…the ‘dialogical man’…is convinced that the power to create and transform even when thwarted in concrete situations, tends to be reborn. And that rebirth can occur…in the supersedence of slave labor by…emancipated labor which gives zest to life. (emphasis mine)
-- Paulo Freire, Pedagogy of the Oppressed, p. 91
Think of the depressing contrast between the radiant intelligence of a healthy child and the feeble intellectual powers of the average adult. Can we be quite certain that it is not precisely religious education which bears a large share of the blame for this relative atrophy?
-- Sigmund Freud, The Future of an Illusion, p. 60
The zest for life—free men, women and children have this, don’t they? Free men, in the sense of individuals who are not bound by any dogma or creed, fastened to the concrete ideas provided by religions or nations. The average stupefied, TV-indulgent, pot roast-fed American lacks this vigor. And every psychologist that has written about the loss of this zest in children has admitted—well, I could be going a little overboard here, but I think the point is well taken—that it is when the child begins school—hence begins being molded by the state—that this loss begins to occur.
I continue to digress in thought, from the idea of Liberation Psychology and Pedagogy of the Oppressed and the third world-type individuals that Freire is campaigning for—to the average American, shaped and molded by a group of institutions that have programmed them to the extent that a “zest for life” is all but denied. Just a simple aspect of this human experience that is basically taken away from us at an early age and replaced by a scandalized formula for what “should” constitute happiness and excitement and life. Take away Freud’s illusion—religion—and the “concrete situation of alienation” that Paulo Freire refers to as the oppression of the masses—and then, perhaps, some real joy and life can return to these masses.
Freud attends to this alienating principle in Future of an Illusion when he reports of religious doctrines and “their incomparable importance for the maintenance of human society." Cushman writes of this in Constructing the Self, Constructing America in detailing mesmerism and how it “constructed a cultural frame of reference…that unwittingly aided the state in controlling the population.” And it appears to me that the late psychologist Harry Stack Sullivan caught this notion, evidenced by a quote in Cushman: “Sullivan called for ‘a cultural revolution to end war,’” and his “interpersonal vision, taken to its philosophical conclusion, was not a comforting one. It would have called attention to the fact that what we think of as reality is socially constructed."
It is as though I am pulled by the “idea” of Eugene V. Debs and the “liberation” of people from the capitalist/consumer culture domination. Debs led a Socialist movement in the United States from 1898 until his death in 1926, and called for the end of the capitalist system as we know it. He spent three years in federal prison for violating the 1917 Sedition Act by speaking out against the United States entering World War I.
“For in every age it has been the tyrant, the oppressor and the exploiter who has wrapped himself in the cloak of patriotism, or religion, or both to deceive and overawe the people,” Debs said in the speech that landed him in prison. “This history of this country is being written in the blood of the childhood the industrial lords have murdered."
How does go about such a movement of “liberation” in this day and age? Debs was fighting owners of factories and railroads that kept men, women and children working 17 hours a day for six days a week—horrendous conditions, no doubt. But to speak of “liberation” today—what is necessary? Is there a way? I imagine that a great “costume” to don in order to carry out such work would be psychology—yes, it should be. Awaken the masses in a different way than is normally experienced—away from political idealism and religious dogma.
Zest in life. A remarkable potential for the American people, no?
So, now—perhaps a tie-in of this idea with the Archetypal Psychology of Hillman—of one’s own psychology being reflective of environment, community, nation—of a person’s field of existence—every concept and belief and external structure, whether it be a table or car or building or highway or city or nation—all tied in with their inter-and-intra-personal field of relationship—all of this being recognized as part of a person’s field of existence, and that is what needs to be included, not only in the dialogue but also in the process of healing. A formidable challenge!
I like Pierre Furter’s words: “The universe is revealed to me not as space, imposing a massive presence to which I can but adapt, but as a scope, a domain which takes shape as I act upon it” (Freire, 92). (emph. mine)
Let us re-shape that domain and restore the zest that is inherent within it!