Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Psycho Nation, cont. 

I am somewhat better today, thank you all. Took a big old slash of cough syrup and my antibiotics around dark yestiddy and slept until the roosters woke me up. And while I slept in opiate-induced cough-free bliss, like Coleridge using opiates purely medicinally, I dreamt. They were dreams like Kerouac’s intricate clockworks stretching into the sky…

Now, filled with coffee and antibiotics, a friend generously taking care of my animals, under enforced geriatric rest (as Elvin Bishop says, time to get off the alcohol and get on the Geritol, get off the cocaine and get on the Rogaine), I searched the shelves and found of course several things, building on what started yesterday as a post and ended up as a symposium where I learned a lot. MJS said in comments, quoting Jung: "When one adopts the standpoint of psychopathology, it is not easy to address an audience which may include people who know nothing of this specialized and difficult field. But there is one simple rule that you should bear in mind: the psychopathology of the masses is rooted in the psychopathology of the individual. Psychic phenomena of this class can be investigated in the individual. Only if one succeeds in establishing that certain phenomena or symptoms are common to a number of different individuals can one begin to examine the analogous mass phenomena."

MJS follows up on Jung by noting and asking, “There is, in the United States, a collective ‘delusion/madness’ going on, fomented by cynical leaders for financial gain and the cementing of their power. In the micro so goes the macro...?”

Or, as Gandhi was said to have remarked when asked what he thought of Western Civilization: “I think that’s a fine idea.” If these defects lie in all of us, which of course they do to some extent, then looking at a more comprehensive list of symptoms for sociopathy and psychopathy might lead the way. I culled this from the DSM building on (yeah, I know):

Egocentricity; Callousness; Impulsivity; Conscience defect; Exaggerated sexuality; Excessive boasting; Risk taking; Inability to resist temptation; Antagonistic, deprecating attitude toward the opposite sex; Lack of interest in bonding with a mate, Glib and superficial charm; Grandiose sense of self-worth; Need for stimulation; Pathological lying; Conning and manipulativeness; Lack of remorse or guilt; Shallow affect; Callousness and lack of empathy; Parasitic lifestyle; Poor behavioral controls; Promiscuous sexual behavior; Early behavior problems; Lack of realistic, long-term goals; Impulsivity; Irresponsibility; Failure to accept responsibility for own actions; Many short-term marital relationships; Juvenile delinquency; Revocation of conditional release; Criminal versatility.

Would anybody have trouble finding oodles of examples of symptoms in the modern Republican Party matching these?

But alas, we have met the enemy, and it is us. That is, the extent to which we are manipulated by sociopaths and psychopaths may lie in the extent to which we are ourselves afflicted and willing to change—a down and dirty method might lie in looking at the dichotomy of greed/fear and generosity/compassion. In a society driven by the former, we get statements like this:

Goering: Why, of course, the people don't want war. Why would some poor slob on a farm want to risk his life in a war when the best that he can get out of it is to come back to his farm in one piece?Naturally, the common people don't want war; neither in Russia, nor in England, nor in America, nor for that matter in Germany. That is understood. But, after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy, or a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship.Gilbert: There is one difference. In a democracy the people have some say in the matter through their elected representatives, and in the United States only Congress can declare wars.Goering: Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country.

Herman Goering interviewed by Gustave Gilbert in Gustave Gilbert, Nuremberg Diary

In a society driven by the latter, we get “The earth does not belong to us. We belong to the earth.”

So, treatment options…? Begin by cleaning our own houses? Then by exposing the pathology of the powers that be? Surely only a psychopath would want to be governed by psychopaths? And remember, it’s all a matter of degree. And of a balance of power, just like a balance of power supposedly residing in the U.S. Constitution, that is “supposedly” only because as of now there is no balance. And that other great balancer, the free press. Oy! Rest in Peace.

So the struggle is to restore harmony and balance? Sounds awful touchy-feely, but sometimes the most revolutionary ideas are touchy-feely. I think of the coalitions and actions of yore: the Salt March, the Selma March… and didn't Arundhati Roy speak to America on this topic?

Leah and Tresy could address this more coherently than I. And I know the corrente readers can. Mebbe I better take another big old slash of cough syrup…

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