A quote from The Politics of Experience–by RD Laing

I read this first a young unmedicated college student. How I wish I had really understood:

Exploitation must not be seen as such. It must be seen as benevolence. Persecution preferably should not need to be invalidated as the figment of a paranoid imagination; it should be experienced as kindness. Marx described mystification and showed its functioning in his day. Orwell’s time is already with us. The colonists not only mystify the natives, in the way that Fanon so clearly shows, they have to mystify themselves. We in Europe and North America are the colonists, and in order to sustain our amazing images of ourselves as God’s gift to the vast majority of the starving human species, we have to interiorize our violence upon ourselves and our children and to employ the rhetoric of morality to describe this process.

In order to rationalize our industrial-military complex, we have to destroy our capacity to see clearly any more what is in front of, and to imagine what is beyond, our noses. Long before a thermonuclear war can come about, we have had to lay waste to our own sanity. We begin with the children. It is imperative to catch them in time. Without the most thorough and rapid brainwashing their dirty minds would see through our dirty tricks. Children are not yet fools, but we shall turn them into imbeciles like ourselves, with high I.Q.’s, if possible.

From the moment of birth, when the Stone Age baby confronts the twentieth-century mother, the baby is subjected to those forces of violence, called love, as its mother and father, and their parents and their parents before them, have been. These forces are mainly concerned with destroying most of its potentialities, and on the whole this enterprise is successful. By the time the new human being is fifteen or so, we are left with a being like ourselves, a half-crazed creature more or less adjusted to a mad world. This is normality in our present age.

Love and violence, properly speaking, are polar opposites. Love lets the other be, but with affection and concern. Violence attempts to constrain the other’s freedom, to force him to act in the way we desire, but with ultimate lack of concern, with indifference to the other’s own existence or destiny.

We are effectively destroying ourselves by violence masquerading as love.

From The Politics of Experience

18 thoughts on “A quote from The Politics of Experience–by RD Laing

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  1. the problem with history is there is no parralel in history to where we are today and no country in the history of the world with the impact the US has…

    we are in unchartered territory and WE the US is in the position, very unfortunately, of leading the world.

    I rather see that power in someone else’s hands frankly.

    I’m not like you Duane, I don’t trust the American people..

    My only hope is that the consciousness of HUMAN BEINGS…key human beings from all parts of this planet will come together and save us…it won’t be the collective consciousness of Americans in particular that saves us.

    Nationalism kills too.

    We must unite as a world and heal it together.

  2. Gianna,

    Capitalism run amuck kills. Greed kills. Love of money kills. It allows corporations, and people with lots of money to exploit and carry on with disregard for others, and the society as a whole.

    Socialism run amuck does the same thing.
    The group-think mentality kills. Collective thinking kills. The love of power by people who run socialist systems kills. It allows bureacrats to have their way with people – to develop systems that take away human spirit, ingenuity, and ultimately lead to failure – starvation and death for instance.

    Corporations need to be held at bay, and government needs to be held at bay as well. Both.

    Exploitation of people and the environment happens in each system. The air was hardly clean in the former Soviet Union….our water is full of psychiatric drugs…..

    Any system that is out of balance doensn’t work.

    Again, this is all very complex stuff.
    I like to read history, and politics, and I try to learn from the many broken systems along the way….

    There were plenty in both the east and west, plenty in both developed and undeveloped countries, under empires, kings, and collective socialists states.

    At the end of the day it’s inhumanity that’s the problem….
    Unfortunately, there’s been plenty to go around –


  3. A very good example from recent history is Biederman, who obviously suffers from the delusion, modern, western civilization in general suffers from, that his ego – which he’s completely identified with – would be next to God, i.e. next to perfection. That is not what is meant by the phrase “God created man in his own image”. But it is, how modern, western civilisation chooses to interpret it.

    Derrick Jensen – good idea!

  4. The big problem is and has always been the idea, which is inherent in many, though not all, cultures, that this planet we live on, with all its resources, exists only and solely for human beings to be (ab)used, exploited, and violated. It’s the idea, that human beings aren’t part of creation, but the crown of creation. That human beings are the master, and the rest of nature the slave. Consumerism. It’s a kind of mass-, or group-narcissism. Basically the same as the “me me me”-selfishness. Only on a larger scale.

    Ans yes, it is self-destructive. It will bring us down.

  5. Duane,
    all I know is our culture AMERICAN culture is wiping the planet to shreds…we don’t have to look at Western culture..the exportation of OUR values will kill us all.

    Everyone wants to be like us and it’s not sustainable…it WILL kill the planet…our massive consumption and greed and everything that goes with it…

    nothing nice about it.

    and it’s happening…period.

  6. Gianna,

    I thought the post was interesting, and thought-provoking, but it’s awfully hard to make a comment – Comments become like ‘soundbytes’ when we’re discussing these types of matters – There isn’t enough space…not enough time to engage in a dialogue – to express at a level that these types of topics deserve….

    Again, I agreed with much of it, but question part of it.
    For instance, the reference to western culture….colonization, etc….

    Western culture certainly has it’s faults, but there was some “imperialism” that has come from the east as well – ask the people of Manchuria, of the late 1930’s….who were invaded by Japan – of the autrocities they suffered….

    Also, “culture” itself – hard to define culture – without drawing on political and economic systems somehow, and yet “culture” can exist within these very systems – drawn from the system itself, but at other times almost separate…..Czarist Russia has some wonderful culture, yet the people under the Czar’s rule were subjects – like any people who live under a King…..The Bolshovics did little to improve things with Lenin’s idea of utopia….Leading to the death of millions of people under Stalin….

    Western culture – what is Western culture? The British and French might argue that thier cultures are quite different – they certainly thought so for several centuries as they fought each other….And, when we talk about any culture, western or otherwise, we are not talking about stationary objects – cultures evolve…..from Dark Ages to Renassainces….they grow, change, open themselves to new ideas….new customs, traditions, etc….

    American culture – what exactly is it? Who exactly are we? Ironically, in many ways we are the new kids on the block….and, a culture in many ways that has deep appreciation for the individual versus the group…..Things are much different in some parts of the world, where the good of the group holds far more weight than the good of the individual….I’m not saying that one is inherently better than the other….In some ways, the good of the group brings strong loyalty, love, and appreciation….But, “group think” can be dangerous too….So, can the “me” generation mentality….The selfishness that comes from thinking of “me, me, me”….

    Western culture brought the world some good things – Democracy for one – from the Greeks….the Magna Carta, the Constitution…It hasn’t been all bad….Judeo-Christian thought is based on forgiveness, and love – good things. Sure, it brought some horrible things as well – the Crusades, for instance….But, there have been horrific deeds in other religions as well…..

    Good things come from all cultures – so do bad things….horrible things…..I’m just not sure it’s the “culture” per say of a people….I think it’s the inhumanity inside of all of us….We still see slavery in this world – parts of Africa where kids are sold as sex slaves….We still see women who are abused by the Taliban, parts of North Korea that have no light at night (can’t be seen by our satellites for instance due to the bleakness of their nights, and they are so poor they eat dogs on the streets).

    Americans have our inhumanity as well….Big business gets away with murder – literally….Look no further than millions of kids being placed on psychiatric drugs….Look no further than the pollution of rivers and lakes, etc….

    In my mind, any culture has good and bad – some cultures are slightly better than others….But, it’s not because the people of those cultures are any better – It’s usually because of the political and economic systems that exist withing those cultures….Where the rights of individuals are protected from the majority….and, where there is some rule of law, and some respect for human life and property….

    But, it’s all very complex….And, really can’t be addressed in the “sound-bytes” of comment in an email….


  7. It’s a difficult process, to become dis-illusioned. As devastating as my experience with a psychiatric medication has been, I don’t count it as an entire loss because I’ve been able to let go of many of the falsehoods I was raised to believe. So my children, and now my grandchildren, are benefiting from this hard won experience.


  8. It’s the most painful truth of them all. Because it means, that we’re all participating in the violence. No one is innocent. But it won’t change unless we accept that fact. We can’t expect the system to change, as long as we’re not willing to change ourselves. In a way, as long as we continue to live in denial of our own violence, we are the system.

    It’s not popular, but it’s essential to state it. If anything ever is to change. So, go for it!

  9. yes,
    I didn’t expect comments Marian…I imagined most people wouldn’t want to hear this.

    and certainly be inclined to dismiss it.

    I often try not to be too inflammatory…but sometimes, well…I just go for it.

  10. There’s a huge problem with what Laing says here. which is, that it collides so totally with rules A, A1 and A2. With these rules basically saying: “Don’t!” Don’t realize it, don’t understand it, don’t talk about it. The violence, the abuse, the exploitation our civilisation is founded on. Every aspect of it.

    We’ve all internalized those rules. They are indeed the first and most important commandment of our culture, our civilization, and from day one everything is done to impress them on us, and to condition us to never ever break them. They are everywhere, implicit in every aspect of our culture. In every aspect of “normality”. The rules as well as the violence. Indeed, the rules are part of the violence themselves.

    The violence doesn’t start with war, or psychiatry, or child battering. It starts with my toothbrush, my cloths, the apartment I’m living at, my computer… It starts with me driving a car, closing the gate in the fence, or the box door behind the horses, weeding the garden paths.

    And, no, we’re not even allowed to talk about, that we’re not allowed to talk about it. Maybe that’s why this post didn’t get more comments? It’s definitely why everything was and still is done, to discredit Laing himself: eccentric, drunk, and, not to forget! suffering from “depression”, i.e. “mentally ill”… He said out loud, what no one is allowed to just think to themselves, ever.

  11. well this piece is not just about psychiatry, it’s about a society that makes psychiatry acceptable because what psychiatry does is happening all around us all the time everywhere in more subtle ways…

    the sickness is in our culture…psychiatry just a symptom.

  12. Gianna,

    There was a lot in a few paragraphs.

    Some of it, I certainly agree with….other parts, I found a little complex, some mixing of thoughts, ideals, philosophy, etc – would need to take it line-by-line to explain my thoughts, feelings, beliefs…..

    But, there is one line that hit the nail on the head for me personally, particularly in the area of psychiatric “treatment” –

    “Violence attempts to constrain the other’s freedom, to force him to act in the way we desire”.

    Violence is not too strong a word for what the Treatment Advocacy Center imposes, along with psychiatric hospitals, and any form of forced drugging, forced ECT, etc…..

    It is “violent” to lock someone up against their will….It is violent to force someone to take drugs, and/or any other form of “treatment” against their will…..

    These “treatments” put a human being in a “fight or flight” response, damage the psyche, and are traumatizing to the human soul – without question.

    It was an interesting piece. Thanks for posting.


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