In a recent conversation I stated something that got onto some interesting thoughts. Some of these ideas I may of spoken of before as some of this is based on observations I’ve made years ago. At any rate, here is what I basically stated:
“I’m tired of living in an atmosphere of paranoia and fear, of having to walk on tip toes around everyone, of having to be careful of everything I say and do, of the endless accusation and blame, and that horrible self-righteous attitude. I’m tired of being around people who find abuse, rights violations, racism, and hatred in everything, who are offended by everything, are all-too-willing to hurl accusations at people, and see the worst in things.”
I said this out loud in a KFC, so that everyone could hear, in an attitude of contempt and disgust. Looking at it now, I was sort of saying, in a roundabout way, “you Americans have become a pathetic joke!”
What I’m speaking of is the ridiculous paranoid delusional and accusatory mentality that we see so much in American society today. I should point out that the mentality, which prompted the statement, was instigated by the statements, acts, and behavior of many people in the U.S, not Trump, not the politicians, or anything like that. Its a reaction to an aspect of American society and culture, originating from the people themselves. This is an important point and must be understood.
DESCRIBING A LOST AND INSECURE SOCIETY – THE U.S. IN THE 21ST CENTURY
It seems, to me, that American society, in the 21st century, has become a society that displays qualities such as:
- An insecurity
- A tendency to fear too easily
- Its a society that finds hatred and bad intentions in peoples statements and actions almost like they are seeking it out
- A panicky mentality
- Being very “touchy” or oversensitive
- Overreaction to the point of ridiculousness
- Blind idealism
- Excessive blame and accusation, often done falsely and unjustly
- A tendency to want to relive past glories
I have jokingly called American society a “scared, paranoid, uptight, and high and mighty society”. Personally, I find American society ridiculous. It seems a victim of itself, of its own creations and its own mentality. I’ve often said that “America is killing itself with its own crap”. I have also said, “America’s worst enemy is itself”. I have also said “the U.S. will destroy itself with its own ideals and beliefs”. The more I look at it the more true these seems to be. Not only that, the U.S. has also has a weird self-destructive quality. They often call this self-destructive tendency things like “progress”, “change”, or some other positive sounding thing, as they always make whatever they do sound “good” or beneficial in some way. But, as I have watched it over the years, I see another picture. I would describe my life in America as watching the devaluation and destruction of the human in life. I’ve often said, “the U.S. will devalue human life so much that there will be very little of human life anymore. Life will consist of a job and buying stuff . . . and that’s it. Morality, belief, culture, tradition, identity, roles, families, marriage, and such . . . all the stuff that makes us human . . . will slowly disappear and never be revived.” Couple this self-destructiveness with an arrogance or high and mightiness, of the belief that its the “greatest country in the world” or “savior of the world” and it doesn’t make a good combination. Basically, it gives the U.S. the quality of a country that thinks its the answer to life’s problems . . . but its “answers” are really destroying itself. That’s what it seems like to me anyways.
Overall, the U.S. strikes me as a very insecure society that has become lost in the 21st century. It no longer knows where it fits in anymore. The glory days of the U.S. is over: there’s no great enemy to fight, everything has already been done, everything has basically been invented, everything is a continuation of what was created in the last century , America has lost its novelty, and so on. One of the main activities of the U.S., it seems to me, is trying to “recreate” the glory days of the last century (see my article Thoughts on the American scramble for the “inheritance” of their parents and grandparents – the fight for “post WWII glory”). This makes them do things such as:
- Many parents, and much of the society, are forcing the kids to “succeed” and “achieve”, such as in school and sports, which is causing a lot of stress and mental problems for many kids. In my opinion, this has become an abuse.
- We’re starting to see many females who are trying to paint the females of the past as if they are like the men of the last century who created the American glory. I won’t be surprised if some females will come to think that they are the cause of American glory.
- Many females are trying to BE the men of the last century who caused the glory.
- There is an attempt at trying to recreate the ideals of America, particularly during the Cold War, even though they are not relevant. This is done in ways like the creation of false enemies, trying to liberate themselves when there’s nothing to liberate from, seeing the cause of freedom in everything, seeing oppression in everything, etc.
- There is a tendency to exaggerate American ideals to an absurd and fanatical level.
- People are fighting each other so they can have a piece of the glory . . . everyone wants a piece of the pie.
- People think they are “automatically entitled” to the glory since they are in the U.S., as if it should be handed to them.
It all paints a picture of the U.S., in the 21st century, as past its prime. The country is like a man in mid-age crisis, wanting the glory days of his youth. This, it seems to me, has placed the U.S. in a difficult situation and dilemma which it cannot resolve. As a result, a lot of weird, neurotic, and bizarre reactions are appearing. Many of us, who were all brought up in the last century, are looking at the U.S. and going “what the crap . . . ?” Its turned into a place none of us know nor does it reflect anything we believe. We are finding ourselves in an increasingly foreign country. Once, I’ve found myself saying, “the U.S. seems lost and does not know what it is anymore”. I then stated, “the U.S. appears to be in a transition phase of changing into something totally different than it was . . . but what is it changing into?” This seemed to worry me.
THE “POPULAR SOCIETY”
Of course, many of the above qualities does not reflect what everyone is like in the U.S. but it seems to reflect a common generalized social quality. I often speak of this as saying that it reflects “mainstream society”. It may be more accurate to say that I am speaking of “popular society” as, from my observation, it appears that much of this mentality actually reflects a minority of the population who have a means of a “popular voice” that makes their views more noticeable. This gives the illusion that it is a bigger part of the population than it really is. But it is not necessarily reflective of most of the greater population and I don’t believe it is.
More and more it seems that America has two “societies”, so to speak:
- The”popular society”
- The “not popular society”
The bulk of the population, it seems to me, is in the “not popular society”. This means that most people don’t have a “voice” in the greater population. This is exactly what my observation has shown too. The “voice” that I hear in the media, popular society, and such, is actually the voice of a minority of the people.
I seem to think that there is something like a war or conflict happening between the “popular society” and the “not popular society”. These two societies are, it seems to me, becoming increasingly different and opposed to each other. In some aspects, they are becoming increasingly incompatible.
THE “PANIC MENTALITY”
The “popular society” of America seems to be like a bunch of nervous, frightened, and scared children to me. This reflects a mentality which I call the “panic mentality” which, it seems to me, is part of the American character. I more specifically speak of this mentality, when it reflects a generalized American character, as the “American panic” (more on it below). As we’ll see later it appears to have origins in the beginnings of America and goes back to England, and may go back perhaps as long as a thousand years ago, and is part of a mentality I call “freedom fanaticism” (also more on it below).
I should point out that when I use the word “panic” I use it in a specific way that may be somewhat misleading. Its a mentality that has qualities such as:
- A tendency to become too easily stressed or frightened
- A tendency to paranoia and false feelings of being threatened
- A tendency to mass hysteria or panic
- A tendency to blow things out of proportion
- A tendency to fabricate false stories, conspiracy theories, etc.
- A tendency to believe whatever they’re told, of mindlessness
- A tendency to view themselves as the victims of someone else, often an image of authority
- A tendency to view one self as innocent and blameless
- A tendency to accuse and blame
- A tendency to justify their feelings and actions with some high and mighty cause, usually of a political or legal nature
The term “panic” may be a bit strong but its a term I began to use in the 1990’s and it has stuck. I first began to use the word “panic” as a result of its mass hysteria qualities, as it often has a quality much like a bunch of people “in panic”. But this is more than a mass hysteria mentality. It has origins in a cultural mentality based in history . . . that’s what makes it unique and makes it more than a social/psychological mass hysteria type of phenomena. Its a “panic” created by the circumstances of English and American history and the character it has created . . .
Early Origins of the “Panic Mentality”
I first saw the “panic mentality” in females in the mid-late 1980’s. They were seeing abuse, victimizing, rights violations, etc. coming out of the woodwork and were hurling accusations out like it was nothing. My inquiry into the Vietnam War protests and Hippie movement, which began in the early 1990’s, further showed a paranoia that seemed more than a paranoia of a situation (the Cold War). It seemed to be part of the American mentality and character.
As I looked further into the mentality I began to see that it has origins in the very beginnings of America and actually has origin earlier than that, in England. In fact, my inquiry shows that this mentality actually originates in the Norman Conquest of 1066 and its effects. This would mean that this mentality is almost 1000 years old! It has been there so long that it has become part of the cultural character and mentality of England and the U.S.
Some specific qualities that have played a role in this mentality include:
- A fear and hatred of authority originating from the Norman Conquest when the Normans forced their rule on the Anglo-Saxons.
- The idea of “freedom”, and “freedom from oppression”, originating from the Norman Conquest but reviving, in different ways, in things like the Protestant Reformation, English Civil War, and various social/political problems that appeared
- The wars of religion, in the 1500’s and 1600’s, which further caused a breakdown in the belief of authority, causing more disillusionment, hatred, and contempt
- The use of ideals as a “righteous cause” originating from things like Christianity, the ideas of democracy, and the Enlightment
- The success of the American Revolutionary War as “proof” that this mentality is true . . . this, of course, only applies to the U.S.
- The fear and horror caused by WWII, the Holocaust, and the Cold War (nuclear annihilation)
- The mass hysteria tendency caused by mass media and mass communication
These have all helped to cause a “panic mentality” through the years in the English and American character. Its more than a social or psychological phenomena . . . its a cultural mentality that is based in historical events.
The Norman Conquest, in particular, has started a number of things that are still part of this mentality today:
- A fear of the King, authority, the government, religion, etc.
- A concern over oppression, victimizing, etc.
- A seeing of oneself as oppressed, victimized, etc.
- A seeking of “freedom” or deliverance from oppression, victimization, etc.
- The use of politics and law as a defense
- The glorification of ideals
It seems that some of the reasons why these issues became so significant is because of things like these:
- The Normans came in and tried to control everything, primarily by their overly strict feudalism and its laws and ways
- The Norman control of everything upset the society and people
- The Normans offered themselves up as Kings to a people who honored the King but they did not act like a King, mistreating the people and land
This caused a great reaction of fear, contempt, and hatred against the Normans that turned into a general English mentality that has continued on into English society, where it plays a dominating role to this day. It was then passed on down to the English colonies in the U.S. and passed into the American mentality. Its effects are so strong that one could say that the American Revolutionary War is really a continuation of the reaction to the Norman Conquest, or so it seems to me. Because of this, the ideas, and political views, of America is actually rooted in the Norman Conquest and the “panic mentality” it helped to create. Because of this, the U.S. displays this mentality quite often. It has become particularly prevalent since the U.S. has become a “world power” after WWII. Its as if this caused the U.S. to took at itself more seriously and, accordingly, took much of its mentality, views, and ideals more seriously than before. In short, it amplified it.
The Effects of Judeo-Christianity
Much of this mentality seems to have a basis in Judeo-Christianity. In fact, it seems to of set the foundation for the interpretation and explanation of things that subsequently followed. Examples include:
- The idea of oppressor – Pharoah for Moses and the Romans for Jesus
- The idea of deliverance – the Exodus for Moses and the Doctrine for Jesus
- The idea of the oppressed – the Israelites for Moses and the people for Jesus
- The idea of law – the law for Moses and the Doctrine for Jesus
- The idea of an ideal – The law for Moses and the Doctrine for Jesus
In other words, Judeo-Christianity offered the examples set by Moses and Jesus which became the base for the “panic mentality”. In addition, laid the foundation for what would became “freedom fanaticism” . . .
This whole theme, and the “panic mentality”, revolves around what I call “freedom fanaticism”. This is a mentality that English and American history has created by the conditions created by the Norman Conquest, as referred to above. But, in the past 200, or so, years we have seen a particular form of it. Its a reaction to the French Revolution of the late 1700’s. Because this mentality became so prevalent after the French Revolution, in particular, I often jokingly call it the “French Revolution madness”. The horror of the French Revolution, which caused the beheading of a King, the Terror in which thousands were beheaded, and all the commotion associated with it, caused a “panic” in Europe. This had great impact on England, especially, which feared it may go through another French Revolution, particularly with all the problems of the early-mid 1800’s. The “French Revolution madness” cast a shadow over the 1800’s. This was accentuated, and amplified, by the increasing media and mass communication that began to appear. In this way, the style of “panic” and “freedom fanaticism”, that we see today, is descended from the French Revolution.
Contrary to what a lot of Americans may think, my inquiry is that the French Revolution had more impact on the fanaticism,and ideas, around freedom than the American Revolution. The French Revolution basically caused a “panic” in Europe, particularly England, which spread over to the U.S. in the early 1800’s as part of the Victorian society that was beginning to appear. As a result of this, much of America’s view of freedom doesn’t really originate from the American Revolution. I tend to believe that this is because, after the British left, it no longer became an issue causing it to be disregarded or even forgotten. But, with the “French Revolution madness” appearing, with Victorianism, the U.S. followed England in its mentality. Because of several events that happened in the U.S, the Victorian “French Revolution madness” would become “Americanized”. Several events that were instrumental to this would include the Civil War, WWII, and the Cold War. It caused a tendency to do what I call the “reenactment of the American Revolutionary War” where people are trying to turn situations into another American Revolutionary War (see below).
“Freedom fanaticism” is really a form of religious fanaticism, having root in Christianity, that has been “politicized” . . . the great cry of this fanaticism is not god or Jesus but freedom and democracy. It can be as fanatical and “insane” as any fanaticism and can get just as bad. In my opinion, it is a continuation of Christianity and the religious fanaticism it has created. One could call “freedom fanaticism” a religious/political fanaticism . . . a combination.
Because it is fanatical many of its claim, beliefs, and actions really has no basis. This is not surprising as I can remember, even decades ago, wondering why people did things such as:
- Claiming things are oppressing them when they weren’t
- Seeking “liberation” when there is nothing to be liberated from
- Creating all these “conspiracy theories”, acting as if people, the government, and other things were plotting against them
- Not being able to define what “freedom” is, even though they sit and worship it
- People feeling threatened when there is nothing threatening them
- Accusing and blaming people for things they didn’t do
I can see, now, that this is a mentality that is reflective of a cultural character, a way of interpreting the world, which makes them interpret things a certain way. As I said above, it has origins in events in English history which, through the centuries, turned in into a cultural character.
I have suspected that “freedom fanaticism” originates from a progression much like this in English history:
- In pagan times the King was “holy”, like a god on earth. In this way, the King was looked at as gods representative. As a result, the fears, hopes, and dreams of life were associated with the King, who is authority. The King offered security. The King, then, is the image of authority and is associated with the hopes of life, of security, as well as the fears of life.
- When Christianity came and brought in new ideas. It brought the idea that we were sinners and need to be punished. Since the King, and nobility as well, were associated with god they were viewed as “saved”. The people, on the other hand, were sinners needing to be punished. This made a more marked distinction between King, nobility, and the common people. It also made the people look up more to the King.
- When the Norman Conquest took place it disrupted this belief system. The Norman King and nobility seemed to be against the people . . . the King as the image of authority and the hope of life was smashed. The Norman Conquest caused a disillusionment of the King and the image of authority.
- The problems created by the Norman Conquest eventually caused a fear and hatred toward the King which turned into a fear and hatred of authority in general.
- Over the years this caused a need to find a scapegoat to blame for their frustration with authority and the loss of security the King offered. These attacks would be against the King, government, and practically anyone in power.
- Because of the conflict with the King, and their bad feelings toward it, they began to worship the idea of becoming free, or “liberated”, from the King which caused a worshiping of freedom.
- Because belief in the King is part of the culture the people still wanted to maintain it and, as a result, it caused them to try to find a new “King” to look up to.
- Since the King is associated with politics there became a tendency to worship political theories. Since Christianity was prevalent they worshiped a political version of it called democracy which placed the people (the “body of Christ” in Christianity) above everything.
- The new political theory becomes the new god and there develops fanatical ideas about it, following the example of Christian fanaticism.
So we see some common themes in “freedom fanaticism”:
- The continual looking up to authority for hope and security
- A frustration with authority
- The loss of hope and security because of the frustration with authority
- The frustration turning into fear and hatred of authority
- The need to find a scapegoat to vent ones frustration, fear, and hatred causing
- A tendency to accusation and blame and the attacking of authority or authority images
- The tendency to view one self as an innocent victim of authority
- The idea that authority is a threat
- The idea that one must seek freedom, or be “liberated”, from authority
- The turning to political theory as a substitute and solution for ones conflict with authority
- The worship of ideals
- The idea that they have “high cause”
- A tendency to fanatical thinking
- Continuing to see themselves, and humanity, as miserable and wretched (coming from the Christian idea that we are all sinners)
Basically, the conditions of history has as if combined many different qualities creating a unique mentality . . . “freedom fanaticism”.
In some ways, one could say that an overall attitude of this mentality could be said in this statement:
“We are always oppressed and need to fight for our liberty!’
This statement shows a number of qualities:
- The idea that we are all being, in some way, harmed by authority (for it is authority that oppresses)
- The idea that we always need to be “liberated” from this oppression
- That this is a continual endless threat and fight
As a result, “freedom fanaticism” has made a life out of getting away from authority, which one views as a threat and, therefore, fears. This means that “freedom fanaticism” creates a life lived in endless fear and where one finds threats in things. This is why this mentality makes people paranoid, easy to accuse and blame, see themselves as victims, find abuse in things, etc. . . . in short, it makes people easy to “panic”. This is why the “panic mentality” is so prevalent in “freedom fanaticism”.
Since this mentality has a strong base in finding threats in things much of its claims of oppression, threats, or fears is unjustified, unprovoked, and uncalled for. Many times it as if this fear “appeared” out of nowhere, as if people were conjuring up this fear like a magician pulling a rabbit out of a hat. I’ve seen cases where anything that provokes a bad or unpleasant feeling “oppresses” them and gives a cause to “fight for ones liberty! My personal observation, and feelings, is that the false claims of oppression, abuse, victimizing, etc., that “freedom fanaticism” has caused, has become an abuse in itself. This is why I often jokingly say, “we need to free ourselves from freedom“, meaning the delusional and paranoid fanaticism of “freedom fanaticism”.
This blind fear that caused all this, as I’ve said, is rooted in the fear of authority . . .
THE FEAR OF AUTHORITY
If I were to describe the “panic mentality” in its simplest way I’d probably say, “its a bizarre fear of authority and the reaction to that fear”. As I’ve watched it through the years I’d say “bizarre” may not describe it correctly but I don’t know what word to use. Some other words that come to mind include: weird, unjustified, unnatural, misplaced, out-of-place.
To me, the “panic”, or fear of authority, is actually of a deep-seated fear, that hits deep within a person. The fear, it seems to me, seems to get at the nature of authority and shows several qualities of the image of authority:
- Authority as an image of hope and security
- Authority as an image to stave off the fear, horror, and pains of life
One can see that authority is greatly associated with the depths of life which is why it has such deep feelings and any frustration associated with authority causes such a dilemma. In the image of authority is safety, security, and happiness. In many ways, the image of authority describes a parent/child association. In this way, the “panic mentality” is like a bunch of children upset with their parents for not giving them the security they want. Its interesting that, above, I spoke of the “popular society” as “nervous, frightened, and scared children”. That’s because, in many ways, they are.
When one takes a look at it overall, and at a distance, it looks as if the “panic mentality” is really a fear of being abandoned by ones security image. In this way, “freedom” really means being free from the image of authority that one looks up to and has disappointed ones sense of security . . . its a freedom from the image that disappoints. This means that “freedom fanaticism”, then, is when a person becomes overwhelmed by this sense of disappointment, and the fear it creates, and desperately tries to get rid of that image.
Remember that this is the origin of the fear. Over the years there has been so many layers of stuff that has been built upon it that its often hard to see. The multitude of events in history has given it a labyrinth of ideas and themes. These include:
- Religious ideas
- Political ideas
- Historical events and happenings
- Personal feelings
- Mass mentality
- Mass hysteria
These make it hard to see that, behind it all, is nothing but a desire for an image of authority that creates security!
THE “PANIC” AS AN ATTITUDE, MENTALITY, AND CULTURAL CHARACTER
The “panic” is rooted in a deep rooted human fear, as I said above. In the “panic mentality” the fear exists on its own, unprovoked and automatically appearing, as a reflection of a cultural character. In some respects, it is a learned fear. Because of this, the “panic” is an attitude and a general stance in life. This makes the “panic” appear in a number of ways:
- It lies dormant, unknown, and unseen
- It surfaces on its own for some reason or another
- The “panic” attitude is used as a basis to interpret specific things
- Something provokes the “panic” causing it to come out
- Something actually causes one to fear and panic
In many of these, we can see that the “panic” isn’t necessarily based in reality. Instead, the “panic” attitude predisposes someone to “panic” easily and see “panic” in things. In short, a lot of “panic” is not based in real world reality and situations. As a result, it tends to cause a distortion or warping in the interpretation of the world, happenings, and events. Because of this, the “panic mentality” has a tendency to do things like these:
- To fabricate threats and happenings that aren’t taking place
- To see things in things that aren’t really there
- A tendency to exaggerate and blow things out of proportion
Overall, it tends to create a paranoid frightened mentality and way at looking at life and the world. This gives the “panic mentality” a quality of an insanity at times. Of course, for the people who “believe it” its all so real and doesn’t seem insane. But for those who don’t “believe it” its insanity is more apparent.
A PROGRESSION OF THE “AMERICAN PANIC” IN RECENT YEARS
I started to see the “American panic” about 40 years ago:
- I first noticed it in the 1980’s. I tend to believe that what I saw in the 1980’s was the after effects of the Vietnam War protests and hippie movement of about 1970. What I was seeing is what I call the “cold war panic”.
- There was then a lull in the 1990’s. I tend to believe that the end of the Cold War caused a temporary calming of the mentality.
- It started to increase at the beginning of the 21st century. The calming effect of the end of the Cold War began to wear off and the “panic mentality”, being a cultural character, began to surface.
- It got progressively worse as the century progressed. I tend to feel that the War on Terror aggravated the condition to some extent and made the mentality more prevalent. In a way, it set the stage for the next event . . .
- The Trump presidency has greatly revived and accentuated the mentality . . . what I call the “Trump panic”. It seems, to me, that much of the paranoia, hysteria, panic, nonsense, accusations, and such that has surfaced in the Trump presidency is nothing but an uncovering of this mentality that was already in existence.
Several recent “panics” stand out:
The Cold War Panic
I’ve actually been looking at the “American panic” since the early 1990’s. At that time, I thought it was primarily a result of the cold war and so I called it the “cold war hysteria” or “cold war panic” (which is where I first used the word “panic” to describe this American phenomena). I’ve written a number of articles on this subject, such as Thoughts on some origins of many ridiculous attitudes of the American mentality – the ongoing effects of WWII, Cold War, and the Vietnam War era, fear, and on how the U.S. is living in the past and Thoughts on the 70’s mentality and its continuation: the continuation of cold war hysteria.
In this “panic” there became a fear and contempt of authority because of the threat of nuclear annihilation. Here we see the familiar themes of “freedom fanaticism”:
- The importance of the authority image
- Failure of authority giving security
- The cause of freedom!
- Fear, hatred, and contempt of authority
This reached a height about 1970. I tend to believe the next form is a continuation . . .
The Trump Panic
Much of the current panic, that actually instigated my statement at the beginning of this article, has been sparked recently by the Trump presidency. I need to point out again that the statement I stated at the beginning of this article was not in response to statements of Trump but to the behavior, statements, and actions of the “popular society” of America . . . its reacting to what people are doing! I speak of this reaction by the people as the “Trump panic”. This refers to a social hysteria, primarily instigated by the media, and has nothing to do with politics. and have written a number of articles on it, such as Thoughts on a media-induced mass hysteria . . . the “Trump panic” and Thoughts on the “insult issue”, of insults, and the response to insults, in the 2016 Presidential election and since – revealing aspects of the American character.
Though this panic has come out in the Trump presidency it actually predates him and actually has nothing to do with him. To me, the “Trump panic” is a continuation, and the latest installment, of the English/American “panic mentality” that has been going on for centuries. This panic is particularly ridiculous in that it has been instigated by words . . . insults, or perceived insults . . . that Trump may or may not of said (frankly, I can’t tell who is saying what anymore). We see some familiar traits seen in “freedom fanaticism”:
- The fear of authority
- The contempt of authority
- Fabricated abuses, insults, claims, etc.
- Blowing things out of proportion
- Accusation and blame, whether true or not (does it matter?)
- How the people are assumed to be innocent (notice how everyone points their fingers at Trump and never looks at what they’re shoveling out, even though they’re causing almost all of the nonsense) . . . the people are always innocent and authority is always the villain
- The cause of freedom!
Over time, though, I began to see that much of the “American panic” was very much influenced by the uniquely American condition caused by an aspect or, rather, a problem of what I call the “American idea” . . .
THE “AMERICAN IDEA”
The U.S. is really based in a fantasy image. Its based in an idea, the “American idea”. After being brought up with this idea I’d say some common themes of this idea, that are often worshiped, include:
- The idea of living in a “freedom”. This is often looked at as the motive of life and is worshiped. But, frankly, the question of what constitutes “freedom” is very subjective and unclear. No one, that I know, has actually been able to define what this means, exactly, which always struck me as weird as everyone brags about it. I generally interpret freedom as “no one is telling us what to do”. Unlike the “American idea” I do not worship it or view it as the great motive of life nor is it what life is about. Its just something that appears in life every so often, like an illness. In “freedom fanaticism” it is looked at religiously.
- Being able to live and be the way we want.
- Being able to live where there are no problems.
All this sounds good. It really describes an “ideal” state which, I think, most people in the world would like (meaning that its not really an “American” idea). What all this shows is that the “American idea” is really an ideal, describing a world we would all like. My response to this has always been, “yeah, I’d like to live like that”, and this from a person born and raised in the U.S.! Am I not supposed to be living it here in the U.S.? I don’t seem to be. The problem is that it is a fantasy world, a world that really does not exist and cannot exist. That’s why its such a powerful idea or ideal. Its an image one can hope for but never really attain. That world has not been created, not even here in the U.S.
The “American idea” is actually a result of the idealism that was created during the Enlightment of the 1700’s. This ideal was prompted by the problems then happening in the 1700’s, most of which was caused by overpopulation. This Enlightment point of view created an idealized image of “perfect societies” and “perfect governments” devoid of the problems affecting western society in the 1700’s, using words like freedom, democracy, equality, etc. It all sounds good, and means well, but we must remember that its all an idealized image. Its this idealized image that the “American idea” is based on.
The Enlightment point of view had qualities such as:
- It is an ideal created in response and as a solution to specific problems
- It is based in an intellectual idea created by intellectuals who “thought about it” in their head
- It is an untested and unproven idea
The Problem of the Ideal
An ideal is an image of a fantasy world, a world where things are the way one would like things to be. Being based in a fantasy, it is often something impractical and unrealistic. As a result, ideals seldom come true and, if they do come true, they generally don’t fit the image one originally envisioned. In some cases, they may solve problems only to create new ones.
The ideal can appear a number of ways:
- The ideal remains an idea only, as something one “imagines”. I think this is the greatest power of ideals, as something “hoped for”, as an image of hope.
- There are attempts at trying to make the ideal a reality. This is where ideals often go astray as, if the ideal is not realistic, it can lead in odd directions.
- There is a worship of the ideal. To me, this is when ideals have been taken too seriously.
In America they often worship the ideal and then try to make the ideal a reality. This, in many ways, is the “American dream”, to make the ideal image into a reality. As a result, there is all this emphasis on “making your dreams come true” and “holding on to your dream” and so on.
I should point out that there is a difference, at least to me, between a “dream” and a “desired change”. A “dream” is idealistic, fantasyland-like, as if one is going to live “happily ever after” once they attain it. A “desired change” is practical and realistic, such as wanting a better job.
There are problems relating to the idea of an ideal or “dream”:
- Its a man-made idea reflecting man-made ideas, wants, and concerns
- It is often based in whims, fancies, and impractical wants
- It tends to be fantasy-like
- It is often based in an idea of a specific era, time, or condition that usually disappears and becomes irrelevant after a while, such as when one gets older or the times change
- It is often not based in real world reality
- It is often motivated as a solution to a conflict one has with the real world
- It often requires a warping or distortion of reality to make it a reality
Seeking the “Idea”
To me, the “American idea” has a quality of chasing shadows. To be frank, much of American life appears just that way . . . a bunch of people chasing shadows or, better yet, trying to grasp smoke. In some respects, this has become a way of life, of a life trying to endlessly grasp smoke as a motive. In fact, my observation is that its the “idea” that is often sought for, not the attaining or realization of it. I’ve always felt that this quality is a very unique American quality giving the U.S. a great illusionary quality about it.
The seeking of the “idea” does several things:
- It gives a certain quality of “hope”. A lot of the hope, in America, is based in the belief that the “idea” will materialize.
- It creates a unique frustration, unhappiness, and feelings of being unsatisfied. Overall, I would not call Americans a happy people because of this.
Both of these are uniquely “American” and create a great irony in the American character. The “American idea” both uplifts people and brings them down at the same time.
The “Forcing” of Reality
The effect of trying to make the “idea” materialize is a “forcing” of reality into a prefabricated mold of what we want it to be. In other words, a person doesn’t follow life, and its conditions, but tries to force life into their ideal image of life. The real world is seen as something that must conform to their idea . . . they do not conform their ideas to the real world. Naturally, this “forcing” of reality tends to fail . . . this is the basic dilemma and problem of idealism, the “American idea”, and the “dream”.
As a result, the pursuit of the “American idea” often causes these things:
- The forcing of reality to fit the ideal
- The discovery that the “idea” doesn’t materialize
- Despite this, they continue to worship the “idea”
This causes qualities such as:
- A high and mighty attitude
- A pig-headedness
- An ambitiousness . . . the ideal at all costs!
- Stress and pressure
The result is an uptight person who is always trying to “fit an image” or “force things to be a certain way”. Many people have become like slaves and kill themselves trying to find this image, of trying to achieve the “idea”. They’d be happier if they abandoned it!
The Creation of a Paranoid Attitude
But reality does not fit a prefabricated image of an ideal or an idea. In many ways, the “American idea”, and idealism in general, are in conflict with real world reality. When the “idea” doesn’t work there is a tendency to view it a number of ways, such as:
- To view the world as “against them”
- To see the world as threatening
In other words, idealism, and the “American idea”, tends to cause a paranoid attitude.
As I’ve watched this over the years it often has this insane quality about it . . . its like a madness. It was in the late 1990’s that I jokingly said that there was a “paranoid freak” quality in the American mentality. People are in a panic over nothing, seeing threats that aren’t there, fabricating abuses, villains, blaming, accusing, and so on. Its almost unreal at times. It sometimes seems that America is often almost tittering into another McCarthy era, in a way.
Fear as an Origin
Another aspect of the “American idea” is the fact that it is rooted and based in fear. The ideals of America is really a result a reaction to the problems of Europe and the fear they provoked in the 1700’s. This means that the “American idea” and “dream” are not rooted in a naturally appearing and common condition of life but in a unique and specific condition of history, primarily the conditions of western Europe (especially England) that were existence in the 1700’s. The ideals are in response to those conditions, not to general life conditions.
The Creation of a False Image of the World
But one of the problems is that the “American idea” acts as if its ideals are dealing with a general life condition, that everyone else is dealing with in the whole world. This is not the case. In this way, it has created a false image of the world and life that is wrong and erroneous. To put it another way, they have made the world out as if it is stuck in the conditions of the 1700’s when the U.S. was founded and the “American idea” appeared. They interpret everything in that light. In this way, America interprets the world, and life in general, as if it is an endless Revolutionary War against the British. This tendency I often call the “reenactment of the American Revolution” . . .
A Mentality of Reenactment
This mentality is one of reenactment. It tends to follow this pattern of thought which is in imitation of the American Revolutionary War:
- There is always someone who oppresses (the British)
- There are always people who are oppresses (the American colonists)
- The oppressed are always seeking freedom against the oppressed (the revolutionary war for independence)
The “reenactment of the American Revolutionary War” causes qualities such as:
- Falsely villainizing people. The need for an oppressor causes a tendency to create oppressors, “bad guys”, villains, and victimizers.
- False threats. People find and create threats that don’t exist.
- False claims of abuse and victimizing. People find ways to make themselves oppressed, victims, and disadvantaged.
- False accusation and blame. People are falsely accused of oppressing, abusing, and victimizing them.
- False “liberation”. People are always seeking to be “liberated” when there is nothing to be liberated from. Generally, people are trying to “liberate” themselves from a threat they’ve created in their own minds.
- Self-righteous attitude. Since this is all done in imitation of the American Revolution, it is done with high and mighty cause.
- Abuse of political and legal theory and principles. They use political and legal theory to justify their “false” claims and, in so doing, abuse and distort it.
- The absence of authority. Because the American Revolution is an attack on the authority of the British there is a tendency to not accept any authority image.
- The contempt of authority. There is often a contempt of authority, a hatred of authority, and a desire to destroy authority.
- The burden rests on the individual. The cause of freedom and liberation places the individual as all important. This causes an overemphasis on the individual person often causing a stressed and uptight person.
The net result of this is the creation of an atmosphere as I described a the beginning of this article. These are the base for the “panic” mentality.
The Creation of the “American Panic” Mentality
It seems, to me, that several things have had great impact on the “American panic” mentality:
- WWII/Cold War. This caused a great fear that has never been seen before, the fear of nuclear annihilation.
- The media and mass communication. This helped spread the fear further.
- The high and mighty cause of freedom and democracy. These causes gives a “license” to blow things out of proportion or go to extreme lengths one normally wouldn’t go.
I would even go so far as to say that these are what really turned the previous fears and paranoia (Norman Conquest, 1700’s, the Enlightment, etc.) into a “panic”. This shows a number of things about “panic” mentality:
- It is a creation of the mid-late 1900’s
- It means that the “panic” mentality really begins with the “cold war panic”
- It also shows that it is primarily an American mentality as the U.S. played a big role in the WWII/Cold War
Aspects of the WWII/Cold War
The WWII/Cold War seems to fit the American mentality very well, catering to the fears, paranoia’s, and self-righteous cause originating from the Revolutionary War, 1700’s, Enlightment, Norman Conquest, etc. As a result, the U.S. took WWII/Cold War “dear to heart”. In some respects, WWII/Cold War was the maturing of the American character.
The ending of the WWII/Cold War era, in about 1990, has had dramatic impact on the U.S. and its mentality, or so it seems to me. The U.S. matured during this time because it catered to its many fears, and such, which were given meaning and place. When that disappeared it left a big vacuum in the society. The 1990’s was a time of “huh, now what?” in America as a result. As time went on the vacuum increased. The U.S. was becoming ripe for a new WWII/Cold War. I can recall saying that the “U.S. needs a new WWII/Cold War to make it relevant again”. The War on Terror partially revived it but not to the level of WWII/Cold War . . . the terrorists just weren’t the great enemy the Nazis or Soviets were nor did it have this great “world threat” quality. The hysteria, media circus, villainizing, etc. of the Trump presidency is like a continuation of the War on Terror, only partially satisfying it. What’s interesting is that they turned a U.S. president into the enemy instead of the Nazis, Soviet Union, or terrorists. That, in a way, gives it a more serious quality almost as if they are trying to revive the serious “world threat” of WWII/Cold War perhaps???
Overall, the U.S. seems as if it is lost to me. The 21st century isn’t offering much to make the U.S. valid. It seems like the U.S. is struggling to find validity in the post WWII/Cold War world. One of the thing the U.S. is doing to try to find validity is attempting to regain the glory of the post WWII and Cold War world of the last century. Some examples include:
- The the forcing, and glorification, of their kids going to college and becoming “successful” . . . a sure fire way to prove the greatness of America. This, though, is being done almost to the point of abuse as I, myself, have seen.
- By fostering the worship of technology and innovation, which are significant factors in the glory of the last century.
- By the worship of achievement.
- By making money and buying stuff.
These are nothing but attempts at regaining a former era, though, which more or less is an admission that the glory has passed. One thing that is apparent is that nothing is new. Its all a repetition or an attempt at duplicating. In many ways, just as the U.S. is trying to reenact the Revolutionary War we could just as well speak of a “reenactment of the WWII/Cold War era”. I think there is great truth in this.
Mass Media and Hysteria
Mass Media has had great impact on the development of the “American panic” mentality. One could even say that the “American panic” is a form of mass hysteria primarily caused by the prevalence of mass media. I think there is truth to this. Despite this, I wouldn’t call it a mass hysteria where people are running around in panic. Its a hysteria with qualities such as these:
- A fear
- A loss of common sense
- A tendency to believe whatever you’re told
It creates something like a mindlessness and an all-to-easy tendency to emotions like fear and self-righteous cause.
Some Further Thoughts . . . On how the “American Idea” is Out Dated
In my opinion, all shows that there is a need to abandon the “American idea” and to let go of the 1700’s, the ideals of the Enlightment, and the Revolutionary War, of the ideas of oppression, liberation, and so on. Holding onto these ideas are only creating an insane way of looking at the world and a paranoid uptight people.
To put it simply: its time to have a new way of looking at life and the world . . . the old American freedom line of thought has become old and out dated.
Copyright by Mike Michelsen