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Rape of the Mind - Chapter 13 - Intrusion by the Administrative Mind THE RAPE OF THE MIND: The Psychology of Thought Control, Menticide, and Brainwashing, by Joost A. M. Meerloo, M.D., Instructor in Psychiatry, Columbia University Lecturer in Social Psychology, New School for Social Research, Former Chief, Psychological Department, Netherlands Forces, published in 1956, World Publishing Company. (Out of Print)


Intrusion by the Administrative Mind
explore the idea of "bureaucratic thrust"

Since social life has become more and more complicated, a new group of mediators between man and his goals has developed. It is no longer the ancient priest who mediates between man and his gods, between man and the powers beyond him, but a group of administrators have, in part, taken over the job of intervening between man and his government. There are today mediators between man and his bosses, between artist and public, between farmer and market, mediators between everything. The administrative mind is born, often dominating man's social behavior and man's manifold contacts, leading him into complicated actions and compulsions far beyond spontaneous behavior.

All these ties, the rigid bureaucratic ones and the useful administrative ones, have their influence on human behavior and often may befog man's free thinking. I have a special reason for developing this theme in a book on the rape of the mind because this problem of mediation between man and his actions and thoughts exists in our form of democracy as well as in the totalitarian countries. Both halves of the world are grappling with the involved problem of how to administer themselves. The mere technique of governing ourselves and our world can become a threat to free human development-and this may be independent of the ideology the administration adheres to. We have not the same freedom to choose the official men who govern us that we have to select our favorite shop or our doctor. As long as the official man is in charge, we are in his bureaucratic power.

The Administrative Mind

Administrators today cannot handle their jobs adequately within the limits of the simple knowledge of people and nations that served governments in former years. If our leaders can not take into account the irrational forces in themselves and in other men and nations, they may easily be swept off into the maelstrom of mass emotions. If they cannot learn to recognize that their private or official conduct often reflects their prejudices and irrationalities, they will not be able to cope with the often unexpected prejudices of others. If they are, for instance, not sensitive to the paradoxical strategy hidden behind the misleading Aesopian language of totalitarians, they will not be able to counter the cold war. Psychological knowledge has become a must in our era of confused human relations.

Do our people in office, for instance, understand fully the provocative totalitarian strategy of slandering and wild accusation, and are they able to handle it adequately? Do they realize that the mere official denial never has as strong an appeal and impact as the initial accusation, and, in fact, usually fits into the accuser's strategy? Apparently they do not, for many still use simple official denial as a defense against the totalitarian strategy of accusation, when, in fact, only repeated exposure and ridicule of the very root of this technique can defeat it.

Do they realize the implications of the strategy of raising sham problems? The totalitarian and the demagogue often use this confusing technique. By launching emotional inquiries and investigations and asking for attention for quasi problems, they seek to divert attention from their real aims.

Do they understand, for instance, what lies behind the technique of exploiting the chivalry and generosity of the public and blackmailing the pity of the world? The strategy of complaining and calling for justice is a well-known mental defense used by neurotic individuals to arouse guilt feelings in others and to cover up their own hidden aggressiveness. The exploitation of pity and the overt declaration of one's own purity and honest innocence is a familiar trick when it is used by individuals, but we are less likely to recognize it when it is used in international politics.

Do our administrators realize that even the romantic ideals of brotherly love and world peace can be used to cover up aggressive designs? After the First World War, we heard many inspiring idealistic catchwords from the defeated central European countries. Their press and their leaders described in great detail, for all the world to know, the "inner purification through suffering" of the defeated peoples. Thus these countries appealed to the conscience and compassion of the whole world. But it was a questionable conversion. Every therapist knows that those who talk a great deal about their inner change and recovery have for the most part not changed at all. The fine phrases are so often contradicted by actions. Politicians must recognize that this can be as true for nations as it is for individuals. Let us not forget that nations don't talk. Official words are made up by representatives with unofficial and mostly unknown inner motivations.

Administrators, diplomats, and politicians form the nerve centers and paths of communication between peoples and nations. The tensions in the diplomatic regions represent the political tensions in the world. But they represent other things, too. The political profession is subject to special kinds of nervous tensions. The moment the administrator arrives at a top level, an inner change may take place. From then on, he can identify with those who formerly led him. The very fact of being in office and being a leader may change a man's mind in many ways. Often he removes himself more and more from human problems and from the people he represents and thinks only in terms of national strategy, official ideology, and the aims of power politics. Or childhood ambitions, long frustrated, are aroused. He may become the victim of his inflated personal ambitions and his individual notion of responsibility, and, as a consequence, lose control of his own personality.

Leading statesmen, burdened by responsibilities, have to become more careful; indeed, they often have to express themselves in noncommittal language. Yet, they are not aware that such language gradually may reform their way of thinking. Finally, they may think they possess a priority on double talk.

Another difficulty is related to a rather general fear of success. Once a high ambition is reached, a long-hidden fear from childhood may awake, a fear related to an early competition with the father and with the siblings. From this time on, the envy and hostility of those bypassed may start to injure the statesman's life.

The danger of assuming any leadership-even of any form of self-assertion-is that it provokes resistance and hostility, retaliation and punishment. The administrator knows himself to be in the public eye; he feels exposed to criticism and political attack. If he didn't have it before, from now on he has to develop a defensive facade in order to court the public and the voters. The result may be that the former meek democrat, the believer in government by the people, suddenly takes on the stature of an authoritarian personality. He is guided by his frustrated infantile fantasy of leadership.

The administrative "brain trusters," with all their inner problems, nevertheless make history for us. Our minds are deeply affected by their minds. At the same time, we-the great public-influence them, and our civilized impulses may direct them to find the good road, just as our primitive drives and influences may urge them on to push us all into catastrophe. The intrusion of the administrative mind becomes even more precarious when the authorities in power follow patterns of procedure not controlled by court and the law. In such cases, prejudice and arbitrariness can easily develop as we have experienced with many of our security regulations. Official secrecy is a token of magic power; the more hush-hush there is in the world, the less democratic control and the greater the fear of treachery.

It should be, technically, quite simple to administer any group or nation-or even the whole world. Mankind certainly knows enough to do this job. We know a great deal about history, sociology, and the science of human relations and government, at least enough not to repeat the mistakes from history. We live in a world of technical and economic abundance. But we have not yet learned to apply what we know or to organize the resources of the world. Somewhere something has gone wrong, and things have gotten out of hand. The will of nations and people to understand one another seems to be paralyzed, and mutual fear and suspicion have been built up by the fantasies of mythical ideologies warring against one another. And tomorrow only the tails of the fighting dogs may remain.

During the Second World War, I was sent as an official representative of the Netherlands government to an international meeting on welfare and war relief. Here I became even more aware of the extent to which private passions can mold the way we handle public problems. All of us at the conference had cold, expressionless faces which implied a sharp, unbiased form of thinking, but our unconscious minds were touched by other problems. Welfare is often much more a subject of hate than of love and sympathy. One's pride and prestige can play a much greater role than pity for the poor victim. The displaced persons and the people of the devastated and underdeveloped countries are very much aware of this fact. They do not like the role in which fate has cast them; they have to play the double role of the eternal victim who is not only the victim of politics and war, but also of the often arrogant provider of charity. As a matter of fact, the representative at the receiving end of the deal resented any offer made to his country. Everybody wants to be himself the generous "uncle from America." The Ailments of Those in Public Office

In the future, as our psychological understanding grows, leading politicians will have to be better educated in the principles of modern psychology. Just as a soldier must know how to handle his physical weapons, so the politician must know how to face and handle the mental strategy of human relationships and diplomacy. He will have to become aware of the pitfalls in all human communication and the frailties of his own mind.

Bodily disease and neurotic development can have all kinds of effects on those in office. Under their influence, some men are drawn into a life of continuous resentment, as if, in their political and official activities, they were fighting out their infantile struggles against devils, anxieties, and inner guilt. Others are purified by their sufferings and become wiser and more humane than they were.

The modern science of psychosomatic medicine males it clear that constant worrying, continual competition, repressed aggressions, the will to dominate and to govern others, the fear of responsibility, the burden of one's chosen profession are among the many factors that influence body and mind to form a pattern of bodily reactions. These reactions may actually hamper our ability to solve our problems by incapacitating us physically. Becoming a chosen statesman in our era of increased human competition and increased dependence on the masses of voters builds up in officeholders qualities that are nearly psychopathic, that can cripple the body or the mind or both at a time when we need the healthiest and soundest leaders. The role the latent psychosis or character disorder plays in many a leading personality cannot be emphasized enough. Not long ago I treated the leader of a huge humanitarian association, who was accorded much esteem by his fellow citizens, but who was a sick, psychopathic tyrant in his own family circle. His children trembled at the sight of him and developed-of course-a cynical attitude about all idealism and humanitarianism.

I suspect that many times this pathology is influenced by the way we select our leaders. Public preference is often directed toward strong, defensive, overcompensated qualities of character which show up well at public functions. The outer facade is too much seen; we are not able to judge the inner core.

In 1949, Burnett Hershey wrote an article which posed the question, Is our fate in the hands of sick men? The article was written after the tragic death of James Forrestal, the American Secretary of Defense, who committed suicide under the influence of despair and delusions of persecution. It describes in some detail the psychosomatic afflictions of various statesmen. Hershey quotes General George C. Marshall's words to the Overseas Press Club: "Stomach ulcers have a strange effect on the history of our times. In Washington I had to contend with, among other things, the ulcers of Bedell Smith in Moscow and the ulcers of Bob Lovett and Dean Acheson in Washington." The author goes on to point out that Stalin, Sir Stafford Cripps, Warren Austin, and Vishinsky also suffered from psychosomatic ailments, as does Clement Attlee. All of us have heard of the repeated fainting spells of the Iranian exPremier, Mossadegh, the man who might, in a spell of semiconsciousness, have changed the balance of power in the Middle East. The much-debated and headlined Senator McCarthy is another case in point. At the height of his struggle for headlines, he had a stomach condition that required an exploratory operation, bursitis, frequent sinus headaches and signs of exhaustion-and all of these are known as psychosomatic involvements resulting from extreme tension.*

We have, too, many cheering examples of how physical disability and neurotic development can mature and strengthen the personality. Perhaps the brightest example of the relationship between body and profession is the late Franklin D. Roosevelt, whose political career was inconspicuous until he was stricken by poliomyelitis. His years of physical suffering became years of mental ripening. His conquest of pain and disease changed his attitude toward his own problems and also toward the problems of the world. His growth of empathy and humility, his increase in strategic intuition, and his superior knowledge of the balance of forces in his country must be partly attributed to his inner mental growth during his disease.

Roosevelt will always be a guiding example of how the mind is able to overcome the physical limitations of the body, how the mind grows out beyond it when a man is willing to look inside and fight out the conflicts within himself.

The Conference of Unconscious Minds

Let me return for a moment to the wartime conference on welfare I mentioned earlier and tell you something more about it. The conference chairman did not feel well; every decision was as painful for him as his ulcer. He hemmed and hawed and refused to accept the responsibility the position placed on him. The representative of one of the eastern European countries was an attractive woman but a misanthrope. Every word she spoke was colored by suspicion, and when a representative from one of the Latin countries attempted a mild flirtation with her, she showed her confusion by arguing furiously against every one of his constructive proposals.

We also had a hesitant, old-school, professional politician in our midst. Though he couched his speech in gentle, polite words, he spoke only to destroy every proposal that was not initiated by his faction. When he had to listen-and this he did not like to do at all-he busied himself constantly with his tie or his eyeglasses, always polishing himself.

In a crowded corner sat an enthusiastic young man who longed to do something important. He wanted to act, he wanted to see something accomplished, and his excitement was regarded by the others with sophisticated disdain. He did not know the rules of conference play.

The sessions were boring. The delegates spoke endlessly and pointlessly. But one day the entire conference was gripped by a kind of uncontrollable fury. Every delegate tried to destroy all his colleagues. Someone had unexpectedly used the word "traitor" to designate a certain guerilla group fighting in Europe, and the smooth discussion was suddenly transformed into a collision of the insurgent passions that had long smoldered behind suave masks.

What agitation was aroused! What rage, what anger! But it was only temporary. It died down; our sophisticated conference spirit reasserted itself, and we settled down to do no work. The chairman made a polite summarizing speech, and we disbanded. The charitable work we planned so carefully is still undone, and many years have passed.

With dogged optimism, political leaders still convene to construct a new peace for the world. We know that many of them will suffer again from ulcers of the stomach, but what do we know of their deeper hidden wishes and resentments?

Although I am afraid that the time is still far away when we shall subject our official representatives and administrators to psychological education and selection, we must become more aware of the many unconscious factors which influence them and us.

Do political leaders try to understand one another and the groups they represent, or are they only measuring the power of their political machines, their words, and their votes? Are they guided by private resentments and ambitions or by the honest wish to serve the community and its ideals?

Are our administrators mentally well equipped to do their tasks? If not, how could psychological insight gradually improve their equipment?

How many of them are conscious of the extent of their private frustrations? Are their destructive impulses rationalized away under the guise of political allegiance? How do illness, disease, and neurosis collide in their deliberations? Watch how, in any debate, polite speeches are interrupted by sudden diatribes.

To what degree do childhood rearing, fixed ideas, or pathological ambitions of administrators influence the destiny of a town or nation ?

We recognize that idealistic platitudes may cover inadequate proposals, and we tend to accept this as the well-worn play of political strategy and diplomacy. But far worse than this overt policy of evasion is the hidden political conference and discussion between the unconscious minds and passions of politicians.

How many politicians and their followers are aware of this lurking undercurrent which often wields a stronger influence than overt action? How does the personal element between our administrators obstruct our own mental freedom, and what is the role of the psychopathic element in some of our leaders?

It is important for us to ask these questions. For the development of science has taught us that, even when it is impossible to find immediate satisfactory solutions, posing the right question helps to bring clarity to the future. It prepares the way for a solution.

The Bureaucratic Mind

In a state where terror is used to keep the people in line, the administrative machine may become the exclusive property and tool of the dictator. The development of a kind of bureaucratic absolutism is not limited, however, to totalitarian countries. A mild form of professional absolutism is evident in every country in the mediating class of civil servants who bridge the gap between man and his rulers. Such a bureaucracy may be used to help or to harm the citizens it should serve.

It is important to realize that a peculiar, silent form of battle goes on in all of the countries of the world-under every form of government-a battle between the common man and the government apparatus he himself has created. In many places we can see that this governing tool, which was originally meant to serve and assist man, has gradually obtained more power than it was intended to have.

Is Saint Bureaucratus a devil who takes possession of a man as soon as he is given governmental responsibility? Are administrators infected with a desire to create a sham order, to manipulate others from behind their green steel desks? Governmental techniques are no different from any other psychological strategy; the deadening hold of regimentation can take mental possession of those dedicated to it, if they are not alert. And this is the intrinsic danger of the various agencies that mediate between the common man and his government. It is a tragic aspect of life that man has to place another fallible man between himself and the attainment of his highest ideals.

Which human failings will manifest themselves most readily in the administrative machine? Lust for power, automatism, and mental rigidity-all these breed suspicion and intrigue. Being a high civil servant subjects man to a dangerous temptation, simply because he is a part of the ruling apparatus. He finds himself caught in the strategy complex. The magic of becoming an executive and a strategist provokes long-repressed feelings of omnipotence. A strategist feels like a chess player. He wants to manipulate the world by remote control. Now he can keep others waiting, as he was forced to wait himself in his salad days, and thus he can feel himself superior. He can entrench himself behind his official regulations and responsibilities. At the same time he must continually convince others of his indispensability because he is loath to vacate his seat. As a defense against his relative unimportance, he has to expand his staff, increasing his bureaucratic apparatus. In order to become a V.I.P. one needs a big office. Each new staff member requests new secretaries and new typewriters. Everything begins to get out of hand, but everything must be controlled; new and better files must be installed, new conferences called, and new committees set up. The staff-interaction committee talks for days on end. New supervisors are created to supervise the old supervisors and to keep the whole group in a state of infantile servility. And what was formerly done by one man is now done by an entire staff. Finally, the bureaucratic tension becomes too great and the managerial despotic urge looks for rest in a nervous breakdown.

This creeping totalitarianism of the desk and file goes on nearly everywhere in the world. As soon as civil servants can no longer talk humanely and genially but write down everything in black and white and keep long minutes in overflowing files, the battle for administrative power has begun. Compulsive order, red tape, and regulation become more important than freedom and justice, and in the meantime suspicion between management, employees, and subjects increases.

Written and printed documents and reports have become dangerous objects in the world. After a conversation, even when there are harsh words, inanities are soon forgotten. But on paper these words are perpetuated and can become part of a system of growing suspicion.

Many people become administrators in public affairs out of idealistic feelings of service and avocation. Others try to escape the adventure of life by becoming part of the civil service corps. Such service assures them a settled income, regular promotion, and a sense of job security. It is very alluring, this feeling of security. The smooth automatism and polished rigidity of the red-tape world is very attractive to certain types of men, but it may devitalize others who still believe in challenge and spontaneity.

The burning psychological question is whether man will eventually master his institutions so that these will serve him and not rule him. In totalitarian countries one is not permitted to see the humor of one's own shortcomings. The system, the red tape, and the manifold files become more important than the poor being lost in his chair behind a huge desk, looking much too important for his mental bearings.

The art of being a leading administrator, of being a genuine representative of the people is a difficult one, requiring multiple empathy and identification with other people and their motivations.

Diplomats and politicians still believe in verbal persuasion and argumentative tactics. It is a very old and alluring game, this strategy of political maneuvering with official slogans and catchwordsthe subtlety of bypassing the truth in the service of partisanship, of giving faulty emphasis, the skill of dancing around selected arguments to arrive at personal propagandistic aims or party aims. Sooner or later nearly all politicians become infected with the bug. Under the burden of their responsibilities, they give in to the desire to play the game of diplomacy. They start to compromise in their thinking, to bend backwards and to be circumspect, lest their remarks be criticized by the higher echelons. Or they fall back into infantile feelings of magic omnipotence. They want to have their fingers in every pie-to the left and to the right.

All these are dangerous mental streaks of every human being which can develop more easily in politicians and administrators because of the growing impact of modern governmental techniques and their threat to free expression. When a man gets entangled in strategical and political talk, something changes in his attitude. He is no longer straightforward; he doesn't express and communicate what he thinks, but he worries about what others are thinking about him behind their facades. He becomes too prudent and starts to build all kinds of mental defenses and justifications around himself. In short, he learns to assume the strategic attitude. Forget spontaneity, deny enthusiasm; don't demand inner honesty of yourself or others, never reveal yourself, never expose yourself, play the strategist. Be careful and use more buts and howevers. Never commit yourself.

I remember a leader of the opposition who became completely confused and nearly collapsed when, after a long time out of office, his party won an election and he had to assume governmental responsibility. From an aggressive, outspoken critic, he became a hesitating, insinuating neurotic, playing the tactful strategist, having no real initiative.

Some politicians are puppets, spokesmen of their bosses. Some are the cavalier jugglers of words, who transfer human aggressions into slogans. There are also the loudmouthed trumpeters of doom, who resort to the argument of panic. Modern politics is carried out with obsolete rules of conversation, communication, and discussion; and too few politicians are aware of the semantic pitfalls and emotional dishonesties of the word tools they must use to convince others.

Yet mutual understanding can become a basis of political strategy. It is not power politics with verbal deceit and catchwords that is needed but mental probing to find ways in which proposals and suggestions may cut through the resistance of those with different opinions and motivations.

Politicians too often forget that their fight for administrative power may become a form of psychological warfare against the integrity of the minds of those who are compelled to listen. The repetitious mutual calumny, so often used during elections, gradually undermines the democratic system and leads to the urge for authoritarian control. The strategic rumors and suspicions the politicians sow are an attack on human integrity.

When the citizenry no longer has confidence in its leaders, it looks for the man with brute power to be its leader. Where is the politician who is willing to admit that his opponent is at least as capable as he, and perhaps even more capable than he is? In the free admission of equality of ability and of the wisdom of his opponent lies the politician's chance for cooperation. For true cooperation can only be brought about by mutual empathy and sympathy and the understanding of human faults.

In April, 1951, a group of psychologists, psychoanalysts, and social scientists affiliated with the United Nations, the World Federation of Mental Health, UNESCO, and the World Health Organization were guests of the Josiah Macy Jr. Foundation in New York. This was a meeting at which these problems of government, and the impact of governmental systems, were explored and discussed and published later in a report. These experts have become more and more aware of the need for psychological education and selection of government administrators.

Should our administrators be psychoanalyzed? This nearly utopian question does not predicate an immediate rush for psychological training for politicians and administrators, but it does point toward a future period when practical intelligence and sound psychological knowledge will guide man in the various aspects of his life. Education will be more fully permeated with dependable psychological knowledge. Psychology and psychoanalysis are still young sciences, but many of our present-day politicians could already profit by them. Through gain in self-insight, they would become more secure in the strategy of world guidance. They would assume more responsibility-not only for their successes, but also for their failures. And they would take more responsibility, with fewer inner qualms, for the good and welfare of all.

At this very moment our failure to solve the problems of governmental inefficiency and bureaucratic intrusion into human actions may hamper the citizen's mind in its development. Man's need to conform is in constant battle with man's need to go out on his own. The tie-up of our spontaneous freethinking with the unadventurous administrative mind has to be studied and the problem it presents solved by the psychology of the future.

*Newsweek, April 12, 1954.

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