The Psychological Vacuum
Some thoughts from Andrzej Łobaczewski
We need to think for ourselves, be our own independent researcher, and weigh things up against a solid moral value system. It takes effort - a lot of effort. And when things are going well, when there isn’t much friction, we don’t like to expend such energy. Then a psychological vacuum forms, a place that is quickly filled with the ideas and conclusions of someone else that you’ve passively soaked up like a sponge.
How does the psychological vacuum form?
From time immemorial, man has dreamed of a life in which his efforts to accumulate benefits can be punctuated by rest during which time he enjoys those benefits. He learned how to domesticate animals in order to accumulate more benefits, and when that no longer met his needs, he learned to enslave other human beings simply because he was more powerful and could do it.
Dreams of a happy life of 'more accumulated benefits' to be enjoyed, and more leisure time in which to enjoy them, thus gave rise to force over others, a force which depraves the mind of its user. That is why man's dreams of happiness have not come true throughout history: the hedonistic view of 'happiness' contains the seeds of misery. Hedonism, the pursuit of the accumulation of benefits for the sole purpose of self- enjoyment, feeds the eternal cycle where good times lead to bad times.
During good times, people lose sight of the need for thinking, introspection, knowledge of others, and an understanding of life. When things are 'good,' people ask themselves whether it is worth it to ponder human nature and flaws in the personality (one's own, or that of another). In good times, entire generations can grow up with no understanding of the creative meaning of suffering since they have never experienced it themselves. When all the joys of life are there for the taking, mental effort to understand science and the laws of nature - to acquire knowledge that may not be directly related to accumulating stuff - seems like pointless labor. Being 'healthy minded,' and positive - a good sport with never a discouraging word - is seen as a good thing, and anyone who predicts dire consequences as the result of such insouciance is labeled a wet-blanket or a killjoy.
Perception of the truth about reality, especially a real understanding of human nature in all its ranges and permutations, ceases to be a virtue to be acquired. Thoughtful doubters are 'meddlers' who can't leave well enough alone. "Don't fix it if it ain't broke." This attitude leads to an impoverishment of psychological knowledge including the capacity to differentiate the properties of human nature and personality, and the ability to mould healthy minds creatively.
The cult of power thus supplants the mental and moral values so essential for maintaining peace by peaceful means. A nation's enrichment or involution as regards its psychological world-view could be considered an indicator of whether its future be good or bad.
During good times, the search for the meaning of life, the truth of our reality, becomes uncomfortable because it reveals inconvenient factors. Unconscious elimination of data which are, or appear to be, inexpedient, begins to be habitual, a custom accepted by entire societies. The result is that any thought processes based on such truncated information cannot bring correct conclusions. This then leads to substitution of convenient lies to the self to replace uncomfortable truths thereby approaching the boundaries of phenomena which should be viewed as psychopathological.
Andrzej Łobaczewski - Political Ponerology: A Science on the Nature of Evil Adjusted for Political Purposes
In the West during the second half of the 20th Century was such a time as this: a preoccupation with the self but without self-reflection, accumulation of things, and a general obsession with utility over morality. And what happens when difficult times, a crisis, come upon such a culture? What fills the psychological vacuum?
The psychological features of each such crisis are unique to the culture and the time, but one common denominator that exists at the beginning of all such 'bad times' is an exacerbation of society's hysterical condition. The emotionalism dominating in individual, collective, and political life, combined with the subconscious selection and substitution of data in reasoning, lead to individual and national egotism. The mania for taking offence at the drop of a hat provokes constant retaliation, taking advantage of hyperirritability and hypocriticality on the part of others. It is this feature, this hystericization of society, that enables pathological plotters, snake charmers, and other primitive deviants to act as essential factors in the processes of the origination of evil on a macro-social scale. (Łobaczewski - Political Ponerology)
And what is one to do in such circumstances?
When bad times arrive and people are overwhelmed by an excess of evil, they must gather all their physical and mental strength to fight for existence and protect human reason. The search for some way out of difficulties and dangers rekindles long-buried powers or discretion. Such people have the initial tendency to rely on force in order to counteract the threat; they may, for instance, become 'trigger happy' or dependent upon armies. Slowly and laboriously, however, they discover the advantages conferred by mental effort; improved understanding of psychological situations in particular, better differentiation of human characters and personalities, and finally, comprehension of one's adversaries. During such times, virtues which former generations relegated to literary motifs regain their real and useful substance and become prized for their value. A wise person capable of furnishing sound advice is highly respected. (Łobaczewski - Political Ponerology)
Now is the time to “discover the advantages conferred by mental effort” as we seek to understand human nature, and the inner workings of those who are for us and those who are against us. Former generations have been in this place, gained wisdom and written it down in the hope that it will serve generations to come.
I’ve just introduced you to Łobaczewski. What other gems of wisdom are you drawing on in these days? Let me know in the comments.
Thank you for the introduction! This explains the mechanisms behind, “Hard times create strong men, strong men create good times, good times create weak men, and weak men create hard times.”
Łobaczewski’s reference to “the creative meaning of suffering” makes me think of Victor Frankl, so I’ll share a few pertinent quotes below:
“Those who have a ‘why’ to live, can bear with almost any ‘how’.”
“When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.”
“But there was no need to be ashamed of tears, for tears bore witness that a man had the greatest of courage, the courage to suffer.”
“An abnormal reaction to an abnormal situation is normal behavior.”
“Ultimately, man should not ask what the meaning of his life is, but rather must recognize that it is he who is asked. In a word, each man is questioned by life; and he can only answer to life by answering for his own life; to life he can only respond by being responsible.”
“In some ways suffering ceases to be suffering at the moment it finds a meaning, such as the meaning of a sacrifice.”
“So live as if you were living already for the second time and as if you had acted the first time as wrongly as you are about to act now!”
“It did not really matter what we expected from life, but rather what life expected from us. We needed to stop asking about the meaning of life, and instead to think of ourselves as those who were being questioned by life—daily and hourly. Our answer must consist, not in talk and meditation, but in right action and in right conduct. Life ultimately means taking the responsibility to find the right answer to its problems and to fulfill the tasks which it constantly sets for each individual.”
“It is not freedom from conditions, but it is freedom to take a stand toward the conditions.”
“Dostoevski said once, ‘There is only one thing I dread: not to be worthy of my sufferings.’ These words frequently came to my mind after I became acquainted with those martyrs whose behavior in camp, whose suffering and death, bore witness to the fact that the last inner freedom cannot be lost. It can be said that they were worthy of the their sufferings; the way they bore their suffering was a genuine inner achievement. It is this spiritual freedom—which cannot be taken away—that makes life meaningful and purposeful.”
"We need to think for ourselves, be our own independent researcher, and weigh things up against a solid moral value system." I agree!