Politics in America
Part 1: Survey and Introduction
by Robert L. Kocher
This series will develop a comprehensive view of political and social life. It won’t be for the faint-hearted. We will tear some myths and superficialities down, then rebuild some concepts.
After thirty years of political and cultural turbulence, a presidential election was held in November of 1996, and nobody showed up. The voter turn-out was the lowest since 1924. In 1924 it was harder to travel to voting places and there weren’t many galvanizing issues. Movies, radio and television had yet to be developed. Many people barely knew who was running for office.
Republicans were elected into national legislative offices in landslide proportions in 1994 as an expression of diffuse dissatisfaction and desire for change.
Change what? There is today little clarity on what needs to be changed. What is seen is a diffuse emotional response registering vague dissatisfaction which is not very concretely expressed. There is often very little understanding of what the word change means or what kind of change is wanted. Change means entirely different things to different people.
In his first presidential campaign, Bill Clinton ran on a platform for “people who were interested in change” or “people who wanted change.” He only used the intentionally vague word “change” without ever explaining what changes he planned to make or were needed. Some of us understood the changes he intended and were alarmed.
Since the mid-60s, “change” has been a deliberately deceptive bland code word for implementation of the countercultural and leftist agenda of the 60s and 70s. Others understood that implicitly-intended meaning of the code word (“change”) equally well and were elated because they wanted that agenda. But the word “change” coupled with avoidance and lack of necessity to delineate specific detail also allowed evasion and lack of content. Therefore, others wished they knew what was meant and were deceived by the unspecified concept. Still others, including many people in America, were in a state of diffuse desperation such that promise of change of any kind was seized upon in blind hope of any improvement whatsoever.
One factor to be considered in demand for change is economic.
On a broad level, economics has become the political hack’s and ideologue’s science of rationalization. So-called analysts and theoreticians on all sides strain to present selected numbers and explanations in such a way as to argue for whatever condition of the economy they would like to believe, and would like other people to believe, it to be. The Democrats and the political left argue for belief in the Clinton boom of the 90s. Republicans argue that the 90s boom resulted from the continuing effect of the Reagan years. Many point to low unemployment figures. Others argue that while there is supposed low unemployment, the job expansion is in lower level and lower paying areas. Others point to the stock market as the economic condition index.
People on all sides of the political and theoretical spectrum attempt to take credit while directing blame at everyone else. There is no agreement on what economic conditions exist, or what caused them. People deny or exaggerate economic conditions, or attribute economic conditions to whatever cause suits their purpose. Some advocates routinely deny that the last recession was serious and they claim it lasted but one year.
It’s all spin without substance or reference to reality. Economic analysis is a symptom of a major problem in America in which there is no agreement on what constitutes basic reality. Little of anything is based on comprehensive fact. Little is based in logic. People are making up the story as they go along for their own purposes.
Management and technical recruiters say they began to see a decrease in demand for top grade people and a flattening of the economy beginning in the last quarter of 1988. By the middle of 1989 it was pronounced and by 1990 it was disastrous. Recruiters are one of the most accurate sources of information on the employment or unemployment situation in America.
An ad in the Chicago Tribune seeking technicians would produce 600 or more applicants in 1991. In 1993 an ad in a small Chicago suburban newspaper seeking C programmers elicited 450 mailed-in resumes in four days by people who were eager to take jobs at any salaries. In 1998 or 1999 the same ad would be lucky to bring in 20 people demanding high salaries. In 1994 a small Washington Post ad for technology corridor engineers would bring in a stack of resumes eight inches high from desperate applicants from as far away as New York, Texas, and even Americans trying to survive the recession in Italy. Twenty percent were doctoral level engineers. In 1994 massive amounts of high grade production and R&D equipment were going on the auction block in large quantities and at low prices as companies quit major operations or went under completely.
The Recession of the 1990s
When it happened, the Gulf war occupied almost exclusive attention and its winning brought President Bush a momentary 90 percent approval rating. But focus upon the war had temporarily eclipsed the fact that a serious economic recession was occurring. The average unemployment period for those losing jobs had increased from 11.1 weeks in June 1989 to 18.2 weeks in June 1992. It was to climb to 19 weeks throughout most of 1994. In 1969 it was 7.7. The number of people unemployed 27 weeks or more had increased from 618,000 in June 1989 to 2,150,000 in June 1992. Millions of people were losing everything in an economy some described as the worst since the great depression and people were panicking. It cost George Bush the election.
The economy began to recover, to the extent that the term is barely applicable, in 1996. There was an explosion in demand for computer programmers. This, and a few other selected narrow areas are used in some quarters as an index of economic conditions. But, it is not representative of the American economic condition.
Somewhat forced early retirements are common. There is prejudice against hiring people over 50 years old, and often over 40 years old. In a serious economic boom and personnel shortage, 50 year old people are in high demand. Only in an economy where there is a surplus of personnel and applicants can employers blithely enjoy the luxury of junking entire generations. Employment ads are excessively particularized in qualifications. The glut of unemployed engineers and other technical people is such that companies can arbitrarily demand technical people have principle experience on a specific word processing program or other near-irrelevancies in an attitude of complacency and arrogance.
Although there may be local geographical variations, employment is a buyer’s market marked by complacency and indifference on the part of employers.
An Economic Boom?
While there was claim to an American economic boom in 1999 and a low unemployment rate, the economy did not conform to any known models of such a condition.
Many people born after 1945 have never seen the American economy in a boom, and don’t understand or appreciate what an economic boom is.
Here are salary and economic figures from 1947 to 1997.
From Table F-12. Earners—Families (All Races) by Median and Mean Income: 1947 to 1997
(Families as of March of the following year. From 1974 to 1988, income is for families with civilian members. Income in current and 1997 CPI-U and 1997 CPI-U adjusted dollars)
Number of ——————-
earners Number Current 1997
and year (thous.) dollars dollars
All Families (including families with
multiple wage earners per family)
1997 70,884 44,568 44,568
1996 70,241 42,300 43,271
1995 69,597 40,611 42,769
1994 69,313 38,782 42,001
1993 68,506 36,959 41,051
1992 68,216 36,573 41,839
1991 67,173 35,939 42,351
1990 66,322 35,353 43,414
1989 66,090 34,213 44,284
1988 65,837 32,191 43,674
1987 65,204 30,970 43,756
1986 63,618 29,515 43,222
1985 62,636 27,843 41,532
1984 61,930 26,489 40,919
1983 61,243 24,666 39,748
1982 60,653 23,495 39,445
1981 60,312 22,433 39,961
1980 59,640 21,071 41,092
1979 58,793 19,643 42,604
1978 57,095 17,710 42,110
1977 56,448 16,060 40,785
1976 55,866 15,001 40,533
1975 55,434 13,772 39,331
1974 54,737 12,944 40,029
1973 55,053 12,051 40,979
1972 54,373 11,116 40,183
1971 53,296 10,285 38,300
1970 51,948 9,867 38,345
1969 51,237 9,433 38,426
1968 50,510 8,632 36,749
1967 49,834 7,974 35,257
1966 48,922 7,436 33,906
1965 48,279 6,882 32,297
1964 47,835 6,569 31,286
1963 47,436 6,249 30,119
1962 46,998 5,956 29,144
1961 46,341 5,737 28,332
1960 45,435 5,620 28,013
1959 45,062 5,417 27,514
1958 44,202 5,087 26,002
1957 43,714 4,971 26,159
1956 43,445 4,783 25,935
1955 42,843 4,421 24,384
1954 41,934 4,173 22,937
1953 41,202 4,233 23,427
1952 41,020 3,890 21,679
1951 40,442 3,709 21,035
1950 39,822 3,319 20,332
1949 39,193 3,107 19,254
1948 38,537 3,187 19,523
1947 37,279 3,031 20,102
One Earner Families
1997 20,494 30,204 30,204
1996 20,052 28,383 29,034
1995 19,894 28,423 29,934
1994 19,455 27,145 29,398
1993 19,301 26,193 29,093
1992 19,311 26,059 29,811
1991 18,500 25,960 30,592
1990 18,215 25,878 31,778
1989 18,146 25,226 32,651
1988 18,189 23,872 32,388
1987 18,133 23,111 32,652
1986 17,945 22,310 32,671
1985 18,217 21,190 31,608
1984 17,949 20,291 31,345
1983 18,459 19,409 31,277
1982 18,761 18,913 31,752
1981 18,555 17,626 31,398
1980 18,586 16,714 32,595
1979 18,236 15,585 33,803
1978 18,346 14,239 33,857
1977 18,621 13,148 33,390
1976 18,789 12,436 33,602
1975 19,466 11,568 33,037
1974 18,930 11,000 34,017
1973 19,604 10,243 34,831
1972 20,285 9,489 34,301
1971 20,104 8,752 32,592
1970 19,252 8,352 32,458
1969 19,251 8,104 33,012
1968 19,310 7,451 31,721
1967 19,307 7,006 30,977
1966 20,454 6,639 30,272
1965 20,829 6,060 28,439
1964 20,804 5,854 27,880
1963 20,838 5,614 27,058
1962 21,094 5,429 26,566
1961 21,274 5,254 25,947
1960 21,077 5,192 25,879
1959 21,533 4,976 25,274
1958 21,279 4,666 23,850
1957 21,241 4,495 23,654
1956 21,091 4,328 23,468
1955 21,791 4,069 22,442
1954 22,062 3,814 20,964
1953 (NA) 3,868 21,407
1952 21,500 3,538 19,717
1951 22,258 3,401 19,288
1950 21,645 3,128 19,162
1949 21,390 2,840 17,599
1948 20,851 2,900 17,765
1947 21,889 2,738 18,159
Two Earners Families
1997 31,752 55,443 55,443
1996 31,309 53,361 54,585
1995 31,041 50,989 53,699
1994 30,885 48,970 53,034
1993 30,137 47,424 52,675
1992 30,007 45,563 52,123
1991 29,681 43,623 51,406
1990 29,536 42,146 51,755
1989 29,235 40,658 52,626
1988 28,984 38,702 52,508
1987 28,481 36,799 51,992
1986 27,228 35,108 51,413
1985 26,350 33,411 49,837
1984 26,160 31,707 48,980
1983 25,437 29,808 48,034
1982 24,776 28,073 47,131
1981 24,856 26,860 47,847
1980 24,650 24,657 48,086
1979 24,423 22,630 49,083
1978 23,333 20,468 48,668
1977 22,414 18,704 47,500
1976 22,055 17,341 46,856
1975 21,377 16,058 45,860
1974 21,637 14,866 45,973
1973 21,918 13,798 46,919
1972 21,296 12,735 46,035
1971 20,602 11,741 43,722
1970 20,443 11,190 43,487
1969 20,125 10,583 43,111
1968 19,812 9,747 41,496
1967 19,280 8,971 39,665
1966 17,991 8,539 38,935
1965 17,499 7,983 37,464
1964 17,628 7,549 35,953
1963 17,308 7,202 34,712
1962 17,001 6,910 33,813
1961 16,544 6,689 33,033
1960 16,224 6,438 32,090
1959 15,609 6,269 31,841
1958 15,368 5,879 30,050
1957 15,315 5,776 30,395
1956 15,384 5,576 30,235
1955 14,390 5,250 28,956
1954 13,498 5,000 27,483
1953 (NA) 5,060 28,004
1952 13,369 4,723 26,321
1951 12,550 4,459 25,289
1950 12,122 3,913 23,971
1949 12,077 3,704 22,953
1948 11,918 3,774 23,119
1947 9,855 3,750 24,871
SOURCE: March Current Population Survey (www.census.gov).
Income Statistics Branch/HHES Division
U.S. Bureau of the Census
U.S. Department of Commerce
Washington, D.C. 20233-8500
The median income is used for analysis here because it is immune from extreme values effects and is more representative of the typical person in the statistical population.
Several things can be seen from these figures. First, the twenty-four year period from 1949 to 1973 was the greatest true economic boom and expansion in American history, and probably in human history. From 1949 to 1960, the real median family income increased nearly 50 percent. (coupled with a minuscule crime rate, it’s so wonder the 50s are looked upon with great fondness. The period was an American economic celebration as well as an optimistic celebration of American values.) By 1969 real adjusted salaries had doubled and American industry had assimilated nearly 13,000,000 additional workers. The percentage of increase in real earnings was about the same across all levels from poor to the wealthy. All economic boats were lifted approximately equally percentage-wise by the same economic tide. It was probably the most ideal economic scenario imaginable.
One aspect that is important in these figures is that families who had only one wage earner increased their income in about the same proportions as what is described above during that period.
Had the boom continued, the American median family income should have been $55,000 per year in 1979, $76,000 in 1989, and more than $80,000 in 1997. The 1997 median income for single earner families would have been $52,000 instead of $30,000. But, instead, what is seen is a sharp knee developing in the economic curve around 1973, if the data were to be plotted, as a leveling off, and, eventually a decrease.
The Drop in Real Income Since 1973
To obtain the picture of the economy from the mid 70s on requires some detailed examination.
The income figures for families with one wage earner show a steady increase from 1949 to 1973 for which the median salary was $34,831. By 1997, that median income had slowly slid to $30,204. It might be argued that the income slide was the result of a simple averaging with an influx of divorced and female single heads of households suddenly moving into the workplace at lower salaries. However, when we look at the statistics on male wages, we see something different.
From Table P-31. Full-Time, Year-Round Workers (All Races) by Median Earnings and Gender: 1960 to 1997
SOURCE: March Current Population Survey
From Table P-29A. Full-Time, Year-Round White Workers by Median Income and Gender: 1970 to 1997. Income in 1997 CPI-U adjusted dollars
SOURCE: March Current Population Survey
Men in America took a four to five thousand dollar median income drop between the early 70s and 1997. As the economy has deteriorated, there has been less demand for their services, less need to pay for them, and less market competition pressure to do so in the surplus of available people. It’s further apparent that not only had a full economic recovery from the last recession had not taken place by 1997, but levels of the early 1970s had never been regained. By 1997, for somewhere in the order of 65 percent of men in America, earnings were below 1969 levels. Any increase in family income figures are nearly exclusively the result of both spouses working for lower incomes than men made 25 years earlier. There were more single income families in 1965 than in 1997 in spite of great increases in population and marriages.
For various reasons, there has been nearly universal attempt to convince the economically downgraded 65 percent that this is not true.
This income drop, along with job insecurity, has contributed to a large class of frustrated angry white men in America. They are ridiculed by the political left as right-wing reactionary kooks and anti-progressives, which increases their anger. They are also frightened and confused by their deteriorating condition, which is not acknowledged by political right elitists. They are unacknowledged political pariahs and inconveniences in the staged politically correct virtual-reality of American politics.
The income distribution among American Households is as follows:
From Table H-3A. Mean Income Received by Each Fifth and Top 5 Percent of White Households: 1967 to 1997
(Households as of March of the following year. Income in current and 1997 CPI-U adjusted dollars1/)
Lowest Second Third Fourth Highest Top 5
Year fifth fifth fifth fifth fifth percent
1997 9,767 23,562 39,021 59,803 127,394 225,140
1996 9,738 23,096 38,157 58,204 121,397 210,991
1995 9,729 22,972 37,679 57,253 118,438 203,652
1994 9,353 22,366 36,907 56,653 118,635 206,096
1993 9,261 22,410 36,750 56,088 115,943 199,346
1992 9,410 22,545 37,007 55,939 107,334 170,423
1991 9,649 23,042 37,363 56,168 106,696 166,339
1990 9,926 23,795 38,282 57,052 109,903 175,296
1989 10,172 24,237 39,320 58,593 113,910 184,380
1988 9,915 23,991 39,050 57,936 109,760 173,310
1987 9,808 23,852 38,876 57,681 108,572 171,201
1986 9,727 23,618 38,511 57,077 105,747 161,484
1985 9,548 22,976 37,200 55,117 100,945 151,471
1984 9,596 22,717 36,669 54,281 97,713 143,407
1983 9,438 22,257 35,772 52,838 94,774 138,457
1982 9,284 22,129 35,609 52,248 93,355 135,344
1981 9,543 22,228 35,933 52,573 91,359 129,691
1980 9,648 22,720 36,502 52,873 92,068 132,842
1979 9,782 23,318 37,535 54,164 95,721 142,932
1978 9,858 23,133 37,379 53,866 94,505 140,467
1977 9,658 22,610 36,481 52,554 91,355 134,622
1976 9,579 22,478 36,137 51,649 89,656 132,818
1975 9,379 21,973 35,204 50,406 87,255 128,549
1974 9,741 23,079 36,219 51,610 89,534 131,774
1973 9,426 23,225 37,065 52,523 92,539 141,257
1972 9,052 22,918 36,485 51,501 92,107 142,816
1971 8,531 22,012 34,871 48,858 86,193 132,418
1970 8,511 22,369 35,166 48,962 86,289 132,819
1969 8,628 22,804 35,506 49,022 85,802 132,575
1968 8,421 22,083 34,071 46,890 81,829 127,280
1967 7,742 21,055 32,644 45,073 81,201 129,660
SOURCE: March Current Population Survey
Between the years of 1973 and 1994 the majority of families lost income with increasing proportions of both people working and with greater numbers of confused rootless children being thrown into the explosively expanding parent-surrogate day care industry months or weeks after birth while the top 25 percent of the population increased income in the order of 30 percent. Simultaneously, between 1980 and 1997 the proportion of American income received by the top five percent of the population increased from 16.5 percent to 21.7 percent of the total American income.
The purpose here is not to incite resentment of the wealthy. Those who are hoping such will be the direction of this series will be sorely disappointed. Those who would be frightened or repelled by such a direction may be somewhat relieved, but may still retain considerable distrust. The purpose is rather to acknowledge that something profound happened that took visibly sharp effect during the early to mid 70s to produce the equally profound effect of creating an American economy which is entirely different from that of the true economic boom of 50s and 60s, one from which the economy had not recovered as of the end of 1999, and one which has certainly never remotely approached an extension of the economic regression line of the 50s and 60s. The direction should be to understand the difference between recent years and the mid 50s or mid 60s when both the wealthy and people at the median were both doing better. The purpose is also to acknowledge the consequences with seriousness.
The economic degradation of recent years is viewed differently by people who have been affected differently. People in the top 25 percent of the economic ladder felt attenuated, if any, effects. Indeed, some have profited well during, or from, the decline, although not nearly as much as the wealthy class would have if the boom of the 60s and 70s had continued. The comparatively unaffected minority often doesn’t believe, or denies, that any deterioration has occurred at all. Conversations are routinely heard from them in which they argue that the 90s recession barely lasted a year and was mild. They contrive figures and concoct denials to support that position. Some of them wrongly believe not to do so would be a concession to socialism, when what they are really doing by their actions, along with their shallowness and ignorance, is supporting socialistic theorists over the long term.
The reality is far different than they are determined to interpret it. But these are the people who write articles, sell economic theories, and appear on TV. They attempt to convince 65 percent of the American people that things never happened, or are better and that those with other experience are isolated cases. This seriously alienates the majority of the population who experience that reality. The dissatisfaction, although muddled in clarity by constant confrontation with denial and disinformation, remains and has become a serious political destabilizing force in America. The economically dissatisfied end up alienated from the exponents of free enterprise who should be their friends because too many so-called “free enterprise” advocates often give them rote-memorized shallow babble that, in addition to being insulting in its misrepresentation, makes no more sense than socialism.
The American economic condition has deteriorated substantially during the last 30 years, leading to anxiety and dissatisfaction. There have been cyclic ever-deepening economic recessions. Recoveries have been incomplete and marked by subsequent employment figures bloated by people grasping for remaining lower quality jobs in a slowly disintegrating long-term economy.
As the American economic condition, and the American people, have deteriorated, the population has become more dependent upon a government distribution system that is to some serious extent, but not totally, responsible for weakening the economy–for subsistence. The further expansion of that system further destroys the economy, reducing resources for the governmental system. The entire leftist social and philosophical system is like using heroin. After a short period the person depends on it in order to function at all, while the long term consequences are devastating.
Rather than deny that reality, the intention of this series will be to explain it.
Concurrent with economic problems, ever-increasing proportions of the American people have been leading highly distressed personal lives. A Time magazine issue from August 28, 1995 featured an analysis of “The Twentieth Century Blues” describing the depressed psychological state of the American people. What is described is depression, marital deterioration, and lack of trusting close interpersonal relationships. According to the Time issue a new field of evolutionary and genetic psychiatry and psychology are coming to the conclusion that man is genetically constructed in such a way as to be unable to live in modern technological America. This interpretation may appeal to people seeking to assign responsibility for problems to genetic background while avoiding the unpleasant task of examining the effect of destructive cultural and personal behaviors that have become prominent in recent decades. The reality will be discussed later in the series.
Looking for a “Change”
More people are dissatisfied with their personal lives and will be diffusely dissatisfied with everything until that changes. They avoidantly abstract and abiguitize the concrete cause of their problems as “conditions” that they want changed. Through a process of mediated verbal generalization, they then channel their dissatisfaction into looking for political solutions and change to remedy personal unhappiness. Unhappy people make unhappy politics.
Republicans, Democrats, media personalities, academicians, mental health professionals, and social theoreticians seem to exhibit a common pattern. There is talk about the need for change, but what is lacking is truthful in-depth analysis. This may be the result of disinclination, of not bothering to take the time, or of personal analytical incapacities. There has been a lack of serious study, a lack of honesty, and a lack of depth.
Recent polls indicate 65 percent of American people favor formation of a new political party. While the dissatisfaction of voters with the shallow antics and theatrics in the nation’s capital is justified, it should be realized that these people are there because of the shallowness and antics of the voters who elected them. The formation of a new political party will be little more than an expression of diffuse dissatisfaction with no guarantee of improvement or change if there is not substantially more seriousness and depth channeled into that party. The needed changes may not be political, but rather in more fundamental areas. Changes in more fundamental areas would then secondarily result in incisive needed political correct change.
While there is demand for change, what is too often meant is a demand for a different outcome without changing what produced that outcome. This violates the principle of, “If you keep doing what you’re doing, you’re going to get more of what you got.” For consequences to be different, the antecedent behavior that produced them as a logical consequence must be changed.
To put it another way, demand for change has too often become an encoded demand for negation of the basic economic, physical, and psychological laws of the universe so that people can have a different outcome without doing anything differently. That is not going to happen. That is not change, it’s childishness.
There are no quick fixes to the American condition. The need for change is more profound than budget amendments, reinstatement of death penalties, tax restructuring, or most of the legislative issues before congress or that are brought up in public debate–although these will eventually play an important part in any future cultural or political changes.
The changes necessary for American survival must begin with a period of profound serious introspection, culturally and individually, which would closely parallel an intensive course of deep level psychoanalysis or depth psychotherapy. The issues are of that depth. The period would require the emotional pain and discomfort inherent in psychotherapy and Americans are, for that reason, reluctant to undergo it.
America is in very serious trouble. For more than 30 years the direction of American social trends has been highly pathological. In testimony, we have a suicide rate among teenagers and young adults four times that of several decades ago. The violent crime rate is many times higher than the supposed blackboard-jungle-motorcycle-gang period of the 1950s. Individuals and roving gangs now openly and randomly kill people on public streets as a form of amusement. Estimates are that as much as $200,000,000,000 per year have been spent on drug use in this country during various periods of recent decades. One third of children are born to single mothers. Indeed this has become so acceptable that it is considered a serious violation of contemporary moral decorum to acknowledge it as being anything but an adventurous and attractive, but somewhat complicated, alternative life style. Children of parents who happen to be married at any moment have no guarantee that they’ll have two parents for any period in generations of adults who are incapable of relationships of any depth or duration. The divorce rate has been 60 percent in some age groups. More than one million children are involved in divorce each year. The legacy may be, and probably is, successive generations of children who are unable to trust human relationships and who become adults unable to participate in human relationships. Reputable large-scale psychiatric studies indicate the rate of serious mental disorder in America is five or more times what it was in previous generations. American society is psychologically failing. More than two generations of people have been destroyed by the pathological social trends of the last several decades.
For the same reasons that American society is psychologically failing, America is economically failing. The same generations of people who are in a state of psychological disintegration are not equipped by philosophical orientation, by personal attitude, by sense of realism, or by personal competence and sense of responsibility, to make an economy function. That has been the root of economic difficulties since the great boom. Added to this is the escalating sense of entitlement to demand that government distribute financial responsibility for continually developing unreasoned and destructive behavioral patterns in this country that would destroy any government or economic system. As families, presuming children even start with one, have dissolved under the weight of adult incapacity and the social force of “alternative” life styles, government is being charged with the responsibility and cost of maintaining and preparing children on the most detailed levels of life. School systems stagger with the costs inherent in the impossible task of assimilating what are for practical purposes feral children who have acquired little or no socialization at home. The social, economic and governmental system is crumbling under the responsibility of being parent surrogates for children, for children who are having children, and for adults who continue to behave as children while demanding social and economic support to maintain themselves in that role. In terms of collateral economic stress the cost of the AIDS epidemic when it matures could be two hundred billion dollars a year.
The first major question is, how could this have happened?
Loss of the Sense of Reality
The answer on the overall level is, the legacy of the pathological social revolution during the 60s and 70s is that basic rationality and sanity lost leverage as the social regulating force in America. That is the predominating feature in the recent American social and economic condition. It’s as simple as that. In the psychological surrealism of the 60s and 70s a basic sense of reality was lost and has never been regained.
Somewhere within substantial proportions of the American population a very important sense of sane limits has been lost. There is not a serious sense that there are things that one should not do, or on the other hand other things one must do, as part of a viable or sane existence.
Moreover, there has been loss of basic sane sense of temporal continuity. While there are complaints about economic conditions or the present conditions of people’s lives, there is not the clear realization that today’s conditions are the tomorrow that was created by the irrational life styles and demands of yesterday. Nor is there the clear realization that tomorrow’s conditions will be the foreseeable consequence of the irrational life styles and absurd demands of recent years.
The key to understanding the present American condition is to accept the basic premise that the problem is an advanced and widespread system of psychopathology. On a more molecular level, much of the problem stems from the failure of character development within large proportions of recent generations.
The problem is also in concomitant intractable levels of egocentricism and self-gratification. Within this egocentricism recent generation members are maiming each other under the unnatural and inconsistent demands they are making upon one another in their interpersonal relationships. They are making equally unreasonable and inconsistent demands upon the government and social system. The efficacy and importance of personal morality and honesty have been culturally expunged to be replaced with a climate of unreasoned self-indulgence regardless of destructiveness.
If basic sanity is no longer the primary regulating element in this society, then what is? The answer is, psychotic levels of rationalization and psychotic levels of egocentricism have become the social regulating force in this society. That means we now have no social limits or regulation–on anything. As the deteriorating social morality has demanded representation in government and law through the political process, there has been a corresponding immoral irrationality in law and government.
Psychotic levels of egocentricism or self-centeredness are a real phenomenon. When a friend of mine was in psychiatric residency he had a patient who believed he could turn the entire world sideways at will. When the psychiatrist argued that the patient couldn’t turn the world sideways, the patient replied, “Yes I can. Watch.” The patient then tilted his head back and forth saying, “see?”
From the patient’s point of view, the surface of the earth crossed his eye diagonally when he tilted his head. Since he demanded that his subjective experience be recognized as the foundation of reality, he was prepared to argue that if everything looked sideways it wasn’t because he tilted his head sideways, it was because the world turned sideways at his command.
In an alarming parallel to the functioning of that psychiatric patient, major proportions of recent generations have had no reservations about feeling entitlement to rationalize without conscience and without regard for realistic limits or boundaries of absurdity in their pursuit of exclusively self-centered demands.
Recreation and Rationalization
Most of the present impossible “social problems” in this country are rooted in large scale psychotically egocentric rationalizations supporting the self-indulgent behavior underwriting those problems. If we have had a two-hundred billion dollar per year drug problem in this country for drugs that were rationalized as not being dangerous in the first place, much of it is because the psychotic rationalizations for recreational drug use in the 60s and 70s prevailed over the reality of drugs. While it has been fashionable to express token condemnation of “crack” and to a slightly less extent cocaine as problems in recent periods, many of the drugs that were fashionable in the 60s and 70s are still not to be acknowledged as having had destructive consequences. Focusing on crack introduces an artificial boundary of psychological safety from accountability between the present drug problem and the generational arguments rationalizing drug use during the 60s and 70s. Any references to that critical underwriting have effectively been forbidden. That critical underwriting is still in effect and continues to be the major drug problem.
The problem didn’t start with crack. During the last 35 years there has been a direct developmental continuum of drug use evolving from the psychedelics of the 60s, through various intermediate drugs of fashion, to the crack of today. The precedent of drug experimentation and pathological thinking incorporating denial of the most obvious consequences of drug use became well-established several decades ago and will continue to find various outlets. That mentality, not reality, has been the primary element governing drug use in this country for nearly 35 years.
To put it simply, during the pathological egocentricism of the 60s and 70s a significant proportion of a generation demanded to use drugs, and like the previously mentioned psychiatric patient, they were prepared to argue that it was not their thinking that was crooked, but reality was crooked in order to assert that the destructive consequences of drug use did not exist. The arguments did not change reality. The consequence is that America wallowed in a massive drug problem along with the pathological levels of egocentricism and the still-continuing pro-drug arguments. That must be thoroughly examined and must be where changes are initiated.
Forty percent of girls are becoming pregnant in their teens and children are giving birth to children because the irrationally egocentric sexual demands rationalized in this country more than 30 years ago have prevailed over sexual reality. The proof of the original irrationality and irresponsibility is the foreseeable disastrous consequences that have in fact occurred. Those rationalizations, rather than reality or honesty, have been in control of the sexual patterns of this culture since that period.
For more than 35 years no favorable arguments have been too inane, no disastrous consequences have been too obvious to be denied, and no element of reality has been too fundamental to be argued against in pursuit of egocentric sexual demands in American society. Now we are stuck with massive disastrous consequences along with pathological levels of egocentricism and a morass of pathological arguments or rationalizations which have acquired a powerful independent social momentum. That is where change must occur. As strange as it might seem at first consideration, for reasons that will be explained later in the series, the spin-off from egocentric sexuality has been one of the most powerful forces in American politics.
And so it is with many other societal problems. Significant proportions of the American population are not very far from the egocentric pathology of the previously-mentioned psychiatric patient. That egocentricism is the greatest single social problem in America today. It is also the greatest personal problem in interpersonal relationships.
A Psychological Plague
Massive repetitive divorce rates, institutionalized disposable loveless revolving door “relationships” and other patterns are not mere statistics. They represent ongoing lives of turmoil and ongoing crippling human costs. Virtually all public health and psychological statistics indicate that by any reasonable standard of proof the last 35 years have been a large-scale psychological catastrophe. A psychological plague has swept through this country destroying the lives of major portions of the population. Moreover, the problem is not one of making a few minor simple cultural adjustments or allowing things to settle with the passage of time. The problem is deep and it is serious.
But, while there exists a psychological disaster so hideous as to be destroying American society and the lives in it, it’s a disaster the existence of which is not acknowledged. The single most important event of the last 30 years has been the obvious widespread psychological disintegration of America. Yet, while this has been the most important event of the last 30 years, and it has been obvious, the existence of the occurrence has been subjected to a journalistic and scientific blackout. While occasional references are made to the condition statistically, the statistics are mentioned briefly and the interpretations are couched in a blandness which denies the seriousness of the problem. The underlying causes theorized to be responsible for the situation nearly never relate to the direct causes seen in reality. Consequently, analysis such as the Time piece talk about genetic psychological evolution rather than the need for morality or for emotional honesty in this culture.
The second major question becomes, why is there no accurate representation of this crisis and its causes in the social sciences or in the media? While endless important indications point to the existence of a broad social catastrophe, there is no representation of it in the media and little representation of it in the scientific literature. Examination of the psychological abstracts and texts supports the conclusion much of the mental health profession has become a vehicle for the problem rather than providing a statement that the problem exists or providing an analysis of the problem. Indeed, under the doctrine of Political Correctness the selling of one’s soul to the pathological thinking characteristic of the problem has increasingly become a prerequisite for certification in the social sciences. The purpose of major universities has become not education, but enforced pathologizing of students.
One reason for denial of the situation is the same reason as the reason that the problem came into broad existence initially. It stems from the large scale failure of personal character development concurrent with determination to engage in excesses which have overwhelmed the culture of the country. A major feature of that character deficiency is capacity for denial and lying without conscience.
It is in the nature of some forms of mental aberration that those who are afflicted with it perceive themselves as being afflicted. It is the nature of other forms of mental aberration that the people who are affected do not perceive themselves as being aberrated. People with character deficiency do not believe they have a character disorder. People with highly intellectualized defenses and rationalizations do not believe they have a problem. A major purpose of those defenses is to support that belief.
Character deficiency and psychotic levels of egocentricism have been relabeled as “social liberation” and have become acceptable within a culture that has been taken over by narcissistic generations exhibiting character deficiency and psychotic levels of egocentricism. The gravitation of narcissistic personalities and life styles known for pathological excesses into media and entertainment leads to critically-placed social leverage in support of social acceptability and deceptive relabeling.
Another contributing factor motivating denial in the present condition of social pathology is that the behavior being rationalized is fun. It may produce eventual miserable consequences, but it’s fun at the instant people are doing it. Instantaneous amusement is increasingly the primary concern in American culture with the entertainment media functioning as an instruction manual.
Unlimited personal amusement was originally supposed to be the only result and was a major reason for the social changes of the mid 60s. We were to be “liberated” from the artificial cultural constraints that were supposedly the sole impediment to unlimited pleasure in life. The question that was not asked was: Unlimited pleasure at whose expense or at what expense?
I Want It Now
It is not a characteristic of the egocentric personality to recognize realistic limits upon immediate gratification –particularly if that personality believes the only limits would be determined by damage to other people. Rather, that personality type believes all forms of immediate gratification should be possible and can be engaged in. There is absolute determination in ever-increasing proportions of the population to live lives of irrational immediate gratification and amusement. There is determined intention on the part of participants neither to relinquish irrationally egocentric life styles nor relinquish the rationalizations for those life styles even if it kills them, and it is killing them–or they take turns destroying each other, which is equivalent. If the consequences are disastrous, those consequences are denied at all cost because the rationalizations assert there are not supposed to be disastrous consequences.
Last, but not least, is the pathological interaction between egocentric demands and social engineering. At primitive educational levels, the egocentric individual simply demands that reality and that the lives of others conform to his or her momentary wishes in the pattern of instant demands and temper tantrums characteristic of the classic spoiled child. At that primitive intellectual level there is no intermediate step between impulses and demands. But, self-centeredness combined with education becomes deceptive and dangerous. The educated self-centered make the demand that reality and the lives of others conform to a devised intermediate self-serving social theory, ranging from Playboy Philosophy to Margaret Mead, which then demands that society should be scientifically socially engineered or re-engineered from moment to moment to conform to convenience of changing momentary wishes. The failure of others to accede to those encoded egocentric demands then becomes interpreted as anti-intellectualism.
The basic issue is not novel. Children and adolescents have protested the discomfort of the growth process and the intrusion of reality into egocentric demands throughout recorded history. What is novel is that in recent periods this rejection of resolving adolescent growth conflicts and the temper tantrums over facing growth conflicts have become mainstream social science that is often administered by resentful social scientists who have not resolved these conflicts in themselves.
The Eternal Adolescent
Society is under siege from an extensive body of egocentric/narcissistic psychology, anthropology, sociology, and secondary political/economic theories, dedicated to the belief that the growth conflicts of adolescence need not be resolved and that the teenage period can continue forever. Within that body exists an extensive argument that the resolution of adolescent growth conflicts is an arbitrary and punitive demand by an irrational society. This has led to polarization between the social sciences and the demands for maturity from the outside world. In the social sciences there is a seventy-year buildup of egocentric fantasy and polarization converted into social theorizing.
During the 60s and 70s, resolution of adolescent growth conflicts and entry into adulthood were successfully avoided within major portions of a generation. Thus, there occurred the “generation gap,” what has been successfully mislabeled as the sexual revolution and many of the other cultural changes of the period. For the forces of academic egocentricism, this was a sociological/ anthropological/ psychological triumph. The cultural sociological changes alienated academic narcissists had worked for years to instill within American society had finally taken hold.
But, in a short time the result became a cultural and psychological disaster.
We have in America a highly-developed body of social science that has been wrong-headed for seven decades and is committed to what it has been saying for seven decades. This has produced an extensive class of educated people who have been brainwashed by that body of social science as part of their educational requirement and who are committed to what they have been told. Within this context there is little predisposition toward the observation that what has occurred has been monstrously destructive.
So, for practical purposes there is the existence of widespread psychopathology which is no longer to be considered psychopathology because many in recent generations practice it and deny that it’s pathology. We have a widespread cultural degeneration the existence of which is denied. When pathology becomes a statistical norm, it develops the social and political power to redefine itself as other than what it is.
Coordinate with this, an additional major pathological re-defining social pattern has occurred in America during the last 35 years. The cultural compendium of values, morals and concepts of human functioning formerly arrived at through an inductive process has been displaced and lost: i.e., there was a time when people developed these from each other through a daily one-to-one personal interaction. Until the mid 50s, TV and other media forms were primitive and/or nonexistent. They did not fill a large part of life. Until the early to mid 60s, much of TV and other media content continued to follow the cultural paths established prior to that time.
Since the mid 60s the process of cultural certification has become deductive. It comes down from the top and from a distance. The values and conceptions of human nature people are now focused upon are not those of the real person next to them, but are those created in a studio a thousand miles away. Contemporary interpersonal relationships, if one can call them that, are often of the form of simultaneous mutual focus elsewhere rather than people interacting with each other. The process of certification has become distant and artificial.
The Curse of Television
There has arisen in the last 30 years a very dangerous process of examining, validating and certifying social and political policy in America. With increasing frequency, policy is being determined by TV panel discussions or news “special reports” in various forms. Composition of these panels is weighted in proportion to the validity and importance given to views according to organizers of the panel–i.e. various news anchors and whoever. This controlling element is shallow, dangerously complacent, egotistic, sensation-seeking, and almost exclusively extremely liberal and believes the importance of that point of view is such that it should dominate the frame of reference in the discussion. What is presented are panels with groups of people stacked against cursory token representation of opposition in the form of someone such as Reverend Jerry Falwell as the lone dissenting position who can barely get a word in among all the guffaws. At the end of the period, the issue is implicitly declared to have been decided and is ready to be acted upon.
The issues are not being decided or discussed, they are being staged. Media-declared representatives are developed and recognized coordinate with nonrecognition of other views. An ongoing illusion is being created while important questions are being avoided.
Concurrently, a principle industry in this culture has become the manufacture of pathological fantasy, particularly sexual fantasy, which many people unconsciously adopt as standards to evaluate life and social processes. Techniques of fantasy presentation have become so highly effective and the presentation of fantasy has become so predominant a proportion of the psychological environment that many people no longer believe real life. Major proportions of the contemporary population have grown up in, and continue to inhabit, a virtual reality not unlike the virtual or synthetic reality which is being created by computer programs. In computer-generated virtual or synthetic reality the participant wears a type of helmet containing a visual presentation apparatus controlled by a computer. The computer-generated visions and sound provide an illusion of being in an entirely different time or place. Indeed, the person undergoing the experience can take a realistic-appearing simulated trip through the mountains and canyons of Mars.
In recent decades we have all become unknowing or unwilling participants in a virtual reality which has become a predominate aspect in our lives.
Reality has been subjectively invalidated by its omission and by substitution of a distorted virtual reality. Employing the contemporary media, we now have the power to psychologically obscure or invalidate reality to replace it with media-created myth and media-maintained delusion. What exists is a mythical existence manufactured and maintained by the media. No intrusion into that media event by reality is allowed.
The invalidation of reality has precluded the process of necessary social correction. Instead of correcting fantasy and replacing it with reality, people are attempting to distort their thinking to bring it into congruence with ongoing photogenic pathological fantasy. Principle life issues for many people are whether they will be ground down by the American psychopathological environment, whether they can find their way out of the pathological pits they are in and whether they have refutations for the premises of the delusional systems with which they are being hammered.
People are living confused and they are living far differently than they did 40 years ago.
Forty years ago, before the sexual revolution, male-female relationships were relatively simple. They didn’t always turn out perfectly, and nobody would suggest that previous periods were a universal paradise. But life was simpler. To paraphrase a 48-year old divorced woman in the 1980s, dating was much more difficult then than it was for her parents who had rules that covered all situations. In her parents’ day there were not a great number of “alternative” value systems and “life styles” being sold by various authorities. There was very little premarital sex. There was very little extramarital sex. Extramarital sex wasn’t being touted as a form of liberation. There was a comparatively uniform value/moral system and a realistic conception of human emotions.
An editorial cartoon making it’s way around newspapers in the late 1980s depicted a sixteen-year-old boy talking to his grandfather who was sitting in a chair reading a book. Referring to condoms the boy asks, “Grandpop, what did you wear back in your day to deal with AIDS and all the other problems?” Without looking up from his book the old man answers, “A wedding ring.”
Survival, in recent periods, is far different from 35 years ago. If you have two little kids and your husband or wife is using drugs or is involved in constant extramarital affairs and you’re desperately trying to save your marriage, you are likely to find yourself in a game of anthropological hardball. Not all authorities consider the activities about which you are complaining to be a serious problem. Some authorities argue that those activities are a healthy expression of social and sexual liberation. Your husband or wife may argue that what he or she is doing is humanistic potential experiential consciousness development and that the problem with the marriage is that you are too rigid, too controlling and too confined or too inhibited by the traditional arbitrary irrational constraints of this culture to experience dynamic awareness expansion. You’re presented as being an anachronistic reactionary against social progressivism and cultural pluralism. You may find yourself facing arguments accusing you of having serious mental disorder. Those arguments may bear the names of people having very impressive academic credentials, some of whom are psychologists and psychiatrists. Your marriage counselor or psychotherapist may turn out to be one of them. You may find yourself facing a therapist who, with quiet satisfaction, looks upon your deteriorating situation as a well-deserved form of retribution for having participated in social institutions which the therapist resents as attempting to impose restrictions upon his or her personal immaturity. Bill and Hillary Clinton will interpret your discomfort as being the result of membership in a vast right-wing conspiracy.
Today, male-female relationships are like threading one’s way through an anthropological, sociological and psychological mine field. For more than 30 years there have been multitudes of authorities touting the benefits of warped life styles while attributing forms of maladjustment to those who disagree with those life styles. Most of those authorities, and their social theories, are profoundly pathological. To believe those theories is to fall into a pit. To associate with either individuals or a pool of people who believe in or espouse those theories is to associate with people who are trying to drag you into a psychological pit which will require years for you to climb out of. Many people never find their way out. They lose the capacity to make important critical judgments in their social relationships–and eventually lose overall judgmental capacity.
The most important implicit political issue of the last three decades has never been explicitly defined. The real issue is a psychological nightmare which the base of what have become the issues. The real issue is legitimization and implementation of a broad spectrum of pathology and character deficiency which is the root of personal, economic, and governmental problems.
We will begin a more detailed analysis next time.
Robert L. Kocher is the author of “The American Mind in Denial,” as well as many other articles. He is an engineer working in the area of solid-state physics, and has done graduate study in clinical psychology. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.