A conversation with psychologist James Hillman-- about kids, shrinks, mythology, and death.

          Security is so unbelievably important that anything that doesn't fit in with national security or with personal security is eliminated. I saw a thing in a newspaper somebody sent me the other day about the national arts budget and how we have to restrict the arts budget and appeal more to individuals and corporations because--this was the sentence--"we cannot maintain the arts as we did during the Cold War." What? [laughs]

          CP: There's no longer that ideological offensive to wage.

          HILLMAN: That's what it must mean. Which also means that the value of the arts in this system--it's just part of the defense policy.

          CP: The best defense is a good traveling art show. Near the end of the first chapter, you note that you're not going to get into what you call "the indulgences of the gender war." I've angered a few people myself by arguing that years from now we'll see gender as the great diversion of our age, consuming altogether too much intellectual and political passion. But I'm curious what you mean by that.

          HILLMAN: Absolutely. Yes. Before I go on, though, I think there have been moves that have been tremendously important in the last 20 to 30 years. There's no use even debating the importance of the change of consciousness owing to feminism. A huge change of consciousness. And the social, political, and legal aspects of it have been enormously important. And they're not finished. There's a huge battle ahead. There are certain injustices that are so abusive to women--the whole business of childcare in this country is so wrong. It's such a difficult job to be a mother in our ordinary economic situation and take care of--it's huge.

          That needs to be said first. But when intellectuals spend their time on the gender conflict without realizing that we're all gonna die together, and that the environmental disasters affect men and women equally, and that gender discussions are irrelevant to the major questions of the time. They're not a matter of breaking through the glass ceiling. They're a matter of the planet, a matter of the distortion of economics that keeps the thing the way it is. We've been taught that big government is a horror in the last five years. It's not big government, it's big corporations. If you wipe out big government, there's nothing that can oppose the big corporations. Nothing.

          The rape of the planet is not done by big governments, mainly. It's done by helpless governments in the face of big corporations. Brazil, for example. And the gender thing distracts us, because it's personalized, it's immediate, it's my own personal battle with my woman, or her personal battle with me. They become magnified by this. And then the resentments of years of oppression.

          CP: It's not just at the level of political exigency, either. I recall your writing at one point that there's no respect for gender at the deepest levels of the psyche.

          HILLMAN: Fate isn't a gender matter. Death isn't a gender matter.

          CP: Let's go back to the notion of psychotherapy as being very other-centered in most cases--of therapists as priests. I remember my own first therapy experience, when I was 24 or 25, was a lot like that. I went into a group therapy situation, and what I was essentially trying to do, I later realized, was to get the therapists to assent to my progress. To tell me I was doing well, and tell me what to do to sort myself out. It seems a very common impulse: People want absolution from the therapist.

          HILLMAN: And they expect the therapist really to know. And therapy has set itself up. Except for the attacks on therapy by a few people like [Jeffrey] Masson, who I don't like too much and who is filled with personal resentment, or the legal/ethical attack on therapy now for seduction, and the insurance company and pharmaceutical company attack on therapy--give 'em drugs instead of therapy--except for those things, the therapist has been inviolate. He or she has been...

          It's the one good thing you can do in our culture, to become a therapist. To become a cop isn't good, really, to become a government worker isn't good anymore. Public service isn't noble. Lawyers are bad. Teaching--I don't know whether that's considered good anymore....

          CP: It's forgotten.

          HILLMAN: Forgotten. Really, what can you do nowadays? Medicine is suspect, all one hears about is how doctors mess things up and are rude and make a million and play golf. And the churches have been devalued by the scandals and their inability to answer any of the big questions. So what's left is the therapist. The therapist is the only noble--they're doing the good work. This is a tremendous inflation. That's why I've been so busy attacking my own colleagues, the thought of my own colleagues. Because their theory inflates them. It makes subjectivity the most important thing, and they're the experts on subjectivity. And so they are important in a very narrow area. Big fish in little ponds.

          CP: And as a result, partly, subjectivity comes to seem the only real thing in one's life.

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