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A Soul Defying, Tacit Approval Of Torture: How Did We Come To This?

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"True sanity entails in one way or another the dissolution of the normal ego, that False Self competently adjusted to our alienated social reality ... and through this death a rebirth, the ego now being the servant of the divine, no longer its betrayer." -R. D. Laing

The pathology of American culture is as ubiquitous as its strip-mall ugliness. It is abundantly evident, in almost every aspect of contemporary life. From the predatory (to the point of psychopathic) practices of its morally scurvy pirates at the helm of the corporate/governmental ship of state, down to the pandemic enervation and proliferate anomie of its galley slaves languishing in their soulless cubicles -- from the genitalia-devoid mascots at Disney World to the genitalia-obsessed torturers of Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo -- the soul-sickness spreads before us like George W. Bush's taunting, executioner's smirk.

Ronnie Laing's profound dictum leaves us confronting many poignant questions regarding the true nature of the psychic lives of us so-called ordinary citizens of The United States of America and our ability to function within this corrupt and crumbling empire. In short, is it sane to be able to adapt to an insane culture?

Moreover, it begs the following question. If an individual's conformity to group, cultural, and national pathology is rewarded -- thereby encouraging the formation of the "False Self" -- how might one, stranded within the dysfunctional dynamic, resist it all and begin to work towards an awareness of their own essential nature, then perhaps arriving at an individual reckoning involving how to live, flourish, and subvert the life defying demands of the present era.

First off, what engenders the formation of the False Self? Laing grasped: When we were children, authority, in the form of parents, educators, clergy, loomed before us. Alternatively menacing and comforting, these powerful figures could just as easily have crushed us as comforted us.

Tragically, all too often, they perpetrated the primary. Hence, to accommodate the overwhelming demands of authority, we learned how to curry favor from these baffling, seemingly implacable forces by the creation of a cipher persona, a False Self, a tricky and/or obsequious, tap-dancing, little apple polisher, who strives to garner approval and acceptance, thereby avoiding punishment, rejection and scorn, by means of the reflexive subjugation of his true nature.

The victims of False Self adaptation are the quintessence of the corporate/consumer citizen. Although, they're presence is far from benign: While they are compelled to show an agreeable face towards unyielding authority, this trope merely serves to mask a mind seething with misplaced resentments and shallow subterfuge. Doesn't this read like a personality profile of Condoleezza Rice or any other member of that present day Executive Office cast of Lord of the Flies known as the Bush administration?

This process of metaphysical identity theft begins in childhood. Then, as now, the presence of individuality-decimating authority can create irreconcilable anxieties within us, because the actions and activities of authority figures seem as overwhelming and unpredictable as nature itself.

Now add this to the already haunted landscape of childhood -- our present day government's campaigns of perpetual fear mongering, plus the dominate corporate culture's modus operandi of commercial exploitation -- and we're left with one freaked out populace - one comprised of both children and alleged adults.

Consequently, this fear-ridden existence has rendered us a society of grotesques: In the present day United States, children have grown as fat as steroid-fed, corporate-farmed livestock; this has transpired because we overfeed them a diet consisting of steroid-fed, corporate-farmed livestock -- as well as - myriad other variations of nutrient-devoid, calorie-laden faux food dispensed at a mall's food court, through a drive-thru window, or out of a cardboard box delivered by a franchised junk food chain.

Our motives for doing this shouldn't be a mystery to us: We habitually shovel high fat, high carbohydrate, high sugar-content junk into their grousing gobs, in a desperate, futile attempt to stuff down the boredom, the anxiety, the lassitude they suffer due to their confinement inside the commercially branded, repressed, empty, holographic facsimile of childhood we have created for them.

This is the reason why our children overeat like neurotic domestic pets. As is the case with housebound, bored, anxious domestic animals, what do they have to look forward to -- but dinner? Accordingly, the corporate food industry provides plenty (at a bloated profit, of course) of junk food -- the table scraps fallen from the table of the ruling elite of our fat-ass empire - in order to keep them (and all the rest of us) obese, obedient, and anxiously waiting by our master's table for more.

And these proto-fascist, behavioral control tricks are not just for kids. Corporate Capitalism has left us Americans psychologically arrested in a pathetic simulacrum of childhood where our inchoate fears of being preyed upon by our (so called) protectors (who we internally and accurately recognize as monsters) are displaced into compulsive consumerism (including overeating) and a reflexive fear of outsiders.

If we were to awaken to this subterfuge, we would apprehend: Our individual uniqueness is being robbed from us on a daily basis due to our enslavement to a mindless system that lives for no other reason than it lives -- a system that eats its fatted young (giving new meaning to the term consumer economy) -- and exists only to perpetuate itself -- a system that has become a soul-devouring monster -- the embodiment of Alan Ginsburg's Moloch.

Why do we accept this soul defying situation? For most of us, the price we would have to pay for confronting authority would be far too prohibitive; hence, we learn it is acceptable (as well as politically useful to our power mad leaders) to displace our anger and fear upon outsiders. Ergo, the so-called Clash of Civilizations is unloosed and slouches, by way of the Washington Beltway, to Iraq, Iran and beyond to be born.

This is the manner that we as a society came to believe we can "compromise" on acts of torture committed in our name and not fear the loss of our souls as a result of our complicity. Although, the loss of our national soul would only prove redundant: Years ago, we decided our souls, both individual and national, were somewhat less than useful to us - and not nearly as compelling as a new widescreen, plasma TV and the like -- hence they were discarded into the reeking landfills of this toxic country like an old appliance.

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Phil Rockstroh is a poet, lyricist and philosopher bard living in New York City. He may be contacted at Facebook:

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