Independence for Who? Day 2020
An Essay by Frederic Lowen
The American Independence Day, the 4th of July, is my favorite holiday for the freedom it symbolizes. In this year of pandemic, 2020, freedom is threatened by a corporate/government tyranny that far exceeds public awareness. The rule of the English King George over the American colonies in 1776 appears benign in contrast.
As with empires throughout history, the resources and wealth of America has been re-focused on creating and strengthening a sociopolitical economic structure that thrives on inequality. Commercial exploitation of populations, particularly minority populations, and of the environment extracts the massive wealth of the nation and concentrates it in the hands of very few individuals. The wealth distribution in America now resembles that of Russia. This tsunami of wealth, concentrating as it flows upward, is enabled by criminals and ideological fanatics posing as politicians, lobbyists, and regulators, in symbiotic relationship with the largest, often toxic, public and private American corporations who need special political favors to further profits, their highest ideal.
Such a circumstance, empires built on the misery of many for the outrageous benefit of the few has existed throughout history. It is our technological prowess that makes this time exceedingly dangerous, and ripe with opportunity for meaningful change. Psychology, a science barely 200 years old, is beginning to shine a light on the nature of social dysfunction, derived from greater inderstanding of individual dysfunction/health.
Clearly social dysfunction is a result of the collection of individual emotional disturbances, which are pervasive, widespread, and often considered "normal" throughout the population. The outrageous treatment of Black people is a prime example. Similarly too our penal and incarceration system is wasteful, counter-productive, and destructive.
In fact, the massive structures of our American government and economic systems are massively expensive, disconnected, and exist primarily for their own benefit and security. While not true for all, it is the case for the 'critical mass' of gevernment/corporate function. It is destructive because it is a structure that is fundamentally shaped and driven by fear. Most Americans are afraid of their government, and politicians stoke fear for their self-interests. This reality is reflected in the unprecedented low levels of trust in government currently existing and documented.
Whether it is power-seeking politicians/business people, mostly White males, who manipulate the fears of Americans to further empower and enrich themselves; or the millions of Americans who unconsciously prefer scapegoats for their delusional, but comfortable role as victim, it is an emotional problem. For the latter group, it is a problem that prevents them from taking responsibility, prefering a 'strong man with the answers,' and disabling them from seeing/judging reality. They have difficulty discerning reality from reality TV.
The former group, business/government leaders, have become increasingly psychopathic/sociopathic. It is a condition in which one's needs and desires are all-important: "What's good for me is good for everyone else, period." Without the capacity for empathy, people become objects for these fake psychopathic leaders. Unfortunately, their needs and desires are twisted distortions of very real human needs denied to them in early life. They too are driven not by rationality, empathy, or by interest in the common good, but by distorted and disconnected emotionality in which 'much too much is never enough.' The immense power of the positions created by governmental and economic structure attracts people, mostly White males, with psychopathic tendencies (or worse), like moths are attracted to light. They cannot resist it.
In this year of the pandemic, 2020, American governmental/corporate response to our rational and appropriate fear has not been to protect and mitigate the pandemic's dangerous effects on the population. They have demonstrated incredible and frightening incompetence, negligence, and deception in those efforts. Rather, they have strengthened structural inequality with historically massive transfers of wealth and security to those who least need or deserve it. Wealth and security that will be paid for by American taxpayers well into the future.
It is at times of greatest fear that the greatest dangers and opportunities arise. The massive challenges facing human populations are fundamentally problems of inequality, itself a result of abuse and over-use of concentrated political and economic power. Whether it is people abrogating their power and responsibility for themselves (self-regulation), prefering the role of obedient sheep; or psychopathic (fake) leaders seeking greater and greater empowerment, enrichment, and security for themselves, the problem is most deeply psychological, and more specfically, emotional disturbances within individuals. Problems of inequality, injustice, environmental degradation/exploitation, discrimination, hyper-active commercialism, etc. all emanate from these disturbances. Without understanding this dynamic, political, educational, and technological solutions will be ineffective, if not counter-productive.
During the past 100 years, many psychologists have attempted to understand and portray society and the social structure as possibly contributing or causing mental disorder. It has been a vicious and dangerous effort. Wilhelm Reich, a political activist was alienated and died in an American prison in 1957. Sigmund Freud fared little better with his attempts to appease German Nazi politicians, yet fleeing for his life before he died in his first year of exile in England.
Yet in 2020, there is no doubt, society is crazy-making and non-sustainable. Despite modern knowledge and technology, the American empire is little different from all that have come before. It is built on the exploitation and misery of the people, and extraction from the environment. It is thereby unsustainable. Unlike any time before, we now have some understanding of why.
Clinical psychotherapists, especially those with psychodynamic orientations, uniquely understand interpersonal dynamics based on fear. I suggest it is thereby their responsibility to be active in education, or in outraged activism, to share their experience pertaining to matters of freedom from emotional disturbances and fears, and independence as earned with responsibility. It is not just a responsibility for therapists, it is an opportunity to fulfill needs the world sorely has in this year of pandemic fear, on this Independence Day, 2020.
Imagine, a beautiful world is possible.
From The Mass Psychology of Fascism by Wilhelm Reich:
"Clearly, international fascism will never be vanquished by political manoeuvres. It can only be vanquished by the natural organization of work, love and knowledge on an international scale.
As yet, work, love and knowledge have not the power to determine human existence. More than that, these great forces of the positive life principle are not even conscious of their strength, their indispensability and their decisive role in the determination of human existence.
For this reason, human society, even after the military defeat of party fascism, continues to hover at the brink of the abyss. The downfall of our civilization is inevitable if those who work, and the natural scientists in all branches of life (not death), and those who give and receive natural love, do not become conscious, in time, of their gigantic responsibility.
Will human and social freedom, will self-regulation of our lives and that of our children come about peacefully or by force? Nobody can tell.
But those who know the living function in the animal, in the newborn or in the true worker, be he a mechanic, a researcher or an artist, cease to think in those terms created by party systems.
The living function cannot "seize power by force," for it would not know what to do with power. Does that mean that life will forever be at the mercy of political gangsterdom, that the politicians will forever suck its blood? No, it would be wrong to draw this conclusion.
As a physician, I have to treat diseases, as a researcher I have to disclose unknown facts in nature. If, now, a political wind-bag were to try to force me to leave my patients and my microscope, I would not let myself be disturbed but would, if necessary, throw him out.
Whether or not I have to use force in order to protect my work on the living function against intruders does not depend on me or my work but on the intruders' degree of impertinence. Let us assume that all those who do work on the living function were able to recognize the political wind-bag in time. They would act in the same way.
Perhaps this over-simplified example gives a partial answer to the question as to how the living function, sooner or later, will defend itself against its intruders and destroyers.״