We were visiting one of my wife’s old friends from back in her college days. She was married to an FBI agent. We went out for Chinese food and I remember it seemed like a damn long drive for Chinese food. But this was their favorite place where the Chinese food was real Chinese food, I guess. Anyway, on the way back, their kid, Katie, who was maybe 4, started asking questions. She had been listening to my wife and her friend talking about the good old days back in college, and Katie piped up, “Where was I?”
The other adults seemed a bit confused; they wanted to know what she was asking exactly. Me, though, since I can regress at the drop of a hat am usually in tune with children and knew what she was up to. “She wants to know where she was back when you were in college.” “Honey, you weren’t born yet?” But this kid had her teeth into something. “I know but where was I?” I tried to joke, “You were a gleam in your daddy’s eye.” But she wouldn’t have any of that, so finally I just said, “You weren’t anywhere because you were not yet.” “OK,” she said and seemed satisfied. Kids can be pretty logical philosophers; apparently she wasn’t freaked out by her metaphysical question. She just wanted an answer.
What she was asking really wasn’t where she was but how the hell was it possible for anything to be going on before I got here. Kids assume that they “create” everything; mommy and daddy didn’t really start until they get there. Maybe we outgrow that idea at some point. Maybe not. I think I see lots of adults around who think the world did not exist before they got into it. These people hate the idea of a past or if there was a past the present is a fuck lot better than back there in the past, whenever the fuck that was.
The idea of “progress” is a psychological defense mechanism against the idea that there was a past that might have been better than our present. I once sat through a series of lectures in social psychology for undergraduates. The professor was really pretty good, energetic at least. She gave three lectures on the Freudian theory of aggression; and then she started lecturing on the modern sociological theory of aggression. Before she did thought, she said Freud was mostly wrong. “Shit,” the kid said next to me, “then why did she lecture on him three times?”
Good question, Dude. My answer would be that modern academics believe in the progress of their so-called disciplines. If Freud was right, then somebody back there in the idiotic past might have got it more right than a bunch of sociologists in the present. Modern and post-modern academics kill the past by pretending they have got the answer and all those dumb fucks before them were looking up their assholes.
So this pretty much reams history. The question isn’t really whether Freud was right or wrong; but what can we learn from what he says about when he was and what can we learn about what he says about when he was that might help us to understand better where we are.