Bookcase: “The Rape of the Mind” by Joost A. M. Meerloo

Joost A. M. Meerloo, M. D. (1903-1976) Author of “The Rape of the Mind”

If you fear we’re living in an age of mass delusion — as do I — then you must read this extraordinary book by Dutch psychiatrist Joost A. M. Meerloo.  “The Rape of the Mind” is subtitled:  “The Psychology of Thought Control, Menticide, and Brainwashing.”  Had it it seen more light of day since it was published in 1956, it may well have served as inoculation against political correctness and groupthink.

Free speech is essential to preventing mass delusion.  Meerloo wrote: “Where thinking is isolated without free exchange with other minds, delusion may follow.”  He adds, chillingly, “Is this not what happened in Hitler Germany where free verification and self-correction were forbidden?”

Meerloo’s writing shows immense compassion for our human frailties.  He understood just how difficult it is to push back against the social pressures to conform.  But push back we must.   Meerloo’s first line of the foreward reads:

“This book attempts to depict the strange transformation of the free human mind into an automatically responding machine.”

We should tremble at the fact that he wrote that back in 1956.  Below is a bit of a synopsis.

Part I “The Techniques of Individual Submission” describes how human beings can be conditioned to do just about anything.  Part II “The Techniques of Mass Submission” explores how totalitarian thinking gets rooted, how man becomes “robotized,” and how demagogues use fear, emotional blackmail, and “semantic fog” to mobilize masses.  Part III “Unobtrusive Coercion” is perhaps the most fascinating of all the fascinating sections. In it, Meerloo provides his theory as to how totalitarians can be “molded” literally from the nursery. He delves into mental contagion and mass delusion and the primal human fear of isolation.  He describes the coercive creep of technology and its paradoxes.  Ditto the bureaucratic mind.  Finally, Part IV “In Search of Defenses” is a welcomed prescription on how to fight back.

Before humans can preserve true freedom, we must first be aware of our inner contradictions:

“Democracy, by its very nature will always have to fight against dictatorship from without and destructiveness from within.  Democratic freedom has to battle against both the individual’s inner will to power and his urge to submit to other people … Essentially, democracy means the right to develop yourself and not to be developed by others.  Yet to develop yourself is impossible without the duty of giving your energy and attention to the development of others.”

In the end, freedom truly depends upon friendship.  (You can read a great article on that here.) After all, political correctness is primarily a tool for separating people.  Clearly, our narcissistic society is oblivious to this. But for me, “The Rape of the Mind” cracks the code. It is a must read for our times.

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