Saturday, August 26, 2006


ShrinkWrapped is exactly right about the root cause of the use of "root causes":
When "root causes" were wedded to the Marxist dialectic of oppressors and oppressed, any action taken by the less advantaged could be, and often has been, fully excused by those who are prone to this disorder of their thinking.

This use of the unconscious, "root causes", in this way is a perversion of Freud's ideas. He presented the goal of treatment to be increasing the understanding of the patient of their own unconscious motivations and processes so they could take more responsibility for their behavior, not as a way to avoid feeling responsible for what they do. Further, he recognized that there are always multiple determinants for any behavior and any particular manifest behavior can never be reduced to a single "root cause".

Whether we are talking about shoplifters or terrorists, the idea that their responsibility is lessened because their behavior has "root causes" serves primarily to weaken the ability of civilized people to ensure minimal standards of appropriate behavior.

Read the entire post.

The appropriation of Freud by the left to justify its marxist victimhood scam has always irritated me. Think about it.

When marxists began to realize that their ideology was completely unsatisfactory in creating wealth; or promoting human happiness, they turned their frustration toward the hapless proletariat, who, instead of rising up against their capitalistic oppressors, were busily all trying to be capitalists themselves and improve their standard of living pursuing their own happiness.

This betrayal of the perfect ideology had to be explained away, and these psychological giants seized on the idea of Freud's concept of the unconscious to identify what they thought was the "pathology" in this turn of events.

Capitalism, they concluded, was causing a redirection of psychological energy--which might otherwise be used to bring about that elusive revolution for the marxist utopia--toward creating wealth and creature comforts. These things were very bad, because all the brutal conflict and competition of the capitalistic society is masked by the contentment the poor, deluded "Joe Sixpack" has achieved. From Stephen Hicks (163-4), here is a description of life as the marxists see it in a capitalistic society:
Consider Joe Sixpack. Joe works as a low-level technician for a television-manufacturing company,, part of a huge telecommunications conglomerate. Whether he has ajob tomorrow depends on Wall Street speculators and the decisions of a corporate headquarters in another state. But Joe does not realize that: he simply goes to work each morning with slight sense of distaste, pulls the levers and pushes the buttons as he is told to do by the machine and the boss, mass-producing televisions until it is time to go home. On the way home he picks up a six-pack of beer--another mass-market product of capitalist commodification--and after supper with the family he plops down in front of the television, feeling the narcotic effect of the beer kicking in while the sit-coms and commercials tell him that life is great and who could ask for more. Tomorrow is another day.

Well, what is wrong with this gloomy analysis? I'm sure you have heard a variant of it somewhere in your educational pursuits. Modern man is "alienated" from the environment; he is in existential despair about the meaning of life, blah blah blah--and it is all capitalism's fault! This scenario perfectly explained to the revolutionaries in training why:
...capitalism in the 1950s and 1960s seemed to be peaceful, tolerant, and progressive--when, as every good socialist knew, it could not really be--and for why the workers were so disappointingly un-revolutionary. Capitalism does not merely oppress the masses existentially, it also represses them psychologically.

Frequent visitors to this blog might recall that I have written quite a bit about psychological defense mechanisms (and here, for example) which operate unconsciously for the most part; and that they exist in a spectrum from immature to mature. What is described above is not a process of psychological repression (a neurotic, lower level psychological defense), but a process of sublimation, one of the most mature defenses. And, it is not capitalism that is "causing" the use of this psychological defense, but life itself. And, it is capitalism and the capitalist system that offer a healthy channel for the redirection of negative psychic energy into something positive for both the individual and the group at large.

Something, I might add, that marxism, socialism and all its malignant variants completely fail to do. In fact, what they encourage are the use of unhealthy defenses (acting out, reaction formation, denial, projection, displacement to name a few) which, because such defenses are suboptimal and even self-defeating in the long-run, do nothing to improve the lot of either the society at large, or the individual unlucky enough to be living in it.

Societies, like individuals, can adopt mature defenses and deal with reality; or they can deny reality and look elsewhere for the source of their problems. Many countries, like individuals, prefer to put the blame for their own failures onto an outside source, since that is safer for the self-image. A "healthy" country, like a healthy individual will evaluate the facts and utilize mature defenses to cope with and change the situation they find themselves in. They are not afraid of their aggressive impulses because those impulses are reigned in by reason and not indulged in lightly. When necessary, healthy societies look inward. When necessary, they focus outward.

Freud can't be held responsible for a total misunderstanding and misapplication of his theories. Someone is repressed possibly, but I would beg to differ about whom and why.

In Civilization and its Discontents , Freud argued that human instincts are indeed out of sync with modern civilization; that aggression and other instinctual needs were once absolutely necessary for survival in a dangerous world, but that today these archaic impulses impede our ability to live happily in the present day and age. Among other innovative ideas from this short, but important work, Freud posits that the same aggression that was once directed towards survival, in the modern era is frequently turned inward, to the Self, rather than outward toward the environment, and causes the psychological phenomenon of depression. In psychiatry we refer to this as "aggression turned inward".

Our brains and bodies were designed for the "fight or flight" response--when in danger or threatened in any way, we physiologically respond with a burst of adrenalin (a hormone more formally known as epinephrine, a catcholamine); and that compound initiates a series of biological reactions that prepare us to either run away from the danger or to stand and fight.

It can be argued that depression and its concomitant emotional despair can be conceptualized as the inability--particularly in modern times-- to be able to "run away" or "fight" in the traditional sense. How effective would it be for the individual, do you think, if--called on the carpet by his or her boss--that individual responded by decking the boss or screaming and running out of the room? Bereft of these behavioral options in civilized society, we are still confined to the physiological response that such scenarios engender. This leads us to the concept of "stress".

What we know about "stress" and its long-term effects on our bodies and minds more than confirms Freud's psychological hypothesis. Freud was not optimistic about this situation, and believed that civilization's "discontents" were an unresolvable fact of life.

Please note that Freud did not say it was probably unresolvable for only those living in a capitalist society. Or, that it was unresolvable only for the proletariat. He said it was and is a fact of the human condition, and a problem that the human species has to deal with no matter what the economic or political system they find themselves living under.

Those systems that take into account the basic human nature that underlies Freud's hyposthesis, however, are more likely to be successful for both the individuals within it, as well as for the group as a whole.

Joe Sixpack has to deal with civilization with the same biological hardware that the postmodern elite possess. Of necessity, these elites don't consider themselves prone to the same psychological problems as the "proletariat" they hope to rule someday. That is why they are so often in denial about their own real motives and why their psychology betrays them.

These are the people screaming they are for "peace!" as they beat up those who support the military. These are the people that demand some abstract concept of "free speech"-- except when they are busy passing laws to ban it if it hurts someone's feelings. These are people who support oppressed minorities, but only as long as they remain oppressed--if they succeed and break from the party line, they have betrayed their minority group. And so on, and so on.

To say that these people have a handle on Freudian psychology--or any kind of psychology for that matter-- is like saying that the primitive savages in remote parts of the world have a handle on quantum mechanics.

So, if you want to get down to "root" causes: in the end, each individual is ultimately responsible for dealing with reality and for his or her own life. Understanding and gaining control over one's own unconscious motivations and processes in order to be able to take more responsibility for one's behavior--and not as a way to avoid feeling responsible for what they do--is one of the most important aspects of individual maturation and growth.

And, I might add, for the advance of civilization.

UPDATE: Gagdad Bob has an excellent post that extends and illuminates some of the points that ShrinkWrapped and I make. In particular, Bob shows the interplay between truth, free will, and human nature:
What largely defines man is his free will, which implies both intelligence and objectivity, for if we aren’t free, then we cannot really possess either truth or goodness. Animals cannot leave the closed system of cause and effect, whereas human beings clearly can. In our vertical aspect, we can see a range of potential choices before us, whereas the animal is simply spurred by the demands of instinct.

Thus, to call free will into question is to make us less than human, which is why humanism is always subhumanism. The most subhuman places on earth are specifically those places where free will was and is denied or atrophied: in communist countries, in the Islamic world, and in urban areas where free will has been eroded by 40 years of leftist brainwashing and social engineering. In the latter case, you might say that poverty does indeed cause crime--the impoverished metaphysic of the left.

Liberty in itself is an aspect of divinity in which we may either participate or not participate. This is a truth that our founders found to be be self-evident, and we can be sure that, in their wildest nightmares, they did not anticipate an illiberal counterrevolution from the left that actually denied the entire basis of the American ideal.

Read it all, of course.

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