Ed Driscoll

How To Escape The Age Of Mass Delusion

As always, Tom Wolfe got there first:

I Am Charlotte Simmons is an indictment of the primary centers of higher education in America today…This tragic miseducation of the young has two kinds of consequences. The first is personal. As the new pope declared to the conclave that elected him, “We are moving toward a dictatorship of relativism which does not recognize anything as for certain and which has as its highest goal one’s own ego and one’s own desires.” This sounds very much like the world of Dupont. But of more immediate importance is what the new pope added: People who live in a world “emptied of God” suffer from “leaden loneliness and inner boredom.” Given the vacuum resulting from the evaporation of all that is higher, it is hardly surprising that Charlotte feels so alone, that she is desperately driven to “hook-up” with others in whatever way she can, and that she inevitably finds the result of doing so to be wholly unsatisfying. Compared to the inhabitants and products of Dupont University, the oft-maligned other-directed “gray flannel suits” of the 1950s were deep. In their case, there was at least a genuine self that was presumably denied and repressed.

The second cost imposed by the teachings of Dupont is political. The American experiment depends on a self-governing citizenry. This self-governance is a form of moderation in which the individual restrains personal desire and ambition in light of something higher than himself. This is as true of citizens as it is of leaders. Such voluntary restraint — a function of a soul that respects, loves, and admires something higher — is absent at Dupont, where everyone wishes to be the master of all. The individual in the world described by Wolfe is limited only to the degree his will is thwarted by another equally unrestrained “playa.” There is nothing moral about this interaction, for there is nothing beyond individual will by which one’s actions may be judged. The metamorphosis of Charlotte takes her beyond all virtue; it represents a paradigmatic instance of adaptation in the interests of survival in a changing environment. By constituting the environment requiring such adaptation, and by requiring the abandonment of self-governance (while making it impossible), Dupont has not only harmed the young student, it has betrayed the American Republic.

If Wolfe’s description of Dupont accurately portrays the character of our elite universities, then the dissolution of the American way of life is nearly complete. Our ancient faith is no longer a vibrant and effective part of the education of future leaders. Our ability to perpetuate our culture and our constitutional soul will wither alongside our belief in the soul itself. As Lincoln understood, once it loses its ancient faith, the Republic cannot long endure. Perhaps our situation is not as dire as the metamorphosis of Charlotte Simmons makes it seem. But if the portrayal is right, only time will tell whether Wolfe’s diagnosis of our condition can help effect a recovery.

“Love in the Age of Neuroscience,” Mickey Craig, Jon Fennell, the New Atlantis, Fall, 2005.

[Dutch psychiatrist Joost A. M. Meerloo] published “The Rape of the Mind: The Psychology of Thought Control, Menticide and Brainwashing” in 1956 after years immersed in the study of social psychology and countless interviews with victims of mental coercion, including Nazi officers and American prisoners of war in Korea. This treasure of insights was written for the layman. It is an absolute must-read for anyone who hopes to uphold the dignity of the individual. The book offers the psychic defenses so lacking among those who submit to logicide.

“The transformation of the free human mind to an automatically responding machine” is essentially the story of the transformation of the United States of America we are watching in real time today. Delusion is an important element, because tyrannies do not stand up to logic. It seems very sudden, but it’s not. We’re only at this tipping point because we let our defenses down. In fact, if the First Amendment collapses, it would simply indicate a return to humanity’s tribal default position, in which a sort of Nietzschean “Will to Power” rules the day.

Mass delusion is an important tool of oppressors because they can’t survive where free exercise of expression and association is practiced. Unfortunately, delusion can be induced anywhere.

“It is simply a question of organizing and manipulating collective feelings in the proper way. If one can isolate the mass, allow no free thinking, no free exchange, no outside correction and can hypnotize the group daily with noises, with press and radio and television, with fear and pseudo-enthusiasms, any delusion can be instilled.”

“How To Escape The Age Of Mass Delusion: Mass delusion is an important tool of oppressors because they can’t survive free expression. That’s why the First Amendment’s a target,” Stella Morabito, the Federalist, today.