How does the person work, and how does he/she fit into the political world and how that works? The first of these concerns the psychology of the individual human being, the second concerns the high politics of world leaders. I had two books on my kindle, one related to each of these subjects:
- The Myth of Normal by Gabor Maté
- The Devil’s Chessboard by David Talbot
It was intriguing to read them in parallel, alternating chapters, and reflect on the links. The exercise proved interesting in giving entirely different perspectives on the modern predicament.
The Myth of Normal – Gabor Maté
Psychotherapist Gabor Maté gives an enlightening perspective on the current understanding of psychology and particularly the role played by trauma in human development.
Essentially, we now understand just how disfigured many people are from the traumas incurred in their lives, particularly the first 6 years of childhood when the child is unable to consciously process traumatic experiences.
And we understand how this can lead to damaged people who lack normal human empathy, and how such people are often driven to leading positions in society’s money/power structures.
And we understand how such people engineer society itself to reinforce the control of such people, particularly through competitive economic systems, vast inequality, inadequate education systems, ‘othering’ of segments of society by gender, race, nationality, and vast penal systems. They belittle more humane and liberal approaches by whatever simplistic slogans come to hand – commies, scroungers, racial slurs, mysogyny, populism, nationalism etc etc.
Basically Gabor Maté shows that there is a better way, if we focus on the growth of the individual human being through psychogical understanding. This will give us truly free people, amongst whom democracy can flourish.
The Devil’s Chessboard – David Talbot
On the other hand, David Talbot gives a perspective on the particular world-dominant society of the USA from the end of WW2, when the Central Intelligence Agency created by President Truman and run by Allen Dulles became an actor in world affairs that was effectively out of control of the President, or of the formal government system.
The deep state of the rich, orchestrated by Allen Dulles and his brother John Foster Dulles, who was Secretary of State for President Eisenhower, eliminated progressive leaders around the globe, in favour of those the CIA saw as friends. ‘Our’ dictator was better than a democratic leader, in Congo, Cuba, Iran, and on and on.
The conspiracy even went so far as to enable, maybe even orchestrate, the killing of a progressive US president Kennedy, and subsequently his bereaved brother Robert, who each tried to liberalise US relationships with other countries. Yes it is pretty convincing that there was a conspiracy, which was made clear by subsequent investigations – which is to the credit of the US system.
This is all dramatic stuff to those of us who lived through those times and witnessed those events through news media.
I suggest that this evil was the ultimate and extreme result of a society that did not have the psychological understanding presented by Gabor Maté. The status quo and US dominance after the war was regarded as more important than any individual or even whole peoples. Characters such as the Dulles’s, McCarthy, Nixon generated and capitalised on people’s fears and traumas, rather than giving them hope. The Cold War was the inevitable result of their manipulations, as the USSR reflected the same attitudes back onto the US.
It is not much of a stretch to suggest that the same effect was operating in relation to the disastrous US invasion of Iraq and continues to this day in events in the Middle East and Eastern Europe.
The thing is, we can only address the situation when we see its reality. Gabor Maté gives us the framework and understanding of the human being, to help ourselves to face the situation clearly. If enough people gain psychological understanding and act on the process that is their own lives… If enough people change to enable collectively facing today’s challenges… Try a vision of self-realising individuals acting together to create a democratic and de-traumatised future. This was the dream of those killed in action, including: Mahatma Gandhi, Patrice Lumumba, John Kennedy, Robert Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Mohammed Mossadegh and so many more – including those usurped and murdered during the Dulles era.
I will maybe come back to Maté’s important book in a future post.
2 thoughts on “The person and the world”
Wow, what a powerful post. The underlying premise of each book resonates strongly, very strongly. Sadly, being reminded of these realities makes me even less hopeful for democracies around the world. I just can’t imagine enough people being willing or able to turn these forces around. Thanks for bringing these books to the fore, Barry.
Thanks, Jane. It seems like, after crossing the comfortable plain (for most people) of the postwar world, we are entering the bumpy foothills on the way to a new, and probably less comfortable) one. We have no idea where we’re headed, so best enjoy the journey!