This is a reply to an email. My reply is in regular print, the quote of the person I’m replying to is in italics.
I’m not sure I understand what you’re saying, but what I think I understand I disagree with. It sounds like you’re saying that many people who are suffering psychologically are actually, although they don’t recognize it, suffering from all the cruelty going on in the world that it’s beyond their control to stop. It would be pretty easy to empirically evaluate this thesis (perhaps it’s already been done). I think many more people suffer from “real” psychological problems such as manic-depression or from “real-world” problems like drug or alcohol abuse.
I very much doubt that anyone has evaluated that thesis – your stance on this matter is the status quo one. Very little of reality is ever evaluated. Systems of power have no interest in evaluation unless it serves their purpose. You said it quite well yourself in the mid ’90s when you commented about how much time was spent developing video games (unreality) – what is advertising and propaganda if not un-reality? How much time is spent on that versus analyzing truth? The Neoconservative mantra is “We create reality”. That is to say, their mantra is “Our propaganda becomes your truth”.
My thesis is based on the observation that “psychological abnormality” increased greatly during the 20th century, to the point where a shrink is on every streetcorner and the pharmaceutical industry is a behemoth.
By “real” psychological problems I assume you believe there to be primarily a genetic basis for the problems. If I’m correct about a great rise in psychological problems in the 20th century there cannot be a genetic basis for it, since the genetic profiles in question changed very little over such a short time span.
An argument against my position is that there are not more psychological problems than there used to be – it’s just that what used to be non-diagnosed now has been given a label – so what used to be a “normal” or an “unlabeled” human now might be called a “manic-depressive”.
My argument is that psychological profiles, including what are deemed “problems”, are primarily caused by the environment. My argument identifies several factors as providing major psychological and social traumas which result in “psychological abnormality”. After listing these factors I will explain why the 20th century is unique and why the problems of past centuries did not have the same psychological results.
One is the schizophrenic factor of a populace which simultaneously applauds freedom while engaging in imperialism. This factor accelerated in the mid 20th century when much of the third world gained a measure of independence.
The twin terrors of constant threats of nuclear annihilation and global environmental collapse (which boil down to the same thing) cause a kind of darkness and perpetual depression.
Massive endemic propaganda and schizophrenic doublethink, as outlined by Orwell.
More schizophrenia – support for corporations (unaccountable private tyrannies – command economies like mini-versions of the communist state) and simultaneously support for democracy.
The military-industrial complex and the notion of “perpetual war for perpetual peace”.
It’s funny how we have no problem identifying elements specific to the 20th century in some ways (like pertaining to culture) but somehow can’t quite grasp that psychology is also derived from the environment.
Propaganda derives from the rise of mass media and the public relations industry, which only became systematized by the elite in the early 20th century. Propaganda directly targets the mind – seeking to colonize it with disinformation and irrational directives. Somehow, though, the status quo position, such as outlined by yourself, which is allied with this propaganda, doesn’t seem to understand that propaganda affects psychology.
Prior to the 20th century, the major projection of power was done by force. Psychology is fairly irrelevant when facing a gun. With the “civilizing” of the state in the 20th century it switched to propaganda as the primary means of control of the populace – therefore psychological control – therefore psychological resistance by the populace – therefore psychological problems deriving from the battle over control of the mind.
Take the example of Argentina in the 1970s. This culture had perhaps the highest per capita rate of psychologists/psychiatrists in the world. It was also a fascist state which tortured and terrorized it’s citizens – and in terms of propaganda was neo-nazi. The mass media state churns out psychological victims who are then serviced by the psychology industry. It’s no surprise at all that the psychology industry and the mass media industry rose to prominence at the same time.
The role of psychologists is to control the interpretation of psychic victims – to say that “it’s all in your head” and that talking, coming to “realizations” which never have to do with the state (usually have to do with the family and/or personal traumas), and/or use of drugs is the solution. Of course the state doesn’t pay the fee despite causing the event – the fee goes to people who are accredited by the state itself (through the educational system).
There is a kind of comfort in your position. Humans always blame something they can attack – the ruling class is nearly immune from attack and therefore can’t possibly be the problem, according to the logic of comfort and convenience. However, if enough humans recognize the truth of my evaluation they will find that the ruling class can indeed be attacked, and perhaps fatally.