The Revolt of the Poor – The Demise of Intellectual Property?

In 1997, I published a book of short stories in Israel. The publishing house belongs to Israel’s leading (and exceedingly wealthy) newspaper. I signed a contract which stated that I am entitled to receive 8% of the income from the sales of the book after commissions payable to distributors, shops, etc. A few months later, I won the coveted Prize of the Ministry of Education (for short prose). The prize money (a few thousand euros) was snatched by the publishing house on the legal grounds that all the money generated by the book belongs to them because they own the copyright.

In the mythology generated by capitalism to pacify the masses, the myth of intellectual property stands out. It goes like this: if the rights to intellectual property were not defined and enforced, commercial entrepreneurs would not have taken on the risks associated with publishing books, recording records, and preparing multimedia products. As a result, creative people will have suffered because they will have found no way to make their works accessible to the public. Ultimately, it is the public which pays the price of piracy, goes the refrain.

But this is factually untrue. In the USA there is a very limited group of authors who actually live by their pen. Only select musicians eke out a living from their noisy vocation (most of them rock stars who own their labels – George Michael had to fight Sony to do just that) and very few actors come close to deriving subsistence level income from their profession. All these can no longer be thought of as mostly creative people. Forced to defend their intellectual property rights and the interests of Big Money, Madonna, Michael Jackson, Schwarzenegger and Grisham are businessmen at least as much as they are artists.

Economically and rationally, we should expect that the costlier a work of art is to produce and the narrower its market – the more emphasized its intellectual property rights.

Consider a publishing house.

A book which costs 20,000 euros to produce with a potential audience of 1000 purchasers (certain academic texts are like this) – would have to be priced at a a minimum of 50 euros to recoup only the direct costs. If illegally copied (thereby shrinking the potential market as some people will prefer to buy the cheaper illegal copies) – its price would have to go up prohibitively to recoup costs, thus driving out potential buyers. The story is different if a book costs 5,000 euros to produce and is priced at 10 euros a copy with a potential readership of 1,000,000 readers. Piracy (illegal copying) should in this case be more readily tolerated as a marginal phenomenon.

This is the theory. But the facts are tellingly different. The less the cost of production (brought down by digital technologies) – the fiercer the battle against piracy. The bigger the market – the more pressure is applied to clamp down on samizdat entrepreneurs.

Governments, from China to Macedonia, are introducing intellectual property laws (under pressure from rich world countries) and enforcing them belatedly. But where one factory is closed on shore (as has been the case in mainland China) – two sprout off shore (as is the case in Hong Kong and in Bulgaria).

But this defies logic: the market today is global, the costs of production are lower (with the exception of the music and film industries), the marketing channels more numerous (half of the income of movie studios emanates from video cassette sales), the speedy recouping of the investment virtually guaranteed. Moreover, piracy thrives in very poor markets in which the population would anyhow not have paid the legal price. The illegal product is inferior to the legal copy (it comes with no literature, warranties or support). So why should the big manufacturers, publishing houses, record companies, software companies and fashion houses worry?

The answer lurks in history. Intellectual property is a relatively new notion. In the near past, no one considered knowledge or the fruits of creativity (art, design) as “patentable”, or as someone’s “property”. The artist was but a mere channel through which divine grace flowed. Texts, discoveries, inventions, works of art and music, designs – all belonged to the community and could be replicated freely. True, the chosen ones, the conduits, were honoured but were rarely financially rewarded. They were commissioned to produce their works of art and were salaried, in most cases. Only with the advent of the Industrial Revolution were the embryonic precursors of intellectual property introduced but they were still limited to industrial designs and processes, mainly as embedded in machinery. The patent was born. The more massive the market, the more sophisticated the sales and marketing techniques, the bigger the financial stakes – the larger loomed the issue of intellectual property. It spread from machinery to designs, processes, books, newspapers, any printed matter, works of art and music, films (which, at their beginning were not considered art), software, software embedded in hardware, processes, business methods, and even unto genetic material.

Intellectual property rights – despite their noble title – are less about the intellect and more about property. This is Big Money: the markets in intellectual property outweigh the total industrial production in the world. The aim is to secure a monopoly on a specific work. This is an especially grave matter in academic publishing where small- circulation magazines do not allow their content to be quoted or published even for non-commercial purposes. The monopolists of knowledge and intellectual products cannot allow competition anywhere in the world – because theirs is a world market. A pirate in Skopje is in direct competition with Bill Gates. When he sells a pirated Microsoft product – he is depriving Microsoft not only of its income, but of a client (=future income), of its monopolistic status (cheap copies can be smuggled into other markets), and of its competition-deterring image (a major monopoly preserving asset). This is a threat which Microsoft cannot tolerate. Hence its efforts to eradicate piracy – successful in China and an utter failure in legally-relaxed Russia.

But what Microsoft fails to understand is that the problem lies with its pricing policy – not with the pirates. When faced with a global marketplace, a company can adopt one of two policies: either to adjust the price of its products to a world average of purchasing power – or to use discretionary differential pricing (as pharmaceutical companies were forced to do in Brazil and South Africa). A Macedonian with an average monthly income of 160 USD clearly cannot afford to buy the Encyclopaedia Encarta Deluxe. In America, 50 USD is the income generated in 4 hours of an average job. In Macedonian terms, therefore, the Encarta is 20 times more expensive. Either the price should be lowered in the Macedonian market – or an average world price should be fixed which will reflect an average global purchasing power.

Something must be done about it not only from the economic point of view. Intellectual products are very price sensitive and highly elastic. Lower prices will be more than compensated for by a much higher sales volume. There is no other way to explain the pirate industries: evidently, at the right price a lot of people are willing to buy these products. High prices are an implicit trade-off favouring small, elite, select, rich world clientele. This raises a moral issue: are the children of Macedonia less worthy of education and access to the latest in human knowledge and creation?

Two developments threaten the future of intellectual property rights. One is the Internet. Academics, fed up with the monopolistic practices of professional publications – already publish on the web in big numbers. I published a few book on the Internet and they can be freely downloaded by anyone who has a computer or a modem. The full text of electronic magazines, trade journals, billboards, professional publications, and thousands of books is available online. Hackers even made sites available from which it is possible to download whole software and multimedia products. It is very easy and cheap to publish on the Internet, the barriers to entry are virtually nil. Web pages are hosted free of charge, and authoring and publishing software tools are incorporated in most word processors and browser applications. As the Internet acquires more impressive sound and video capabilities it will proceed to threaten the monopoly of the record companies, the movie studios and so on.

The second development is also technological. The oft-vindicated Moore’s law predicts the doubling of computer memory capacity every 18 months. But memory is only one aspect of computing power. Another is the rapid simultaneous advance on all technological fronts. Miniaturization and concurrent empowerment by software tools have made it possible for individuals to emulate much larger scale organizations successfully. A single person, sitting at home with 5000 USD worth of equipment can fully compete with the best products of the best printing houses anywhere. CD-ROMs can be written on, stamped and copied in house. A complete music studio with the latest in digital technology has been condensed to the dimensions of a single chip. This will lead to personal publishing, personal music recording, and the to the digitization of plastic art. But this is only one side of the story.

The relative advantage of the intellectual property corporation does not consist exclusively in its technological prowess. Rather it lies in its vast pool of capital, its marketing clout, market positioning, sales organization, and distribution network.

Nowadays, anyone can print a visually impressive book, using the above-mentioned cheap equipment. But in an age of information glut, it is the marketing, the media campaign, the distribution, and the sales that determine the economic outcome.

This advantage, however, is also being eroded.

First, there is a psychological shift, a reaction to the commercialization of intellect and spirit. Creative people are repelled by what they regard as an oligarchic establishment of institutionalized, lowest common denominator art and they are fighting back.

Secondly, the Internet is a huge (200 million people), truly cosmopolitan market, with its own marketing channels freely available to all. Even by default, with a minimum investment, the likelihood of being seen by surprisingly large numbers of consumers is high.

I published one book the traditional way – and another on the Internet. In 50 months, I have received 6500 written responses regarding my electronic book. Well over 500,000 people read it (my Link Exchange meter registered c. 2,000,000 impressions since November 1998). It is a textbook (in psychopathology) – and 500,000 readers is a lot for this kind of publication. I am so satisfied that I am not sure that I will ever consider a traditional publisher again. Indeed, my last book was published in the very same way.

The demise of intellectual property has lately become abundantly clear. The old intellectual property industries are fighting tooth and nail to preserve their monopolies (patents, trademarks, copyright) and their cost advantages in manufacturing and marketing.

But they are faced with three inexorable processes which are likely to render their efforts vain:

The Newspaper Packaging

Print newspapers offer package deals of cheap content subsidized by advertising. In other words, the advertisers pay for content formation and generation and the reader has no choice but be exposed to commercial messages as he or she studies the content.

This model – adopted earlier by radio and television – rules the internet now and will rule the wireless internet in the future. Content will be made available free of all pecuniary charges. The consumer will pay by providing his personal data (demographic data, consumption patterns and preferences and so on) and by being exposed to advertising. Subscription based models are bound to fail.

Thus, content creators will benefit only by sharing in the advertising cake. They will find it increasingly difficult to implement the old models of royalties paid for access or of ownership of intellectual property.

Disintermediation

A lot of ink has been spilt regarding this important trend. The removal of layers of brokering and intermediation – mainly on the manufacturing and marketing levels – is a historic development (though the continuation of a long term trend).

Consider music for instance. Streaming audio on the internet or downloadable MP3 files will render the CD obsolete. The internet also provides a venue for the marketing of niche products and reduces the barriers to entry previously imposed by the need to engage in costly marketing (“branding”) campaigns and manufacturing activities.

This trend is also likely to restore the balance between artist and the commercial exploiters of his product. The very definition of “artist” will expand to include all creative people. One will seek to distinguish oneself, to “brand” oneself and to auction off one’s services, ideas, products, designs, experience, etc. This is a return to pre-industrial times when artisans ruled the economic scene. Work stability will vanish and work mobility will increase in a landscape of shifting allegiances, head hunting, remote collaboration and similar labour market trends.

Market Fragmentation

In a fragmented market with a myriad of mutually exclusive market niches, consumer preferences and marketing and sales channels – economies of scale in manufacturing and distribution are meaningless. Narrowcasting replaces broadcasting, mass customization replaces mass production, a network of shifting affiliations replaces the rigid owned-branch system. The decentralized, intrapreneurship-based corporation is a late response to these trends. The mega-corporation of the future is more likely to act as a collective of start-ups than as a homogeneous, uniform (and, to conspiracy theorists, sinister) juggernaut it once was.


Also Read

Contracting for Transition

The Case of the Compressed Image

The Content Downloader’s Profile

The Future of Electronic Publishing

The Fall and Fall of the P-Zine

The Internet and the Library

Germany’s Copyright Levy

Revolt of the Scholars

The Kidnapping of Content

The Disintermediation of Content

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Trading from a Suitcase – The Case of Shuttle Trade

They all sport the same shabby clothes, haggard looks, and bulging suitcases bound with frayed ropes. These are the shuttle traders. You can find them in Mongolia and Russia, China and Ukraine, Bulgaria and Kosovo, the West Bank and Turkey. They cross the border as “tourists”, sometimes as often as 10 times a year, and come back with as much merchandise as they can carry in their enormous luggage. Some of them resort to freight forwarding their “personal belongings”.

They distort trade figures, smuggle goods across ill-guarded borders, ignore international treaties and conventions and, in short, revive moribund economies. They are the life-blood and the only manifestation of true entrepreneurship in swathes of economic wastelands. They meet demands for consumer goods unmet by domestic manufacturers or by officially-sanctioned importers.

In recognition of their vital role, the worried Kyrgyz government held a round table discussion last summer about the precarious state of Kyrgyzstan’s shuttle trade. Many former Soviet republics have tightened up their border controls. In May last year, Russian officials seized half a million dollars worth of shuttle goods belonging to 1500 traders. When two million dollars worth of goods were confiscated in a similar incident in fall 2001, eight Kyrgyz traders committed suicide.

The number of Kyrgyz shuttle traders dropped in 2002 to 300,000 (from 500,000 in 1996). The majority of those who remain are insolvent. Many of them emigrated to other countries. The shuttle traders asked the government to legalize and regulate their vanishing trade and thus to save them from avaricious and minacious customs officials.

Even prim international financial institutions recognize the survival-value of shuttle trade to the economies of developing and transition countries. It employs millions, boosts investments in transport and infrastructure, and encourages grassroots capitalism. The IMF – in the 11th meeting of its Committee on Balance of Payments Statistics in 1998 – officially recognized shuttle trade as a business activity to be recorded under “goods”.

But there is a seedier and seamier side to shuttle trade where it interfaces with organized crime and official corruption. Shuttle trade also constitutes unfair competition to legitimate, tax and customs duties paying enterprises – the manufacturers of textiles, shoes, cigarettes, alcoholic drinks, and food products. Shuttled goods are not subject to health and safety inspections, or quality control.

According to the March 27th 2002 issue of East West Institute’s “Russian Regional Report”, the value of Chinese goods shuttled into the borderlands of the Russian Far East is a whopping $50 million a month. China benefits from the serendipitous proceeds of these informal exports – but is unhappy at the lost tax revenues.

EWI claims that Russian banks in the region (such as DalOVK, Primsotsbank, and Regiobank) are already offering money transfer services to China. DalOVK alone transfers $1 million a month – a fortune in local terms. But even these figures may be a serious under-estimate. The trade between Khabarovsk Territory in Russia and Heilongjiang Province in China – most of it in shuttle form – was $1.5 billion in 2001. The bulk of it was one way, from China to Russia.

Shuttle trade is even more prominent between Iraq and Turkey. The Anatolia News Agency expected it to increase to $2 billion in 2002. By comparison, the official exports of Turkey to Iraq amount to $800 million. The then prime minister Bulent Ecevit himself stated to the Ankara Anatolia news agency: “We have provided necessary support to increase shuttle trade”.

“The Economist” reports about the flourishing “petty trade” between China and Vietnam. Western and counterfeit goods are smuggled to bazaars in Vietnam, owned and operated by Chinese nationals. The border between these two erstwhile enemies opened in 1990. This led to the rise of criminal networks which involve border guards and policemen.

Another hot spot is the Balkan. In a report dated July 2001, the Balkan Information Exchange describes the “Tulip Market” in Istanbul. Vendors are fluent in Russian, Bulgarian and Romanian and most of the clients are East European. They buy wholesale and use special vans and buses to transport the goods – mainly textiles – northwards, frequently to destinations in the Balkan. This kind of trade is estimated to be worth $8 billion a year – more than one quarter of Turkey’s official exports.

Bulgarian customs officials, border patrols, and policemen form part of these efficient rings – as do their Macedonian and, to a lesser extent, Greek counterparts. The Sofia-based Center for the Study of Democracy thinks that a third of the Bulgarian workforce (i.e., c. 1 million people) may be involved. Many of the traders maintain mom-and-pop establishments or stalls in public bazaars, where members of their family sell the goods.

Some of the merchandise ends up in Serbia, which was subjected to UN sanctions until lately. Fuel smuggling on bikes and other forms of sanctions busting have largely ended but they have been replaced by cigarettes, alcohol, firearms, stolen cars, and mobile phones.

The Serbian authorities often round up and deport Bulgarian shuttle traders, provoking furious resentment in Bulgaria. Headlines like “(Serbian) Policemen take away our countrymen’s money” and “Serbs searching (Bulgarian) women’s genitals for money” are pretty common. The Bulgarians are embittered. They used to smuggle medicines and fuel into embargoed Serbia – only to be abused by Serb officials now, that the embargo has been lifted.

East European buyers used to reach as far as India where they shopped wholesale in winter. Russians used to buy readymade clothes, leather goods, and cheap jewelry in New Delhi and elsewhere and sell the goods in the numerous flea markets back home.

To finance their purchases, they used to sell in India Russian cosmetics and consumer goods such as watches, cameras, or hair dryers. But the 1998 financial crisis and sub-standard wares offered by unscrupulous Indian traders put a stop to this particular venue.

Governments are trying to stem the shuttle trade. The Russian news agency, ITAR-TASS, reports that Sergei Stepashin, the dynamic chairman of the Russian Audit Chamber (and a former short-lived prime minister of Russia) is bent on tightening the cooperation between member states of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization.

The audit agencies of China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan will exchange information and strive to control the thriving shuttle trade across their porous borders. China and Russia are poised to sign a bilateral accord regarding these issues in October.

The WPS Monitoring Agency reported last November that the Economic Development and Trade Ministry of Russia intends to treat cargos of more than 50 kilos as a consignment of commercial goods, subject to import tariffs (on top of the current tax of 30 percent).

The Ministry claimed that shuttle trade accounts for up to 90 percent of all imported goods “in certain spheres” (e.g., furs). As late as 1994, Russians were allowed to import up to $5000 of duty-free goods in their accompanied baggage – a relic of communist days when only the privileged few were allowed to travel.

Up to 2 million Russian citizens may be engaged in shuttle trade and the value of “gray” goods may be as high as $10 billion annually. Goods from Turkey alone amounted in 2002 to $1.5-2 billion, according to then vice-premier Viktor Khristenko, but shuttle traders also operate in the United Arab Emirates, Syria, Israel, Pakistan, India, China, Poland, Hungary, and Italy.

A set of figures published for the first quarter of 2001 shows that shuttle trade amounted to $2.6 billion, or 8 percent of Russia’s total foreign trade. Shuttle traded goods made up 1.5 percent of exports – but a full quarter of imports.

But the shuttle trade’s coup de grace may well be EU enlargement. Already a new “iron curtain”, comprised of visas and regulations, is rising between EU candidates and other East European and Balkan countries.

Consider the EU’s eastern boundary. More than a million people cross the busy Ukrainian-Polish border every month. Enhanced regulation on the Polish side and new, IMF-inspired, tax laws on the Ukrainian side – led to a massive increase in corruption and smuggling. Truck owners now bribe customs officials to the tune of $300 per vehicle, according to a January 2001 report by CEPS.

The results are grave. Following the introduction of these new measures, cross border traffic fell by 50 percent and unemployment in the Polish border zones jumped by 40 percent in 2002 alone. It has since doubled. The IMF and the EU are much decried by the Polish minority now trapped in Western Ukraine.

The situation is likely to be further exacerbated with the introduction of a reciprocal visa regime between the two countries. Shuttle trade may be decimated by the resulting bureaucratic bottlenecks.

Still, it may no longer be needed now that Poland acceded to the EU. Shuttle trade thrives on poverty. It arbitrates between inefficient markets. It satisfies unrequited demand for goods. The single market ought to rid Europe of all these distortions – and, thus, most probably of this makeshift though resilient solution, the shuttle trader.

“Malignant Self Love – Narcissism Revisited” – Introduction by Ken Heilbrunn, MD

Introduction

Hello. Recognise me? No? Well, you see me all the time. You read my books, watch me on the big screen, feast on my art, cheer at my games, use my inventions, vote me into office, follow me into battle, take notes at my lectures, laugh at my jokes, marvel at my successes, admire my appearance, listen to my stories, discuss my politics, enjoy my music, excuse my faults, envy me my blessings. No? Still doesn’t ring a bell? Well, you have seen me. Of that I am positive. In fact, if there is one thing I am absolutely sure of, it is that. You have seen me.

Perhaps our paths crossed more privately. Perhaps I am the one who came along and built you up when you were down, employed you when you needed a job, showed the way when you were lost, offered confidence when you were doubting, made you laugh when you were blue, sparked your interest when you were bored, listened to you and understood, saw you for what you really are, felt your pain and found the answers, made you want to be alive. Of course you recognise me. I am your inspiration, your role model, your saviour, your leader, your best friend, the one you aspire to emulate, the one whose favour makes you glow.

But I can also be your worst nightmare. First I build you up because that’s what you need. Your skies are blue. Then, out of the blue, I start tearing you down. You let me do it because that’s what you are used to. You are dumfounded. But I was wrong to take pity on you. You really ARE incompetent, disrespectful, untrustworthy, immoral, ignorant, inept, egotistical, constrained, disgusting. You are a social embarrassment, an unappreciative partner, an inadequate parent, a disappointment, a sexual flop, a financial liability.

I tell you this to your face. I must. It is my right, because it is. I behave, at home and away, in any way I want to, with total disregard for conventions, mores, or the feelings of others. It is my right, because it is. I lie to your face, without a twitch or a twitter, and there is absolutely nothing you can do about it. In fact, my lies are not lies at all. They are the truth, my truth. And you believe them, because you do, because they do not sound or feel like lies, because to do otherwise would make you question your own sanity, which you have a tendency to do anyway, because from the very beginning of our relationship you placed your trust and hopes in me, derived your energy, direction, stability, and confidence from me and from your association with me. So what’s the problem if the safe haven I provide comes with a price? Surely I am worth it and then some.

Run to our friends. Go. See what that will get you. Ridicule. People believe what they see and what they see is the same wonderful me that you also saw and still do. What they also see is the very mixed up person that you have obviously become. The more you plead for understanding, the more convinced they are that the crazy one is you, the more isolated you feel, and the harder you try to make things right again, not by changing me but by accepting my criticisms and by striving to improve yourself. Could it be that you were wrong about me in the beginning? So wrong as that? How do you think our friends will react if you insist that they are also wrong about me? After all, they know that it really is you who have thwarted my progress, tainted my reputation, and thrown me off course.

I disappoint you? Outrageous! You are the one who have disappointed me. Look at all the frustrations you cause me. Lucky for you, I have an escape from all this, and fortunately my reputation provides enough insulation from the outside world so I can indulge in this escape with impunity. What escape? Why, those eruptions of rage you dread and fear. Ah, it feels so good to rage. It is the expression of and the confirmation of my power over you, my absolute superiority. Lying feels good too, for the same reason, but nothing compares to the pleasure of exploding for no material reason and venting my anger with total abandon, all the time a spectator at my own show and at your helplessness, pain, fear, frustration, and dependence.

In fact my raging is precisely what allows me to stay with you. Go ahead. Tell our friends about it. See if they can imagine what it’s like, let alone believe it. The more outrageous the things you say about me, the more convinced they are that it is you who have taken a turn for the worse. And don’t expect much more from your therapist either. You may tell him this or that, but what he sees when I visit him is something quite different. So what’s the therapist to believe? After all, it was you who came for help. No! That’s what this is all about. No! That simple two-letter word that, regardless of how bad I am, you simply cannot say. Who knows? You might even acquire some of my behaviour yourself.

But you know what? This may come as a shock, but I can also be my own worst nightmare. I can and I am. You see, at heart my life is nothing more than illusion-clad confusion. I have no idea why I do what I do, nor do I care to find out. In fact, the mere notion of asking the question is so repulsive to me that I employ all of my resources to repel it. I reconstruct facts, fabricate illusions, act them out, and thus create my own reality. It is a precarious state of existence indeed, so I am careful to include enough demonstrable truth in my illusions to ensure their credibility. And I am forever testing that credibility on you and on the reactions of others.

Fortunately my real attributes and accomplishments are in sufficient abundance to fuel my illusions seemingly forever. And modern society, blessed/cursed modern society, values most what I do best and thus serves as my accomplice. Even I get lost in my own illusions, swept away by my own magic.

So, not to worry if you still do not recognise me. I don’t recognise me either. In fact, I am not really sure who I am. That’s probably a question you never ask of yourself. Yet I wonder about it all the time. Perhaps I am not too different from everyone else, just better. After all, that’s the feedback I get. My admirers certainly wish they were  me. They just don’t have the gifts I have, nor the courage I have to express them. That’s what the universe is telling me.

Then again THE universe or MY universe? As long as the magic of my illusions works on me too, there really is no need for distinction. All I need is an abundant fan club to stay on top of it all. So I am constantly taking fan club inventory, testing the loyalty of present members with challenges of abuse, writing off defectors with total indifference, and scouting the landscape for new recruits. Do you see my dilemma? I use people who are dependent on me to keep my illusions alive. So really it is I who am dependent on them.

Even the rage, that orgasmic release of pain and anger, works better with an audience. On some level I am aware of my illusions, but to admit that would spoil the magic. And that I couldn’t bear. So I proclaim that what I do is of no consequence and no different from what others do, and thus I create an illusion about my creating illusions.

So, no, I don’t recognise me any better than you do. I wouldn’t dare. Like my fans, I marvel at my own being. Then again, sometimes I wish that I were not the person I am. You find that confusing? How do you think it makes me feel? I need my own magic to stay afloat. Sometimes others like me recruit me into their magic. But that’s ok. As long as we feed off of each other, who’s the worse for wear? It only confirms my illusion about my illusions: that I am no different from most other people, just a bit better.

But I AM different and we both know it, although neither one of us dares to admit it. Therein lies the root of my hostility. I tear you down because in reality I am envious of you BECAUSE I am different. At some haunting level I see my magic for what it is and realise that people around me function just fine WITHOUT any “magic”.

(continued below)


This article appears in my book, “Malignant Self Love – Narcissism Revisited”

Click HERE to buy the print edition from Barnes and Noble or HERE to buy it from Amazon or HERE to buy it from The Book Source

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This terrifies me. Panic stricken, I try all my old tricks: displays of my talents, unnecessary deceptions, self-serving distortions, skilful seductions, ludicrous projections, frightening rages, whatever. Normally, that works. But if it fails, watch out. Like a solar-powered battery in darkness, my fire goes out and I cease to exist. Destitution sets in.

That is the key to understanding me. Most people strive for goals and feel good when they approach them. They move toward something positive. I move in the same direction but my movement is away from something negative. That’s why I never stop, am never content, no matter what I achieve. That negative thing seems to follow me around like a shadow. I dowse myself in light and it fades, but that’s all it does. Exhausted, I ultimately succumb to it, again and again.

Where did it come from, this negativity? Probably from before I learned to talk. When you were exploring your world for the first time, with the usual little toddler mishaps, your mother kept a careful eye on you, intervened when she saw you heading for danger, and comforted you when you made a mistake, even if you cried.

Well, that’s not how it was for me. My mother’s expectations of me were much higher. Mistakes were mistakes and crying was not the way to get her approval. That required being perfect, so that’s exactly what I became. Not the little awkward toddler that I was, but my mother’s model child. Not the brave and curious little person that I really was, but the fearful personification of my mother’s ideal.

What you were experiencing through your little mishaps and mistakes were small doses of shame. What you were learning from your quick recoveries was shame repair. At first your mother did most of the repairing. Through repetition, you gradually learned how to do it by yourself. Shame repair brain circuitry was being laid down that would carry you for the rest of your life. I had no such luck. I simply did not acquire that skill when nature had intended my brain to acquire it. No one enjoys shame. But most people can deal with it. Not me. I fear it the way most people fear snakes.

How many others like me are there? More than you might think, and our numbers are increasing. Take twenty people off the street and you will find one whose mind ticks so much like mine that you could consider us clones. Impossible, you say. It is simply not possible for that many people – highly accomplished, respected, and visible people – to be out there replacing reality with illusions, each in the same way and for reasons they know not. It is simply not possible for so many shame-phobic robots of havoc and chaos, as I describe myself, to function daily midst other educated, intelligent, and experienced individuals, and pass for normal. It is simply not possible for such an aberration of human cognition and behaviour to infiltrate and infect the population in such numbers, virtually undetected by the radar of mental health professionals. It is simply not possible for so much visible positive to contain so much concealed negative. It is simply not possible.

But it is. That is the enlightenment of “Narcissism Revisited” by Sam Vaknin. Sam is himself one such clone. What distinguishes him is his uncharacteristic courage to confront, and his uncanny understanding of, that which makes us tick, himself included. Not only does Sam dare ask and then answer the question we clones avoid like the plague, he does so with relentless, laser-like precision. Read his book. Take your seat at the double-headed microscope and let Sam guide you through the dissection.

Like a brain surgeon operating on himself, Sam explores and exposes the alien among us, hoping beyond hope for a resectable tumour but finding instead each and every cell teeming with the same resistant virus. The operation is long and tedious, and at times frightening and hard to believe. Read on. The parts exposed are as they are, despite what may seem hyperbolic or farfetched. Their validity might not hit home until later, when coupled with memories of past events and experiences.

I am, as I said, my own worst nightmare. True, the world is replete with my contributions, and I am lots of fun to be around. And true, most contributions like mine are not the result of troubled souls. But many more than you might want to believe are. And if by chance you get caught in my web, I can make your life a living hell. But remember this. I am in that web too. The difference between you and me is that you can get out. 

Ken Heilbrunn, M.D.

Seattle, Washington, USA

ksbrunn@aol.com

Intuition

I. The Three Intuitions

IA. Eidetic Intuitions

Intuition is supposed to be a form of direct access. Yet, direct access to what? Does it access directly “intuitions” (abstract objects, akin to numbers or properties – see “Bestowed Existence”)? Are intuitions the objects of the mental act of Intuition? Perhaps intuition is the mind’s way of interacting directly with Platonic ideals or Phenomenological “essences”? By “directly” I mean without the intellectual mediation of a manipulated symbol system, and without the benefits of inference, observation, experience, or reason.

Kant thought that both (Euclidean) space and time are intuited. In other words, he thought that the senses interact with our (transcendental) intuitions to produce synthetic a-priori knowledge. The raw data obtained by our senses -our sensa or sensory experience – presuppose intuition. One could argue that intuition is independent of our senses. Thus, these intuitions (call them “eidetic intuitions”) would not be the result of sensory data, or of calculation, or of the processing and manipulation of same. Kant’s “Erscheiung” (“phenomenon”, or “appearance” of an object to the senses) is actually a kind of sense-intuition later processed by the categories of substance and cause. As opposed to the phenomenon, the “nuomenon” (thing in itself) is not subject to these categories.

Descartes’ “I (think therefore I) am” is an immediate and indubitable innate intuition from which his metaphysical system is derived. Descartes’ work in this respect is reminiscent of Gnosticism in which the intuition of the mystery of the self leads to revelation.

Bergson described a kind of instinctual empathic intuition which penetrates objects and persons, identifies with them and, in this way, derives knowledge about the absolutes – “duration” (the essence of all living things) and “élan vital” (the creative life force). He wrote: “(Intuition is an) instinct that has become disinterested, self-conscious, capable of reflecting upon its object and of enlarging it indefinitely.” Thus, to him, science (the use of symbols by our intelligence to describe reality) is the falsification of reality. Only art, based on intuition, unhindered by mediating thought, not warped by symbols – provides one with access to reality.

Spinoza’s and Bergson’s intuited knowledge of the world as an interconnected whole is also an “eidetic intuition”.

Spinoza thought that intuitive knowledge is superior to both empirical (sense) knowledge and scientific (reasoning) knowledge. It unites the mind with the Infinite Being and reveals to it an orderly, holistic, Universe.

Friedrich Schleiermacher and Rudolf Otto discussed the religious experience of the “numinous” (God, or the spiritual power) as a kind of intuitive, pre-lingual, and immediate feeling.

Croce distinguished “concept” (representation or classification) from “intuition” (expression of the individuality of an objet d’art). Aesthetic interest is intuitive. Art, according to Croce and Collingwood, should be mainly concerned with expression (i.e., with intuition) as an end unto itself, unconcerned with other ends (e.g., expressing certain states of mind).

Eidetic intuitions are also similar to “paramartha satya” (the “ultimate truth”) in the Madhyamika school of Buddhist thought. The ultimate truth cannot be expressed verbally and is beyond empirical (and illusory) phenomena. Eastern thought (e.g. Zen Buddhism) uses intuition (or experience) to study reality in a non-dualistic manner.

IB. Emergent Intuitions

A second type of intuition is the “emergent intuition”. Subjectively, the intuiting person has the impression of a “shortcut” or even a “short circuiting” of his usually linear thought processes often based on trial and error. This type of intuition feels “magical”, a quantum leap from premise to conclusion, the parsimonious selection of the useful and the workable from a myriad possibilities. Intuition, in other words, is rather like a dreamlike truncated thought process, the subjective equivalent of a wormhole in Cosmology. It is often preceded by periods of frustration, dead ends, failures, and blind alleys in one’s work.

Artists – especially performing artists (like musicians) – often describe their interpretation of an artwork (e.g., a musical piece) in terms of this type of intuition. Many mathematicians and physicists (following a kind of Pythagorean tradition) use emergent intuitions in solving general nonlinear equations (by guessing the approximants) or partial differential equations.

Henri Poincaret insisted (in a presentation to the Psychological Society of Paris, 1901) that even simple mathematical operations require an “intuition of mathematical order” without which no creativity in mathematics is possible. He described how some of his creative work occurred to him out of the blue and without any preparation, the result of emergent intuitions. These intuitions had “the characteristics of brevity, suddenness and immediate certainty… Most striking at first is this appearance of sudden illumination, a manifest sign of long, unconscious prior work. The role of this unconscious work in mathematical invention appears to me incontestable, and traces of it would be found in other cases where it is less evident.”

Subjectively, emergent intuitions are indistinguishable from insights. Yet insight is more “cognitive” and structured and concerned with objective learning and knowledge. It is a novel reaction or solution, based on already acquired responses and skills, to new stimuli and challenges. Still, a strong emotional (e.g., aesthetic) correlate usually exists in both insight and emergent intuition.

Intuition and insight are strong elements in creativity, the human response to an ever changing environment. They are shock inducers and destabilizers. Their aim is to move the organism from one established equilibrium to the next and thus better prepare it to cope with new possibilities, challenges, and experiences. Both insight and intuition are in the realm of the unconscious, the simple, and the mentally disordered. Hence the great importance of obtaining insights and integrating them in psychoanalysis – an equilibrium altering therapy.

IC. Ideal Intuitions

The third type of intuition is the “ideal intuition”. These are thoughts and feelings that precede any intellectual analysis and underlie it. Moral ideals and rules may be such intuitions (see “Morality – a State of Mind?”). Mathematical and logical axioms and basic rules of inference (“necessary truths”) may also turn out to be intuitions. These moral, mathematical, and logical self-evident conventions do not relate to the world. They are elements of the languages we use to describe the world (or of the codes that regulate our conduct in it). It follows that these a-priori languages and codes are nothing but the set of our embedded ideal intuitions.

As the Rationalists realized, ideal intuitions (a class of undeniable, self-evident truths and principles) can be accessed by our intellect. Rationalism is concerned with intuitions – though only with those intuitions available to reason and intellect. Sometimes, the boundary between intuition and deductive reasoning is blurred as they both yield the same results. Moreover, intuitions can be combined to yield metaphysical or philosophical systems. Descartes applied ideal intuitions (e.g., reason) to his eidetic intuitions to yield his metaphysics. Husserl, Twardowki, even Bolzano did the same in developing the philosophical school of Phenomenology.

The a-priori nature of intuitions of the first and the third kind led thinkers, such as Adolf Lasson, to associate it with Mysticism. He called it an “intellectual vision” which leads to the “essence of things”. Earlier philosophers and theologians labeled the methodical application of intuitions – the “science of the ultimates”. Of course, this misses the strong emotional content of mystical experiences.

Confucius talked about fulfilling and seeking one’s “human nature” (or “ren”) as “the Way”. This nature is not the result of learning or deliberation. It is innate. It is intuitive and, in turn, produces additional, clear intuitions (“yong”) as to right and wrong, productive and destructive, good and evil. The “operation of the natural law” requires that there be no rigid codex, but only constant change guided by the central and harmonious intuition of life.

II. Philosophers on Intuition – An Overview

IIA. Locke

But are intuitions really a-priori – or do they develop in response to a relatively stable reality and in interaction with it? Would we have had intuitions in a chaotic, capricious, and utterly unpredictable and disordered universe? Do intuitions emerge to counter-balance surprises?

Locke thought that intuition is a learned and cumulative response to sensation. The assumption of innate ideas is unnecessary. The mind is like a blank sheet of paper, filled gradually by experience – by the sum total of observations of external objects and of internal “reflections” (i.e., operations of the mind). Ideas (i.e., what the mind perceives in itself or in immediate objects) are triggered by the qualities of objects.

But, despite himself, Locke was also reduced to ideal (innate) intuitions. According to Locke, a colour, for instance, can be either an idea in the mind (i.e., ideal intuition) – or the quality of an object that causes this idea in the mind (i.e., that evokes the ideal intuition). Moreover, his “primary qualities” (qualities shared by all objects) come close to being eidetic intuitions.

Locke himself admits that there is no resemblance or correlation between the idea in the mind and the (secondary) qualities that provoked it. Berkeley demolished Locke’s preposterous claim that there is such resemblance (or mapping) between PRIMARY qualities and the ideas that they provoke in the mind. It would seem therefore that Locke’s “ideas in the mind” are in the mind irrespective and independent of the qualities that produce them. In other words, they are a-priori. Locke resorts to abstraction in order to repudiate it.

Locke himself talks about “intuitive knowledge”. It is when the mind “perceives the agreement or disagreement of two ideas immediately by themselves, without the intervention of any other… the knowledge of our own being we have by intuition… the mind is presently filled with the clear light of it. It is on this intuition that depends all the certainty and evidence of all our knowledge… (Knowledge is the) perception of the connection of and agreement, or disagreement and repugnancy, of any of our ideas.”

Knowledge is intuitive intellectual perception. Even when demonstrated (and few things, mainly ideas, can be intuited and demonstrated – relations within the physical realm cannot be grasped intuitively), each step in the demonstration is observed intuitionally. Locke’s “sensitive knowledge” is also a form of intuition (known as “intuitive cognition” in the Middle Ages). It is the perceived certainty that there exist finite objects outside us. The knowledge of one’s existence is an intuition as well. But both these intuitions are judgmental and rely on probabilities.

IIB. Hume

Hume denied the existence of innate ideas. According to him, all ideas are based either on sense impressions or on simpler ideas. But even Hume accepted that there are propositions known by the pure intellect (as opposed to propositions dependent on sensory input). These deal with the relations between ideas and they are (logically) necessarily true. Even though reason is used in order to prove them – they are independently true all the same because they merely reveal the meaning or information implicit in the definitions of their own terms. These propositions teach us nothing about the nature of things because they are, at bottom, self referential (equivalent to Kant’s “analytic propositions”).

IIC. Kant

According to Kant, our senses acquaint us with the particulars of things and thus provide us with intuitions. The faculty of understanding provided us with useful taxonomies of particulars (“concepts”). Yet, concepts without intuitions were as empty and futile as intuitions without concepts. Perceptions (“phenomena”) are the composite of the sensations caused by the perceived objects and the mind’s reactions to such sensations (“form”). These reactions are the product of intuition.

IID. The Absolute Idealists

Schelling suggested a featureless, undifferentiated, union of opposites as the Absolute Ideal. Intellectual intuition entails such a union of opposites (subject and object) and, thus, is immersed and assimilated by the Absolute and becomes as featureless and undifferentiated as the Absolute is.

Objective Idealists claimed that we can know ultimate (spiritual) reality by intuition (or thought) independent of the senses (the mystical argument). The mediation of words and symbol systems only distorts the “signal” and inhibits the effective application of one’s intuition to the attainment of real, immutable, knowledge.

IIE. The Phenomenologists

The Phenomenological point of view is that every thing has an invariable and irreducible “essence” (“Eidos”, as distinguished from contingent information about the thing). We can grasp this essence only intuitively (“Eidetic Reduction”). This process – of transcending the concrete and reaching for the essential – is independent of facts, concrete objects, or mental constructs. But it is not free from methodology (“free variation”), from factual knowledge, or from ideal intuitions. The Phenomenologist is forced to make the knowledge of facts his point of departure. He then applies a certain methodology (he varies the nature and specifications of the studied object to reveal its essence) which relies entirely on ideal intuitions (such as the rules of logic).

Phenomenology, in other words, is an Idealistic form of Rationalism. It applies reason to discover Platonic (Idealism) essences. Like Rationalism, it is not empirical (it is not based on sense data). Actually, it is anti-empirical – it “brackets” the concrete and the factual in its attempt to delve beyond appearances and into essences. It calls for the application of intuition (Anschauung) to discover essential insights (Wesenseinsichten).

“Phenomenon” in Phenomenology is that which is known by consciousness and in it. Phenomenologists regarded intuition as a “pure”, direct, and primitive way of reducing clutter in reality. It is immediate and the basis of a higher level perception. A philosophical system built on intuition would, perforce, be non speculative. Hence, Phenomenology’s emphasis on the study of consciousness (and intuition) rather than on the study of (deceiving) reality. It is through “Wesensschau” (the intuition of essences) that one reaches the invariant nature of things (by applying free variation techniques).


Also Read:

The Manifold of Sense

Bestowed Existence