PART 1 of 2
[This article originally appeared in New Dimensions magazine in April 1990, shortly after the collapse of the Soviet Union.]
The same trauma conditioning that drove Patricia Hearst to embrace the ideology of her terrorist kidnappers also occurs between weak and strong countries. A nation's media, depending on how it reports the news, plays a decisive role in either strengthening or weakening the mental and moral integrity of the population.
The downfall of the socialist republics in Eastern Europe has amazed the world, but even more amazing is the rise of socialistic and anti-democratic forces in America.
Over there, people seem to have become imprinted with our ideals, while over here, many Americans have become imprinted with socialist attitudes. You see them demonstrating for "fair distribution of wealth" or similar causes having to do with what they call social justice. They have nothing but contempt for free enterprise; chanting, angry slogans and burning the American flag, they burn with envy against those who are more energetic, idealistic, and creative.
How can such a thing happen? Are we in danger of losing our freedoms? Is it possible for nations to switch roles or identities? The answer to this question is absolutely yes. Nations can swap identities as the result of prolonged intrigues or conflicts in much the same way some people do.
Generally speaking, identity projection is a one-way street. In a famous case during the '70s, Patty Hearst, a member of the wealthy Hearst publishing family, took on the behavior and the identity of the SLA terrorist group that kidnapped her. After a protracted period of deprivation, intimidation, and stress, Hearst took part in an SLA bank robbery, and even carried a gun in the "cause." In a classic case of the "Stockholm Syndrome" (see article below), the young heiress was unable to deal with her captors' psychological methods and thus succumbed to their agenda and mind-set.
These psychological tactics work equally well on groups of people, as we know from the terrible events at Jonestown, Guyana, where hundreds of men, women, and children drank poisoned Kool-Aid on orders from Jim Jones. Of course, with nations it is more complicated because there has to be a way to reach the people in order to intimidate them. Modern communications technology has made this relatively easy, since the mass media, especially television, reaches tens of millions of people every day. If the dominant message happens to be one of fear and vulnerability, the public can succumb to its influence just as Patty Hearst did.
However, there is an important factor that mitigates the danger of mass hysteria on a national scale, and that is political leadership; as we all know, proper leadership can have a very calming effect on a nation. Many of us remember Franklin Roosevelt's reassuring words at his Inauguration in 1933 when the economy of the country was in such dire shape: "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself." And in England, Churchill's jutting jaw and "stiff upper lip" gave the British courage during the incessant Nazi bombings.
In the late '70s, under the weak leadership of Jimmy Carter, America could have reached a point where it succumbed to Communist intimidation—just like the victim wife who submits to her bully husband, hoping to placate his rage, but in the end just gives him more power. After Carter, however, under the strong leadership of Ronald Reagan, the tension of the Cold War took on a dramatic new turn, and intimidation went both ways. In other words, the Communist intimidators also became the intimidated.
Surprisingly, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics lost the game of intimidation. It has been one of the most intimidating nations in history and yet, somehow it's leaders had the tables turned on them and were actually out-intimidated. Before I explain in detail the psychology behind these international relations, allow me to give you some background concerning socialism.
A friend of mine, who owns a large radio station here in the West, visited his native Czechoslovakia in 1969. He told of an old woman who lived in a room inside a run-down, 200-year-old building—with no running water, no toilet facilities, and only a meager ration of food available to her. All of this was a gift from the Communist bureaucracy to live out the rest of her miserable existence. Her husband once owned and ran a machine shop employing 24 mechanics and craftsmen. They had a modest home and lived happily until the Communist takeover. Things suddenly changed; the Communists gave her husband's executive position to the company janitor and in turn they made her husband the janitor. When the poor man died, his wife was left to rot in her miserable dungeon of a room as a dependent of the state. Is it any wonder why that system had to fail sooner or later?
Socialism proved to be a great idea for the lazy wastrels and have-nots who couldn't wait to get their hands on that old man's business, the kind of people who burn with envy toward those who have managed to keep what they earn or what their family earned. And where does the legal plunder of the middle class and the so-called rich lead? Once initiative and executive ability are destroyed in order to create socialist jobs (either through excessive taxation or by decrees making janitors into executives), then the infrastructure has got to collapse—because if you don't create wealth, then you have to take it from others, and eventually the supply of rich citizens or affluent countries runs out.
Economist Ludwig von Mises, one of the century's great experts on socialism, declared that particular political system to be incapable of rational economic activity. And yet in the hippie days of the 1960s, in a country that should have known better, there were plenty of people who believed the socialist lie. I know a man who lived on a Communist commune around Seattle. A member would join the commune with a Volkswagen and the entire group would ride the auto into the ground. When the VW was no longer working, they would meet and vote on who would fix it instead of asking a skilled mechanic. As a result, they were always without transportation and decried the evils of capitalism.
There are those who can make something out of nothing. They can make a million dollars starting with a dollar. And there are those with the special knack of turning a million dollars into one dollar. The latter group tends to be angry and envious of those who are wiser and more industrious. Suffering from feelings of inferiority, these people burn to evolve to the stature of those whom they hate. What hope is there for these malcontents to achieve this, except through the use of power? Plunder, whether by violence or by vote, is their only answer, since they have rejected the real path to wealth through their socialist philosophy.
Eastern Europe had socialism imposed on it; despite promises of equality, it got a system where some were more equal than others—a system driven by a socialist elite, i.e., bosses with janitorial abilities. My Czech friend told me that in 1969 he could see the factory furnaces lighting the night sky. Even as inefficient, unmotivated, and unimaginative as the Communist labor bosses made them, the people managed to turn out busses and tractors, and even some consumer goods. But these products were never seen in Czechoslovakia. For the most part, they all went to provide for their Russian masters. Czechoslovakia had become a satellite slave state; the people got nothing they were promised.
For the record, I believe it is safe to say that the poor will always be with us, but the Soviet Union proved during this century that "equal distribution of wealth" is actually equal distribution of poverty. The poor are better off under a free enterprise system. Under socialism, the downtrodden will remain downtrodden, and the power mongers will rise up through the bureaucracy to rule.
What I have described above is an obvious forced role change that can occur within a society. But before that can happen, a more subtle change of identity must occur to enable the rise to power of the unworthy and the worthless (the have-nots who hate you for having). For 40 years now, the two systems have squared off, Communism versus free-market capitalism—in one, capital is controlled by the state; in the other, it's controlled by people. The first rewards dependency, envy, and sloth. The second rewards innovation, entrepreneurship, and hard work. This struggle between two diametrically opposed political ethics was called the Cold War.
The Communists hated what America stood for because America proved them wrong. We were successful—not just materially, but in our national spirit. American ingenuity was world famous. Even now in the era of Asian and European resurgence, the majority of technica1, medical, and intellectual innovations come from America. In comparison with the combined accomplishments of the free world, the socialist republics have been a pathetic failure. And yet, those in charge were obsessed, not with learning from us, but with defeating us—America represented a dangerous truth to the socialist elite. However, America was too strong and powerful for direct confrontation. So they waged "Cold War" as a means of breaking down the moral fiber of our people, of getting under our skins, so to speak. Remember, we are talking about a kind of political fundamentalism that is capable of heinous crimes, as in Cambodia, where thousands were executed just for being teachers.
And so through the '50s, at the peak of American influence, the Soviet ruling class glared hatefully at us from the other side of the world. Through the media, they boasted how they were going to bury us. Through our news media, they shook their atomic sabers. Some of us over here began to shake as well. Many of us, especially the timid pseudo-intellectuals, began to get intimidated. Many Americans began to live in fear of a nuclear disaster. We were surrounded and inundated by a news media that harped and nagged, day in and day out, week in and week out, year after year, about the bleak future of our young and our certain imminent annihilation.
Hollywood joined in whenever it could. Millions watched the television movie, "The Day After," a frightening rendition of what a nuclear holocaust would be like. Unbelievably, teachers all over the country assigned students to watch the movie as if somehow twelve-year-olds needed to be traumatized with scenes of the end of the world. The absurd logic behind this was that there would be peace, if only there were more fear.
The more suggestible among us felt insecure, stressed, almost exactly like we were being held captive by terrorists. No one really held a gun to our heads—there were no real terrorists present. But there was a hysterical media with all its hype and thoughtless distortion of events. This was our only reality. This was our only means of knowing. All this "fear broadcasting" was having the controlling effect that is every terrorist's dream—our people were becoming terrorized and imprinted with sympathy toward socialist thought, just as Patty Hearst eventually came to sympathize with the "Symbionese Liberation Army," seeing them not as her captors, but as her saviors.
The Communist elite knew they could not win a nuclear war, or even a conventional one, in mortal combat with America. But they knew they might well win a psychological war of nerves. It is one of the oldest stories in man's history, dealing with a bully. If you do not stand up to him today, you will have to stand up to him tomorrow. And if you make him your friend out of fear, you lose your integrity. If that happens, the danger is that you will rationalize your cowardice as noble—as if you were some kind of peacemaker. That is where we are right now—in the middle of a battle for the hearts and minds of America. However, thanks to the decade of the 1980s, we almost won the day—but not quite. A certain kind of wisdom will be needed to see the present circumstances to a happy conclusion.
Under President Carter, we might well have weakened and compromised our values to placate the Bear, in much the same way Prime Minister Chamberlain did with Adolph Hitler. But providentially, because of the strength of President Reagan, the psychological warfare they waged backfired. We ended up influencing them. The intimidator became the intimidated. That is what strength will do.
Because America is still basically a nation of strong-spirited, pioneering, hard-working, creative men and women, we were able to out-produce the Russians and their satellite slave nations in what was called the arms race. Their crumbling socialist economy could not cope with this, and we broke its back. Sure, they had big guns, but they had no butter for the people. In turn, the people could see America's riches—and its principles. They could see the success of the free-market system and the democratic process. They became enamored and imprinted with our values, our spirit of freedom and democracy. The truth finally dawned about what a lie they had lived, as their suffering became a catalyst for the renaissance of democratic values.
So the far-sighted, steadfast wisdom of Ronald Reagan won the peace by out-intimidating the Russians and breaking their spirit. Few people in the media recognized the international impact of Reagan's arms build-up and especially his visionary announcement of the Strategic Defense Initiative. Some Americans may have forgotten that the U.S. put a man on the moon in under ten years, but the Soviets hadn't forgotten. They feared American technology. Just when they spent billions on radar, we came up with Stealth bombers, and just after a decade-long Soviet missile build-up, Reagan announced SDI. That kind of thing can be unnerving to say the least. And all the while President Reagan talked of freedom and what America stood for. As a result, their people became imprinted with American principles.
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Most of us have the same principle work effectively in our personal lives and battles. If we simply stand firm in our beliefs without being intimidated into feelings of resentment—lo and behold, the intimidator becomes the intimidated. Strangely, the bully sometimes even comes around to your way of thinking. The principle is simple: you affect others by not being affected by them. But if you fail to stand your ground—fail to hold fast to principles—or if you have no principles—then you will find it difficult to resist the will of the intimidator.
[To free yourself from entanglement in the intimidator’s game, you must learn to deal properly, without resentment, to pressures of any kind. My Be Still and Know meditation exercise shows you how to do this and helps you practice remaining in the proper state. You can try it before you buy it and, if you like it, purchase your own copy, at fhu.com or by calling 800-877-3227.]
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Roy Masters—who in his 80s continues to broadcast the longest-running counseling show in talk radio history, his internationally syndicated daily radio program Advice Line, grew up in pre-WWII England. He started his journey toward understanding human nature when as a teen he saw a stage hypnotist at a vaudeville show in Brighton. The hypnotist easily put volunteer subjects in a spell and made them do outlandish things, like dancing with a broom and forgetting their own names.
Puzzled by the hypnotist’s mysterious power, Roy distinctly remembers pondering the question: “Why can’t hypnotism be used to make people act sensibly, rather than foolishly?” Inspired by the idea of harnessing this baffling force for good, he later pursued the art of hypnotism and established a successful hypnotherapy practice.
After several years of practice, Masters made his central and pivotal discovery about the root of people’s emotional problems, addictions and complexes. He realized that people did not need hypnosis, because their core problem was that they are already hypnotized—not by a clever stage performer, but by the stresses, pressures and seductions of daily life.
He used his knowledge to discover a way to help us become de-hypnotized, and discovered that the root of the power of negative suggestion lay in our wrong emotional response, that of resentment. Masters’ remarkably effective exercise, a simple observation technique called Be Still and Know—is at the core of his unmatched track record in helping people overcome even the most serious mental-emotional problems, and is the centerpiece of a successful program within the U.S. military community (“Patriot Outreach”) that is helping thousands of military personnel and their families cope with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).