tandard Rationales for Victim Correction as a Panacea

 

 

“God, grant me serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.  Living one day at a time, Enjoying one moment at a time; Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace; Taking as Jesus did this sinful world as it is not as I would have it; Trusting that You will make all things right if I surrender to Your will; So that I may be reasonably happy in this life and supremely happy with You forever in the next—Amen.”—The much-beloved Serenity Prayer, unredacted, as originally written by Reinhold Niebuhr

 

 

 

The following is the text on Al-Anon’s “Just for Today” bookmark, affirmations to guide those who are friends and loved ones of alcoholics, mainly women who must deal with alcoholic husbands.  This “PRAYER FOR TODAY” is the much-beloved Prayer of Saint Francis, so this focusing on unconditional forgiveness is rather universal, and is being used just as readily for the (mainly female) people who must live with alkies, as it would be used for those who must deal with life’s inherent imperfections—

 

Just for today I will try to live through this day only, and not tackle all my problems at once.  I can do something for twelve hours that would appall me if I felt that I had to keep it up for a lifetime.

Just for today I will be happy.  This assumes to be true what Abraham Lincoln said, that ‘Most folks are as happy as they make up their minds to be.’  [Lincoln had some serious depressive episodes.]

Just for today I will adjust myself to what is, and not try to adjust everything to my own desires.  I will take my ‘luck’ as it comes, and fit myself to it.

Just for today I will try to strengthen my mind.  I will study.  I will learn something useful. I will not be a mental loafer.  I will read something that requires effort, thought and concentration.

Just for today I will exercise my soul in three ways: I will do somebody a good turn, and not get found out; if anybody knows of it, it will not count.  I will do at least two things I don’t want to do — just for exercise.  I will not show anyone that my feelings are hurt; they may be hurt, but today I will not show it.

Just for today I will be agreeable.  I will look as well as I can, dress becomingly, keep my voice low, be courteous, criticize not one bit.  I won’t find fault with anything, nor try to improve or regulate anybody but myself.

Just for today I will have a program.  I may not follow it exactly, but I will have it.  I will save myself from two pests: hurry and indecision.

Just for today I will have a quiet half hour all by myself, and relax.  During this half hour, sometime, I will try to get a better perspective of my life.

Just for today I will be unafraid.  Especially I will not be afraid to enjoy what is beautiful, and to believe that as I give to the world, so the world will give to me.

PRAYER FOR TODAY

Lord make me an instrument of Thy peace.  Where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light, and where there is sadness, joy.

O, Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved, as to love; for it is in giving that we receive, it is in pardoning that we are pardoned, and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

 

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“I do not want the peace that passeth understanding.  I want the understanding which bringeth peace.”—Helen Keller

 

 

 

Since victim correction as a panacea is a panacea, its rationales are very predictable, and standard.  In the following each of them are numbered, so that when you hear them applied to a certain situation, you could respond by saying, “Oh, yeah, right, that’s standard rationale #7...”

These rationales have certain things in common.  They all are contingent only on certain tactical specifics of each situation, never on questions of who’s morally responsible for what, unless this moral responsibility is so grave that delegating responsibility to the victims would simply seem untenable.  Victim correctors only want addicts’ kids, etc., to be more self-efficacious, serene, etc.  Though those held morally responsible for problems would probably be presumed innocent until proven guilty, those held response-able for not taking care of their own problems stolidly enough, wouldn’t, since someone would have to take care of every problem, and with plenty of problems, you couldn’t prove anyone guilty.  Holding people response-able for their own problems is almost always the most pragmatic, objective, honorable, and forgiving option.  Of course, one doesn’t question expectations that he be well-adjusted, self-reliant, non-controlling, etc.  If one rationale for victim correction doesn’t work, it’s replaced by another.  As “Mary Smith” wrote in her suicide note, “All [my psychologist] could do is nitpick about how I need to feel small + helpless,” though Mary obviously had a gutsy personality, which is typical of the self-empowering “thinking” of victim correction: plenty of all-or-nothing thinking, overgeneralization, mental filter, and disqualifying the positive.  Depression is the only dread disease of which many of the causes seem sacrosanct.  NOTHING CAN LIMIT HOW MUCH ALL THIS COULD AFFECT YOU.

Since this is a panacea, it’s done with a tunnel vision; the point of such strategies is to focus on what would be most pragmatic, honorable, and forgiving.  “Self-help” means that if you’re the one who has the problem then yourself is the only one you could rely on to help; even the most worldly ethical responsibility would be others-help.  In order to make certain things work, the person who’s doing it must really want it to succeed, and the person who has the problem would really want it to be solved.  No problem could really be a problem if the victim prevented solved or dealt with it well enough, so victims who don’t take care of their own problems well enough seem omni-responsible.  If all this seems too glib to you, then you should choose to accept it instead, since that would be pragmatic, in that the question of what would solve your own problems is more important than is the question of what is glib, morally bankrupt, reductionist, etc.  A reductio ad absurdum couldn’t be treated as a reductio ad absurdum, since as long as a reality is your reality then you must deal with it, even when that means, “Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace; Taking as Jesus did this sinful world as it is not as I would have it,” and/or, “If you’re a teenage child of an alcoholic, you’d be a lot less passive if you stopped blaming others, and instead looked at yourself.”  To paraphrase British prime minister David Lloyd George, such alkies’ kids cannot conquer the chasms in their own lives by gingerly taking one step at a time.

The untermenschen are the only ones who could legitimately seem scary, and they probably would, since their WILLFULNESS is expressed through manipulative ideas, whereas the WILLFULNESS of the übermenschen is expressed through non-manipulative power.  It seems that we must fear the untermenschen and their victim-power, and mustn’t fear the übermenschen and their freedoms.  Sure, this logic always corrects the victims, but if you try hard enough you won’t always be the victim, so it won’t always correct you.  It’s pretty safe to say that there’s always an out, in that if the person who has the problem wants to be well-adjusted and non-passive, then she’ll see how what caused the problem is at least excusable, and how much she plays an active role.  If people were allowed to set limits as to how much victim correction they’d be willing to accept, then many people would, at least once in their lives, have traumas that would give them responsibilities that would cross their limits, and if they didn’t correct themselves, this would lead to big messes not being rectified.  Though “balance” might seem synonymous with intelligence, maturity, honesty, and the like, if one insisted on balancing victim correction as a panacea with moral concerns, this would seem unrealistic, defeatist, whiny, etc.  Naturally, you must have a strong, as in STRONG

 

 

 

You could probably imagine how this would make repeated financial meltdowns inevitable, especially in the “new economy” that was supposed to have ended them through freedom for the banks.  Even if an organization of financial firms formulated its own code of ethics that would take the place of the sort of regulation that would try to protect from meltdowns, certain forces, and, therefore, certain rationales that would maintain the instability, would be inevitable.  Though those ethics wouldn’t have the stigma of government interference, evading and weakening them would be just as easy:

 

 

 

 

“THE GREATEST RISK IS NOT TAKING ONE.”  Once again, pleas to both freedom and realism could say that, at the very least, Wall Street firms should have the right to take considerable risks at times that, at the moment, seem advantageous, which would open the door to all sorts of risk-taking.  After all, bubbles pop very quickly just they’ve gotten their biggest.

So what we end up with is a situation where restriction would seem unpragmatic whiny and judgmental.  It would seem that of course if you can’t prove dangers, then they’re just your unpragmatic whiny and judgmental opinion.  Before the problem would happen concerns about it would seem speculative, and afterward it would seem that we couldn’t turn back the clock and undo it so we should just be productive by bailing out the banks.  The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority already does something like this, and Bloomberg News said, “The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, a non-governmental body that oversees almost 5,000 brokerage firms, should not regulate financial planners because it weighs suitability of financial products rather than protects fiduciary standards, the coalition [of financial planners] said.  It has inherent conflicts of interest because brokers sell products.”  Anyone who weighs the suitability of something in which it seems that risks are only natural, can make plenty of dangers seem acceptable.  It would then seem only natural to assume that of course mature sophisticated and pragmatic people realize that dangers happen

During the congressional hearings of Greenspan Snow and Cox on October 23, 2008, Congressman Sarbanes said to Greenspan:

But what you haven’t conceded is I think a flaw in the ideology that suggests that the market will always punish the bad actors, or at least not allow for the fact that if you put a driver in a car and they drive recklessly, and maybe they have a car crash, it’s going to punish them and maybe they will learn their lesson.

But in the meantime, a lot of innocent bystanders can get run over.  I think that’s what happened.  There’s a lot of the American people out there who feel like innocent bystanders, and they have been hurt.
 

Yet this leaves out the element of the “They’ve learned their lesson” logic that always makes it inarguable.  That is, that once the person did whatever taught him the lesson, it would have happened in the past.  He couldn’t turn back the clock and undo it, so any attention given to it would seem counterproductive, but thinking about it as a lesson learned would seem productive.  And, of course, it would seem that this lesson should be as limited in scope as possible, so as not to be more restrictive than it has to be.  They have to keep trying new innovative things, so they have to keep learning new lessons.  While this might seem to be merely what a lot of people on Wall Street would want to believe, in our day-to-day lives such pragmatism could seem to reflect both honorable self-reliant strength, and necessary realism.

A statement released by FINRA replied, “FINRA is uniquely positioned from a regulatory standpoint to build an oversight program for investment advisers quickly and efficiently,” and it could seem only natural to prefer promises of quickness and efficiency, to protections from the selfishness of Wall Street.  During other Congressional hearings, on October 6, 2008 about Lehman Brothers, Nell Minow, chairwoman of the board and editor of The Corporate Library, testified, “I’m really horrified by the effort by Mr. Fuld and other executives in these failing companies to absolve themselves of blame.  It infuriates me when they talk about how efficient the markets are except when they are not efficient.  All of a sudden, it is not their fault anymore.  These are people who fight for deregulation, and now they’re blaming the regulators.”  Yet that’s exactly what we’d all have to accept, once we’ve accepted the supposedly inevitable imperfections that lead to our unnaturally high rates of depression, anxiety disorders, that we’re told we must accept.  We’ve just got to accept that human nature means that people would try to absolve themselves of blame, and when strong people do this it looks like what Nietzsche called “the honest lie,” red-blooded, while when weak people do this, it would look like what he called “the hidden lie,” mollycoddle.  Obviously what has a price of contributing to rampant depression, anxiety disorders, etc., can’t be very efficient, but as long as we label that to be, “just the way that life goes sometimes,” it would seem efficient.  Under these circumstances, it really is hard to say whose fault anything is.  It also seems only natural to fight for deregulation that would seem to serve your own interests since that fits the American spirit, but the consequences of deregulation are still both very real, and, quite possibly, not absolutely provable.

Bankruptcy could be an epitome of the thinking that if the loss of money is something that happened in the past, then realism would require forgiving and forgetting it.  As judge and lecturer Richard A. Posner wrote in the Wall Street Journal of May 7, 2009, “Rational businessmen will accept a risk of bankruptcy if profits are high because then the expected cost of reducing that risk also is high.  Given limited liability, bankruptcy is not the end of the world for shareholders or managers.  But a wave of bank bankruptcies can bring down the economy.”  That very likely contributed to the financial meltdown.  Both companies and risk managers balanced what the companies would get if they won big bets and the losers didn’t declare bankruptcy (the entire prizes), with what they’d lose if they lost the bets (only part of the loss, since they’d be helpless to pay the entire thing).  And while it seems all-American to care about the moral hazard involved in banks getting government bailouts, if you brought up the moral hazard involved in, “But now that I lost more money than I could afford to pay, you’ll just have to accept realistically that there’s no way that I could get that money to pay those I owe,” then you could seem unrealistic, anti-freedom, etc.

A good idea of what we’re supposed to just take as a given, is the following, from the opening statements of the October 6th Congressional hearings, by Republican Congressman Jim Davis, in which he stood up for Wall Street against accusations of unfettered greed: “So today we start with the case of Lehman Brothers, a venerable investment house that sank into insolvency while others were being thrown Federal lifelines.  One lesson from Lehman’s demise: words matter.  Rumors and speculative leaks fed the panic and accelerated a flight of confidence in capital from that company.

“Words matter here as well.  Look at the TV monitors.  As we watch them, the markets are watching us.  In this volatile environment, unsupported allegations, irresponsible disclosures can inflame fears and trigger market stampedes.”

You might think that this is a good reason to lose enough faith in The System that, at the very least, you don’t blame yourself when things go wrong in your life.  If the fate of us all can be so thrown into turmoil by irrational stampedes, then you really can’t assume that just because someone is having very real problems, that means that he’s a loser and failure.  Yet Congressman Davis obviously realized that most Americans who’d hear what he said, would simply take as a given that such instabilities exist, that that’s life.  When Keynes said that out economic dynamics operate as “the by-product of the activities of a casino,” he meant that we should therefore distrust them, but realists would say that though this casino is less fair than the real ones since in this one it’s impossible to monitor against all cheating, this casino motivates investors to get the money where it would be likely to be productive.  In the end, the only thing that could matter is what would motivate the most productivity, given what human nature is.  If, hypothetically, it turned out when, on April 27, 2009, Air Force 1 flew low over New York City with an F-16 chasing it, in a photo op, this was really someone in the military hijacking the plane to symbolize Obama supposedly hijacking the presidency, and the Obama administration kept this quiet for a time though publicity about it would have helped him, since this publicity might have created panic in the stock market, even then we must understand that we must go to such measures to prevent panics, that “that’s life.”  Whenever this has to be “The New Normal,” it has to be. 

 

 

 he Tragedy of Victim Correction as a Panacea~

 

 

As the above says, this is Al-Anon approved literature,  for Alateen.  You couldn’t make this stuff up!  Persuading people to think like this works best with Groupthink, but if you, on your own, must deal with a devastating reality in order to fit in and function, then you’ve gotta do what you’ve gotta do, and our self-responsible cultural norms (“Everybody knows that The Serenity Prayer is good.”) would provide the Groupthink.  As Addiction: Why Can’t They Just Stop?, by John Hoffman and Susan Froemke, says, in a survey of addicts’ family members, “...the words that everyone used were powerfully negative: ‘devastating,’ ‘abusive,’ ‘horrible’.”  Yet no concerns that would interfere with the victims’ self-responsibility could matter, since in the long run, caring about them would only mollycoddle and weaken the people who’d have to take care of themselves optimally.  Victim-blaming is incentives-based.  George Vincent wrote, “To survive growing up in an alcoholic family is second only to surviving the Holocaust,” but the big difference is that despite the fears that addicts’ kids feel, they aren’t really in mortal danger, so Buddhists, etc., could say that these fears are only illusions.  Victim correction as a panacea could be called chicken soup for the soul, unconditional serenity and courage.  If that’s stooping to the lowest of the low, then sometimes we’ve got to stoop to the lowest of the low in order to make sure that problems get solved by those who have the most reliable motivation to solve them.  Moral relativism becomes amoral absolutism; “Your righteous objections are only your opinion!” becomes, “Your righteous objections are only your self-righteous, resentful, manipulative, controlling, unpragmatic, whiny, judgmental... opinion, and you simply can’t afford those disgraceful victim attitudes!”

Yet though it might seem only natural to want to feel better by practicing Buddhistic self-discipline and self-re-education, and this doesn’t involve any medication, this is hardly natural.  In the words of Ayn Rand, “We the Living” could very much object to this sort of de rigueur coping with helplessness, Stoically!  Yet though a Marxist mentality of, “Love your brother,” is supposed to degrade the natural human spirit, a requisite mentality of, “As long as it’s your problem, ‘self-responsibility’ means courageously changing whatever you can and serenely accepting whatever you can’t,” mustn’t, or you might have problems coping with reality.  (Everybody loves The Serenity Prayer, right?)  In general, we do revere self-responsibility for one’s own welfare, and don’t revere self-responsibility for how one’s own choices affect others.  Victim-power seems to be the tyranny of helplessness, though, “But look at how helpless I am about what I did!” is the ultimate tyranny of helplessness.

In general, this sort of self-help is cognitive therapy, the modern version of behaviorist psychology, so this can be given the title of behaviorist B. F. Skinner’s classic book, Beyond Freedom & Dignity, pragmatic in such a way that’s far more important than such abstract niceties.  This represents what is good, what most motivates people to do what must get done, which is what those who have the problems should want.  If, instead, the advisee insisted on drawing his own honest well-founded conclusions about what was happening to him, he’d be told that he’d better realize how important it is that he think in whatever ways would maximize his chances of self-reliant success in solving such big problems.  What else could Alateen members, etc., be told, “Go right ahead and fail to deal with your problems adequately.”?

This self-help logic could be used interchangeably for all sorts of problems, including exploitative lovers of every variety, unemployment, and literally even cancer and getting up the mettle to fight it.  Responsibility for one’s own choices means blame, naiveté, and controlling (As Niebuhr wrote in Moral Man and Immoral Society, “The power necessary to control the wicked is the danger, not the wicked,” and chances are that most of what contributes to our very unnaturally high rate of depression, isn’t even truly malicious.), while response-ability for one’s own problems means self-reliance, realism, and freedom.  Claiming, “You caused your own problem,” makes Victim Correction as a Panacea sound the most justifiable, while, “You’ve simply got to take response-ability for your own welfare, your own problem,” is the fallback position, since all problems must get taken care of.  The self-help formula for conflict resolution is for general public consumption, and it works.  If such sophistry weren’t so predictable and absolutist, just think of how often people could: lose faith, play the victim role, not do what needs to get done (by those most motivated to do it), etc.  Like Sarah Palin, this has both the appeal of going rogue, and the appeal of conformity.  America’s latest, most trendy, patriotic song begins, “If tomorrow all the things were gone, I’d worked for all my life.  And I had to start again, with just my children and my wife.”

In theory this means self-responsibility, self-reliance, gutsiness, anti-controlling, good coping skills, realism, conventionality, respectability, etc., but in practice this means that nothing except, “Can I change this?” including the most basic morality and concern for the weak, can really seem to matter.  Sure, you could recognize that destructive sinfulness is destructive sinfulness, but in the end you’d have to forgive it, or you’d be maladjusted and suffer the consequences of this weakness.  (“YOU VILL ENJOY!”)  Frank Buchman, leader of the Oxford Groups, the club on which AA and then Al-Anon was based and until recently was called “Moral Re-Armament,” (Sinclair Lewis’ novel It Can’t Happen Here, from 1935, includes Buchman in its list of currently trendy “Messiahs.”) said, “D’you know Heinrich Himmler?...  Say, you ought to know Heinrich.  He’s a great lad....  [Hitler] lets us have house-parties whenever we like.”  Anti-Nazi British travel-writer and journalist Robert Byron, who got a chance to observe Nazism up close, wrote in his diary, “Himmler apparently dotes on the Oxford Group [How cute.] and writes to its English members discussing their troubles with them,” so he was their Dear Abby.  This was the same Himmler who said, in his speech on October 4, 1943 to the SS Group Leaders in Poznan, “Most of you know what it means to see a hundred corpses lying together, five hundred, or a thousand.  To have stuck it out and at the same time—apart from exceptions caused by human weakness—to have remained decent fellows, that is what has made us hard,” but that personal strength concerned one of the Nazi practices that Buchman didn’t like.  It’s pretty obvious what the “Dear Abby” version of that would advise those in trouble, who are members of an honored group of people who are working on their own resolute and impassively accepting attitudes.  Anything less than, “Happiness is an inside job,” (in general), or, “Things happen.  It’s what we do when they happen that’s key,” (in general), would have been too weak-spirited and blaming for Himmler, so he was their perfect “Dear Abby.”  The only suggestions that Himmler would have made in a Dear Abby letter, including one to an addict’s family member, would have been, (1) courageously change what you can, and, (2) serenely accept what you can’t, since anything else would have mollycoddled WEAKNESS.

Himmler Logic, after all, would focus on whether the person with the problem seems to have a weak (as in literally WEAK) character, and would be quick to interpret inadequacies in problem-solving as weaknesses of character, so the weak seem contemptible, blameworthy, and, possibly, insidiously dangerous.  This self-responsible self-help approach is also like the “exemplary dualism” of the Militia Movement, like classifying people as redbloods or mollycoddles, or as übermenschen or untermenschen; this preaches that those who seem to have (literally) strong characters are the allies of decent people so are at least forgiven, and those who seem to have (literally) weak characters are the enemies of decent people.  This leads to some predictable distortions in our conceptions of right, wrong, shame, etc.  Take the Nazi might-makes-right ethos, remove the racism and war crimes, and you’d have what Western culture considers to be the only conception of personal responsibility that works, which is what Hitler’s Wagner’s and Nietzsche’s main inspiration, Schopenhauer, actually wrote about.

This was the original middle-class going rogue with conformity.  As It Can’t Happen Here says, “Why, there’s no country in the world that can get more hysterical—yes, or more obsequious—than America,” and devotion to anything that would imply, “Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace; Taking as Jesus did this sinful world as it is not as I would have it,” would require obsequiousness of Biblical proportions.  The question of whether “it” can happen here, all depends on whether or not “it” includes the aspects of Nazism and Himmler that Buchman’s formula for living didn’t include; if not, “it” happens every day.  The “it” in It Can’t Happen Here included merely an ambiguous, covert, attitude-of-gratitude racism (“It was understood... that all Jews of all conditions were frequently to sound their ecstasy at having found in America a sanctuary, after their deplorable experiences among the prejudices of Europe....  The allegiance of all such Negroes as had the sense to be content with safety and good pay instead of ridiculous yearnings for personal integrity Sarason got by being photographed shaking hands with the celebrated Negro Fundamentalist clergyman, the Reverend Dr. Alexander Nibbs, and through the highly publicized Sarason Prizes for the Negroes with the largest families, the fastest time in floor-scrubbing, and the longest periods of work without taking a vacation.”), so the “it” in modern America could include merely an ambiguous, covert, attitude-of-gratitude form of the strong horrifying the weak.  A classic cliché expression is, “There is no alternative,” to the power dynamics of our economy, and another way to say this is that there is no alternative besides dictatorship and/or Zimbabwe-style economic failures, so every time that these power dynamics horrify us, we should be grateful that we’re not instead dealing with dictators’ outrages, and/or economic failures including massive unemployment, irrespective of any indefinable abstractions such as integrity.  If you’re in a Wagnerian conflict, and you simply must deal with your realities, then you simply must deal with them as Schopenhauer prescribed.  The psychology of, “You don’t want to think/act like a weak person, do you?” could be called a form of neo-Nazism.

 

 

Yet, in a society with rampant depression, one could just as easily call that “pragmatic logic”: the weak courageously change what they can (themselves) and serenely accept what they can’t (everyone else), and what one deserves is completely irrelevant.  You can’t change your enemies, except for one.  Yet the limits of the threshold of human endurance are a fact, and if we don’t deal with it, it will deal with us.

“Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace; Taking as Jesus did this sinful world as it is not as I would have it,” is all about what the weak should do, believe, and take responsibility for.  Even sophisticated psychology tends to classify people, aspects of human nature, desires, etc., into categories that are very German, Freudian: übermensch means ineradicable so at least forgivable, while untermensch means true shamefulness, suspiciousness.  (And, of course, treating this moral bankruptcy as necessary for realism seems a lot better than does treating this as admirably open-minded and gutsy.)  These Oxford members no doubt tended to take his ideas about coping skills, to heart, since they wanted self-improvement that would build fiber.  After all, we must accept that if you win, you win, and if you lose, you lose.  That self-responsible self-motivation is also how, and why, market discipline works; we must discipline even perfectly innocent failures.  The more that the weakness of the weak is blamed (What exactly is to blame when someone doesn’t protect himself well enough to succeed?): the more that they’d be motivated to take responsibility for taking care of themselves, the more hope that they’d have that they could change what causes their problems (themselves), and the more that we could all have faith in this red-blooded worldview.   Prejudice against the weak means an optimistic and patriotic faith in The System, and focusing on how the weak could hopefully solve their own problems if only they made themselves worthy, changed what they can.   Übermensch imperfection such as sinfulness would have to seem at least forgivable, while untermensch supposed imperfection would have to seem to be an insidious (as in “the hidden lie,” and, “We are all victims of victims.”) expression of weak people’s SELF-WILLS.  Dictator or no dictator, just about all of those in any society must define “personal responsibility” in basically the same predictable way and truly believe it, or different people would play by different rules, and plenty of people wouldn’t take the rules to heart when fortitude would be most necessary.  No doubt plenty of Oxford members who weren’t Himmler’s advisees, could have been just as easily, since they were just as free of whiny resentment; all “good” members followed the same school of psychology.

 

 

As far as self-help is concerned, the bottom line is that you’re simply going to have to deal with your own problem whatever it may be, and expectations that one simply deal with normal problems are interchangeable with expectations that one simply deal with an addict in the family.  “Personal strength,” “strength of character,” etc., tend to mean literally strength, transcending “weak” but natural and warranted feelings.  As Langdon Gilkey’s On Niebuhr says, “Thus transcendence is perhaps the key word in Niebuhr...”  For anyone in trouble, this would be: self-help, self-responsibility, self-care, self-protection, self-actualization, self-empowerment, etc.  As any conservative social analysis would say, you, that teen who looks like Archie, etc. could think productively, or think counterproductively (though if you’re the problem person, then probably we’ll just have to accept your counterproductive thinking, since people aren’t perfect and we mustn’t try to re-engineer human nature).  The effects of “Archie’s” dad’s actions are short-term (since others are motivated to resolve them), but the effects of Archie’s reactions are long-term (since others aren’t).  Twisting reality in “positive” ways is realistic, since it increases people’s chances of success.  Archie’s non-addicted parent (who’d really have to have a Gelassenheit “productive” attitude, what with all that she must do to make her family as normal as possible), has just as much autonomy as does the typical adult, since addicts’ power over others is physical, not authoritarian.

In general, motivation is everything; irrespective of moral responsibility, addiction or lack of it, etc., the only personal responsibility that we could count on is one in which those held responsible for problems are those motivated to take responsibility.  Charles P. Pierce’s Idiot America, How Stupidity Became a Virtue in the Land of the Free, says, “The [conservative] movement swallowed whole the quack doctrine of supply-side economics, adopting it with almost comically ferocious zeal,” and self-help, also, must follow this pattern, since in a gutsy and as-uncompromising-as-reality fashion, it holds that no matter how much others are responsible for your problems: if you win you win and if you lose you lose, that’s what’s realistic (what most reliably works), and that stupidity is a virtue in the name of freedom.  (We all know where intellectualism leads.)  Idiot America also says about a Cuban-American refugee who worked with AIDS patients in the early 1980s, “The situation reminded her a little of the way things had worked in Cuba, where the government would tell you something that you knew from your own experience could not possibly be true, yet people seemed willing to believe that it was, and to act upon that belief, until the manufactured reality displaced the actual one [which is also the classic definition of brainwashing, washing the brain of “bad attitudes”].  She felt she was working in parallel worlds.  There was the world of the disease, and of the people who had it; and then there was another world, in which everything was a symbol and in which her patients stood for something,” and one could say the same thing about this sort of self-help, where there’s the world of what people like Archie must actually deal with, and then there’s the world of what they symbolize: our duties regarding the never-ending virtues and necessity of response-ability for one’s own welfare, which shape what we should believe irrespective of what we’ve learned from experience, e.g. that Archie looks at himself.  (Marxism applies how cultural conditioning works, to shaping “the ideal society,” right?)

 

 

It’s amazing which moral norms could (i.e. must) seem less important than whether or not the person with the problem is doing what’s necessary for him to overcome it successfully.  That seems good; “whining” seems bad.  What’s most important in practical terms, might go very much against what we’d like to believe is important.  Banalities get things done.  Realism is the ultimate mandate.  This is the sort of Populism that H. G. Wells called “magnificent stupid honesty,” adamantly anti-manipulative-morality, so this sort of supposed populism would adamantly accept what causes 15% of the adult population to suffer serious depressive disorders in any given year.  (This “honesty” often has big unintended consequences, but could seem all-important.)  “Stop doing that, since it’s judgmental and controlling!” would probably make you at least hesitant, but, “Stop doing that, since that sort of thing has been proven to contribute to our very unnaturally high rates of depression and anxiety disorders!” would probably seem judgmental and controlling to you.  If this weakness-anathematizing conception of personal responsibility weren’t that absolutist, plenty of problems wouldn’t get resolved well enough, yet the fact that this is that absolutist, is pretty scary.  (Yet, the fact that so many stupid and reckless people got such important jobs on Wall Street, shows that even this very costly way of motivating winning could fail in very important ways, though they could always be excused as “inevitable human imperfection.”)  Sure, on Larry King Live on August 11, 2009, economist Ben Stein said, “Big government is a terrifying subject” (i.e. the kind that you could openly and proudly get terrified about), but you don’t dare say, “Big depression is a terrifying subject,” even if you’ve been there, or, “Big Wall Street greed is a terrifying subject.”  Also, on an interview on a Christian radio network, Stein said, “...science leads you to killing people.”  Magical thinking like this could seem more acceptable to economists, since they could always figure that consequences don’t really matter, since those who have the problems are always motivated to solve them; that “works.”  Self-help’s conception of which freedoms, self-determination, personal rights and responsibilities, etc., do, and which don’t, seem to matter, sounds like something right out of The Communist Manifesto (and certainly plenty of others in the 19th Century noticed this, too), “...in place of the numberless indefeasible chartered freedoms, has set up that single, unconscionable freedom—Free Trade,” and since someone must take responsibility for the consequences of adversarialism, “self-responsibility” must mean that in place of the numberless indefeasible chartered forms of personal responsibility, we have set up that single, unconscionable personal responsibility—response-ability for one’s own problems.  (A better word than freedom might be right, i.e., “I have a right to expect something better!”  “No, the only right that you have is to become a winner by protecting yourself better, with proud self-reliance!”)

 

 

 

 

In fact, though we’re supposed to take addictive behavior as a given since addiction is a disease, the law certainly doesn’t treat addicts as not guilty by reason of insanity, one can’t be brought out of real legal insanity through “hitting bottom” or an intervention.  Addicts’ family members, who can’t change them, must minimize their responsibility and magnify the responsibility of their own reactions, but the law, which can change most addicts with whom it comes into conflict, doesn’t have to minimize and magnify.  As the publishers’ notes of Gene M. Heyman’s Addiction: A Disorder of Choice says, “He shows that the causes of addiction, its control, and its potential reduction are the same as the causes, control, and reduction of all voluntary behavior.”  (Certainly you could imagine what would result if someone said at an Al-Anon meeting, “But when he relapsed, it was because he got angry and chose to, not because he saw something that triggered a compulsion to drink!  That means that my objections are legitimate!” or even, “But the person who caused this problem, whom I can’t change, isn’t addicted!”)  Yet whether or not addiction is involved, you could always find some sophistry to make courageously changing what you can and serenely accepting what you can’t seem legitimate, and ignore any facts that would disrupt this pragmatism; form follows function.  This, also, could be called “pragmatic logic,” applicable to any realities that contribute to our rampant depression.  Both an acceptance of an addiction, and an acceptance of aggressive human nature, are fatalism about unrestrained desires, what the pleasure centers of our brains make us do, etc.  What works for AA is what works for addicts, i.e. for addictive personalities, which would single-mindedly insist on: excuses to do what one pleases, stopping righteous indignation and “controlling,” etc.  The more that we serenely accept übermensch, active, imperfections, the more that we can’t afford to accept the untermensch, passive, imperfections of those hurt by them, and who, therefore, must deal with them in order not to be maladjusted maladaptive and dysfunctional.  If this wasn’t as simplistic and resolute as Reagan, their awareness that they’re victims would leave them both too weak by feeling helplessness and making unrealistic expectations, and too strong in that they could insidiously get the benefits of victimhood.

 

 

Your realities are whatever they are, and either you deal with them or you suffer the consequences.  NOTHING CAN LIMIT HOW MUCH ALL THIS COULD AFFECT YOU.  To paraphrase a Catholic riddle: “What’s the difference between a victim corrector and a terrorist?  You can negotiate with a terrorist.”  As pioneering behaviorist John B. Watson wrote, “The raw fact that you, as a psychologist, if you are to remain scientific, must describe the behavior of man in no other terms than those you use in describing the behavior of the ox you slaughter, drove and still drives many timid souls away from behaviorism,” and the only real difference between behaviorism and cognitive therapy is that it credits humanity with self-control abilities that animals don’t have, such as the ability to choose to serenely accept hardship and sinfulness; training people who are motivated to be trained is a lot easier.  (This self-control would benefit the person who serenely accepts the hardship, sinfulness, etc. that he’s helpless to change, whether or not the person who caused the problem is addicted. )  As Paul Krugman wrote, “The truth is that good old-fashioned demand-side macroeconomics has a lot to offer in our current predicament—but its defenders lack all conviction, while its critics are filled with a passionate intensity,” and one could say the same for debates between those who stress personal responsibility for the consequences of one’s own choices, which could usually be called “blaming,” “guilt-based,” “controlling,” etc., and the gutsy people who stress red-blooded personal response-ability for one’s own welfare, which could always be called “self-help,” “self-empowerment,” “realism,” etc.  As the Great Crash of 2008 shows, some things will never change.

 

THE GREATEST RISK IS NOT TAKING ONE, AIG ad from 2001, so if you tried to restrain this you’d seem profoundly: weak, whiny, defeatist, controlling, unrealistic, counterproductive, opinionated, manipulative, negative, moralistic, etc.  Sure, post-scandal AIG CEO Edward M. Liddy said, “I have seen the good side of capitalism.  But over the past six months, since agreeing to take the reins of AIG and reviewing how it was run in prior years, I have also seen instances of the bad side of capitalism,” but one could also call the gutsiness of AIG in its PIG era, “character-building,” giving plenty of backbone and fortitude.

♦♦♦♦♦

 

Sure, Rush Limbaugh is more unpopular than Bill Ayers or Jeremiah Wright, and conservatives could be afraid that such aggressiveness looks “ugly” to the public.  Yet, especially if you’re in big trouble, if you thought like Limbaugh and the other attack politicians then you’d face up to your problems more serenely and courageously, and we dare not care how profoundly ugly is coaching Archie, etc., into having attitudes of, “I’ve stopped blaming others and I’m looking at myself!”  If Himmler had sent you some “Dear Abby” letters that didn’t mention the Nazi practices that Buchman didn’t like, the advice that the letters would have given would have helped you become more resilient, courageous, self-responsible, realistic, and abiding by Gelassenheit (a fatalism that teaches that willfulness leads to self-defeating frustration if you’re helpless to get what you want or need), so you would have ended up with a stronger character.  Victim Correction as a Panacea, is Gelassenheit and similar all-encompassing attitudes about physical response-ability for one’s own problems, exactly what a society with rampant depression, anxiety disorders, etc., would most need.

Sure, Niebuhr wrote that he was shocked about Buchman’s admiration of Hitler, though The Serenity Prayer summarizes the book that most shaped Hitler’s thinking, Schopenhauer’s The World as Will and Representation:   As with a panacea, we must see the entire world in terms of the ineradicable SELF-WILLS of the sinful, the ignominious and surreptitious SELF-WILLS of victims who don’t represent their own bad experiences to themselves as being as innocuous as possible (“Those manipulative whiners want to believe that someone owes them something!”), and, therefore, our responsibility to do this.  Niebuhr wrote that Buchman’s faith that dictators, business tycoons, etc., should use their power to push Christianity, vapidly ignored how realpolitik would affect the outcome, “The slightest acquaintance with the history of Christian thought on the problem of the relation of the absolute demands of the gospel to the relativities of politics and economics would prove its childishness,” but the same could also be said about applying a simplistic sloganeering spirituality to the situations that contribute to our rampant depression.  It isn’t possible to get any more vapid than,“Serenely accept everything that happens to you in a society with rampant depression, that you’re helpless to change.”

The wave of the future, the “new economy” of self-responsibility, requires that we want to be responsible members of society, take response-ability for our own welfare.  With that approach you’d be more likely to succeed, and that’s good, maybe irreplaceable.  Your natural objections to this would be counterproductive (though you’re free not to hold others personally responsible by these standards, as long as you hold yourself responsible by them).  The same would go for minimizing any “whiny” lessons we might learn from the Great Crash of 2008.  If we can’t change wretched excesses on Wall Street but can change victims’ not fixing the consequences adequately, then either we correct the victims or we’ll have a dysfunctional society.  Since we simply must solve our problems, our perceptions must be distorted in order to fit in with this; there is no alternative.

 

 

 

(Cartoon generated by “Build Your Own Meat”)

 

Nothing can drive anyone away from this sort of cognitive therapy, just as nothing can drive Archie away from his unconditional and immoderate, contrived serenity and courage, though Gelassenheit is very unnatural social engineering.  In self-help books about codependency, stories in which the problem spouses are addicted are absolutely interchangeable with stories in which the problem spouses simply choose to act like buttheads, since in both cases the victims are equally unable to change the victimizers’ behavior.  Whatever you must do to take care of yourself, is whatever you must do to take care of yourself, so you must look at yourself when you’re looking for things that you could correct in order to solve your own problems.  Sure, the Financial Times on March 10, 2009 quoted Bernie Sucher, the head of Merrill Lynch operations in Moscow, as saying, “Our world is broken—and I honestly don’t know what is going to replace it.  The compass by which we steered as Americans has gone.  The last time I ever saw anything like this, in terms of the sense of disorientation and loss, was among my friends [in Russia] when the Soviet Union broke up,” but Americans have been culturally conditioned to serenely accept economic difficulties, and not to accept supposedly manipulative whining about them.  Those with plenty of “personal strength” would tolerate Wall Street Darwinism and its effects.  Archie could “get on with life” since folk wisdom, common sense, says that that’s what everyone must do; everyone could “stick it out.”  (On June 19, 2009 [just before the threatened bloodshed began, “On 9/11 we were all Americans, and tonight we’re all Iranians.”], when Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said that they were going to crack down on the protests of the election fraud, he said, “If the political elite want to ignore the law or break the law then they are taking wrong measures...,” so dogmatists of all stripes excite their followers by condemning the supposed intellectual elite.)  Archie, and others who are powerless, couldn’t afford the dysfunctionality of feeling disoriented or lost.  Realism requires that this self-responsibility be the lynchpin, so any concern that would conflict with this must be shrugged off.  (Of course, this self-response-ability must include the same self-justifying, fatalistic, conformist, simplistic, “upbeat,” absolutist, unconditional, predictable, illusions that got our economy into such trouble; after all, people will do only what they feel motivated to do.)  We all must adjust to and deal with reality, and others determine what is reality for you, which tends to mean that the strong (whether or not they’re addicted) determine what is reality for the weak.  Resiliency is everything.

 

 

 

Wall Street, August 23, 1929,  “As I wrote last March, those of us who have looked to the self-interest of lending institutions to protect shareholders’ equity, myself especially, are in a state of shocked disbelief….  That’s precisely the reason I was shocked, because I had been going for 40 years or more with very considerable evidence that it was working exceptionally well.”—Alan Greenspan, testimony before Congress, October 23, 2008

 

 

That’s why self-help in general tends to admire Al-Anon, The Serenity Prayer, etc., and this self-reliant ethos.  The only thing that really matters is what you do and don’t have the power to change.  This is how the ideal American faces his own problems.  Since Bill Wilson, co-founder of AA who wrote much of their Big Book, was a stockbroker around the time of the Great Depression, one could call this The Great Depression Stockbroker’s Approach to Self-Responsibility; we’d have to be firm with those victims and whiners who object to productivity that involves strong character, such as “creative destruction,” and, “Your problem is your problem.”  The economist who, just after the Great Depression, came up with the concept of creative destruction, Joseph Schumpeter, also wrote during the Depression that recovery from it, “is sound only if it [comes] of itself.  For any revival which is merely due to artificial stimulus leaves part of the work of depressions undone and adds, to an undigested remnant of maladjustment, new maladjustment of its own which has to be liquidated in turn, thus threatening business with another [worse] crisis ahead.”  Daniel Gross’ Dumb Money says that Maestro Alan Greenspan, in an interview, “had an abstract fervor for the glories and potentials of creative destruction,” and, in the abstract, saying that alkies’ teens, etc., should have an attitude of, “I’ve stopped blaming others and I’m looking at myself!” sounds just as proudly productive.

 

 

 

For More On Correcting Archie,
Click Here

 

       

 

“The superior man understands what is right; the inferior man understands what will sell.”—Confucius

 

 

 

What’s the alternative, whining, passivity, giving up, and/or trusting that asshole who caused the problem, to solve it?

This is all very systematic.  As the Philadelphia Grand Jury report on their Archdiocese’s enabling of pedo-priests put it,

Pretty much all of these could be seen in the entire unredacted Serenity Prayer as originally written by Reinhold Niebuhr, “God, grant me serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.  Living one day at a time, enjoying one moment at a time; Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace; Taking as Jesus did this sinful world as it is not as I would have it; Trusting that You will make all things right if I surrender to Your will; So that I may be reasonably happy in this life and supremely happy with You forever in the next—Amen.”

The whole topic of victim correction as a panacea, might seem as banal as are the other everyday matters that social scientists deal with.  Yet when you keep in mind both the rampant depression in the West, and the victim-self-blaming that’s characteristic of depressives in the modern West though you might think that hurt feelings have nothing to do with the hurt person being at fault, you could see that this is both profound and, in real, practical terms, extremely important.  Intercultural studies have consistently found that depressed people who’ve lived in developed areas outside of the modern West have tended to feel paranoid but modern Westerners, whether depressed or not, tend to figure that even if someone did “get you,” that would mean only that you lost the battle so you’re a loser, didn’t just happen through spontaneous combustion.  Everything could seem excusable, since very little is unambiguously evil, and if you want to think like a winner, you’d courageously change what you could and serenely accept what you couldn’t.  That’s living in the real world.

 

This is exactly how you’d expect a culture that stresses personal response-ability for one’s own welfare including one’s own problems, to shape how the devastated would see their own devastation, in general.  Taming the Tyrant, Treating Depressed Adults, by Dr. Dean Schuyler, says, “In the 1970s, Roth, et al. found ‘inappropriate guilt’ associated as often with anxiety syndromes as with depression, raising questions about its specificity.”  And everybody knows how those those who grew up with alcoholic or abusive parents, those who’d been sexually abused, etc., therefore become characterologically self-blaming about whatever problems come their way throughout their own lives.  We’ll just have to keep ignoring the rampant depression, and judge everyone’s successes and failures as if this didn’t exist.

Sure, to define “personal responsibility” along the lines of, “God, grant me serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference,” when this means dealing with inconveniences for which others aren’t significantly morally responsible, sounds good and reasonable.  Yet to define “personal responsibility” like that in a society with rampant depression, could routinely mean expectations as severe as, “Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace; Taking as Jesus did this sinful world as it is not as I would have it.”  This, and all that people must do to live up to such conceptions of personal responsibility, really are so banal that they’re extremely profound.

 

 

 

 

 

These Rationales Are As Follows:

1. But This Would Benefit You!

2. STRENGTH of Character

3. So, What Are We Supposed to Do, NOT CARE?

4. Some Imperfection Must Be Tolerated; Some Mustn’t Be.

5. Schopenhauer’s Idea of Manipulation

6. Women’s Responsibilities

7. Magnification or Minimization

8. All-or-Nothing Thinking

9. Overgeneralization

10. Mental Filter

11. Disqualifying the Positive

12. Jumping to Conclusions

13. Should Statements

14. Labeling and Mislabeling

15. Personalization

16. This Moral Bankruptcy Is For Your Own Good

17. Micro vs. Macro

18. There’s Always Room for Improvement.

19. That’s Exciting.

20. Every Society Needs Homeostasis.

21. How Market Discipline, Disciplines

22. The Worse Your Problem Is, the Less You Could Afford to Care About Blame.

23. What is “Human Nature”?

24. Victimizers Can Legitimately Play the Helpless Role; Victims Can’t.

25. Open Secrets

26. Marxist Tactics

27. Moral Relativism Becomes Amoral Absolutism.

28. “That’s Analysis Paralysis.”

29. Not Absolutely Provably Evil

 

 


 

1. But This Would Benefit You!—As you could see in any book on codependency, in situations where one person has caused a problem for another, “personal responsibility” has to mean that the victim takes response-ability for her own welfare, her own problems.  This would constitute self-empowerment, self-help, self-efficaciousness, etc.  She’s certainly far more likely to get them solved as well as possible, than is the person who’s morally responsible for them.  Every person victimized by another, could be told, “But you should correct any defects that you might have in your survival and coping skills, since that would benefit you!  It would really do you a lot of good if you..., and..., and..., and....”  This would include dealing with any effect that the financial meltdown could possibly have on you, just as all those people resiliently got through the Great Depression.

Even if this looks like the law of the jungle, the fact would still remain that this is how you win in life.  When you’re in trouble, you should focus on self-responsibility, how you could most effectively take response-ability for your own welfare.  If you’re lucky, you’ll be in a situation where you could win by proving that you’re morally right.  (Yet these situations would have the moral hazard that if one can win by proving himself morally right, then those who aren’t morally right, but can come up with enough sophistry and emotional pull, could win through manipulation.  Even if they honestly believe they’re right, naturally everyone believes that they’re right, and that they’re entitled to more than what they have.)  In most situations, though, the more outrageous was what one person did at another’s expense, the more important it would be that he’d take care of his own problem, and the less likely it would be that the morally responsible person would take moral responsibility to a degree that he’d be motivated enough to succeed in solving the problem.  Self-empowerment always benefits victims.

 

(Cartoon generated by “Build Your Own Meat”)

 

If you win, you win, and if you lose, you lose.  That way, you automatically get what you win, which would be very objective.  You’re just going to have to courageously change what you, personally, could, and serenely accept what you couldn’t.

If, instead, you were treated like what Noam Chomsky would call a “worthy victim,” you’d learn from this that you could get what you wanted by whining rather than by showing a fighting spirit, and this would weaken you in life.  In life, worthiness would rarely win you anything, other than the worthiness you have a chance to prove physically.  Treating any victim as an unworthy victim, could give him more backbone in courageously changing and serenely accepting what he must.  For him to treat himself as an unworthy victim, would give himself all the self-correction that results from the victim-self-blaming that’s distinctive of modern Western depression, anxiety, etc.

Probably the main difference between the implications of “victim correction as a panacea,” and, “victim-blaming,” is that victim correction as a panacea attempts to benefit the victims by making their defensive tactics better, while victim-blaming seems to be pot-shots taken at the weak and suffering. 

At the same time, the original definitive book Blaming the Victim by William Ryan, described this as something that was intended to help the poor by giving them more Victorian attitudes.  “Its adherents include sympathetic social scientists with social consciences in good working order, and liberal politicians with a genuine commitment to reform.  They are very careful to dissociate themselves from vulgar Calvinism or crude racism; they indignantly condemn any notions of innate wickedness or genetic defect.  ‘The Negro is not born inferior,’ they shout apoplectically.  ‘Force of circumstance,’ they explain in reasonable tones, ‘has made him inferior.’   And they dismiss with self-righteous contempt any claims that the poor man in America is plainly unworthy or shiftless or enamored of idleness.  No, they say, he is ‘caught in the cycle of poverty.’  He is trained to be poor by his culture and his family life, endowed by his environment (perhaps by his ignorant mother’s outdated style of toilet training) with those unfortunately unpleasant characteristics that make him ineligible for a passport into the affluent society.”

And then there’s what’s probably the most famous line from Blaming the Victim, “All of this happens so smoothly that it seems downright rational.”

Sure, a greater Victorian-style sense of self-responsibility wasn’t going to decrease the rates of unemployment or underemployment, whatsoever.  Yet, since if a given poor adult chose to adopt more Victorian attitudes this would have increased his chances of getting a living-wage job at least somewhat, a cognitive therapy that would have inculcated these Victorian attitudes, could have been called a form of self-empowerment.  Blaming women for problems that their husbands caused them since the women chose to marry them, is the sort of thing that most Americans think of as “blaming the victim,” yet this is exactly what therapy for suspected codependency, treats as self-empowerment.  In all cases where the people who have the problems are to focus their attention on correcting the weaknesses, inefficiencies, etc., in their dealing with their own problems, their own problems would get resolved,  and they’d look more respectable and forgiving.  This reductionism seems good, since the more that such a conflict is reduced to how the person with the problem could most effectively take care of his own problem, the more that the personal responsibility for the problem would go to the person who’s the most motivated to deal with it effectively.  Positive outlooks would give hope to any victims.

The only question that one could honorably ask about his own problem, no matter how much hardship, sinfulness, etc., was involved in it, is, “Can I change this?” over and over and over again to optimistically look for ways in which he could change each aspect of it if he were good enough.  For example, the Gam-Anon chapter of Gamblers Anonymous’ handbook, includes, “The aim of the Gam-Anon program is to aid the individuals involved with a compulsive gambler to find help by changing their own lives....  Living or being associated with a compulsive gambler creates its own kind of hell.  For most people, it is a devastating experience...  At any moment the house might be lost or the furniture repossessed.  There may not be enough money to put food on the table or clothe the children....  The meeting is opened with a moment of silent meditation and closed with the Serenity Prayer.”  And the philosophies of such ladies’ auxiliaries to Twelve-Step groups, have inspired a lot of current self-help psychology in general.  If it’s your problem, you’d better just help yourself.

At first, the gambler’s wife would look at the real problem, his gambling, ask herself, “Can I change this?” and answer, “No.”  Even if someone caused her problems that couldn’t be attributed to a mental disease that made him not guilty by reason of insanity, she still absolutely can’t change others’ actions and can change her own reactions.  Next, she’d think, “No law is forcing me to stay married to him.  Can I change this?”  If she can afford to, she’d answer “Yes,” move out, and whenever her new desperate living situation caused her problems, she’d ask about each aspect of each one, “Can I change this?”  If she can’t afford to leave, then she’d have to look at each of the realities that he caused for her, and ask about each aspect of it, “Can I change this?”  In any case, the only choices that she’d have available to her would be this pragmatism, or those big realities making her life very dysfunctional.  Those who face their problems solely along the lines of, “Can I change this?  Can I change this?  Can I change this?  Can I change this?  Can I change this?” would probably be most likely to succeed.  This is the main idea of all victim correction as a panacea, such as that no matter what caused 34,000,000 Americans to suffer from serious depressive disorders, they can’t change this, but can each change their own brain chemistries through anti-depressants.

 

 

Ironically, the introductory textbook Sociology, Fourth Edition, by Paul B. Horton and Chester L. Hunt, copyright 1964, 1968, 1972, and 1976,  in the section that agrees with exactly the victim-blaming logic that Blaming the Victim is all about, that poor people’s thinking tends not to follow the “Deferred Gratification Pattern,” says that even if it seems that poor people agree with it, this could be an illusion due to a value stretch.”  Poor people may say that they agree with the Victorian values (including that those of the middle class supposedly “tend to defer sexual gratification through intercourse,” which is also the topic of a whole chapter of Blaming the Victim, “The Prevalence of Bastards: Illegitimate Views of Illegitimacy”), but that’s only because they define these values rather loosely.  One example of this is, “Likewise, if difficulties arise, the lower-class person is not blamed for failing to attain the ideal even while continuing to give verbal assent.”  So one way in which the victims seemed to be at fault was that, “if difficulties arise,” the poor person doesn’t really blame himself for not winning his own battles, though he hypocritically says that he does believe in the ideal of taking personal response-ability for one’s own problems.  So since victim-self-blaming would make victims more likely to find and reach solutions for their own problems, these victims were naturally blamed for not blaming themselves enough!

2. STRENGTH of Character—As the Learning About Depression webpage on the Zoloft website, says, “If you have depression, this sad mood along with other symptoms can last weeks, months, or even years if not treated.  Depression isn’t a sign of weakness or a character flaw.  It’s a real medical condition, but there are ways to successfully treat depression....  Depressive disorders affect about 34 million American adults.

 

 

In other words, “Nothing that could possibly involve their own choices, has made them inferior.  They were born that way!” is now considered to be the opposite of victim-blaming.  This has the usual assumption that this social problem consists of either 34,000,000 rather severe medical conditions, or 34,000,000 rather severe character flaws.  Everyone knows that what’s at fault, is inside the millions of victims.  Caring about social problems is so passé, so 1960s, even caring about our rampant depression.  Blaming the Victim, copyright 1971, says, “Now no one in his right mind would quarrel with the assertion that social problems are present in abundance and are readily identifiable....  The problems are there, and there in great quantities.  They make us uneasy.  Added together, these disturbing signs reflect inequality and a puzzlingly high level of unalleviated distress in America totally inconsistent with our proclaimed ideals...,” “[Social problems] become social problems only by being so considered.  In Seeley’s words, ‘naming it as a problem, after naming it as a problem.’” and, “The social problem of mental disease has been viewed as a collection of individual cases of deviance, persons who—through unusual hereditary taint, or exceptional distortion of character—have become unfit for normal activities.”  Yet when “difficulties arise” for poor people in a society with rampant depression, that probably means something different from when “difficulties arise” for poor people in a society without it.  “God, grant me serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference,” doesn’t necessarily mean, “Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace; Taking as Jesus did this sinful world as it is not as I would have it,” but is necessarily that unconditional, all-or-nothing, and

 

To say that depressive disorders affecting about 34,000,000 American adults consists of either 34,000,000 rather severe character disorders or 34,000,000 rather severe medical conditions, doesn’t have much faith in man, but not having faith in untermensch human nature seems absolutely fine.

 

 

 

Whatever could have happened to you because of the Great Crash of 2008, that would be your reality, and everyone knows that if you don’t deal with reality, that means you’re horribly inadequate.  As usual, that defines “weaknesses of character,” as literal weaknesses.  And rather than the four-step process that follows “All of this happens so smoothly that it seems downright rational,” in Blaming the Victim, this is a one-step process, “It’s your problem, so what are you going to do about it?” which is even smoother.  Yet a true awareness of how unnatural are both this and what causes it, would be the ultimate shock and awe!

 

 

The weaknesses of character that could be attributed to those who have the problems and don’t seem to be responding to them STRONGLY enough, are quite varied.  As the Zoloft ad suggests, this could imply that since you’re personally responsible for changing or accepting whatever you must, if you aren’t adequate to do this, lose the battle, fail, and come up short with big consequences, you’d seem to be an irresponsible and inadequate, loser and failure with very consequential shortcomings.  If you don’t adjust to this, adapt to it, function with it, fit in with it, and feel content with it, you’d seem to be a maladjusted maladaptive and dysfunctional, misfit and malcontent.  If you live in a society with rampant depression, then for you, whether you seem to have adequate strength, would depend on whether it’s adequate to deal with that.  According to the Serenity Prayer school of psychology, the fact that the person who has the problem, would simply be held response-able for dealing with it by courageously changing what he could and serenely accepting what he couldn’t, would be a fait accompli.  The Missing Question is, “But what about the fact that these social norms accept helplessness that provably leads to an unnaturally gargantuan rate of depression?”

Of course, there are plenty of permutations of that, such as: traditionally feminine, immature, unrealistic, controlling, and resentful.  And, of course, that means not gutsy enough, mature enough, realistic enough, self-reliant enough, or forgiving enough, to deal with what causes our rampant depression.

Of course, it’s very easy to figure that this rampant depression is just one of many realities that we must deal with, so if we truly do care about this then that’s just our own whiny and deviant opinion, until we remember that:

and that depressive disorders affecting 34,000,000 American adults, is quite a lot of be immersed in!  In the light of this rampant depression, most of our conflicts look different.  This can’t just be brushed aside!  Yet if one proceeded as if one could make different assumptions about the conflicts in such a society, than he could make in a society without rampant depression, he’d seem to be making the assumptions that would give him good excuses for his own failure, let him manipulate others by playing the victim role, and other things that would make him seem to have a weak character.  In order to seem to have an adequate character, he really would have to make the assumptions that one would make about conflicts in a society with a normal rate of depression, such as, “Oh, well, that’s just one of those imperfections that are inherent to life and human nature, so something’s wrong with me if I don’t deal with it well enough.”

Naturally, powerful men would tend to feel comfortable with, if not truly believe in, patriarchal cultural norms.

(This picture of Bush and Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah, appeared on page 24 of the December, 2007 issue of Psychology Today.)

 

 

Yet even those who are powerless would have to go along with them, since they’d be powerless to change the consequences of not going along with them.  And the weak also want to fit in, to live up to whatever their societies’ standards are.  Saudi women who want to fit in don’t want to show “too much skin,” and American women who want to fit in don’t want to seem to be “playing the victim role.”  Sure, all those millions of depressed Americans could seem to have the same supposed defects of character, but one never notices the implausibility that all those people could seem to be that inadequate.

With Dubya being just one of many from the Confederate States of America who’ve become powerful since the Reagan-Thatcher era, the ways in which Confederate soldiers and others loyal to the Confederate States had defined strong vs. weak character, is very worthy of note.  Now we’d consider those who live in the Bible Belt to be just as American as those living anywhere else in the USA.  Yet these loyalties were quite amazing.  The level of harm that the Civil War did is still very worthy of note.  Since it took place as the Western world was just becoming industrialized, if the Civil War had taken place a few decades later it would have been like World War I, yet those soldiers would have been just as willing to fight for the Confederacy.  This, despite the fact that the whole reason for the Civil War was the right to own slaves, which meant, for the most part, rich people owning them.  This certainly went against the interests of average Confederate people, since slave labor lowered their wages.  You might think that only a utopian would think that average people living in the Confederate States would league up in such an arrangement that clearly worked against their own interests.  Yet not only did they do this, but these supposed rebels no doubt saw this self-defeating allegiance as fighting for the sort of red-blooded free spirit that the Bible Belt takes pride in now.  To this day, plenty of non-racist whites living in the Confederate States display Confederate flags, as if this has an exciting appeal to it.  All this would have had to have meant that plenty of Confederate loyalists insisted that, if any of their fellow Confederates didn’t fit this pattern, they had weak characters.  Every society needs something to believe in.

Yes, it would seem that the only legitimate thing that we could do about that rampant depression, and anything connected with it, is NOT CARE.   If you do, plenty of untermensch attributes would be attributed to you, such as: weak, passive, whiny, bitter, resentful, manipulative, insidiously self-interested, counterproductive, troublemaking, controlling, restrictive, blaming, excuse-making, anti-freedom, intellectualist, self-righteous, self-pitying, subjective, unrealistic, immature, negativist, defeatist, melodramatic, emotionalist, and judgmental.  If instead you compromised, and cared to a degree that’s only a fraction of what our rampant depression deserves, that would still be quite weak-spirited and whiny.  And when this sort of helplessness impacts your life, then you could be certain that if you chose not to care you’d have a more confident outlook so you’d be more likely to succeed, just as, if you were poor, choosing to have more of a Victorian-style self-discipline would make you more likely to succeed.  If you really do care how scary this rate of depression is, it would be you who’d seem scary, because of all the untermensch victim-power you’d have.  Sure, much of what caused the Great Crash of 2008 was atrocious, but those who’d be serene about it would be more likely to succeed than those who wouldn’t.

And, naturally, this means...

Certainly you could imagine what would happen if you responded to one of those who figured that naturally you’re simply supposed to adjust to the norms that cause our rampant depression, by saying, “Yeah, I guess you’re right.  Sure, for depressive disorders to affect about 34,000,000 American adults is a very serious social problem, but in order to fit in, you’ve got to minimize the problems around you, somewhat.  Therefore, I’ll treat this as if it were just a moderately severe social problem.”  After all, if you could care somewhat, then that would make you somewhat discouraged, maladjusted, thinking like a victim, etc.  Reductionism is key.  You might think that our rate of depression would be the ultimate

but ads for antidepressants talk about our millions of depressions as if they’re either millions of very consequential character defects or millions of very consequential biological defects, and the public just accepts this.  Social Darwinism seems to protect us from untermensch dangers such as manipulation quitting whining and cowardice, and it seems that a society simply can’t afford to do without the “strong characters” that would put things back together again.

A Financial Times editorial from October 13, 2008, about all the big bank bailouts, said,

So, does this rescue mean the end of private financial capitalism?  Of course not.  Although the size of the crisis requires an exceptional response, this is but the latest in a long line of banking crises and state rescues.  Nationally owned banks seem likely to be a reality in many countries for a decade.  In the next great financial crisis – rest assured, there will be others – bank rescues with equity purchases may be a first step rather than a last resort.  But stakes in banks will, eventually, be sold back to private investors.  Governments – rightly – will regulate to avoid further crises.  They will fail, and then be forced to act to pick up the pieces.  There is no alternative.

...Businesses and individuals need liquidity and an effective means of turning their savings into productive investments.  But banks perform this function by making bets on the future.  This is the purpose for which they exist – but it makes them inherently unstable.

And, of course, if the bailouts are inevitable, then the economic chaos and helplessness that result from the financial meltdowns are just as inevitable.  While we do seem to have a right to care about this to the extent that our caring would lead to us regulating the banks enough to reduce the rate of this happening, to care about meltdowns that we can’t change would seem counterproductive.  The only alternatives to this would also seem counterproductive.  And, of course, once any economic crisis hits, you don’t really know whether any of your failures resulted from it or from anything that you did or failed to do, and if you attributed them to yourself rather than the crisis, then you could more hopefully look for ways in which you could change what you can—yourself.

 

Copyright, 1929, by the Philadelphia Inquirer

IT’LL TAKE MORE THAN THAT TO BLOW HIS HAT OFF
                                      —Hanny in the Philadelphia Inquirer. October, 1929

 

As Cyrus Sanati wrote in the New York Times on March 23, 2009, about the latest government program to get rid of banks’ toxic assets, “Felix Salmon of Portfolio calls the plan ‘doomed’ and ‘needlessly expensive.’  He also looks at the quandary of how to induce banks to sell their toxic assets (which the government more politely calls ‘legacy’ assets).”  Not only is this polite, but it suggests that the public shouldn’t care about them.  This was just after the public and the Congress were so angry about the bonuses that AIG gave, paid for by the government bailout, to executives in the department of AIG that did all the risky things that caused the catastrophe.  To call all the banks’ toxic assets, “legacy” assets, suggests that they’re ancient history, and that they were left over legacies from previous executives.  Everyone knows that if you get angry about ancient history, and problems that were the fault of previous executives, then you’re neurotic.  In other words, the public mustn’t care about them at all.

 

 

This is surprisingly like the logic used by the Philadelphia Archdiocese, regarding the perv priests exposed by the Philadelphia Grand Jury Report.  At first, the Archdiocese responded as if they were basically victims of anti-Catholic bigotry.  But since that wouldn’t work with an unbiased government report that had plenty of Catholics contributing to it, they had to try a rationale that’s more typical of the sort of permissivity that American norms would say that of course well-adjusted people simply accept.  After the Archdiocese banned Fr. Robert L. Brennan from performing any more priestly duties, Donna Farrell, the archdiocese’s spokeswoman, said, “It’s a new day, and we’re trying to do the right thing.”  This is very similar to how, as Michael Harris’ Unholy Orders: Tragedy at Mount Cashel says, just after some boys at the Mount Cashel orphanage turned its molesters in to the cops, the administrators tried to dissuade the law and media from going after them, by saying that that would lead to strife among all of the boys at the orphanage, but once the law and media finally did go after the molesters fourteen years later, the administrators said that they were guilty of burdening the boys with “history.”  As long as something happened in the past then, plainly and simply, those who could be held accountable could try to evade responsibility by saying, “It’s a new day, so don’t bother me about that history.”  As with Mount Cashel, the more of a delay that the responsible parties can cause, the more that they could plead, “But you’re getting so neurotic resentful and manipulative about that history!”  And as usual, this isn’t in relative terms, gauging how much of a difference the passage of time would make in the entire mix, but a supposed absolute difference, the difference between neurotic resentful and manipulative, and rational.

Probably the main reason for the Virtue of Forgiveness, is the fact that in just about all of the problems that one person causes for another, including those that contribute to our rampant depression, the cause occurs before the problem.  Therefore, once the problem exists, what caused it could be treated as both “past history,” and something that the person who caused it is absolutely helpless to undo.  And, of course, the longer that he stonewalls in refusing to take responsibility, the more that he could then say that what he did is “past history.”  Sure, he could remedy it, but that would very likely require that he make such an effort that expecting him to do it probably wouldn’t work, and would be labeled as an attempt to guilt-trip and control an übermensch.  Therefore, the person who has the problem is simply personally response-able for taking care of himself.

The homepage of the Mental Illness—What a Difference a Friend Makes website, by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, says, “An estimated 26.2 percent of Americans ages 18 and older—about one in four adults—suffer from a diagnosable mental disorder in a given year.”  As the title suggests, this website is about getting the friends of the 26.2% of the American adult population, to support these people rather than stigmatizing them.  The ways in which one friend treats another, is one of the few sociological factors of this huge social problem, that we could honorably take seriously.  If we take the other sociological factors seriously, we could seem to be trying to manipulate like untermenschen, and/or to restrict the übermenschen.

4. Some Imperfection Must Be Tolerated; Some Mustn’t BeAfter all, we could live with übermensch human imperfection since the victims would be motivated to fix the consequences, but who’d fix the consequences of untermensch human imperfection, which tends to be far more prolonged?  Somehow, “re-engineering human nature” always means re-engineering aggressive human nature.  The radical changes in human nature that, “Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace; Taking as Jesus did this sinful world as it is not as I would have it,” would make, isn’t condemned as “re-engineering human nature.”  Niebuhr’s favorite theological doctrine was the favorite of Wagnerian Germans, the Doctrine of Original Sin.  This is the same sort of thinking that would hold with absolute certainty that people’s aggressive tendencies are ineradicable.  To deal with the Great Crash of 2008, we must cater to the fears, and even the greed, of Wall Street, but those who aren’t “too big to fail” would have to get their own fears under control.  As Dick “There’s a Reason Why I’m Not Called Richard” Fuld said near the beginning of his prewritten testimony to Congress on October 6, 2008, “None of us ever gets the opportunity to turn back the clock.  But with the benefit of hindsight, would I have done things differently?  Yes, I would have.”  The Republican Ranking Member’s opening statement of those hearings insisted that Lehman Brothers was largely the victim of dirty tricks on Wall Street intended to drive down the price of Lehman stock, so at least some people do side with Dickie.

Niebuhr’s The Nature and Destiny of Man, copyright 1943, in the subchapter “The Relation of Christ’s Perfection to History,” says, “There are no forms of remedial justice from which the egoistic element of vindictiveness has been completely purged.  The coming decades of post-war reconstruction will offer us ample proof of this tragic fact.”

So how do you tell the difference between “remedial justice” toward the Nazis, and “egoistic vindictiveness” toward them?  Why care about the possibility of too much stringency toward them, rather than too much forgiveness in order to make Germany look like a success story compared to the Communist countries?  One could always give a very übermensch rationale to make this seem morally right, that after the war no one could turn back the clock and undo what was done during the war so for others to care about it would be vindictive, resentful, etc.

The Nature and Destiny of Man also includes, “There is a peculiar irony in the fact that [Nietzsche’s] doctrine, which was meant as an exposure of the vindictive transvaluation of values engaged in by the inferior classes, should have itself become a vehicle of the pitiful resentments of the lower middle classes of Europe in their fury against more powerful aristocratic and proletarian classes.”  Yet a might-makes-right mentality such as Nietzsche’s, obviously leads to a transvaluation of values.  One aspect of this is that the strong who caused problems could honorably play the helpless role, while the weak victims of these problems couldn’t.  After all, the strong could claim that once they’d already caused the problems, they’d be completely helpless to turn back the clock and undo them.  They’d also have the mystique of the übermensch, so it would seem very honorable for them to insist that all excuse them for exercising their freedoms.  On the other hand, the weak couldn’t honorably play the helpless role, since they wouldn’t be helpless to deal with their own problems stolidly.  If they don’t do that, this very easily could seem to be a product of their own manipulative and insidious SELF-WILLS.  And we all know how sneaky the SELF-WILLS of the untermenschen are supposed to be.  The whole idea of the supposed “transvaluation of values” that Nietzsche claimed to have exposed, is that though these victims claim to be fighting for what’s right, they’re actually fighting for what they want, or, at the very least, what they want to believe.  Sure, the excuses that the strong give also reflect what they want or want to believe, but accepting their übermensch opinions seems pro-freedom, pro-forgiveness, well-adjusted, realistic, etc.

As  the article “Injustice Collecting,” by Nando Pelusi, Ph.D., from the December, 2006 issue of Psychology Today, gave, as reasons why so many “injustice collectors” practice their supposed hobby so avidly, both

and that as human nature evolved, “Remember, we’re the descendants of humans who needed their fair share of resources, rewards, credit, and carcasses.  It therefore behooves us to be hypervigilant in separating the free rider or cheater from someone who deserves the benefit of the doubt.  That’s why injustice collecting errs on the side of suspicion: Natural selection favors the less costly error, and in the ancestral environment it was likely better to rebuff a well-intentioned person than to trust someone who might swindle us out of home and hut.”  So even if these hurt feelings are human nature, doesn’t mean that we should have the same attitude toward re-engineering them, that we have toward re-engineering übermensch human nature.

While this might sound a lot more innocuous than does, “Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace; Taking as Jesus did this sinful world as it is not as I would have it,” actually they both say the same thing.  Sure, in prehistoric times, hardship and sinfulness could have easily killed people, and this is why we have such strong feelings about them.  Yet since they can rarely kill us nowadays, and those who are faced with them need all the serenity and courage that they could get, they should choose to transcend their problems in the material world.

You might think that the fact that according to a section of the American Congressional Record, the Reagan Administration had arranged for many varieties of deadly germs to be shipped to Saddam, including anthrax, when everyone knew that he actually was stockpiling weapons of mass destruction, and that some of these were to be shipped to the Iraq Atomic Energy Commission, is a very extreme example of the sort of thing that would be totally inconsistent with our proclaimed ideals.

Yet chances are that even if Saddam had used these germs in weapons of mass destruction, and the Reagan Administration’s providing them to him became known, his followers would have had all sorts of excuses for that.  After all, no one in the Reagan Administration intended that Saddam use them in whatever way he chose to use them.  Therefore, if you don’t just accept that “mistakes were made,” you could seem to be a judgmental whiner, political manipulator, intellectualist, etc.  Such supposed untermensch willfulness wouldn’t seem so excusable, since if we excused that sort of thing, plenty of people would be getting what they want by either sincerely or insincerely insisting that they deserve it since they’re victims.  And the fact would now remain that the only reason why Reagan doesn’t seem to be one of world history’s worst war criminals, is that it just so happened that Saddam chose not to use those germs in WMD.

This section of the Congressional Record was from just before the Iraq invasion, when the Bushmen wanted to justify the belief that Saddam still had weapons of mass destruction, despite all the time that’s passed between Reagan’s era and now.  Obviously neither Rumsfeld, who back then was Reagan’s main liaison with Saddam in getting him these germs, nor any of the other Bushmen, were ashamed enough about what the Reaganites did, that the Bushmen thought that the advantages that they got from making this known, weren’t worth the ignominy.

5. Schopenhauer’s Idea of Manipulation—Arthur Schopenhauer’s The World as Will and Representation, the two-book set which is probably what most shaped the thinking of Hitler, was the original Wagnerian books, holding that we’ll just have to take sinful human nature as a given, and its victims would just have to represent their own bad experiences to themselves as being as innocuous as possible, in a form of Buddhism that tries to get control over the yin but not the yang.  This set includes the following, which may indeed sound stereotypically Hitlerian: “Wrong through violence is not so ignominious for the perpetrator as wrong through cunning, because the former is evidence of physical strength, which in all circumstances powerfully impresses the human race.  The latter, on the other hand, by using the crooked way, betrays weakness, and at the same time degrades the perpetrator as a physical and moral being,” and, “The concept of good is divided into two subspecies, that of the directly present satisfaction of the will in each case, and that of its merely indirect satisfaction concerning the future, in other words, the agreeable and the useful.  The concept of the opposite, so long as we are speaking of beings without knowledge, is expressed by the word bad, more rarely and abstractly by the word evil, which therefore denotes everything that is not agreeable to the striving of the will in each case.”  We’ve long accepted the WILLFULNESS of greed, but those who’d suffered any consequences of the Great Crash of 2008 would have to be motivated to change what they could self-reliantly, so we couldn’t accept any whiny WILLFULNESS from them.

 

 

As one could see from Tricky Dicky’s playbook (which is also the playbook of his media advisor, Roger Ailes), all sorts of people protesting injustices could seem as if all that they’ve really got on their sides are abstractions (words, emotions, intellectual status, publicity, morality, analyses, hopes, victimhood and opportunities to prove it, blame, etc.), and the abstractions of those who are objecting could seem manipulative.

Of course, Tricky Dicky’s trash tactics were certainly manipulative, but caring about that sort of manipulation would seem to be intellectualist manipulative tactics.  Rick Perlstein’s book Nixonland quotes Tricky as saying about hippie protesters, “If the vice president were slightly roughed up by those thugs, nothing better could happen for our cause.  If anybody so much as brushes against Mrs. Agnew, tell her to fall down.”  As Niebuhr wrote in The Nature and Destiny of Man, back when the political movements of “the lower middle classes of Europe” meant Nazism, “There is a peculiar irony in the fact that [Nietzsche’s] doctrine, which was meant as an exposure of the vindictive transvaluation of values engaged in by the inferior classes, should have itself become a vehicle of the pitiful resentments of the lower middle classes of Europe in their fury against more powerful aristocratic and proletarian classes,” but resentments toward weakness and supposed manipulative tactics based on weakness, seems honorable.

Nietzsche and Wagner, also, were greatly influenced by Schopenhauer.  Nietzsche defined evil as, “whatever springs from weakness,” and saw the weak as getting what they want in dishonest ways.  If human aggression is ineradicable, and the weak can’t get what they want through open and honest power, then the weak could get what they want only through passive-aggressive means.  And since naturally everyone wants to believe that that others owe them something, even acting on sincere beliefs that others owe you something, could be called manipulative, passive-aggressive, etc.  Psychoanalysis is also very Wagnerian, and it also likes the idea of passive-aggression.  Sure, the 1970s, the “me decade,” popularized assertively standing up for one’s own rights, but even the most honest and sincere, assertively standing up for one’s own rights could still seem ignominiously naïvely and manipulatively untermensch.  A central concept to Nazism is that even the most sincere fights for what’s morally right, reflect the aggressive but insidious SELF-WILLS of those who fight for this, but to see even such sincerity as self-serving is usually tenable, and much more likely to get productive results than would be holding the morally responsible people, morally accountable.  If you really take seriously the moral wrongness of what was done to you, this could seem to be the triumph of the manipulative will, your attempt to win something through manipulative victim-power.  One can’t prove most manipulative, passive-aggressive, codependent, etc., machinations, so “presumed innocent of machinations until proven guilty” is out of the question.

The three alternatives to assertiveness were given as aggressive, passive, and manipulative, which The Assertive Woman by Stanlee Phelps and Nancy Austin, defined as being “indirect,” but ever since the Reagan/Thatcher era, even “victimology” and “victimhood” that’s directly based on truth could be treated as manipulative as long as it seems that the victims should simply buck up and deal with their own problems.  Jane in the above Al-Anon Conference-Approved Literature comic, didn’t do anything devious, but she sure does look devious after she got her husband to say that he’ll become normal, since she could be labeled as “playing upon his emotions.”  Schopenhauer was the one who coined the expression, “Homo homini lupus,” man is a wolf to man.  Schopenhauer also wrote of pederasty as if, sure, this is horrific, but it’s seen all over the world, so it, too, would qualify as inevitable human aggressiveness.

The subtitle of the modern self-help book The Manipulative Child, by Drs. E. W. Swihart, E. W. Swihart Jr., and Patrick Cotter, is, “How to Regain Control and Raise Resilient, Resourceful, and Independent Kids.”  If one has the conceptions of ineradicable human aggression that led to the Wagnerian conceptions of this, then he’d also have to believe that those who don’t deal with the problems that result from man being a wolf to man, resiliently resourcefully and independently enough to succeed, are manipulative as sins of omission.  That’s the reason for what Schopenhauer called “representation,” and what we today call “cognitive therapy,” that we can choose how we represent our experiences to ourselves, and both because human aggression is ineradicable, and because the untermenschen naturally want to believe that others owe them, they’ll simply have to choose to represent their experiences to themselves in a Stoic fashion.

The World as Will and Representation includes, “Taken as a whole, Stoic ethics is in fact a very valuable and estimable attempt to use reason, man’s great prerogative, for an important and salutary purpose, namely to raise him by a precept above the sufferings and pains to which all life is exposed... and in this way to make him partake in the highest degree of the dignity belonging to him as a rational being as distinct from the animal.”.  Pioneering cognitive therapist.  Albert Ellis, in his Guide to Rational Living, also, said that rational (not self-abnegating) Stoicism is a great coping skill that could let one deal with just about any problem of his.

While self-help realists wouldn’t go so far as saying that man is a wolf to man, they’d have to say that whenever anyone chooses to act as a wolf to man, then for the victims, that’s reality.  Anyone who doesn’t deal with their own realities resiliently resourcefully and independently enough to succeed, seem manipulative as sins of omission.  “Ignominious cunning” is another way of saying manipulation.  Those who actually do engage in such cunning wouldn’t be forgiven as would those who engage in sinfulness.  Those suspected of such cunning wouldn’t be presumed innocent until proven guilty, since it would be pretty hard to prove thoughts such as cunning, and a part of the cunning would be to remain undetected.  Übermenschen like the Reaganites, don’t get ignominy.  Schopenhauer also wrote, in On The Fourfold Route of the Principle of Sufficient Reason, “Introspection always shows us to ourselves as willing.  In this willing, however, there are numerous degrees, from faintest wish to passion...,” and while untermensch SELF-WILL seems ignominious and dangerously insidious, übermensch SELF-WILL seems honorable or, at the very least, excusable since we don’t want to risk violating others’ freedoms too much.

Yet even if it could be proven that someone who didn’t respond stolidly to his own problem, didn’t engage in any cunning, he still might as well have, according to the logic of, “the word bad, more rarely and abstractly by the word evil, which therefore denotes everything that is not agreeable to the striving of the will in each case.”  Though this might sound like the epitome of Hitler’s liebestod, or death-love, actually, self-help psychology would have to operate in the same way.  The fact is that whenever anyone tells another that what he did was bad or evil, then this would be followed by either, “...but I forgive you,” or, “...so you’d better give or do the following...,” and control tactics like the latter could seem very un-American.

Pat Buchanan, in a syndicated column in 1977, wrote, “...despite Hitler’s anti-Semitic and genocidal tendencies, he was an individual of great courage...  Hitler’s success was not based on his extraordinary gifts alone.  His genius was an intuitive sense of the mushiness, the character flaws, the weakness masquerading as morality that was in the hearts of the statesmen who stood in his path.”  The “defects of character” stressed by AA’s Big Book, resentment anger and fear in general, are the same as what Buchanan and Hitler meant by “character flaws,” i.e. not handling one’s own problems (whatever they may be) with enough stolid and self-reliant backbone.  “Taking as Jesus did this sinful world as it is not as I would have it,” as well as, “Whatever your problem is, courageously change what you can and serenely accept what you can’t,” also define “character flaws” as supposed weakness masquerading as morality.

Niebuhr was a hell-raiser, before Stalinism made him fatalistic about human nature.  Yet if any organization preaches the Serenity Prayer at people, the final result would be the same, that self-reliant STRENGTH seems good, and weakness that tries to get persuasive strength from emotion and/or abstractions seems intolerably bad.  As the history of The AA School of Self-Help Psychology shows, Nazism, minus anti-Semitism and committing outrageous aggression, equals taking as Jesus did this sinful world as it is not as you’d have it.

Manic-Depressive Illness, Bipolar Disorders and Recurrent Depression, by Dr. Frederick K. Goodwin and Dr. Kay Redfield Jamison, says, in its chapter on personality differences, “Character has been defined as ‘personality evaluated’—that aspect of an individual which bears a moral stamp and reflects the person’s integrative and organizing functions.  The concept of character is employed less frequently in the United States than in Europe, although it is often used interchangeably with that of personality.”  Actually, the word character is used plenty in the United States, whether it be in comments on depression or from the likes of Pat Buchanan and Frank Buchman, to pass judgment on how integrated and organized are traumatized people.  After all, such judgments aren’t moralisticSomeone absolutely has to provide our society’s homeostasis, since things simply have to remain integrated and organized.

Just imagine how self-help gurus would respond if you said the following:

  • “But you owe me, and here’s why...!”

  • “But what he did was wrong (whine, whine, whine), and here’s why...!”

  • “But the reason why I have this problem is that he..., and here’s why... so he’s morally responsible for solving it!”

  • “But listen to all the behavior problems my husband has...!”

No matter how true are the reasons you give, self-help psychology would probably say that the first and second of these constitute a subjective sense of entitlement and desire to believe that you should get more, the third a sign of a whiny character, and the fourth a sign of codependent melodrama.

Sure, the problems are there, and there in great quantities.  They make us uneasy.  Added together, these disturbing signs reflect inequality and a puzzlingly high level of unalleviated distress in America totally inconsistent with our proclaimed ideals.  Yet those who’d manipulatively use these problems to work on a hidden agenda, are also there.  Those who’d have about this a sincere but self-interested and self-justifying attitude of “But you owe me!” are also there.  Some of these people would be absolutely correct in attributing their problems to battles between the strong and the weak, but this doesn’t change the fact that these people would benefit if, instead, they focused their attention on how they could make the best of whatever cards life has dealt them.  Though tending to treat the weak as The Problem is totally inconsistent with our proclaimed ideals, the fact is that, as rationale #18 on this webpage goes into, our society simply must have homeostasis.  The most reliable way to achieve it is to hold those who have the problems response-able for their own welfare, since they’re the ones who are the most motivated to solve their problems.  On the other hand, if we gave people the opportunity to serve hidden agendas manipulatively, they’d certainly be motivated to do that!  As an AA slogan says, “We are all victims of victims,” in that it could be pretty hard if not impossible to defend yourself from some manipulative “victim-power.”

This could seem pro-freedom, since:

 

 

Since helpless isn’t tyranny, expecting people to serenely accept whatever they can’t change, even in a society with rampant depression, could still seem very pro-freedom.  In fact, this could seem necessary for freedom, since the only other alternative would be not to take care of your own problems well enough, to try to control others (including those who’d qualify as “sinful”), etc.

6. Women’s Responsibilities—As Susan Faludi wrote in Backlash, a big role model for self-help for women is exactly the same transcendent spirituality that’s obvious in The Serenity Prayer.  That means the conceptions of “being well-adjusted,” that Al-Anon and other ladies’ auxiliaries of Twelve-Step Groups are all about.

Women are far more likely than men to be in situations like Jane’s.  Modern women want to make sure that they don’t fill the old-fashioned stereotypes of women, so they want to make sure that they live up to the victim-correcting expectations of strength that self-help psychology would make of them.  At the same time, as the subchapter on codependency in Backlash says, these stereotypes also make it easier to expect women to show this humble forbearance, to blame themselves for how their husbands affect their families, to accept that “Boys will be boys,” etc.  And when ads, guidebooks, etc., talk about the possibility that depressive disorders affecting 34,000,000 American adults, results from “weakness or a character flaw,” this means the possible character flaws of people like Jane, not people like her husband.  While the Great Crash of 2008 has nothing to do with women’s issues, since women tend to be at the lower end of the economic food chain, they’d be most likely to have to deal with the resulting helplessness.  The rules that are used to blame female victims, would also apply to blaming any other victims.

Since the only question that people are supposed to ask about each aspect of their own problems is, “Can I change this, and if so, how could I do it the most pragmatically,” it really doesn’t matter whether the person who caused each problem is just a passive victim of a mental disease.  When I attended a therapy group for women diagnosed as codependent, none of them said anything about any of their problem husbands being addicted to anything.  Only one of the women who attended the codependency therapy group described in Backlash said anything about her husband being addicted, and what Faludi quotes her as saying is, “Hi, my name is Sandra [names have been changed] and I’m a Woman Who Loves Too Much.  I got married to a man who became addicted to liquor....  What is it about me that attracted a sick, dependent alcoholic?”  A big idea that I kept hearing in my support group was that, despite the fact that these men couldn’t possibly be called passive victims of a disease, the women did have reliable motivations to solve their problems, whereas men with bad characters like that, certainly didn’t.  This was the real reason for all the victim-self-blaming.  The law doesn’t have to treat these men as if their behavior comes from a disease that makes them blameless, but their friends and loved ones have to, again, and again, and again, and again...

Blaming the Victim quotes the Comprehensive Textbook of Psychiatry, by A.  M. Freedman and H. I. Kaplan, from 1967, as saying, “the lower class person is handicapped in his efforts to understand change, and he may fear new adjustments... the disadvantaged person is likely to meet difficulties by adjusting to them rather than by attempting to overcome them....”  To say that the poor both adjust too little and adjust too much, is very similar to the notion that women are both too averse to pain, and not averse enough, i.e. either masochistic or not resolute enough in protecting themselves.  If women, the poor, or any other powerless group is seen as both not adjusting enough and adjusting too much, then just about any strife that anyone else causes them could be blamed on their unwise reactions.  The whole idea of an untermensch, a mollycoddle, is someone who is both not willful enough in not fighting for herself, and too willful in the sense of manipulating and believing that she’s right.

As a How to Spot a Dangerous Man webpage says,

So I told Kelly, ‘what makes a man truly dangerous in domestic violence are things that actually can’t be treated or cured. What can make a woman safe is to know how to spot those traits early and how to detach and de-tangle if she is already in one.”

This sure does treat domestic violence as if the violent are just passive victims of a disease, though, as with the wives of alkies, women are to adopt this attitude not to be compassionate about their diseases, but to be fatalistic about them!  And it’s their friends and loved ones who must always treat them as if they have conditions that actually can’t be treated or cured (though exactly who these friends and loved ones would be would keep changing), but the law keeps refusing to.  The Al-Anon Formula for Self-Help says that the only question that one could legitimately ask about any of his own problems, is, “Can I change this, and, if so, how could I do it the most pragmatically and effectively?” which, in a society with rampant depression and anxiety disorders, could look very much like the moral bankruptcy of sociopaths.

The standard book from Stalin’s regime, History of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, says that even that regime realized that market economic systems have the advantage that people’s initiative would serve as a motivating force for achievement.  This says about the New Economic Policy that followed their Civil War which also included foreign invaders, “Lenin considered that a certain freedom of trade would give the peasant an economic incentive, induce him to produce more and would lead to a rapid improvement of agriculture; that, on this basis, the state-owned industries would be restored and private capital displaced; that strength and resources having been accumulated, a powerful industry could be created as the economic foundation of Socialism, and that then a determined offensive could be undertaken to destroy the remnants of capitalism in the country.”  Stalin obviously thought that the advantage that “freedom of trade” leads to an “economic incentive” which would “induce him to produce more,” isn’t the only thing that matters.  Yet the more that one believes in market discipline, the more that he’d insist that the only thing that really matters is that people have this incentive, since without it, not everything that needs to get done, will get done.  Likewise, self-help gurus would say that in relationships and marriages in which men with bad characters are causing the women problems, the only thing that really matters is that the women do, and the men don’t, have the incentive, the motivation, to solve the ensuing problems.  No matter how much moral, even criminal, responsibility the men may have, the fact would still remain that if the women don’t act on their own self-interested motivations by taking response-ability for their own problems, then not everything that needs to get done will get done.

In therapy for codependency is where you’re also very likely to see a very Nietzschian dichotomy between the übermensch as versus the untermensch will-to-power, which is basically identical to what William James described when he wrote that Americans tend to classify people as either redbloods or mollycoddles.  The übermensch, or red-blooded, will-to-power seems at least ineradicable, maybe even at least excusable in some way.  The untermensch, or mollycoddle, will-to-power seems insidious and ignominious.  This could also be called “weakness for ‘fun’ and/or profit,” and those who seem codependent seem to be guilty of of both, weakness for “fun ”in that the whole idea of codependency is that the victims “let themselves in for trouble,” and weakness for profit in that the “control issues” of codependents means desires to control through manipulative guilt-trips.

Backlash includes, “Despite their infantilizing methods and their distaste for ‘self-will,’ codependency’s creators and practitioners claimed to have a feminist outlook.”  Yet such methods could be called self-empowerment for those in situations like Jane’s.  The infantilizing methods would make them very impressionable, which is the only way that they’re going to accept such unnatural coping skills as, “She learns to accept the things she can’t change (Jim’s drinking), and to change the things she can (herself).”  The distaste for “self-will” among those who are hurt, would therefore be a distaste for untermensch self-will (which would include a serene acceptance of the übermensch self-will of those who are causing the problems), so would make her more well-adjusted and respectable.  She’d end up basically in a Zen state, and that would give her invincible coping skills, which, given the realities that she must deal with, would give her plenty of self-empowerment.  The reason why the kid in the following comic is supposed to have the attitude, “Though I’m the teenage son of an alkie, I’ve stopped blaming others, and I’m looking at myself!,” isn’t that he’s trying to be selflessly compassionate about his parent’s disease, but that this would give the teen the same unconditional coping and survival skills that Jane and Sandra got.  (Of course, whether male or female, if you’re in a Zen state, you could do this without feeling guilty.)

Just imagine what it would look like if cognitive therapy gave equal time to re-engineering any aspect of human nature that might give us problems:

7. Magnification or Minimization—This is one of the victim-self-blaming cognitive distortions of modern Western depression listed by Dr. David Burns’ self-help book on cognitive therapy for depression, Feeling Good.

The cognitive distortions of modern Western depression involve absolutist victim-self-blaming, but so does victims’ pragmatic response-ability for their own welfare.  “Good” minimization gets rid of excuses, feelings of resentment and helplessness, etc., “good” magnification sees what the person who’s the most motivated to prevent or solve the problem could and should correct, and both of these would have to be very tunnel-vision and uncompromising, especially when the problems that must be prevented or solved are very bad.  Paul Gilbert’s Depression, The Evolution of Powerlessness says, “Thus, as Beck et al. (1979) point out, depressed people are more ‘primitive’ in their thinking, more global and absolutistic, less flexible and less integrated.”  Yet “realism” when dealing with big problems, where the only question that one could legitimately ask is, “Can I change this, and if so, how could I do it the most pragmatically?” wouldn’t be very partial discriminating flexible or integrated.  That would be completely focused on, “How could I correct myself?”  When you have to deal with any problems, including anything that could possibly result from the Great Crash of 2008, you absolutely couldn’t change anyone else’s actions so you must serenely accept them, absolutely could change your own reactions so you must courageously change them, and absolutely must get your own problems under control.  The untermenschen are most likely to be blamed for things about which they had no real moral culpability, but it seems that untermenschen practice “the hidden lie” including self-deception, and that seems more dangerous than the “honest lies” of the übermenschen.  A supposed hidden lie could seem more dangerous than a real “honest lie,” since one could honorably resist an “honest lie,” but one can’t resist a supposed hidden lie without seeming evil, and bigoted against weak people who aren’t just taking care of their own problems.  (That’s what “hidden lies” would look like: people not overtly lying, but assuming that they’re entitled to what they want.)  When the Dow Jones went down again on February 23, 2009 Ron Kiddoo, chief investment officer at Cozad Asset Management, said, “I think we need to hear some optimistic talk from our leaders and soon,” so either they minimize what the deregulators hath wrought, or the powerful would cause our leaders problems.

Sacrilege, Sexual Abuse In the Catholic Church says that ravenous pedo-priest James Janssen was able to manipulate his psychologist since Janssen “knew the categories in which the psychologist thought and told his story in such a way that the psychologist concluded that Janssen wanted to be celibate, but needed help, especially the help of a good psychologist.”  The category in which typical psychologists would have predictably classified Janssen, would have been, “someone who looks like an aggressor (so if you’re greatly offended that’s whiny resentment), but is actually the helpless one,” helpless since he’s under the sway of his own human nature, and/or at present he’s completely helpless to undo what he did whereas the victim isn’t helpless to solve his own problems, etc., a very German-sounding conception of aggressors’ and weak people’s responsibilities.  Since our usual conceptions of mental health, survival skills, self-responsibility, etc, must be in line with psychologists’, a good way to know that you could get away with something is to know that it fits favorably into psychologists’ categories of forgivable, red-blooded, anti-repression, etc., which have the same categorical, black-and-white qualities that you could see in the cognitive distortions of modern Western depression.  Of course, that’s also the category in which the bishops who enabled pedo-priests put them, based on the same unconditional, “Taking as Jesus did this sinful world as it is not as I would have it,” traditions.

 

 

The Wikipedia webpage on Ayn Rand says, “When asked in a 1991 survey by the Library of Congress and the Book-of-the-Month Club what the most influential book in the respondent’s life was, Rand’s Atlas Shrugged was the second most popular choice, after the Bible.”  As she would put it, no matter how high our rate of depression is, questions of blame are always subjective, while questions of what each person must take care of in order to take response-ability for his own problems, is objective.  We’ve got to make sure that Atlas doesn’t shrug, since he has the power to determine what our material realities are.

Atlas Shrugged includes a big speech by strike leader John Galt, which says, “The man who refuses to judge, who neither agrees or disagrees, who declares that there are no absolutes and believes that he escapes responsibility, is the man responsible for all the blood that is now spilled in the world....  There are two sides to an issue: one side is right and the other is wrong, but the middle is always evil.”  When dealing with the realities created by the dynamics of the law of the jungle, the absolutes that you could see in the cognitive distortions of modern Western depression, are inevitable.  Either you’ve done everything that it takes to deal with your realities, or you haven’t.  Attempts to go halfway would seem more unforgivable than evil is, since evil does get forgiven, but irresponsibility in completely dealing with one’s own problems, doesn’t.

This speech also includes, “Every form of causeless self-doubt, every feeling of inferiority and secret unworthiness is, in fact, man’s hidden dread of his inability to deal with existence.  But the greater his terror, the more fiercely he clings to the murderous doctrines that choke him.”  Of course, “dealing with existence” means dealing with it self-reliantly.  The only alternative to dealing self-reliantly with what causes our rampant depression, would seem to be “the murderous doctrines that choke him.”  And, of course, this self-responsibility must be absolute.

This book also includes the following:

There was no way to tell which devastation had been accomplished by the humanitarians and which by undisguised gangsters.  There was no way to tell which acts of plunder had been prompted by the charity-lust of the Lawsons and which by the gluttony of Cuffy Meigs—no way to tell which communities had been immolated to feed another community one week closer to starvation and which to provide yachts for the pull-peddlers.  Did it matter?  Both were alike in fact as they were alike in spirit, both were in need and need was regarded as sole title to property, both were acting in strictest accordance with the same code of morality.  Both held the immolation of men as proper and both were achieving it.

Though this might sound extremist, and as if it would apply only to government intervention, actually this sort of thinking must be involved in everyone’s day-to-day assessments of whether or not they’re living up to their own response-ability for their own welfare.  Everyone knows that in the real world, even in a society with rampant depression, anxiety disorders, etc., a person’s realities are whatever they are, and maturity means dealing with reality.  Given that, the difference between someone truthfully telling of his own helplessness and someone’s playing the victim role, between someone’s actually wanting the world to be as he’d have it and someone’s refusing to practice, “Taking as Jesus did this sinful world as it is not as I would have it,” isn’t objective.  How much is too much?  How could one even quantify how much outrageousness there was?  How could one determine objectively what you deserve, what is justice, other than through what you won or lost?  This enforces itself, but what would enforce any other definition of justice?  How could you even make compromises with realism and objectivity?  If you’re unlucky or even victimized, then either you just shut up and take response-ability for your own problem, or you’d seem evil.  The weaker you are, the more likely you are to seem evil.

One could say that both of these kinds of professed morality are alike in spirit, in that they attempt to control others, and in that, as Hitler’s main role model Schopenhauer wrote, “The concept of good is divided into two subspecies, that of the directly present satisfaction of the will in each case, and that of its merely indirect satisfaction concerning the future, in other words, the agreeable and the useful.  The concept of the opposite, so long as we are speaking of beings without knowledge, is expressed by the word bad, more rarely and abstractly by the word evil, which therefore denotes everything that is not agreeable to the striving of the will in each case.”  Naturally you’d want to believe that you’re a victim, since that would be a belief that you’re entitled to better.  Yet this would be an attempt to get what you want in the underhanded, manipulative, untermensch fashion.  Therefore, it would seem that you should minimize the realities with which mature people must deal, and magnify what you’d better do better in order not to be needy pathetic and wanting to control others.

Unless what happened was so extreme that this would sound untenable:

Trying to Correct              Trying to Correct
the Person Who                 the Person Who
Caused the Problem             Has the Problem

unrealistic                    realistic
unreliable                     reliable
others-helping                 self-helping
naïve                          natural
stupid                         wise
conditional                    necessary
optional                       vital
half-hearted                   steadfast
limited                        limitless
judgmental                     forgiving
troublemaking                  peace-making
“on principle”                 pragmatic
moralistic                     trendy
unattractive                   marketable
sophistry-rewarding            achievement-oriented
altruistic                     “getting on with life”
controlling                    self-empowering
whiny                          gutsy
mollycoddling                  achievement-oriented
intellectualist                down-to-earth
philosophical                  material
pathetic                       proud
resentful                      competitive
maladjusted                    well-adjusted
negative                       hopeful
blaming                        solving
subjective                     objective
unproven                       self-justifying
emotionalistic                 practical
manipulative                   self-reliant
passive                        active
 

And if what happened was extreme, it could seem that expecting the person who did it to take moral responsibility for that much would be unrealistic: as a saying in the financial world says, “If you owe the bank $50,000 and can’t repay, you have a problem; if you owe the bank $50,000,000 and can’t repay, the bank has a problem.”  The worse was what he did, the more that expecting him to take moral responsibility for that much could seem draconian, naïve, etc.  This is red-blooded self-responsibility, not tyranny, submission, etc., so few will respond to this as if it’s extremist.

You could be amazed in what situations this would seem tenable.  After all, everyone wants to be self-reliant, and to have faith that this works.  Exactly what is whose responsibility, really is subjective.  One who wants to be self-reliant and have faith that we really do have self-determination, would therefore interpret the situations leading to our unnaturally high rates of depression, anxiety disorders, etc., as things that the victims could have at least made better if they really wanted to.  That could even be called optimism, whereas a realization of how helpless the victims were, could be called defeatism.  That would seem mentally healthy, in that moral responsibility would seem “repressive,” restricting, whiny, resentful, manipulative, etc., but victims’ self-responsibility would seem self-empowering, self-helping, self-reliant, self-determined, and of course, everyone wants to fit the mold of mental health.  The victims really are the ones who have the most reliable motivation to get a problem under control, so if we stress how much they could have gotten control over their own problems, we’d be seeing how those who actually are motivated to get such problems under control, could correct themselves to do better in the future.  That’s reality, not victim-blaming.  That’s also marketable as self-help books and counseling, but the closest that responsibility for the problems that one causes for others, comes to being marketable, is the selling of religious dogma.  Being achievement-oriented could mean that you don’t have to overcome unfairness, but in the real world, being achievement-oriented means that you build with whatever bricks you’ve got, play with whatever cards you’re dealt, etc., and we mustn’t mollycoddle those who don’t.  Rewarding success is what makes our economy work, and rewarding sophistry is what makes our economy stop working.  Social norms could condemn those in trouble not taking personal response-ability for their own problems, since moral responsibility is subjective and those in trouble might want to stress others’ blame, as a manipulative ploy.  Of course, one’s thinking could be distorted along the lines of every one of the cognitive distortions of modern Western depression, yet he wouldn’t feel guilty, since he’d figure that just because he hopefully could have stopped his problem, and that everyone in trouble should focus their own attention on correcting the defects in their taking care of themselves, this wouldn’t mean that they have to feel guilty about them.  At the same time, most would realize if all you’re thinking about is how supposedly your problem at least wouldn’t have been so bad if only you’d taken care of yourself better, you’re probably going to feel self-blame.

For example, the following examples of minimization of moral responsibility, were out of Bush’s 12-minute speech on the Great Crash of 2008, that he gave on September 24, 2008:

Just before the economy crashed, commentators kept referring to the recession that led to it as a

as if it seemed necessary that this recession is the sort of thing that realists would accept fatalistically.

We’ve yet to see all that these “excesses” and “bad decisions” included, but obviously what happened wasn’t that by some strange coincidence, at this time many executives independently made far more dangerous mistakes than they had at any other time since the Great Depression.  As the Washington Post op/ed article Calling Out the Culprits Who Caused the Crisis, by Eric D. Hovde, the chief executive of Washington-based Hovde Capital and Hovde Acquisitions, says, the reason why these lenders made unsafe loans though you’d think that none of them would want to, was, “Wall Street played its part by packaging those mortgages into complex financial products and selling them to other investors, many of whom had no idea of what they were buying or the associated risks.

“Once again, the investment banks raked in billions of dollars in fees, giving them incentive to keep lowering underwriting standards, allowing mortgage companies to originate and sell even the most unscrupulous home loans, which Wall Street then dumped onto the investment community.”

As this article says, plenty of other assumptions that securities were trustworthy, were naïve, such as, “Main Street investors, meanwhile, did not realize that the investment banks had essentially thrown away their underwriting guidelines, which had been in place since the Depression, to take companies public.  Among these guidelines were rules requiring that a company be in business for more than five years, be profitable for two or three consecutive years and have certain levels of revenue and profitability.”

To say that these banks “found themselves” in financial trouble, makes them all look like passive victims.  What happened here wasn’t that around this time a whole lot of executives just happened to make bad decisions, go to excesses, or fail.  The aversion that our culture has had to regulating the financial industry, as well as all the lobbying that Wall Street has done, has caused far more problems than has our simply being out-of-touch with the specifics of the 21st Century.  And, as usual, if a problem that others caused you seems to be just a bunch of mistakes, then it would seem only natural to magnify your personal response-ability to accept the challenges of dealing with life’s big imperfections.

At the very least, victim correction as a panacea would mean bare-bones realism (“You’re the one who has the most reliable motivation to solve your problem.”), but since this looks so painfully morally bankrupt, that would probably also include some superstitious illusions (“You wanted that to happen, deserved it, etc.”)  As Saul Bellow wrote, “A great deal of intelligence can be invested in ignorance when the need for illusion is deep.”  Every society must get its homeostasis from somewhere.  Whenever something happens that would disrupt how the society must function, someone would simply have to get things functioning again.  Those who don’t live up to these expectations, would have to be seen as having weak characters, passive tendencies, passive choices, etc.  When these attributions are so consistent and predictable that they make up the cognitive distortions that usually come with depression in a society, then they’re obviously culturally-based illusions.  Yet even intellectuals in that society are very likely to try to “be positive,” by seeing how even those who could be called helpless, would really have had a good chance of succeeding if only they chose to be more resolute.

As Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Lutheran theologian executed by the Nazis, wrote, “There is a way of speaking which is... entirely correct and unexceptionable, but which is, nevertheless, a lie....  When an apparently correct statement contains some deliberate ambiguity, or deliberately omits the essential part of the truth... it does not express the real as it exists in God.”  The distortions that the cognitive distortions of modern Western depression, make in how the depressed people see their own devastation, are the same as the distortions that pragmatists would make in how they see their own problems.  They absolutely could change themselves, absolutely can’t change anyone else, and absolutely must get their own lives back to normal.  One couldn’t really say that these distortions are lies.  Distortions don’t fabricate perceptions, only distort them.  One doesn’t really know for a fact whether or not, if only those with the problems reacted more expediently, they could have solved them, or, at the very least, felt less strife about them.  The more optimistic that they are, the more that they’d figure that their own problems are contingent on what they could change, and both optimism and goal-directed thinking are productive.  This would certainly involve plenty of artificial ambiguities and omissions, of the sort that übermenschen would concur with, and untermenschen would whine about.  If one cared about expressing the real as it exists in any profound sense, that would seem to be very unpragmatic and untermensch philosophizing. 

Feeling Good also includes:

Now we come to a truth you may see either as a bitter pill or an enlightening revelation.  There is no such thing as a universally accepted concept of fairness and justice.  There is an undeniable relativity of fairness, just as Einstein showed the relativity of time and space....

Here’s proof: When a lion devours a sheep, is this unfair?  From the point of view of the sheep, it is unfair, he’s being viciously and intentionally murdered with no provocation.  From the point of view of the lion, it is fair.  He’s hungry, and this is the daily bread he feels entitled to.  Who is “right”?  There is no ultimate or universal answer to this question because there’s no “absolute fairness” floating around to resolve the issue.  In fact, fairness is simply a perceptual interpretation, an abstraction, a self-created concept.  How about when you eat a hamburger? Is this “unfair”?  To you, it’s not.  From the point of view of the cow, it certainly is (or was)!  Who’s “right”?  There is no ultimate “true” answer.

Since this sort of thinking arose in the 1960s based on the then-popular Eastern transcendence, this could be called “Calcutta survival skills,” or neo-Buddhism.  Yet, in practical but sociological terms,

Certainly when most people who are savvy about how the cognitive distortions that come from any mental illness are likely in absolutist terms, look at the cognitive distortions of modern Western depression, they’d likely see them as reflecting exactly that sort of absolutism.  Yet most of the cognitive distortions that Feeling Good lists, also fits the one-step “All of this happens so smoothly that it seems downright rational,” process, of victim correction as a panacea.  As Blaming the Victim begins a subchapter of the first chapter, which summarizes the whole book, “Blaming the Victim is an ideological process, which is to say that it is a set of ideas and concepts deriving from systematically motivated, but unintended, distortions of reality,” and any logic that says that caring about blame is BAD but pragmatism in finding a solution is GOOD, would unintentionally distort reality.

The basic idea of this is the depressed person magnifying what seems to be wrong with himself and right with everyone else, and minimizing what seems to be right with himself and wrong with everyone else.  That might sound like a pathological distortion, until you notice that “God, grant me serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference,” says that everyone in trouble are supposed to do exactly that.  This magnifies your own response-ability for what happens to you, and minimizes everyone else’s responsibility for it.  And just in case you think that this is limited only to dealing with inconveniences, “Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace; Taking as Jesus did this sinful world as it is not as I would have it,” “She learns to accept the things she can’t change (Jim’s drinking), and to change the things she can (herself),” and, “Here’s proof: When a lion devours a sheep, is this unfair?” also, involve minimization of others’ moral responsibility, and magnification of your own response-ability to succeed in life, and would be necessary if your problems make these coping skills necessary.  The same would go for, “Thou shalt not care AT ALL,” since the more that you minimized their responsibility and magnified your own response-ability, the greater would be your chances of success in life.

Our chronically anxious people, adult children of alcoholics, blameless survivors of accidents which killed others, those who were sexually abused, etc., are also very likely to feel absolutist self-blame.

I’m OK—You’re OK also includes, favorably, the following, from Robert Hutchins’ article in the San Francisco Chronicle of July 31, 1966, about America’s international relations:

We are the victims not of the wickedness of others—that is a paranoid view—but of our own mistakes and delusions.  This is not to deny that others are wicked.  Of course they are.  What we have to do is to avoid wickedness ourselves, offer an example of magnanimous and intelligent power and organize the world to curb the inevitable wickedness we shall find at home and abroad.

That’s “paranoid” as in the following, from the Elizabethan England The Anatomy of Melancholy, by Robert Burton: “He dare not come in company for fear he should be misused, disgraced, overshoot himself in gesture or speeches, or be sick; he thinks every man observes him, aims at him, derides him, owes him malice,” and otherwise suspicious, jealous, fearful maybe even terrified, and solitary.

A webpage of the World Health Organization document Conquering Depression, Historical Background, includes:

Much of what is known today about symptoms of depression and related disorders was described by the ancient Greek and Roman physicians who coined terms like ‘melancholia’ and ‘mania’ and noted their relationship.  In the fourth century BC, Hippocrates made an early reference to distress and melancholia.  He described melancholia (black bile) as a state of “aversion to food, despondency, sleeplessness, irritability and restlessness”. Later, Galen (131-201 A.D.) described melancholia manifesting in “fear and depression, discontent with life and hatred of all people”.  Subsequent Greco-Roman medicine not only recognized the symptoms of melancholia in the form of fear, suspicion, aggression and death wishes, but also referred to environmental contributions to melancholia as immoderate consumption of wine, perturbations of the soul due to passion, and disturbed sleep cycle.  Many of the original Greek texts on melancholia were transmitted to posterity through medieval Arabic texts in which connections between two major mood states were suggested, and the causes of the disease were speculated to be interactions between temperament, environment and the four humours (i.e. wind, phlegm, yellow bile and black bile).

If the average Westerner were to see someone reacting to his own helplessness by acting irritable, malcontent, hateful, suspicious and aggressive, the typical Westerner would probably respond as if this is aggressively self-serving, so instead he should show some personal responsibility for his failures to courageously change (and prevent) what he could have, and serenely accept what he couldn’t.

Nowadays, we realize that self-correction is more pragmaticself-reliant,  and  forgiving, than is such a “victim mentality.”  If that San Francisco Chronicle article were written after the Reagan/Thatcher era, it probably would have said instead, “We are the victims not of the wickedness of others—that is the view of whiners who think like passive victims—but of our own mistakes and delusions.”  The only real difference between the Magnification or Minimization of that article, and the Magnification or Minimization of modern Western depression, is that as far as any conformist modern Westerner is concerned, those whom German tradition would call übermenschen and American tradition would call redbloods, such as those who plan American foreign policy, aren’t supposed to engage in Magnification or Minimization self-criticism, while those whom German tradition would call untermenschen and American tradition would call mollycoddles, such as the depressed, are.

Paul Gilbert’s Depression, the Evolution of Powerlessness, from 1992, says, “Murphy (1978) has pointed out that guilt was also absent from western clinical descriptions of depression until the sixteenth century.  He suggests that guilt and self-blame are more likely to arise in cultures that emphasise individual differences, self-control, predictability and personal responsibility for pain and pleasure.  These cultures separate mind and body and demote the importance of social context and relationships in the causation of distress.”  Of course, response-ability for one’s own welfare means that we are response-able for not only our pain and pleasure in their social context, but also how well we take care of our own physical problems, take care of ourselves, succeed in life, show adequate backbone, etc. in their social context.

The chapter by Pakistani Sheraz Malik, of Leaving Islam, Apostates Speak Out, edited by Ibn Warraq, quotes some pages of Malik’s journal, which tell of his low self-esteem when going through depression.  “When I started thinking about my past life, I discovered that my low self-esteem was a result of my parents’ abusive behaviour towards me,” and, “Why on earth do I have all these problems?  Low self-esteem, depression?”  Sure, his upbringing was the kind that could lead to religious guilt, but he also has rather Western attitudes associating being a “loser” (a word he uses several times), with deserving the loss. 

Islam is all about not paying attention to what really matters in life.  That’s why Muslim countries are generally pathetic losers. Look at their governments.  What would happen to Saudi Arabia if the oil fields dried up?  Pakistan, which doesn’t have that much oil, is already dwindling.  Poor economy, poor government, high corruption, inflation, and illiteracy.

“Loser,” especially “pathetic loser,” strongly imply a good deal of self-blame for failure!  Yet of those problems he listed, the ones that really consist of losing something aren’t the people’s fault, and the ones that are their fault involve active choices rather than losing.  While, possibly, the sole reason why his depression involved guilt feelings is authoritarian guilt, the joining of feelings of helplessness with guilt really does sound more like the sort of self-blame that you’d expect from someone whose villains are losers.

One very typical example of pragmatic minimizing and magnifying logic that’s as one-track-minded as are the cognitive distortions of modern Western depression, is “you must understand” logic.  As long as you can’t change your problem, you must understand that you must serenely accept it, and if you can change it, you must understand that you must courageously change it.  Whatever is reality, mental health means you must understand.  When someone decides to do something destructive, you must understand that that’s human nature.  (Of course, if depressive disorders affect 34,000,000 American adults then that would qualify as human nature, too, but untermensch human nature could be chemically re-engineered.  The quaint jazz-age self-help book Eugenics and Sex Harmony by Dr. Herman H. Rubin, from 1933, says, “The best way to control the self-preservation instincts, such as fear and anger, Doctor [Josephine] Jackson insists, is to refuse to stimulate the emotion when the external situation is not suitable for action,” in other words, when victims can’t change their own victimization.)  Once someone has already done anything destructive, you must understand that he can’t turn back the clock and undo it.  (Therefore, he’s the helpless one, and you’re the responsible one.)  The worse was what someone did at your expense, the more that you must understand that you’d better take response-ability for your own problem, since it’s so grave, and you certainly wouldn’t want to depend on someone like that to take responsibility for it.  If he doesn’t accept his own moral responsibility for the problem he caused you since that would be too burdensome, you must understand that you couldn’t expect him to be a saint, but if your self-responsibility to solve your own problem is too burdensome, you must understand that that’s life.  As long as what happened wasn’t absolutely evil, you must understand why your refusals to forgive it are just your unforgiving opinion, which is bound to reflect your own SELF-WILL.  If your partner is commitment-phobic and he tries to end your relationship or marriage by treating you outrageously, you must understand that for your own good, you shouldn’t stay with someone like that.  If your society’s rate of depression is astoundingly unnaturally high, you must understand.  And, of course, if you must understand that others’ moral responsibility is to be minimized in such a way that would let people get away with the devastation that contributes to our rampant depression and anxiety disorders, then if you don’t, what would seem to be wrong with your supposed untermensch maladjustment would be magnified.  After all, someone simply has to take responsibility for your problem, and this must be as uncompromising and unconditional as the cognitive distortions of modern Western depression.  If everyone were forgiven, who’d provide the homeostasis that our society needs?

8. All-or-Nothing Thinking—This is another of the cognitive distortions listed in Feeling Good, and which you could see in the rationale for why, “Here’s proof: When a lion devours a sheep, is this unfair?” is pragmatic.  Victim correction seems to have a strange affinity for all-or-nothing thinking.  James 2:8-13 says, “If you really fulfill the royal law, according to the scripture, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself,’ you do well.  But if you show partiality, you commit sin, and are convicted by the law as transgressors.  For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become guilty of all of it.  For he who said, ‘Do not commit adultery,’ said also, ‘Do not kill.’  If you do not commit adultery but do kill, you have become a transgressor of the law.  So speak and so act as those who are to be judged under the law of liberty.  For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy; yet mercy triumphs over judgment.”  Even when dealing with however the Great Crash of 2008 might effect you, if you get it only 90% under control, that wouldn’t mean that you’d seem to deserve an A grade.  With some of your problems, solving them 90% of the way, doing 90% right, etc., wouldn’t do you any good at all.  If this weren’t all-or-nothing, some problems wouldn’t be solved well enough, you could find some sophistry to use in playing the victim role, etc.  The same would go for the wife of an addict, or anyone else who’s that unambiguously victimized.  She and you would be told something along the lines of, “Thou shalt not care AT ALL,” since if she could care somewhat about the magnitude of the social problem of our rampant depression, then that would make her somewhat discouraged, maladjusted, thinking like a victim, etc.

At the dedication of the Harvard Business School’s new campus on June 24, 1927, lawyer, founding chairman of RCA, and chairman of General Electric in the late 1920s, Owen D. Young, said,

The law is not a satisfactory censor.  It functions in the clear light of wrong-doing—things so wrong that the community must protect itself against them.  Set over against the law on the opposite side is the clear light of right-doing—things which are so generally appealing to the conscience of all that no mistake could be made, no matter how complicated the business.  The area of difficulty for business lies in the penumbra between the two.

Innovation Corrupted, The Origins and Legacy of Enron’s Collapse, says that this penumbra is, “the legally ambiguous territory in which Enron chose to live.”

The same is true for when, in our day-to-day lives, we must decide whether those who cause the sorts of problems that contribute to our rampant depression, are morally responsible for them.  There, too, people are to be presumed innocent until proven guilty, which requires proving that their intent was malevolent enough.  The question of how reckless or negligent is too reckless or negligent, could very easily seem to be a matter of opinion regarding complex realities.  Even when the intent was undoubtedly malicious, chances are that those who are morally responsible could bring up plenty of mitigating factors.  Realists figure that you must accept that life and human nature aren’t perfect, and who’s to say that the problem in question is more serious than that?  In all such cases, the victims’ opinionated objections could very easily seem to be based on their desires to believe that others owe them something.  These immense gray areas lead to black-and-white thinking, since either the problem is in a gray area of subjectivity in which objections to it could be labeled as “victim-power,” or it isn’t.  While stereotypical moral relativism might seem philosophically sophisticated, this moral relativism becomes amoral absolutism seems necessary for realism and self-reliant respectability.  Naturally Enron would choose to live there, since as long as they were there, any convictions of them would seem to be a matter of opinion that could even seem to be whiners victimizing them.

Another example of this learned minimization is, “You [relapsed] because you’re sick, not because you want to hurt me.  I know that now.”  Self-help philosophy treats the effects of intoxication, and the effects of both active and sober addiction, as if they’re absolutely disabling, so the addicts absolutely aren’t responsible for their effects, and the victims, by default, absolutely are.  Yet as Drunken Comportment, A Social Explanation, by Craig MacAndrew and Robert B. Edgerton says, “This proposition holds that alcohol is a substance of such potency—such ‘psychopharmological’ potency, we would now say—that its action within the body both impairs the performance of sundry of our sensorimotor skills and alters the character of our social comportment.”  While the impairment of the sensorimotor skills is a proven biological fact, this doesn’t extend to alcohol simply impairing disinhibitions.  Anthropologists have found that in some societies, drunks don’t simply lose their inhibitions against violence and/or prohibited sex.  In some societies, their drunks have been violent to different degrees in different eras, or in different gatherings in the same years.  And in probably all societies, you could see drunks attacking some people while these same drunks wouldn’t attack those to whom their culture has told them to be “polite” or “deferential,” or acting as if drunks have, “rules-of-proper-conduct-when-in-an-uncontrollable-drunken-rage.”

In our own society, for example, if a drunk attacks a family member, people would likely respond, “We really can’t expect anything better, since he was drunk,” but if a drunk attacks a boss or landlord, very few people would respond like that, though if drunks truly couldn’t help it, then they truly couldn’t help it no matter who they attacked.  And, of course, self-help would teach alkies’ family members, but not alkies’ bosses and landlords, to take personal responsibility for protecting themselves from these inevitable violent tendencies, even if this greatly disrupted their own lives.  And, of course, if the family members responded to that by saying, “Yes, I realize that both his alcoholism and his intoxication gives him destructive desires that are stronger and less inhibited than most people’s, but that doesn’t mean that I’ll completely excuse what he did,” then they might as well have shown no toleration for it.

And the effects of alcoholism, especially sober alcoholism, on whether or not the person couldn’t help but drink again, are just as relative rather than absolute.  According to the SUBSTANCE MISUSE OPTION LECTURE 6, one of the seven signs of “THE ALCOHOL DEPENDENCE SYNDROME,” is, “Reinstatement after abstinence.”  The Merriam Webster Dictionary defines syndrome as. “a group of signs and symptoms that occur together and characterize a particular abnormality.”  To call a behavior pattern a “syndrome” means that it’s predictable, not that those who have it are just passive victims of all the symptoms.  And, in fact, those who are “on the wagon” aren’t just passive victims of their desires to relapse, as if this was just a symptom of a disease.  Sure, those who’d been actively alcoholic would tend to relapse since they’re impulsive enough to have began their drinking problems in the first place, being under the influence would be what they were used to, etc. (and not because they want to hurt others).  Even if their addictions had made long-term changes in their brains to give them some remaining desires to drink again, these certainly wouldn’t be strong enough for the recovering addicts to be just passive victims of their diseases, not guilty by reason of insanity.  Plenty of chronically depressed people, because of their depressions, don’t want to work, but if antidepressants didn’t exist, we wouldn’t simply accept their not working since their diseases caused these desires, and they’re not aiming to hurt others.  Yet to teach people that sober alkies who then relapse were just passive victims of their diseases so that the inculcees could then say, “I know that now,” would benefit them, since it’s a lot easier to serenely accept behavior that looks like symptoms of a disease, than it is to serenely accept behavior that looks like sinfulness.  The next step would then be to magnify the inculcees’ response-ability for the problems that others’ volitional relapses would cause them, since people simply have to take response-ability for how others’ diseases affect them.

In 1995, Al-Anon completely replaced its handbook, from The Al-Anon Family Groups, to How Al-Anon Works, for Families & Friends of Alcoholics.  The newer book, and their newer approach in general, has given up on getting the alkies to get into recovery, and instead gets Al-Anon members to give up on attempts to “control” the alkies.

(This is the heading of the section of Al-Anon’s workbook Blueprint for Progress, Al-Anon’s Fourth Step Inventory, for those who seem to be codependent to take a fearless moral inventory of behaviors, including helpful ones, that are labeled as “controlling.”  Frankly, just about any helpful behavior in a relationship that’s considered codependent, would be considered “controlling,” as in, “Sure, you think that what you’re doing is trying to help, but supposedly trying to help someone is a great way to control him.”  This morality-based “control” is in the same sense of what the Mississippi preacher mentioned by Bobby Kennedy’s administrative aide James Symington, meant by tyranny, “One preacher let me into his church, and told me, ‘You represent a tyranny.’   I said, ‘How do you think black people feel living in Mississippi with no rights?’   He said, ‘Well, it’s better to have a lot of little tyrannies than one big one.’”  Control based on one person having power over another, is only a little tyranny.  Of course, if those driven into depression, anxiety disorders, etc., by such behavior, instead fixed themselves by taking antidepressants, choosing to think positively, eating more omega-3 fatty acids, etc., that wouldn’t seem controlling, anti-freedom, manipulative, resentful, etc.  If you object to sinfulness, that’s really your will-to-power.  One could only ask: if control, resentment, etc., really were character defects so the person who had them got bad karma, what would be the learning experience that he’d get to teach him what’s wrong with them, that he be reincarnated as an SOB so he could see what it feels like to be on the receiving end of victim-posturing control tactics?)

 

Yet even their older book includes, “Even though he originally may have brought his condition upon himself, he is now sick and to some extent not responsible.  At this stage we cannot blame him for his illness any more than we would blame victims of other maladies.  We do the best we can to help or to make help available.”  He is to some extent not responsible, and therefore we cannot blame him at all.  (!)  Of course, if the wife said, “I don’t blame him for having these desires to drink, but since they make him not responsible only to some extent, I do blame him for acting on them!  His disease isn’t such that he’s not guilty by reason of insanity!  If he experienced enough bad consequences that he’d hit bottom, that would deter him enough that he’d choose to stop, and other diseases aren’t brought under control through deterrence!” that wouldn’t seem acceptable, either.  It was only a matter of time before, “We do the best we can to help or to make help available,” and the like, would seem to be naïve attempts to control the alkies.

The fact would still remain that even regarding behavior that couldn’t possibly be attributed to a disease, since the victims absolutely couldn’t change others’ actions, absolutely could change their own reactions, and absolutely must prevent or deal with their own problems, any relative observations about this sort of personal responsibility would still sound like just intellectualist theorizing.  Sinfulness (or whatever else you want to call people’s destructive desires), also, could be called a relative impairment in one’s moral sensibility, which would make it a good excuse for absolute statements along the lines of, “But you’ve got to just accept that sometimes people make errors in judgment; they slip and fall.”  As usual, if you’d say that you’d accept that partially but not totally, then you might as well have not accepted it at all.  As that section on “control” of Al-Anon’s Blueprint for Progress advises about our day-to-day lives with non-addicts, “We felt that others were trying to sabotage us, when all they were really doing was making choices that were different from ours,” so if they’re not trying to sabotage you, you’d better not try to “control” them.

9. Overgeneralization—Here is another of the cognitive distortions listed in Feeling Good, which you could also see in “Here’s proof: When a lion devours a sheep, is this unfair?”  If you’re the person with the problem, especially if it’s big enough, then chances are that the most specific question that you could ask about your role, response-abilities, etc., would be, “Can I change this, and if so, what’s the most pragmatic way in which I could?”  Any question more specific than that, would seem to be an “analysis paralysis” that you really couldn’t afford.  The moral bankruptcy of, “Here’s proof: When a lion devours a sheep, is this unfair?” when applied to problems that other people had caused you (which is what such cognitive therapy would tend to deal with), is certainly overgeneralized, yet the whole idea is that you can’t make distinctions in this.  “Thou shalt not care AT ALL,” and the fact that this means that you must care about whether you’re a success or failure in life, certainly overgeneralizes, too.  As Niebuhr wrote, power, which would include victim-power, “cannot be wielded without guilt, since it is never transcendent over interest,” over (hidden and surreptitious) SELF-WILL, though we dare not talk in such overgeneralized terms when passing judgment on overt sinful power.  However the Great Crash of 2008 might affect you, however the problem husband of a woman who could be called codependent, etc., when both of you deal with your own problems, neither of you could make any distinctions besides, “Can I change this?”

A Financial Times editorial from October 13 2008, said, “Does this rescue mean the end of private financial capitalism?  Of course not.  Although the size of the crisis requires an exceptional response, this is but the latest in a long line of banking crises and state rescues....  Governments—rightly—will regulate to avoid further crises.  They will fail, and then be forced to act to pick up the pieces.  There is no alternative.”

The basic idea of overgeneralized victim correction is that sure, crises will keep happening since those who have the power to make them happen, will, and naturally we’ll try to stop this, but we will fail, and then be forced to act to pick up the pieces.  There is no alternative, since they’re motivated to do that, they aren’t motivated to do what they can to prevent or solve the problems, and the victims and potential victims are.  The reason why the public will be forced to pick up the pieces will be that it will be their problem; they won’t have any responsibility for causing it, yet this sort of being forced to act would seem to be pro-freedom, since the bankers rather than the guv’mint will be the ones who’ll be forcing them.  A May 30, 2008 Financial Times article quoted a senior banker as saying, “It’s a strange business.  First you make money by creating products no one understands, then you make money by cleaning the mess up,” so the bankers can solve the problem if they’re motivated to do it.  If you responded to that October 13 Financial Times editorial by saying, “But that’s too overgeneralized!  Can’t we distinguish between which bailouts we will and won’t accept, other than differentiating the banks that are too big to fail, from those that aren’t?” you’d be told that we can’t be less generalized than that.  The only thing that we could care about is the consequences.

 

 

10. Mental Filter—Here’s another of those cognitive distortions.  Obviously all of the above cognitive distortions require a mental filter.  The whole idea is for the person in trouble to focus his attention on fixing what he must fix, and away from what would divert attention and emotional energy from doing this.  “Here’s proof: When a lion devours a sheep, is this unfair?” isn’t the sort of thinking that comes naturally and spontaneously.  “Thou shalt not care AT ALL,” says that you must filter out all of the reasons why, in a society with rampant depression, many of your failures aren’t really your fault.  Even when dealing with however the Great Crash of 2008 might affect you, you must look at everything pragmatically, which would mean that you wouldn’t notice a whole lot concerning moral responsibility, what you did partially right, etc.

11. Disqualifying the Positive—Another of those cognitive distortions, which naturally would arise out of the sort of goal-oriented thinking that’s necessary to solve your own problems self-reliantly.  If Jane gave herself credit whenever a wife in a normal family would seem to deserve it, this would lead to inadequate performance, meaning inadequate for her to deal with her abnormal problems.  If you’re to expect his own coping skills to live up to a standard of, “Here’s proof: When a lion devours a sheep, is this unfair?” he’d have to disqualify all that’s right about his own thinking that isn’t that well-adjusted.  “Thou shalt not care AT ALL,” certainly doesn’t give you adequate credit for what you must do to win most of your battles in a society with rampant depression.  When dealing with any possible effects of the Great Crash of 2008, you’d have a big job to do, so that would be what you’ve got to focus your attention on, what still remains unsolved, what you’ve got to protect yourself from, what you’ve still got to correct within yourself, etc.

12. Jumping to Conclusions—Another of those cognitive distortions, though this one is going to be seen in connection with courageously changing what you can, far more than with serenely accepting what you can’t.  In the real world, sometimes you have to take leaps of faith to even have a chance of changing what you can.  Also, even if you don’t have to jump to conclusions to make a certain decision, in panicky situations plenty of people would jump to conclusions even when they don’t have to.  Since you’d be dealing with any effects of the Great Crash of 2008, in the real world, you wouldn’t have anyone giving you adequate information.

13. Should Statements—Another of those cognitive distortions.  While such self-help advice as, “God, grant me serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference,” “Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace; Taking as Jesus did this sinful world as it is not as I would have it,” “She learns to accept the things she can’t change (Jim’s drinking), and to change the things she can (herself),” and, “Here’s proof: When a lion devours a sheep, is this unfair?” doesn’t say in so many words, “This is how you should think,” obviously, that’s the whole idea.  And since this sort of re-engineering human nature seems a lot less scary than do attempts to re-engineer our aggressive übermensch human nature, telling people that they should simply buck up and resolve their own problems pragmatically, doesn’t seem nearly as preachy as would telling people that they should simply buck up and resolve the that they caused for others, pragmatically.  “Thou shalt not care AT ALL,” is very much a should statement, saying that you should be optimistic and self-reliant.  As you dealt with the effects of the Great Crash of 2008, the whole idea would be what you should do better.  If you cared what Wall Street should do, that would be just bitter resentment.

14. Labeling and Mislabeling—Another of those cognitive distortions.  Jane probably couldn’t deal realistically with her problems, if she didn’t label the effects of what she does, and the effects of what others do, in whatever ways would let her deal with them best.  If she’s in a situation where she’d have to think of her problems along the lines of, “Here’s proof: When a lion devours a sheep, is this unfair?” then she’d have to label a failure in doing this, as a failure.  If courageously changing what she must, would make demands on her that would be that exacting, then she’d have to label everything involved, including her possible successes or failures, in terms of how they relate to the fact that she’d absolutely have to get her life and her kids’ lives under control.  “Thou shalt not care AT ALL,” would have to label and mislabel people, both because caring about something as big as our rampant depression would be labeled as BAD, since that would give you pessimistic and passive attitudes, and also because once you start taking response-ability for succeeding in such a society, your failures would be labeled as “your failures” exactly as if your society didn’t have rampant depression.  If Jane mislabeled herself as “manipulative,” or as having similar character flaws, that would lead to her becoming more stolid and realistic.

If, when dealing with any effects of the Great Crash of 2008 whatsoever, you labeled your problems as things that you could have resolved if only you were smart, dedicated, courageous, etc., enough, you’d see them as obstacles that you can and will surmount once you become adequate.  Pundits would have many people cheering them if they labeled everyone who uses the Obama Administration’s program for reducing home foreclosures, as deadbeats whose intent in getting their mortgages was irresponsible.  For example, the statement of CNBC commentator Rick Santelli, a hero of conservatives since he gets so excitingly angry, “Why don’t you put up a website to have people vote on the Internet as a referendum to see if we really want to subsidize the loser’s mortgages or would we like to at least buy cars and buy houses in foreclosure and give them to people that might have a chance to actually prosper down the road and reward people that can carry the water instead of drink the water?”  Sure, intellectuals could see how though all of these people lost the battle, they don’t fit Calvin’s assumptions that if you lost then you must have deserved to.  But most Americans, at the very least, would consider this skepticism to be too contrarian.

This is the sort of label that could both condemn people’s characters and make them feel guilty, but couldn’t be condemned as “anti-freedom” “moralistic,” “judgmental,” etc.  If the people who have the sort of problems that contribute to our unnaturally high rates of depression, anxiety, etc.,

don’t adequately:

  • adjust to

  • adapt to

  • function in

  • remain undisturbed by

  • compensate for

  • fit in with

  • feel contented with

  • and forgive

whatever happened to them;

and do:

  • fail

  • lose the battles

  • try to vindicate themselves

  • evaluate the morality of behaviors

  • use their best judgment as to whether or not they’re the problem

  • and act like muckrakers;

it would seem that they’re just:

  • inadequate

  • maladjusted

  • maladaptive

  • dysfunctional

  • unforgiving

  • disturbed

  • decompensated

  • vindictive

  • moralistic

  • and judgmental;

  • misfits

  • malcontents

  • failures

  • and losers

  • who love to rake through muck.

No matter how high our rates of depression, anxiety, etc., got, if you took this seriously as a social problem, in the end you could seem to be whining, intellectualizing, manipulating, making excuses for your own failures, etc.  If you respond to those who tell you that you shouldn’t think as you do, as if they’re non-governmental versions of the Thought Police, they’d tell you that their Should Statements are pragmatic rather than authoritarian.  When cognitive therapists, self-help gurus, etc., say that you shouldn’t think something non-conformist, that isn’t the same thing as when authoritarians say that you shouldn’t think something non-conformist.  No matter how high our rates of depression, anxiety, etc., might get, that thought-stopping, as well as similar character-strengthening, would pose absolutely no risk of servility.  Sure, “Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace; Taking as Jesus did this sinful world as it is not as I would have it,” involves a saintly level of religious mind-control, but that’s done to cope with reality, not to serve any authority.

This sort of labeling is self-perpetuating, in such a way that it could only keep making itself worse.  The chapter The Ethics of Emergencies, of Ayn Rand’s The Virtue of Selfishness, begins by saying that questions that test for altruism, in psychological tests, tend to ask whether one would be willing to sacrifice himself for others in desperate circumstances, and that this implies that one must make big sacrifices for others who are very pathetic, is very pessimistic about things that could go wrong, and don’t reflect his own fairly normal real life.  Yet it should be very obvious to anyone that altruism toward strangers, in moderate situations, could very easily be labeled “nanny-ism.”  The very real problems that contribute to our rampant depression, would have to be labeled along these lines.

Rand’s Atlas Shrugged says, near the end of the chapter ANTI-LIFE, that after the young wife of a man with very petty bourgeois social attitudes, and who herself came from a poor family and had faith that people get what they deserve in the economic sphere, escapes after he hits her, and:

The sidewalk had shrunk to a broken strip, and splashes of garbage an over from the cans at the stoops of crumbling houses. Beyond the dusty glow of a saloon, she saw a lighted sign “Young Women’s Rest Club” above a locked door.

She knew the institutions of that kind and the women who ran them, the women who said that theirs was the job of helping sufferers.  If she went in—she thought, stumbling past—if she faced them and begged them for help, “What is your guilt?” they would ask her.  “Drink?  Dope?  Pregnancy?  Shoplifting?”  She would answer, “I have no guilt, I am innocent, but I’m—” “Sorry.  We have no concern for the pain of the innocent.”

The textbook Social Work, a Profession of Many Faces, by Armando T. Morales and Bradford W. Sheafor, says that in pre-industrial America, “Puritan judgmentalism was evident in the names of organizations such as the ‘Home for Intemperate Women’ or the ‘Penitent Females Refuge.’”  So these labels given to the women who need refuge are your classic victim-blaming labels, yet since they get these labels, it seems that efforts to help them are efforts to degrade oneself.  The more that victims are labeled like this, the more that treating them as victims would seem to be devoting one’s concern to blameworthy people.

A Chinese proverb says, “The beginning of wisdom is to call things by their right names,” but calling things by their right names would go against the sort of “wisdom” that The Serenity Prayer refers to.  To call many things in a society with rampant depression and anxiety disorders, by their right names, would make one distressed rather than serene and courageous.

15. Personalization—The juggernaut of the cognitive distortions.  Feeling Good defines “Personalization” as, “You see yourself as the cause of some negative external event which in fact you were not primarily responsible for.”  No matter how the Great Crash of 2008 might affect you, you’d probably still have opportunities to succeed, and if you focused your attention on correcting your inadequacies in doing this, you’d be most likely to succeed.

After all, the whole idea of both a market economy and self-help for women victimized by men’s outrageous behavior, is that people are reliably motivated to take responsibility for their own problems, but not to take responsibility for what they’re morally responsible for.  One’s own success or failure is objective, whereas what one deserves isn’t.  Though such self-help edicts don’t say in so many words, the whole idea is obviously, “You should see how no matter what happens to you, you’re the one who ultimately shapes your own destiny.”  If you objected to what causes our rampant depression, those who’d defend the status quo would say that since the government didn’t enact the problems, those who have them could overcome them if only they were smart, courageous, dedicated, etc., enough to succeed.  Judging people according to how effective their reactions were in dealing with their own problems, would ask how they could empower themselves better.  Judging people according to how how ethically responsible their actions were, would be judgmental, restrictive, manipulative, etc.  As far as the Charles Bronsons of the world are concerned, as long as a vigilante is killing the muggers in a city, then any choice to mug in that city constitutes a death wish, since they should have known that that could be the consequences.

If you’re supposed to look at your own problems, including the labels that you put on the important aspects, in terms of, “The only question that I may legitimately ask about this situation is, ‘Can I change this, and if so, what’s the most pragmatic way in which I could?’,” then obviously, you can’t care about whether you were primarily responsible for your problem, only whether you succeeded or failed in changing it.  If your conception of “personal response-ability” is so focused on whether or not you’ve changed things, then whether the negative event that you’d failed to change was “external,” or whether you were primarily responsible for it, wouldn’t really get noticed.  Yet all of the cognitive distortions that I’ve listed here, come with the rationale that if you’re the one with the problem, and you focused your attention like this on solving it, you’d benefit.  “Thou shalt not care AT ALL,” says that you’re response-able for being as optimistic and successful as if you lived in a society without rampant depression.

 

 

For example, the cover story of the August, 2007 issue of Psychology Today, is,

Therefore, if you don’t rebound from rejection (and probably plenty of other travails, too), it would seem that you are sabotaging yourself.  It might seem morally bankrupt to expand the travails to which this would apply, to, “God, grant me serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference....  Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace; Taking as Jesus did this sinful world as it is not as I would have it.”  Yet if your definition of personal responsibility included that, you’d be more likely to succeed than if it didn’t.

16. This Moral Bankruptcy Is For Your Own GoodThe Words Universe webpage on the word “bankruptcy” defines it in the sense of “moral bankruptcy,” as, “a state of complete lack of some abstract property; ‘spiritual bankruptcy’; ‘moral bankruptcy’; ‘intellectual bankruptcy’.”  John Haynes Holmes, who’d been friends with Niebuhr, wrote to him describing his “recent writings... as a tragic instance of intellectual and spiritual bankruptcy.”  Where is any morality whatsoever, in “Taking as Jesus did this sinful world as it is not as I would have it”?  Niebuhr broke off from Holmes after he wrote this, yet Niebuhr described the ideology of the Oxford Group/Moral Re-Armament with, “In other words, a Nazi social philosophy has been a covert presumption of the whole Oxford group enterprise from the very beginning.  We may be grateful to the leader for revealing so clearly what has been slightly hidden.  Now we can see how unbelievably naïve this movement is in its efforts to save the world,” “The increasingly obvious fascist philosophy which informs the group movement is in other words not only socially vicious but religiously vapid,” along with, “Its religion manages to combine bourgeois complacency with Christian contrition in a manner which makes the former dominant,” as versus, say, “Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace; Taking as Jesus did this sinful world as it is not as I would have it.”  No matter what Wall Street did to cause the Great Crash of 2008, no matter how morally bankrupt it would be to treat that a if it simply “is reality,” for you to focus your own attention on courageously changing what you can and serenely accepting what you couldn’t, would still benefit you.

 

 

Yet the fact would still remain that even if Jane’s husband’s behavior problems didn’t result from any mental disease that could possibly make him seem not guilty by reason of insanity (and the law certainly doesn’t treat addiction as if it means that addicts are simply passive victims of their disease), no abstract property would do her any good.  If she proceeds along the lines of “Taking as Jesus did this sinful world as it is not as I would have it”?, and simply takes care of her own problems simply because they’re her problems, that would really do her a lot of good.  She couldn’t afford to waste her time and energy on any “abstract philosophizing.”  Moral bankruptcy could have pragmatic advantages similar to that of financial bankruptcy, that sometimes in the real world to expect someone to take moral responsibility for the choices he made would be unrealistically burdensome, so the person hurt by them would simply have to accept the consequences as his loss.

17. Micro vs. Macro—To say that depressive disorders affecting about 34,000,000 American adults consists of either 34,000,000 rather severe medical conditions or 34,000,000 rather severe character flaws, sounds very wrong.  That’s what our rampant depression looks like on a macro level.  Yet if you look at each of these individuals separately, and think, “Obviously your lassitude doesn’t result from a weak character, so I guess it comes from a medical condition,” that could sound very right.  That’s what our rampant depression looks like on a micro level.  The Great Crash of 2008 would make it clear that any personal problems that could possibly result from it, would be parts of a social problem.  Yet each of these personal problems would be treated separately, as something that the person who has the problem would be the person with the most reliable motivation to solve it.  Dr. Fredrick Goodwin of the previous Bush administration, in his speech about young men in the ghettoes running around like monkeys in the jungle, said that violence in ghettoes should be remedied by treating five-year-old ghetto kids who show irascible tendencies, as if these are dangerous incipient violent tendencies. “You are going to leverage it through individuals, not through large social engineering of society.”

Of course, too much leverage, with aggressive emotions backing it, leads to bubbles that eventually pop, since just because people keep pushing things in a certain direction using leverage, doesn’t make it sustainable.  Eliot Spitzer said on CNN’s Fareed Zakaria GPS, on March 22, 2009 about Wall Street, “...it’s kind of odd, because everybody derided leverage in public, but in private, participated to the hilt,” though Dr. Goodwin obviously had no problem with honoring it in public, or even with not setting risk-benefit limits, as long as the leverage is the pragmatism of people taking response-ability for their own welfare.  (Possibly, talk about leverage is like locker-room talk: both sound offensive most of the time, but when it’s time to act gutsy, both seem ideal.)   No matter how bad leverage might look now after the Great Crash of 2008, the fact would still remain that if each individual affected by the crisis took care of his or her own problems, that would solve the problems the most pragmatically.  (As Henry Paulson testified in 2000 before the Security and Exchange Commission, about allowing investment houses to use more leverage, “[W]e and other global firms have, for many years, urged the SEC to reform its net capital rule to allow for more efficient use of capital.”)  Both leverage in the investment world, and the leverage that comes from re-engineering victims, mean that those who pay the costs aren’t the ones who make the real decisions, which is where the dangers come from.

 

 

When you look at each of America’s depressions separately, it would seem very easy to blame the victims, in one way or another.  It could very easily seem that if only that person would take the right medication, choose to have an optimistic outlook, learn better survival skills so that he could protect himself better, etc., that would solve The Problem.  Of course, if we looked at the rampant depression on a macro level, it wouldn’t look as if the The Problem is that 34,000,000 Americans are suffering from deficiencies of Vitamin P, or that despite the social pressures that Americans get to be optimistic, self-assertive, etc., 34,000,000 Americans have negative outlooks and/or self-defeating passivity.  The sorts of absolutist victim-blaming distortions that you could see in the cognitive distortions of modern Western depression, could sound reasonable if you’re focusing your attention on how one depressed individual could single-mindedly change what he could, but not if you look at 34,000,000 Americans like that.  It would seem a lot less morally bankrupt to say, “Sure, what he did that harmed you was wrong, but you’re simply going to have to courageously change what you can, yourself, and serenely accept what you can’t, everyone else,” than it is to say, “Sure, what makes our rate of depression so unnaturally high, has to be unnaturally wrong, but those millions of Americans who wouldn’t have gotten depression if we had a natural rate of depression, are just going to have to courageously change what they can, their own brain chemistries through medication, outlooks, survival skills, etc., and serenely accept what they can’t, everyone else.”

18. There’s Always Room for Improvement—Telling the sinful “There’s always room for improvement,” in regards to how morally responsible they act, would seem to be a preachy and draconian effort to re-engineer human nature.  Yet since someone has to take responsibility for resolving every problem, and re-engineering untermensch human nature seems so much more acceptable than does re-engineering übermensch human nature, telling those who are using self-help approaches to resolve their own extreme problems, “There’s always room for improvement,” could be called vital self-empowerment.  After all, the better that her survival skills, defensive tactics, etc., are, the more likely she is to be free of those problems.  Quite possibly, this would be vital; she couldn’t afford not to be free of them.  No matter what problems the Great Crash of 2008 could possibly cause you, you could probably find ways in which you could take care of your own problems more effectively and efficiently.  To correct these defects would benefit you, and would make you look a lot more honorable.

The ideals of victim correction as a panacea are actually very attractive, in an exciting sort of way.  After all, if everyone lived up to these ideals, that would be very pro-freedom and gutsy.  Since very little is absolutely provably evil, this could seem very legitimate, that it allows people to move free of others’ opinions that what they did was inexcusably wrong.  This could seem synonymous with mental health, vitality, whereas caring about the causes of our rampant depression would seem both repressive and weak.  Radio personalities who advocate this sort of gutsy self-responsibility would have far more of an audience than would radio personalities who’d talk objectively about what causes our rampant depression, since gutsiness is a lot more exciting than is despondency.  The long-term effects of not dealing with one’s own problems, also, are pretty unattractively bleak.  The car of the Dukes of Hazzard was called the “General Lee” because of that name’s good-old-boy excitement, though those who dare to be more intellectual than that (gasp!) would realize just what it means to celebrate the leader of those who fought for slavery.  If “It’s all a state of mind,” then this exciting state of mind would be everything.  Cheering for the übermenschen seems positive, while caring about the untermenschen seems negative.  The stronger you are, the more likely you are to have what’s exciting, pro-freedom, übermensch, red-blooded, self-reliant, etc., on your side.  Winners are more exciting than losers, even when in the middle of the consequences of the Great Crash of 2008.

And, of course, if the ideals of victim correction as a panacea are what seems good since they’re exciting, anything that would go against them would seem bad: restrictive, repressive, anti-self-reliance, etc.  If a pundit spoke on the radio about our rampant depression, that wouldn’t have the excitement that would attract many listeners, unless he preached about the causes of depression that the Bible happens to prohibit.

This was also the appeal that Nazism used to rouse its followers.

         

Dr. Philip Zimbardo’s The Lucifer Effect, Understanding How Good People Turn Evil, describes an experiment that Palo Alto high school world history teacher Ron Jones did.  He told his students that he’d demonstrate to them how Nazism got its following.  Then, for the next week, “First, Jones established new rigid classroom rules that had to be obeyed without question.  All answers must be limited to three words or less and preceded by ‘Sir,’ as the student stood erect beside his or her desk....  The more verbally fluent, intelligent students lost their positions of prominence as the less verbal, more physically assertive ones took over....  A cupped-hand salute was introduced along with slogans that had to be shouted in unison on command.  Each day there was a new powerful slogan: ‘Strength through discipline’; ‘Strength through community’; ‘Strength through action’; and ‘Strength through pride.’”  Jones’ students recruited others to join this movement.  At the end of the week, he had the members of this movement gather for a rally in the auditorium, in which they’d see the presidential candidate who the nationwide version of their movement would back.  When they got to their auditorium, what they saw was an old film of the Nuremberg Rally.

Just imagine what would have happened if, instead, your average high school, or even college, class were told, “Depressive disorders affect about 34 million American adults.  It’s only natural to care about this, and what causes it, rather than just going through life as if it doesn’t exist.  At the same time, caring about this isn’t exciting.  And while caring about this isn’t intellectualist, its causes would tend to be so complex, ambiguous, and simply accepted or excused by our current cultural norms, that intelligence would probably be necessary to establish just what these causes are.”  That wouldn’t arouse the sort of instantaneous following that Jones’ Nazi-esque movement did.  At the end of the assembly where the students saw the film of the Nuremberg Rally, Jones said that they should take with them a new slogan, “Strength through understanding.”  Strength through understanding what our rampant depression means, certainly doesn’t have a Wagnerian excitement to it, but if you live in the midst of something this big, then not understanding it is an unbelievably big weakness.

What does seem exciting has, pretty much, the same excitement as pro wrestling.  It has exactly the sort of gutsiness that the cowboy type would think is very natural.  Yet not only is this wrestling staged, but the performers have to use so many drugs, whether this be steroids or painkillers, that pro wrestlers have an amazing death rate.  Joseph Califano’s High Society says on the second page, “And the fans look at today’s athletes the way ancient Romans at the Coliseum viewed Christians fed to the lions: as hunks of fungible flesh served up to entertain with home runs and 325-pound bone-crushing tackles,” the big difference being that the ancient Romans realized that the Christians were being killed, whereas the audiences for professional wrestling are under the illusion that they’re naturally that muscular, and are as indestructible as they look.  What wrestlers must do to perform is also very likely to cause brain damage, but fans don’t see that, either.  The use of Prozac to change people’s personalities from dysthymic to hyperthymic since this would make them more likely to succeed, has been compared to steroids, and to treat the social problem of rampant depression by giving those millions of people antidepressants, is certainly comparable to painkillers.  It seems bad, whiny manipulative defeatist and the like, to see the damage done.

Gambling in Havana

20. Every Society Needs Homeostasis—Since every society needs this, any society’s norms that get it homeostasis, must be this absolutist.  Sure, modern Western culture is supposed to hate absolutist “should statements.”  Yet if it forgave everyone, it wouldn’t get the self-stabilizing that it needs.  Some people’s response-ability simply must be absolute and unconditional.  No matter how much investigations prove that what Wall Street did to cause the Great Crash of 2008 was morally wrong, our society would still need its homeostasis, so if you don’t adequately take care of your own problems, you could be condemned as disruptive, burdensome, etc.

Sure, if a society with rampant depression treats the victims as simply being response-able for their own welfare, this would mean that a lot of problems would have to be solved by a lot of powerless people.  But if this society treats these people as basically untermenschen, mollycoddles, then either they take care of their own problems, or they’d seem to be pulling manipulative machinations at worst, sincerely but self-interestedly believing that what was done to them was bad or evil, at best.  This society could thereby keep stabilizing itself, without putting any moral pressure (heaven forefend!) on the übermenschen, redbloods.

And every society absolutely needs homeostasis, no matter how orthodox or pro-freedom it may be.  We tend to think that characteristic of orthodoxy, are such mandates as labeling people and their choices according to how they relate to the orthodoxy’s goals, demonizing disagreement, and that anyone whose natural opinions disagree with what he’s supposed to believe is to wash his brains of his own opinions and replace them with he’s supposed to believe.  Yet since every society needs homeostasis, no society could afford to be objective and intellectualist when it comes to sizing up the worthiness of those who don’t contribute to the homeostasis.  Disagreement would have to be demonized, since deviance would mean playing by different rules.  And sure, brainwashing was based on Buddhism and similar Asian transcendencies (which “real Americans” tend to associate with extinguishing people’s selfhood and free thought), but so was cognitive therapy, which could be very essential for those who live in societies with rampant depression to remain well-adjusted.

Those who believe in any tenets, had internalized them.  Therefore, if you dislike their tenets, they’d react as if you’re bigoted against them, or hold to some other evil ideology.  When Western feminists protest the restrictions that Saudi women must live with, those who believe in the tenets that say that this is good, would likely tell those feminists, “Don’t tell us what’s right for us!”  And if those outside of the USA were to protest what leads to such an unnaturally high rate of depression, those who are depressed would likely believe in the tenets that say that what causes the rampant depression is pro-freedom, so they’d likely say, “Don’t tell us what’s right for us!”  If they don’t do this, some of them won’t do what they need to do in order to fit in and be productive.

21. How Market Discipline, Disciplines—Realists would often tell us that even though the ways in which market discipline disciplines, could very easily reward those who deserve to be punished and punish those who deserve to be rewarded, we still must accept it.  Otherwise, people could get what they want by manipulatively cooking up enough sophistry to “prove” that they’re victims, rather than by building and achieving.  The central factor in this is motivation, which is pretty much exactly what Schopenhauer meant by people’s SELF-WILLS.  As Justice Potter Stewart said in concurring with the Furman v. Georgia decision regarding the death penalty in 1972, “These death sentences are cruel and unusual in the same way that being struck by lightning is cruel and unusual,” and the same could be said for the punishments that come from market discipline, but whether one physically wins or loses is objective, and whether one is right or wrong is subjective.  (Yet, of course, if the law punishes people based on happenstance, that would seem intolerable, but if the real world punishes people based on happenstance, for you not to accept that that’s the real world would seem intolerable.)

Both Schopenhauer and the market economists would say that aggressive willfulness, at the very least, should be accepted fatalistically, while the SELF-WILLS of those who are victimized by the aggressiveness are, in one way or another, ignominiously cunning and unacceptably insidious.  In the end, what really matters is that those whose own welfare is at stake are far more motivated to take care of what needs to be taken care of, than would be those who’d play basically an altruistic role.  Our society would simply produce more if “personal responsibility” meant response-ability for one’s own welfare including one’s own problems, that if that meant ethical responsibility.  This all seems just as reasonable as does, “God, grant me serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.”

If it seems that people should get whatever they win or lose whatever they lose, that would happen very automatically, so the results would be what it seems they “should” be.  A Schopenhaurian-Nietzschian-Wagnerian-Niebuhrian conception of the passive-aggressive willfulness of the weak, could prove very pragmatic.  If people think that willfulness expressed through power is good, while willfulness expressed through assertively standing up for one’s own rights is bad, then people will get what they want in ways that market discipline could discipline.  If it seems that people should get what they deserve, then where would what they deserve come from?

For the most part and at least in theory, the expectations that this makes are at least reasonable.  Yet the same logic is what holds Jane response-able for the consequences of how her husband’s actions affect her family, and would hold her equally responsible even if he didn’t seem to be just a passive victim of his disease.  After all, she would be motivated to prevent and solve her problems, and he wouldn’t.  She could be accused of having an insidious SELF-WILL, such as by really wanting to be a codependent giver though she might not want to admit it, though why she wouldn’t want to admit being a giver, I don’t know.  The fact that, for her just like everyone else, “personal responsibility” means response-ability for one’s own welfare including one’s own problems, means that she’ll be motivated to achieve.  This all seems just as unreasonable as does, “Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace; Taking as Jesus did this sinful world as it is not as I would have it.”

Just as “Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace; Taking as Jesus did this sinful world as it is not as I would have it.” is a part of The Serenity Prayer, defining “personal responsibility” as response-ability for one’s own welfare including one’s own problems, would have to include situations like Jane’s.  It’s really no coincidence that the transcendent spirituality of Twelve-Step groups has been the main role model for self-help for people, especially women, in trouble.  Otherwise, who would decide when an expectation that someone simply take response-ability for her own problems, goes too far?  You might think that a self-help book that tries to inculcate optimism, would realize that “Here’s proof: When a lion devours a sheep, is this unfair?” goes too far, but, objectively speaking, there really is no such thing as “going too far.”

The section for inventorying character defects involving “control,” in Blueprint for Progress, Al-Anon’s Fourth Step Inventory, says, after saying that giving up such “control” tendencies could help members cope with everything else in their lives, “In Al-Anon we learn that the only behavior we have a real chance to control is our own, and that the alcoholic needs to be free to choose as he or she wishes.  Keeping the focus on ourselves brings us a new freedom.”  While those who believe in market discipline, Objectivism, etc., might not like to admit this fact, it would still remain that those who are the most likely to succeed resiliently resourcefully and independently, are those who apply to their own lives in general, the same morally bankrupt serene acceptance that the wives of addicted men are to have toward them.  Both while going through self-help therapy for the coping skills that alkies’ wives use in dealing with them, and in our day-to-day lives, anything that could seem to be untermensch and/or anti-freedom WILLFULNESS, such as manipulative attempts to control others in the name of what’s morally right, would seem insidious.

The most important question is, “Does it work?”  AA treats its Big Book as unchangeable sacred scripture, other than replacing some of the personal stories with others.  This sacred scripture includes, in its chapter How it Works, in the section that describes their conception of a  “searching and fearless moral inventory,” “Resentment is the ’number one’ offender. It destroys more alcoholics than anything else....  If we were to live, we had to be free of anger....  [Fear] somehow touches about every aspect of our lives. It was an evil and corroding thread; the fabric of our existence was shot through with it,” which is exactly the sort of “weakness of character,” or “character flaw,” that ads for antidepressants say could be attributed to the victims of our rampant depression, but not its perpetrators.

Al-Anon’s Conference-Approved literature includes such books as In All Our Affairs: Making Crises Work For You, the daily inspirational reader Hope for Today, another daily inspirational reader The Courage to Change (and it’s pretty obvious who this intends to correct), and, a very new one, Opening Our Hearts, Transforming Our Losses.  Probably the most obvious difference between the two handbooks is that, while The Al-Anon Family Groups talked about both a Stoic acceptance of the alkies’ behavior and working to pressure them into going into rehab, the new handbook has obviously given up on the latter.  It seems that, since pressuring them into going into rehab doesn’t work but Stoic acceptance does, they’re going to treat the Stoic acceptance as, “How It Works.”  Of course, the very same Reagan era that popularized this sort of anti-whining self-reliance, also popularized a “get tough” attitude toward drunk drivers including the alcoholics, but the law isn’t as powerless as the family members, so for the law not to treat addicts as simply passive victims of their diseases, would work.  And, of course, if others cause the members big problems simply due to morally bad characters, for the victims to try to change their actions wouldn’t work, and to change their own reactions would work.  Just as with market discipline, sure, this sort of pragmatism is likely to produce a lot of unfairness and helplessness, but it would seem that we must accept that life isn’t fair, and that, objectively speaking, there really is no such thing as, “going too far.”  While those who believe in market discipline would want to believe that the fact that it’s based on people’s being reliably motivated only to take care of themselves, isn’t as unreasonable as are the expectations that the therapy for addicts’ spouses routinely make of them, if personal responsibility for one’s own welfare is that unconditional in a society with rampant depression, it could just as easily get that severe.

22. The Worse Your Problem Is, the Less You Could Afford to Care About Blame—And, of course, when it comes to our rampant depression, caring about any of the causes of this obviously unnatural situation, could be labeled “blaming,” “finding blame,” etc.  This is exactly where that sort of morally bankrupt pragmatism, is bound to lead us.  The more self-responsibility, the better, especially if your problem is very serious.  If the Great Crash of 2008 affects you slightly, you could afford to care about abstractions such as blame, but if these affects on your life were so great that you had too much to worry about in the material world, then any self-help advisor would tell you that that would be where your attention should go.

23. What is “Human Nature”?—Whenever someone tells you, “Oh well, that’s just human nature, so we’ll have to accept it,” you could be that what he’s talking about is the übermensch, red-blooded human nature that it seems that we mustn’t try to re-engineer, not the supposedly untermensch, mollycoddle human nature that it seems that we must try to re-engineer.  This then would lead to the next question, “What exactly is this übermensch human nature?”  Who exactly decides what aggressive behavior is to be excused like this, no matter how much that we could prove that it contributes to our rampant depression?  As long as excusing any aggressive behavior would seem tenable, then chances are very good that if someone hurt by it is counseled according to the Serenity-Prayer school of psychology, the bottom line would be either, “Oh, well, that’s just the way that human nature is,” or, “Oh, well, that’s just the way that some people are,” as if that was just slightly excessively normal human imperfection.  And/or, this could just as easily be, “Oh, well, life isn’t fair,” or, “Oh, well, that’s just the way that life goes sometimes.”  You could bet that any greed that contributed to the crisis, especially if it was legal, would be accepted along the lines of, “Oh, well, that’s human nature.”

It seems that the helplessness that causes our rampant depression, is just some of the inevitable imperfections of life and/or human nature:

Most of the times that anyone does anything that contributes to our rampant depression, those around us would respond as if it’s either normal or slightly excessively normal human imperfection, “Oh, well, that’s human nature,” or, “Oh, well, some people are like that.”  Yet if that sort of behavior really is inevitable to that degree, that would mean that the rampant depression is inevitable.  If you look at this on a micro level, it might look as if the person who’s causing the problem really had to do it.  Expecting him to stop would be repressing restricting or controlling him too much, people will inevitably make mistakes and have accidents, once he’s done it he can’t turn back the clock and undo it so he’s the helpless one and the victim who demands better is the selfish one, etc.  Yet if you looked at this on the macro level, this inevitability would have to mean that our rampant depression is inevitable.  Obviously it isn’t an inevitable part of the natural order for 15% of the adult population to suffer serious depressive disorders in any given year.  Therefore, what causes our unnaturally high rate of depression, isn’t inevitable, either.

24. Victimizers Can Legitimately Play the Helpless Role; Victims Can’t.  By the time that the consequences of any destructive behavior already exist, what caused them could be called “past history.”  Therefore, at the time that these consequences already exist, the person who caused the problem could simply act helpless, i.e. helpless to undo what caused them.  He’d seem to have the legitimacy of the redblood and übermensch, so if we don’t accept his acting helpless, we’d seem too judgmental, restrictive, repressive, manipulative, etc.  On the other hand, the victim couldn’t act helpless, since he’d still have the power to courageously change what he could and serenely accept what he couldn’t.  Since he’d be the mollycoddle, the untermensch, if he did act helpless, he’d seem too judgmental, restrictive, repressive, manipulative, etc.

Over and over we’ve heard that we absolutely needed The Great Wall Street Bailout of 2008 since at the time, Wall Street were helpless victims of a mess that they got themselves into, and now we had to rescue them.  Those who’d have to do the real work, couldn’t play the helpless role.  All of the above minimizations of Wall Street’s blame that Bush made in his address of September 24, shows how easy it is to make it look as if no one was really to blame so we shouldn’t feel resentful, treating those responsible as if they “found themselves” in trouble.  John McCain’s responded to The Great Wall Street Bailout of 2008 failing to pass in the House on September 29, after Nancy Pelosi blamed Bush Administration policies for the crisis, was, “Now is not the time to fix the blame, it’s time to fix the problem.”  French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s top advisor, Claude Gueant, said on October 5, “What is certain and what the citizens of France and Europe must know is that their [banking] establishments won’t be left in difficulty.”  Of course, when those who’d have to fix whatever damages Wall Street had caused are doing so, to talk about them as “finding themselves in trouble,” finding themselves in difficulty, etc., unless this is just mentioned in passing on the way to finding real solutions, this would seem to be the picture of weak characters.

25. Open Secrets~

Victim correction as a panacea is very much a head game.  That is, that it’s based on certain distortions.  Explicitly stating those distortions would greatly offend those who believe in it, since that would end the distortions, and, therefore, the insidious game.  When holding you responsible for dealing with however the Great Crash of 2008 might affect you, it would be pretty hard for anyone to say explicitly, “No matter what Wall Street did, you absolutely can’t change that but absolutely can change how well you’ll get through life now, so that’s what you’ve got to focus your attention on now, and if you don’t, you’d be dysfunctional.”  Yet self-help books for women victimized by their boyfriends or husbands have this approach, since for anyone in trouble, “self-help” would have to mean that if it’s your problem then you’re the one who provides the help, and you should prefer this since you’d want the one who solves your problem, to be the one with the most reliable motivation to do it well.

On a macro level, what this game looks like is, “Depressive disorders affect about 34 million American adults, and this consists of either 34,000,000 rather severe medical conditions, or 34,000,000 rather severe character flaws.”  The fact that this is a social problem should be glaringly obvious, but to treat this as a social problem would interfere in the ways in which a society with rampant depression must get its homeostasis.  The only way that this many problems could get solved is if the victims, irrespective of who’s morally responsible for what, simply take response-ability for their own problems.  If those in this society instead tended to think of this as a social problem, this would give the people pessimistic outlooks, give manipulators an excuse to blame their problems on others, make it more likely that non-manipulators would sincerely believe that others owe them what they want to have, etc.  Of course, none of this would change the fact that for such a large percentage of the population to have such serious feelings of helplessness, is a social problem, and this fact would end the head-game.

Ever since, in 1988, I read, in Antidepressant Treatment—the Essentials, by John H. Greist, MD and Thomas H. Greist, MD, “According to National Institutes of Mental Health figures, 20,000,000 people or approximately 15% of the U.S. adult population suffers from a serious depressive disorder in any given year,”

 

 

I realized that if the average American knew this fact, many of our norms and values would look very different than they’d look if the average American simply figured that, of course, they’re simply what is right.  These norms and values would include the presumption that what we should do about 20,000,000 Americans suffering from a serious depressive disorder in any given year, is to give each of them medical treatment separately.  To say that as doctors treat the million of Americans who suffer a serious depressive disorder in any given year, they should know this rate since it would help the doctors treat each individual as if their depressions simply are their problems, completely ignores the fact that this involves an unnaturally high rate of helplessness, happening to millions of people, year in and year out.

On a micro level, each of these people suffering from depression would be looked at as if of course, their motivation to solve their problems is reliable.  The motivation of whoever caused it to solve it is unreliable.  Therefore, moral bankruptcy, maybe even “Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace; Taking as Jesus did this sinful world as it is not as I would have it,” and, “What we should do about 20,000,000 Americans suffering from a serious depressive disorder in any given year, is to give each of them medical treatment separately, as if they’re all simply suffering from deficiencies of Vitamin P,” would be pragmatic.  In a long-term sense, of course being well-adjusted is vitally pragmatic, even if this means, “Here’s proof: When a lion devours a sheep, is this unfair?” depending on medication in order to be well-adjusted, etc.  Of course we must be very hesitant to correct the übermenschen, the redbloods, but very eager to correct the untermenschen, the mollycoddles.  Each of his problems that were underlying or precipitating causes of his depression, could always be minimized, since very little is absolutely evil, and any ambiguities could be used as “proof” that his objections are only his self-interested and self-defeatingly negativist opinion.  This would then magnify the expectations that he handle his own problem with STRENGTH of character, and, therefore, the significance of his failures to do so.  Even if he solved his problem 90% of the way he’d have to focus his attention on taking care of the 10% he failed to solve, and all the rest of it.

The National Comorbidity Survey Replication Study, from 2005, looked at, among other things, the more serious depression, “...we found that the majority of people with MDE [major depressive episodes] are severe cases and only a small minority are mild cases.  The average person with MDE in the past year reported an average of 35 days when they were unable to work or carry out other normal activities because of their depression.”  About these major depressive episodes, that Harvard webpage says, “The researchers found MDE affects 13 to 14 million American adults—roughly 6.6 percent—in a given year.  In a lifetime, 16.2 percent of Americans—about 33 to 35 million—suffer from MDE.”

Former Judge Sol Wachtler wrote about his own major depressive episode, in After the Madness, A Judge’s Own Prison Memoir, “Certain aspects of depression can be delineated, but the horrors of depression defy description.  When in full crisis, the suffering seems endless and unbearable.  I was going so low, I felt I could touch those scary places of powerlessness and inadequacy.”

William Styron wrote in Darkness Visible, “‘Brainstorm,’... has unfortunately been preempted to describe, somewhat jocularly, intellectual inspiration....  Told that someone’s mood disorder has evolved into a storm—a veritable howling tempest in the brain, which is indeed what a clinical depression resembles like nothing else—even the uninformed layman might display sympathy rather than the standard reaction that ‘depression’ evokes, something akin to ‘So what?’ or ‘You’ll pull out of it,’ or ‘We all have bad days.’”

To have that rate of major depressive episodes should seem especially horrific, yet that seems to be simply among the diseases that are parts of the natural order, so are simply to be treated medically.  According to this logic, even if the problems that contribute to one’s depression are obviously the fault of someone else, as Jane’s problems are obviously the fault of someone else, it would still seem that he should follow Henry Ford’s advice, “Don’t find blame.  Find a solution.”  Sure, this would fit the following descriptions from Blaming the Victim, “As we might expect, the logical outcome of analyzing social problems in terms of the deficiencies of the victim is the development of programs aimed at correcting those deficiencies.  The formula for action becomes extraordinarily simple: change the victim.”  The humanitarian yet morally bankrupt approach would say that since helpless people can’t change what makes them helpless but can change their own brain chemistries and outlooks, that’s what they should do, for their own good; they’d be happier and function more productively.

(Yes, that pamphlet that Jane’s reading, which she got from her first Al-Anon meeting, is titled “Living with an Alcoholic.”  Learning how to live happily with an alcoholic, is what would constitute self-help for her, since that’s the reality that she must deal with.)

 

No matter how obvious that fact is, saying it explicitly would expose the head-game.

You might think that at least those who are particularly moral, would have limits as to what rate of depression they’re willing to accept in their own societies.  At the very least, they might be willing to accept the causes of depression that their cultural norms say that we must all accept, such as unemployment, but reject the causes that their norms would call “sinful.”  But even there, the pragmatism in dealing with one’s own realities, and the valuing of stolidity, could make, “Taking as Jesus did this sinful world as it is not as I would have it,” seem all too natural.  As long as they want to engage in commitment-phobic behavior, their insisting on not being “trapped”, would seem to be the one thing that must happen.  If someone they know is a recovering alcoholic who’d just relapsed, it would seem natural to consider him to be just a passive victim of his disease, and strange not to.  Sure, this is totally inconsistent with their proclaimed ideals, but ideals aren’t realistic, and that stolid sort of moral relativism seems vital.  In the end, those who were hurt by sinfulness that they didn’t deserve, would simply have to take care of their own problems as self-reliantly a would those who are unemployed and did nothing to deserve this.  Since all sinfulness is relative, and isn’t objectively quantifiable, who’s to say how sinful is too sinful?  If you were to ask such a moralist what Jesus or Moses or whoever else would do about what causes our rampant depression, that person would have to end up saying that it would be nice if those around us didn’t cause these problems, but since they do we’re simply going to have to accept that the victims and potential victims would simply have to deal with this fact.  There’s an organization Prayer Angels for the Military, but what would prayer angels for those with depression or anxiety disorders do, give them miraculous treatment after the problems already exist?  Whether your helplessness is of the sort that would have to happen in order for our economy to keep functioning, or the sort that our moral norms condemn, if you object strongly enough, you’d seem naïve, controlling, and/or to have some other untermensch character flaw(s), which, of course, aren’t so forgivable.

Conceivably, populists could care about the depression that could be attributed to the rich and the poor, as in Niebuhr’s “There is a peculiar irony in the fact that [Nietzsche’s] doctrine, which was meant as an exposure of the vindictive transvaluation of values engaged in by the inferior classes, should have itself become a vehicle of the pitiful resentments of the lower middle classes of Europe in their fury against more powerful aristocratic and proletarian classes.”  What went for the Nazis then, also goes for the American populists now.  If they really care about the harm that the rich and the poor are supposed to be causing manipulatively, then these populists would understand that this harm could contribute to our rampant depression.  What the poor and the “elite” have in common is that they could be manipulative, the poor because they have “victim-power” and the because they get their power through abstractions, and Nietzsche was certainly resentful about manipulative power.  Chances are that, in the end, these populists would have a very Nietzschian attitude toward this.  Those of the lower middle class would be those who could least afford to do without victim-self-blaming, since they couldn’t afford not to solve their own problems as expediently as possible, and they must be very productive no matter what happens to them, do a lot of the work that needs to be done, no matter what happens to them.  Likewise, all those elitist non-governmental international organizations that populists consider to be a surreptitious and conspiratorial part of the “new world order,” would be just as averse to caring about the worldwide rate of depression going up with Globalism, as the populists are.  Sure, the audio tape version of G. Edward Griffin’s pro-laetrile book World Without Cancer, which is filled with populist conspiracy theories, makes several claims that animals’ “instinctive choice” is to eat plant parts that contain laetrile though the more laetrile they’d have the more bitter they’d taste, but if you asked these very same populists what our high rate of depression indicates about how far we are from satisfying our own instinctive choices, they’d no doubt say that we must get those untermensch instincts under control.

Since Bill Wilson, co-founder of AA who wrote most of their Big Book, was a stock broker (during the great stock market crash, when suddenly many people didn’t seem to have achieved and earned as much as they previously had), rather than someone who did real work, for him to define defects of character as resentment anger and fear, should seem more manipulative in this focus on correcting victims, than if someone who did real work was so focused on correcting victims.  The money-changers are those who populists are most likely to associate with manipulating the public into believing what suits the manipulators.  Typical of this is that one of the first charitable foundations established by John D. Rockefeller and planned by Reverend Fred Gates, was called the “General Education Board.”  Yet the intent wasn’t to strengthen education.  In 1904, in this foundation’s first publication, Gates wrote, “In our dreams we have limitless resources, and the people yield themselves with perfect docility to our molding hands.  The present educational conventions fade from our minds, and unhampered by tradition, we work our own good will upon a grateful and responsive rural folk.  We shall not try to make these people or any of their children into philosophers of mental learning or of science.  We have not to raise up from among them authors, editors, poets, or men of letters.  We shall not search for embryo great artists, painters, musicians, nor lawyers, doctors, preachers, politicians, statesmen of whom we have ample supply.  The task we set before ourselves is very simple as well as a very beautiful one: To train these people as we find them to a perfectly ideal life just where they are.  So we will organize our children into a community and teach them to do in a perfect way the things that their fathers and mothers are doing in an imperfect way, in the homes, in the shop, and on the farm.”

Since in the USA the percentage of the owners of banks who are Jewish is less than the percentage of Jews in the American population in general bankers’ conspiracies would mean WASP bankers’ conspiracies.  Yet in Europe, this could very easy mean supposed Jewish bankers’ conspiracies.  The Fine Art of Propaganda, by Alfred McClung Lee and Elizabeth Briant Lee, from 1939, tells of the “World Service, a leaflet circulated by the Nazis to ‘reveal’ the ‘machinations of the Jewish under-world’....”  A WASP version of this that included all the money-changers, would have to include Bill Wilson’s “educating” us that when the helpless are faced with hardship and/or others’ sinfulness, they should serenely accept that their problems are their problems.  (Plenty of people who did real work would also say that unless poor and working-class people were lucky enough to improve their own lots in life without the help of charities such as Rockefeller’s, then they. too, had better do their best to live a perfectly ideal life just where they are.)

It could always seem that no matter what helplessness the rich and the poor managed to cause, each middle-class person could still find opportunities to succeed if he really wanted to.  Populist anti-science and anti-intellectual conspiracy theories, whether they be the old ones saying that proof against certain quack cancer cures is fake, or the new ones saying that the proof of global warming is fake, have this strange tendency to claim that a lot of people are engaging in some very intentional and detailed conniving, but at the same time, the scope of this malice is so limited that it wouldn’t get in the way of your succeeding if you’re really a winner.  Chances are that if you haven’t succeeded and you resentfully believe that people more powerful that you are responsible for this fact, these very same populists would say that your defeatist belief comes from elite intellectuals’ theories that they are promulgating in the name of the poor.  Yet if the elite really were capable of such conspiracies, you’d think that they’d also engage in the sort of concerted actions that would make it harder for workers to achieve certain rights.

Of course, hip humanitarians would probably have a very different attitude toward the causes of depression that moralism does prohibit.  As David Karp wrote in Speaking of Sadness: Depression, Disconnection, and the Meanings of Illness, “If you are going through a divorce, that’s a private trouble.  When half of the marriages in America are failing, that’s a public issue.”  Either that rate of divorce is only natural, or social problems are causing it.  If it contributes significantly to our rampant depression, then that rate of divorce isn’t only natural.  Yet if a hip humanitarian were to look at a single divorce on a micro level, he’d probably talk about how it’s only natural, that of course if those people didn’t get divorced that would be moralistic repression, etc.  Chances are that social problems would be providing enough stresses that, in the context of them, it would be only natural for them to get divorced, and very unnatural for them to simply bite the bullet and endure the stressful marriage.  Yet the logic that the hip humanitarian would give, would probably talk about how repressive are the moralistic constraints that tell people that they must stay married, not these social problems.  If you told him, “But our unnaturally high rate of divorce is contributing to our unnaturally high rate of depression!  Do you really want to favor something that contributes to it as if opposing that is unnaturally bad?” he’d probably have plenty to say about how this divorce, on a micro level, is synonymous with “what’s natural,” but wouldn’t look at this problem on a macro level and say, in so many words, “Sure, our high rate of divorce has caused our rate of depression to go up by X%, but we’ll just have to accept that since the only alternative, stopping the divorces, would be unnaturally repressive.”

Old-fashioned economists, if they’re honest when they look at the details, could be among our best allies. As Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything, by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner says, “Economics is, at root, the study of incentives: how people get what they want, or need, especially when other people want or need the same thing.  Economists love incentives.”   Old-fashioned economists would be the sort that would say that Jane the alkie’s wife has a free choice, that she’s free to stay with him or leave, depending on which incentives motivate her the most.  Yet if such economists looked objectively at how much helplessness must be behind our rampant depression, they’d see how constrained Jane’s choices really are, along with the choices of all of those who get their inspiration from, “God, grant me serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference....  Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace; Taking as Jesus did this sinful world as it is not as I would have it.”  One of the main things that bother anti-intellectualists about intellectuals, is that they don’t just slap on people events and things, distorted labels that work to reduce resentment and increase personal response-ability for one’s own welfare.

26. Marxist Tactics—Central to both Marxism and victim correction as a panacea, is that people can’t think for themselves if their honest opinions would be counterproductive.  Every society needs to be able to count on getting its homeostasis in certain ways, so the expectations that it would make in how it gets its homeostasis, would have to be absolutist.  No matter how much our culture claims to favor free thought, when it comes time for someone to take personal responsibility for any problem, our society would have problems functioning if everyone involved could make up their own minds as to who’s responsible, especially since, “the word bad, more rarely and abstractly by the word evil, which therefore denotes everything that is not agreeable to the striving of the will in each case,” so everyone involved would want to believe that the other person is responsible.  Naturally, thinking for yourself would seem synonymous with petty bourgeois.  The victim correction versions of this premise would, therefore, be most adamantly and absolutistically advocated by those who hate Marxism.  The labels that both victim correction and Marxism slap on people, concern only economic factors and other banalities.  Questions on whether one is unwilling to accept horrors or other sinfulness, are conspicuously absent.  As you deal with however the Great Crash of 2008 could possibly affect you, you’d be most likely to succeed if your self-responsibility was as reductionist as were 19th Century philosophies such as Marxism, you had a dogmatic blind faith in this, you realized that in order to get results in the material world certain things had to happen in the material world, and you figured that you can’t take seriously any definitions of morality that your economy wouldn’t reward.

As It Can’t Happen Here says,

Once, on a motor trip with Emma, [Doremus] stopped in at summer camp of Communists.  Most of them were City College Jews or neat Bronx dentists, spectacled, and smooth-shaven except for foppish small mustaches.  They were hot to welcome these New England peasants and to explain the Marxian gospel (on which, however, they furiously differed).  Over macaroni and cheese in an unpainted dining shack, they longed for the black bread of Moscow.  Later, Doremus chuckled to find how much they resembled the Y.M.C.A. campers twenty miles down the highway—equally Puritanical, hortatory, and futile, and equally given to silly games with rubber balls.

One big similarity between the sort of psychological formulae that are used to help people deal with what causes our rampant depression, and Marxism, is a cultish ignoring of some very big big questions.  Believe it or not, The Communist Manifesto, by Marx and Engels in 1848, openly admits,

Of course, in the beginning, this cannot be effected except by means of despotic inroads on the rights of property, and on the conditions of bourgeois production; by means of measures, therefore, which appear economically insufficient and untenable, but which, in the course of the movement, outstrip themselves, necessitate further inroads upon the old social order, and are unavoidable as a means of entirely revolutionising the mode of production.

The Manifesto also says that when some Germans adapted a French variety of socialism to German culture, “...not the interests of the proletariat, but the interests of Human Nature, of Man in general,” as if human nature as German culture would tend to define it, isn’t really that important.  The Manifesto has an indignant tone about how much others disliked them even then, without any awareness of how this might be right.

Yet, “Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace; Taking as Jesus did this sinful world as it is not as I would have it,” has to leave plenty of unanswered questions, too.  Not only that, this must have a cultish insistence that all accept that these questions remain unanswered.  Whenever anyone who didn’t accept this encountered a very depression-genic situation, he’d whine about blame and try to control, restrict and guilt-trip others, rather than focusing his attention on courageously changing what they can and serenely accepting what they can’t.

As Richard H. Crossman’s introduction to the classic book The God that Failed, a collection of writings of people who’d joined and then left Stalinism, from 1949 and edited by him, says, “The intellectual attraction of Marxism was that it exploded liberal fallacies—which really were fallacies.  It taught the bitter truth that progress is not automatic, that boom and slump are inherent in capitalism, that social injustice and racial discrimination are not cured merely by the passage of time, and that power politics cannot be ‘abolished,’ but only used for good or bad ends.”

The anti-liberalism of the Reagan Revolution would say similar things about the everyday norms concerning what leads to our rampant depression, anxiety disorders, etc.  A Reaganomics attack politician would insist that:  When someone causes you a problem of the sort that contributes to our rampant depression, anxiety disorders, etc., the only question that you could honorably ask about this is,

The only thing that really matters is whether or not you have enough power to change it.  (You may or may or not have enough power to change it without much effort and sacrifice.)  Even if this clearly violates your moral rights, personal boundaries, etc., as long as he doesn’t think so, then you’ll simply have to take care of your own problem.  What your own rights, personal boundaries, etc., really mean, is that you should have enough respect for them that you’d fight as resolutely and skillfully as you need to in order to win.  Moral rights are simply “what would be nice,” and you’d better not be naïve and idealistic about this.  In real world realpolitik, if you win you win and if you lose you lose, so in situations where winning is important, you should distort your own thinking to make it the most likely to lead to your winning.  If you have any attitudes that would interfere with this, you should wash them from your own brain, re-educate yourself, to make your thinking more productive and well-adjusted.  Everyone knows that being well-adjusted means that certain socioeconomic forces shape much of your thinking.  Sure, this is amoral, but that’s realism.  Sure, the petty bourgeois elite could afford the luxury of abstractions that would disagree, but those who aren’t elite, can’t.  Caring about the complexities of life, would be analysis-paralysis.  You’ll simply have to be realistic, and do and believe whatever would be most likely to cause the results you need.  Physical effects must have physical causes, no matter what abstract rights anyone may have.  This is what materialist worldviews say, and while they may seem free of moral restraint, someone has to take responsibility for the problems and consequences, so abdicating this responsibility has to seem intolerable, so these self-justifying moralities have to supersede truly objective awareness of many material consequences.  Fitting in with your society has certain advantages, such as that you’d look cooperative, and that you’d get the benefits of productive interaction.  No one likes belly-achers.  It’s very easy to feel hatred, or at least suspicion, toward those who seem to be the problem.  Contrived optimism looks well-adjusted, respectable, and productive.  Sure this is very banal, but that’s life.  A good deal of attention (especially in the propaganda to convince others and rally the masses) would go to condemning those who don’t fit in or live up to the expectations, though any very angry person could do that.  In theory the obvious problems that would result from the beloved banalities wouldn’t make much of a difference, but in practice they obviously have to.  This must be absolutist, since absolutely, reality is whatever it is, and whatever it would take to make the changes you need to make, that’s what it would take.  just about all of those in any society must define “personal responsibility” in basically the same predictable way and truly believe it, or different people would play by different rules, and plenty of people wouldn’t take the rules to heart when fortitude would be most necessary.  What leads to our rampant depression and anxiety seem inevitable, though unnaturally high rates of depression and anxiety certainly aren’t inevitable.  Opposition to Keynesian economics isn’t that without it people get what they deserve, but that with it, those who really do have the economic power could cause things that we don’t expect.  Even if the problem was absolutely caused by the buying and/or working habits of working- and middle-class people, if this leads to problems you could hardly say that these people are getting what they chose given the options available.  Economic norms simply are what they are.

This means an absolutist social determinism.  The Sellout, How Three Decades of Wall Street Greed and Government Mismanagement Destroyed the Global Financial System, by Libertarian financial journalist Charles Gasparino, says, “Milken and his followers described the market they were interested in growing [junk bonds] as a noble mission, capitalism at its best.  These were companies with products and employees that were discriminated against because they were new to the markets.”  On the other hand, financial professional Teddy Forstmann, whom Donald Trump called a “man’s man,” was naïve in a Populist sort of way, believing that junk bonds were immoral since they got money without having nearly enough substance to them.  “But Forstmann was also naïve, in much the way leaders of nascent political movements are often naïve.  He believed in the righteousness of his cause, and he couldn’t understand why others didn’t.”  Yet, as the most basic premise of Marxism says, idealism such as that of Hegel means nothing as long as the socioeconomic realities of a society make “realism” mean that those in a society must do and believe certain things in order to function as they should or must.  “But the history of Wall Street shows that there are no real noble missions, just opportunities to exploit social or economic conditions before reality sets in.”  Many investors thought that they were helping “emerging markets” countries until Russia defaulted on its debt in 1998, leading to the collapse of the Long Term Capital Management hedge fund, leading to the near-collapse of the financial markets since so many others copied LTCM’s trades.  Many investors and financial professionals thought that they were helping working-class people by making home mortgages available to them, but that led to the housing bubble in which home prices became too high for them, followed by the economic meltdown which ruined things for everybody.  This would constitute proof that reformism doesn’t work, since in the end the only thing that would really count for anything is who has what power.  The power relationships in our day-to-day lives are a lot like laissez faire economics, and what this principle means for our day-to-day lives is that, as any self-help book on interpersonal relationships with destructive people would tell you, no matter how much you could prove that their behavior is wrong, even outrageous, you’d have to see that, when reality sets in, you absolutely couldn’t change them, absolutely could change yourself, and absolutely must take care of your own problems.  All the moral rightness in the world, and a dollar, will get you a cup of coffee.

In the essay in that book by Stephen Spender, he wrote, “Such Communists are like ships doubly anchored fore and aft, amid crosscurrents which swing other craft.  The two anchors are: the fixed vision of the evils done by capitalism, and the equally fixed vision of the classless society of the future.  Crosstides disturbing liberal consciences are scruples about the methods necessary to achieve the ends of Communism and awareness of events such as the suffering of thousands of people who do not happen to be Communists....  There is something overpowering about the fixed conscience....  What power there is in a conscience which reproaches us not only for vices and weaknesses but also for virtues, such as pity for the oppressed, if they happen to be the wrong oppressed, or love for a friend, if he is not a good Party member!  A conscience which tells us that by taking up a certain political position today we can attain a massive, granite-like superiority over our own whole past, without being humble or simple or guilty, but simply by virtue of converting the whole of our personality into raw material for the use of the Party machine!”

The conventional definition of personal responsibility, as can be seen in both market discipline and the black-and-white victim-self-blaming of the cognitive distortions of modern Western depression, have this same effect on the conscience, both in the certainty by which one ignores true wrongs, and in the guilt feelings he has when he fails to deal with his own problems adequately.  The two anchors that doubly anchor those who think along these lines, are the fixed visions of the evils of weakness and “acting weak,” and of supposedly how much these people could better their own lots in life if only they tried harder and had the right attitude.  Crosstides that would involve the wrongs done to these people (including oneself) don’t bother such people, since even in a society with rampant depression and anxiety disorders, these wrongs are simply labeled as life’s inherent imperfections with which we all must deal.  This is very overpowering, since all that a “realist” would have to do is to set out to courageously change what he can and serenely accept what he can’t, and he’d consider himself obligated to magnify what’s wrong with the victims, and minimize what they can’t change.  This conscience would reproach people for virtues as well as vices, since it’s virtues that mollycoddle those who are acting weak, which would only hurt them and society in the long run.  While this doesn’t foster a massive, granite-like superiority over everything, it does in the limited area of what causes our rampant depression, anxiety disorders, etc.

Sometimes the wrong is so extreme that this wouldn’t seem tenable, but other than that, if we treated each situation differently depending on its specifics, then people could get what they wanted by “proving” that they’re victims rather than by earning and achieving it.  The question of what really is, and really isn’t, life’s inherent imperfections with which we all must deal, is subjective, and naturally people would want to believe that they’re entitled to more than what they have.  Sometimes what happened admittedly isn’t life’s inherent imperfections with which we all must deal, but it would still be reality, and the person who has the problem is always the one who has the most reliable motivation to solve it as well as possible.  Often, the victim has greater opportunities, within his own life, to find a solution to the problem than the person who caused it would have, so simply holding the victim responsible would once again seem inevitable rather than morally bankrupt.  It would seem silly to expect him to take responsibility for it, though if the person who caused the problem has considerably more resources that could solve it than the victim has, expecting him to take care of himself anyway wouldn’t seem silly.  And none of these absolutisms (or the rampant depression and anxiety and their causes) are enforced by a government, so they seem pro-freedom.  We’re supposed to be optimistic that everyone in trouble could better their own lots in life if only they tried harder and had the right attitude.  It seems only natural to have very general (even if unproven) suspicions about the government meddling in the economy, the victims in a dysfunctional family (such as those labeled codependent) choosing to be victims for “fun” and/or profit, etc., but we dare not have such suspicions about greed controlling the economy, the victimizers of the family, etc., unless the victimization is so provably extreme that this self-motivated self-reliant and self-responsible anti-judgmentalism wouldn’t seem tenable.  Anathematizing the weak in the simple-minded fashion that’s typical of anti-intellectualism might sound like the ultimate Nazi-esque moral bankruptcy, but this would fit our principles of freedom based on responsibility for our own welfare, would stop manipulative victim-posturing and all other victimhood, would pressure the weak to try to empower themselves which would benefit them, and would get those who are the most reliably motivated to solve the problems, to do it as well as possible.  If we presumed such victims as innocent until proven guilty, of manipulative or passive-aggressive intent, of wanting to believe what they’re assertively and sincerely claiming, etc., how could we possibly prove it, so how could we protect ourselves from such dangerous perfidy that you couldn’t oppose without seeming villainous?  Washington Post Op-Ed columnist Robert J. Samuelson wrote on March 23, 2009, based on the writings of Joseph Schumpeter, “Capitalist prosperity also created an oppositional class of ‘intellectuals’ who would nurture popular discontents and disparage values (self-enrichment, risk-taking) necessary for economic success,” and anathematizing the weak would have to go hand-in-hand with treating self-enrichment and risk-taking as values that would increase productivity the more that the strong do them unimpeded and with plenty of self-motivation. The title of the chapter about Reaganist deregulation, of Charles R. Morris’ The Two Trillion Dollar Meltdown, is, “Wall Street Finds Religion,” and that’s how this fundamentalist and very demanding religion (“But that’s where a quarter-century of diligent sacrifice to the gods of the free market has brought us.”), must construe who are the sinners with the defects of character, and who are the martyrs.

 

 

While many would get offended at the sort of negative depiction that a Marxist might have of life in America, these very same people would likely be very insistent that each of us simply deal with whatever problems that what causes our rampant depression and anxiety, causes in his own life.  Reinhold Niebuhr was very involved in political movements that were very left-of-center, until Stalinism came to power and showed that changing the structure of society isn’t going to get rid of destructive human nature.  (Niebuhr is one of those still quoted on The God that Failed, giving a positive review of it.)  One could say that The Serenity Prayer, even if you limit it to only the famous first sentence, reflects the sort of pessimism that a Marxist would have of modern Western culture.  The first sentence says that everyone is supposed to go through life simply dealing with whatever happens to him by courageously changing what he can and serenely accepting what he can’t, and not taking seriously any other aspects of each situation, such as the moral wrongness of what caused it and how much this burdens him.  This is exactly what you’d expect from someone who has a Marxist’s pessimism about what one has a right to expect in the West, along with a pessimism about the perfectibility of human nature.  You might think that conservatives might be very offended at the idea of masses of those in their own society being programmed to be that fatalistic about what will happen to them, yet conservatives are the ones who are most likely to insist on people conforming to these expectations that society truly cares about resiliency, and not fairness or even endurability.  “Oh, well, that’s life,” is a cliché, but if anyone said, “Oh, well, we can’t count on anyone being resilient enough to deal with whatever his problems happen to be,” this would seem horrifyingly foreboding, since the victims would fix the consequences of sinfulness, but who’d fix the consequences of someone not being resilient enough to deal with whatever his problems happen to be?

 

It really isn’t so surprising that the neo-Conservatism that led to the Iraq war, came from former Marxists who used the same manipulative vanguardist tactics both to get us into the war, and to make sure that those who want to end it seem to be simply bad.  Mao’s Little Red Book includes, in the same chapter as his infamous statement “Every Communist must grasp the truth, ‘Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun’,” “Some people ridicule us as advocates of the ‘omnipotence of war’.  Yes, we are the advocates of the omnipotence of revolutionary war; that is good, not bad, it is Marxist.”  Obviously, the Iraq invasion has been conducted as if all the invading forces had to do was depose Saddam, and this would lead to a good outcome.  Not only that, one could say that “Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace; Taking as Jesus did this sinful world as it is not as I would have it,” relies on the omnipotence of physical power, since what each person must serenely accept would depend solely on what he’s powerless to change.  It seems that that is good, not bad, it is pragmatic.

And leading up to the Iraq war, is where you could really see genuine manipulation!  George Tenet, in the preface of At the Center of the Storm, said that on September 12, 2001, he saw Richard Perle coming out of the White House, and Perle said to him, “Iraq has to pay a price for what happened yesterday.  They bear responsibility.”  If that was true, that would make Pearle quite a manipulator.  He was in France on that day, so Tenet either got the date wrong, or made the whole thing up.  He’s certainly enough of a manipulator to do that.  After all, the briefing told of in the Downing Street memo, from his era, says,

C reported on his recent talks in Washington.  There was a perceptible shift in attitude.  Military action was now seen as inevitable.  Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD.  But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy.  The NSC had no patience with the UN route, and no enthusiasm for publishing material on the Iraqi regime’s record.  There was little discussion in Washington of the aftermath after military action.

27. Moral Relativism Becomes Amoral Absolutism—A book central to the morality of the Reagan era was Allan Bloom’s The Closing of the American Mind, which is against moral relativism.  Its introduction, with its own title, “Our Virtue,” begins,

There is one thing a professor can be absolutely certain of: almost every student entering the university believes, or says he believes, that truth is relative.  If this belief is put to the test, one can count on the students’ reaction: they will be uncomprehending.  That anyone should regard the proposition as not self-evident astonishes them, as though he were calling into question 2 + 2 = 4.  These are things you don’t think about.

“Now we come to a truth you may see either as a bitter pill or an enlightening revelation.  There is no such thing as a universally accepted concept of fairness and justice.  There is an undeniable relativity of fairness, just as Einstein showed the relativity of time and space.  Here’s proof: When a lion devours a sheep, is this unfair?” is certainly moral relativism.  Yet since this is in a self-help book sold as, “The Clinically Proven Drug-free Treatment for Depression,” this obviously then takes the next step, which is to say that everybody should have this outlook.  If you had to deal with big effects from the Great Crash of 2008, you might even be grateful for the serenity that would result from this sort of transcendence.  Moral relativism becomes amoral absolutism, an absolutist ideology regarding how people should react to their problems.  And, with a nice, humanitarian intent, this would hold that:

And one can’t honorably take half seriously the sort of values that would say that if you care you’re bad.  This is the same sort of values as that which poor people stretch when they don’t blame themselves for failing to attain the ideal if difficulties arise.  Likewise, one can’t honorably take half seriously the sort of “character flaw” that ads for antidepressants might say is sometimes attributed to depressed people.

The whole idea is that, at best, your attitude gets in the way of your resolving your problem as expediently as possible; at worst, you’re intentionally making use of an opportunity to serve a hidden agenda manipulatively.  This is very much also the idea of, “Taking as Jesus did this sinful world as it is not as I would have it,” that if you don’t serenely accept others’ sinful behavior that you’re helpless to change, your opinion that it was bad or evil reflects everything that is not agreeable to the striving of your self-will in each case.  Of course, one could make that humanitarian, by saying that the reason why your resentment is bad isn’t that it could offend others, but that it could make you maladjusted.  And this would be absolutist, since every society always needs homeostasis, and everyone’s conceptions of what, in realistic terms, is good or bad depends on what material realities one must work with.

Niebuhr’s The Nature and Destiny of Man includes, “The complex character of all historic conceptions of justice thus refutes both the relativists who see no possibility of finding valid principles of justice, and the rationalists and optimists who imagine it possible to arrive at completely valid principles, free of every taint of special interest or historical passion.”  Yet according to how The Serenity Prayer would define “personal responsibility,” relativism equals valid principles of justice.  The whole idea of The Serenity Prayer is that you’re simply response-able for dealing with your own problems (with God’s help in correcting any inadequacies inside your own mind), irrespective of who or what caused your problems.  In the end, this conception of personal responsibility could be called objective, since assessments of whether others’ moral responsibility was significant enough are subjective, but assessments of whether you’re a winner or a loser are objective.  Just about any problems that others cause for you, could be called temporary hurdles that you’d overcome if you’re a winner.  In the end, as long as you courageously change what you can and serenely accept what you can’t, the only times that you’d really need others to show moral responsibility, is in situations where the consequences of the immoral behavior would be insurmountable.  And moral responsibility brings with it certain hazards, such as that the subjectivity gives anyone who could claim to be a victim, the opportunity to get what he wants through manipulation.

28. “That’s Analysis Paralysis.”On Speculation and Manipulation in Therapy says, “When it works, justice is always very particular.  It proceeds on a case-by-case basis with a careful weighing of the facts and an equally careful examination of the underlying logic of key arguments.”  Yet when self-help logic is applied to anyone who must deal with problems caused by someone else, such concerns about justice would seem counterproductive, and the overgeneralization of “God, grant me serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference,” would seem productive.  Any attention that isn’t focused on solving the problems, would at least constitute a distraction, at worst take away the person’s energy that she should devote to solving her problems.  As you’d deal with whatever problems the Great Crash of 2008 might cause you, any awareness of who was responsible wouldn’t do you any good, and could distract you from taking care of what you must in the real world.

If someone in a situation like Jane’s, whether or not the problem person is addicted to anything, were to use that logic regarding her situation, then naturally she’d look at each expectation that she’d simply deal with her problem, as to how reasonable it is.  She’d look at to what degree he’s morally responsible or not guilty by reason of insanity, his “disease.”  She’d weigh each of the facts, and look to see whether the underlying logic of key arguments holds more water than does the underlying logic of, “I don’t have a problem unless I think I do,” “FEAR = False Evidence Appearing Real,” and, “It’s not the load that breaks you… it’s the way you carry it.”  In the end, after considerable intellectualist thought about each of her problems, sometimes she would simply adjust and adapt to what he did, and sometimes she wouldn’t.  The material realities that she must deal with, though, would require that she simply deal with all of them, as pragmatically as she could.  Sure, the review of The Closing of the American Mind that appears on the front cover says, “An unparalleled reflection on today’s intellectual and moral climate...  That rarest of documents, a genuinely profound book,” but if she treated objections to an amoral serene acceptance, as profound, that would seem to be a problematic outlook.

29. Not Absolutely Provably Evil—One big example of this is the Great Crash of 2008, since so many on Wall Street were responsible for what Wall Street did, each responsible to different degrees, and in ways that aren’t really objectively provable.  No matter what problems Wall Street may cause on the macro level, on the micro level, looking at each victim’s life separately, an optimist could always find ways in which, if only he tried harder or smarter, he could succeed.

Another is that essay by pioneering cognitive therapist Dr. Martin E. P. Seligman, “Racism and Victimology,” which includes,

Over the last forty years, fashionable explanations have evolved from “inadequate education”, “lack of opportunity”, “bad housing” and “discrimination” into “racism”, the “system”, and “white people.”  Politicians—both black and white—preachers, the media, and liberal academics from the humanities and social sciences have led the way.  The kid in the street has followed.  The purveyors of the racism theory have elevated it from an empirical hypothesis to a framework for looking at all your troubles.  They have succeeded in entrenching their theory as an axiom of American life.  In advocating this theory at every turn, they probably thought they were helping African-Americans. Instead they were hurting.

and,

Overarching and global claims of where problems come from—unlike specific and changeable causes—are doubly pessimistic because they place the solution out of any individual’s reach.  Such talk has its gravest impact on just those people facing the biggest difficulties in their day-to-day lives.  This situation is a genuine “devil’s circle”—always spiraling downward—with any new setback or frustration getting attributed to the same gloomy, pervasive, and unanswerable set of causes.

and,

The language we use to describe the causes of our troubles ends up defining our “explanatory style.”   Just as individuals develop explanatory style, so do entire cultures, and our culture is highly influenced by what comes into fashion among assorted opinion-makers, the educational elite, and the media.   Shifting blame as an explanatory style has become a fashion and it has a glorious past.   AA made the lives of millions of alcoholics more bearable by giving them the dignity of a “disease” to replace the ignominy of “failure” or “immorality” or “evil”.

and ends with,

But what if it’s true?  What if racism, the system, and white people are the overriding causes of the problems.  I do not know whether [some hypothetical Blacks who were treated badly by whites, possibly because of racism] are right, and the clerk, the jury, and employers are racist.  All I know is that human motives are complex.  Inattentive clerks are sometimes racist, but sometimes they are tired, lazy, bored, or self-absorbed.  Sometimes the customer is not assertive enough.  Injustice is sometimes the result of racism, but sometimes it comes from bad law, from ineffective lawyers, from fear of reprisal, from the abuse of power, or from ignorance.

Rather I want us to rethink something more innocent than the truth—the form of the explanation that first occurs to [those hypothetical Blacks] and its consequences.  For we can choose whom and what we habitually blame and what theories we push.

Racism is commonly pushed by centrist civil rights groups and by much of the black middle class.  There was a time that this tactic worked as a lever to get some government action that opened the road into the middle class.  But the growing problem today is poor blacks.  They are not helped by this tactic.  In fact, there is only one segment of America that now has a true stake in pushing racism, the system, and White people as the overriding explanation of the problems of African-Americans.  Those who want violent revolution.  When people believe that the causes of their troubles might well change and do not pervade everything, they can work to address the causes.  When people believe that their troubles are caused by external forces that will never change, they give up—or they erupt into violence.

You can’t prove that anything that looks like bigotry is bigotry, even if it actually was.  Therefore, if you think that something was bigotry, that’s only your untermensch, mollycoddle, opinion, which uses victim-power to serve a hidden agenda.  If you see what’s profoundly wrong with this, then that would get the same insidiously untermensch labels.  If you refuse to accept these premises of victim correction as a panacea, the usual overgeneralized “We are all victims of victims” tactics would label you as as some sort of manipulator, in this case, someone whose hidden agenda is violent revolution, and attempts to defend yourself would seem to be more of The Plot.  To belittle this ideology in any way, to turn away from it in the slightest degree, altogether irrespective of whether the belittler likes it or not, means to strengthen the Commie ideology, since no one else, especially the victims, would benefit from thinking for themselves regarding pessimistic topics.  Certainly you could imagine if you said to a cognitive therapist with attitudes like this, “Sure, for depressive disorders to affect about 34,000,000 American adults is a very serious social problem, but in order to fit in, you’ve got to minimize the problems around your somewhat.  Therefore, I’ll treat this as if it were just a moderately severe social problem.”  This actually does try to correct the victims on a macro level, saying that all victims of racism, in general, should still do their best to have positive outlooks, since this has to look at the problem on a macro level, and this certainly isn’t going to accept that all those people think unpragmatically.  After all, the worse are each person’s problems, the more that he’d need to think pragmatically, since unpragmatic thinking “has its gravest impact on just those people facing the biggest difficulties in their day-to-day lives.”  If you haven’t succeeded and you resentfully believe that people more powerful that you are responsible for this fact, the populists would say that your defeatist belief comes from elite intellectuals’ theories that they are promulgating in the name of the poor.  After all, this is “more innocent than the truth,” especially in a society with rampant depression.

The main premise of The Nature and Destiny of Man has got to be that Stalinism had just shown that no matter how much an ideology claims to want what is good, inherent human selfishness would still be in control.  This would mean, among other things, that believers would insist that they simply are right, and those who disagree simply are wrong.  Yet all that believers have to do is include premises along the lines of, “If you disagree, you’re helping The Enemy,” and/or, “If you disagree with this, that would be unpragmatic,” and that unquestionability would seem sensible.  As you could see here, that sort of premise is very characteristic of victim correction as a panacea.  To object to how open-ended “God, grant me serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference,” or even, “Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace; Taking as Jesus did this sinful world as it is not as I would have it,” is, would be unpragmatic for those who are up against hardship and/or the consequences of others’ sinfulness.  The worse that the problems are, the more that this intellectualist free thought would have a grave impact on just those people facing the biggest difficulties in their day-to-day lives.  One could also say that this would help The Enemy.

If you’re the victim, then the worse is your victimization, the more that you’d get corrected since you couldn’t afford any inexpediencies, “Such talk has its gravest impact on just those people facing the biggest difficulties in their day-to-day lives.”  Those suspected of bigotry are to be presumed innocent until proven guilty, but if we also presumed the victims and their supporters to be innocent until proven guilty of manipulative machinations, our society wouldn’t get the homeostasis that it needs.  Market discipline wouldn’t discipline the bigots, but would discipline the pessimists.  Therefore, since the victims’ motivations to prevent or solve the ensuing problems are far more reliable than are the victimizers’ motivations to prevent or solve them, holding the victims response-able is pragmatic.  That would be both pro-freedom and pro-self-reliance.

Sure, the book The Anatomy of Melancholy written in Elizabethan England by Robert Burton described the typical depressive of his era as, “He dare not come in company for fear he should be misused, disgraced, overshoot himself in gesture or speeches, or be sick; he thinks every man observes him, aims at him, derides him, owes him malice,” and otherwise as suspicious, jealous, fearful maybe even terrified, and solitary.  Phillippe Pinel’s A Treatise on Insanity from 1806 describes someone with bipolar disorder in a depressive episode, “he withdraws from society, shuns the plots and inveiglements which he imagines to surround him, and fancies himself an object of human persecution and treachery, or a victim of divine vengeance and reprobation.”  In current times, the Drug Counsellor’s Handbook, A Guide for Everyday Use, on the United Nations website, for drug counselors in Africa, says and highlights,

 

          

 

This is obviously the natural form for depression among people who live in developed areas, to take.  Yet our society’s conceptions of stolidly taking response-ability for one’s own welfare, would call that, self-defeating victimology and pessimism.

That seeks to inculcate a contrived optimism, which is supposed to benefit the victims so seems humanitarian, yet since this serene acceptance of destructive behavior would also include anything in which “human motives are complex,” or has any other ambiguities, this low standard could only make one as pessimistic as would expectations that everyone believe in, “Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace; Taking as Jesus did this sinful world as it is not as I would have it,” “She learns to accept the things she can’t change (Jim’s drinking), and to change the things she can (herself),” and, “Here’s proof: When a lion devours a sheep, is this unfair?” as a part of “The Clinically Proven Drug-free Treatment for Depression.”  Of course, to whatever degree the victims seem to be fitting Schopenhauer’s definition of sincerely or insincerely getting what they want by whining that what was done to them was bad or evil, their motivations are complex, but the victims’ responsibility is supposed to be magnified rather than minimized.  The motivations behind every instance of ignominious cunning or a willful but sincere belief that what happened to him was bad or evil, are complex, as long as the person really does have the weakness and helplessness of an untermensch.

The neo-Conservatives who got the American military to invade Iraq certainly used manipulative tactics (at the very least, their beliefs that Saddam still had weapons of mass destruction, and ever had contacts with al Qaeda, reflected the striving of their wills, what they wanted to believe), but this would likely seem at least excusable due to the fact that we couldn’t prove that their motivations weren’t complex.  Naturally, those who believe in all-American conceptions of personal responsibility would accept Condoleezza Rice’s statement about the Iraq war, mainly the claims that Saddam still had WMD, “Look, not everything went right.  This is a very difficult circumstance.  There were some things that went right and some things that went wrong.  And you know what?  We will have a chance to look at that in history.  And I will have a chance to reflect on that when I have a chance to write my book.”  Obviously what “We will have a chance to look at... in history,” isn’t whether Saddam still had WMD, but whether the hidden agenda of getting rid of Saddam was right, but both that sort of hidden agenda, and such an unfalsifiable evasion of responsibility (until enough history has passed), would still seem respectably all-American.  Of course, if before the invasion, the Bush Administration proposed to the American public that we invade Iraq since history would likely love the deposing of Saddam, the public would never have accepted that.  On one hand, expectations that we be as skeptical as science would say that we should be, would be skeptical of everything that, at the moment, we couldn’t prove, but on the other hand, a lack of this skepticism could lead to us believing in whatever has the most übermensch emotional force.

These same all-American types, though, likely wouldn’t accept if people like Sandra of, “Hi, my name is Sandra and I’m a Woman Who Loves Too Much.  I got married to a man who became addicted to liquor....  What is it about me that attracted a sick, dependent alcoholic?” tried to reduce their responsibility by talking about the reasons why, at the time, their choices seemed to be right.  Or, at the very least, these “real Americans” wouldn’t consider those who encourage victim-self-blaming like Sandra’s, to be too opinionated and extremist to insist that others adopt this philosophy.  You might think that holding women responsible for supposedly “letting themselves in for trouble” when this is far from proven, is totally inconsistent with our proclaimed ideals regarding personal responsibility being based on what really were people’s choices, but all you’ve got to do is assume that these women did choose subconsciously to let themselves in for trouble (which scientists would call extremely “unfalsifiable,” i.e. untestable), and this wouldn’t make you uneasy. 

The real villains seem to be the petty bourgeois intellectuals.  It seems that the reason why this sort of unconditional personal responsibility which treats “victimology” “victimhood” and “whining” as The Enemy began in the Reagan era, isn’t that Reaganomics couldn’t function if everyone didn’t simply take response-ability for their own problems, but that previously victimology victimhood and whining did do the victims good, but now they don’t.  Though all this proceeds under the assumption that “the kid in the street has followed” these intellectuals, and, therefore, washing the kids’ brains of these opinions isn’t really brainwashing.  Blaming the Victim says on its cover:

    

This also reflects the modern version of Niebuhr wrote about the Nazis in The Nature and Destiny of Man, about the lower-middle-class’ resentment about the supposed manipulative tactics of the poor and the intellectual elite.  As is usual for middle-class populism, it seems that the problem is a very improbable combination of influences from “the educational elite” and the poor.  Yet that sort of resentment seems at least tolerable, since it wouldn’t lead to mollycoddling the untermenschen.  All sorts of victim-blaming would pretty much have to fit this mold, since the poor wouldn’t seem to be fitting in with the usual norms and expectations, and would seem to pose pernicious threats as untermenschen naturally do.  The “elite” would seem to need the AA slogans, “The only requirement for serenity is a desire to stop thinking,” and, “There’s no one too dumb for this program, but it’s possible to be too smart.”

As Niebuhr wrote in The Nature and Destiny of Man, “Knowledge of the truth is thus invariably tainted with an ‘ideological’ taint of interest, which makes our apprehension of truth something less than knowledge of the truth and reduces it to our truth....  This pride is the real force of ‘ideology.’  Without it the partial character of all human knowledge would be harmless and would encourage men to invite the supplementation and completion of their incomplete knowledge from other partial perspectives.”  Yet since all sorts of blaming the victim is basically a middle-class ideology, it would consider pride like this to be the American way, and balancing it with other viewpoints to be the sort of thing that “the educational elite” does.  And that includes the victim-blaming of, “Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace; Taking as Jesus did this sinful world as it is not as I would have it.”  Sure, that requires humility from the victims.  Yet it would be imperative for addicts’ spouses, and everyone else who has to deal with problems caused by others, to focus their attention on their responsibility for their own welfare, and not ask incorporate other partial perspectives regarding who is responsible for what.  Or, on a macro level, ideologues could say that if we allowed ideas that disagree with victim-blaming, then people could get what they wanted by manipulatively coming up with enough sophistry to “prove” that they’re entitled to it.

Sure, victim correction as a panacea, would hate a justice that is always very particular and proceeds on a case-by-case basis with a careful weighing of the facts and an equally careful examination of the underlying logic of key arguments, but hating that would seem good, would seem to constitute “Our Virtue”: anti-Marxist, unconditionally self-reliant  self-empowering, anti-intellectualist, etc.  Sure, this very explicitly says we should blame the weak, but though this is totally inconsistent with our proclaimed ideals, but if we gave people the opportunity to serve hidden agendas manipulatively they’d certainly be motivated to do that, and “We are all victims of victims,” in that it could be pretty hard if not impossible to defend yourself from some manipulative “victim-power.”

No matter how much we could prove the causes of our rampant depression, this sort of ideology would say that what we’re supposed to do is not care, since what contributes to it has all sorts of ambiguities, so all the victims simply should learn to have optimistic outlooks, or maybe take antidepressants.  There are plenty of other rationales to minimize moral responsibility since little is absolutely evil, and, therefore, magnify the victims’ response-ability for just shutting up and dealing with their realities.  These include other assumptions that “complex” or otherwise ambiguous situations mean that your objections would seem illegitimate:  If you can’t prove that the intent of anything was purely bad, then your objections would seem to be only your resentful manipulative self-serving etc. opinion.  The consequences of recklessness and culpable negligence would be labeled as “accidents” and “mistakes.”  Anything that anyone did in the past would be “past history” which he’s now absolutely helpless to change, whereas the whiny victims aren’t really helpless, since they’re free to take care of their own problems.  Friends and loved ones of addicts or similar mental illnesses are supposed to simply accept that those who cause the problems are just passive victims of their diseases, though the law wouldn’t.  Everyone knows that we all must accept that certain imperfections are inherent to life and/or human nature, and you must simply have faith that your problem is one of them.  Accepting that commitment-phobic men simply leave all those relationships and marriages that they simply leave, really is the only sustainable option, since it could seem that as long as they no longer feel comfortable then that’s enough of a justification, and that their only real mistakes were impulsively beginning those relationships, which now they’re helpless to undo.

Interestingly, the “seven propaganda devices” that the Institute for Propaganda Analysis observed in the 1930s being used by those such as fascist Father Charles Coughlin, which were then described in The Fine Art of Propaganda in 1939, were: Name Calling, Glittering Generality, Transfer, Testimonial, Plain Folks, Card Stacking, and Band Wagon.  The above comics about Jane might look as if this philosophy only seeks to give her self-empowerment.  Yet when people don’t go along with such expectations and are therefore treated as if they’re choosing to be weak for “fun” and/or profit, they’d therefore be accordingly labeled and called names, and treated as if they’re: not living up to “glittering” and overgeneralized words such as self-help self-reliance self-empowerment better and happier, adopting the same ethos as those who try to control and tyrannize others in the name of “what is morally right,” taking the side of the intellectualists against the plain folk, not getting on the anti-intellectualist and pro-plain-folk bandwagon, not listening to all those testimonials of those who live with addicts and have found, “Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace; Taking as Jesus did this sinful world as it is not as I would have it” to have improved their coping skills, and refusing to accept what seems to be “right,” though it seems to be right only because just the right sophistry was stacked together to make it seem right. The examples that The Fine Art of Propaganda gives of Father Coughlin’s statements, talk about the injustices that lower-middle-class Americans had to suffer due to the Great Depression, without really giving specific solutions for them.  One could only wonder what Coughlin’s gutsy followers would have thought of those lower middle class people who, because of the Great Depression, suffered from depressive disorders.

The Fine Art of Propaganda clearly suggests that the best antidote to propaganda is to ask questions concerning what would be the real, practical effects of what the propaganda is trying to cast in a good light.  For example, telling people that “personal responsibility for one’s own welfare” means courageously changing what one can and serenely accepting whatever one can’t, even when this means, “Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace; Taking as Jesus did this sinful world as it is not as I would have it,” could be painted as a failsafe formula for unconditional coping skills.  Yet all you’ve got to do is ask about the effects of that sort of moral bankruptcy, and this could set you free.  Questions are the ultimate form of thinking for yourself.

 

 

 

 

 

   

 

 

 



 

 Home Page

 About Us, Introduction

About Us, the Summary

 About Us, Index

My Story

  To The [Abuse] Survivors ♥♥♥♥♥

Men Dying for Love

On Doping

Oh, Yeah?” Upbeat Echoes from the First Great Stock Market Crash

Victim Correction as a Panacea, the Summary (Page 1)

(Page 2)(Main Page 3)

Cancer Victims Corrected Too

The Main Victim Correction as a Panacea

 Documentation On the Social Problem of Unnaturally Rampant Depression

 Top of Standard Rationales for Victim Correction as a Panacea

 Schopenhauer on Predators

 Emphasis on Victim-Self-Blaming

Darwinist Lehman Brothers’ INSIDE Sales Tips

Darwinist Lehman Brothers’ INSIDE Introduction to Management Book

Out of the Same Mold as the Great Crash of 2008

Message for Intellectuals in the Islamic World

Candace Newmaker’s Experience

Breaking Important Confidences for Your Own Good

A Glimpse Into the Soul of Victim Correction

Cigarette Industry and Victim Correction

Niebuhr’s Ideas on Our Nature and Destiny

Herbal Experiences for Women

Some Ideas for Rapport

Hotlinks