Brainy Quote of the Day

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Fromm and Roddenberry...

Seeing patterns in my previous posts Trek Musings and Resources and Refugees (and possibly some others), I was led to reexamine the works of Eric Fromm, a sociologist best known for his seminal work after WWII on the Nazi party: "Escape From Freedom," also known as originally "Fear of Freedom" outside of North America.

If you read through the Dystopian "1984," Fromm gives an Afterword, found here in whole at this PDF.

I quote the beginning of the fourth paragraph:

One of the most important ones is a new form of writing which developed since the Renaissance, the first expression of which was Thomas More's Utopia (literally: "Nowhere"), a name which was then generically applied to all other similar works. Thomas More's Utopia combined a most penetrating criticism of his own society, its irrationality and its injustice, with the picture of a society which, though perhaps not perfect, had solved most of the human problems which sounded insoluble to his own contemporaries. He also sites "Italian friar Campanella's 'City of the Sun', and the German humanist Andreae's 'Christianopolis'" as three seminal works in the emergent genre.

Sounds vaguely familiar...almost "Trekkie," which I'm sure it's part of the many sources where Gene got the idea.

Fromm goes on to relate this longing for perfection in the great philosophers of the Enlightenment. Its modern epitome - I submit - was Star Trek.

Dr. Fromm also lists the Trifecta of "negative-Utopian" i.e. Dystopian novels: "We" by the Russian Yevgeny Zamyatin; "Brave New World" by Aldous Huxley and "1984" by Eric Blair (George Orwell was a pen name). It is from these three, all modern science fiction descends.

Going back to Roddenberry, the societal "hiccup" was as I've mentioned a neo-fascist "Optimum Movement" that was the catalyst for Trek's version of WWIII, which I'm happy to say we have not fought (and don't want to).

The current resistance to change, the mantra cry: "I want my country back," or at one of the border national embarrassments (if the meme is genuine), a woman yelling at fleeing refugee children stands beneath a sign she held up stating: "Make English America's Offical Language" (I think the holder meant "official"). The sad part is whoever authored it, double-underlined the misspelling. That's not what our Constitution says, and it would help if someone invested in a good civics class and a spell checker.

From the Amazon Kindle book description for "Escape From Freedom":

The pursuit of freedom has indelibly marked Western culture since Renaissance humanism and Protestantism began the fight for individualism and self-determination. This freedom, however, can make people feel unmoored, and is often accompanied by feelings of isolation, fear, and the loss of self, all leading to a desire for authoritarianism, conformity, or destructiveness.

It is not only the question of freedom that makes Fromm’s debut book a timeless classic. In this examination of the roots of Nazism and fascism in Europe, Fromm also explains how economic and social constraints can also lead to authoritarianism.

Fromm's definitions:

Authoritarianism: Fromm characterizes the authoritarian personality as containing a sadist element and a masochist element. The authoritarian wishes to gain control over other people in a bid to impose some kind of order on the world, they also wish to submit to the control of some superior force which may come in the guise of a person or an abstract idea.

Destructiveness: Although this bears a similarity to sadism, Fromm argues that the sadist wishes to gain control over something. A destructive personality wishes to destroy something it cannot bring under its control.

Conformity: This process is seen when people unconsciously incorporate the normative beliefs and thought processes of their society and experience them as their own. This allows them to avoid genuine free thinking, which is likely to provoke anxiety. Wikipedia

These all sound frightening and familiar in the modern context. The John Birch Society and inspired modern clones never went away. Like a bad rash or foot fungi, the slightest moisture and warmth rebirths them in familiar, parroted talking-points. It's like watching a slow-motion psychological operation designed by a commercial version of the Creel Commission, made to look like "grass roots" when it's actually financed AstroTurfing.

It was Roddenberry's "hope" during the turbulence of the 1960's with its Vietnam conflict; struggle for Civil Rights that branched into Women's Rights, Human Rights and modernly LGBT rights that we all "learned to get along," and not quite blow the planet to smithereens! This of course, hinged on matter replicators and the willful, "magical thinking" dismantling of a scarcity economy and pre-Trek fictional social order.

Since this scarcity has made a very small part of humanity - 1% to 0.001% - wildly rich beyond Solomon's dreams, I think that dismantlement, if ever, will be resisted - as is any change beyond the current status quo is being resisted, quite vigorously - until it hurts them (and ultimately, us).

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