have a peace council and working committees. We are involved in the schools. There is a high school peace organization, the young anarchists, who are tabling. We have brought in combat Vietnam War vets in the classroom. We've been in local parades like the Fourth of July. We are working very vigorously here. I honestly believe that if you can't do it where you live and work, where are you supposed to do it?
You know, every city, every town I go to, for the past forty years, big or little, I have found cooperative child day care, an organic food store, alternative medicine services, all of the interventions, none of which existed when I was in high school. Anywhere. Now they are everywhere I go. Taken together, that is a massive amount of energy. A tremendous amount of energy! That is why I am so optimistic. There are too many people doing too many good things for me to afford the luxury of being pessimistic. I'm like Desmond Tutu says, I am a prisoner of optimism. I cannot betray that kind of optimism.
© 2003 David Kupfer
David Kupfer is a writer whose work has appeared in The Progressive, Whole Earth Review, Adbusters, Diva, and Earth Island Journal. He lives and works on an organic farm in Northern California.
Labels: ammond hennessy, anarchism, dorothy day, pacifism, utah phillips
still writing... and cutting... and writing...
all work and no play makes kara a very dull girl.all work and no play makes kara a very dull girl.all work and no play makes kara a very dull girl. all work and no play makes kara a very dull girl.all work and no play makes kara a very dull girl. all work and no play makes kara a very dull girl.so anyway...i found these awesome quotes today while working on The Statement Of Purpose.i'm taking great care to not let them know what i'am up to. if they knew how much i dig this guy, they probably wouldn't let me in. oh, well. i gotta be me!i know i'm a broken record when it comes to his book i so adore, but do pick up a copy someday if you stumble across it. and read it. the soul's code. in fact, i think i'll stick an fantastic interview with hillman about the book down under the quotes. enjoy!A mother should have some fantasy about her child's future. It will increase her interest in the child. Having a fantasy at least gives a child some expectation to meet or reject. All we can do when we think of kids today is think of more hours of school, earlier age at the computer, and curfews. Who would want to grow up in that world? An elder sitting in the back of the room at a Native American council group has authority. Not because he holds a higher rank, but because he has certain values. As Plotinus tells us, we elected the body, the parents, the place, and the circumstances that suited the soul and that, as the myth says, belongs to its necessity. Depression opens the door to beauty of some kind. Even if he put everything he has into the child, the child is still left facing a world which will not receive the soul. That's the big job. Fathers have to correct the culture. That's the calling, I think, that every man has. I don't think anything changes until ideas change. The usual American viewpoint is to believe that something is wrong with the person. I have nothing against book learning. But knowledge that is rooted in our culture-what do you call that? What do you call knowledge about the soul, about life, death, about initiation, about values? I know my own deficiencies, one of which is that I had lived away from America for such a long time. It's called expatriate. I saw the avid interest, the hunger for real teaching, which you don't see in the universities. I'm interested I the culture that goes with Men's Work. I see happiness as a by-product. I don't think you can pursue happiness. I think that phrase is one of the very few mistakes the Founding Fathers made. I think there is a paradigm shift going on in the culture. The old psychology just doesn't work anymore. I think we're miserable partly because we have only one god, and that's economics. I'd lived in Europe for many, many years. I was not in touch with anything to do with the American men's movement. I'm cautious about a lot of words. I'm suggesting that there are many ways of showing character. I'm the result of upbringing, class, race, gender, social prejudices, and economics. So I'm a victim again. A result. Imagine, sending money to Perot! It's unbelievable, yet it's part of that worship of individuality. In the history of the treatment of depression, there was the dunking stool, purging of the bowels of black bile, hoses, attempts to shock the patient. All of these represent hatred or aggression towards what depression represents in the patient. Instead of seeing depression as a dysfunction, it is a functioning phenomenon. It stops you cold, sets you down, makes you damn miserable. It's important to ask yourself, How am I useful to others? What do people want from me? That may very well reveal what you are here for. It's not enough just to be a mother. It's not only the social pressure on mothers by certain kinds of feminism and other sources. There is also economic pressure on them. It's a terrible cruelty. It's the only way we human beings can get out of being so human-centered: to remain attached to something other than humans. It's very hard to know what wisdom is. It's very important for men to look downward, to the next generation. Just stop for a minute and you'll realize you're happy just being. I think it's the pursuit that screws up happiness. If we drop the pursuit, it's right here. Loss means losing what was We want to change but we don't want to lose. Without time for loss, we don't have time for soul. Ninety percent of the time I don't allow people to take photographs of me. Problems come from the environment, the cities, the economy, the racism. They come from architecture, school systems, capitalism, exploitation. Psychotherapy theory turns it all on you: you are the one who is wrong. If a kid is having trouble or is discouraged, the problem is not just inside the kid; it's also in the system, the society. Slowness is basic to the notion of melancholy from the very beginning. Mania is often described in psychiatry by the absence of sadness. The circumstances, including my body and my parents, whom I may curse, are my soul's own choice and I do not understand this because I have forgotten. The concept that there are other forces at work... gives a more reverential way of living. The culture is going into a psychological depression. We are concerned about our place in the world, about being competitive: Will my children have as much as I have? Will I ever own my own home? How can I pay for a new car? Are immigrants taking away my white world? The job of a good sailor is to keep close to course, making little adjustments. The manic culture is primarily a testosterone culture. This went on in the 19th century. Women were the carriers of many more symptoms which they presented to male doctors. The question is: What is the psyche doing by presenting the patient with a depression? The soul may be responsible to a calling that is not only biological your parents or environmental. The word power has such a generally negative implication in our society. What are people talking about? Are they talking about muscles, or control? There is no reason why we shouldn't take advantage of medications. The important thing is, what is your attitude to it? How you keep that demon in its place so that it doesn't possess you? Today, depression is in youth, children, and the term is used very broadly. In practice, for people to say, I am depressed, is insufficient. It's about knowing what that depression experience is telling you as a clinician. Too many people have been analyzing their pasts, their childhoods, their memories, their parents, and realizing that it doesn't do anything-or that it doesn't do enough. We approach people the same way we approach our cars. We take the poor kid to a doctor and ask, What's wrong with him, how much will it cost, and when can I pick him up? We can't change anything until we get some fresh ideas, until we begin to see things differently. We carve out risk-free lives where nothing happens. We forget that the soul has its own ancestors. We have to give value to authority. We have to give value to office, being in office, holding office. We must look back over our lives at some of the accidents and curiosities and oddities and troubles and sicknesses and begin to see more in those things. It raises questions, so when peculiar little accidents happen, you ask whether there is something else at work in your life. We need to work on the world so it will not be so oppressive. We're an air bag society that wants guarantees on everything that we buy. We want to be able to take everything back and get another one. We want a 401-k plan and Social Security. When they talk about family values, it's in a repressive way, as if our American tradition were only the Puritan tradition or the 19th century oppressive tradition. The Christian tradition. Where does depression, slowness, fit in? How does Saturn enter, except by forcing its way in? Whether we like it or not, men have more of the offices, more of the higher jobs, more of the seats in Congress. Men need to re-examine what their power is. We need to understand how to use it. You don't attack the grunts of Vietnam; you blame the theory behind the war. Nobody who fought in that war was at fault. It was the war itself that was at fault. It's the same thing with psychotherapy. You don't know what you're going to get into when you follow your bliss. You probably heard that depression is worse in the morning. Why is depression worse in the morning? What does it say about the day you are about to enter? ON SOUL, CHARACTER AND CALLING - AN INTERVIEW WITH JAMES HILLMANBy Scott London
James Hillman has been described variously as a maverick psychologist, a visionary, a crank, an old wizard, and a latter-day philosopher king. Poet Robert Bly once called him "the most lively and original psychologist we've had in America since William James."
He studied with the great Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung in the 1950s and went on to become the first director of studies at the Jung Institute in Zurich. After returning to the United States in 1980, he taught at Yale, Syracuse and the universities of Chicago and Dallas. He also became editor of Spring Publications, a small Texas publisher devoted to the work of contemporary psychologists, and wrote twenty books of his own.
In spite of these achievements, Hillman is not exactly an establishment figure in the world of psychology. If anything, he is looked upon by many in the profession as a profoundly subversive thinker, a thorn in the side of respectable psychologists.
As the founder of archetypal psychology, a school of thought aimed at "revisioning" or "reimagining" psychology, Hillman believes that the therapy business needs to evolve beyond reductionist "nature" and "nurture" theories of human development. Since the early 1960s, he has written, taught, and lectured on the need to get therapy out of the consulting room and into the real world. Conventional psychology has lost touch with what he calls "the soul's code." Overrun with "psychological seminars on how to clean closets or withhold orgasms," psychology has become reduced to "a trivialized, banal, egocentric pursuit, rather than an exploration of the mysteries of human nature," he says.
One of the greatest of these mysteries, in Hillman's view, is the question of character and destiny. In his bestseller The Soul's Code, he proposes that our calling in life is inborn and that it's our mission in life to realize its imperatives. He calls it the "acorn theory," the idea that our lives are formed by a particular image, just as the oak's destiny is contained in the tiny acorn.
Hillman doesn't like to give interviews and is a notoriously prickly conversationalist. He tells me he harbors a deep mistrust of journalists and interviewers. "People have a terrible desire to talk about themselves," he says. They call it 'sharing,' but it's really chewing out someone else's ear. Well, I don't have that desire."
So why consent to an interview with me? "Because I'm a nice guy," he says with a mischievous grin. Ideas are like children, he adds, "and you should try to get your children into the world if possible, to defend them and help them along. I don't think it's enough just to write and throw it out into the world. I think it's useful to have to put yourself out there a little bit for what you believe."
Scott London: You've been writing and lecturing about the need to overhaul psychotherapy for more than three decades. Now all of a sudden the public seems receptive to your ideas: you're on the bestseller lists and TV talk shows. Why do you think your work has suddenly struck a chord?
James Hillman: I think there is a paradigm shift going on in the culture. The old psychology just doesn't work anymore. Too many people have been analyzing their pasts, their childhoods, their memories, their parents, and realizing that it doesn't do anything — or that it doesn't do enough.
London: You're not a very popular figure with the therapy establishment.
Hillman: I'm not critical of the people who do psychotherapy. The therapists in the trenches have to face an awful lot of the social, political, and economic failures of capitalism. They have to take care of all the rejects and failures. They are sincere and work hard with very little credit, and the HMOs and the pharmaceutical companies and insurance companies are trying to wipe them out. So certainly I am not attacking them. I am attacking the theories of psychotherapy. You don't attack the grunts of Vietnam; you blame the theory behind the war. Nobody who fought in that war was at fault. It was the war itself that was at fault. It's the same thing with psychotherapy. It makes every problem a subjective, inner problem. And that's not where the problems come from. They come from the environment, the cities, the economy, the racism. They come from architecture, school systems, capitalism, exploitation. They come from many places that psychotherapy does not address. Psychotherapy theory turns it all on you: you are the one who is wrong. What I'm trying to say is that, if a kid is having trouble or is discouraged, the problem is not just inside the kid; it's also in the system, the society.
London: You can't fix the person without fixing the society.
Hillman: I don't think so. But I don't think anything changes until ideas change. The usual American viewpoint is to believe that something is wrong with the person. We approach people the same way we approach our cars. We take the poor kid to a doctor and ask, "What's wrong with him, how much will it cost, and when can I pick him up?" We can't change anything until we get some fresh ideas, until we begin to see things differently. My goal is to create a therapy of ideas, to try to bring in new ideas so that we can see the same old problems differently.
London: You've said that you usually write out of "hatred, dislike, and destruction."
Hillman: I've found that contemporary psychology enrages me with its simplistic ideas of human life, and also its emptiness. In the cosmology that's behind psychology, there is no reason for anyone to be here or do anything. We are driven by the results of the Big Bang, billions of years ago, which eventually produced life, which eventually produced human beings, and so on. But me? I'm an accident — a result — and therefore a victim.
London: A victim?
Hillman: Well, if I'm only a result of past causes, then I'm a victim of those past causes. There is no deeper meaning behind things that gives me a reason to be here. Or, if you look at it from the sociological perspective, I'm the result of upbringing, class, race, gender, social prejudices, and economics. So I'm a victim again. A result.
London: What about the idea that we are self-made, that since life is an accident we have the freedom to make ourselves into anything we want?
Hillman: Yes, we worship the idea of the "self-made man" — otherwise we'd go on strike against Bill Gates having all that money! We worship that idea. We vote for Perot. We think he's a great, marvelous, honest man. We send money to his campaign, even though he is one of the richest capitalists in our culture. Imagine, sending money to Perot! It's unbelievable, yet it's part of that worship of individuality.
But the culture is going into a psychological depression. We are concerned about our place in the world, about being competitive: Will my children have as much as I have? Will I ever own my own home? How can I pay for a new car? Are immigrants taking away my white world? All of this anxiety and depression casts doubt on whether I can make it as a heroic John Wayne-style individual.
London: In The Soul's Code, you talk about something called the "acorn theory." What is that?
Hillman: Well, it's more of a myth than a theory. It's Plato's myth that you come into the world with a destiny, although he uses the word paradigma, or paradigm, instead of d of destiny. The acorn theory says that there is an individual image that belongs to your soul.
The same myth can be found in the kabbalah. The Mormon's have it. The West Africans have it. The Hindus and the Buddhists have it in different ways — they tie it more to reincarnation and karma, but you still come into the world with a particular destiny. Native Americans have it very strongly. So all these cultures all over the world have this basic understanding of human existence. Only American psychology doesn't have it.
London: In our culture we tend to think of calling in terms of "vocation" or "career."
Hillman: Yes, but calling can refer not only to ways of doing — meaning work — but also to ways of being. Take being a friend. Goethe said that his friend Eckermann was born for friendship. Aristotle made friendship one of the great virtues. In his book on ethics, three or four chapters are on friendship. In the past, friendship was a huge thing. But it's hard for us to think of friendship as a calling, because it's not a vocation.
London: Motherhood is another example that comes to mind. Mothers are still expected to have a vocation above and beyond being a mother.
Hillman: Right, it's not enough just to be a mother. It's not only the social pressure on mothers by certain kinds of feminism and other sources. There is also economic pressure on them. It's a terrible cruelty of predatory capitalism: both parents now have to work. A family has to have two incomes in order to buy the things that are desirable in our culture. So the degradation of motherhood — the sense that motherhood isn't itself a calling — also arises from economic pressure.
London: What implications do your ideas have for parents?
Hillman: I think what I'm saying should relieve them hugely and make them want to pay more attention to their child, this peculiar stranger who has landed in their midst. Instead of saying, "This is my child," they must ask, "Who is this child who happens to be mine?" Then they will gain a lot more respect for the child and try to keep an eye open for instances where the kid's destiny might show itself — like in a resistance to school, for example, or a strange set of symptoms one year, or an obsession with one thing or another. Maybe something very important is going on there that the parents didn't see before.read the rest here. you know you want to...
Labels: good stuff, james hillman, scott london, the soul's code