Feb 15, 2013

you retreat to remain sane

(kind of a follow-up to my previous post)

"The psychological foundation, upon which the metropolitan individuality is erected, is the intensification of emotional life due to the swift and continuous shift of external stimuli. Man is a creature whose...mind is simulated by...difference. ...Thus the metropolitan type...creates a protective organ for itself against the profound disruption with which the fluctuations and discontinuities of the external milieu threaten it. Instead of reacting emotionally, the metropolitan type reacts primarily in a rational manner..."

Prof Jane Jacobs gave us this extract at our Experience Yale-NUS Weekend's sample classes. It's a really dense paragraph, so I simplified it with a pictorial representation:

And so because there's way too much going on around us, if we let our natural emotional response to constant violent change take over, we will drown. We have to be above that. I'm a very feelings-based person and my friends keep telling me that I have to be above that. I used to try. 

Because there's too much pulling and crushing us from every side, we have to reject the natural emotional response to what feels like the unfavourable. We push away the natural response, which will only harm us in today's world - emotion - and replace it with rationalisation. That these 'fluctuations and discontinuities of the external milieu' are good for us. Financial stability. Success, in society's definition. Eventual happiness. 

The class broke down that paragraph and tried to define certain terms - "external stimuli", for example, being the environment of people and networks; society and its pace; economies; competition, which has a heavy bearing on our individual and corporate aspirations. 

And this 'protective organ' against 'the profound disruption' - whether it's retreating to a Singsoc or people of your own culture, faith or ethnicity when you look at it externally; whether, within ourselves individually, it's adopting an attitude of indifference, or developing the ability to rationalise while putting your emotions on the side - is a coping mechanism we all need, but it's pretty scary how much we depend on this 'protective organ' to seek some form of stability and reassurance in the midst of the tide of the world.

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