«The freedom toward which democracy strives is not the romantic freedom of adolescent dreams; it is one of mature stature. Democracy insists on sacrifices which are necessary to maintain freedom. It tries to combat the fears that attack men when they are faced with democracy’s apparently unlimited freedom. Such lack of limitations can be misused to satisfy mere instinctual drives.
However, because democracy does not exploit man by myth, primitive magic, mass hypnotism, or other psychological means of seduction, it is less fascinating to the immature individual than is dictatorial control. Democracy, when it is not involved in a dramatic struggle for survival, may appear quite drab and uninspiring.
It simply demands that men shall think and judge for themselves; that each individual shall exercise his full conscious ability in adapting to a changing world; and that genuine public opinion shall mold the laws that govern the community. Essentially, democracy means the right to develop yourself and not to be developed by others. Yet this right like every other, has to be balanced by a duty.
The right to develop yourself is impossible without the duty of giving your energy and attention to the development of others. Democracy is rooted not only in the personal rights of the common man, but even more in the personal interests and responsibilities of the common man. When he loses this interest in politics and government, he helps to pave the road to power politics. Democracy demands mental activity of a rather high level from the common man.
What the general public digests and assimilates in its mind is, in our new era of mass communication, just as important as the dictates of the experts. If the latter formulate and communicate ideas beyond the common grasp, they will talk into a vacuum. Thus they may permit a more simple and even an untrue ideology to slip in. It is not enough that an idea is only formulated and printed; we have to take care that the public can participate in the new concept.
The mystery of freedom is the existence of that great love of freedom! Those who have tasted it will not waver. Man revolts against unfair pressure. While the pressure accumulates he revolts silently, but at some critical moment it bursts into open revolt. For those who have lived through such an outburst, freedom is life itself. We have learned this especially in the days of persecution and occupation, in the underground, in the camps, and under the threat of demagoguery. We can even discover it in the totalitarian countries where nonetheless the terror, the resistance goes on.
Like adolescents who try to hide behind the aprons of parental authority rather than face mature adulthood, the individual members of a democratic state may shrink from the mental activity it imposes. They long to take flight into a condition of thoughtless security. Often they would prefer the government, or some individual personification of the state, to solve their problems for them. It is this desire that makes totalitarians and conformists.
Like an infant the conformist can sleep quietly and transfer all his worries to Father State. When the intellectuals lose their self-control and courage and are possessed only by their fears and emotions, the power of those with prejudice and stupidity gains.
Since within each of us lie the seeds of both democracy and totalitarianism, the struggle between the democratic and the totalitarian attitude is fought repeatedly by each individual during his lifetime. His particular view of himself and of his fellow men will determine his political creed.
Coexisting with man’s wish for liberty and maturity are destructiveness, hate, the desire for power, resistance to independence, and the wish to retreat into irresponsible childhood. Democracy appeals only to the adult side of man; fascism and totalitarianism tempt his infantile desires.
Totalitarianism is based on a mechanized narrow view of mankind. It denies the complexity of the individual, and the struggle between his conscious and unconscious motivations. It denies doubt, ambivalence, and contradiction of feelings. It simplifies man, making him into a machine that can be put to work by governmental oil.
The individual has to decide whether or not he will grow up. The knowledge and insight he has gained have to be translated into action. By this time he knows more about himself; his life has become an open book to him. Although he understands himself better, he finds it difficult to leave the dreamland of childhood, with its fantasies, hero-worship, and happy endings. But, fortified with a deeper understanding of his inner motivation, he steps over into the world of self-chosen responsibility and limited freedom. Because his image of the world is no longer distorted by immature longings, he is now able to function in it as a mature adult.
Systematic education toward freedom is possible. Freedom grows as the control over destructive inner drives become internalized and no longer depend on control from the outside, on control by parents and authorities.
It is the building up of our personality and our conscience—ego and superego—that is important. Nor can this development be brought about in an enforced and compulsive way as tyrants and dictators try to do. We must develop it through free acceptance or rejection of existing moral values until the inner moral person in us is so strong that he is able to go beyond existing values and can stand on his own moral grounds.
The choice in favor of freedom lies between self-chosen limitation—the liberation from chaos—and the pseudo-freedom of unconscious chaos. To many people freedom is an emotional concept of letting themselves go, which really means a dictatorship by dark, instinctual drives. There is also an intellectual concept of freedom, meaning a limiting of bondage and unfreedom.
In order to become free, certain outside conditions must be prevented from hampering this moral development of self-control. We have to become increasingly aware of the internal dangers of democracy: laxity, laziness, and unawareness. People have to be aware of the tendency of technology to automatize their minds.
They have to become aware of the fact that mass media and modern communication are able to imprint all kinds of suggestions on our brains. They have to know that education can turn us either into weak fact-factories or strong personalities. A free democracy has to fight against mediocrity in order not to be smothered by mere numbers of automatic votes.
Democratic freedom requires a highly intelligent appraisal and understanding of the democratic system itself. This very fact makes it difficult for us to advertise or “promote” it. Furthermore, inculcating democracy is just as dangerous as inculcating totalitarianism. It is the essence of democracy that it must be self-chosen, it cannot be imposed.
The paradox of freedom:
Freedom and planning present no essential contrasts. In order to let freedom grow, we have to plan our controls over the forces that limit freedom. Beyond this, we must have the passion and the inner freedom to prosecute those who abuse freedom.
We must have the vitality to attack those who commit mental suicide and psychic murder through abuse of liberties, dragging down other persons in their wake. Suicidal submission is a kind of subversion from within; it is passive surrender to a mechanized world without personalities; it is the denial of personality.
We must have the fervor to stand firmly for freedom of the individual, for mutual tolerance and dignity, and we must learn not to tolerate the destruction of these values. We must not tolerate those who make use of worthy ideas and values only to destroy them as soon as they are in power. We must be intolerant of these abuses as long as the battle for mental life or death goes on.
It cannot be emphasized too strongly that liberty is only possible with a strong set of beliefs and moral standards. This means that man has to adhere to self-restrictive rules—moral rules—in order to keep his freedom. When there is lack of such internal checks, owing to lack of education or to stereotyped education, then external pressure or even tyranny becomes necessary to check unsocial drives. Then freedom becomes the victim of man’s inability to live in freedom and self-control.
Mankind should be guaranteed the right not to hear and not to conform and the right to defense against psychological attack and against intervention in the form of perverted mass propaganda, totalitarian pressure, and mental torture. No compromise or appeasement is possible in dealing with such attitudes. We have to watch carefully lest our own mistakes in attacking personal freedom become grist for the totalitarian’s mill. Even our denunciation may have a paradoxical effect.
Fear and hysteria further totalitarianism. What we need is careful analysis and understanding of such phenomena. Democracy is the regime of the dignity of man and his right to think for himself, the right to have his own opinion— more than that, the right to assert his own opinion and to protect himself against mental invasion and coercion.
Democratic self-government is determined by restraint and self-limitations, by sportsmanship and fairness, by voluntary observance of the rules of society and by cooperation. These qualities come through training.
In a democratic government those who have been elected to responsible positions request controls and limitations against themselves, knowing that no one is without fault. Democracy is not a fight for independence but a mutually regulated interdependence. Democracy means checking man’s tendency to gather unlimited power unto himself. It means checking the faults in each of us. It minimizes the consequences of man’s limitations.
Let me repeat what I said at the very beginning of this book. The modern techniques of brainwashing and menticide—those perversions of psychology—can bring almost any man into submission and surrender.
Many of the victims of thought control, brainwashing, and menticide that we have talked about were strong men whose minds and wills were broken and degraded. But although the totalitarians use their knowledge of the mind for vicious and unscrupulous purposes, our democratic society can and must use its knowledge to help man to grow, to guard his freedom, and to understand himself.»
Utdrag fra: Joost A. M. Meerloo. «The Rape of the Mind: The Psychology of Thought Control, Menticide, and Brainwashing 1956»
Mere fra Joost A. M. Merloo: