Cosmopolitanism as a group-fantasy




... And the charge of "reductionism," often leveled against psychohistory, is simply misplaced, since it is not a failing but a scientific goal to reduce seemingly complex and disparate processes to simpler and more basic forces and principles. Lloyd deMause, Foundations of Psychohistory


DeMause's argument doesn't play very well right now. DeMause's goal, that we should "derive less from William Langer's famous 'Next Assignment' for historians to 'use psychoanalysis in history' than from Freud's initial hope that 'we may expect that one day someone will venture to embark upon a pathology of cultural communities,'" doesn't play well right now. It is very difficult for the cultured mind to shake out of thinking it as immature, eager, "conquistatorial," maybe spoiled ... as obviously untrue to the world as it is. An approach for a child who wants everything conflated for effortless, immediate consumption. 

Those who see deMause as reckless and overreaching would disagree with this, but I would suggest that if evidence ever came in that suggested that the nature of a society's overall experience of their mothers in the first few years of their lives determines, well, everything else, that if you were able to attend to these children, see the manner in which they were being raised, unless they were of the helping psychoclass whose resulting society hasn't quite ever been felt yet in history (we're beginning to), you could spell out pretty much exactly what kind of society these children will erect for themselves as adults, the evidence wouldn't be allowed by their psyches to be seen. The world will always be complex, multi-causal, multi-variant, even if proof emerges that there's something truer scientifically about seeing it as pretty basic -- one primary element, from which everything else can be extrapolated, from which everything else, "bloomed." They might allow “a theory of everything” in physics, but that’s when it barely bleeds out of the cosmopolitan medium in which it was encountered, and plays only as flattering the sophisticated palate. 

I personally think that there's something of this invariantly mature mindset that smacks of a collective group fantasy, an agreement, a collusion, to see the world in such a way that one's own childhood terrors are somehow kept at bay. From deMause, it's this bit: "so group-fantasies are substituted as shared defenses which prevent regression to childhood traumas." A world that is essentially complex and irreducible, that requires an enormous amount of experience and careful scrutiny and a cultivated, measured sympathy to be able to understand, is a cosmopolitan world; it is an adult world. Cosmopolitan people, like Obama (and unfortunately for Canadians and his victims, like Ghomeshi), who smack of the city rather than the creatures of incest in fly-over, are actually in a sense being clung to (in Ghomeshi’s case, his satisfying group-fantasy needs is why there really was no environment that was going to friendly to his multiple, educated, normally to be thought of as empowered accusers, until only very recently). They help "furniture" our world so that it becomes difficult to believe that our early childhoods of unchanged diapers and deliberate abandonments, has any place ... it can't be elevated into it in a way that the mind can make sense, so it is -- victory! -- left out.  

There is a lot to be said about keeping this group-fantasy alive. Those beholden to it are those still astonishing us by still pushing for a more evolved world ... news of the agreement with Iran is fruition from these sorts of people. And there's not a lot to be said for when they'll feel the need to leave it behind, the surrendering of the cosmopolitan group-fantasy, and start seeing sense in reduction, like editor of Atlantic Andrew Taylor is (against Islam), like former New York Times reporter Chris Hedges is (against “spoiled,” people-betraying liberals and the corporate state), like where the influential black intellectual, Salon’s Brittney Cooper (who just abandoned longtime hero Obama for blood-in-the-streets, race-war) is, where they can re-experience their childhood humiliations — no more waiting, as every bit more “unallowed” personal and societal growth was making them more manifest — by taking righteous revenge. 

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