The Clare Spark Blog

November 3, 2012

The social work of Progressives

Anna Andlauer

Review: The Rage to Live: The International D.P. Children’s Center Kloster Indersdorf 1945-46. By Anna Andlauer, transl. and revised by Tobe Levin. (E-book, 2012, ISBM 978-1479322893) (Originally publ. in German as Zurück inse Leben. Das international Kinderzentrum Kloster  Indersdorf 1945-46, Antogo Verlag, Nuremberg, 2011.

 Since this harrowing and yet optimistic book is a tribute to the unsung heroic social worker Greta Fischer, primarily for her work in Germany on behalf of UNRRA (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/UNRRA) ,  I begin this short review with an overall look at progressive/postmodern views of the human psyche and social organization. We shall see that though the author nods to Anna Freud as major proponent of the lifelong benefits of a tight mother-infant bond (p.173), the general approach of the Kloster Indersdorf D.P. Children’s Center was “behavior modification” toward the goal of “physical health and the beginning of a moral and spiritual rehabilitation” (p.160, quoting Greta Fischer, p.161). The notion that Anna Freud would have approved of the appropriations of her work for the encouragement of either ego psychology or behavior modification is misguided. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anna_Freud.  Did Anna Freud ever recover from her depression and/or her inner conflicts?

Anna Freud

Which raises crucial questions about the overall ideology guiding the immense field of “social work,” especially given the triumphalist tone of Anna Andlauer’s book, which tells the stories of hundreds of severely traumatized displaced children, uprooted during World War 2 (many of them Holocaust survivors), but identity politics inform Andlauer’s view of recovery, and she uses the code words we associate with that ideology: a healthy “identity” is understood as “rootedness,” hence a reconstituted self is maintained through renewed contact with native language and local cultures. Indeed, Andlauer provides numerous photos of individual survivors of varied nationalities, smiling broadly and showing their names in placards covering their presumably healed hearts, but she is less enthused about the value of “assimilation”, for the youngsters who made it to Palestine/Israel and various kibbutzim are mildly criticized for accommodation to a “sabres”[sic]  identity (p.167). Especially troubling to this reviewer is the notion of “resilience” as applied to these survivors, given to the “rage to live,” notwithstanding watching or learning about the destruction of their entire families, then the deplorable waiting for the Western Democracies to either allow them into their countries or to go to the newly constituted Jewish State.

With respect to “behavior modification,” although that term is not used until the last pages of the book, we understand that cleanliness, medical treatment for scabies, lice, and infectious diseases, family-style meals, plentiful food, different china for different courses, vocational training for farming and other “trades,” behavioral boundaries intended to return the often aggressive youngsters to traditional  notions of order, plus contact with kindly but firm and trustworthy mentors listening to the children’s stories (over and over), presumably prepared the deeply traumatized children for a healthy adjustment to life in either their countries of origin or in the few societies that allowed them entrance (for the Jews, Palestine/Israel, or the U.K., Canada, Australia, and the U.S.).

Another project of the Kloster Indersdorf Displaced Persons Center was to reverse “Germanization” in those children who had been performing forced labor either in Germany or in the Third Reich’s occupied zones. It is unclear what this means: were some of the children not only replacing their original mother tongues with German, or was it necessary to de-Nazify them?  I have asked the translator for the original German word, and am awaiting her response. This is no minor point, for the overall project of “identity politics” is indistinguishable from Nazi Blut und Boden racialist theories. [Added 11-4-12: Tobe Levin tells me that the original German word in Andlauer’s text was Germanisierung. The Wikipedia gloss of this word explains that under Nazi rule, this conception signified the extinction of all other languages (e.g. Polish), as an outcome of Nazi expansion for the purpose of Lebensraum. Hitler, writing earlier in Mein Kampf, rejected the notion that other races could become German. In my own research, I found that in Hitler’s second “secret” book, he called for a global völkisch form of social organization, without racial mixing. Compare to völkisch multiculturalism as social policy.]

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_work

Here is the Wiki quote that aligns “social work” with the major tenets of postmodernism, multiculturalism, and the contemporary writing of cultural or social history: “The International Federation of Social Workers states, of social work today, that

‘social work bases its methodology on a systematic body of evidence-based knowledge derived from research and practice evaluation, including local and indigenous knowledge specific to its context. It recognizes the complexity of interactions between human beings and their environment, and the capacity of people both to be affected by and to alter the multiple influences upon them including bio-psychosocial factors. The social work profession draws on theories of human development, social theory and social systems to analyse complex situations and to facilitate individual, organizational, social and cultural changes.’”

In one part of my book on Herman Melville and his 20th century revivers, I included this excursus that delineates the organicist methodology underlying contemporary theories of pedagogy and psychiatry: https://clarespark.com/2010/02/10/a-brooding-meditation-on-intimacy-and-distance/. (This was a controversial inclusion to the late Roy Porter, the famed historian of science, medicine, and psychiatry, himself torn between materialist and idealist pictures of the human psyche, but I finally brought him around, or perhaps wore him down.)

To complete this compressed survey of Anna Andlauer’s book, I remind the reader of Herman Melville’s bitter chapter on the interactions between the Invalid Titan and the “herb-doctor” in The Confidence-Man (1857). Melville’s relatives were impatient with his own brooding and prolonged suffering, probably adding to his malaise. It is ever so much more comforting to believe that all psychic wounds, no matter how profound, can be healed and managed with positive thinking and other progressive nostrums. One of the more entertaining ones is appended below.

Appendix: Henry A. Murray advises FDR, 1943:

[Dr. Henry A. Murray, Director of the Harvard Psychological Clinic, advises FDR, October 1943, on the best ways to apply the lessons of (patrician) psychoanalysis to the postwar treatment of the German people:]

It can be predicted that we will find the German people profoundly humiliated, resentful, disenchanted, dejected, morose, despairing of the future. Accustomed to obeying an arbitrary external authority, they will have no dependable inner guides to control behavior. There will be a wave of crime and suicide. Apathy will be wide-spread. Having passed through a period of intense unanimity and cooperation, Germany as a social system will fall apart, each man to suffer pain and mortification in private.

Disorganization and confusion will be general, creating a breeding ground for cults of extreme individualism. A considerable part of the population will be weighted down by a heavy sense of guilt, which should lead to a revival of religion. The soil will be laid [sic] for a spiritual regeneration; and perhaps the Germans, not we, will inherit the future.

It is assumed that the Allies will demilitarize Germany, will insist on efficient guarantees against future conspiracies, will take steps to liquidate the Junker Class, will prevent rearmament and the misuse of raw materials. As Dr. Foerster has said: a soft peace for Germany will be a very hard peace for the German people, delivering them to the Prussian caste who led them astray.

Nothing permanent, however, can be achieved by such measures alone. What is required is a profound conversion of Germany’s attitude: abandonment of the idea (1) that they are innately superior; (2) that they are destined to govern the earth; (3) that there is no human law or authority higher than the good of the German State; (4) that power is to be admired above everything; and (5) that Might makes Right.

In treating the Germans psychologically we must realize that we are dealing with a nation suffering from paranoid trends: delusions of grandeur; delusions of persecution; profound hatred of strong opponents and contempt of weak opponents; arrogance, suspiciousness and envy–all of which has been built up as a reaction to an age-old inferiority complex and a desire to be appreciated.

Possibly the first four steps in the treatment of a single paranoid personality can be adapted to the conversion of Germany. In attempting this we must not forget that the source of their psychic sickness is wounded pride.

3.(a) First Step.-The physician must gain the respect of the patient. (i) Individual paranoid.– Paranoids cannot be treated successfully if they are not impressed (consciously or unconsciously) by the ability, knowledge, wisdom, or perhaps mere magnetic force, of the physician. Special efforts must sometimes be made to achieve this end, since paranoids, being full of scorn, are not easy to impress.

(ii) Germany. The regiments that occupy Germany should be the finest that the United Nations can assemble – regiments with a history of victories, composed of tall well-disciplined soldiers commanded by the best generals. Rowdiness and drunkenness should not be permitted. The Germans should be compelled to admit: “These are splendid men; not the weak degenerates (democratic soldiers) or barbarians (Russian soldiers) we were led to expect.” The Germans admire orderliness, precision, efficiency.

3. (b) Second Step. The potential worth of the patient should be fully acknowledged. (i) Individual paranoid.-The indwelling burning hunger of the paranoid is for recognition, power and glory–praise from those he respects. This hunger should be appeased as soon as possible, so that the paranoid thinks to himself: “The great man appreciates me. Together we can face the world.” It is as if he thought: “He is God the Father and I am his chosen son.”

(ii) Germany.– Germany’s countryside, its music, historic culture, and monuments of beauty should be appreciated and praised. The army of occupation should manifest intense interest in the culture of Old Germany and complete indifference to all recent developments. The troops should be instructed and coached by lectures and guide-books covering the district they will occupy. They should be told that the war is not won until the heart of the German people has been won.

Germans of the old school should be hired to teach the German language, to guide the soldiers on tours of the country and of museums, to teach native arts and skills. Concerts should be arranged, omitting pieces that have been specially favored by the Nazis. Editions of books burned by the Nazis should be published and put on sale immediately.

All this will serve a double purpose. It will provide education for our troops and occupy their time; thus helping to maintain morale. Also the submerged inferiority feelings and resentments of the Germans will be alleviated.

3 (c) Third Step.Insight should be tactfully provided, a little at a time. (i) Individual paranoid.– Very gradually, step by step, the patient is enlightened as to his own paranoid mechanisms. Pride in being uncriticizable and always in the right must be gradually replaced by pride in being able to rise above his own mechanisms and criticize himself, pride in being strong enough to admit some weaknesses and erros [sic]. He should be made to understand that he has been victimized by unconscious forces which gained control over his proper self. During the course of these talks the physician should freely confess his own weaknesses and errors, the patient being treated as an equal.

(ii) Germany. The last ten years of German history should be interpreted as a violent infectious fever, a possession of the spirit, which took hold of the people as soon as they gave ear to the false prophets of Fascism.

A series of articles, editorials, essays and short books should be written now by Germans in this country (Thomas Mann, Reinhold Niebuhr, Foerster, and others), aided possibly by suggestions from psychiatrists, to be published in German newspapers and distributed soon after the occupation. They should be therapeutic essays essentially- perhaps signed by a nom de plume as if written by a minister, physician, or writer in Germany.

Not too much should be said in any one paper; but, in time, the lies, delusions, treacheries and crimes of the Nazis should be reviewed objectively and in historical sequence. The German people should be made to understand that the world regards them as unwitting and unhappy victims of instinctual forces. The Allies should be magnanimous enough to admit their own errors and misdeeds.

3. (d) Fourth Step. The patient should be insociated in a group. (1) Individual paranoid. Having attained a measure of satisfaction by winning the respect and friendship of his physician and then having gained some insight and control, the patient is ready for group therapy. Later, he can be persuaded to join outside groups. Gradually he must learn to take his place and cooperate on an equal basis with others. The group he joins should have a goal.

(ii) Germany. If Germany is to be converted, it is of the utmost importance that some strong and efficient super-government be established as soon as possible, providing a new world conscience, that her people can respect. As said above, Germans must have something to look up to – a God, a Fuehrer, an Absolute, a national ideal. It can not be a rival nation, or a temporary alliance of nations. It must be a body – a strong body with a police force–which stands above any single state. A supranational symbol would eventually attract the deference that is now focussed upon Hitler. Lacking such a symbol, many Germans will certainly fall into a state of profound disillusionment and despair. At the proper time Germany should be insociated as an equal in whatever league or federation of nations has been established.

From here on the therapy of a single paranoid personality fails as an analogy, principally because the German people will not be in the position of a patient who comes willingly to the physician’s office. The Nazis will be in no mood to be educated by their enemies. Furthermore it would be very presumptuous of us to try it. The most that the Allies could do would be to close all schools and universities until new anti-fascist teachers and faculties had been recruited. The greatest problem will be in dealing with a whole generation of brutalized and hardened young Nazis. (Perhaps exhibition games of soccer, football, lacrosse and baseball between American and English regiments would serve to introduce ideas of fair play and sportsmanship; but much else must be done – by German educators).

For the conversion of Germany the most effective agency will be some form of world federation. Without this the Allied victory will have no permanently important consequences.[3]

(For how I contextualized Murray’s report on the website see https://clarespark.com/2009/09/20/jungians-on-the-loose-part-one/.)

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January 15, 2011

Healing, Trauma, Mystery

Jared Loughner's backyard shrine

I have closely followed the media coverage of the Tucson massacre and listened intently to the President’s speech at the U. of Arizona. Much praise was heard throughout the punditry for his message of healing (including Fox News!), and though he separated uncivil speech from the actions of the (unnamed) “shooter,” still his message was received as “spiritual” and gave a sense of closure to many listeners (probably the press who longed to move on). (Meanwhile, many of my Facebook friends viewed the event as a campaign speech and a circus.) The point is that the President fortified his centrist credentials in the eyes of many.

    If you have followed my blogs on this website, you will know that I have been verbally apoplectic over the notion that “moderation” can “heal” irreconcilable conflicts, whether they are within ourselves or out in the world. The word “trauma” was rarely heard over the air waves or in the blogosphere this week, though clearly the numerous victims were traumatized, and though faith may help some of the victims and their families “heal”, I remain skeptical. Wounds may heal. Irreparable losses and deficiencies in families or in our political actions may not, notwithstanding the promises of professional “healers.”*  In my view, conflicts can often be managed; sometimes they are not manageable.

     There is now talk of “toning down” the more raucous talk-radio hosts: Obama warned us not to “turn on each other.” I’m all for that as a civilized person and opponent of all forms of demonization, since the Devil is not a character who inhabits my psyche or anywhere else in my belief system. But I wonder about the social function that the “haters” perform in society in helping others vent their rage, rage that has many possible causes: coming back from war, endless bullying in school without intervention from the authorities, horrible incidents in childhood and a general lack of knowledgeable, responsible parenting. I have written endlessly here, too, of my opposition to apocalyptic thinking that is so typical of demagogues–no matter where they stand on the political spectrum. The constant invocation of irreversible environmental changes, for instance, is a form of terror, and one can only speculate about how such talk distorts our political culture. In the case of “climate change,” propaganda can be so extreme that a pause to consider scientific evidence pro and con is forestalled because we become invested in one outcome or the other, just to defend ourselves against the worst case scenario. The alternative to either idealizing the effects of technical progress or of turning back to an imagined  Golden Age is the intensive labor of investigation and hard thought.

   I have also written about “mystery”–another concept invoked by the President last week, when he said we would never understand what the shooter was feeling (or words to that effect). The notion of limited human understanding is sometimes appropriate, but more often comes with a strong attachment to those religions that emphasize the weakness of the human sensorium, and the limited understanding that will be repaired in paradise or the underworld for the deserving (Plato speaking through Socrates!). Actually, we know quite a bit about mental illnesses of the extreme forms, and there are treatments available for such sufferers, while pathbreaking research proceeds apace and needs our support. In my view, the President missed an opportunity when he did not name Jared Loughner and his parents as victims in the massacre, for he could have opened a national discussion of social policy in the various states regarding treatment or institutionalization of the hopelessly mentally ill, including the shame attached to all kinds of emotional problems. Indeed, it is widely held that only (sex-obsessed, carnal, worldly) Jews believe in or practice psychoanalysis and related therapies. We don’t give enough weight to the power of antisemitism itself to induce what historian Richard Hofstadter called “the paranoid style.”

   To sum up: the rift in our country was not created by the language used or abused by politicians and pundits. Two economic philosophies face one another and only empirical investigation of the most stringent kind will support the arguments of either the proponents of progressivism or the proponents of libertarianism/laissez-faire/the self-regulated free market. Let us hope that our country eschews the demagogic comforts of conceptions like “healing” the permanently traumatized, and that we adhere to the most precise and rigorous investigations–no holds barred– of what ails us.

*Recommended reading: Herman Melville’s The Confidence Man (1857), the scene in which the Invalid Titan confronts and strikes the Herb Doctor. There is no doubt where Melville stood on the permanence of trauma, nor is there any doubt that his family resented his suffering and inconsolability.

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