Psychological Root Of the Climate Crisis and Social Injustice
A base psycho-pathology has driven the human race to internecine conflict over the extraction, expropriation, and exploitation of natural resources.
Since natural resources belong to all of humanity in common, many people have needlessly died at the hands of oppressors and usurpers imposing virtual or actual slavery. This dysfunctional psychopathological activity, because it has been witnessed globally even before empires arose, has long been accepted as normal human behavior.
Due to its ubiquity, this dysfunctional psychopathological normal has long been espoused as something intrinsic to humanity, presumably hardwired into the human psyche, and assumed beyond remediation by human intervention. This false assumptive view of human nature provides the rationale for the opportunistic propagation of this dysfunctional psycho-pathology by the worst of humanity, its supposed leaders, and the oligarchies that control them.
We are now led, by our dysfunctional psychopathological leaders, to the extinction of our entire human species and perhaps the end of all life on Earth. We have been so inured to this dysfunctional psychopathological normal that our global apocalyptic demise has been foretold for thousands of years. Our fate need not be this. Yet without public analysis and exposure of our dysfunctional psychopathological normal and its remediation on the world stage, we are functionally extinct as a species.
Yet without public analysis and exposure of our dysfunctional psychopathological normal and its remediation on the world stage, we are functionally extinct as a species.
In analysis, this dysfunctional psychopathological normal is present in all surviving human cultures as well as in many human cultures of the known past.
Few indigenous populations were immune to its manifestation. During the first hundreds of thousands of years of the human species, this dysfunctional psychopathological normal limited our development. Over the past ten thousand years, it has been leveraged in the pursuit of dysfunctional psychopathological technological industrial development enriching oligarchies ensconced in their cities at society’s expense.
Myths, fragments of legends, and historical religious philosophers have left a record for our analysis. Joseph Campbell’s analysis resulted in his Hero With a Thousand Faces, which inspired the underlying Hollywood structure for blockbusters with universal global appeal. It is the global success of the Hollywood blockbuster that provides proof of the pervasiveness of this normal psycho-pathology today. No human society today has yet escaped its insidious influence.
Joseph Campbell leveraged the work of Carl Gustav Jung who took the work of Sigmund Freud into new directions. Melanie Klein and W.R. Bion took another path and refined Sigmund Freud’s work. They all polished selective facets of the whole yet each was personally stymied by the same psycho-pathology they sought to elucidate. They were all defeated by the gap between individual psychology and the psychology of the collective unconscious. This gap, this yawning abyss, is the acceptance of the normal as something that is forbidden to be analyzed.
They were all defeated by the gap between individual psychology and the psychology of the collective unconscious. This gap, this yawning abyss, is the acceptance of the normal as something that is forbidden to be analyzed.
To close this gap, to cross this fraught void, to the forbidden analysis of the normal that produces our dysfunctional psychopathological leaders, we need to look to who brought it to the attention of Sigmund Freud and the dysfunctional psychopathological leaders of his time; Benito Mussolini, Adolf Hitler, and Vladimir Lenin. We need to look into the individual that inspired the work of Edward Bernays, Sigmund Freud’s double nephew and the father of Public Relations. I will identify and discuss him a bit later.
The current existential crisis emerged from the Age of Reason and the Enlightenment when the rules of Might Makes Right and the Divine Right of Kings fell. Government leadership could no longer derive their authority from God. But by the time the royal and ecclesiastical leadership was overthrown by the people, it was not the true power. Going back to the origination of cities, royalty and religion were controlled by oligarchies.
Going back to the origination of cities, royalty and religion were controlled by oligarchies.
Rebellion against the oligarchies is the worst of political crimes, it was originally an offense in the eyes of God. Yet there was a shift, a not so subtle shift, away from God’s anointed rulers over humanity to a secular assembly of men. These secular assemblies of men came to substitute the Law of Man in place of the Law of God only with the support of the oligarchies. The delay in this substitution was due to the time it took for the oligarchies to learn how to control the people without leveraging the fear of God.
The delay in this substitution was due to the time it took for the oligarchies to learn how to control the people without leveraging the fear of God.
The oligarchies feared the power of the people.
This fear of the power of the people dates back to the beginning of civilization itself. Civilization, civil society, is from the Latin civilis, the root that gives us the word “city” and civis “citizen”, which identifies the non-military, non-ecclesiastical population of the armed camps of the first conquering armies. Civilians were and still are, the servant classes attending to the needs of the oligarchs.
To this day cities are parasitical vampires feeding off the lifeblood of the surrounding territory. This was their origin and this is still their power relationship today. Cities are the creation of oligarchs and countries are the lands of oligarchies reserved for their exclusive exploitation. The citizens, the civilians of the cities, are the decedents of the captured populations domesticated to serve the oligarchs. Oligarchs fear the day citizens would no longer serve but rise up and overthrow them.
Oligarchs fear the day citizens would no longer serve but rise up and overthrow them.
That day arrived on July 4, 1776. When a clearly insane leader, Great Britain’s King George III, rose to power, brave people published the Declaration of Independence, a manifesto that gave hope to the rest of the world but has never been validated in law anywhere ever. Great Britain's oligarchy quickly moved to replace him but the damage was done.
Ironically, the Declaration of Independence was superseded by the Constitution of the United States for the Federal Republic that gave unlimited power to not one, not two, but three branches of government run by oligarchs without meaningful public recourse. Only the flimsiest guarantee of basic humanist rights, the Bill of Rights was added to the Constitution of the United States as an afterthought, which has since been thoroughly nullified in favor of state security so that no form of egalitarian public power exists.
The founding oligarchs of the United States feared the people.
Voting rights were reserved for white male landowners. These votes were and are still filtered through an electoral college. The governmental candidates themselves were, and still today, merely proxies agreeable to oligarchs already holding effective power. From the beginning, the United States exhibited the oligarchies’ fear of the gathering masses yet relied upon the radically new citizen army for the defense of their political economy.
The psychology behind European class divisions, the rise of European nationalism, and the European drive for global empire lay openly exposed in the psyche of the early United States. Even before psychology was named as a study, the dysfunction of the normal was laid bare in the United States system, exposed in its rawest form, to enlightened European philosophers unable to explicate the labyrinthine European system. Alexis de Tocqueville famously wrote about it and forecast its future at length during the early 1800s.
“The American Republic will endure until the day Congress discovers that it can bribe the public with the public’s money.
“America is great because she is good. If America ceases to be good, America will cease to be great.
“I know of no country in which there is so little independence of mind and real freedom of discussion as in America.
“Americans are so enamored of equality that they would rather be equal in slavery than unequal in freedom.”
Alexis de Tocqueville in Democracy in America (appearing in two volumes, 1835 and 1840)
Throughout industrialized Europe, the psychotic and psychopathic relentlessly exploited the psychologically damaged to the marginalization or complete destruction of practiced ruling dynasties everywhere and the establishment of cruel pseudo-democracies. Protestant churches, once radical, regressed to dogma and doctrine tailored to pander to old superstitions.
Industrialized Europe experienced an age of revolutions and read Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, Max Stirner (aka Johann Kaspar Schmidt), and Karl Marx. There were others examining social structures but our interest lies in the study of social control. Even before Sigmund Freud, Gustave Le Bon wrote about the crowd and its collective unconscious. Here, at last, social psychology, the social science of control we are interested in, emerged.
Even before Sigmund Freud, Gustave Le Bon wrote about the crowd and its collective unconscious. Here, at last, social psychology, the social science of control we are interested in, emerged.
Manipulative social science originated with Gustave Le Bon.
In 1895, Gustave Le Bon, a biological determinist (racist) and philosophical enemy of the European socialists, wrote The Crowd — A Study Of The Popular Mind, which subsequently influenced Sigmund Freud, Albert Einstein, Theodore Roosevelt, Benito Mussolini, Adolf Hitler, Vladimir Lenin, and Edward Bernays.
Gustave Le Bon theorized that a new entity, the “psychological crowd”, emerges from a population and not only forms a new body but also creates a collective “unconsciousness”.
Gustave Le Bon described the leaders of this new entity, the psychological crowd.
“The leaders we speak of are usually men of action rather than of words. They are not gifted with keen foresight… They are especially recruited from the ranks of those morbidly nervous excitable half-deranged persons who are bordering on madness.” Gustave Le Bon
These leaders are sought out, supported, and controlled by the oligarchs.
Gustave Le Bon also offered an observational warning to leaders and their controlling oligarchs that has not gone unheeded.
“When the structure of a civilisation is rotten, it is always the masses that bring about its downfall.” Gustave Le Bon
Gustave Le Bon’s theoretical manipulation of the collective unconscious depends upon exploiting certain base dysfunctions of primitive psychotic defenses. This is the same dysfunctional psychopathology that drove Rome to create an Empire and then enabled its defeat at the Battle of Teutoburg Forest in 9 CE halting the growth of its Empire and then immediately dividing the victorious European Goths for nearly 2,000 years with internecine conflicts.
Gustave Le Bon influenced Wilfred Trotter, who saw the dangers involved in unleashing the psycho-pathology of the normal.
During the time between the first two World Wars, the future became more and more clear to many more who made the effort to perform an analysis.
“The only way in which society can be made safe from disruption or decay is by the intervention of the conscious and instructed intellect as a factor among the forces ruling its development.” Wilfred Trotter 1916
In 1918 Oswald Spengler predicted that about the year 2000, Western civilization would enter the period of pre‑death emergency whose countering would necessitate Caesarism (extraconstitutional omnipotence of the executive branch of the central government). This certainly appears predictive of postmodern nations' reaction to the collapse of late-stage capitalism today.
A few years later, in 1920, H. L. Mencken wrote
“All of us, if we are of reflective habit, like and admire men whose fundamental beliefs differ radically from our own. But when a candidate for public office faces the voters he does not face men of sense; he faces a mob of men whose chief distinguishing mark is the fact that they are quite incapable of weighing ideas, or even of comprehending any save the most elemental — men whose whole thinking is done in terms of emotion, and whose dominant emotion is dread of what they cannot understand. So confronted, the candidate must either bark with the pack or count himself lost. … All the odds are on the man who is, intrinsically, the most devious and mediocre — the man who can most adeptly disperse the notion that his mind is a virtual vacuum.
H. L. Mencken in The Evening Sun, Baltimore (26 July 1920)
This is the psychology inadequately outlined by Sigmund Freud in reply to Albert Einstein’s question, “Why war?” in their letters written during 1931 and 1932. The bankruptcy of Sigmund Freud’s approach carried forward into the construct of Melanie Klein, W.R. Bion, and the Tavistock tradition. But the underlying psychopathology of the normal was readily acknowledged.
“[W]henever a group is formed, it always seeks a leader to follow. The group then searches for someone who has questionable attributes with his or her mental health. Initially, the group will search for someone who is paranoid schizophrenic or someone who is malignant hysteric. If the group is unable to find someone with those attributes, the group looks for someone with delinquent trends and a psychopathic personality. Otherwise, the group would just settle on the verbally facile high-grade defective.” Wilfred Bion
The primitive psychotic defenses identified by Melanie Klein as “innate/instinctive” (Klein, 1952) and developed by Wilfred Bion in his “Experiences in Groups” (Bion, 1961) lay unchallenged at the core of the Tavistock paradigm. While Sigmund Freud, Melanie Klein, and Wilfred Bion have become institutionalized and their writings became unassailable, a few others have gone further.
“That leadership emerges in large groups and social systems when there is a match between the unconscious dynamics and defenses of the leader and the unconscious needs and wishes of the led. This relationship between pathology and politics exposes the system to significant risk in times of transition or crisis.” David Wasdell
Addressing a workshop on War and Terror sponsored by the Institute for Group Analysis in London, Hanna Segal asserted
“When a psychotic basic assumption dominates a group (and maybe the combination of the military and the religious is the most deadly) then the whole group acts on that assumption, produces leaders who present that madness and through escalating projective processes, drives those leaders madder and madder and further away from reality”. Hanna Segal
These are today’s leaders controlled by the oligarchies to our mutual annihilation if we let them.
And now we have a choice. We can default to social science that extends the normal dysfunction in the name of expediency. Make no mistake, the current state of the world and the oligarchies’ machinations that created the climate crisis and social injustice give proof of the dysfunction of the normal. Perhaps, only now during our midnight hour, can we as a species face an examination of our dysfunctional normality.
Perhaps, only now during our midnight hour, can we as a species face an examination of our dysfunctional normality.
Because this other choice of questioning our normality and learning about our common psychopathology must come before the anxieties generated by the environmental crisis are displaced and acted out in psychotic processes of mutual destruction far worse than those emanating from the environmental crisis alone. This goes deeper than the Behavioral and Cognitive psychologies that serve as gatekeepers to the dysfunctional norm.
This goes deeper than the Behavioral and Cognitive psychologies that serve as gatekeepers to the dysfunctional norm.
Behavioral and Cognitive psychologies, being caretakers for the dysfunctional social definition of the sanity norm of today, both start from the assumption of a theoretical neutral and balanced objective domesticated hominid psychology with the goal of remediating disruptive deviance with pharmacology. To understand the human decision-making process we must first discard any idea that domesticated hominids (humans) start from a neutral and balanced objective position.
Critical examination of normal society has always been taboo. Choosing a critical analysis threatens one’s societal acceptance more than any other intellectual position. Choosing the dysfunctional psychopathological norm, the assumption as to how social change can happen is by the application of dominant authority, power, and compulsion, exploiting normal dysfunctional psychopathology.
David Wasdell summed this up succinctly:
“Then information about the environmental threat is denied, repressed, and projected onto the human context. The paranoid process identifies a threatening enemy and goes to war, rather than identifying a threatened environment and going to work. Equally psychotic is the debilitating “spiritual” response which seeks refuge in a meditative trance state awaiting rescue by forces from the beyond.” David Wasdell
George Monbiot says
“And only those who stand outside the failed institutions can lead this effort.
“So, if you don’t fit in, if you feel at odds with the world, if your identity is troubled and frayed, if you feel lost and ashamed — it could be because you have retained the human values you were supposed to have discarded. You are a deviant. Be proud.
“We are social animals, Verhaeghe argues, and our identities are shaped by the norms and values we absorb from other people. Every society defines and shapes its own normality — and its own abnormality — according to dominant narratives, and seeks either to make people comply or to exclude them if they don’t. Today the dominant narrative is that of market fundamentalism, widely known in Europe as neoliberalism.” George Monbiot
The current economic system in America, Noam Chomsky says, is so dysfunctional
“…that it cannot put eager hands to needed work using the resources that would be readily available if the economy were designed to serve human needs rather than wealth beyond the dreams of avarice for a privileged few.
“The whole educational and professional training system is a very elaborate filter, which just weeds out people who are too independent, and who think for themselves, and who don’t know how to be submissive, and so on — because they’re dysfunctional to the institutions.” Noam Chomsky
Which way do you wish to go? From within the Matrix, this is a red pill — blue pill decision.
This article is in response to the 50th Anniversary Summit of the Club of Rome on 17–18 October 2018 in Rome focused on the roots of solutions to the climate crisis, “Living in the Anthropocene”. Catia Bastioli called for a society mindset change, wisdom, and dissemination of ideas.
My hope is that these ideas aid us in saving each other and our world.