Poverty Of The Generation

Dr. Michael LaitmanOpinion (Dr. Erich Fromm, German social psychologist, psychoanalyst, sociologist, humanistic philosopher):

WALLACE: Recently, Dr. Fromm said: “There has never been a better society than in the United States in 1958, but …’He added, ‘if the United States goes on in the direction it is now taking, it is in serious danger of destroying itself.” We’ll find out why in a moment.

FROMM: I would say, if I would put it generally, because in our enthusiasm to dominate nature and to produce more material good – goods – we have transformed means into ends. We’ve wanted to produce more in the 19th century and the 20th century in order to give man the possibility for more dignified human life; but actually what has happened is that production and consumption have become means – have ceased to be means and have become ends, and we are production crazy and consumption crazy. …

I think his work is to a large extent, meaningless, because he is not related to it. He is increasingly part of a big machinery, social machinery, governed by a big bureaucracy……and I think American man unconsciously hates his work very often, because he feels trapped by it…imprisoned by it… because he feels that he is spending most of his energy for something which has no meaning in itself.

WALLACE: In writing about men in America, you’ve said frequently – you’ve talked frequently – about what you call “the marketing orientation.” What do you mean by “the marketing orientation,” Dr. Fromm?

FROMM: I mean by that, that our main way of relating ourselves to others is like things relate themselves to things on the market. We want to exchange our own personality – or as one says sometimes, our “personality package” – for something. …

WALLACE: So, his sense of his own value must, therefore, depend upon what the market, in this sense, is willing to pay for it…

FROMM: Exactly, just as a handbag which cannot be sold because there is not enough demand is, economically speaking, useless. And if the handbag could think, it would have a terrific inferiority feeling, because, not having been bought, it would feel useless. So does a man who considers himself as a thing, and if he is not successful to sell himself, he feels he is a failure. …

WALLACE: Let’s talk about man in relation to his love, his marriage.

FROMM: Well, I would say love is something everybody talks about, and the need for love is one of the most basic needs of man, namely the experience of union with another being -of becoming one with another being. And yet, I would say that love today is a relatively rare phenomenon, that we have a great deal of sentimentality; we have a great deal of illusion about love, namely as a…as something one falls in. But the question is that one cannot fall in love, really; one has to be in love. And that means that loving becomes, and the ability to love, becomes one of the most important things in life.

WALLACE: Why is it so difficult for us to be in love, as human beings? What is wrong with us, as you see it?

FROMM: Because we are concerned with things. We are concerned with success. We are concerned with money. We are concerned with instrumentalities. And the most important things we talk about on Sundays are things to which we pay very little attention. …

I would say our social relationships are relatively shallow. We are actually afraid to be intimate, with people – many people even with their wives and husbands. And we substitute, or we rather hide, this fear of real intimacy by a superficial kind of friendliness, which is quite nice, but nevertheless, very shallow. …

I think if you would ask people what their concept of Heaven is, and if they were honest, they would say it’s a kind of big department store with new things every week, and enough money to buy everything new. … Happiness should be something which results from the creative, genuine, intense relatedness – awareness, responsiveness, to everything in life – to man, to nature.

My Comment: It is written beautifully, in the form of an appeal, but the solution is not given. The only solution is to change human nature. But since it is not in our hands—although many understand that this is the only solution—no one speaks about it. The absence of the possibility to change the human being is accepted in silence. But when the suffering increases, and not only the suffering of egoistic slavery, but the plagues of Egypt begin, then people will agree to check the solution proposed by Kabbalah: integral education.

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