Biopolitics: Look in the Lost and Found for Peace of Mind

Abstract

This is a report on biopolitics, current cognitions (quality of mind), and our fundamental human nature. Biopolitics means biology and politics considered together. It promises something unlimited. However, biopolitics alone can take us only so far. Today, we may have lost a certain discerning wisdom about the natural environment and integrated fabric that melds all lives, a sacred unity. Biopolitics may be too narrow a frame for human living and ecological survival. Something is missing when there is talk about “unworthy” cultures and nations. Typically, in Western and capitalist societies a certain truncated and rational view of our fundamental human nature is promoted. Americans, for example, are told by leading authorities that we can do anything we put our minds to. But, toward which ends? The author argues that we need to rethink the idea that because something appears to have changed or is modern, recent, or new it is somehow better than what is considered old or ancient. If biopolitics promises an unlimited horizon for certain values and ends, strategies, and ways of knowing, then we need a wider conversation that includes “Lucy” (or the people of long ago) and our fundamental human nature. The ancient quest for remembrance and significance is in the new; the new has roots in what is prior. Time past, then, is partially contained in times present and future. A wider and deeper assessment that leads to a conscious and wise grasp of our current situation is required. The author contends that this is relevant to a pastoral theology that truly cares. Therefore, attempts to include aspects of the past and widen the lens may not be popular, but they may lead to a wise integration of ancient and emerging present concerns and to deeper questions.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    “Lucy” (Australopithecus afarensis) is the common name of an assemblage of human fossils dated to over three million years ago.

  2. 2.

    We can rebuild him, TV Tropes, https://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/WeCanRebuildHim.

  3. 3.

    See the interview between Rajini Vaidyanathan of the BBC and Dr. Bertolt Meyer of the University of Zürich: Ron Skeans, Meet Frank, the world’s first bionic man [video], Oct. 17, 2013, BBC News, https://www.bbc.com/news/av/24571759/meet-frank-the-world-s-first-bionic-man1.

  4. 4.

    In 2013, U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts “effectively declared the end of racism in America,” according to reporter Ana Marie Cox (Cox, The Supreme Court guts the Voter Rights Act . . . since racism is over, June 25, 2013, The Guardian, https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/jun/25/supreme-court-voter-rights-act-racism-over). But, this idea of a post-racial society remains puzzling. On July 10, 2015, the San Francisco Chronicle reported that on August 7, 2014, a Black construction worker, while at his desk, felt something hit his hard hat. He looked up to see a hangman’s knot hanging over his cubicle. He also overheard his supervisor say, “We got him.” Shortly thereafter, this Black employee was hospitalized for high blood pressure and mental trauma. The Chronicle noted: “A Lafayette construction superintendent has filed a lawsuit against his former employer, a large real estate developer, claiming he was the victim of a campaign of racial harassment and discrimination that culminated when his boss attempted to throw a noose around his neck” (Kate Williams, Racial harassment suit filed over noose, San Francisco Chronicle, July 10, 2015).

  5. 5.

    According to the U.S. Office of Minority Health and Human Services, communities of color, and especially African Americans, “. . . experience unique and considerable challenges in accessing mental health services.” The report continues,

    • Historical adversity, which includes slavery, sharecropping and race-based exclusion from health, educational, social and economic resources, translates into socioeconomic disparities experienced by African Americans today. Socioeconomic status, in turn, is linked to mental health: People who are impoverished, homeless, incarcerated or have substance abuse problems are at higher risk for poor mental health.

    • Despite progress made over the years, racism continues to have an impact on the mental health of Black/African Americans. Negative stereotypes and attitudes of rejection have decreased, but continue to occur with measurable, adverse consequences. Historical and contemporary instances of negative treatment have led to a mistrust of authorities, many of whom are not seen as having the best interests of Black/African Americans in mind.. . .

    • Adult Black/African Americans are 20% more likely to report serious psychological distress than adult whites.

    • Adult Black/African Americans living below poverty are three times more likely to report serious psychological distress than those living above poverty.

    • Adult Black/African Americans are more likely to have feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and worthlessness than are adult whites.

    • And while Black/African Americans are less likely than white people to die from suicide as teenagers, Black/African Americans teenagers are more likely to attempt suicide than are white teenagers (8.3% v. 6.2%).

    Black/African Americans of all ages are more likely to be victims of serious violent crime than are non-Hispanic whites, making them more likely to meet the diagnostic criteria for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Black/African Americans are also twice as likely as non-Hispanic whites to be diagnosed with schizophrenia. (www.mentalhealthamerica.net/african-american-mental-health)

  6. 6.

    Oliver Laughland, Jon Swaine, and Jamiles Lartey, “US police killings headed for 1100 this year, with black Americans twice as likely to die,” The Guardian [London], July 1, 2015. In another article, these authors state that “Black Americans are more than twice as likely to be unarmed when killed during encounters with police as white people, according to a Guardian investigation which found 102 of 464 people killed so far this year in incidents with law enforcement officers were not carrying weapons.” (Jon Swaine, Oliver Laughland, and Jamiles Lartey, “Black Americans killed by police twice as likely to be unarmed as white people,” The Guardian [London], June 1, 2015).

  7. 7.

    As quoted in Deborah McKinney, “Violence against people with disabilities is more widespread than you think,” The Invisible Hate Crime: The Intelligence Report of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Summer Issue, August 05, 2018, page 30. (or 165 Fall 2018), 30.

  8. 8.

    Connections between the earlier eugenics movement in the United States, bionics, and biopolitics are not developed in this paper. However, these all involve the application of scientific knowledge to improve physical and mental health as well as social conditions. The goal is greater human happiness, favoring the superior human race, and making America great.

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Correspondence to Archie Smith Jr.

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Smith, A. Biopolitics: Look in the Lost and Found for Peace of Mind. Pastoral Psychol 68, 209–221 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11089-018-0853-x

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Keywords

  • Ancestors
  • Ancient
  • Biopolitics
  • Cognitive deviants
  • Fundamental human nature
  • Minority report
  • Numinous
  • Peace of mind
  • Public intellectuals
  • Quality of mind
  • Cognitive mapping
  • Reciprocal morality
  • Unworthy cultures