Wednesday, March 16, 2005

A Mental Disorder Not In DSM IV (but should be)

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition (popularly known as DSM-IV), is published by the American Psychiatric Association and covers all mental health disorders for both children and adults. It also lists known causes of these disorders, statistics in terms of gender, age at onset, and prognosis as well as some research concerning the optimal treatment approaches. Bear this in mind as you continue reading this entry:

I have witnessed many political demonstrations in my 47 years of life, starting with the 1969 Vietnam War Moratorium that I actually participated in along with a few dozen of my fellow citizens in the small suburban town where I lived as a child. Since then, in my journey from left to right I have participated in protests which ranged from the somber--a solemn memorial for the victims of the Contras in Nicaragua (1981)--to the demented--watching many naked gay men roam about, some fondling others in broad daylight in the middle of the National Mall in Washington, DC, as RuPaul warbled her hit Supermodel from a stage outside the Capitol Building (1993). To my astonishment, I even witnessed a nude woman marching down New York’s Fifth Avenue in the midst of the 1994 Pride (Gay Rights) Parade, pausing outside Saint Patrick’s Cathedral for the sole purpose of mooning the shocked and appalled parishioners exiting the Church after Mass--and all this was done to the cheers and whistles and hollers of support from hundreds of marchers and sympathetic onlookers. Do I detect a pattern here?
For at least a decade the prevailing mood at leftist anti-war, pro-abortion, whatever, protest rallies has been one of street festival--sort of like a communist Mardi Gras. Giant papier mache puppets, protesters dressed as clowns, pierced-branded-and tattooed children of privilege leading Grand Guignol-like parades while crashing garbage can lids together and pounding on empty buckets…scenes like these are de rigueur at any respectable hate, er, protest rally.
I recently came across a photo of a protest staged outside the White House in 1965 by the Mattachine Society, the first major political group dedicated to the expansion of Gay Rights. What is striking is that in the photo the protesters—both men and women—are dressed neatly in shirts, ties, and dresses. This sort of decorum would be wildly out of place at today’s protests.
The fervor, the anger, the noise making and screaming, the sheer out-of-control lunacy of today’s protests marks them as a new development in the leftist world, and in leftist history. Street protests are common currency in the world of leftist discourse, whether the SDS riots in Chicago (1968) or the Paris Spring revolts of that same year, or any number of others. But only in the past decade has the typical leftist street protest/mass rally begun to resemble a collective temper tantrum.
For that is what it is—a collective temper tantrum. 25 years after the ascendance of the “Me Generation” and the politics of Personal Identity, and 15 years after the collapse of the Soviet Empire, the Americo-European Left has become an outlet more for the bizarre paraphilias of its members than a serious political force. In a time when Gay Rights Marches resemble BDSM scenarios and Anti-War Rallies have the look and feel of Punk Rock concerts, the organized Left is sweeping itself into the “dustbin of history”.

This article, written by John J. Ray, goes a long way to explaining this phenomenon. Ray makes a plausible case that the politics of the Left are rooted in a form of psychological disorder. Here is an excerpt:

What Are Leftists?

By John J. Ray | June 20, 2002

“…Psychological Leftism

It is submitted here that the major psychological reason why Leftists so zealously criticize the existing order and advocate change is in order to feed a pressing need for self-inflation and ego-boosting -- and ultimately for power, the greatest ego boost of all. They need public attention; they need to demonstrate outrage; they need to feel wiser and kinder and more righteous than most of their fellow man. They fancy for themselves the heroic role of David versus Goliath. They need to show that they are in the small club of the virtuous and the wise so that they can nobly instruct and order about their less wise and less virtuous fellow-citizens. Their need is a pressing need for attention, for self-advertisement and self-promotion -- generally in the absence of any real claims in that direction. They are intrinsically unimportant people who need to feel important and who are aggrieved at their lack of recognition and power. One is tempted to hypothesize that, when they were children, their mothers didn’t look when they said, "Mummy, look at me".

This means that the "warm inner glow" that they obtain from their advocacy and agitation is greatly prized. So it is no wonder that anything which threatens to disturb it -- such as mere facts -- is determinedly ignored. This view of Leftism as a club of the righteous that must never be disturbed or threatened is explored in detail by Warby (2002). See also Ridley (2002) for a brief account of the way Lomborg’s findings were greeted primarily by abuse rather than by any serious attempt at refutation.

And, of course, people who themselves desperately want power, attention and praise envy with a passion those who already have that. Businessmen, "the establishment", rich people, upper class people, powerful politicians and anybody who helps perpetuate the existing order in any way are seen by the Leftist as obstacles to him having what he wants. They are all seen as automatically "unworthy" compared to his own great virtues and claims on what they already have. "Why should they have...?" is the Leftist’s implicit cry -- and those who share that cry have an understanding of one-another that no rational argument could achieve and that no outsider can ever share.

Envy is a very common thing and most of us have probably at some time envied someone but, for someone with the Leftist’s strong ego needs, envy becomes a hatred and a consuming force that easily accounts for the ferocious brutality of Communist movements and the economically destructive policies (such as punitively high taxation, price controls and over-regulation generally) employed by Leftists in resolutely democratic societies. So the economic destruction and general impoverishment typically brought about by Leftists is not as irrational as it at first seems. The Leftist actually wants that. Making others poorer is usually an infinitely higher priority for him than doing anybody any good. One suspects that most individual Leftists realize that no revolution or social transformation is ever going to put them personally into a position of wealth or power so the destruction of the wealth and power and satisfaction of those who already have it must be the main thing they hope to get out of supporting Leftist politics. For a fuller account of the enormously destructive nature of envy see Schoeck (1969).

Whether or not someone is important, rich, successful, famous etc., is however of course very much a matter of individual perception. If many of the world’s most famous sports stars were introduced to me, for instance, I might well in all innocence proceed to ask them; "And what do you do for a living?" And while Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi is my personal hero, there are many, even in academe, who would never have heard of the Mahatma. This "relativity" of importance, prestige etc. would seem to explain why many active Leftists are in fact college or university professors. College or university professor is a generally high status occupation that provides an above-average income so might, on the face of it, be seen as already providing considerable recognition and praise. But if status is precisely why certain people have gone to the considerable trouble generally required to enter that occupation, it could well be that the ego need of that person is so big that even more recognition is then craved. A college professorship may be prestigious but still be seen as providing far too little power, public exposure and opportunity for self-display. "Seeing I am so smart, I should be running the whole show", is an obvious line of thought for such people. Just some power and fame is still not enough power and fame for them.

The need for self-display does however in most people tend to decline as they mature -- which is part of the reason why graduates tend to be less radical than students and why older people tend to be much more conservative than young people (Ray, 1985). To misquote Lenin (1952) only slightly, much of Leftism would appear to be "an infantile disorder".

And nothing above, of course, is meant to suggest that pressing ego needs, self-righteousness etc are confined to Leftists. It is merely meant to say that Leftism is the principal political expression of such needs. Such needs can also be met by religion etc. and it must be noted that Communism was often described as a religion by its critics. Why people choose politics rather than some other means of meeting their ego needs would have to be the subject of a whole new enquiry but it seems possible that the potentially very broad exposure that politics provides to an individual might attract the people with the very highest ego needs. This high level of ego need among Leftists would also explain the generally much greater political activism of the political Left compared to the rather somnolent political Right.

It would also explain why Leftists so often have a "spare me the details" or "Don’t worry about the facts" orientation. For most Leftists, it is the activism itself rather than what is advocated that is the main point of the exercise. As long as the cause advocated is both generally praiseworthy and disruptive to implement, that will suffice. The insincerity of the Leftist is of course an abiding theme in the many writings of Ayn Rand (e.g. Rand, 1957) -- who sees the hunger for power as the real motivation behind everything that the Leftist does…”


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