This is for Labor Day, September 3, 2012. I am trying to understand why a political party with such obvious internal conflicts of interest as the Democratic Party, is able to allege solidarity within what they now call “the middle class” (hence departing from their older appeals to the working class and forcing together groups with conflicting interests: see http://clarespark.com/2012/04/06/diagnosing-potus/).
One can only conclude that our political culture is entirely irrational, and that appeals to economic interest and independence from collectivist demagoguery butters no parsnips in the American electorate—except for those louts who venture into the risky world of the market. These days everyone in “business” is a grasping, mendacious moneybags who should be punished by his victims. Who wants to be “jewified?” No wonder anxiety is the mental ailment of our time. But there is objective anxiety and neurotic anxiety, and the latter is encouraged by the mass media with their elevation of team spirit and hatred of “success”—an outcome that inevitably alienates those who stray from the reservation of political correctness.
Freud had something valuable to say about fears of separating from the group in 1922: “Dread in an individual is provoked either by the greatness of a danger or by the cessation of emotional ties (libidinal cathexes [Libidobesetzungen]); the latter is the case of neurotic dread. In just the same way panic arises either owing to an increase in the common danger or owing to the disappearance of the emotional ties which hold the group together; and the latter case is analogous to that of neurotic dread.” Group Psychology and the Analysis of the Ego, Chapter V, transl. James Strachey. Apply this suggestion to the assimilating immigrant or upwardly mobile ethnic individual or group. This view leaves out the anxiety stemming from mismanaged separation of child from mother, but reminds us that there are other equally problematic social bonds. Freud extends panic and anxiety to situations in any society with fluid class boundaries, such as our own.
Imagine the fear of loss of status during an economic downturn. Imagine the fear of abandoning one’s neighbors and ancestors when forced to “uproot” one self in moving to a different town, city, or state where employment is more attractive. Imagine the fear of losing touch with a family where you were the first one to get an advanced education, and where those left behind call you “uppity.” This is why “multicultural” appeals to “community” or “race” or “ethnicity” work, though they are weapons in the hands of demagogues. Might there be less anxiety, even less panic, in the false utopias that union bosses, race hustlers, or corrupt politicians and their ilk promise to voters? Have we not here the inefficacy of competing appeals to “individuality” and “equal opportunity” from anticommunists on the Right, even as conservatives and moderates alike strive to protect the integrity of families and voluntarism over bureaucratic strategies for an ever elusive unity? (For a recent blog on this subject see http://clarespark.com/2013/09/17/the-illusion-of-national-unity/.)
[For a popular blog that deals with separation anxiety from the mother, with remarks on modernist rejections of Victorian culture see http://clarespark.com/2009/11/16/panic-attacks-and-separation-anxiety/.]