Power Structures and Gender Theory

Why does society look and function the way it does? What impact does industrialization and social development have on humans, on an individual and social level?

Testosterone is the hormone responsible for many male characteristics. It can be increased through physical activity, or any kind of assertive or dominating gestures or power postures.

Prolactin is an essential neurotransmitter responsible for learning. Stimulant medications such as Adderall affect the dopaminergic pathways that facilitate the release Prolactin, with concentrations naturally higher in females due to their production in the mammary glands.

“Highly elevated levels of prolactin decrease the levels of sex hormones — estrogen in women and testosterone in men.[6] The effects of mildly elevated levels of prolactin are much more variable, in women both substantial increase or decrease of estrogen levels may result.” -Wikipedia, Prolactin, Sept. 10, 2012

Does the passage above provide insight into why developed nations have lower birth rates than undeveloped nations?

“Prolactin levels may be checked as part of a sex hormone workup, as elevated prolactin secretion can suppress the secretion of FSH and GnRH, leading to hypogonadism, and sometimes causing erectile dysfunction in men.” -Wikipedia, Prolactin, Sept. 10, 2012

From an evolutionary perspective, I wonder if females contain more Prolactin because they evolved to mirror social information and other group behavior necessary for establishing communal norms. The process of mirroring is more passive, as it requires reflecting back information rather than asserting or creating totally new information apart from preexisting contexts.

Does the suppression of testosterone increase Prolactin and the ability to learn?

“During pregnancy, high circulating concentrations of estrogen increase prolactin levels by 10- to 20-fold. ” -Wikipedia, Prolactin, Sept. 10, 2012

Prolactin promotes neurogenesis in maternal and foetal brains.[10][11] -Wikipedia, Prolactin, Sept. 10, 2012

Does this explain why females are increasingly found to flourish in academic settings, such as academic institutions?

Does a society with ever growing and increasingly complex norms, conventions and collective practices produce more androgynous people? By emphasizing the kind of passive, non-engaging learning put forth in modern day formal education, are we effectively increasing the demand for those with greater Prolactin, or effeminacy, and decreasing the demand for testosterone , or assertive declarations?

Which hormone produces more individuality? Which facilitates greater creativity? Which facilitates greater conformity?

Do imposing social norms and other oppressive social structures increase Prolactin?

“High prolactin levels can also contribute to mental health issues.”  -Wikipedia, Prolactin, Sept. 10, 2012

Does this explain the higher level of mental health issues in developed or industrial societies? Or is it simply that these countries have developed a lexicon extensive enough to index a greater number of psychological phenomena?

In countries with more stringent social norms, do we find more androgyny? more homosexuality? more uniformity? I can’t help but think of the many stereotypes belonging to Asian cultures.

More thoughts later.

Thoughts on Humor and Comedy: Instruments of Normalization

“Perhaps I know best why it is man alone who laughs; he alone suffers so deeply that he had to invent laughter.”
– Friedrich Nietzsche

What is humor? What makes this or that funny? Why do we laugh? Is it nervousness? Do people laugh because they are anxious? Because they cannot cope with contradiction, paradox, uncertainty, conflict?

Why do people laugh when others hurt? Why do we laugh at the absurd? Why do we find humor in other peoples suffering or misfortune? Why do people laugh when they are afraid, or get giddy when they are fearful or uncertain? What causes man to break out into a cackle, into a release of noise and air? Does humor provide us with an escape? Does laughter allow the body to breath, to unshackle itself from oppression, the tension holding us together, the seriousness infiltrating the conscious experience? Why does man seek comfort in the comedic, the funny?

Why are we entertained by the ridiculous? Why are we amused by the senseless, the crazy, the illogical, the idiotic, the inane, the irrational, the jokey, the ludicrous, the wacky, the silly, the stupid, the goofy?

Does comedy and humor and amusement provide an outlet for all the pressure? An opportunity to abandon the structure?

Why do children laugh so much? Why are they so funny? Is it because they live in a yet-to-be-established world, free of predictable structure and order? Is it because the little they do know has yet to be synthesized into a predictable experience?

I have intuitions about these things.

Does a culture become increasingly comedic in proportion to the oppression they feel? Is there a correlation between the prevalence and seriousness of societal norms and prejudices and a society’s humor?

Are the most easy going people the most humorous? What humor do they produce? Slap stick? Laugh at life? Bathroom?

Are the serious people most humorous? What humor do they produce? Dry? Dead pan? Sarcastic? High brow?

Are the weird people most humorous? What humor do they produce? Quirky? Witty?

What makes for good comedy and humor? Who are most often the targets of such humor?

It seems humor is characterized by absurdity, by contradiction. In ancient Greece, comedy always involved the targeting of gods and politicians, people possessing the most influence. This even occurred in the Elizebethan era, and still occurs today.  Why is this the case? Is it because comedy offered a release from the dominating influence? A chance to unveil and reveal the absurdity ruling their life? Comedy pokes fun at the leaders, the ideals, the norms, the rules and principles. It pokes fun at stereotypes and prejudices.

Comedy is irony. What is irony?  It is a sharp incongruity or discordance that goes being the evident and simple intention of the words or meaning. It is the use of words to convey meaning contrary or opposite from its literal meaning. The etymology of “irony” is from the Ancient Greek word eirōneía, meaning dissimulation or feigned ignorance. (Eirōneia, “irony, pretext”, from eirōn, “one who feigns ignorance”).  Why is irony a form of deception that conceals the truth? What is truth? What is being concealed?

It seems humor requires a juxtaposition. The context— involving the subjective speaker and referenced object— appears to determine the type of humor.


Why is humor so important for society?

I look around me, observe my culture and society, and note the location and subjects of our humor. Politics and politicians, all the people that demand to be taken seriously, take center stage. Stereotypes and societal conventions and norms are the next victim. The last are those who aren’t serious enough, the outcasts, the crazies, those on the fringe who don’t seem to follow lock step with everyone else.

Regarding children— I think there is something very revealing about the nature of humor that children can teach us. Why are they so giddy? Why is everything such a joke to them? Why are they so damn happy?

I believe it all revolves around the absurdity of normalization: the ridiculous nature of our expectations about reality. Expectations that, for the most part, we have been impressed with, trained to possess through conditioning.

When you have an open mind, when you are easy going, when you go with the flow: you find that life brightens. Life becomes a fluid exchange of emotional expression. Your mind breaths, it loosens its grip on certainty, on predictability, and everything melts into a plenum of feeling.

Who are the comedians? What type of person are they? Do they go to humor to cope with the otherwise debilitating demands of social pressure? What is their role in society? Are they there to remind us that it’s all a joke? That nothing is so serious that you need to stop feeling?

Can comedy be detrimental? Can it be injurious to society? Can it harm a mind? How so?

I imagine that comedy may lull the people into a state of complacency. The word “amuse” means “to divert attention, a suspension of thought”. What happens when a society prides itself on amusement? The danger, it seems, is a society failing to come to terms with its oppressive condition. That is, a society in denial. Does it matter if the oppression is internally imposed or externally imposed? Imposed by the self or imposed by others?

“A joke is an epigram on the death of a feeling.”
– Friedrich Nietzsche

Comedy— as Nietzsche poignantly articulated— is the death of a feeling. Perhaps it is healthy to feel? Perhaps those who are all jokes, all fun and games, are the most trapped, the most stifled, the most oppressed of all?

In order modern culture entertainment and amusement are the rule. I have to believe it has something to do with the denial of their condition, their sad sorry suffering state.

Think about the comedy in our culture. Think about the comedians in our culture. Which shows do you watch them in? In what circumstances and situations? Are they mocking a situation? A type of person? A situation or person that should be taken seriously? Think: Seinfeld, The Office, 30 Rock, Community, Parks & Recreation, Modern Family, Always Sunny in Philadelphia. Or: South park, Family Guy, the Simpsons. Or comedians: Zach Galifianakis, George Carlin, Richard Pryor, Lewis C.K., Jon Stewart, Mitch Hedberg, Dave Chapelle, Chris Rock.

What do they all have in common? They expose the absurdity of our condition, of our seriousness, of our prejudices, of our monotony, of our slavishness,

What’s sad about all of these things? They create a false sense of comfort. They lead us to believe it’s alright, that everything’s O.K., that because we can talk about it, because it’s out in the air, it’s not a problem, not a threat, not something to worry about. That someone else is taking care of it.

That’s scary.

They poke fun at our condition, and we laugh at it, thinking “geeze, I’m glad someone got that out”, cause everyone feels it, but no one talks about it, no one expresses it.

Comedy is an instrument for normalizing the suffering. It allows us to embrace our condition.

When do we draw the line and stop laughing? When do we get serious about our circumstance and do something about it?

Man alone suffers so excruciatingly in the world that he was compelled to invent laughter.
– Friedrich Nietzsche


What is comedy? The word comedy is rooted in Ancient Greek “kōmōidia“, from kōmos, “revel, carousing” + either ōidē, “song” or aoidos, “singer, bard”, both from aeidō, “I sing”. Comedy is singing? Why is comedy singing? What does singing have to do with laughing? Does singing relate to expression? to the expression of feeling?

What is humor?  from Latin humor, correctly umor “moisture”, from humere, correctly umere “to be moist”. That’s not very telling. I just think of Hippocrates humours, meaning “liquid” to refer to bodily secretions like phlegm, blood, choler (yellow bile). My intuition would lead me to believe it has something to do with the tears from laughing? Alas.


Lots of unrefined, undeveloped rambling:

I believe that oppression is man’s greatest asset. I believe that when man is not oppressed, he has no need to adapt, no need to grow and acheive and strive and thrive. I would say that oppression is the ultimate good. Since I can think of nothing pleasing about actively undergoing oppression, I would say that it is tantamount to suffering. But like suffering, oppression presents an opportunity to tap into previously unknown potentials in order to endure and survive.

What is oppression? More or less, it is “the exercise of authority or power in a burdensome, cruel, or unjust manner”, or “the feeling of being heavily burdened, mentally or physically, by troubles, adverse conditions, anxiety, etc.” If man is to live as a truly free and autonomous being, one can argue that there is no such thing as just authority and that all authority is a burden.

The etymology of oppression? Coined mid-14c., as “cruel or unjust use of power or authority,” from Fr. oppression (12c.), from L. oppressionem, noun of action from pp. stem of opprimere. Meaning “action of weighing on someone’s mind or spirits” is from late 14c.

Oppression is nothing more than demands. Demands are the effect of some initial cause. Demands instantiate voids to be filled, or requirements to be satisfied, with a response such as thought or action. Humans respond to these voids by exercising human ingenuity, innovation and invention. These responses exist as conceptualizations, systems, meanings, or structures where they inhabit the mind and manifest as through our action.

I believe that our efforts to escape from oppression, from physical or mental demands and the duress they may cause, provide us with the ultimate salvation by rescuing us from our previously cramped conceptions of human possibility and forcing us to expand our horizons of what it means to be fully human. When we commit to escaping oppression we commit to adapting, we commit to conceding outdated paradigms and belief systems for a novel, alternative perspective.

Where does oppression take place? It can occur to the mind and the body. I believe civilization has capitalized on the venture of oppressing the mind. Nature imposes its own form of oppression. Natural, or environmental, oppression, was much more of an issue in the past due to our failure to capture the nature of cause and effect as well as our frail ability to leverage physical laws to alter or overpower the course of physical phenomena. Throughout our evolution, however, we’ve managed to innovate and invent ways of overcoming the oppression of natural physical constraints.

Body and mind are inextricable, so that what oppresses the mind manifests simultaneously in the body, and what oppresses the body manifests simultanesouly in the mind. In this way, as man alleviates physical oppression, he simultaneously frees his mind. But where does that leave the mind?

All life wishes to not only survive, but thrive. Existence depends on ensuring a continuity. Life does not want equilibrium. Life wants the power to create its own equilibrium, to impose its own balance, its own demands, on the world.

The oppression that occurs in the mind originates from abstractions generated and perpetuated by culture, from power relations vying for authority and dominant influence.  What are these abstractions? They are belief systems, language, meaning, conceptions like truth and law, etc. What are these power relations? The forces generated by competition between opposing ideologies. These forces present themselves as the will, or the emotional driver reinforcing every form of action.

Culture is a conglomeration of these abstractions and power relations. Culture shapes and programs individuals with the systems of abstractions and relations necessary for navigating, acting and reacting, within the culture.

Culture produces individuals and these individuals produce new physical boundaries that expand or contract oppression.

Was man ever a blank slate? There was never a garden of eden. The first oppression was natural environmental oppression. Out of human’s adaptation arose social relations and ultimately oppression.

Does scarcity drive oppression? When there is plentitude, is man oppressed? Only when social oppression continues to persist.

Oppression forces you to make a choice between fighting to anhiliate and overpower the oppression or acquiescing the mind and body under its force. One is active, the other is passive.

Education is oppressive. This oppression, when actively overcome, is positive. When this oppression overcomes, it is negative.

What is value? What determines value? Does all value maintain an equivalent price? Is value determined by emotional attachment? Utility? One can say that anything that is useful possesses an emotional attachment, since our emotional reflexes arise from deep primal impulses to survive.

What is value? Clearly utility has something to do with it, but then again, hardly anything at all. One can agree that just about anything can be useful to someone at sometime, but not someone at just anytime or all the time. So value has something to do with utility. Is art valuable? It produces an emotional response that aids in your well being. Love is valuable because, in some other degree, it does the same.

Because we cannot use every useful thing all the time, we must consider how we use our time. In this way we establish a hierarchy of values that serve us according to the proportional time we spend in any given activity.

Some abstract, qualifiable values are information, experience, feelings, thoughts, and I’m sure the list goes on, but these seem to be the most basic.

Pedagogy of the Oppressed Review

Chapter One

  In chapter one Paulo Freire addresses the matter of humanization, or the problem of dehumanization. Initially the reader is left wondering what it means to be fully humanized. As he talks of these hierarchal roles of subject-object, of oppressor-oppressed, he refrains from explicitly prescribing what it means to be fully human. This is not unintended, for such a prescription would vitiate his message by qualifying the very structure he seeks to eliminate. For Freire, humanity is not a thing to have or possess, but rather a responsibility towards freedom that allows being more fully.
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