God Help Us From the Selfless Left
Along the lines we were discussing yesterday, insufficient attention has been paid to the destructive effects of our primitive human groupishness, which is anterior to the developmental and historical emergence of our individualism.
Again, we are born in a neurologically incomplete state, in which we are merged or fused with our primary caretakers. Twoness -- and then Threeness -- will only gradually emerge from this prior condition of Oneness, or the "background object of primary identification" (Grotstein). And although this unusual situation has its dark side, it is also the reason why, underneath our individual existence, we may fall in love, deeply connect with others, and escape from our little egoic I-land.
But please bear in mind that two means of escape are possible, one a big broad, the other a strait and narrow itty biddy: down and back into the seductive but engulfing arms of the Great Mother, or up and out toward the Father -- whose "dark side" or "better half" is none other than the Source Mother, or the Virgin (i.e., Male is being, Female is the eternal womb beyond-being; thus, in keeping with "as above, so below," there is a lower maternal pole that is the inversion of the higher).
Leftists in particular always assume that the world's problems are caused by excessive individualism in the form of aggression, greed, and selfishness, which is why they wish to cure the problem with a heavy-handed, top-down collective, the state, instead of through the timeless-tested method of cultivating virtue by conforming ourselves to our divine archetype, thus becoming (relatively) free of our lower selves in the process, and therefore free.
The leftist approach only ends up perpetuating the disease it purports to cure, since socialism doesn't decrease selfishness but increases it. First of all, it is wholly materialistic, thus robbing man of his reason for being, which is pricelessness itself. Secondly, it replaces self-interest, which is the foundation of a rational spontaneous social order, with selfishness, which is its opposite.
For example, if we end up enacting some version of socialized medicine, I suppose it will economically benefit someone like me, since I have a chronic disease (type 1 diabetes), but only in the short term, and at the expense of diabetics being born today. I'll be dead by the time they have to deal with the catastrophic effects of socialized medicine. Yes, my healthcare is very expensive, but guess what: it's worth it. Just a generation ago, my mother didn't have the tools I have to control my diabetes, so she had a stroke at around 60. If they had had socialized medicine back then, it's unlikely that the drug companies would have made the advances that have made my life so much easier.
As mentioned above, humans are born in a neurologically incomplete state with fluid boundaries. The psychoanalyst Winnicott made the apt observation that "there is no such thing as an infant," at least from the infant's point of view, since the infant is unable to clearly distinguish itself from the mother. (One could also say that the same holds true in the unconscious of the mother, where she psychically "holds" the baby in an ocean of right-brained reverie. Just observe a mother and her infant, and you'll see what I mean, as together they dream the baby's experience.)
What this means is that human beings are fundamentally a group animal; we are "relational," not just in a social sense, but at the core of our own being, where we are always two-in-one or one-in-two, depending upon the way we look at it. In other worlds, before we ever relate to the outside per se, we have an interior relation that Bion described in a couple of very unsaturated ways, either as container (♀) and contained (♂), or as primitive "beta (ß-) elements," or "thoughts without a thinker" that will be given coherence and meaning by what he called "alpha (∂-) function," or the internalized reverie-function of the (m)other. Just think of alpha function as the most primitive form of thinking, without which no proper thinking is possible. (We won't get into Threeness at the moment, for this discussion of Twoness is already a crowd.)
So, we all harbor the unconscious residue of an infantile matrix out of which our individuality only later emerges. In developmental psychology, this process is known as "individuation," and there are many things that can go wrong on the journey from infantile symbiosis to individuation and mature independence (and therefore mature dependence; many leftists replace mature dependence upon family and friends with immature dependence upon government).
One of the things that frequently goes awry in this process is that the drive toward individuation is overcome by the opposite trend, the regressive pull toward fusion and dependence. Becoming independent is fraught with anxiety, and can trigger a host of emotional problems in someone with a history of insecure, traumatic, or ambivalent attachment. My son is pretty confident, but I can still see him waver back and forth between independence and fusion with Mommy. It's as if he takes an ecstatic step toward independence, then notices he's out on a limb by himself, which triggers a bit of separation anxiety. It's much more noticeable when he makes a significant developmental leap, which brings new abilities but leaves his old familiar self back in the dust. It's very much like puberty, only repeated several times between birth and six or seven years of age.
What did Tolstoy say? "From the child of five to myself is but a step. But from the newborn baby to the child of five is an appalling distance.”
Likewise, from a child of five to a committed leftist is but a step. But from illiberal leftist to conservative liberal is an appalling distance! No wonder they hate us.
Now, a casual or even formal, black-tie survey of history reveals that human beings are a deeply troubled species. Arthur Koestler observed that we err in placing all of the blame on human greed, selfishness, and assertiveness -- that is, excess individualism. Rather, he pointed out that the amount of crime committed for personal motives is inconsequential compared to that committed by large populations -- that is, groups -- in a completely self-transcendent manner on behalf of religion or ideology, king or country.
The Islamists are a case in point. Suicide bombers obviously do not selfishly kill for personal gain, but selflessly to advance the cause of their group. Yesterday they tricked a couple of mentally disabled women into blowing themselves up and murdering 91 human beings, not for profit but for prophet. (This moonbat doesn't see this latest horror "as a sign of desperation. I see it as a sign of adaptation and a brilliant one at that.")
As Koestler writes, "the historical record confronts us with the paradox that the tragedy of man originates not in an excess of individual self-assertiveness" but in a malfunction of the affiliative, group tendencies of our species. Koestler also had the intuition that this had something to do with an excessive "need to belong" triggered by infantile experience, leading to an unquestioned identification with the group, a suspension of critical thinking about the group's beliefs, and a trance-like submission to a powerful parental substitute.
(You will have noticed that Obama, despite his vacuity, seems to trigger this in his enthusiasts; he is pure Mother, alternatively hypnotic and seductive. Tom Sowell mentioned that he is the youngest candidate with the oldest ideas, but this is because, developmentally, the Mother precedes the Father. Hillary is far more masculine, which is why she has so much more female support. Apparently, women know better than to vote for that pretty but frivolous tart, Obama.)
As Adam Smith knew, individuals may be selfish, but they are also self-interested. This makes them rational, predictable, and comprehensible. On the other hand, no one knows how to deal with the individual who has given over his identity to the group. Such a person does not possess an individual mind, but a group mind which is not critical, rational, or predictable. As such, they may react violently to any kind of threat, not just a physical threat, but any questioning of their worldview. A harmless wimp may be transformed into a beast of depravity by identifying with the powerful group, tribe, clan, party or religion. A Dennis Kucinich or John Edwards, relatively harmless kooks, can become monsters if given great power over others.
Leftists routinely accuse the United States of being the most "selfish" and individualistic nation on the planet. Ironically, this may explain why the United States is, by a wide margin, the greatest force for good the world has ever known.
In contrast, countries that have attempted to dissolve individual identity by promoting a regressive merger with the nation/group (and remember, "nation" is etymologically linked with "nativity," the realm of the mother) have been a source of unqualified evil: Nazi Germany, the Soviet Union, communist China, Castro's Cuba, and now Islamofascism. This actually constitutes a large part of the "war on terror": trying, for example, in Iraq, to bring individuation and psychological maturity to a people who have known only infantile merger with the tribe, faith, or "strong man" (who is always a weak man's impersonation of a strong man). The task is made all the more difficult as a result of the approximately fifty percent of Americans who are merged together in an ovary tower of sheliocentric group fantasy.