Sexual and Textual Perverts in Islam and the West
It also occurred to me how compatible deMause's ideas were with Ken Wilber's Up From Eden, which I read when it was first published in the early 1980s. The latter book also posits a developmental model of history, although in Wilber's case, he anchors the model in a sort of universal Hegelian/Aurobindean evolution of spirit as opposed to anything concrete, i.e., improved childrearing practices. The problem is, deMause is an atheist, so he would undoubtedly regard Wilber's higher spiritual stages as intrinsically pathlological.
Now that I think about it, I suppose these were just two more of the contradictions I was attempting to resolve in my own book -- which would probably have to be much, much longer in order to convince anyone who isn't already somewhat sympathetic to its basic arguments.
An immediate difficulty one encounters is the definition of human normalcy. For example, modern Americans don't think it's "normal" to abuse children. However, as deMause writes, there is "a point back in history where most children were what we would now consider abused." But if that is the case, perhaps they were normal and we are the aberrations. The only other option is that normalcy exists in an archetypal sense -- that it is a telos that draws development toward it. This is what I mean when I say that Eden (or Adam Kadmon, the divine cosmic human archetype) is not in the past but in the future (or in the present vertical). Otherwise, psychological normalcy becomes an arbitrary cultural construct.
Again, as I have mentioned before, we needn't venture into the distant past to find confirmation of deMause's ideas, being that developmental time is embodied in cultural space. (Another excellent and more mainstream book in this regard is Edgerton's Sick Societes.) In other words, when we encounter what we regard as a "primitive" culture, we will nearly always discover -- assuming we are capable of true empathy of childhood pain -- what we consider to be appalling childrearing practices that keep it primitive (because of adults acting out their own childhood trauma on each new generation).
Just yesterday there was a very important piece at American Thinker by psychiatrist Stephen Rittenberg, entitled Liberalism, Jihadism and Perversion. He points out the difficulty of "diagnosing" the barbaric jihadis -- as if they are Western psychopaths, when they are actually just craven conformists in the context of their own culture:
"It is the intense pleasure derived from religiously sanctioned murderous lust that makes the jihadis so dangerous. The degree of narcissism matters little; these are not people who can be 'treated' by shoring up their narcissism, and bolstering their self esteem. It is our very civilized, therapeutic culture that makes us flinch from taking the necessary measures needed to deal with such foes. In truth, it may be our own narcissism -- the need to reassure ourselves of our superior civilized nature -- that causes us to obsess about whether necessary measures for waging war, like water boarding, and Guantanamo constitute 'torture'."
Thus -- and this is a critical point -- there is actually an implicit dynamic between the bloodthirsty psychopaths of Islam and the narcissistic enablers of the left, and that is perversion. And what is perversion? Importantly, sexual acting out is not synonymous with perversion, but an effect of something much deeper. As Rittenberg explains, perversions are not just "sexual" in the more narrow behavioral sense of the term. Rather, they embody the idea "that erotic pleasure [can] be intensified by the discharge of aggressive wishes, including the inflicting of, and submitting to, pain up to the point of death."
Rittenberg refers to the theories of Chasseguet-Smirgel, who "found that perversions are an essential way in which the human mind and psyche rebel against and seek to evade reality," including the reality of male-female differences: "The intolerance and fear of such differences can result in the practices of Wahabbi Islam, wherein women are so feared that they must be hidden and brutalized like beasts of the field. Muslim men's terror of women is undoubtedly accompanied by a high incidence of hidden (not so hidden when they travel to the Riviera) perverse sexuality."
This is true as far as it goes, but the question is, how do people -- and whole cultures -- end up this way? That is a question psychoanalysis in itself is unequipped to answer, since it is essentially a clinical practice that focuses on adult individuals as opposed to field study into, say, Muslim childrearing practices. This is what deMause's research attempts to do -- to link the kind of gross perversion we see in the Islamic world to concrete childrearing practices.
But at the same time, we shouldn't let the West off so easy. I believe ShrinkWrapped has written of how it is true that on the one hand we in the West have the most enlightened, child-centered parenting. But the problem -- and I'm not sure if deMause ever addressed this -- is that our own style of parenting may be more humane, but at the same time, it definitely has a dark shadow side, which is to say, pathological narcissism.
In other words, there is no doubt that there was a significant shift in childrearing practices in the West, beginning in the 1950s, i.e., with the Baby Boomers. I know that my own mother, for example, accepted Dr. Spock's ideas as gospel, Spock being the first pediatrician to popularize the new ideas about attachment theory coming out of England from people like John Bowlby and D.W. Winnicott. Later I'll get into deMause's evidence of just how different this child-centered approach was from past "adult-centered" parenting styles, but suffice it to say, when it comes to parenting, there is a fine line between empathy and indulgence -- just as there can be a fine line between having expectations or boundaries and just plain sadism.
As ShrinkWrapped has written -- and if he sees this, feel free to send the link -- the dark side of child-centered parenting is the kind of indulgence that can lead to pathological narcissism, which is why the Baby Boomer generation is perhaps the most narcissistic in history. Because in reality, indulging a child is not empathic. Rather, it is a failure of empathy, because it is a failure to recognize the actual child and to provide what he really needs as opposed to wants. In other words, giving a child what he wants can be either empathic or unempathic, depending upon the case.
Perhaps this explains our very different ways of responding to the Nazi perverts in World War II as opposed to the Islamist perverts today. The Islamists and Nazis haven't changed, in that they represent the same dark powers and principalities, the same barbarism, the same assault on everything we call Good, True and Beautiful. But in the West, there was much less narcissism a couple of generations ago, so that the threat could be appropriately dealt with. Of course, I cannot cite statistics to back this up, but psychoanalysts in general began to notice a great increase in narcissistic patients by the late 1960s, which led to a revolution of theorizing about how to treat them, since they couldn't be treated in the manner of a normal neurotic.
The barbarians haven't changed but we have, in such a way that we narcissistically treat the barbarians as if they are just unhappy children, and that if we only appease and indulge them enough, they will come around. As Rittenberg explains, leftism is as perverse as Islamism, only in a different way: in the realm of perversely destructive ideas as opposed to behavior. Indeed, "The reason we hear so little condemnation, much less military resolve to annihilate these savage perverts, is Western culture's thralldom to contemporary, politically correct liberalism, which is itself perverse. Post-modern Liberalism shares the mindset of the jihadis and unconsciously enjoys their enactment of liberal fantasies."
So, is the left itself just a giant sexual perversion? Well, ask yourself: why are they so obsessed with sexual transgression, sexual "freedom," sexual "oppression," sex "education," homosexual "marriage," the erosion of sexual differences, etc? It's not about the sex. That's just an effect, not a cause. Rather, as Rittenberg explains, leftism is a perverse mode of thought which, because of its attack on hierarchy and distinctions, ultimately destroys the very basis and possibility of thought: "Thus, for example, Post-Modernism represents perverse thinking in its denial of the difference between truth and falsehood, good and evil, superior and inferior cultures. When it argues that ‘male' and ‘female' are ‘constructed' identities, it argues against the immutable differences imposed by biological reality." (I would say archetypal reality.)
Likewise, "Socialism is similarly perverse in its radical egalitarianism, denying differences of talent, intelligence, motivation, skill." Affirmative action is obviously perverse, as is political correctness: "Ideas are perverse when they seek to undermine distinctions that are necessary for thought itself to exist. When such distinctions are eliminated, anything goes. When liberalism asserts that al Qaeda and America are equal threats to the world, it is being perverse. In fact, when liberals argue that modern Christianity and Islam are both ‘religions of peace' they are being perverse."
Perverse thought eliminates the vital distinctions that make thought possible; it is literally a form of thinking in reverse, in that it believes that the ultimate meaning of meaning is to render meaning ultimately meaningless. It is what Bion referred to as a sadistic "attack on linking," the links that form the foundation and infrastructure of the thinking mind.
By definition, the ultimate perversion has to be materialism, for it obliterates all hierarchical distinction and redounds to horizontal confusion and spiritual emptiness, or chaos and nihilism. It is just another word for intellectual and spiritual entropy, the terminal moraine of terminal morons. This entropy must be countered one Raccoon at a time, generation by generation. For to paraphrase Christopher Dawson, what took thousands of years to build can be destroyed in a single generation.
[T]he advance to the material extreme inevitably means a loss of distinction between things and a trend toward equalization, and in human beings, a corresponding loss of understanding as to the meaning of things that still escape this process.... there follows a corresponding weakening in the realms of intellectual and creative endeavor.... The issue then is the paradox of the decline of something which is the very negation of decline and corruptibility. But its effect on this world depends on the extent to which it is realized in each generation. Man's falling short of his destiny allows cosmic necessity to outflank the spiritual power... --Robert Bolton, The Order of the Ages