“I Can’t Get No Satisfaction”
The Oral Rage of the Elite
by Robert L. Kocher
In the world of Freudian psychology, there developed the concepts of oral, anal and similar personalities. Those who are in the arts often enjoy writing about, or analyzing, novels, artwork, and each other in terms of anal retentive/expulsive personalities and so forth.
There is a theoretically-based phenomenon, perhaps becoming archaic in terminology in recent years, called the oral personality in which a person is fixated upon, or obsessed by, oral stimulation and gratification. One extension of this is a personality that not only engages in compulsive, but incompletely satisfying, oral activity, but as a general condition, seems not to obtain satisfaction in overall life. The repeated unsuccessful attempts to find satisfaction through devouring life, not only orally, but in general, can develop to a level called oral rage. The condition is like much like Mick Jagger of the Rolling Stones used to complain of in his songs: “I can’t get no satisfaction.”
The concept of oral rage may be a little imprecise for suitable understanding at advanced levels, but it is occasionally useful and interesting.
There are several aspects of oral rage. One aspect concerns the action of adrenalin produced by fear and anxiety upon the brain hypothalamic nuclei that also control eating and drinking behavior. Competent psychotherapy can intervene in this physiological process. This cannot be examined in depth here. What will be discussed is a broader concept of psychological functioning.
Paradoxically, many of the most socially and economically successful people are the most bitter and tormented. Many of them express their bitterness in a diffuse attack upon the American social and economic system to the point of virtually making war on every aspect of American society. The resentment and antagonistic liberalism of many successful actors, musicians, entertainment personalities and other public figures is well known. In contrast to the general population, an incredible 87-89 percent of the news media voted for George McGovern in 1972 as a deliberate slap in this country’s face. Nearly 25 years later, another 87 percent to 89 percent of the same professional group voted for Bill Clinton. These were highly paid and highly visible people who ostensibly have everything in the world, but have a bitterness toward this country. Successive generations of wealthy families often degenerate into bitter chaos. Many people who supposedly have everything are the most diffusely frustrated and angry.
I don’t think at any time in the history of mankind have so many people had so much, but been so unhappy and bitter–not only at life in general, but at the very systems that have provided them with their abundance.
For analytical purposes, the phenomenon can be dissected into five facets.
2.) Attention-seeking, theatrical or otherwise.
3.) The intrinsic effects of hedonism.
4.) The unsupported brilliancy factor.
5.) The attainment of superficial and hollow goals.
Facet One: Fashion
It is socially fashionable to criticize and hate America. There is a type of socially administered positive reinforcement paradigm. In most areas of the country I can attend a social gathering among the pampered educated elite, recite a series of irrational criticisms of this country, then get patted on the head and told I am brilliant. If it weren’t for doing that, I don’t know what the people involved in that social value system would do with themselves. Many of them have no other life or no other way of relating to each other or to people in general.
Facet Two: Attention-Seeking
Many people want to make themselves different, want to make themselves interesting, and want to generate attention to themselves. In listening to the private conversations and public positions of a number of people, it’s reasonable to wonder what that person would do to create interest in himself or herself or what he or she would do for a life’s role if they were to relinquish the role of being political and social provocateurs. They use this role as a substitute for a real personality. They simply have nothing else going for them. They are eternally on stage with intellectual contortions and jabs. Those who can do it effectively can make careers and money at it. Some of them combine this with subtle sadism and an eternal anger at the adult world.
In the entertainment world this has evolved into a theatrical politic. By parading the proper antagonistic politics one can be on stage and in the limelight constantly and have no need for a press agent.
Facet Three: Hedonism
Greek mythology tells the story of King Tantalus who was condemned by the gods to eternal suffering by standing in a pool of water which receded from him when he tried to drink and being surrounded by boughs of fruit which withdrew from his attempts to feed himself. Thus, he was sentenced to eternal thirst and hunger while surrounded by plenty. This is the origin of the English word tantalize.
Depending on an analysis of his personality, consider the possibility that a far worse punishment might be to satisfy his every desire, impulse, or wish.
An ancient proverb warns, if you find honey, eat only so much as you need, lest you become sated and vomit it up. The pertinent point is there is an intrinsic limit upon simple physical pleasure without values. Those who pursue such pleasure are often doomed to the most excruciating dissatisfaction as they become successful in finding satisfaction.
One can only eat so much and still have appetite for food. One can only drink so much at a time and still feel satisfaction from the taste of water or wine. One can drive but so many automobiles at a time. One can occupy only so many rooms in a house of unlimited size at a time. One can only go to so many night clubs, then they all become the same. One can only engage in sex with a limited number of people at a time. One can only smoke up, snort up, or shoot up a limited amount of drugs and there is a limit to how high one can get. Higher and higher can only go so high. After going so high, ordinary real life has little to offer by comparison. Pure continuous fun loses its fun. Excesses in the continuous pursuit of pleasure and fun produce emotionally dulling satiation which then necessitates more extreme excesses to maintain the high level of novelty. There is a theoretical and practical limit to the amount of continual level of novelty and excitement that is possible. Beyond that level, novelty and excitement become a subjective norm, contradicting the basic definition of novelty.
Many times I have been to dinner with people at expensive restaurants who complained about the food and were angry. Although I’m certain they didn’t realize it, the reason they found the food unsatisfying was because they were not hungry. They still had a full gut from lunch or from the night before. They were force-feeding themselves almost to nausea in the belief that the last course they were desperately attempting to engulf should somehow be as satisfying as the first bite. If they were hungry, the food they were complaining about would taste good. If their body needed the food, it would taste better. But, they want to be satiated beyond their need and capacity to assimilate food. In recent periods, at least three of the top ten best selling books at a time for prolonged periods in this country have been weight-loss diet books. Telling the afflicted any of this, by the way, is the quickest way in the world to become looked upon as a barbarian and be made a social pariah.
When I was in my teens and twenties, I regularly ate a full platter of four to six pork chops and fried potatoes for breakfast nearly every morning. Nothing ever tasted better in my life. I’d eat five sandwiches for lunch and have a big dinner. I was working heavy labor. I needed that food. I ate for need, not for continuous amusement. When you spend a day loading concrete blocks on scaffolds or doing factory work, simple steak and potatoes are the most delicious meals you will ever have in your life.
Americans, and affluent populations in other areas of the world, have become the most passively over-entertained, over-amused, over-stimulated, over-fed, over-noveltied, over-musiced, over-danced, over-sexualized, over-indulged people in history. They can’t get enough of any of it because they’ve already had too much of all of it, and they are being exhorted to get more. In this category are many of the so-called urban poor in this country who have access to
things that would have been undreamed of not too many years ago and live lives of self-indulgence. While they may not have affluence, they are directionless and immediate-pleasure oriented on simple levels to a point of irresponsibility. That’s why they are poor.
There is a compulsive pursuit-of- pleasure which is a function of at least four elements.
A. Many people know nothing else but passive enjoyment. They are conditioned from childhood to believe there should be a easy source of easily-absorbed enjoyable experiences that don’t require self-development. Unfortunately, self-development and feeling of accomplishment are what really count. They are involved in a pleasurable but empty style of living in which they have no investment in life and appreciate or value little.
B. There is a condition of satiety with a jaded condition of inability to enjoy anything. Within this condition people keep moving toward greater excesses in attempts to break through their jaded condition and their engorged satiation. In so doing, they worsen the condition. Many Americans have been going off the deep end in personal excesses attempting to break through their jaded condition. As a symptom we have musical groups that resemble and act like grotesque militant motorcycle gang rejects having grand mal seizures because they are too jaded to enjoy ordinary good music. Frank Sinatra could never become successful today because people are no longer moved by a master singer, they require a psychotic break.
C. There is a constant exhortation toward pleasure in the media and other psychological surroundings. No one could possibly engage in the amount of constant sexuality, beer drinking, soda drinking, exciting car-driving, perfuming or whatever portrayed in the magazines and TV commercials at the rate of three times per page or ten times per hour in commercials. It is not real life. The reality of what is being presented does not correspond to the imaginary glow in the visual imagery selling it.
People turn on their TV or go to night spots or to whatever and they want more. There is no more. We have run out of more in this country and people are angry about it.
Presently, for three thousand dollars a day, a person can obtain virtually all the pleasure that is conceivable and within the capacity of the physical human being. The only limit is that you can’t be in two different places simultaneously. You can ride a plane for seven hundred dollars a day and go anywhere in the world at 600 miles per hour, being entertained by the latest movies and music on the way. As a practical matter, you can’t be at the Taj Mahal and a Rhine castle simultaneously. It’s going to take time to view either place. You can buy the finest food at either place for a hundred dollars per dinner, but still only eat or drink limited amounts. You can buy more clothing than you have time to wear or even have time to try on. For a thousand dollars a day you can buy designer drugs that will blitz what few brains you have left or started with. And so on. For many, drugs are the only remaining flood of effortless continuous satiation left in which they can engage. It’s a peculiar form of serious addiction.
There is a theoretical limit to the amount of novelty and pleasure in which one can engage, even within the most unlimited fantasy. For practical purposes, technology and affluence have nearly attained that limit. There was a time when the physical technological environment was such that people were limited as to what and how much they could do. They could only wonder and speculate about distant areas of the earth or wonder about isolated hedonistic extravagances heard to exist in one or another big city. To do any of it would cost more money than anyone had. The physical/mechanical restrictions in transport, alone, were insurmountable. Those limitations no longer apply.
D. There are people operating under a crossed drive level/satiation mode. They are in a condition of high need or diffuse dissatisfaction from one area of their lives. They attempt to reduce that need/dissatisfaction or try to satiate themselves by flooding themselves with drive-reducers or satiating activities in other areas. If their overall dissatisfaction level is high because of alienation, lack of meaning, anxiety and fear, which produce an overall high drive state, they reduce their overall state of nervousness with food, drink, sex, and compulsively flooding themselves with activities. People subconsciously think food or a partnership in a law firm are going to solve their insecurities, fill the gap left by their fear of intimacy, make their marriage work, or substitute for other diffuse dissatisfactions resulting from difficulties in primary important areas in their life. They become obsessed with these attempted substitutes– and often determined to avoid their real problems.
I find many people are wallowing in trivial excitement/amusement while neglecting their lives. And are bitter about the condition of their lives.
Facet Four: Unsupported Brilliancy
Many artists, actors, intellectuals, and whatever making up a cultural axis are chronically angry at the disinclination of the rest of the world to recognize their brilliance. Their claim upon brilliance is based primarily upon self-evaluation and upon evaluation by those who either share their opinion or share their anger. In many cases they mistake or mislabel their protests against the process of maturation as being intellect. In most cases they don’t have nearly as much to say as they believe or wish they did. That leads to a constant hostility toward society.
Facet Five: Hollow Goals
Many people have a superficial show-and-tell shopping list of life roles or accomplishments they have been talked into and pursue superficially. They’re programmed to function up to the time they have done and checked off every item on the list. They have no idea what to do, or what’s going to happen, when that list is completed. They are lost when they have finished the list.
A number of people are pursuing success and pursuing glamour. They want more. When they get it, their money is no good because they can’t have any more and they can’t buy any more. No more is possible. They’ve reached the limits. They are pleasure-satiated. They don’t know what to do with themselves. They are dissatisfied and angry and disillusioned and resentful. Some of them demand double and triple their salaries, trying to get more. They receive the amounts, but still can’t assimilate more of the glut they are able to purchase. We have entertainment personalities making twenty, fifty, eighty or a hundred million dollars per year who can’t spend it on themselves in a lifetime. We have an extensive population that is critically placed that have used up life and for whom there is nothing left and they are mad at the world. They release their anger through a compulsive criticism of society.
There is the mistaken belief that fame, money, and success are going to miraculously transform one’s life. It doesn’t happen. No matter how rich or beautiful or famous you become, you still become old and die like everybody else. You can’t buy everything or buy your way out of everything no matter how successful or famous you happen to be. At some point age and eventual age and death dictate that you relinquish it all. This is a source of bitterness toward life and the world to people who believe in an eternal image of success and fame.
Fame and/or success don’t correct stupidity or mental disorder. They only finance it or furnish an outlet.
There are those for whom public recognition is an unplanned accident or an accidental secondary consequence of success in a primary effort. Hence there was the perennial honest comment by actor Jimmy Stewart who, when asked about his successful career, used to reply, “Well…I’ve been pretty lucky.” Jimmy had a sense of proportion that is rare.
But, to those who are spoiled to the point of irrationality, or who are compensating for some internal condition, the ideal life would be on stage where they can cavort and pretend without substance to the applause and adoration of audiences. But it doesn’t change their lives.
There is a parallel pattern between socialists and those who live for the performing stage. They believe changing the world will change dysfunctional personal lives. It doesn’t.
There are people who for a variety of reasons have an unlimited hunger for admiration and attention. Those who pursue glamour will find disappointment. Glamour is a mirror which reflects back the fantasies of people who look at it. When people are excited about seeing a stage star, a public figure or whatever, they think that public figure is as excited as they are or that that public figure is living what the observer is feeling. They believe if they somehow achieve glamorous success that they will experience continuous excitement. It never happens. This projection is a delusion. Glamour exists only for people who don’t have it.
If two thousand people per hour are thrilled to see a public figure, it doesn’t mean that public figure is thrilled at the rate of two thousand times per hour. People of any substance who are glamorous or well-known don’t feel glamorous. On the average, glamour evaporates six months after one obtains it. Public recognition wears thin. Well-known figures don’t exist in a state of continuous ecstasy because people recognize them. This can be a source of severe disillusionment or even depression to people who expect some sort of cure-all or feeling of glamour after attaining fame or success.
As the old-time high school football coaches used to say about a supposedly unbeatable opposing team, “They put their pants on one leg at a time.” The meaning was, they’re not super-human. They are the same as anybody else. And like everyone else, famous or successful people lead unglamorous private lives. Their personal happiness is only as good as those private lives. Cindy Crawford and Richard Gere went through an unhappy marriage and divorce. Judy Garland drank herself to death. Marilyn Monroe apparently committed suicide, And so forth.
How does it feel to be the world’s most glamorous fashion model, or the world’s most sought-after actor, or whatever? It feels about the same way you feel while reading this—or maybe worse. If you are Cindy Crawford, it feels like your marriage to Richard Gere fell to pieces in weeks. If you were Marilyn Monroe, it feels like you are going to commit suicide. If you were Judy Garland it feels like you are drinking yourself to death. If you are actor Carroll O’Connor, it feels like your son died of a drug overdose. And so forth.
Fame and success don’t teach one how to live. Those who don’t know how to live before they are famous, won’t miraculously know how to live after acquiring fame and success.
Sitting in front of me is the “Life” section of the June 28, 1989, USA Today. The feature story is a piece on Johnny Carson, provoked by a biography, King of the Night, by Laurence Leamer.
Carson was the undisputed ruler of late-night television for more than a quarter of a century and was one of most consistently highly-paid entertainers in the country, if not the world. Carson was described as a man living an unhappy and turbulent personal life with a history of divorces, chronic affairs, sexual excesses, drinking and progressive alienation from those around him. The article ends with a quote from Leamer. “If he (Carson) were selling shoes in Omaha, he’d be the same unhappy guy. He missed it. He doesn’t understand what life is all about.”
That’s probably true. Another twenty, forty or one hundred million dollars would not have bought him any more than he had. Another one hundred million dollars would not have changed anything for him. The change must be within him. Until that happens, his money is no good. His health is apparently failing, and now none of it makes any difference.
It can be seen in retrospect that some of the guests and some of the attitudes on his show were probably reflections of his personal problems or were attempts to psychologically work though his problems.
And so it is with a proportion of successful public personalities, writers, actors, directors, comedians, newspeople, and so forth who express a diffuse disillusionment, resentment, bitterness and antagonism. Their disillusionment should be with themselves, but they attribute it and direct it externally toward the social and economic structure. Many of them don’t know how to live. Many of them have a monkey on their back.
This explains the apparent paradox of many of the rich and glamorous hating America. They hate the country because of over-satiation, because they are bored, because they are disappointed in their wealth and success. They are bored and angry because they don’t know how to live.
We are now entering into a new national, and perhaps international, crisis. To the extent that economic and social systems work, they produce certain classes of people who become bored with their lives and disgusted with everything that made their boredom and disillusionment possible.