On Fromm’s Theory Of Love

“What the world needs now is love, sweet love
It’s the only thing that there’s just too little of
What the world needs now is love, sweet love,
No not just for some but for everyone…”

These lyrics are as relevant now as when written by Hal David in the turbulent ’60s. At the time our society was consumed with consumerism, in danger of nuclear war, embroiled in the effects of racial tension, and was struggling with the safety and health effects of pollution and environmental irresponsibility. Generally speaking, world issues then were the same as they are today.

These four brief lyrics address a basic conflict between capitalism and the concept of love. They likewise reference the scope of love, which I would suggest is inherent to the concept itself. For love as I comprehend the concept is an objective care and concern for the well being of others. The ideal of objective concern is negated if the sentiment and the evident exercise thereof is either partial or less than universal as perceived or practiced. Hence, whatever love may be, it should be “not just for some but for everyone.”

In his 1956 masterpiece “The Art Of Loving”, German-American sociologist and psychologist Erich Fromm identified four basic elements which are fundamental to the very concept of love. For while discussing the theory of love therein Fromm referenced care, responsibility, respect, and knowledge as the basic elements which are common to all forms of love. Among the examples of such were the natural maternal care for a child, and the habitual tending to vegetation and plants of the horticulturist and the home gardener. Conversely, Fromm utilized the biblical tale of Jonah as an example of one whose lack of objectivity serves as an example of a failure to love. For although best known as the biblical character who is alleged to have spent three nights in the whale’s belly, Jonah actually serves as a great example of a bad example with regards to social relations.

As the tale goes, Jonah was commanded by God to go to the city of Ninevah and preach the message of repentance to the inhabitants there. Instead he boarded a ship headed the opposite direction. He did so because he did not want the Assyrians to repent, for the simple reason that he did not want them to be spared from the wrath of God. When a fierce storm endangered the ship due to Jonah’s disobedience, Jonah was voluntarily thrown overboard in order to spare the crew. It was at this time that he was allegedly swallowed by a great fish, where he remained for three days until the fish spat him out. Predictably enough, Jonah then went to Ninevah where he successfully persuaded the people of Ninevah to repent of their alleged wrong doings. Oddly enough, Jonah was angry that the people responded positively to his message. Jonah was so hung up on the concepts of justice and punishment that he merely could not rejoice in the well being of the Assyrian people.

Fromm rightly observes that though Jonah was a man of law and order, that he was deficient with regards to the concept of love. This is evidenced by his prejudiced attitude and partial perspective towards the Assyrians. Jonah did not maintain an objective concern for the well being of the inhabitants of Ninevah. Thus Jonah did not love the Assyrian people.

Fromm furthermore notes that by not taking responsibility for the well being of the Ninevites when the opportunity originally availed itself that Jonah had already manifested his deficiency with regards to the concept of love. In other words, when Jonah disobeyed God’s directive he revealed a lack of willingness to be responsible for the well being of the Assyrian people. And according to Fromm, one of the basic qualities of love is to be ready and willing to respond to the needs of others as per circumstantial situations.

To feel a sense of responsibility for the well being of all people then is to love objectively. And an objective care and concern for the well being of others is manifested when people respond actively to the needs of others. Jonah’s refusal to respond to the needs of the people of Ninevah then revealed his lack of objective concern for the well being of the Assyrian people. Hence, the tale of Jonah serves as a prime example of one who was deficient as to the concept of love.

A third element of love as noted by Fromm is respect. Respect being a consistent recognition that each person has rights, feelings, and needs which are unique to that particular individual. Though such qualities are unique to the individual person, objective recognition of such as innate qualities shared by everyone is the basis for having respect for others. In essence, respect entails recognizing and supporting any given individual person as an autonomous being who has the right to freedom and liberty, so long as the exercise thereof does not disrespect another.

Fromm notes that respect then naturally means a lack of exploitation. Liberty which in practice exploits another actually disrespects that individual as a means to an end. A mere commodity. A tool for one’s use rather than as a person with dignity and feelings. The exploitation of another is to disregard that person’s humanity. Exploitation then is to transparently disrespect another individual, which evidently demonstrates a deficiency with regards to the concept of love.

The fourth element of love as noted by Fromm is knowledge. By knowledge he seems to mean an insight into the psyche of human needs and feelings. An understanding of what makes a person tick, what moves us to feel, the inner angst which covets acceptance. An understanding then of humanity which is based on empathy and which is experienced through an empathetic union with others. A soul fusion and a mind meld of sorts.

This empathetic union with others is of course a more natural experience with our familiars than with strangers. Yet the principles translate to people with whom we are not acquainted, or to individuals who we do not even realize exist. When one’s empathy for humanity is consistently objective, then care and concern for the well being of each and every living person becomes a natural element of that person’s worldview. A subsequently sincere respect for people as people then motivates us to respond to the needs of others out of a sense of responsibility for the general welfare for all humanity. In essence, Fromm’s theory of love was that the concept itself is founded upon an empathetic understanding of the needs of the human being, motivated by a sincere care and concern for the well being of all, and is manifested by a sincere response to those needs out of respect for people in general.

In this day and age of endless wars, nuclear madness, climate catastrophes, rampant racism, conditioned consumerism, intoxicated illusions of self importance; and in a culture whose economic system is sustained and maintained by exploitation and domination; Fromm’s theory of empathetic love would serve as an antidote for a world plagued with apathy and disregard for human welfare.

What the world needs now is love sweet love.
It is truly the one thing that there is just too little of.

Dave Henderson
Denison, Texas

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On Capitalism As A Culture Industry

In the 1940’s, the German-American philosophers Max Horkheimer and Theodor Adorno introduced the term “culture industry” as a description for Capitalist societies. The basic premise being that such cultures function as industries, and that various aspects therein condition people to function as active consumers and alienated workers in order to sustain the process of mass production. Mass marketing conditions addictive spending habits, standardizes styles, and defines fads and fashions in order to create and coordinate cyclical yet predictable markets in order to justify endless mass production.

In his 1957 book “The Art Of Loving”, Erich Fromm identified three elements which are necessary in a Capitalist society. Those elements being people who will work together to perform assigned tasks, people who will buy things, and people who will obey orders. The ability of people to work together in order to produce in bulk is a quality which is exploited by those who condition those workers to do as they are instructed. Consumerism then serves as a necessary active agent in order to preserve the system itself. That said, Fromm, Horkheimer, and Adorno all observed that such elements are conditioned as a mass deception rather than presented as evident dictates. Thus the need to incorporate a variety of aspects of society in order to subtly yet effectively sustain the culture industry.

In their book “Dialectic Of Enlightenment”, Horkheimer and Adorno dismissed the notion that mass production is the response to consumer demand. Rather they noted that mass production is the design of corporate board members and wealthy profiteers. Consumerism in turn is a conditioned response to manipulative marketing. Since people in general will not be exploited voluntarily, then the means to condition the masses to servitude and complicit participation in the process are so encompassing that such entails the shaping of the entire culture into a responsive and productive industry.

Horkheimer and Adorno identified several aspects of society which are utilized as means to such ends. Namely film, radio, magazines, television, religion, formal education and politics were mentioned as avenues which the culture industry exploits in an effort to entice habitual consumerism and maintain a wage slave system of mass production. Film and television portray a picture of the ideal family as owning a nice home with several of the latest model vehicles. Radio and magazine ads aggressively market specific commodities for purchase. Religion and formal education promote obedience to authority, routine ritualism, and patriotism. Politics offers a sense of identity and the illusion of choice and influence in the economic and social system itself. The end goal of the culture industry then is to manipulate buying habits through seductive marketing, while at the same time manage and produce a demographic of willing wage slaves who are suitable servants in the process of mass production.

As I read Horkheimer and Adorno, it occurs to me how perceptive these two German-American philosophers were as to their observations regarding the culture industry. Their astute observations and warnings of social manipulation were documented decades before the era of daily conservative propaganda talk radio, 24 hour news cycles and Shopping Channels, and electronic marketing sites. Despite the transformation of America from an industrial economy to a retail market base, it would seem that the culture industry continues in 21st Century America in much the same manner as described by Horkheimer and Adorno.

In essence, the culture industry is the subtle social engineering and the mobilization of the masses for active and compliant service in a social system which is based upon wage slavery and a manipulated economy. Such service entails willing labor for long hours with minimal time for rest and recovery, addictive consumerism, and passionate support for militarism and imperialism as a matter of patriotic pride. Basically speaking, the masses must be manipulated to embrace and accept their own exploitation in order to sustain an effective culture industry.

Collective gullibility to social conditioning and systemic propaganda thus serves as the lifeline which sustains the ongoing culture industry. The ease with which collective thinking may be conditioned renders the masses vulnerable to the very circumstances which maintain the culture industry. Routine schedules of the over worked and underpaid reinforce and somewhat ritualize the very process of the oppression of the working class. Alienated and exploited working class people adapt by assimilation into the culture industry as a means of survival.

Capitalism as a culture industry will then predictably continue to thrive in a society of people who are willing prey to propaganda, who continue to function as complicit participants in the process of collective coercion, and whose very existence depends upon their service as wage slaves.

On Libertarian Ethics

As a libertarian ideologist I maintain that free will is a basic human right, and that all legitimate rights are derived from our natural basic needs. Everyone is born expressing free will, for the cry of the newborn asserts a natural aversion for discomfort and is a subsequent demand for comfort and care. Generally speaking very little changes in this regard from the moment of one’s emergence from the womb to the very instant of one’s death. The rudiments of libertarian ideology are realized in those earliest experiences of our being, and remain so throughout our lifetime.

Freedom of expression and legitimate human rights are derived from nature and are applicable to everyone on an equitable basis. It follows then that such rights are not subject to being supplanted by another individual, nor by system or social collective. The implications which follow constitute the basis for libertarian ethics.

The notion of libertarian ethics is paramount to the very principle of libertarian ideology itself. Free will unfettered by ethical restraint would constitute social chaos. Such an atmosphere would render oppression and exploitation. By no means could such a circumstance be regarded as libertarian in any sense of the concept.

The limitations of liberty are elementary to the universal applicability of the very concept itself. Thus the applicability of legitimate rights to everyone necessarily limits the freedom of anyone to impose upon such with reference to any other given individual. Each person’s natural rights then negate any perceived liberty of anyone to alter or supplant another individual’s rights. The question then arises as to the distinction between legitimate rights and perceived rights which are in fact illegitimate.

As legitimate rights are derived from our basic natural needs, then assumed rights which are not evident from nature are in actuality illegitimate assertions as so proposed. In this regard efforts to exercise one’s will at the expense of another’s natural rights are illicit endeavors and are representative of illegitimate authority. Hence any system so inclined likewise qualifies as an exercise of illegitimate authority and should therefore be either amended or altogether eliminated in order to maintain libertarian principles.

The principle then of “freedom from” serves as a natural governor which quite adequately regulates one’s perceived “freedom to” with regards to human relations. In fact the utility of such in essence is the basis for libertarian ethics. For each individual then to comprehend the limitations of their own freedom there needs to be a degree of understanding as to the rights which are natural to each person based upon our innate qualities and implied human rights.

Comfort being the primary concern of the individual from the womb to the grave so to speak, then it follows that such is the basis for natural rights. There is perhaps no more basic human instinct than to seek comfort and to avoid any degree of discomfort. The moment by moment quest for comfort constitutes the process of each person’s daily existence. Thus it seems reasonable that any exercise of one’s perceived freedom which hinders or denies the legitimate right of another person to comfort would constitute an illicit effort of illegitimate authority.

In essence libertarian ideology entails the responsibility to recognize and respect the natural rights of others. Inconsistency in this regard may very well be the assertion of one’s will, yet such is by no mean the exercise of a natural right. For the denial of any given person’s natural rights is by no means in and of itself a natural right. Rather such constitutes a breach of legitimate libertarian principles.

The principles of libertarian ideology being rooted in the concept of natural rights, then libertarian ethics naturally restricts one’s actions as a matter of respect for the natural rights of others. Libertarian ethics are thus derived from the concept that the free will of the one is always to be regulated by the natural rights of the other. Liberty for all then necessarily entails the limits of individual and collective freedom so that everyone may be truly free from any degree of oppression or exploitation.
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On The Man And The Millennials

There was a time when those who resisted imperialism, exploitation, and collective murder in the name of national identity understood the concept of “the Man”. Casual references to “the Man” in songs such as “Military Madness” by CSN and “Born On The Bayou” by CCR reflected the collective insights of the youth of that generation as to the transparent authoritarian nature of the American way of life. And as Jack Black so passionately proclaimed in “Schoolhouse Rock”, the simple reality is that the Man is everywhere!

In fact, the reason that the counterculture youth movement of the late 60’s and early 70’s was “counter culture” is because in those days those who resisted in general understood that the Man is rooted in the mainstream institutions of society which serve to execute systemic oppression and economic exploitation of the masses in the name of conventional ideology. Indeed “the Man is in the White House and down the hall”. The counter culture youth of that era rebelled against the establishment as such, for they recognized the fundamentals of fascism in the very institutions of convention which propagandize the fairy tale myth of freedom and liberty in a society of domestic wage slavery and interventionist wars abroad.

The counter culture revolutionalists of that time rebelled because they realized that the Man was not just an individual or a specific political party, but rather the entire amoral system which used and abused people while parroting lip service to the concept of liberty and human rights. Frankly, the counter culture youth of the late 60’s and early 70’s were critical thinkers in a culture which coveted conformity as a means of subtle crowd control. That which the Man cannot abide is the individuality of critical analysis and free thought.

Now inasmuch as I have an unapologetic respect for the counter culture movement of the youth of 50 years ago, I am equally amazed at the resiliency of the Man. For in spite of the Woodstock culture and the Watergate scandal, the Man not only survived but in many ways is as influential as ever in an effective beat down of would be social dissidents. Ironically, the effort to foment fear as a means of social control which failed in the case of the counter culture youth of the late 60’s has yielded its intended effect in post 9-11 America. For even though the young counter culture revolutionists of the late 60’s had been trained as grade school children to hide under their school desks in case of a hypothetical nuclear attack, in time they came to recognize the Man as the enemy instead of the imaginary Commie crouching in the shadows. Such fear baiting may have failed the Man by the late 60’s, but that very methodology has proven quite effective since 9-11 for an entire generation which has been raised to willingly march off to war in order to battle alleged enemies harboring imaginary weapons of mass destruction. Perhaps the most perplexing aspect of that reality is that whereas the Man depended on the Draft in order to facilitate the Vietnam War at that time, there is no such systemic coercion in order to maintain the ongoing Bush-Obama-Trump wars of today.

It would seem that the Man has finally achieved authoritarian utopia. A generation of seemingly willing participants who dutifully volunteer to fight and kill in the interventionist wars of the 21st Century. And the Man doesn’t even have to worry about any Catholic priests or rebellious teens burning Draft Cards! The will of the Man for collective conformity would seem to be complete. Those who have not sold out to the Man seem to have bought into the concepts which enable the authoritarian tyranny of the establishment.

And then came the social dissidents from among the Millennials.

For as in the 60’s, the times they are a changin’.

For the millennial generation seems to have awakened to the corruption of the establishment. And the Man is once again beginning to feel the heat of the people in the streets. Even the political puppets are showing albeit tentative signs of concern that they may actually have to consider the will of their constituents instead of merely representing the interests of their corporate doaners.

Critical thinkers of a generation who are informed enough to know the reality of the effects of climate change and world war are actually questioning the wisdom of denying the reality of the one and engaging in the other. The youth of today are becoming aware of other cultures less prosperous than our own who have the will to provide healthcare for everyone and higher education for the qualified, and they are pressing the establishment to account for student debt and healthcare insecurity in a society that writes blank checks for endless wars and is willing to fund silly ventures such as a Space Force.

The times are a changin’, and the Man is feeling’ the heat.

Time will tell whether the generation of my children; the Millennials, and that of my baby grandson will be able to resurrect a counter cultural social resistance which once and for all brings social change which ends imperialism, exploitation, and collective murder in the name of national identity. But at the moment such a movement for the sake of humanity seems to be underway.

As CSN once sang, “it’s been a long time coming, but it’s always darkest before the dawn”.

Introducing A Blog Dedicated To The Concept of Play Education For Children

As a Secular Humanist, I trust natural instincts which govern human thought and activity as a sufficient source for sensible thinking and sensitive social relations. Morals and ethics derived from our innate sensitivity for the suffering of others are the basis for peaceful and non-violent social relations. The ancient Chinese thinker Mencius taught that “all things are complete in oneself” and that altruism would develop as one looked within and trusted their own feelings. The philosophy of Mencius was an expression of humanist values which encouraged practical experience and intraceptive perspectives as fundamental to daily living.

The fact is that by nature we are intraceptive beings in that we relate to the world through our feelings and emotions. Unfortunately, by systemic design we are oftentimes indoctrinated otherwise. The natural development of children is in all too many cases suppressed and even discouraged through the well intentioned yet potentially repressive theory that education should be a format of rigid rules and oppressive obedience training techniques.

Fortunately, there are professional educators on the introductory and elementary level of public education who are realizing the value of play and imaginative expression as a natural means of effective child development. In fact, one such professional is so passionate as to such that she has created a writing blog dedicated to the principle of play as a preferred and practical means of child education both in the home and in the public school setting.

Thus as a Secular Humanist whose primary concern is a peaceful society of well developed and altruistic human beings, I wholeheartedly endorse both the theory of play as education in child development, and the following blog as a viable and valuable aid for parents and teachers alike who are interested in exploring and enhancing the concept in their own specific setting:

https://littlewonderseverywhere.com/

(Note: The link to the site is likewise listed on my Blogroll on my Home page as well. Dave)

On Libertarian Socialism and Social Transformation

As a libertarian socialist, I aspire to a society rooted in the fundamentals of freedom, liberty, and the common good. State controlled so called socialism fails towards that end, as does neoliberal corporatism. In other words, state control and private industry each fail the standard of freedom and liberty as basic human rights, as well as the end purpose of a humane society; namely a collective effort to supply for the common good.

The means to accomplish such ends would entail either the transformation of the agents of authority into administrative entities towards the general welfare, or the elimination of any given agency of authority which cannot justify itself as a feasible means of supply towards the common good. The decentralization of all authority and the democratization of all entities within any given culture seem necessary expedients in order to achieve the ends of libertarian socialism.

As the political process can either obstruct or aid in this process, then the transformation of such towards the end of freedom, liberty, and the common good is a given. Thus, in a corporate driven government such as the neoliberal ideological based two party system of the US, either an extreme revision of or an outright replacement of the operative components so orchestrated is a logical necessity.

Or so it seems to me.

On Society and Government

“I have heard that the heads of states or noble families do not worry over poverty but instead over equal distribution of wealth; they do not fret over underpopulation, but whether the people are insecure. Now, if there is equality in distribution there will be no poverty; if there is harmony in society there will be no underpopulation, and if there is security, there will be no subversion” (Analects 16.10 Muller; http://www.acmuller.net/con-dao/analects.html#div-17)

My thoughts:

It is my opinion that the responsibility of government is derived from the rudiments of the concept of society. It is further my thought that the concept of society is derived from the most basic of all human instincts.

Human beings seem to have an innate moral sense founded upon a natural aversion to suffering. Subsequently from an early age most everyone cannot bear the sound of one suffering, even before the suffering being can be identified. Hence, by nature we extend our natural aversion to discomfort of any degree to others somewhat indiscriminately, thus spontaneously feeling for the suffering of even a remote sentient being.

From these natural and instinctive human qualities are derived the primary objective of a society and the practical function of government.

Based upon our natural aversion to suffering which serves as the foundation for our innate moral sense, I conclude that the primary objective of a society is to shield every single person from undue suffering. In fact, the responsibility of any collective is to provide for the common good . It then follows that the practical function of government would be to administer a system to meet that end.

Although written by men who were inconsistent in the execution of their own documented principles, even the US Constitution obliges the Congress to provide for the common defense and the general welfare (The Preamble and Article 1 Section 8). The reality then of poverty in our land of plenty reveals that as a society we not only fail a natural collective obligation, but we even fail to execute the primary principles of our own constitution.

For the primary objective of a society and the practical function of government is to alleviate undue suffering by providing for the common good and for the general welfare. In circumstances when such is not the case, then the society should repent and the government should be revised accordingly.

Only then will the natural way of government be established, balance be restored, and harmony ultimately ensue.

Such as they are these are my thoughts as to the objective of a society and the function of government.

A Continuous Quest In An Ever Changing Universe

The universe is in constant flux and transformation. A moment by moment displacement and reformation.

The universe is everything which is known and experienced, and much more. Even the most knowledgeable among humanity regarding the happenings of our ever expanding universe are merely as a child on the beach looking across the ocean as far as one’s vision might allow. If we only knew what we don’t know, perhaps our ignorance would overwhelm our confidence.

Our concept of reality is limited in scope and to certain specifics. What we know amounts to perceptions as defined by our instincts and our experiences. Our instincts are innate, our experiences are an expanded context of the function of those instincts within the framework of the natural principles of the universe.

Our lives are a moment by moment quest for comfort. An instinctive effort from birth to death. The specifics as to how we achieve that ever elusive goal are limited to the framework of certain seemingly consistent principles within the context of the physical universe.

Our natural instinctive aversion to discomfort is complemented by a secondary instinctive sensitivity for the suffering of others. In fact, we become distressed and therefore internally uncomfortable at the mere sound of the suffering of any other sentient being.

Our instinctive aversion to suffering then seems to not only serve as a means of self preservation, but likewise as a basis for social interaction. Such seems to be the most fundamental principle of our very being as sentient beings within the the context of the constant flux and transformation of our niche of the known universe.

On Innate Comprehension and Universal Aversion To Suffering

Lu Jiuyan taught that the mind is the universe, and the universe is the mind. Mencius taught that all things are complete in oneself.

There is a universal principle that suffering is not good.

It seems universally comprehended that the only suffering which is not bad is that which is inflicted for the purpose of preventing another and less desirable degree of suffering. Surgery for the purpose of preventing a painful or deadly disease comes to mind.

Our aversion to suffering is innate and instinctive. We are born with a natural aversion to discomfort, and we maintain that posture until we pass away. The innate and instinctive comprehension that suffering is bad allows for a spontaneous guide for self preservation and social conduct.

The innate comprehension of the universal aversion to suffering is indicative of Lu Jiuyan’s theory that the mind is the universe, and likewise the thoughts of Mencius that all things are complete in oneself.

Or so it seems to me.

The Essence of Ethics

The notion that we humans are self equipped with instinctive qualities for ethical thinking is evidenced by our natural aversion to suffering for self and others. It seems to me that we are born with the former and that we develop the latter quite early in life through the most basic of natural experiences. Mencius’ illustration of our aversion to the suffering of a dog is a prime example of our natural sensitivity for the suffering of others. Our moment by moment quest for comfort seems to be a kinetic illustration of our natural discomfort in general.

It seems to me that such basic human qualities are the basis for ethical thinking, which in turn should translate to subsequent ethical behavior.