White Blindness

¡Hola! Everybody…
Okay, this has to be the funniest thing: Palin has refused interviews. She won’t do an interview with any reporter. In fact, she’s not even campaigning alone. Here we have someone running for an office that essentially puts her a heartbeat away from the most powerful office in the known universe and republicans have gone on record that they don’t want their “pit bull” to be
assailed by the media?

Gee, I wonder how she will fare in the “real world.”
LOL the true irony is that a group of angry white republican women has now called for a boycott against Oprah because she won’t have Palin on her show. Didn’t the right-wingnuts try Oprah once before when she came out against beef?

::blank stare::

* * *

-=[ Blindness ]=-

“Just because a man lacks the use of his eyes doesn’t mean he lacks vision.”
— Steveland Wonder

Some of my readers will recognize the title of today’s essay, which is lifted from Blindness, a novel by Portuguese author José Saramago. It has been made into a film (click here) that will be released this fall. Blindness is the story of a city hit by an epidemic of “white blindness” that spares no one. Authorities round up the blind and incarcerate then in an empty mental hospital, where a criminal element holds everyone captive, stealing food rations, and assaulting women. The story is a brilliant allegory of loss and confusion and a stunning revelation of the horrors of the modern world. However, while Blindness captures the reader with its commanding rendering of man’s worst appetites and weaknesses, it’s also an exposition on humankind’s ultimately indomitable spirit.

Sounds like an election year to me! LOL!

My topic today is difficult to explain, though it is certainly something with which we are all familiar. The difficulty lies in the fact that it’s so obvious. There are, it seems to me, vast swaths of our lives that are missing from our awareness. We share a similar experience with the characters in Blindness: we all suffer from blind spots, literally and figuratively. The difference being that our blindness isn’t caused by an unknown plague, but is due to causes deep within our consciousness. Our failure to experience fully crucial aspects of our reality results in gaps in the beam of awareness that defines our world from moment to moment.

My topic then is how we do not notice. In other words, the pieces missing from our awareness – the holes in the fabric of our attention.

I’ve always been fascinated by the physical blind spot. I find it an apt metaphor for our inability to see things as they are in reality. In physiology, the blind spot is the gap in our field of vision that results from the way the eye is constructed. At the back of each eyeball is a point where the optic nerve, which runs to the brain, attaches to the retina. The point lacks the cells that register light coming into the eye. Therefore, at this one point there is a gap in the information transmitted to the brain. The blind spot registers nothing.

Usually, what is missed by one eye is compensated for by overlapping vision in the other. That’s why we don’t notice our blind spots. But when one eye is closed, the blind spot emerges:

To see your blind spot, close you left eye and move your head about arm’s length from the screen while focusing on the cross. Very slowly, move closer toward the screen and back again. Somewhere between ten and fifteen inches away, the circle will seem to disappear.

Seeing the blind spot was fascinating to me because it offered a concrete example of a more psychological parallel. As an example, many adults of alcoholics relate that in their families there were clear rules” One is that there is nothing wrong and the other was, “don’t tell anyone.” families beset by addiction are extremely secretive, no one must talk of the monster that lurks in full view. These tacit rules teach us something – it teaches us to create a psychological blind spot. Moreover, it’s not just families of alcoholics, I sense that there are many things kept hidden in families — the shameful secrets, the unspoken failures.

In some ways, this is a defense mechanism. A young person’s psyche needs to protect itself from the full onslaught of a cruel reality, for example. This form of self-deception helps defend us from unnecessary trauma or psychological pain. However, when it becomes a pattern it deserves to blind us, much like the characters of Blindness.

As I look around these days, I see much in the way of blindness. We all welcome blindness: we don’t want to face the harsh realities of a politics bought and paid for by the power elite, so turn our attention away and buy things or watch “reality” shows on television. We don’t like the tension of political reality, so we step away and ignore those inner tensions that exist anyway. Unfortunately, those tensions don’t go away, they fester in our bodies and we either try to feed them (obesity) or starve them (anorexia), but try as we might, they never go away.

Not all dialogs are pleasant, or even polite. However, dialog we must if we’re going to emerge from our collective blindness. We must awaken to a coherent vision of the kind of society we desire or condemn ourselves to stumble in our blindness embedded in a society created by those who would rob us of our very humanity.




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