A Psychological Axis: Are We Predetermined?
by Robert L. Kocher
The constitution, our system of law, and even our past system of economics were built on the implicit assumption that individual man was responsible for his own behavior and choices–and is responsible for the accepting the consequences of his behavior and choices. The Founders of this nation conceived of man as being able to make rational choices in the present time, and charged him with responsibility for making those choices. To the Founders of the country, this was the ultimate in a moral society, combining the older biblical concept of behavioral prudence and virtue with the physical lawfulness of the necessity to apply one’s self rationally to the real environment. The combination of rational moral discipline with intelligent industriousness was thought to be the basis of success in all things, both personal and economic, in life.
To great extent, the success of the Founder’s Ethic is born out in practice. The religious conservative subculture makes up 29 percent of the Republican party. Contrary to popular misconception, they are not ignorant automatons, but are the most highly educated of any political group. One in seven has attended graduate or professional school. Half make more than $50,000 per year while 25 percent make in excess of $75,000. That life and that prosperity was what the Founders envisioned as the future for the entire country. That profile was their definition and vision of opportunity.
To some extent the Founders may have privately drifted away from the necessity for absolute formal religion and seen the value of prudent self discipline for its own sake. But they saw religion, as it was then constituted, as a useful guide to leading a rational disciplined life. Over many years I have come to the conclusion rational religion and competent psychotherapy, even atheistic psychotherapy, converge into fundamental agreement on personal and social behavioral standards. Conversely, corrupt religion and incompetent psychotherapy agree in advocating destructive standards.
The Founders’ conception of a just society was one in which virtue, prudence and industriousness would be rewarded by success while the opposite of those character traits might predictably lead to a difficult life. One’s path through life was a matter of deliberate choice which most people had the ability to make on the basis of serious evaluation.
Sharply opposing this frame of reference, one of the most important philosophical and political developments of the 20th century has become the concept of psychological predetermination of the individual by earlier psychological experience. There are two facets of this: first, the limitations set upon the individual by lack of earlier education and knowledge; and second, the broader attitude of the individual toward life and personal responsibilities. Attitude toward life and responsibility is what ultimately determines the political and economic life of individuals and this nation. Educational limitations can be overcome, albeit with some difficulty, with a determined attitude.
The Psychological Predeterminism Argument
Psychological predeterminism emphasized the assertion that the moral choice the Founders advocated was not a matter of free will, but was the result of accumulated consequence of earlier personal experience for which the individual could not truly be held accountable. Any person would choose the Founders’ path only if his earlier experience predestined him to do so. It is a terribly oppressive and unjust society that expects people to adopt a morality and self-discipline that their earlier experiences predestined them not to accept. Thus, from the standpoint of leftist sociological theory, the Constitution and the economic system that has provided more opportunities for more people than any other in history are an injustice that must be subverted or overthrown.
If the individual is predestined by earlier experience to commit antisocial or irresponsible acts, then the earlier experience is guilty while the individual who committed the act was the victim of that experience. Similarly, the person who acts on various impulses is viewed as a powerless victim of those impulses. If you will, there is a mathematical equation of many variables in a person’s past that determines his present values and actions, rendering him helpless and guiltless in all things. The turbulent impact of these concepts upon criminal law, economics, and social responsibility has been a center of debate for more than 35 years. There have been equally turbulent impacts upon personal as well as public lives which must be discussed at another time.
Several seriously destructive consequences result from the predeterministic view. Ironically, the philosophy of predeterminism becomes the greatest predetermining force in society.
One problem is that within the premises of predeterministic arguments there may come a point where individuals conceive of themselves as being entirely relieved of any obligation to assume any personal responsibility. This can result in a type of morally and motivational passive escapism or lethargy wherein one casually sits in moral comfort, waiting for a mysterious accumulation of life experience to invoke a sense of seriousness and responsibility. I think we all know that in real life this is a train that seldom arrives at the station.
There is also the risk of encouraging a society of self-centered impulse-directed incompetents or misanthropes who employ predeterministic arguments quite cynically and manipulatively to demand their own way exclusive of reality or responsibility, while arguing that their past licenses them to do so. This is in fact what has happened within a nation which in recent decades has produced generations of young who are ready for doctorates in sociology by the age of 15 and are magnificently well-equipped to conjure up, with declared absolute scientific detachment, endless arguments that their early developmental background has predestined them to do what whatever it is they want to do anyway, or arguments declaring predestination prohibits them from assuming responsibility that is discomforting. These arguments have taken place in an atmosphere of intellectually enlightened hedonism advanced by Playboy, Margaret Mead, and allied advocates arguing that a world of endless pleasure without responsibility awaits those who were intelligent enough to throw off the artificial prohibitive constraints of the past. Many of those who learned how to use these arguments adroitly in the social environment 35 years ago are now still working the system at the age of 50. We have one in the White House right now.
As an aside, this capacity for dishonest sociological rationalization for callused irresponsible behavior produced great numbers of people who were impossible to live with, resulting in a monstrous divorce rate and a nation of rootless semi-abandoned children.
A second problem is that both society and individuals have become more passive, and less willing to act responsibly. We have also become a society that is too intimidated to directly ask people to act responsibly. Instead, we gingerly inquire whether a person’s background renders him acceptant of responsibility. Facing irresponsible behavior we have become immobilized by the theoretically imposed requirement that we must wade through the prohibitively exhaustive task of arguing the details of a person’s entire past going back to the age of two months before venturing apologetic pleas for maturity.
This has produced an artificially bland atmosphere in which behavior that would have produced confrontational condemnation and demands for change 50 years ago now instead produces depressed resignation as an adaptation to people committing that behavior. This has further produced an immobilized, emotionally-constrained, and artificially depressive society in which people are suffering in over-toleration of what once was not tolerated.
A third problem is people who engage in irresponsible or vicious behavior have their conscience relieved, or rendered inactive or unnecessary, by exclusive focus upon their predestining background. This has had the effect of both creating and delivering us unto the hands of self-justifying sociology-quoting psychopaths who destroy us while we are busy trying to understand and explain their background to them. What is worse yet, we are also being delivered unto the hands of psychopaths by sociology-quoting third parties who divert us into “understanding” psychopathic history. The word is, “They can’t help it because…,” followed by excuses. In recent decades this has been particularly true of fad-chasing, sociology-thumping clerical fops who have substituted sociological liberation theology for the discipline of religion.
Congregations that were once required to stand upright in truth before God and their fellow man, and to reject lies as a prerequisite of membership, are now being exhorted to bend down in dishonesty before rationalization of everything in silent, unconditional sociological forgiveness.
Today you are victimized twice: the first time by the psychopath, and the second time by liberal ministers or other third parties who beat you into whining depressed gutlessness for being angry instead of being understanding and forgiving. Our capacity for indignation, our self respect, and respect from others has been smothered in a sea of sociological demands saying that the only intellectually permissible reaction to abuse is to understand and forgive the abusers who laugh at us. In a peculiar inversion, what has resulted is a society where nobody but the real victim feels any guilt or receives strong direct criticism. If you haven’t noticed that and it doesn’t bother you, maybe you should, and it should. If you aren’t hearing repeated denunciations about the immorality of that inversion in church or synagogue, then what you have is a whorehouse instead of a religious denomination.
Emotional life in this country has suffered catastrophically as a consequence. A century or more ago, this country was supposedly a nation of sexual repression. Then during the hippie 60s this culture became twisted into embarking on a counter-cultural crusade of absolute anger repression, so that social and political radicals could play a sadistic game with immobilized individuals and an immobilized society. It was, and is, said if we understand people we will not be angry with them. This may hold true under limited situations. But liberal-left society acts as if there is no such thing as legitimate healthy anger.
Most contemporary psychotherapists, by the way, don’t like to deal with anger and negative transference. Hence, they are as guilty of selling myths about anger as anybody.
Anger, meaning anger¾ not wanton vindictiveness or sadism¾ is a natural healthy phenomenon. It is often a sign that something is wrong, or that we are being wronged. We often become, or should become, angry for very good reason. For those who are religious, the Judeo-Christian ethic does not prohibit anger. God smote Sodom and Gomorrah—in anger. Jesus threw the money-changers from the temple—in anger. Yet, we are very wrongly told anger is an irrational response that will disappear with “understanding.” It doesn’t disappear. It’s not supposed to. Anger is a personal and social corrective measure. But, people now learn to repress it or invert it into depression. Repression and depression become a way of life.
We are “understanding” ourselves into self-destruction. This country is now a pressure cooker that should rightly explode with a backlog of furious indignation. Under a sociologically-theorized license, people lie to us, sexually exploit and abuse us, steal from us, betray us, ridicule us, show contempt for us, censor us, and force us into servitude to or conformity with a sadistic social order that is at war with human individuality and creativity. We wind up guilt-ridden in psychiatrist’s offices seeking prescriptions to numb ourselves with enough Prozac to become the unangerable zombies necessary to conform to this unhealthy repressive nonsense and abuse rather than confront our tormentors.
This brings up other serious areas. When is it proper or practical to view and interact with a person as being a hypothetically predestined entity, all the while becoming an exasperated and worn-out amateur psychotherapist to an indifferent patient? Are we intellectually or morally obligated to sort through a person’s entire life background before making any demands for maturity or integrity from him or her? When is it proper or practical simply to demand that a person act as a human being regardless of sociological or psychiatric theories? Will it ever become acceptable to ask the question as to whether much of sociological-psychological deterministic theory is a gigantic hoax perpetrated to provoke a repressive immobilizing guilt upon those who might otherwise come to the conclusion that much of the theorizing is a cover-up for the simple fact that there are many people who want a soft life of self-absorption—or amusement at the expense of others—without the limitations of rational morality or intrusion of self-discipline and responsibility?
The Error in “Psychological Predestination”
The preceding paragraphs outline a few of many serious problems or consequences, but are in one sense irrelevant. Not liking the consequences of predeterministic arguments doesn’t resolve the issue of their validity or non-validity. We are still faced with refuting or accepting the fundamental concept of the role of psychological predestination.
Firstly, there are certain empirical contradictions between leftist sociological arguments and historical fact. The predestining cycle of poverty that leftists talk about is a lie. Tens of millions of people from various ethnic groups came to this country with no money and no language skills, but worked their way out of poverty in one generation. This is no doubt partially due to the fact they were too naive to know they were disadvantaged and become stuck in the intellectual morass of politicizing left-wing sociological defeatism. If the recent wave of Asian emigrants had had people of the caliber of the Reverend Jesse Jackson and the Reverend Al Sharpton to lead them, they would now be hopelessly corrupted and diverted into marching in protest demonstrations rather than graduating kids at the top of every high school and college class.
Secondly, increase in economic level and opportunity has not correlated with an expected decrease in irrational or parasitic value systems or living patterns. Quite the opposite has been true.
Aside from the factor of economic predetermining factors, there are other areas of concern related to predestination or predetermination. Aspects of this relate to a Geraldo show from several years ago about teenagers who declared themselves addicted to 976-pay-telephone-party lines. These kids would call phone-party services and run up hundreds or thousands of dollars in bills. Since they were having fun doing it, and had no inclination to stop having fun doing it, they argued that they were addicted to phone party lines. Worried parents who were immobilized by the kids’ arguments, and didn’t know what to do, also appeared on the show hovering about the “addicted” kids. In my mind there is doubt about how addicted or predestined the kids were. The kids just needed strong external discipline in their lives.
Part of the resolution of the predestination problem resides in the basic human socialization process. Throughout their developmental period humans go through a series of growth transitions or growth confrontations between impulses or desires and reality. Toilet training (ugh) is one model for this process. Our impulses and level of control as infants puts us in diapers with indiscriminant urination and defecation. Because that is our initial state of development, it does not mean we are predestined to spend the rest of our life wearing diapers and wetting our beds. It means we are predestined to pass through a period when we are confronted by the fact that we cannot go through life in diapers. This is the process of everything from toilet training, to learning to eat with a knife and fork, to aspects of sexuality, to personal work habits and responsibility.
This is one key area. The existence of various initial temptations and impulses does not predestine the individual to act out those temptations and impulses forever. Rather, it predestines a developmental confrontation with reality. There is a shade of difference between the previous two sentences that is important and defining in the resolution of the predestination issue. It is also a fundamental difference in premises between the sociopolitical Right and Left. The sociopolitical Left resists the idea, and the process, of resolving developmental confrontations with reality that were successfully achieved in previous periods in this country.
Just Say No
The resolution process is simple and straightforward. It consists of serious employment of the word, “No.” “No” is an imposition upon other people: “No there are things you may not do.”
It is one of the functions of parents to employ and enforce the word “no.” It is one of the major functions of a sanely functioning society to back up parents and to serve as a backup for parents with the word “no.” The social atmosphere has a responsibility of supporting parents, and correcting children in instances where there were gaps in parental training.
But, parents have become timid in exercising the word “no.” And liberal-controlled society, under the doctrine of unlimited hedonistic pluralism, has ceased the process of socialization and demand for socialization in children or adults.
It is true that there are some people who are so warped by their early environment, or perhaps even by organic brain disorders, as to be completely or substantially predetermined as adults. These are generally few in number or the affected areas of functioning are of a limited spectrum.
Contrary to convenient theoretical emphasis, internal past memory is not the only source of motivation in most people. That is why companies spend hundreds of thousands of dollars a pop for TV commercials, and why manipulative governments have extensive propaganda machinery.
Many adults who argue that they themselves are, or who are argued by others to be, psychologically predestined to engage in irresponsible or aggressively parasitic behavior are within socially correctable limits of pathology. They simply enjoy pleasurable irresponsibility at the expense of others and don’t want to give it up. If asked to give it up, they will protest and invent reasons why they should not be required to do so. Those protests are not the end of the world and should not be listened to with seriousness.
The resolution process for many of the social and personal problems in this country is simple and straightforward. It is a simple process of confronting the behavior. It consists of serious employment of the word “no.” No, this or that is destructive to yourself, or to others, or to the community. There are things you may not do any more than you may be allowed to pee in your clothes or on the furniture. There are many people in this country who desperately need to hear the word “no.” No—for their own good. No—for the good and survival of freedom for the rest of the community. No—for survival of the nation.
A little over 30 years ago, Ayn Rand made the comment that not all people were desperately hanging on the edge of a cliff by their fingernails. Hearing the word “no” is not going to shock them into losing their grip and falling into the sea.
Fifty or 60 years ago, before we had such monstrous social problems, it was common to hear the words, and the attitude, “No, there are things that are not acceptable.” Army drill sergeants, of course, have been known to employ that attitude vigorously with miraculous success in this country for close to two centuries. The idea of no seems to have died out and been replaced with an irrational guilt-producing, unconditionally-accepting psychologizing more than three decades ago—to the point where it has now become an intolerable social grievance to view oral sex or groping attacks upon women in the Oval Office by the President of the United States as being unacceptable.
Some 15 years ago a reporter asked a teenaged girl in Baltimore why so many teenage girls were getting pregnant and having children out of wedlock. The girl thought about it for a moment, then gave the devastatingly reasonable answer, “Nobody ever told us not to.”
“No” Applies To Everyone
That brings up another problem. The girl was black. In the politically correct environment of the last 30 years, it has become forbidden to tell a black person of any age, “No,” regarding anything. No black individual or aspect of black culture, no matter how irrational or irresponsible, may be subjected to criticism of any kind under any circumstances. To do so is interpreted as racism. We have allowed ourselves to become intimidated from asking for any rationality or responsibility from individual blacks or blacks as a group in this country. It has now become a social and political requirement to perform a constant ritual of obsequiousness and special compensation by accepting a purposefully dishonest childish irrationality in conversation with blacks that would never be accepted from an intelligent person of any other race. People in both sides of the conversation know it. In addition to being a subtle form of bullying. it’s part of a game in which many blacks obtain special privilege and licensed irresponsibility for themselves.
The present figures indicate 70 percent of black children are being born out of wedlock. It’s not uncommon to see 15, 16, 17, and 18 year-old black girls blithely having several children from unknown fathers, while black male rap music laughs about “doing the bitches.”
I have never heard the so-called Reverend Jesse Jackson say the first word about it. Beyond the fact that the singing and costuming are good, there is no evidence of serious guidance of any kind going on in many black churches, where preachers exploit pulpits as stepping stones to entering left-wing politics or activism. If there are hidden attempts at such guidance, the evidence is overwhelming that it has had little effect on the overall picture.
The developmental guidance for children coming into the world with no fathers, with mothers who are barely older than their children, and who are continuing the same self-indulgent life that created those children, ranges from nonexistent to disastrous. It is a pure simple reality that blatant mindless irresponsibility and self-indulgence is destroying the black race in this country. In oppositional-defiant leftist newspeak it’s not termed irresponsibility, but is a form of social “pluralism” which is a sociopolitical right won under an extension of the civil rights struggle and is to be financially supported by other members of the community.
To discuss the condition of blacks, one is supposed to be required to sit on one’s hands looking vacantly at the ceiling while hearing rarefied and contrived reality-avoiding leftist sociological theories. To ask about more concrete aspects of responsibility is to have a black political activist jump in your face with menacing body language shouting, “You don’t understand what 300 years of slavery and injustice has done to black people.” All realistic discussion then ends in an atmosphere of guilt and intimidation. Meanwhile, an Asian kid whose culture has been enslaved periodically for 1,000 years and half of whose family was shot up in a war, has just earned an engineering degree from Cal Tech, even while Asians are being discriminated against as being racially “over represented” in top educational institutions.
I seriously wonder what the radical left in this country would do without the pervasive existence of irresponsibility to encourage and exploit. The fear of saying no is characteristic of spoiled whites as well as spoiled blacks. We have now come to the point where a white person can not ask a white person to act with mature responsibility without eventually being accused of being a right-wing racist. Indifference to responsibility has been scientifically endorsed through glib explanation. Justifying irresponsibility has become a major industry and a ticket to a life of ease and political power.
To solve many of the so-called social problems, as well as the effect of many of the so-called predestining sociological factors in this country, requires a little more guts than most people have, and requires experiencing a little more discomfort than most people want to go through. It means confronting the developmental conflicts with reality by using the word, no. No, there are things that are not acceptable. It means freeing ourselves from irrational guilt over confronting irresponsibility.
Above all, one of the statements that desperately needs to be employed is, “No, and any sociological arguments to the contrary will not be accepted.” Undoubtedly, the return to this function will evoke loud protests. Those protests will not signify the end of the world. Not saying “no” may.
Are we psychologically predetermined? We are predetermined to hear the word “no” and to resolve the differences between what we want to do versus the demands made upon us by reality and responsibility.