Beginning an Interesting Book…

A while ago I mentioned a book I’d read about in another book (ah, the great chain of reading) by Erich Fromm, Escape from Freedom. Yesterday I remembered I had it (ha ha) and began reading. It’s captivating. His perspective is that of a psychologist. While I’ve benefited from other’s study of psychology, I have never studied it beyond what I had to in college. The book begins (and I’m in the beginning) with a discussion of psychological explanations for human behavior and the role of the individual in society as defined by different psychological systems. From this discussion, I’ve learned that Fromm has great respect — love? — for the individual and regards individuals as dynamic forces in human culture and history.

There’s so much here. It’s truly the richest writing I’ve read in a long, long time. It was originally published in 1941 and Fromm sets freedom against Fascism which he defines as the systems that had gained ascendancy in Germany and Italy. He writes that when he wants to discuss events in Germany only, he’ll call it Nazism.

For Fromm, freedom is the property of individuals; freedom is individual, and the threat to freedom is that people don’t want it. It seems — so far — that the tension is between individual freedom and an equal desire on the part of many for submission. That’s so whack. He writes, “Can freedom become a burden, too heavy for man to bear, something he tries to escape from? Why then is it that freedom is for many a cherished goal and for others a threat?” As I read, I thought about the Supremes overturning Roe v. Wade, eliminating an important individual freedom from the law of the land. How do I feel about abortion? Nobody likes it. I don’t like it. I’m sorry for any woman who finds herself contemplating it. Should women have dominion over their individual bodies? Yes. Can I live with that? Yes. Apparently others can’t.

Fromm quotes John Dewey (go west young man) “The serious threat to our democracy is not the existence of foreign totalitarian states. It is the existence within our own personal attitudes and within our own institutions of conditions which have given a victory to external authority, discipline, uniformity and dependence upon The Leader in foreign countries. The battlefield is also accordingly here — within ourselves our institutions.”

In 1997 I attended an Alice Cooper concert in Zürich. It was held in the Tonhalle. Earlier that day I’d seen photos of the very auditorium taken during the Nazi era. One of the photos was a meeting of sympathetic Swiss in the Tonhalle. I don’t know how to describe my feelings that night, with that photo still living in my mind. When Alice started singing “School’s Out,” most of the audience stood, raised their fists in the air, and sang along. I remember asking myself, “Who are we?” Same hall. The same image as in the photo. Same people a generation or two later. Same idea of uniting with others of like mind or music taste, anyway. “What makes us do this?” I saw the whole thing — Nazi rally, Alice Cooper concert — as bonding rites.

Fromm writes about this, too, about the different kinds of isolation. I think that’s a subject for a whole ‘nother blog post, but the bottom line is that people cannot live without others. Fromm explains all the kinds of possible connections and as I read, I thought of this blog. Some time back, I happened to look at my stats and saw that 2020 had the most connections. I understood that; in our enforced isolation our WordPress “neighborhood” became more important, maybe necessary.

I am not sure where Fromm is going next, but it seems at this point it might be the eternal tension between self and belonging. Not sure… I could be putting the cart before the horse. Anyway, so far I like this very much. I like his attitude toward Freud (You gave us a lot, but, dude, your ideas are flawed), I like his focus on the individual. We’ll see what happens as I continue reading — one thing for sure, this is vastly different from the contest books I read every winter.

OH, in my continued pursuit to figure out WHAT is attractive to anyone about TFG I learned yesterday about a book that’s passed out at his rallies. President Donald J. Trump, The Son of Man – The Christ. It’s very scary to me that there are people who actually believe this. From the opening:

I had long appreciated that his followers constitute a cult, but I had no idea…

33 thoughts on “Beginning an Interesting Book…

  1. Hmm…so Rump is Jewish? The whole notion of a religion that would propagate this stuff is baffling. Last night I watched the first installment of the latest Ken Burns film about the Holocaust. Right now, I am not a big fan of humanity. It’s amazing how many people have heads like a box of rocks.

    • I read as much as Amazon would let me read for free — it’s very convoluted “reasoning”… But it explains the fascination Boebert and MTG have with Israel. These are sick and dangerous people.

  2. I am intrigued by your reading material – but that last part has me feeling ill. I need to go shower and try to clean the feeling of having been splashed with something so vile… (Not blaming you for posting – I think people need to read this especially since the orange one is now openly embracing qanon!

  3. Seeing the photo of Trump and all his followers with their one finger in the air–wrong finger, as far as I’m concerned–reminded me so much of Hitler’s followers. What in the heck are we? I see that Liz Cheney is trying to find a way to prevent Trump from holding any office, ever. Please, Liz. Find a way.

  4. I’m so glad to “see” you, MAK. Like Fromm,…I’m so interested in individuals and perspectives on freedom. Many won’t accept it because it takes too much responsibility to use it in a humane, sympathetic, empathetic, or useful way to HELP humanity. I was enamored by the funeral this morning. To see such history, respect, and tradition warms my heart. They didn’t claim her “Christ”. She put her duty to God above all else. I may be blasted for saying this, but some sort of protest would’ve happened here. I’ll never follow a cult. I’ll think for myself while thinking of what’s best for others~we DO need each other. On another note, Not a day goes by I don’t think of you 3. Love, Karla and Finn 💕💛 🐾

    • I haven’t seen the funeral yet but I plan to. I think Fromm is planning to build a case (not sure at all, just guessing) that, because freedom is fundamentally individual, some people are afraid that, for example, MY freedom will threaten YOUR freedom. I see that in our world right now, with the whole idea that there isn’t enough to go around, the scarcity illusion that because X person gets help from the government, Y person, who doesn’t need that help, will have less. I don’t know if I make sense. Covid brain is still kicking me in the butt — but I’ve noticed it’s worse when there is an air pressure change. I’ve been thinking of you very often. Much love from us, always. Martha, Bear and Teddy

      • Aww, yes, I understand what you’re saying. I see that too. You explained it well. I’m sorry for the Covid brain. The air pressure change is a big one! I’ve been dizzy and I know it’s allergies and weather related. Of course there’s the cancer. 🙃 I have your cards on my wall and think of you daily. I’ve had lots of appts. Fun was had when my youngest and and his family came. I wear out quick. I start radiation on my bones this Thursday (left hip has largest lesion so we’ll begin there and lower spine). After 5 treatments of that I go in for outpatient internal radiation for organs. It’s a 6-7 hour infusion. I’ll have 4 of those, 8 weeks apart. Each month I will also have infusions and blood draws to ensure blood counts don’t drop and liver/kidney functions stay ok. It’s been very layered. I’m taking one hour at a time! Fall will begin with first radiation rather than my normal “First day of Fall” hike. I guess this will be quite a hike I’m continuing. I’m prayerfully positive and hopeful. It’s best I stay that way. Finley is doing great. She’s a precious pal. We’re always sending you 3 lots of snuggles even if I don’t “see” you often. 🤗💕💛🐾

    • It is. Enlightening at the same time — knowing that the “something going on” is of this nature and outside rationality and even conventional Christian faith? I’m glad I know. I have the theory that fascism is based partly on the idea of “specialness” and that’s what I see with Qanon. I’m looking forward to seeing if Fromm talks about that idea or if it’s just in my mind (and world).

  5. If I didn’t know there are some seriously deluded people in this world, I’d find that last excerpt — the ultimate in blasphemy — hard to accept as written. It would strike me as something some anti-s would circulate to blacken all supporters. Can anybody actually be that deluded?
    There are a few voices crying in the wilderness out there, one of them being Randall Balmer. In an article titled “Jesus is not a Republican” in the Chronicle of Higher Education, Balmer accuses leaders of the religious right of leading their sheep astray from the gospel of Jesus Christ to the false gospel of neo-conservative ideology. He says believers must come back to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
    Yea and amen!

    • Plenty of people are that deluded and many are in public office in the United States. When I learned of that book last night, I was very — I don’t know. In a way, it’s laughable. In another, it’s shocking. But what is ultimately most disturbing is that people exist who are willing to believe it. As for coming back to the Gospel, they believe they are following the Gospel, bits and pieces they have chosen here and there. It’s bizarre and scary.

      • Laughable, frightening, sad. “They have sought out many inventions” — like dispensationalism that teaches we can safely ignore large parts of Jesus’ teaching because it applies some coming age, premillennialism that urges believers to watch for and interpret signs. The US’s unique fundamentalism. Thankfully the New Testament is still here for those who dare to read the whole thing. “Seek, and ye shall find.”

        • This passage is what has gone through my mind so many times hearing these people speak — their cruelty. I can’t believe their complete lack of compassion, kindness, imagination…

          Matthew 25:40-45 King James Version
          40 And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.
          41 Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels:
          42 For I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink:
          43 I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not.
          44 Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee?
          45 Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me.

          I can’t understand what kind of pleasure they get from who they are, what they do, but Erich Fromm’s book is going to talk about that pretty soon. In my opinion, if a person loves God, what these people are doing is impossible. Fundamentalism has always been here, but this is actually USING that Fundamentalism as a cloak for what it is really doing. I questioned whether I should share that book — the Trump book — but then I thought, “People need to know” so I did.

          • Ive been thinking along the same lines: How can Christ-followers justify acts of cruelty? Last week I put together an article using a grim example of :righteous indignation.” I’ve been dragging my feet; I should polish it and post it. Thanks for the nudge.

            • 41 Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels:

              One of these people used this passage to “prove” that Jesus condemned liberals (the left). They base this on the absurd notion that Trump is the savior and we’re in the end days. The rest of this beautiful lesson? They ignore it 😢

  6. Thanks for the early review of the Fromm book. I got it out of the library but Ursula K. LeGuin won out to be read first. I had remembered a story from long ago (I mis-remembered it as “The Word for World is Forest” – a very different book) about humans landing on a world that is a sentient forest devoid of animal life. While she wrote it 50 years ago, it is not that far off from what we now know (that forests are interconnected and communicate via an underground fungal network; and that Aspen forests are actually one plant with many stems). The story is “Vaster Than Empires and More Slow”. The title is from a poem by Andrew Marvell.

    • I have an aspen forest attempting to grow in my yard. I have to contend with it continually since there really isn’t room for an aspen grove and there is, of course, the friendly clay sewer line back there. I tell it, “Sorry, it’s not personal, but somebody planted your dad/mom/sister/brother here in town and it’s just not going to work.”

      It says, “We’ll see about that.” And, with great patience, it grows back every spring.

      Pole beans communicate with each other and intention has been scientifically proven among those beans.

  7. Whoa. I think your last bit from the book about tRump given out at his rallies made the point I was thinking and intending to make as I read the first part of your post way better than I could ever do. Along with fascism, religion, any religion/cult, is the ultimate “need to belong” with the desire to submit, made even scarier when the “leader” of said religion/cult is tRump. Wouldn’t it be fascinating to have Fromm’s perspective on the tRump cult?

    • It would be — but I think Fromm is going there. He’s about the write about the Reformation. We’ll see. He’s just made a fascinating point about individuation, a moment in which a person is aware of his/her individuality in which the person realizes his/her actual size in the scheme of things. From then defined the two ways that can go. The positive way — which is establishing a relationship with nature and the spontaneous ability to love and find meaningful activity vs. negative in which a person who cannot form that relationship and who will submit to something to deal with the fear caused by individuation — this creates anxiety where as the first doesn’t. There’s more. You might like the book.

  8. Thanks for sharing, Fromm’s book sounds very interesting. That last bit is just creepy though. I’ve been thinking about Nazi rallies too when I listen to his supporters and his statements are sounding more and more outrageous.

    • Yeah, but this is more extreme than “Only I can make America great again.” This is “I am an instrument for bringing about the end of the world. I am the second coming of Christ.”

      • Many of his supporters held that view of him in 2016. The words in your first quote were just marketing. I am sure I read that or heard it one of the many podcasts that my TL listens to. Investigative journalists interviewed many of his subjects.
        Our former leader is a member of the pentacostal faith. He presented himself as the savior of a nation.

        • I believe you. I think that it’s just something I only just discovered. It explains the passionate fascination these people have with that lump of excrement and I’ve been wanting that explanation for 6 years or longer at this point. That Pentecostal thing? What I’m learning now is that this cult hides behind that and/or derived from it. Trump’s private preacher — Paula White — goes around speaking in tongues. I hope so much that the world is able to pull itself away from this shit.

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