In my ongoing exploration of Marxist-Freudianism Erich Fromm has come as a welcome respite from Herbert Marcuse and Karl Popper. Fromm’s vision owes more to Freud than Marx. While he begins with many of the same preconceptions and goals, Fromm is less strident than Marcuse and more intellectually honest than Popper. Where they see history as an endless series of oppressions Fromm recognizes the positive as well as negative sides of preindustrial life and society. He is less concerned with fomenting revolutions than with confronting modern life’s anomie and alienation. I have found many useful insights in his Escape from Freedom and would recommend it to people on all sides of the political spectrum. Even where we disagree I have found no cause to doubt Fromm’s intentions or the value of his observations.
One example of this comes in this passage from p. 243:
Other mechanisms of escape are the withdrawal from the world so completely that it loses its threat (the picture we find in certain psychotic states, and the inflation of oneself psychologically to such an extent that the world outside becomes small in comparison. Although these mechanisms of escape are important for individual psychology, they are only of minor relevance culturally
Fromm has here made an invaluable observation: where we differ is on the conclusion. During their decline empires frequently withdraw from reality in response to increasingly intolerable conditions. The rise of Christianity in the late-stage Roman Empire is one historical case: the aristocrats and courtiers of pre-Revolutionary France and Rasputin’s influence on the Romanovs offer more recent examples. Impossible choices lead to impossible hopes and if you can’t change the world you can always focus on the world to come. It is a disorder we have seen many times throughout history — and one which we see today in the waning American Empire.
As social norms deteriorate, a failing society turns its concerns to the interior life. From the Left White Americans are constantly told to “own their privilege” and “confront internalized racism.” We are taught to avoid microaggressions and to wrestle with our implicit biases and unintentional bigotry. Through workshops and slogans we are promised hope of freeing ourselves and becoming Allies in the Struggle. On the Right we have Men Going Their Own Way and becoming conscientious objectors in the war between the sexes. Some choose to “take the red pill” and escape the Matrix. Others follow Q and “trust the plan,” going 1 so they can go with the All. You may not be able to stop White Genocide but you can be based: you may not be able to overthrow the Cishet White Supremacist Patriarchy but you can be woke.
People suffering psychotic episodes often mistake their crumbling mental edifice for demons. The citizens of declining empires are prone to witch hunts. White people who say the things they dare not speak or even dwell upon consciously become the White Left’s internal demon externalized. In lashing out at smirking high school students and swastika beer pong players, they prove themselves to be better than those “bad” White people. Much “virtue signaling” is not so much social preening as a desperate attempt to reconcile deep internal contradictions. In a deteriorating empire a feeling of power over oneself is a thing to be treasured.
For their part, many on the Right have chosen to focus their anger on a more traditional target. A great deal of Dissident Right discourse concerns the “Jewish Question.” Some of this discussion involves valid concerns about the power of AIPAC, the ADL, HIAS and other large Jewish organizations. Much more features crude Jew-hating rants, fake quotes from imaginary rabbis and speculation about vast conspiracies involving the Elders of Zion, Bilderbergers and alien reptiles. It’s easy to complain that “anti-Semitism” has become a convenient excuse for avoiding inconvenient questions. It’s also hard to deny that a great deal of online conversation about Jews ranges from factually incorrect to downright delusional.
Both the earnest young SJW “calling out racism” and the angry young Stormer “naming the Jew” believe themselves engaged in a battle against an evil conspiracy seeking world domination. Both design their battle plans based on a blend of fact, fiction and strong feelings. Question the SJW’s claims and you’re a Nazi apologist: correct the Stormer and you’re a Hasbara/JIDF shill. None of this helps foster productive dialogue on difficult topics: neither does it bring us closer to any sort of compromise or consensus. Instead of stumbling toward enlightenment, we chase our own shadows. And as America’s long descent continues we may find ourselves shooting at the people upon whom we have cast them.
Perhaps the most troubling aspect of this mass psychosis is its desire for apocalyptic solutions. On the Left there are endless hopes that the Mueller investigation will send Trump, Pence and the Republican Party to Guantanamo. On the Right we have a fervent belief that Trump (with the help of Q) will drain the Swamp, reveal the Deep State and finally put Hillary, Obama, the Podesta brothers and the Democratic Party in prison where they belong. The fact that neither of these dreams are likely to come true only makes them more dangerous. As frustration grows on all sides, so too will the calls for a Strong Leader who will Do What Must Be Done. And history has shown that when that desire arises somebody will soon come along to fulfill it.
2 thoughts on “The Escape from Freedom”