Note: This article is the counterpart of the one entitled “Orphans do they lead the world.” It analyzes the same problem, but viewed from the perspective of ordinary humanity.
Do we really want to be free?
The answer may seem obvious: freedom is the most basic human right. Nothing should be more important for any individual than to live a life guided by his own will.
Yet it is remarkable that we often act exactly as if we were not seeking freedom, but the exact opposite.
Some striking symptoms:
- Politically: democracy gives everyone the opportunity to participate in the building of a common future. Instead of that, we spend our time complaining about our politicians and criticizing the system without making the effort to change it.
- Economically: it is now possible for anyone to be more independent by becoming an Instead of this, a majority of people prefer to join organizations operating on the model of the pyramid of power.
- Socially: modern society offers us all the means to flourish as individuals. Instead of this, most people are living a meager and unsatisfactory existence, following the same fashion trends and thinking as everybody else.
New technologies amplify this paradox as they have bloomed to the point where they could afford to reinvent everything: economy, culture, politics. But in fact, we do not take a real advantage of these incredible possibilities.
This is why I ask this simple question: what if, behindourclaims, was hiding on unconscious desire offleeing from our ownfreedom?
Addicted to the group
« Whether in love, therapy, political commitment, oozes an insidious nostalgia of the original couple, the narcissistic state of fusion with the mother. According to Winnicott, the human being is a “insane” that has healed, but whose scars just wait to be opened.»
To answer this question, it is necessary to dive into the very origins of our existence.
Initially, all human beings are experiencing a primary unit in the womb. A pre-linguistic world, full and seamless, punctuated by the beat of a heart to which one belongs.
Birth, by comparison, is an unbearable trauma, which puts us in front of a strange, unknown and hostile universe, whose first effect on us is to provoke cries and tears. It is only after many years that our individual consciousness can begin to exist by itself. Over time, we learn to differentiate ourselves from our parents and we build a personality that we own.
However, going through all the steps that will allow us to accomplish ourselves as individuals is anything but easy: it requires us to make the sacrifice of our security and to confront us constantly with suffering.
But going outside the box and confronting the unknown always presents a risk. By undertaking new things, I risk failure; by deciding for myself, I risk being wrong; by loving another being, I risk being betrayed.
Andas long asI yield tothe facility,nothing iseasier than toblend intothe groupin order tofindan echo ofthe original state offusion with themother. All I need to do is giving up my search foranswers and come back to a point whereI did not haveto undertaketheburdenof myown freedom.
Blend into the group me gives us a sense of security and permanence; it exorcises the fear of change and loneliness; it keeps us in an illusion of stability that exempt us of having to face our own mortality.
Our relationship with death plays the most important role in this. To truly accomplish ourselves, we need to honestly confront the possibility of our own demise. But if an individual refuses to face up to his own shadows, the group can become his shell. And each time one of us renounces, it strengthens our collective shadow.
This is why most collective movements are rooted in a ever-unfulfilled need for security. Whether it is political commitment, religion, business or the love relationship, what dominates us unconsciously in our search of communion is a remedy to dispel our fears.
This does not mean that any form of community is childish: politics can be the vector for a responsible commitment, religion can be the vehicle for spiritual fulfillment, the couple’s relationship can be rich and fruitful. But it is an achievement that must be uprooted from the constant temptation to alienate to the other.
A government might be established on the principle of benevolence towards the people, like that of a father towards his children. Under such a paternal government, the subjects, as immature children who cannot distinguish what is truly useful or harmful to themselves, would be obliged to behave purely passively and to rely upon the judgment of the head of state as to how they ought to be happy, and upon his kindness in willing their happiness at all. Such a government is the greatest conceivable despotism.
Dictatorships have always counted on this need for security felt by the crowd, the dictator playing the role of the universal Father/Mother able to guide us in every way.
In a more diffuse form, the consumer society has filled our anxieties by endless multiplication of material possessions.
In both cases, we come to alienate our freedom to something external to ourselves.
But the temptation to fall into this regressive relationship is never as strong as in moments of crisis, when uncertainty about the future is the greatest.
Europe is now in a situation similar to what happened in the inter-war period: the extremists have taken power in several countries, and is currently rising everywhere else. The United States live under the constant threat of a collapse of the dollar, which, if it occurs, could very well result in a civil war. Socio-economic inequalities have reached such a threshold at the global level that it is difficult to imagine that worldwide conflicts can be avoided anymore.
Watching these black clouds accumulating on the horizon, one wonders if humanity is truly able to escape the scheme which has hitherto guided its history.
One of the only truly new factors in the equation is the emergence of the Internet. But the question remains: will we be able to find new way to decide of our common destiny together?
I was surprised by the very limited role played by the Internet during the major crises that have recently plagued mankind: whether the subprime crisis in 2009, the debt crisis in Europe in 2010 and 2011 or the various democratic crises in the Arab countries, the former Soviet republics or South America, the Internet has remained a secondary force.
Of course, Facebook played a role during the Arab revolutions, but it is a drop of water when we remember the hopes that accompanied the birth of the Internet in the 1990s …
In its Declaration of Independence of Cyberspace pronounced in 1996, John P. Barlow proudly announced to the world that the Internet would give birth to a new humanity liberated from the shackles of existing systems. The vision he espoused was that of a new area of freedom, where the community would finally allow everyone to accomplish itself through a completely new form of governance.
Where do we stand now? Is the dream of a virtual Republic nothing more than that: a dream?