Our New Age Blossoming – 3

Women Emerging – Building Our Future – 3

Something Unexpected

When I was in graduate school in the 1960s there were not a lot of women psychologists and few women in my graduate school class. They seemed ill at ease and I think they sensed something like not belonging. The horizon did not suggest change of their position. Little did we know.

Something Was Different

As I noted in part one of this series, my guide in my first job after getting my Ph.D. was a black woman. I hadn’t been searching for major changes but found them. Yes, I was looking for a new way to deliver mental health services but the possibilities offered were beyond what I had expected. And, honestly, I had not been yearning for a new day for women. But it was developing.

Of course my perspective was not their perspective but quickly I could see an advocacy for change on their part. Some of the women were angry and they were beginning to stand up for themselves.

Women’s Liberation 

Women’s Liberation was what it was called at the time and, for a reason I will never understand, it resonated with me at once. At a convention I heard women were meeting and went to attend. But I was turned away and now I understand why. Men were often arrogant and wanted to assert their power. So, the women needed to meet together first while they laid their own plans and learned to be assertive, even demanding.

That period was the beginning of what I repeatedly call the long wave. It seemed to go underground for awhile but never disappeared. Gradually women gained position and acceptance at least among some men. But, many of us continued to view a problem with older white men. Racism and sexism were part of their problem and we are still working on it.

Broadening the Movement 

And now the women’s movement is multifaceted with women who are willing to assert in general and specific ways. Suddenly we are in touch with the #MeToo movement. It took ever so long to get here but women are now speaking out about the sexual abuse they have suffered. At last they seem to feel safe enough-sometimes.

I think we are going to find there is a long way to go. Surely we will see unexpected revelations and certainly there will be many things exposed. But it seems unlikely we will turn back now and it is all, in the end, a breath of fresh air even if the revelations may sometimes smell badly.

What of Men?

Are men supposed to support the movement? I ask that obvious question because we should not just be observers. Support is indicated. We are seeing that we are opening the full inclusion of women and that means bringing in the full potential of 50% of our population.

But there is another question. Are men to simply approve and support or are we willing to face ourselves? Are we willing to examine the male culture with all its strengths and unfortunate proclivities? My view as a man is that there is often a shocking lack of morality, there is often intimidation which may, for example, be related to the demand for devotion to sports. It seems we have not yet examined things enough to really understand what happens to us and the revolution which is needed among men for men and all of us.

It is not enough to welcome women to equality. In fact we are still a long ways away. But, from my perspective, all of us must face the arrogance and assumptions of superiority of older white men. Our country will soon tip from a dominant white culture to a multiracial society. On our way we have to face the reality of the dominance which there has been for far too long. And it would certainly help if older white men would face themselves.

Gaia’s Majesty-Mission Called: Women in Power by Roger B. Burt

Roger B. Burt’s Amazon home page

Creating Characters and Plots by Roger B. Burt

Stepfamilies: Professionals and Stepcouples in Partnership

Whatever Happened to Community Mental Health by Roger B. Burt

The Human Personality

 

Of course you have a personality. How would you describe it?

What It Is

Character is defined as the mental and moral qualities distinctive to an individual. As such it is hardly pinpoint. And there is no system which clearly defines what makes up character.  But being open ended is part of its utility. Sometimes, though, it’s useful to have clear definitions about stable components of a person. When we turn to personality we find such a system is available. 

The American Psychological Association defines personality as “referring to individual differences in characteristic patterns of thinking, feeling and behaving”. Are you now perfectly clear? Probably not, because human beings are layers of characteristics, orientations, effects of history, biochemical interactions and on and on. But it is useful personally and in many environments to have an understanding of what is stable in how we are in our interactions and our approach to the world.

Multiple Realities But No Illness

It is important to understand that the description of a person’s personality has no connotation of mental illness at all. It may condition our behavior and reactions but primarily variations are normal and merely different. And, in describing a given person, their personality may have characteristics of certain groups and elements which are wholly idiosyncratic. It need not refer to intelligence because, more than anything, intelligence refers to management and processing of information, knowledge and abilities.

Distinct From Intelligence

We have been in a debate about intelligence for a very long time. Measurement initially was oriented toward having information about aptitude for school. But a man by the name of Wechsler divided it into Performance skills which are needed for hands on work and Verbal skills which are more closely related to education. I’ll leave it at that except to say that intelligence can relate only to being able to retain and regurgitate information but at other levels the person can be hopelessly “stupid”.

An Enduring Framework

Personality is another matter. Yes, it is enduring and it seems that we are born with the fundamentals of it. Decades ago when I was first studying psychology it was assumed that for both intelligence and personality a stable level was achieved with adulthood. A few people, among them Carl Jung disagreed. We now view ourselves as moving through stages of adult development and that major crises can reshape us.

A Lifelong Process

Part of Jung’s contribution was to see humans as continuing to develop through life and he put it in visual specifics. Later I will go into the details of his glorious personality typology but for now I will bring in the wheel. What he calls the four functions are paired in opposition and the pairs fall at right angles to each other. Picture a wheel with just two spokes across the diameter at right angle. Now place that wheel on edge in water and to begin with it floats halfway submerged. The part above the waterline is in consciousness and the balance in the unconscious. That means we have a full conscious command of some of it but the other parts play a role but not under our full understanding or control. 

Over our lifetime this wheel is said to rise and we gain more and more command of all facets of our personality. Our abilities broaden and we have a broader perception and experience of the world. It is a glorious process.

Coming to This Blog

In blogs that will follow I will present you with the information on the two attitudes and four functions that make up the parts of our personality as Jung defined it. The wonder of it is that Jung did not just sit in Switzerland doing an intellectual exercise leading to an organized system. He went far out into the world. Freud was focused on Western medicine and Jung on mythology and the substance of a rich and powerful world. He brought back the recognition of the existence of his typology which is found across the world and in all people.

As we proceed you will see yourself, your neighbors, people you utterly dislike and people who are dear to you. When we see our personality, we understand how people different from ourselves can be rewarding, how we can bond with people like or unlike ourselves and so on. 

I’m sure you will enjoy this journey.

How would you describe your personality?

Gaia’s Majesty-Mission Called: Women in Power by Roger B. Burt

Roger B. Burt’s Amazon home page

Creating Characters and Plots by Roger B. Burt

Stepfamilies: Professionals and Stepcouples in Partnership

Whatever Happened to Community Mental Health by Roger B. Burt

Welcome To My Newletter

 

Welcome To My Newsletter – Myth and Transformation 

Roger B Burt: Author of Gaia’s Majesty-Mission Called: 

Women in Power

Published the second Monday of the month

(Except this month – Ooops)

A World of Fiction:

What Kind of Fiction Appeals to you?

Let me share some of what I’ve experienced. When I began to write I had given no thought to what kind of fiction it was. That means giving it a category. The story intrigued me. 

Then came the day to promote my book.  OOPS! When I began to focus, at first I came up with fantasy, sci-fi.

 Literature – I dismissed the idea of calling it literary. I’m a person who loves the possibility and in much of literature I forge ahead and trip over anything word heavy. 

Women’s fiction -Not quite a good fit. I’m a huge supporter of the empowerment of women. But Im not sure that’s what women’s fiction really is taken to mean.

Fantasy – Close but no cigar. In a sense ,with the mermaids there is fantasy but they were much too real.

Sci-Fi – A miss also. I know it’s a broad category but it wasn’t very scientific or otherworldly.

Aha – It is a rarely used category but I settled on Magical Realism. The story has strong realistic elements but there is a distinct magical quality.

Promotion – Having a category helps direct promotion.

If you write fiction, what do you think you write? Have you had similar difficulties in deciding on a category? If you are a devoted reader what do you favor?

Let me invite you to also join us at my blog  cuspofreality.com

Available Now: Gaia’s Majesty-Mission Called: Women in Power by Roger B. Burt 

(Book 1 of the Gaia’s Majesty Trilogy)

https://www.amazon.com/Gaias-Majesty-Mission-Called-Women/dp/1935994255/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1535136372&sr=1-1&keywords=Gaia%27s+Majesty

Coming soon on cuspofreality.com 

9/12/18 George Orwell Speaks To Us

9/17/18 Coming to the Cusp of Reality This Fall/America in Crisis

9/19/18 An Accidental Passage

9/24/18 Our New Age Blossoming – 1 – Gaining Perspective

9/26/18 BREXIT and the Future of the United States

10/1/18 Our New Age Blossoming – 2 – Looking Back

10/3/18 Someone Precious – Companion

10/8/18 Newsletter 2

10/10/18 Our New Age Blossoming – 3 – Women Emerging – Building Our Future

10/1718 Change and Empowerment – Revelations in Fiction

Someone Precious – Companion

 

Is there someone who travels with you?

Discovery

She never told me her name. I call her Companion. Often she sits looking off toward a distant horizon seeming deep in concentration. I wonder what holds her attention but do not ask. I think I know.  Clearly she has a world of her own but I know she is there for me. In fact, while I don’t know her name, I know who she is. 

Every man travels through life with a woman inside of him—his anima. Our relationships with them vary considerably. A man’s anima may take many forms and may be touching, loving, a dangerous seductress, a harridan. What form of her a man carries is a mystery. If we are fortunate, we discover her and her purpose for us. Or at least she may be a resource.

Feeling

To me my Companion is a loving creature. In times of pain or desolation I call her. She comes to me and we rarely speak. She knows what I feel and we talk in feelings. To travel through life with her is a great gift I don’t know why I deserve. But she gives balance and richness in feeling and perception. Her perceptions are rich and revealing of truths too often beyond easy grasp. 

She is part of me but also a spirit and I believe I know what holds her attention in that place far away. It is the meaning and substance of the Tethyan people Companion has brought me.

Empowerment

On Earth we wonder about the destiny of humankind. We seem to grow in fits and starts from our conflicts and presently appear to be entering a culmination. Companion introduced me to the Tethyans  and their story suggests the meaning of the empowerment of women. Opposition to that empowerment is strong and bears only bitter fruit but the roots of our beings suggest it is women who will bring fulfillment and help us harvest beauty and quite probably a transformation.

Inspiration

Companion inspired me to write the story of the Gaia’s Majesty Trilogy. The process is rich in conflict but also promise. We cannot be sure, but it seems there is a process of development of a kind we may not have yet perceived. It is all potential and we can hope it will be inspiring. It is a matter of asking what might be and exploring alternatives.  Through empowerment comes true partnership between men and women which brings a joining or interface between the two universal forces of the Mysterium and the Maelstrom. I will explain a possibility and it is best done through the story which is now unfolding.

Possibilities

For me life means being enticed to search possibilities. All things may have meaning but typically are not definitive. It is what they may be or could be or where they might lead that constitute the real venture of life that we have been given. The title of this blog is Cusp of Reality because that is how I perceive the world. There is no firm reality and, as you will see, the common theme of the coming posts is possibilities.  As I said in a previous post my third grade teacher told my mother that I had a lot to offer when I was in class. That meant I had taken a statement or a thought and flown out the window to explore it. And I continue the explorations in the blog posts to come. 

Do you have a form of companion?

Gaia’s Majesty-Mission Called: Women in Power by Roger B. Burt

Roger B. Burt’s Amazon home page

Creating Characters and Plots by Roger B. Burt

Stepfamilies: Professionals and Stepcouples in Partnership

Whatever Happened to Community Mental Health by Roger B. Burt

Our New Age Blossoming – 2

 

Looking Back

It is now over 50 years later than when I went to work in Baltimore. For me time offers not perspective as much as confirmation. The only perspective I find is that I can now clearly see the roots of my deep mistrust of the truth and wisdom of older white men. In fairness there is diversity among them but in our present age the fact of their rule is distressing in so many regards.

Designing a Delivery System

The community mental health movement came with a multi-part design. I was stationed in an outpatient facility which meant I was to consult with the community and deliver services. That seems simple enough. Go out and get acquainted so you get referrals and then give therapy with the psychiatrists giving medication as necessary. What fools we mortals be!

What we found immediately was that we had a lot of learning to do. The community was challenging to put it mildly. They were in serious need and mental health services were not at the top of their list.

The Existing System

There already was a mental health system in place. At the hospital nearby people could come for service. Since it was a medical school there were medical students who often were giving service in six week rotations—with little prior experience. Then there were residents. I’ll save you the agony of all the details but they were not acquainted with the needs of the community either and so could not respond effectively.

At the time psychiatric residents were committed to giving intensive psychotherapy. The local residents were not exactly candidates so they often simply got medication. We immediately found a fundamental truth. The biggest enemy of mental health in the area was the stress of poverty. So they suffered from depression and anxiety. Duh!!!

The System We Designed

Each of us took a morning walk-in clinic. We assessed the person’s problems and then spent the afternoon on the phone arranging appropriate services and getting information about availability among a lot of other things. For example, if they had a physically ill child who was not getting service or inappropriate service we sought appropriate help. Every center had a Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor who got a lot of referrals. Very many of these people needed training and/or education. A job or a better job had a very beneficial effect on their mental health along with the experience of hope.

Not So Simple

Did we have the support of higher ups? Sometimes, but often not. The older white men generally wanted to preserve the existing system and were primarily interested in the aura of getting the money for a grant to a new glamorous type of program. They loved the aura and wanted to look good to each other. Daily we were in the position of fending off orientations and demands which did not serve our community well. One of my common responses was “We’ll get back to you” or ”Let me look at alternatives.”

Allies With the Community

We  had to develop relationships with the community so we could respond to their real needs. In that era of the beginning of the civil right movement the community became contentious and interesting. Assertions of community needs and objections to the mistreatment of black men began at that time. There were issues about health services. At one point growing activism led to a difficult public hearing and I found myself sitting next to the state head of the mental health system who was clueless. Other times we were visited by arrogant “consultants” from Washington who we had to endure. 

I’ll leave it there for now. It was rough and tumble and never-ending as we fought for the people of the community. You might think we would have had allies from the professions but they were too often few and far between.

Another Major Wave of Change

In some ways we didn’t understand what we were seeing either. In the end the establishment brought down the community mental health movement. As the young rebels left, the clinics in the community were closed and the old ways resumed. I tell the full story in my book Whatever Happened to Community Mental Health.

But two things came out of the era that proved to have a long wave and import for our future. One was the civil rights movement and in the next post I’ll go into the other one. 

Gaia’s Majesty-Mission Called: Women in Power by Roger B. Burt

Roger B. Burt’s Amazon home page

Creating Characters and Plots by Roger B. Burt

Stepfamilies: Professionals and Stepcouples in Partnership

Whatever Happened to Community Mental Health by Roger B. Burt

Time To Face Facts

 

 

I couldn’t resist this picture. It is open to multiple interpretations. One is women’s confinement and restriction. Another, how they are forced into being chained together as they seek justice. Make your own interpretation as we continue our struggles for their equality and justified power of women

Time to Face Facts

Not a New Set of Issues

After decades working as a clinical psychologist I can clearly see the vulnerability of women and how often they were subjected to abuse and violation. Recent events with Judge Kananaugh and Dr. Blasey Ford brought back a significant memory.

One person stands out in my memory as illustrative of the current issues. She came to my office seeking psychotherapy for an enduring depression. We began to explore its origins and found it had endured for at least two decades. But we seemed to be getting nowhere until one day she fell utterly silent. I waited and at last she began to talk about being raped decades before. She had told no one and endured continuing pain.

Finally I could see the base of the depression. She felt that the rapist still controlled and constricted her life. Once that was out in the open, the depression began to resolve and in a matter of days she was taking back control of her life and her future.

What We Must Understand

The recent reports of what happened to Dr. Blasey Ford show how the victims are often blamed and treated badly. Of course, in the climate that has endured, women generally do not report the crime. And when they do, as we see now, they are often abused again—publicly. They may suffer death threats and find themselves and their family at risk.

A Societal Problem

It is clear we have a societal problem and a male culture problem. In society we are willing to stand by and see the victim suffer further abuse as if they are the one who is at fault. Certainly many people are stepping forward to support Dr. Blasey Ford and to state outrage at the victimization of she and her family. Many other people seem to view a woman who is so victimized and abused by rape as being despoiled. Have we no shame? It is not permissible to treat women in this fashion.

A Male Culture Problem

And then there is the matter of the male culture which too often excuses such male behavior or even supports it as a man’s right. Yes, it goes that far and demonstrates a misperception of what is appropriate and a terrible misogyny. 

In general the male is generally expected to express interest in a woman and then she has to draw the line she feels the need to draw and he must withdraw. But too often he does not and aggression may be fostered by the support of his male fellows.

Seeking National Morality and Fairness

Now is the time when women are becoming empowered and are speaking out. But the opposition to them speaking out and asserting themselves goes to the intolerable and

boorish. Now we need to evaluate ourselves as a society and for men to examine their own culture. Abuse of women is not a male value to be fostered or supported.

Gaia’s Majesty-Mission Called: Women in Power by Roger B. Burt

Roger B. Burt’s Amazon home page

Creating Characters and Plots by Roger B. Burt

Stepfamilies: Professionals and Stepcouples in Partnership

Whatever Happened to Community Mental Health by Roger B. Burt

Our New Age Blossoming – 1

 

Gaining Perspective

We may miss a moment deserving of wonder. I’m convinced we are entering such a moment. But let me hold it as a mystery for now. And I’ll begin with a hint and some personal history.

Up front I need to make it clear who I am. Often we don’t know how who we are may be meaningful. For me it has a lot to do with history and what is unfolding. I am a 78 year old white man and my perceptions and reservations about white men go back a long way.

The word “perception” references a view, not worship, because I learned deep reservations early in my adult life.

Innocence Challenged

In the early 1960s I went to Duke University to work on a doctorate in clinical psychology. In high school I became deeply interested in nuclear physics but a college instructor destroyed my interest. I then chose psychology because of my mother’s suffering. She could be joyful and full of song but over time fell deeper and deeper into terrible depressions and when she was depressed she was often covered with weeping eczema. I wanted to know why. 

Psychology gave me the opportunity to seek answers and fit with my personality where the search for possibilities was central. In the end that led me to clinical psychology rather than experimental psychology.

Time to Leave Academia

Toward the end of my time at Duke the community mental health movement was starting and at graduation I took a job as one of the first psychologists hired in one of the first programs in the country. The job was in the inner city of Baltimore. I was a neophyte and an innocent. We thought we were to give mental health services.

On my first day I met a young black woman social worker who became my mentor and main ally in an unexpected battle to come. Community mental health was charged to make mental health services more widely available to all Americans. In fact no one knew the nature of services impoverished inner-city residents needed. 

The Core Experience

Now I’ll tell the secret. Well, one of them. The staff was a racially diverse staff which included young and assertive women. At the time the Women’s Liberation Movement was just beginning. The experience became a battle royal regarding the coming of women and the delivery of services which I spell out in my book Whatever Happened to Community Mental Health. Our chief opponents in this battle were the people in charge of the program and its development. The core opposition was older white men. Whatever perspective I was carrying that might have guided my life as a white man was torn to shreds. And today we see the continuing battle with them, their often distorted perspectives and corruption as we approach a new day for our country.

In future posts I deal with these issues in more detail but will also open other themes related to the wonders that might come for America if we were to seize the moment and the opportunity.

Gaia’s Majesty-Mission Called: Women in Power by Roger B. Burt

Roger B. Burt’s Amazon home page

Creating Characters and Plots by Roger B. Burt

Stepfamilies: Professionals and Stepcouples in Partnership

Whatever Happened to Community Mental Health by Roger B. Burt

A Vision of women

Searching for Meaning

 

Do you have a clear vision of and for women?

There are events and then there are the meaning of the events. The difference is something we would do well to understand. Women are assuming different positions, importance and balance. In some ways the United States may be catching up to the curve. We did not get a woman president this time. But other nations such as India, Israel, Great Britain and Germany among many others have been led by women. 

Now we are offered an unparalleled opportunity for exploration of attitudes and potential. It is not just a matter of women coming to the fore in greater numbers. What does is mean about the potential and the future of humankind?

Exploration is Needed

One of the things we must do is to examine our beliefs, our cultures and our feelings. It is easy to say “the times they are changing” and leave it at that. It is not so simple and it would be unfortunate to be dismissive because the import is highly significant.

The battle to get women the vote took almost one hundred years although in a sense it has been thousands of years. Eventually we let them drive, permitted them to have credit cards of their own among other things and these things were quite recent. Why we changed is not clear.

Matters of Power

We are seeing some of the basis of the problem in the matter of power. At least in the United States it seems that women who seek power are not to be trusted. How interesting. Men are to be trusted but women not. It comes to us unexamined but was confirmed by a study at Yale University. I have yet to hear justification for why anyone would believe this. 

I hold a different position. I do not routinely trust men with power. In so many instances they have proven themselves incapable of effectively wielding it again and again. Are we to accept it just because they have always been doing it? Effective management is much more impressive and I have seen women to be ever so effective. They are showing up in greater numbers in politics and so many are impressive. The men who are in office in larger numbers are often less so. The absence of mission and perspective is too often stunning.

Who Are We?

Is it possible that we perceive women as weaker and less able to control themselves. In general women cry more easily than men and may cry tears of anger. The reality I learned in studies and in couples therapy is that men feel just as strongly but contain the feelings inside and so do not cry. Does that make them more capable of leadership. I think not.

Like it or not, we can already see the effects of the empowerment of women and it is broadly beneficial. The largest issue before us is that we have not sufficiently examined our attitudes and cultural perspectives. Why be suspicious of woman wanting to take the reins of power? I hear silence and dim prejudice. What is it that men are afraid of? And, for that matter, what is it that women are afraid of as women take the reins of power? We need to examine these matters. 

Understanding Would be Useful

We seem to be heading toward true partnership and need to clarify what it means and why we are so afraid of it. The benefits will surely be world changing and I am raising the issue that we should be examining this process in more detail and what is holding us back. I contend there are other issues than power and it would serve us well to search for what they are.

What alternatives do you see?

Gaia’s Majesty-Mission Called: Women in Power by Roger B. Burt

Roger B. Burt’s Amazon home page

Creating Characters and Plots by Roger B. Burt

Stepfamilies: Professionals and Stepcouples in Partnership

Whatever Happened to Community Mental Health

Coming to the Cusp of Reality This Fall

 

 

The summer holidays are over and we are now in what can only be described as a momentous fall. Coming this fall and into the winter will be posts devoted to several categories of issues. 

Monthly Newsletter for the Gaia’s Majesty Trilogy. On the second Monday of the month I will publish the Roger B Burt – Myth and Transformation newsletter.

Feminism– It has been coming for some time but seems to be cresting presently. It deserves ongoing exploration because the potential is essential for our future and shows us that the potential of half our people is being released at last.

Author Issues – I can’t resist digging into some of the issues writers of fiction face. Obviously they are affecting me and sharing is useful. Included will be revelations about the Origins of the Gaia’s Majesty Trilogy.

Health and Mental Health – If we manage to achieve a stable, productive government we have a long overdue set of issues to affect. Mental health must be redefined and health in general needs significant attention.

Vision – There are issues that deserve our clarification and there are many issues not being spotlighted presently which require deep consideration.

Emergent Topics – Surely we cannot foresee what may demand our attention.

Let’s Begin with America in Crisis

Today we start with a topic I have generally stayed away from, the momentous crisis America finds itself in and the meaning of politics.

Beyond Politics to the Soul of Our Country

First there is an issue which is fundamental to seeking clarity. Here is a definition of politics—

“the activities, action, and policies that are used to gain and hold power in a government or to influence a government.”

This is where the cusp of reality comes in. Listening to the discussion and rants we find almost everything being said to be political. And therein lies a huge mistake. There is so much more going on and it is inappropriate to reduce it to partisan politics.

The soul of our country, in all its complexity, is being displayed at last. We refer to America as the “Shining City on the Hill”. It seems not presently and what we have to face is that what is happening to us is not purely a function of an unstable, severely pathological, narcissistic sociopath. We have to own what is happening to our country and what we are displaying about ourselves. Who we are deep down and our failings are not a matter of politics although it may feed into politics.

Waves In the World

But there is another process to which we must attend. World affairs are often conditioned by waves of change or, perhaps a better description is, eruptions of change. It was not so long ago that we saw a hopeful world and now we see manifestations of authoritarianism to be very common across the globe and very much here at home.

At home there was the dreadful “error” (or was it just ideological) by the Supreme Court with Citizens United. Now we are exposed to the revelations indicating deep money corruption affecting our government. That’s not politics, it is pure corruption which has eaten away at a major party.

Essential Vision

And now comes another favorite theme of mine—vision. We are so caught up in the eruption of authoritarianism we are utterly failing to attend to some of the things I have been touching on in this blog such as the rise of feminism, attention to jobs of the future and health issues among others.

We can only hope that this fall may be a turning point for us domestically. Even if we achieve that turning we still must face what we have learned about our citizens. What facing it means is a design for problem solving issues that deeply affect those citizens. Confrontation will at times be necessary but it will not turn the tide of their future. 

And above all we must remain hopeful and dedicated to vision so we may solve our problems in constructive ways.

Gaia’s Majesty-Mission Called: Women in Power by Roger B. Burt

Roger B. Burt’s Amazon home page

Creating Characters and Plots by Roger B. Burt

Stepfamilies: Professionals and Stepcouples in Partnership

Whatever Happened to Community Mental Health

A Long Ago Warning for the Era of Trump

 

From the New Yorker 10 June 2018

The following is adapted from a lecture delivered in Barcelona at the Centre de Cultura Contemporània de Barcelona on June 6, 2018, in honor of Orwell Day.

Some essays are letters into the future. “The Prevention of Literature” is one such essay, and today I’d like to respond to it from 2018.

Orwell argues that totalitarianism makes literature impossible. By literature, he means all kinds of writing in prose, from imaginative fiction to political journalism; he suggests that verse might slip through the cracks. He writes, too, that there is such a thing as “groups of people who have adopted a totalitarian outlook”—single-truth communities of sorts, not just totalitarian regimes or entire countries. These are deadly to literature as well.

Orwell was writing in 1946, five or seven years before scholarly works by Hannah Arendt, on the one hand, and Karl Friedrich, on the other, provided the definitions of totalitarianism that are still in use today. Orwell’s own “Nineteen Eighty-Four,” which provides the visceral understanding of totalitarianism that we still conjure up today, was a couple of years away. Orwell was in the process of imagining totalitarianism—he had, of course, never lived in a totalitarian society.

He imagined two major traits of totalitarian societies: one is lying, and the other is what he called schizophrenia. He wrote, “The organized lying practiced by totalitarian states is not, as it is sometimes claimed, a temporary expedient of the same nature as military deception. It is something integral to totalitarianism, something that would still continue even if concentration camps and secret police forces had ceased to be necessary.” The lying entailed constantly rewriting the past to accommodate the present. “This kind of thing happens everywhere,” he wrote, “but is clearly likelier to lead to outright falsification in societies where only one opinion is permissible at any given moment. Totalitarianism demands, in fact, the continuous alteration of the past, and in the long run probably demands a disbelief in the very existence of objective truth.”

He goes on to imagine that “a totalitarian society which succeeded in perpetuating itself would probably set up a schizophrenic system of thought, in which the laws of common sense held good in everyday life and in certain exact sciences, but could be disregarded by the politician, the historian, and the sociologist.”

Orwell was right. The totalitarian regime rests on lies because they are lies. The subject of the totalitarian regime must accept them not as truth—must not, in fact, believe them—but accept them both as lies and as the only available reality. She must believe nothing. Just as Orwell predicted, over time the totalitarian regime destroys the very concept, the very possibility of truth. Hannah Arendt identified this as one of the effects of totalitarian propaganda: it makes everything conceivable because “nothing is true.”

. . . .

But perhaps Orwell’s most valuable observation in this essay concerns instability. “What is new in totalitarianism,” he wrote, “is that its doctrines are not only unchallengeable but also unstable. They have to be accepted on the pain of damnation, but on the other hand, they are always liable to be altered on a moment’s notice.” Orwell had observed the disfavor and disappearance of prominent Bolsheviks and the resulting adjustments to the official narratives of the Revolution—the endlessly changing and vanishing commissars. Arendt argued that the instability was, in fact, the point and purpose of the purges: the power of the regime depended not so much on eliminating particular men at particular moments but on the ability to eliminate any man at any moment. Survival depended on one’s sensitivity to the ever-changing stories and one’s ability to mold oneself to them.

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