When the intellectuals lose their self-control and courage and are possessed only by their fears and emotions, the power of those with prejudice and stupidity gains.
The Battle on Two Fronts
The inner harmony between social adaptation and self-assertion has to be re-formed in every new environment. Each individual has to repeatedly fight the same subtle battle that started during infancy and early childhood. The ego, the self, forms itself through confrontation with reality. Compliance battles with originality, dependence with independence, outer discipline with inner morale. No culture can escape this inner human battle, though there is a difference in emphasis in every culture and society and in every family.
The combination of internal and external struggle, of a mental conflict on two fronts, renders the Western ideal of an individualized democracy highly vulnerable, particularly when its adherents are unaware of this inherent contradiction. Democracy, by its very nature will always have to fight against totalitarianism from without and destructiveness from within. Democratic freedom has to battle against both the individual’s inner will to power and his or her urge to submit to other people. It also has to battle against the contagious drive for power intruding from over the frontiers and so often backed up by armies.
The freedom toward which democracy strives is not the romantic freedom of adolescent dreams; it is one of mature stature. Democracy insists on sacrifices, which are necessary to maintain freedom. It tries to combat the fears that attack individuals when they are faced with democracy’s apparently unlimited freedom. Such lack of limitations can be misused to satisfy mere instinctual drives. However, because democracy does not exploit people by myth, primitive magic, mass hypnotism, or other psychological means of seduction, it is less fascinating to the immature individual than is despotic control.
Democracy, when it is not involved in a dramatic struggle for survival, may appear quite drab and uninspiring. It simply demands that the people shall think and judge for themselves; that each individual shall exercise their full conscious ability in adapting to a changing world; and that genuine public opinion shall shape the laws that govern the community. Essentially, democracy means the right to develop one’s self and not to be developed by others. Yet, this right like every other has to be balanced by a duty. The right to develop one’s self is impossible without the duty of giving your energy and attention to the development of others. Democracy is rooted not only in the personal rights of the common people, but even more in the personal interests and responsibilities of the common people. When they lose this interest in politics and government, they help to pave the road to power politics. Democracy demands mental activity of a rather high level from the common people.
What the general public digests and assimilates in its mind is, in our era of mass communication, just as important as the dictates of the experts. If the latter formulate and communicate ideas beyond the common grasp, they will talk into a vacuum. Thus, they may permit a more simple and even an untrue ideology to be covertly integrated. It is not enough that an idea is only formulated and printed; we have to take care that the public can participate in the new concept, as well.
The mystery of freedom is the existence of that great love of freedom. Those who have tasted it will not waver. People revolt against unfair pressure. While the pressure accumulates they revolt silently, but at some critical moment, it bursts into open revolt. For those who have lived through such an outburst, freedom is life itself. We have learned this from both history, and the present, especially in days of persecution and occupation, in the underground, in the camps, and under the threat of demagoguery. We can even discover it in the totalitarian countries where nonetheless the terror, the resistance still goes on.
Freedom and respect for the individual are rooted in the Biblical Old Testament, which convinced man that he makes his own history, that he is responsible for his history. Such freedom implies that a person throws off their inertia that they do not cling arbitrarily to tradition, that they strive for knowledge and accept moral responsibility. The fear of freedom is the fear of assuming responsibility.
Freedom can never be completely safeguarded by rules and laws. It is as much dependent on the courage, integrity, and responsibility of each of us as it is on these qualities in those who govern. Every trait in our leaders and us, which points to passive submission to mere power, betrays democratic freedom. In our American system of democratic government, three different powerful branches serve to check each other, the executive, the legislative, and the judiciary. Nevertheless, when there is no will to prevent encroachment of the power of one by any of the others, this system of checks, too, can degenerate.
Like adolescents who try to hide behind the aprons of parental authority rather than face mature adulthood, the individual members of a democratic state may shrink from the mental activity it imposes. They long to take flight into a condition of thoughtless security. Often they would prefer the government, or some individual personification of the state, to solve their problems for them. It is this desire that makes totalitarians and conformists. Like an infant, the conformist can sleep quietly and transfer all its worries to Father State. When the intellectuals lose their self-control and courage and are possessed only by their fears and emotions, the power of those with prejudice and stupidity gains.
Since within each of us lie the seeds of both democracy and totalitarianism, the struggle between the democratic and the totalitarian attitude is fought repeatedly by each individual during their lifetime. Their particular view of themselves and of their fellow citizens will determine their political creed. Coexisting with a people’s wish for liberty and maturity are destructiveness, hate, the desire for power, resistance to independence, and the wish to retreat into irresponsible childhood. Democracy appeals only to the adult side of the person; fascism and totalitarianism tempt their infantile desires.
Totalitarianism is based on a mechanized narrow view of humankind. It denies the complexity of the individual, and the struggle between his or her conscious and unconscious motivations. It denies doubt, ambivalence, and contradiction of feelings. It simplifies the person, making them into a machine that can be put to work by governmental energy.
In every psychoanalytic treatment there comes the moment when the subject has to decide whether they will grow up. The knowledge and insight they have gained must be translated into action. By this time, they know more about themselves; their life has become an open book to them. Although they understand themselves better, they finds it difficult to leave the dreamland of childhood, with its fantasies, hero-worship, and happy conclusions. However, fortified with a deeper understanding of their inner motivation, they step over into the world of self-chosen responsibility and limited freedom. Because their image of the world is no longer distorted by immature longings, they are now able to function in it as a mature adult.
Systematic education toward freedom is possible. Freedom grows as the control over destructive inner drives become internalized and no longer depends on control from the outside, on control by parents and authorities.
It is the building up of our personality and our conscience, ego and superego, that is important. Nor can this development be brought about in an enforced and compulsive way as tyrants and dictators try to do. We must develop it through free acceptance or rejection of existing moral values until the inner moral person in us is so strong that it is able to go beyond existing values and can stand on its own moral grounds. The choice in favor of freedom lies between self-chosen limitation, the liberation from chaos, and the pseudo-freedom of unconscious chaos. To many people freedom is an emotional concept of letting themselves go, which really means a dictatorship by dark, instinctual drives. There is also an intellectual concept of freedom, meaning a limiting of bondage and serfdom.
In order to become free, certain outside conditions must be prevented from hampering this moral development of self-control. We have to become increasingly aware of the internal dangers of democracy: laxity, laziness, and unawareness. People have to be aware of the tendency of technology to automatize their minds. They have to become aware of the fact that mass media and modern communication are able to imprint all kinds of suggestions on our brains. They have to know that education can turn us either into weak fact-factories or into strong personalities. A free democracy has to fight against mediocrity in order not to be smothered by mere numbers of automatic votes. Democratic freedom requires a highly intelligent appraisal and understanding of the democratic system itself. This very fact makes it difficult for us to advertise or “promote” it. Furthermore, inculcating democracy is just as dangerous as inculcating totalitarianism. It is the essence of democracy that it must be self-chosen it cannot be imposed.
The Paradox of Freedom
Freedom and planning present no essential contrasts. In order to let freedom grow, we have to plan our controls over the forces that limit freedom. Beyond this, we must have the passion and the inner freedom to prosecute those who abuse freedom. We must have the vitality to attack those who commit mental suicide and psychic murder through abuse of liberties, dragging down other persons in their wake. Suicidal submission is a kind of subversion from within; it is passive surrender to an automated world without personalities; it is the denial of personality. We must have the fervor to stand firmly for freedom of the individual, for mutual tolerance and dignity, and we must learn not to tolerate the destruction of these values. We must not tolerate those who make use of worthy ideas and values, only to destroy them as soon as they are in power. We must be intolerant of these abuses as long as the battle for mental life or death goes on.
It cannot be emphasized strongly enough that liberty is only possible with a strong set of beliefs and moral standards. This means that people have to adhere to self-restrictive rules, moral rules, in order to keep their freedom. When there is lack of such internal checks, owing to lack of education or to stereotyped education, then external pressure, or even tyranny becomes necessary to check unsocial drives. Then freedom becomes the victim of the people’s inability to live in freedom and self-control. The people should be guaranteed the right not to hear and not to conform and the right to defense against psychological attack and against intervention in the form of perverted mass propaganda, totalitarian pressure, and mental torture.
No compromise or appeasement is possible in dealing with such attitudes. We have to watch carefully lest our own mistakes in attacking personal freedom become grist for the totalitarian’s mill. Even our denunciation may have a paradoxical effect. Fear and hysteria further totalitarianism. What we need is careful analysis and understanding of such phenomena. Democracy is the regime of the dignity of humankind and its right to think for itself, the right to have its own opinion more than that, the right to assert its own opinion and to protect itself against mental invasion and coercion.
When the United Nations has devised rules curtailing menticide and psychological intrusion, it will have insured a human right as precious as physical existence, the right of the nonconforming free individual, the right to dissent, the right to be oneself. Tolerance of criticism and heresy is one of the conditions of freedom. Unfortunately, this is not the case.
Here we touch on another crucial point related to the technique of governing people. There is a relationship between over centralization of government, mass participation, and totalitarianism.
Mass participation in government, without the decentralization that emphasizes the value of variation and individuality and without the possibility of sound selection of leaders, facilitates the creation of the dictatorial leader. The masses then transfer their desire for power to their dysfunctional leader. The slave participates in a magic way in the glory of the master.
Democratic self-government is determined by restraint and self-limitations, by sportsmanship and fairness, by voluntary observance of the rules of society and by cooperation. These qualities come through training. In a democratic government, those who have been elected to responsible positions request controls and limitations against themselves, knowing that no one is without fault. Democracy is not a fight for independence but a mutually regulated interdependence. Democracy means checking a person’s tendency to gather unlimited power unto themselves. It means checking the faults in each of us. It minimizes the consequences of a person’s limitations.
The modern techniques of brainwashing and menticide, those perversions of psychology, can bring almost any person into submission and surrender. Many of the victims of thought control, brainwashing, and menticide that have been examined, were strong individuals whose minds and wills were broken and degraded. Nevertheless, although the totalitarians use their knowledge of the mind for vicious and unscrupulous purposes, our democratic society can and must use its knowledge to help people to grow, to guard their freedom, and to understand themselves.
Psychological knowledge and psychological treatment may themselves generate the democratic attitude; for psychology is essentially the science of the just milieu, of free choice within the framework of humankind’s personal and social limitations. Compared with the millennial span of human existence and evolution, civilization is still in its infancy. Despite historical reversals, humans continues to grow, and psychology, no matter how imperfect now, will continue as one of humankind’s most powerful tools in its struggle for freedom and maturity.
Edited excerpts from “The Rape of the Mind: The Psychology of Thought Control, Menticide, and Brainwashing” (1956). Joost A. M. Meerloo, M.D. (Pp.234- 240).
The earthquake occurred in Indonesia , Province of Nusa Tenggara Timur (population 3,515,623) on Friday, 2016-02-12 at 10:02:24 (UTC). The nearest places are Ubu Pede, Andekantor, Waikabubak, Waingapu, Waimanguar, and Labuhanbajo. The maximum altitude nearby is 963m .
Natural Hazard – Seismic Event
Asia – Indonesian Archipelago | Sumba Region, near Andekantor
Location: 3km ESE of Andekantor, Indonesia
Time: 2016-02-12 10:02:24 (UTC)
Epicenter: 9°35’28.7″S 119°24’07.2″E
Depth: 30.5 km (19.0 mi) Deep
Area affected by light damage (estimated radius): 57 km (MMI VI)
Tsunami Statement Issued
Affected Population: 607,874 people within 100km
519 km S of Makassar, Indonesia / pop: 1,321,717
382 km E of Mataram, Indonesia / pop: 318,674
101 km W of Waingapu, Indonesia / pop: 48,828
Badan Meteorologi & Geofisika Djakarta, Indonesia
USGS/NEIC Denver, USA
GeoForschungsZentrum (GEOFON) Potsdam, Germany
Joint Research Centre of the European Commission (JRC)
Seismotectonics of the Java Region
The Sunda convergent margin extends for 5,600 km from the Bay of Bengal and the Andaman Sea, both located northwest of the map area, towards Sumba Island in the southeast, and then continues eastward as the Banda arc system. This tectonically active margin is a result of the India and Australia plates converging with and subducting beneath the Sunda plate at a rate of approximately 50 to 70 mm/yr. The main physiographic feature associated with this convergent margin is the Sunda-Java Trench, which stretches for 3,000 km parallel to the Java and Sumatra land masses and terminates at 120° E. The convergence of the Indo-Australia and Sunda plates produces two active volcanic arcs: Sunda, which extends from 105 to 122° E and Banda, which extends from 122 to 128° E. The Sunda arc results solely from relatively simple oceanic plate subduction, while the Banda arc represents the transition from oceanic subduction to continental collision, where a complex, broad deforming zone is found.
Based on modern activity, the Banda arc can be divided into three distinct zones: an inactive section, the Wetar Zone – bound by two active segments, the Flores Zone in the west and the Damar Zone in the east. The lack of volcanism in the Wetar Zone is attributed to the collision of Australia with the Sunda plate. The gap in volcanic activity is underlain by a gap in intermediate depth seismicity, which is in contrast to nearly continuous deep seismicity below all three sections of the arc. The Flores Zone is characterized by down-dip compression in the subducted slab at intermediate depths and late Quaternary uplift of the forearc. These unusual features, along with GPS data interpretations, show that the Flores Zone marks the transition between subduction of oceanic crust in the west and the collision of continental crust in the east.
The Java section of the Sunda arc is considered relatively aseismic historically when compared to the highly seismically active Sumatra section, despite both areas being located along the same active subduction margin. Shallow (0-20 km) events have occurred historically in the overlying Sunda plate, causing damage to local and regional communities. A recent example was the May 26, 2006 M6.3 left-lateral strike-slip event, which occurred at a depth of 10 km in central Java, and caused over 5,700 fatalities. Intermediate depth (70-300 km) earthquakes frequently occur beneath Java as a result of intraplate faulting within the Australia slab. Deep (300-650 km) earthquakes occur beneath the Java Sea and the back-arc region to the north of Java. Similar to other intermediate depth events these earthquakes are also associated with intraslab faulting. However, this subduction zone exhibits a gap in seismicity from 250-400 km, interpreted as the transition between extensional and compressional slab stresses. Historic examples of large intraplate events include: the 1903 M8.1 event, 1921 M7.5 event, 1977 M8.3 event, and August 2007 M7.5 event.
Large thrust earthquakes close to the Java trench are typically interplate faulting events along the slab interface between the Australia and Sunda plates. These earthquakes also generally have high tsunamigenic potential due to their shallow hypocentral depths. In some cases, these events have demonstrated slow moment-release, and have been defined as ‘tsunami’ earthquakes, where rupture is large in the weak crustal layers very close to the seafloor. These events are categorized by tsunamis that are significantly larger than predicted by the earthquake???s magnitude. The most notable tsunami earthquakes in the Java region occurred on June 2, 1994 (M7.8) and July 17, 2006 (M7.7). The 1994 event produced a tsunami with wave run-up heights of 13 m, killing over 200 people. The 2006 event produced a tsunami of up to 15 m, and killed 730 people. While both of these tsunami earthquakes were characterized by rupture along thrust faults, they were followed by an abundance of normal faulting aftershocks. These aftershocks are interpreted to result from extension within the subducting Australia plate, while the mainshocks represented interplate faulting between the Australia and Sunda plates.
Excerpt: Summary Report – USGS
The Democratizing Action of Psychology —
The deepest conviction of the power of psychological understanding comes to us in our protracted mental struggles with persons who hold membership in totalitarian organizations. We must be careful to avoid discussing politics with them; because today, free expression of opinion is being severely punished, and if we were to say anything “politically incorrect,” we will likely suffer the consequences of some misperceived injustice.
However, passive listening may liberate them from their personal tensions, there is even a chance, they may become more humane. Even developing an increasing respect for the individual personality as such and sometimes grow very critical of the movements callous treatment of human life and human dignity. As time pass, and maturity sets in, they may dissociate themselves increasingly from their totalitarian political friends. This is indeed courageous, for, especially at this time, the turn from collaboration toward non-conformism is usually interpreted as high treason within their group. Still, there is hope in recognizing our mutual faith in the dignity of the individual and our confidence in the decisions of the mature adult as to the path of their own interests.
Does psychology really exert a democratizing influence on the authoritarian and totalitarian spirit? The aforementioned example would seem to indicate that it does. On the other hand, we know that the propaganda machine applies its own psychological principles to hypnotize the people into submission. Tyrants, too, lay down their psychological munitions to spread panic across the globe.
Not too long ago, it was in Nazi Germany, where psychoanalytic treatment was controlled by psychology’s own Fuhrer, Goering’s brother. Certainly, the science of suggestion, hypnosis, and Pavlovian training can now be used to enlist cowardly, submissive followers for a program of despotism. These uses of psychological knowledge are perversions of both the principles and the purposes of psychology. Intrinsic in the psychological approach, and above all in psychoanalytic treatment, is an important element that fosters an attitude diametrically opposite to the totalitarian one.
The true purpose of psychology, and especially of its mental health branch, is to free the individual from their internal tension by helping them to understand the causes of it. Psychology seeks to liberate the human spirit from its dependency on immature thinking so that each person can realize his or her own potentialities. It seeks to help them to face reality with its many problems, and to recognize their own limitations as well as their possibilities for growth. It is dedicated to the development of mature individuals who are capable of living in freedom and of voluntarily restricting their freedom, when it is indicated, for the greater good. It is based on the premise that when a person understands themselves, they can begin to be the master of their own life, rather than merely the puppet either of their own unconscious drives or of a tyrant with a perverted lust for power.
As previously mentioned, every person passes through a stage in his or her own development of greater susceptibility to totalitarianism. This usually occurs during adolescence when the pubescent becomes aware of its own personality, the authority within itself. In not accepting this responsibility, it may look for a strong leader outside the home. At an earlier age, in infancy, the unconscious patterns of compulsion and automatic obedience are laid. With the advent of its new sense of selfhood, the youth begins to oppose the adult authorities that previously directed its life.
Becoming conscious of the ego or self or I is a painful mental process. It is not a matter of chance that the feeling of endless longing, of Weltschmerz, is traditionally connected with adolescence. The process of becoming an autonomous and self-growing individual involves separation from the security of the family. To achieve internal democracy, the adolescent must separate themselves from their protective environment. In so doing they are not merely intoxicated with their sense of growth and emancipation, they are also filled with a sense of fear and loneliness. They are entering a new world in which they must henceforth assume mature responsibility for their actions. At that time, they may become an easy prey for totalitarian propaganda. A personal grudge against growing up may lead them to forsake the struggle for personal maturity.
This problem is particularly acute in Western society not only because of the real ideological-political battle we have to face, but also because our ways of raising children may emphasize this problem. Whereas primitive groups impose some measure of social responsibility upon the child early in life and increase it gradually, our modern culture segregates it completely in the world of childhood, nursery, and schoolroom, and then plunges it precipitously into adulthood to sink or swim. At this turning point, many young people shrink from such a test. Many do not want a freedom that carries with it so many burdens, so much loneliness, and responsibility. They are willing to hand back their freedom in return for continued parental protection, or to surrender it to political or economic ideologies, which are in fact, displaced parental images.
Unfortunately, the youth’s surrender of individuality is no guarantee against fear and loneliness. The real outside world is in no way altered by their inner choice. Therefore, the youth who relinquishes their freedom to new parent figures develops a curious, dual feeling of love and hate toward all authority. Docility and rebellion, submission and hate live side by side within them. Sometimes they bow completely to authority or tyranny; at other times, often unpredictably, everything in them revolts against their chosen leader. This duality is an endless one, for one side of their nature continually seeks to overstep the limits, which their other, submissive side has imposed. The individual who fails to achieve freedom knows only two extremes: unquestioning submission and impulsive rebellion.
Conversely, the individual who is strong enough to embrace mature adulthood enters into a new kind of freedom. True, this freedom is an ambiguous concept since it involves the responsibility of making new decisions and confronting new uncertainties. The frontiers of freedom are anarchy and caprice on the one side and regimentation and suffocation by rules on the other.
If only we could find an easy formula for the mature attitude toward life. Even if we call it the democratic spirit, we can still explain more easily, what democracy is not, than what it is. We can say that our individualizing democracy is the enemy of blind authority. If we wish a more detailed, psychological explanation, we must contrast it with totalitarianism.
Our democracy is against the total regimentation and equalization of its individuals. It does not ask for homogeneous integration and smooth social adjustment. Democracy, in comparison with these aims, implies a confidence in spontaneity and individual growth. It is able to postulate progress and the correction of evil. It guards the community against human error without resorting to intimidation. Democracy provides redress for its own errors; totalitarianism considers itself infallible. Whereas totalitarianism controls by whim and manipulated public opinion, democracy undertakes to regulate society by law, to respect human nature, and to guard its citizens against the tyranny of a single individual on the one hand and a power-crazy majority on the other. Democracy always fights a dual battle. On the one hand, it must limit the resurgence of asocial inner impulses in the individual; on the other, it must guard the individual against external forces and ideologies hostile to the democratic way of life.
Freedom – Our Mental Backbone
The totalitarian state is continually driving out man’s private opinions and convictions. For the police state, thinking is already acting. The inner preparation for action as expressed in trial action, thought, is not accepted. Innate doubt and the trials and tribulations of thought adaptation are denied. Inbreeding destructive thought is one way to undermine the community. Not trusting the liberty of thought and free expression of opinion is even more dangerous; the natural destructive desires are repressed to that uncontrollable realm of the mind that may explode more easily into action. The verbal expression of a destructive thought however often partly conquers that thought, and renders it less potent. Here lies the actual paradox! Condemning antisocial thought, thought not yet put into action, provokes a short circuit of explosive action.
Every piece of logic may have its dangerous implications: inquisitional murder took place in the service of high ideals. If we cannot gamble with the innate good sense of man, a free and peaceful society are impossible, a democracy is impossible. Moral culture begins and ends with the individual. Only the cult of individual freedom, individual possession, and individual creativity makes man willing to curb instinctual desires and to repress destructivity. Man is not only a social being. Somewhere away from the crowd and the noise, he has to come to grips with himself, God, and nature. In order to grow, he needs reserve, isolation, and silence. In addition to his mechanical devices and machines, he needs to get back to nature, to camp out-of-doors by himself. Somewhere along the line, he has to be the maker of some of his own tools, as a shoemaker or a healer or a teacher. Without being thrown on his own and knowing loneliness, man is dwarfed; he is lost among the waves of overpowering human influence and a sea of coercive probabilities.
Edited excerpts from “The Rape of the Mind: The Psychology of Thought Control, Menticide, and Brainwashing” (1956). Joost A. M. Meerloo, M.D. (Pp.231- 234).
Nuclear Event – Potential Uncontrolled Radiation Release: LaSalle County Nuclear Generating Station, Unit 1 & 2, Illinois
Technological Hazard – Potential Uncontrolled Radiation Release
SECONDARY CONTAINMENT INOPERABLE
“This report is being made pursuant to 10CFR50.72(b)(3)(v)(C), event or condition that could have prevented fulfillment of a safety function needed to control the release of radioactive material and 10CFR50.72(b)(3)(v)(D), event or condition that could have prevented fulfillment of a safety function needed to mitigate the consequences of an accident. LaSalle Station’s Unit 1 and Unit 2 were in Mode 1. At 2207 [CST] [on 2/10/16], Secondary Containment Differential Pressure dropped below the Technical Specification (TS) 220.127.116.11 minimum of 0.25 inches water vacuum. The initial indications are a failure of one Unit 1 Reactor Building Exhaust Isolation Damper, which resulted in a trip of the Unit 1 Reactor Building Exhaust Fans. At 2245, Secondary Containment Differential Pressure was restored to within the TS 18.104.22.168 limits by securing and isolating the Unit 1 Reactor Building Ventilation System. Troubleshooting plans are being developed to determine cause of the damper failure and to correct the deficient condition.”
The licensee has notified the NRC Resident Inspector.
Technological Hazard – Potential Uncontrolled Radiation Release
Nuclear Event in USA on Tuesday, 09 February, 2016 at 21:42 [CST]
SECONDARY CONTAINMENT INOPERABLE
“At 2142 [CST] on February 9, 2016, Reactor Building differential pressure did not meet the required 0.25 inches of vacuum water gauge due to failure of the control system. At 2205, the Unit 3 Reactor Building Ventilation System was secured and manually isolated. The Reactor Building differential pressure returned to [greater than or equal to] 0.25 inches of vacuum water gauge at 2207.
“This condition represents a failure to meet Surveillance Requirement 22.214.171.124.1. As a result, entry into Technical Specifications 126.96.36.199 condition A was made due to Secondary Containment being inoperable. This event is being reported in accordance with 10 CFR 50.72(b)(3)(v)(C) as a condition that could have prevented the fulfillment of a safety function.
“The NRC Resident Inspector has been notified.”
Amor fati – Arbeit macht frei
The New Courage
Philosophy and psychology have made us aware of new challenges and new courage. Socrates, over two thousand years ago, considered bravery a spiritual courage, which goes far beyond the courage of physical battle. A soldier can be aggressive and have contempt for death without being brave. Their rashness can be a suicidal foolhardiness inspired by a collective élan. This may be the panicky courage of the unaware primitive infant in all of us.
There is a spiritual bravery, a mental courage, which goes beyond the self. it serves an idea. It asks not only what the price of life is, but also for what that price is being asked. It asks for a hyperconsciousness of the self as a thinking spiritual being.
It is only comparatively recently that spiritual courage has been esteemed. Socrates’ notion has taken a long time to seep into our thinking. It was only after the Reformation that the heroic struggle of the lonely battling personality gained value. To defend your own dissenting opinion courageously, even against the pressure of a majority opinion, acquired a heroic color, especially where non-conformism and heresy were forbidden. Gandhi’s quiet and stubborn campaign of passive resistance is today considered more courageous than the bravery of the soldiers who throws themselves into the ecstasy of battle. Spiritual bravery is not found among the conformists, among those who preach uniformity, or among those who plead for smooth social adjustment. It requires continual mental alertness and spiritual strength to resist the dragging current of conformist thought. A person has to be stronger than the mere will for self-protection and self-assertion; they have to be able to go beyond themselves in the service of an idea and have to be able to acknowledge loyally that they have been wrong when higher values are discovered. Indeed, there is spiritual courage that goes beyond all automatic reflex action.
The individual is not only a mass; they are also personality. He or she dares to confront the human masses as they confront the entire world, as a thinking human being. Consciousness and alert awareness are themselves a form of courage, a lonely exploration and a confrontation of values. Such courage dares to break through old traditions, taboos, prejudices and dares to doubt dogma. The heroes of the mind do not know the fanfare, the pathetic show, the pseudo-courage of exaltation and glory; these brave heroes fight their inner battle against rigidity, cowardice, and the wish to surrender conviction for the sake of ease. This courage is like remaining awake when others want to soothe themselves with sleep and oblivion. Totalitarian ideology is able to blackmail the individual through their inner cowardice. It threatens them into surrendering their innermost convictions in exchange for glamour and acceptance, for hero worship, for honor and acknowledgment. Yet, the true hero is true to his ideals.
Only when people have learned to accept individual responsibility can the world be helped by the combined efforts of many individuals. Do not imitate the master, do not merely identify with the leader, but if you do conform, accept his lead with the full recognition of your own responsibility. Such heroism of the spirit is only possible if you are the master of your emotions and in full control of your aggression.
The new hero will not be recognized because of his muscles or aggressive power, but because of his character, his wisdom, and his mental proportions.
Intimate knowledge of bravery dethrones most of the popular notions about it as an exalted fascination. Psychological knowledge fosters new forms of courage, demanding exhausting labor, the labor of thought, rather than the easy work of recklessness.
We cannot take any other option than for this enduring courage of life, courage that no longer embodies the magic attraction of suicide and decline. Courage should be the vivid faith in, and the alert awareness and the sound consideration of all that moves life.
Such courage accepts the great fear behind all the mysteries of life and dares to live with it.
Totalitarians are very much aware of the existence of unbendable heroes among their victims, whose faces could not be changed, whose minds could not be coerced. They called their calmness and stubborn will physiognomic insubordination, and they tried to kill these heroes as soon as they were discovered. Happily, the mob has many blind spots when it comes to detecting spiritual greatness.
When the war is over, most of these heroes disappear modestly into the crowd after their mission is fulfilled, leaving leadership to the more s sophisticated politicians.
The Morale Boosting Idea
Looking at the varieties of human behavior under extreme and pressing circumstances, we see how easily the individual can be subdued, and at the same time, we see that certain factors seem to have a positive effect on the person’s morale, keeping them from despair and collapse. When these factors are operative, the spirit revives and people are enabled to live with integrity In spite of dangerous circumstances. There are many such morale boosters, religious faith or a political ideology are among them.
Perhaps the most effective is the sense of having some mission and inner goal. The ideal with which a person identifies can be love of their native land, love of freedom or justice, or even the thought of hate and revenge. Whatever it is, at the moment of calamity a guiding idea is as much needed as mere physical strength and endurance. In every case where the individual has learned to withstand danger and to maintain at least some of their normal esprit under circumstances of deprivation, want, and brutality, one or more of the morale-boosting factors must have been present.
There are those that believe the inner search for the morale boosting regenerative idea is a conscious function of the mind is not a necessary condition. Such psychological regeneration is comparable with the physical regenerative processes seen in the body. The body rarely gives up its regenerative capacities. Even when a person is dying of cancer, their surgical wounds still heal; the local regenerating forces are still there. The same thing seems to operate on a mental level; in times of confusion, pressure, and exhaustion, a person’s psychological healing and regenerating forces are still in action. This applies as much to large groups of people as it does to the individual, though in the former, restraining forces remain in action because of intricate interpersonal relationships.
Experience with people living in the utmost dangerous circumstances show that very soon after an initial bewilderment the individuals develop an inner need for what might be called mental budgeting. They all display observable clinical symptoms indicating that this process of regaining their self-assertive resistance is going on. When they first come to the prison camp environment, for instance, they show complete passivity, surrender, and depersonalization, but soon a guiding idea begins to grow out of their need to understand fate, their need for protective intercommunication and adherence to some common faith, for building something for the self. We can detect this favorable change in mood by the way every prisoner makes their own corner a place of security, even when it is may be a dirty mat. They begin to rearrange the few things they have; they build their own nest, and from it, they begin to look out into the miserable marginal world that surrounds them.
When the prison-camp inmate finds friends whose faith and strength of character are greater than their own, their life becomes more bearable to them. Through mere association with others, they can better face the horrors without. Mutual love and common hate, both may be equally stimulating.
Renewed human contact changes the incarcerated individual’s inherent fear into confidence in at least one other person. When this grows into some identity with an active, working team, the temporary loss of inner strength is gone. When no such group or personality is found to identify with, the prison guard and their foreign ideology may take over.
It must be said that the stimulating morale boosting idea is nearly always a moral idea, an ethical evaluation, faith in goodness, justice, freedom, peace, and future harmony. Even the most cynical dictator needs the help of moral ideas to raise the morale of those submissive to their regime. If the despot cannot give the people at least the illusion of peace and freedom in addition to prospects for future wealth, then they are reduced to dull apathetic followers. At the entrance of the Nazi, concentration camps were large signs bearing the cynical slogan: Arbeit macht frei (“Work makes man free“). This may not have fooled the inmates, but it gave the German people outside the camps a way of justifying their inhuman behavior. The need for moral justification, which is felt by even the most ruthless tyrants, proves how deeply alive these ideas of morality are in humans. The more a person lives in marginal and torturous situations, the greater is their need for supportive moral values and their stimulating action.
In general, it may be said that the unbearable becomes bearable when three influences are introduced. Again, in the first place, one must have faith; this can be simple faith in religious or ethical values, faith in humanity, faith in the stability of one’s own society, or faith in one’s own goals. In the second place, the victim must feel that in spite of the disaster which has overtaken them and turned them into an outcast, they are wanted and needed somewhere on this earth. In the third place, there must be understanding, not sophisticated book knowledge but simple, even intuitive, psychological understanding of the motivations of the enemy and his deluded drives. Those who cannot understand and are too perplexed break down first.
Anti-brainwashing training must be done very thoroughly. It is true that inner defenses can be built against thought control and against the daily barrage of suggestions. With the help of good and repeated instruction, people can be made familiar with these concepts. Perceptual defenses are then built up; we learn to detect the false propaganda and we do not listen to it. Even though part of the propagandistic suggestions leak through these perceptual defenses and creep unobtrusively into our opinions (all advertising is based on this leakage), it cannot be stressed enough that full knowledge of the enemy’s methods gives us more strength to resist.
In the past, several captured psychologists recognized, under the frightful circumstances of life in the Nazi concentration camps, they felt sustained by their science. It gave them perspective and made it possible for them to see their own suffering from a greater distance. It was the philosophical attitude of the inquisitive mind that fortified their inner strength.
Yet, there are only a few stories of those who could not be broken down by the process of Communist brainwashing. Such a hard-boiled revolutionary as the Spaniard El Campesino, for one, was able to stand it (Gonzales and Gorkin). He knew the tricks of the totalitarians. It is also possible that they might not have thought him important enough to waste too much time and effort on; after all, he could always be sent to a concentration camp to waste away.
It must be repeated that any kind of illicit group formation in the camps or prisons, no matter how dangerous, immediately gives the individual a sense of being protected. Most of those who resisted cooperation and group membership and worked on their own succumbed to despair and defeat; those who betrayed their comrades, usually did so after they had gone through long periods of isolation, not necessarily enforced, but often caused by their own peculiar character structure.
Human contact with a trusted source is needed more than food to keep the spirit of freedom and belonging alive. During the Second World War the anti-Nazi, underground lived on the daily radio news from free England. Even now, there are people in enslavement and distress who live on the few communications that can be transmitted to them. The Voice of America and Radio Free Europe have a tremendous morale boosting function in countries where the totalitarian air leads to despair.
In the present-day fight against brainwashing and psychological warfare, intelligent preparation for what the prisoner and citizen has to expect and a simple understanding of the enemy’s tactics are the greatest aid. In the first place, this will undermine the enemy’s political strategy; nobody will believe their deceitful accusations. In the second place, victims of mind-control and brainwashing will no longer suffer from the paralyzing bewilderment of those who are suddenly caught by an unfamiliar situation. Perhaps, too, we should advise our war fighters under duress to confess too much, to confuse the inquisitor, and to take over the enemy’s strategy of confusion, lying, and deceit to bring them to frustration.
In cases where victims of menticide have actually done this, the inquisitors often begged their victims to become rational again; the torturer themselves were disturbed and upset by the feigned craziness of their victim. Of the greatest importance is the victim’s awareness that other people, including at home, know and understand what is happening, and understand the captive’s lonely struggle and torture.
If the captive does succumb, they should know that others understand that they cannot be held completely responsible for their behavior. The brain wanted to resist, the mind wanted to say no, but in the end everything in captive’s body acted against them. It is an eerie and strange experience, awareness of the fact that against one’s will, one has lost the freedom of mental action.
Are the effects of brainwashing only temporary? There is a difference between young people whose thoughts are still likely to be molded into permanent patterns of thinking and adults whose patterns are already formed by a free education. In mature people, brainwashing is an artificial nightmare they can often shed the moment they return to free territory. In some, it may leave long-lasting psychological scars of depression and humiliation, but gradually the spell subsides in an atmosphere where freedom reigns.
During and directly after the Second World War, those members of the resistance who had lost their bearings under the influence of the Nazi terror made it necessary for psychiatrists to face a new problem, that of a temporarily changed personality.
Obviously the terror in prisons and concentration camps had not only made meek collaborators of a certain few, but they came out of their ordeal as lost souls, full of guilt, shame and remorse and unable to face themselves as valid citizens. Even the honorable official exoneration of responsibility granted to them by a special court was not always able to repair their self-esteem. Before accepting themselves, they had to go through a slow and difficult psychological process of undoing the nightmarish mental confusion into which they were thrown.
It was then noticed, during psychotherapy several of them had to recall and experience once more the terror they had suffered: their initial struggle to resist the mental dinning of their inquisitors, the gradual paralysis of will, their final surrender. It was a subtle inner conflict between their feelings of guilt and the wish to reassert themselves. Emotional outbursts were followed by thoughts of suicide as a final flight from their shame. After they had vented their pent-up emotions, the therapist was able to convince them that everybody has physical and psychological limits of endurance. From this point on, they could express themselves freely as independent human beings with a mixture of both negative and positive qualities.
There is convincing evidence that in the case of prisoners who were for years in a totalitarian prison and were consequently politically conditioned, and cathartic, the psychotherapeutic approach will help them to find their old inner selves once more. Threats and aggressive discussions would only be a continuation of the same coercive brainwashing process their jailors used. The best therapy for them is the daily contact and exchange with the free, democratic world, as we have seen proven in so many cases of ex-prisoners of the totalitarian machine. Freedom is for them the best therapy.
For the millions of children who from the cradle are pressed into the framework of mental automatization, no such option for freedom exists. For them there is no other world, there are no other beliefs; there is only the all-consuming totalitarian god, in whose service every means and every deed is justified.
Brainwashers are very naive in thinking that the enforced reformation of the mind, the transformation of capitalist prisoners into Communist propagandists, will be permanent. For the first few weeks after their return to a normal environment, the ex-prisoner will speak the language he has been “taught.” They will recite their piece, but then, and often suddenly and surprisingly, the old self comes back. If the victim has a chance to investigate and examine the Communist propaganda and accusations, the total artificial nightmare will fall away. For this reason, jailers and handlers are careful not to dismiss all their converts at once. A few must stay behind as hostages to assure that those who are released will not expose the whole plot and thus endanger their captive friends. Those who do tell the truth on their return home feel guilty because their revelations may expose the hostages to even greater torture.
One peculiar character trait that makes for courage and endurance is fascinating. It may be considered the problem of time, the sense of continuity, the awareness that our experiences now are not only chained to our experiences from the past, but also to our image and fantasy of a future. We live in a world where we accept too much of the actual occurrences, without asking why and for what all this happens. Those who think of future planning are sneeringly called utopianists, as if the idea of Utopia had not always sprung from human yearning. Our ancestors believed in the future, the coming of Christ, the coming of the messiahs, the Kingdom of God, etc. They anticipated and worked for a better epoch. The people in prisons and concentration camps who believed in a future, who believed in a plan, who could see their actual calamity as a small chain between past and future, could endure better their temporary suffering.
There are people who were able to live courageously under the extreme stress of the Nazi concentration camp. They accepted the camp and the persecution as a challenge to their minds. Physical pain did not touch them. The abnormal circumstances stimulated their spirit; they lived beyond the circumstances. The morale of these people inspired others; they lived by fortifying and helping others. They accepted the Spinozistic amor fati, the love, and acceptance of fate. They were and are a living proof that the mind can be stronger than the body.
Edited excerpts from “The Rape of the Mind: The Psychology of Thought Control, Menticide, and Brainwashing” (1956). Joost A. M. Meerloo, M.D. (Pp.224 – 230).
From old to new courage who resists longer and why
What can give a person the strength to resist a menticidal assault? What makes it possible for so many thousands to survive mentally and physically the horrors of totalitarian environments like the concentration, prison, or interment camp?
The answer is essentially simple. Humans yield primarily because at some point they are overwhelmed by their unconscious conflicts. These conflicts, kept under control in normal circumstances, come to the surface under the strain of menticidal pressure. The stronger the inner conflicts and the greater the pressure, the greater the tendency to yield. Individuals withstand pressure when these conflicts cannot be so easily aroused or have been inwardly overcome.
This simple answer itself contains a clinical paradox. One of the characteristics of severe neurosis, and of some cases of pathological character structure, is that unconscious conflicts are so severe that they are either repressed so deeply that the sufferer is not even vaguely aware of their existence or they are transformed into a set of overt attitudes which are more acceptable to the individual, and therefore easier to handle. If the severe neurotic permits himself or herself to feel their real conflicts, they would dominate their life completely; consequently, they exert tremendous force to hold down this explosive material. The individual, who is always rebellious, never growing from healthy rebellion into healthy maturity, may have transformed some basic and profound conflict in his or her own personality into a chronic resistance against any kind of social demand. Psychiatric examination of prisoners of war shows that many of the persons who resist enemy propaganda most strongly are those with a history of lifelong rebellion against all authority, from parents through teachers to military superiors. They are troublemakers wherever they were, among their friends as well as among their enemies (Segal.)
This negative side of the coin is only part of the picture. A person with deep self-knowledge, aware of their own inner conflicts and aware, too, of what the enemy is trying to do to them is prepared to meet and resist the attack. Interrogation of many people who go through the abuses and tortures of enemy prison and concentration camps, are ordinary folk with no political affiliations, some are members of a resistance, a few may be psychologists and psychoanalysts. Those who understand themselves, who are willing to accept danger and challenge, and who realize, even faintly, how bestial man can be, are able to withstand the harrowing captive experience. They are not defeated by their own innocent perplexity and lack of insight into themselves and others, but are protected by their knowledge and inquisitive alertness.
There are other factors, which play an important role too. Investigations make it abundantly clear that those who can resist, who can maintain their strength under marginal circumstances, never feel that they are alone.
As long as they have a strong inner faith and hope, they can maintain their strength and keep the unconscious drive to give in from taking over their lives. The love and affection we get and gather in our hearts is the greatest stimulus to endurance. Not only does it provide a goal toward which we can direct our lives, it also gives us an inner assurance and a sense of worth that make it possible for us to keep in check self-destroying conflicts.
People in whom a religious faith or a political conviction is a deeply rooted, living thing has this same sense of belonging, of being needed, of being loved. Their allegiance is to a whole group or to a set of ideals rather than to individuals. To such people, beliefs are real and concrete, as real and concrete as people or objects. They provide a bulwark against loneliness, terror, and fantasies conjured up by the unconscious, and the unleashing of deep-seated conflicts, a bulwark that is as strong as the memory of love. Yet, such mentally strong people form a minority in our conflict-ridden society.
Experience has shown that robust athletes cannot withstand totalitarian influences or concentration or internment camp experiences any better than can their physically weaker cohorts. Nor is intellect alone any real help in fending off daily assaults on the will. On the contrary, it can provide useful rationalization for surrender. Mental backbone and moral courage go far deeper than just the intellect. Fortitude is not a physical or intellectual quality; it is something innate, given to us from the consistency of our parents’ behavior, and from their beliefs and faith. This has become increasingly rare in a world of changing values and little faith.
The Myth of Courage
The myth of strength and courage is something that may confuse all of us. Physical strength is too frequently confused with spiritual strength. Bravery and heroism are, indeed, needed qualities in battle. Yet analysis of the war fighter in combat shows that each one has to conduct a constant battle against their own fears. The brave are the ones who can check their fears, who can cope with the paralyzing fantasies that those fears create, and who can control the desire to regress into childish escapism. A person cannot be forced to become a hero, and it is ridiculous to punish them if they are not. It is as pointless as punishing them for bleeding or fainting.
The hero, the person who offers themselves up to death for the sake of others, is the vicarious sacrifice found more in mythology than in reality. Psychology and anthropology have illustrated that the hero myth is related to eternal dream imagery. Hence, the image of the hero, symbolizes the rebellious new generation, the strong person becoming stronger than the mythical father figure. They symbolize, too, our wish to be mature and to take responsibility into our own hands.
This myth is needed for the inspiration it offers us. We commemorate with post humor glorification – the heroic feats of the few whom, throughout history, have offered themselves up as sacrifices to their comrades or to society. Yet what do we know of their real motives?
During times of war, psychiatric treatment is given to many war fighters. Speaking and working with them, one becomes increasingly conscious of how dangerous it is to apply a simple label “hero” or “coward” on any man. Take, for example, a young man who had received a high military decoration because he had stuck to a lonely place with his machine gun, firing automatically until the enemy was forced to withdraw. In the course of this treatment, the young man confesses that his apparent heroism was really the result of a paralyzing fear, which had made it impossible for him to follow his commander’s order to retreat.
The lesson here is, no one can really tell how he or she will behave in times of dire stress or danger. People will solve the frightening test that reality confronts them with in their own way. Several will accept the challenge and stand up to it. Some vigilant, compulsive individuals may even welcome this burden as a test of their strength. Still others, whose instability has deep roots in the past, will unconsciously take advantage of a perilous situation to break down completely and let their emotions overtake them.
Freud has directed our attention to the peculiar interplay between external and internal dangers, between frightening reality and equally frightening fantasy. Objective, recognizable dangers often stimulate the mind to alertness and encourage it to set up its inner defenses. However, there is subjective panic-creators too, frustration, feelings of guilt, shame, and infantile horror fantasies, these can often be so terrorizing in their effects that all our cultural defenses collapse. Many persons who face the test of reality with stalwart courage can be brought to collapse by apparent trivia, which somehow touch them in a vulnerable spot.
Another example is the shy and withdrawn war fighter who suddenly finding themselves in a shelter with a frightened group of people; becomes infected and contaminated by the fear in the atmosphere. Psychologically weakened by recent unhappiness, they find themselves unable to put up the inner defenses that had served them so well under the frightening experiences of the battlefield.
Are we to say that this subject was less of a hero than the much-decorated machine-gunner was? There lives in most all of us an admiration for bravado, for the theatrical display of courage, for the devil-may-care invitation to destruction. We are beginning to recognize now that real courage is different; it is at the same time an expression of faith in life and a resignation to death. Courage is not something that can be forced on a person from the outside. It has to come from inside them.
In the reality of modern warfare, the impersonal Moloch, a person can be easily reduced to a feeling of helplessness and dependency. Personal courage can turn the tide of battle in a hand-to-hand encounter, but personal courage is no defense against bombs and bullets. Today, reckless courage, as we have glorified it, is less important than personal morale, faith, conviction, knowledge, and adequate preparation.
Here is a scenario that has been played repeatedly. A boy of seventeen years of age is drafted into the military. He has spent his entire life in a small town in the Midwest. He receives training in the routine of military life and the use of his weapons. Soon thereafter, he is sent to the battlefront, and almost immediately, he is taken prisoner. Now this young person must defend himself against the propaganda barrage which well-trained enemy theoreticians daily hurl at him; His education is limited, his background narrow, his political training inadequate, He may even try to escape from his prison camp but is caught. As a result, the enemy’s mental hold on him increases. His great disappointment makes him feel trapped. Finally, he surrenders and collaborates. The question arises, under circumstances such as this, how can a military court hold him responsible, and even punishable, for the fact that he finally gave in to enemy propaganda?
This individual is sentenced to twenty years imprisonment for collaboration with the enemy. Nevertheless, we may venture to guess that it could have been the story of nearly any American soldier of similar background. The point here is not one of innocence or guilt alone.
After a any major war or global conflict, many countries must face the difficult problem of how to treat those members of the resistance who, after torture by their enemies, had confessed and betrayed their compatriots. In Holland, after the Second World War, a Court of Honor was established to judge such special cases as this. This court reached the following conclusions:
No man can possibly vouch for it that under no circumstances will he `confess,’ `cooperate,’ or `betray’ his country. No man who has not himself gone through the hell which Communists and Nazis have been so able to organize has any right to judge the conduct of a man who did.
Psychological torture is more effective in many cases than physical torture. This is even truer of the victim who has above average intellectual background. It seems that intelligence makes physical torture more easily bearable but at the same time exposes one more to the impact of mental torture. Anyone who `submitted’ under such circumstances to the enemy after having given proof of his loyalty, patriotism and courage will suffer terribly because his condemnation of himself will always be more severe than that of any judge.
There is, however, not the slightest reason for shame, or for considering such a person incapacitated for giving leadership. On the contrary, more than outsiders he will know what superhuman strength is required to resist the subtle methods of mental torture, and more than outsiders he can be helpful to others to prepare themselves for the ordeal as far as that is at all possible.
Edited excerpts from “The Rape of the Mind: The Psychology of Thought Control, Menticide, and Brainwashing” (1956). Joost A. M. Meerloo, M.D. (Pp.218–222).