Utopian Thinking (II) The Assault on Reality
Stephen Rittenberg, M.D. and Herbert Wyman, M.D>
Utopian Thinking (ll)
The assault on reality
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One has to belong to the intelligentsia to believe things like that; no ordinary man could be such a fool
_ George Orwell
In our previous essay we noted the universality of utopian yearnings, the longing for a perfect world where all conflict, pain, suffering and death would be eliminated. All would dwell happily in the Garden of Eden, or Heaven on Earth-Utopia. As psychoanalysts we noted the way this yearning constitutes a regressive pull back to the earliest phase of human development, the stage when the baby and its needs reign supreme. The longing for perfect bliss in a perfect world is so strong that some of the most gifted and intelligent among us have succumbed to its siren call. Even Lionel Trilling, perhaps the greatest literary critic and social observer of the twentieth century was briefly drawn to the utopian promise of Communism in the 1930’s. Stalin’s brutal show trials disillusioned him and in the mid 1940’s he wrote a novel, Middle of the Journey, about the lure and the disillusion. The narrator, John Laskell, an intellectual and stand in for the author, is what was known in those days as a “fellow traveler.” All his friends were either Communist party members or strong sympathizers. At the height of his intellectual powers Laskell falls ill and nearly dies. He starts thinking about the reality of his biological self and the questions his near death raises. He muses about the limits death imposes. He searches for meaning not in utopian politics but in his own individual life. He remembers a woman he loved who died young before their personal relationship could grow. Personal loss, the body’s fragility, limits, begin to feel inevitable. His close friends, ardent Communists refuse to talk with him about the spiritual and psychological questions his illness raises. He annoys them because death is not personal for them; their friendship is not personal. Rather he is a comrade member of a great revolutionary movement. He notices and is troubled that they aren’t really interested in his uniquely individual experience, but rather in him as a member of a class in the vanguard of the coming new world. They particularly do not want to hear him say that his period of withdrawal from the world into his illness and recovery had its pleasurable aspect. He liked being cared for and in fact enjoyed contemplating a beautiful rose in his sick room, instead of mulling over the plight of the masses. Trilling places biological reality against utopian longings. He also suggests that aesthetic pleasure is vital and that the sensually beautiful rose in Haskell’s room contributes to his recovering health. Trilling was prescient in anticipating a key element of the new woke version of utopianism-the attack on biological reality. And in the brave new world, there is no art just for the aesthetic pleasure it can bring. It must serve the revolutionary cause. Enjoyment itself is suspect as a self centered pleasure luring one away from the task of revolution.
A taxonomy of Utopianism
The Marxist version of utopia is what we focused on in our first paper. It promised a revision of the Capitalist system whereby all would share equally in the good things of the earth. This would, in the words of Leon Trotsky allow a transformation of human nature and man would “raise himself to a new plane, to create a higher social biologic type of if you please, a superman.” (Literature and Revolution, 1924)
In addition to what might be termed the “Socio-Economic utopianism, there are several other versions, including:
Narcissistic Utopianism: “I am perfect, i.e. my race, my body, my language, my mind. Utopia can be achieved by wiping out all who are different or oppose me.” Examples: Nazism and its perfected aryan man. The master race.
Religious Utopianism: The conviction that the imposition of one particular religion on the world will save everyone’s soul and bring paradise on earth.
Post traumatic Utopianism: The reversing of and revenge for a major trauma suffered by a nation or a people in order to recover the fantasied utopian perfection of the past. Examples of such traumata are the Serbian defeat by Ottoman Muslims, the Palestinian “nakba” and to some extent slavery in the American south. This phenomenon has best been described by the psychoanalyst Vamik Volkan, who describes what he calls “chosen trauma” which is part of a group sense of identity, and can be regressively reactivated and lead to mass destruction. It might be noted here that the Holocaust is not among these traumas. This is because the Jewish people as a whole has acknowledged, metabolized and moved on creatively from this trauma, rather than engage in a Utopian effort at denial and revenge.
Imperialistic Utopianism: the effort to impose one civilization or culture on the rest of the world: Ancient Greece and Rome, 17th-19th century Europe.
Generational Utopianism: the secret to perfection known only to one generation, all others are in error, e.g. the Chinese cultural revolution wherein older people were shamed, made to wear dunce caps and sent to re-education camps.
Wokism and the assault on reality
All of the above variations of the utopian fantasy have one thing in common: they exist in the real world and try to accommodate to it. when utopia fails to arrive, an attempt at real world explanation is made; it will be said, for example, “that wasn’t real Communism, after all” or “the proletariat foolishly acted against its own interests”. While there certainly are failures of reality testing as well as blaming of scapegoats for the failure of utopia, the only truly unrealistic element is the belief in a Perfect World. Apart from this they exist in, and accept the real world as we know it.
This is not so for the current Woke Utopianism, which has in all of its component beliefs launched an unprecedented assault on reality. In assaulting reality the Woke Utopians have carried their cultural regression one step further backwards: from Utopia to Chaos.
In the beginning was chaos. Genesis in the King James bible tells how God brought order by making distinctions, between light and darkness, by dividing waters from each other and from dry land, by dividing light from dark, animate from inanimate, and naming and distinguishing animals from one another and finally dividing males from females; “male and female, created he them.”
We are content to make the point that rational thought itself, whether biblically informed or not, requires fundamental distinctions. Scientific thinking cannot take place without the ability to make distinctions. We distinguish present from past and future, mind from body and yes, male from female. Reality requires acceptance of difference.
The late French psychoanalyst Janine Chasseguet-Smirgel described the universal temptation to attack and destroy reality, the source of so many of our frustrations and limitations She pointed out that difference is the bedrock of reality and without it there is only chaos and mixture. The real intellectual progenitor of the Woke utopians was not Rousseau, not Marx, not Hegel but the Marquis de Sade. As Chasseguet-Smirgel noted, Sade wished to undermine the distinction between the sexes and the generations and to destroy the family by breaking down the sexual barriers between parents and children. Utopia would be reached when all distinctions and differences are destroyed. This utopia would be what she called the “Sadian universe” of utter chaos, and fecal sameness. A world of Perversion.
When reading what follows keep in mind present day ‘woke’ gender ideology which, having invaded the medical and surgical professions, offers castration and breast removal as ‘cures’ for normal developmental conflicts. Since all children go through phases of wondering what it would be like to be the opposite sex, there is a very large cohort of potential surgical patients.
The following is from Sade’s Story of Juliet, (9,p.569: Noircoil says to Juliette: “For a long time I have been beset by the extraordinary fantasy, Juliette, and I have been looking forward to your return, as you are the only person in the world with whom I can indulge it. I wish to get married twice in the same day: at 10 in the morning I shall dress as a woman and marry a man; at noon I shall dress as a man and marry a male homosexual in the guise of a woman. And in addition to this…I want a woman to do the same thing: and what woman other than you could indulge this fantasy? You must dress up as a man and marry a female homosexual at the same service in which I, as a woman will be marrying a man; and then you as a woman, will marry another female homosexual dressed as a man, while I, having put on clothes befitting my sex, will wed, as a man, a male homosexual dressed up as a girl.”
Gender ideology, in a truly Orwellian turn, calls what it is supporting “gender affirming care” and applauds medical/surgical procedures that would please Dr. Mengele. The sadistic pleasures of the woke spread chaos and destruction.
Karl Marx wrote “All that is solid melts into air, all that is holy is profaned..” and so the woke seek to bring this about. They tear down history and undo it. A new reality can be conjured out of thin air. The new world of perversion means the United States is to this day an oppressive patriarchal white system founded on black slavery. Statues are torn down, paintings removed, buildings renamed or destroyed and children demonized at birth because of the sin of having white skin. Language is perverted: racism towards white skinned children is ‘anti-racism’, ‘protecting democracy’ means censoring the non woke, regression to primitive tribalism is called “progressive.” Permanently mutilating young girls and boys is called ‘gender affirming.’ Blatant discrimination by elite universities against Asian Americans is called “affirmative action.” Orwell’s warnings seem to have become instructional manuals for how to use language in service to ideology.
Woke Utopianism and Psychoanalysis
Psychoanalysis, which we have practiced for a combined 100+ years;has been subjected to the failed efforts of visionary utopians in the past. We have written about these in an earlier essay, The Violent Utopians (Midstream Magazine). It is important to realize that psychoanalysis, while in decline as a therapeutic modality, remains deeply connected to the ancient Socratic philosophical commandment to “know thyself”, and the enlightenment values of reason and individualism. In recent years various behavioral and chemical treatments have displaced Psychoanalysis with new forms of biochemical, brain altering effects. The promise of a pill is much more appealing than, for example, finding out how one may unconsciously sabotage one’s own life. There is always a market for quick and effortless ‘cure’.
At the same time the new Woke sensibility argues that psychoanalysis is the disease it purports to cure. Carter A. Carter, who claims to be a psychoanalyst argues that White Racist privilege is the core of psychoanalysis. He manages to combine anti white racism with anti semitism. He is probably unaware that a far more intelligent theorist Joel Kovel preceded him. Kovel authored a “psychoanalytic” book, in the 1960s,White Racism. Kovel was a brilliant and well trained psychoanalyst who had the integrity to renounce psychoanalysis when he decided it was a tool of capitalist oppression and a white obstacle to the revolution. He left psychoanalysis and became the Alger Hiss Professor at Bard College while running for Vice President on the Green party, anti capitalist ticket, railing about white people despoiling the environment. Carter, like Kovel, devotes himself to demonizing the Jewish state, Israel while argueing that “….our history as a profession is rooted in Jewish flight from what one might call big authoritarianism into the petty authoritarian arms of British and (especially) American psychoanalytic institutes that were envious and hostile towards them. In order to make a new home in this White authoritarian environment, refugee Jews and their American-born counterparts were obliged to pass to a great extent—this history is well documented in Emily Kuriloff’s Contemporary Psychoanalysis and the Legacy of the Third Reich and in Douglas Kirsner’s Unfree Associations. Both Kuriloff and Kirsner write of the profound pressure on Jews to pass, and to conform; both frame the passing as being about American-ness or Gentile-ness, but in so doing they misunderstand the unenviable Faustian bargain that our psychoanalytic ancestors were making. It was all about Whiteness, and passing as white. Having fled a White Supremacist movement in Nazism, they had to find a place for themselves in the American version that had inspired it.
If psychoanalysis cannot fully countenance its own investment in Whiteness, it will die. Its most luminous insights are those that shed light on dynamics of abuse, hatred, shame, and persecution. These insights are most relevant to those of us with considerable personal experience with such things—people of color, queer people, poor people, disabled people, people at all kinds of margins and those who come near the margins to love us. The Whiteness of professional psychoanalysis is absolutely noxious to us. We might be the new life blood of this field, if Whiteness does not insist on segregating us out of the profession by being unsurvivably hostile to us….” Carter A. Carter in The Psychoanalytic Activist.
It is no wonder that the new utopians, the Woke true believers, hold virulent grudges against psychoanalysis. We shouldn’t be surprised they loathe it for its “whiteness” and for its insistence that their are two sexes.The earliest ego, said Freud, is the body ego. Psychoanalysis reminds us we are first our bodies, male or female. Of course there are extremely rare genetic exceptions but so are there rare individuals born with 11 fingers. That doesn’t detract from the fact that we are normally born with 10. Now however we have gender ideology replacing the two sexes with hundreds of genders, and disturbed, suffering fellow human beings are put through barbaric surgical and hormonal ‘treatments’ to change them into one of those hundreds, while they are celebrated by fellow believers as courageous pioneers. Normal children are told in Kindergarten not to introduce themselves as boys or girls because they are too young to decide what they are!
Returning now to Trilling’s novel Middle of the Journey, John Laskell is saved from the Communist utopians by experiencing his own biological self during an illness. He learns of his fragility and mortality. This awareness allows him to shake loose from the grip of utopian Communist ideas. His friends, he realizes, care nothing for his individual concerns. They see him only as a useful cog in the revolutionary wheel of history. Ideas, ideology are far more important than biology. And so biology can save us from the woke mob today as it saved John Laskell. The woke mob know it and so have launched an effort to replace the reality of biology with a false abstract ideology of Gender. If this happens, Psychoanalysis will be defined out of existence and remade into a ‘social justice organization’ and analysts will be canceled or worse, given dunce caps to wear and sent to reeducation camps.
Psychoanalysis may be a small therapeutic enterprise but it has had enormous cultural impact on Western civilization. It shines light into the darkness of unknowing and thereby acquaints us more fully with reality, the better to deal with it. Having illuminated the dark areas of the human mind, it must shine the same penetrating spotlight on the woke ideologists, both in their own ranks and in the culture at large, exposing them for what they really are are: the harbingers of destruction and chaos.
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