It’s still hitting us hard. Markets are down, foreclosures are up. Shanty towns are springing up in southern California. We’re officially in recession, it appears. And what got us here varies depending on which side of the political argument you listen to. The only problem with that is … it’s a little difficult to get at the real root causes.
Today on Thinking with Somebody Else’s Head, let’s try to understand it a little better in the second in our series of what’s going on Behind the Economic Crisis.
Depending on how long you’ve been listening to Thinking with Somebody Else’s Head, you may or may not know that our work here is based on the extraordinary discoveries of Brazilian psychoanalyst and social scientist, Norberto Keppe. In a profound series of books he wrote in the 1980s, he essentially created a new branch of social science called “social pathology.” This was the application of his psychological assessment, analysis and treatment of the human psyche to the greater society in which we live.
Our society, he determined, is a reflection of the unrecognized parts of our individual psychological reality. “The cycle is centuries old,” he wrote. “Man creates an increasingly sick society as he is increasingly sickened by it.” This awareness occurred shortly after he moved to New York at the request of a number of professors and academics to introduce his work there. He went expecting American ingenuity and “can-do” attitude to take his work,and spread it worldwide, as they did with everything else - from Breton Woods economic policies to pop music.
But he encountered a country in trouble. “America has stopped working,” he noted. America was not producing anymore and was instead content to sit back and let the 3rd world do the work while they applied themselves to making money with money; that the U.S. was exploiting the globalization of the desire for a piece of the American Dream they’d so artfully perpetrated, stimulated and fed to chain everyone else to pulling the sled while they rode along behind, sucking up the profits.
Keppe saw psychological Inversion in the creation of an economic system that rewarded a company with increased stock prices for lowering costs by farming out production to Asian sweatshops. He saw a psychological condition in the hunger for power and money and consumer goods that was causing us to destroy the planet in our insatiable desire for more, more, more.
The three books I mentioned earlier were, and continue to be, extraordinarily astute and prophetic - Decay of the American People (and the U.S.), which we discussed in our last episode of Thinking with Somebody Else’s Head, Liberation of the People: the Pathology of Power, and Work and Capital. These books discussed, analyzed and clarified the psychopathology of the human being that was manifesting in the social structures we had created. This was something remarkable for the time, and remains so even today. You’ll find those books totally relevant in today’s situation. Like they were written yesterday. Write me for more information: firstname.lastname@example.org
What Keppe noticed was the break in our social structures had made from our essential nature. From philosophy, Keppe knew that the essence of life was goodness, truth and beauty. At the same time, being successful in society often meant going against those values. We can’t suggest, for example, that the richest and most powerful among us got that way by acting like Mother Theresa or Albert Schweitzer.
And we the people have bought into it all big time. We all want to throw our money into the stock market and see it double or triple or at least bring in 10 or 15% returns. And for doing what, exactly? As Warren Buffett has noted, we’re not a nation of investors anymore, we’re a nation of traders. Which conjurs up images of men and women staring for hours into laptop computer screens to squeeze dollars out of the differenc ein exchange rates between the Yen and the Euro. Surely this is not lost on us. We’ve given up our previous values of what it meant to live in a civilized society. Our leaders lie about whatever they need to to convince us we need a massive, unwillable, horrendously expensive war. They encourage huge speculative financial systems that slosh trillions of dollars around daily like giant cassinos. They throw billions of taxpayer’s dollars into shoring up totally collapsing economic models that they’ve promoted. And then, as it’s crashing down around their ears, they admonish us that “we’re all in this together,” lumping in the vast majority of the world’s population with the small minority who are actually playing the gaem.
It’s time to wake up. As Keppe writes in Liberation of the People, ”Most people believe that the powerful are needed to maintain ‘order’ among the populace and in the markets, rather than that it is precisely these powerful who cause all the social conflict and disturbance with the dishonest laws and systems they create.”
That’s where I’d like to step out from today - that this economic and social crisis has not just happened. It’s come to us as a product of our thinking and philosophy of life, if you will. Gilbert Gambucci, fresh from discussing this at our World Conference of Analytical Trilogy a couple of weeks ago, joins me today.
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