Friday, 30 May 2014

Anti-intellectual?

There is a strong anti-intellectual streak in certain parts of AA and a suggestion that rational thought and critical thinking are somehow incompatible with right and productive action and progress in the programme.

A slogan I have heard is, 'no one is too stupid to "get" the programme, but there are those who are too clever'. Poppycock.

A very large proportion of AA podium pitches essentially consist in self-mockery, along the lines of 'what an idiot I was when I came to AA!' replete with examples of how the individual was humiliated into submission by a patronising sponsor or group, pulling rank on the evidently retarded newcomer, who had no idea (what an irony!) of what a fool he was. The newcomer is then caricatured.

This cultural aspect of AA is distasteful, and quite opposite to anything described from early AA, which emphasizes respect, and AAs being peers.

I believe AA, as a fellowship, fails to reach a lot of people who come to AA with their critical faculties intact, because genuine questions and enquiries are batted off with a patronising 'stick the cotton wool in your mouth' response, typically because the potential respondent does not actually know how to answer the question succinctly, coherently, or at all.

I will explain this programme to anyone interested as best I can, and also suggest prompt action, and sometimes I will defer a full answer until some practical experience has been gained, but I never dismiss intellectual enquiry and regularly suggest that this be treated as a scientific experiment conducted with an open mind: take the actions, analyse the results, and compare them to the actions and the results you were getting in the past.

I will not be shut down by slogans such as 'KISS: keep it simple stupid', and I would encourage others to maintain the function of their enquiring minds, as long as the action suggested by AA is also taken promptly and enthusiastically.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Interesting angle on received unwisdom here: one of the most powerful experiences in AA is to just watch someone come through the door for the first time. Crossing a little threshold a few inches deep: yet traversing a massive gulf that separates the person who can no longer enjoy their drinking from the truth.
I remember it well: that first evening 22 years ago I entered a room where I met around 80 people- men and women- teachers, writers, bricklayers, journalists, lawyers; down-and-outs...all gathered for a common purpose, We talked and laughed; subjects covered included: jangling nerves; Carl Jung; God; stealing hay off cattle; loosing the ability to control and enjoy booze....I couldn't believe what I'd found.

Anonymous said...

"....I never dismiss intellectual enquiry and regularly suggest that this be treated as a scientific experiment conducted with an open mind..." ..."for after all God gave us brains to use." BB p86.

Stimulating discussion. However, this remark occurs at the eleventh step!
The separation of mind and body in our western culture is to some extent exemplified by alcoholism: when I first condescended to drop into the rooms my intellect couldn't perceive the reality of what was happening in my body (the manifestation of a craving beyond my mental control once I started to drink alcohol)- so what use was my intellect in that context? The 'stupidity' that I practiced was doing what seemed innocuously simple things (like staying away from the first drink of alcohol) without understanding why I was doing them -because my intellect was trapped in an obsession.

Anonymous said...

Agree. In the UK, perhaps this attitude simply mirrors the general anti-intellectual trend (or, more accurately, anti-philosophical trend) in the wider culture itself. (Evident even in some sections of our intelligentsia.)

Captain M