Sunday, December 30, 2012

A Strange Bond

Trey Smith

A 21st century psychotherapist steps into a time machine and comes out in Atlanta in 1855. Having no other marketable skills, he hangs out a shingle and promises new remedies for mental illness. A well-dressed gentleman knocks on the door and inquires if the psychotherapist might come to his plantation to examine the slaves.

“Most of them are well satisfied with their position and work hard within their natural limitations,” says the gentleman. “But a few appear to suffer most severely with drapetomania, dipsomania and dyaesthesia aethiopica. Even after whippings, they continue to defy my rules, either by subterfuge or outright defiance. I do not understand their affliction, which is cause for much suffering among them and financial losses for myself.”

After looking up drapetomania (compulsive running away), dipsomania (compulsive drinking) and dyaesthesia aethiopica (compulsive avoidance of work) in the latest journals of negro behavior, the psychotherapist goes to the plantation and convinces the psychotic slaves to talk with him for 50 minutes each week.

“I think I know what the problem is,” says the psychotherapist after a few months of research. “Your slaves had unhappy childhoods because they come from dysfunctional families. Their parents were often absent and even when they were around, they didn’t appreciate their children for their true selves. In some sense, your slaves are living in the past, acting out childhood fear and anger that is deeply buried in the unconscious.”

“And what do you recommend as a remedy?” says the gentleman.

“The best psychology has to offer right now is continued brutalization, on the theory that their race is incapable of deeper insight,” says the psychotherapist. “I think the evidence indicates that re-traumatizing the already traumatized is ineffective for a small number of stubborn cases, as you have discovered. For the stubborn cases, I would suggest another form of therapy...”
~ from Capitalism and Mental Illness: Back to the Future? by Charles M. Young ~
Recently, I have been thinking about the strange marriage of Christianity to capitalism. They would seem to be a mismatched couple and yet they embrace each other like voluptuous lovers.

Christianity has been built upon the edifice of morality. It has strict standards of right and wrong. Through the auspices of Jesus, believers are urged to look out others and to turn the other cheek.

Capitalism, on the other hand, is a completely amoral system. Right and wrong are minor concepts. What really matters is profit, a godlike being. Its apologists care little for others and those capitalists who turn the other cheek disappear from the scene in short order.

So, what we have here is a very moralistic system embracing an amoral one and what tends to pop out of this weird mix are societal institutions that commit constant immoral actions. And yet, the marriage seems as strong as ever.

I don't get it.

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