Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Overcoming Sickly Inhibitions, the David Brooks Way

David Brooks As Doctor Pangloss (graphic by Kat Garcia)

David Brooks, resident hack of the Neocon Thought Collective, echoed that granddaddy of all neocon hacks, Norman Podhoretz, in his column today. He attempted to put a cheery Panglossian spin -- with some truly creepy eugenic baseline undertones -- on war, suffering and death.

It was Podhoretz who wrote that post-Vietnam, fed-up Americans needed a lot of guidance and prodding in order to "overcome the sickly inhibitions against the use of force." He actually cast aversion toward war as a disease rather than as a rational human response. Noam Chomsky explained the classic fascist propaganda techniques used to sell and re-sell modern American military aggression in his own classic volume, "Media Control":
"There were these sickly inhibitions against violence on the part of a large part of the public. People just didn't understand why we should go around torturing people and killing people and carpet bombing them. It's very dangerous for a population to be overcome by these sickly inhibitions, as Goebbels understood, because then there's a limit on foreign adventures. It's necessary, as the Washington Post put it rather proudly during the Gulf War hysteria, to instill in people respect for "martial value." That's important. If you want to have a violent society that uses force around the world to achieve the ends of its own domestic elite, it's necessary to have a proper appreciation of the martial virtues and none of these sickly inhibitions about using violence."
Just as the Vietnam Syndrome was temporarily overcome by the propaganda of the media-political nexus to justify the invasion of Iraq, so too is the bellicose thought collective trying to overcome the Iraq Syndrome to justify a turbocharged surge in the wider Middle East War, which Pope Francis has aptly called a "piecemeal World War III." 

Just as they justified Iraq by co-opting the 9/11 terror attacks, so too are they co-opting the Paris massacre to bomb, bomb, bomb again. And again. And some more. With no end in sight.

Enter David Brooks with his fascist, bizarre "Tales of the Super Survivors", which aims to convince us that suffering and catastrophe and terror are really good for us:
It’s horrible, of course, but over the past few years the findings of academic research into the effects of these traumas have shifted in a more positive direction. Human beings are more resilient than we’d earlier thought. Many people bounce back from hard knocks and experience surges of post-traumatic growth.
In the first place, post-traumatic stress disorder rates are lower than many of us imagine. According to a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, only about 13 percent of the first responders on 9/11 had symptoms that would qualify as a stress disorder. Only about 13 percent of the people who saw the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in person experienced PTSD in the next six months. The best general rule for all of society seems to be that at least 75 percent of the people who experience a life-threatening or violent event emerge without a stress disorder.
There are actual uncomplaining people out there, seemingly ground into psychic mulch only to bounce back fully formed, and so full of joy that they spread the Pollyannish gladness to everyone around them. They are virtual latter-day √úbermenschen wearing happy face emojis.  Brooks gushes on,
 That is to say, they have positive illusions about their own talents, and an optimist’s faith in their own abilities to control the future. But they have no illusions about the world around them. They accept what they have lost quickly. They see problems clearly. They work hard. Work is the reliable cure for sorrow.
Optimism, altruism, and the ability to tell a good story as you work till you drop are the Brooksian cures for all that ails the maimed, the stabbed, the bombed, the troubled, the naked and the dead.

My published comment:
The theme of today's sermon from Mount Plutocrat: Get over yourselves, plebs!

Voltaire wrote a scathing masterpiece on such phony optimism in the 18th century. His anti-hero, Pangloss (who it's fun to envision as our favorite chin-stroking pundit-philosopher who gets paid to go on champagne-soaked $120,000 vacations for the rich) advises Candide that despite earthquake, plague, poverty, capitalistic predators and corrupt priests, this is still the best of all possible worlds. The French Revolution ensued, of course. People were as sick and tired of the sanctimonious claptrap that Voltaire satirized as they are now.

Fast forward to the postmodern Age of Terror, and Brooks grotesquely enthuses that only 13% of 9/11 first responders came down with PTSD in the first six months. 

 Duh. As most grief experts will tell you, reaction to trauma is often delayed for years or decades. Six months is still the numb stage for a lot of people. Brook's little guide to "l'optimisme" also doesn't factor in the cancers and other diseases just now manifesting themselves from that event. And forget about the hundreds of thousands of Afghan and Iraqi victims of American wars of aggression who didn't get to see another sunny side of life.

This is the age of terror, all right. It's the economic terror of a deregulated plutonomy that's scaring us, impoverishing us, and quite literally killing us.

And Brook's Rx is resilience and story-telling?

Mr. Brooks: please get over yourself.

 When Brooksian Resilience Bites You in the Ass, Be Strong and Carry On


Kat said...

Could Brooks' column be any more illustrative of the fact that the entire mental health industry serves the needs of capitalism better than the needs of people? I think the "science" of psychology is very much like the "science" of economics.

Carol S. said...

I simply loved this, Karen. I'm sharing it with my children this morning. I also read your link about the hideous vacations for the rich the abhorrent Mr. Brooks indulged in for free, in which there was no discussion on the prodigal son painting. etc. I did experience the revelation of becoming more acquainted with that fine biblical story. Such writing and links from people like you are examples of the wonders of the Internet.

Meredith NYC said...

Maureen Dowd is " center left"? Maybe in our warped political universe. Can you explain?
Oh that's right she ate pot brownies.