Advertisements
Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Hitler’

The first researchers to observe chimpanzees in the wild were left with an idyllic impression of our close ape cousins.  They appeared to be a peaceful tribe of vegetarians, who cuddled and groomed and cared for one another in extended family units, sharing fruit and showering their young with affection.

Only later, when in-depth studies were attempted, did it become clear that this was merely part of the picture.  These serene vegetarians were also capable of shocking violence towards members of their own species, including murder.

Chimpanzees are gentle, loving and family-oriented within their own territorial mating group.  But with chimps from outside that circle, they can turn vicious.

In this respect, chimps resemble humans.

You, for example, would never display intentional cruelty towards another human being.

That is – unless you knew that other human being wasn’t like you.  Then you might be surprised at what you could do.

Welcome to in-group/out-group psychology.

Consider the guards at Auschwitz.  They thought of themselves as nice people.

An album of photos was made public in 2008 containing photographs taken by members of the SS who worked at Auschwitz. These pictures are not what you would expect.  Dating from 1944, they show laughing, singing, smiling people reveling at Solahütte, an SS recreation home located just outside the death camp.

There’s even a shot of an SS officer lighting the Auschwitz Christmas tree only a few miles from the place where millions were being starved, beaten and gassed.

The question becomes how you convince yourself that other human beings are not like you – that they are outsiders.

One common method is to place them outside of your religious system.  Religion is often credited with teaching morals and enforcing good behavior among human beings.  More often, it is used to justify the abuse of out-groups by defining the parameters of an in-group.  As Freud put it:  “a religion, even when it calls itself the religion of love, must be hard and loveless against those who do not belong to it.”

Freud watched Hitler march into Austria during the Anschluss in 1938, as the powerful Roman Catholic church stood by offering no resistance whatsoever.  As Peter Gay describes it:

“The Austrian prelates, keepers of the Roman Catholic conscience, did nothing to mobilize whatever forces of sanity and decency still remained;  with Theodor Cardinal Innitzer setting the tone, priests celebrated Hitler’s accomplishments from the pulpit, promised to cooperate joyfully with the new dispensation, and ordered the swastika flag to be hoisted over church steeples on suitable occasions.”

Freud managed to escape to England with his immediate family.  Four of his sisters, each of them over 70 years old, were not so lucky.  These helpless elderly women were murdered in concentration camps.

In-group/out-group psychology, coupled with religion, explains a lot about wars, inquisitions, crusades, burnings at stakes, pogroms, terrorism and the ugly history of mankind in general.

Another way to ostracize a group is to link them to disease.  When Glenn Beck calls Progressivism a “cancer” in America, he implies that Progressives, those people like myself who believe in Progressive causes, are the embodiment of that cancer.  He is borrowing a page from Adolf Hitler’s playbook.  One of the Fuehrer’s favorite tropes was to compare Jews to tuberculosis bacilli infecting the German nation.

If people are tuberculosis bacilli – or cancer cells – it becomes much easier to abuse them.

Still another way to justify dehumanizing a group of people is to isolate them because they have a different ethnic background, or physical appearance. This country began as a slave colony, based on the firm notion that people with dark skin could be beaten, abused, tortured, murdered, and bought and sold as chattel because they weren’t really “human” at all – they were more like animals.  This is another example of in-group/out-group psychology at work.

The Tea Party movement lends itself to in-group/out-group psychology because it is a homogenous population – an excellent candidate for an in-group.  According to a CNN poll, active supporters of the Tea Party, those who have attended a rally or donated money, are much more likely to be wealthy, male, have graduated from college and reside in rural areas that are already GOP and conservative strongholds.  According to a Quinnipiac University poll, 88% of the Tea Partiers are white.  They are also almost entirely Republican.  It’s a fair guess that most of them are Christian, too, and probably fundamentalist.

This might explain their obsession with attempting to prove that Barack Obama, the President of the United States, was somehow not born here or is somehow not American.

He’s different from them.  That makes him a member of an out-group.

Mr. Obama’s out-group status, in turn, permits the Tea Party people to justify treating him in ways they would never treat one of their own.  That explains shouting “You lie” at him in the middle of a joint session of the US Congress, or flaunting firearms at events where the President is speaking.  Since he is an out-group member, they can justify treating Mr. Obama with a level of disrespect that might otherwise be difficult to fathom, especially from people who claim to respect the office he fills.

More disturbing, perhaps, is the way the Republicans treat their fellow Americans who happen to lack healthcare.

If another human person were injured or ill, and needing to be taken to a hospital, it is hard to imagine anyone, whatever their political or religious beliefs, refusing to come to that person’s aid.

But the Republicans have managed to convince themselves that denying healthcare to their fellow Americans is morally defensible.  Perhaps it’s a Christian doctrine that an atheist outsider, like myself or Sigmund Freud, could never comprehend.

More likely, for the Republicans, it’s simply that any American living without healthcare must be a member of an out-group.  Perhaps they are all Socialists, African-Americans or Progressives, or even part of the “cancer” that Glenn Beck battles on tv.

The latest example of in-group/out-group psychology at work has appeared in the form of threats of violence by radical Right-wingers against Democratic politicians who supported the healthcare bill and voted it into law last week.  Black and gay politicians have had nasty names shouted at them.  One Democratic congressman was called “baby killer” by his Republican colleague on the floor of the US House of Representatives.  There have been death threats and acts of vandalism.

You wouldn’t do these things to someone whom you considered an equal.

The truth seems to be that, for the Republicans, anyone who disagrees with their political agenda is an outsider.  The code word for “outsider” is that you are not a “real American.”  Sarah Palin warned you about those people, the “fake Americans” – the outsiders.  You can place gun targets over their faces.  You can threaten their lives.

As I’ve said time and time again, this column is strictly without political bias.

But perhaps it is time for the Republicans and their Tea Party minions to rise above the level of chimpanzees and Nazis, and to recognize the humanity of their fellow citizens.  For decades, tens of millions of us have been denied access to decent healthcare.  As a result, each year tens of thousands of us have died.

The issue of healthcare is finally being addressed with a mainstream political solution, thanks to President Obama and the Democrats.

But the Republicans still need to learn a basic lesson in citizenship.

They are not the in-group, and everyone else is not the out-group.

There is no out-group.

There is one America, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to TwitterAdd to TechnoratiAdd to Yahoo BuzzAdd to Newsvine

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

Gerald Lucas, a psychotherapist who runs an institute in New York City, used to tell his patients he regretted he couldn’t make the world a better place – he could only make them better able to handle it the way it is.

Sometimes the key to happiness is a little like the key to Weight Watchers – learning to stay away from things that are bad for you.

Luck certainly plays a role.  My relatives fled to the United States from Poland and Lithuania because the Czar and other nasties were oppressive, violent rulers.  Forty years later, Hitler rolled in and committed the worst crimes in human history.  It could have been my relatives in those Nazis death camps, but for dumb luck and the determination to leave the bad behind and seek something better.

The world can seem like an unpleasant place sometimes.  If you need evidence, open this morning’s paper and take a look.

As a psychotherapist, patients bring plenty more proof that evil exists.  It’s a good wake up to some harsh realities.  As with everything else in psychotherapy, awareness is all.

One of my patients was violently raped in her early twenties.  Working with a rape survivor taught me a lot about human dignity and the process of recovery from trauma.  It also taught me about rape.  Knowing someone who has been victimized by violence introduces you the fact that it really happens, to real people, all too often.

This woman gave me a book to read about rape, “Lucky,” by Alice Sebold, the author of “The Lovely Bones.”  It is a memoir of Sebold’s own experience of rape, and a book I shall never forget.  My patient taught me another important lesson:  if something like that happens to you, you will do everything in your power to avoid letting it happen again.  She took a self-defense class, carried a can of mace, and never again walked home alone late at night.  There are predators out there, and at very least, you can take all available precautions.

So this week, when a beautiful young female patient complained to me about what she’d been through recently, I wasn’t surprised.  In the past year she’d had a guy slip a drug into her drink, an older man – a professor, no less – approach her inappropriately for sex, countless construction workers whistle at her, and a best friend fall victim to domestic violence, then return to the boyfriend who beat her up.  It was quite a list, but I believed every word.  We talked about how she could be careful – and stay away from people who mean her no good.

Another patient I saw recently had a run in with a sociopath, a person who lacks a conscience.  A sociopath will tell you whatever you want to hear, take pleasure in lying to you and generally not give your feelings a thought as he pursues his own agenda.  “Sociopath,” or the technical term, “Anti-social Personality Disorder,” are arguably just mental health lingo for a criminal.  Many of the people who populate our prisons – the hard-core law-breakers – are socipaths.

The sort of run-in that happened to my patient could happen to anyone, and all too often it does.  It’s not a nice experience.  This guy was very charming, and appeared to have a successful career.  He moved in with her and said he wanted to marry her and have a child.  What he didn’t mention was that he already had a family – a wife and children – who knew nothing about this other relationship.  The “business trips” were spent with this family, 20 blocks away.

My patient asked what she could do now that she’d discovered the truth.  I gave her my blanket advice for dealing with sociopaths:  stay far away.  She moved somewhere else, and hasn’t seen him since.

Obviously, women aren’t the only people who are victimized by evil deeds – although they do seem to receive more than their fair share.  Children are victimized in terrible ways each and every day, and  I’ve worked with adult men who have survived domestic violence, sexual abuse and other ills.  Bad things can happen to anyone.

My point here isn’t that the world and everyone and everything in it are bad.  There is plenty of good out there, too.  It’s just that you need to keep what is bad far away – and, at the same time, pull the good nice and close.

In everyday life, that means more than just staying away from predators and sociopaths.

It also means:

Don’t date someone if he doesn’t treat you with kindness, consideration and respect.  He should be grateful and appreciative to have you in his life – or you can find someone who will be.

Don’t work in a setting that is hostile or toxic.  Your workplace should make you feel appreciated for the work you do.  You should look forward to coming in to work each day – or you should work someplace else.

Don’t consider someone a friend unless he’s got your back.  “Friend” is a powerful term – it means someone you can say anything to and who can say anything to you.  It implies loyalty, caring, trust and respect.  Anything less is an “acquaintance.”

Breathe in the good.  Breathe out the bad.

Sometimes it’s that simple.

Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to TwitterAdd to TechnoratiAdd to Yahoo BuzzAdd to Newsvine

Read Full Post »

Rage is helpless anger.

If anger finds a productive outlet, it can achieve great things (See Martin Luther King, Mahatma Gandhi, et al.)  King and Gandhi believed their words could be effective agents for change.  There was a receptive audience somewhere – white Northerners, the British public – who would listen, and perhaps embrace a new direction.

But when you feel no one is listening, you lose a sense of efficacy, of control over your environment.  So you go into a rage.  Instead of turning your anger into words, you go into action on unexamined feelings.

Rage is essentially a temper tantrum.  Just like a frustrated toddler who throws a fit because he can’t have his way.

There is nothing more destructive.  Especially when the phenomenon takes place on a large scale – affecting an entire culture.

Mass rage occurred in China from 1966 to 1976, during the so-called Cultural Revolution.

China was humiliated during the 19th and 20th centuries by the fact that it had somehow slipped a couple hundred years behind the Europeans in terms of technological advancement.  This was a temporary situation – China led the world in technology for eons, and they caught up quickly.  But the humiliation and helplessness of those years led to a feeling of rage that exploded in such bloody events as the Taiping Rebellion of 1850-1864 (a civil war triggered by religious fanaticism) and the Boxer Rebellion of 1898-1901 (an outburst of violence by ultraconservative forces against foreigners.)  The ultimate scream of rage was the Cultural Revolution, in which the Chinese, lost in a cult-like worship of Chairman Mao, turned their fury upon themselves, destroying their educational system, smashing their monuments and treasures – and losing an entire generation of human achievement.

It hasn’t only happened in China.  Hitler somehow convinced the German people that they were “humiliated” during WWI, and used it as the trigger for a convulsion of violence against innocents that resulted in the virtual destruction of Germany as a nation.  American Southerners convinced themselves that they’d been “humiliated” during the American Civil War, and used that as the pretext for a bloody outbreak of violence and oppression against innocent African-American citizens during the late 19th century – around the time Mark Twain termed the USA “The United States of Lyncherdom.”

Exactly the same thing is happening today in the Muslim world, and we can only hope they get over it soon.

The pattern is familiar – the “humiliation” of the Muslim nations by foreign occupiers, a deep sense of helplessness and the fall-back into conservatism and reaction, clinging to backward traditions and rejecting anything new that might smack of acculturation.  Then comes the violence – always the violence, officially focused outward on the forces of change, then turned inward, producing cruel persecutions of helpless minorities, and – ultimately – an orgy of self-destruction.

In the end, rage always results in harm to yourself.

The Chinese Red Guards during the Cultural Revolution destroyed their own institutions, persecuted their own intellectuals, dismantled their own universities.

It was a source of amazement, during the 1992 Los Angeles riots, that the rioters were burning their own neighborhoods.  They weren’t burning down Hollywood, they were burning down South Central.

Muslim reactionary fanatics – so-called “terrorists” – destroyed the World Trade Center.  But most of their continuing violence seems aimed at other Muslims, mostly within Muslim countries.  If some young man wrapped himself in explosives and blew himself up in a crowd in the USA, it would be a national trauma.  But this awful event appears to occur on a weekly basis in the Muslim world.

The answer?  A familiar one in the world of psychotherapy:  put your feelings into words.  Don’t go into action on unexplored emotion. Contain the feeling, and investigate it.

Humiliation is when someone tells you something true about yourself that you’ve avoided seeing.  It was hard for the Chinese to own up to falling behind in technology, especially when they’d always led the way.  And it was hard for white Southerners to own up to human slavery being a heinous crime, or for Germans to accept that an imperial age had passed Germany by, and that their boundaries would be limited to those of a mid-sized European country – not a world empire.

It must be tough for the Muslim world to realize that it is due for some self-examination and fresh thinking around issues like democracy, freedom of speech, the treatment of women and separation of church and state, where they are clearly falling behind the rest of the world.

These are truths that need to be heard, and processed.  Instead of lashing out in violence, they could put their upset into words, and achieve personal growth.

If only someone in the Muslim world believed we were listening, and would open up – take that risk – and tell us what’s upsetting him. Perhaps he could write an article, or give a speech, or start a movement – a peaceful movement – that would bring attention and understanding to what Muslims are experiencing around the world.  He could answer the question on everyone’s lips after 9/11 – “why do they hate us?”

Then perhaps we could understand what their upset is really about, and bring this horror to an end.

Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to TwitterAdd to TechnoratiAdd to Yahoo BuzzAdd to Newsvine

Read Full Post »