Friday, December 17, 2010

America’s Stockholm Syndrome

60% of Americans support the extension of the Bush-era tax cuts, despite the fact that 25% of the savings from the plan will go entirely to the richest 1% of Americans, while the changes to the estate tax will only benefit the richest ¼ of 1%. Meanwhile, the poorest Americans will actually get a tax increase. Even more perplexing is supporters’ lack of concern for how much this will worsen an already record deficit and increase the level of austerity that will be imposed on them to fix it when congress finally settles on a deficit reduction plan. (Over the past ten years, tax cuts have been the single largest contributor to budget deficits, surpassing even defense).

Why do so many American’s support this insanity?

My hypothesis is that they are suffering from the world’s largest case of Stockholm Syndrome, the paradoxical psychological phenomenon that causes hostages to adore and identify with their captors. According to the FBI’s Hostage Barricade Database System, close to 27% of victims exhibit this syndrome.

However, the FBI data only applies to small scale hostage situations, like the SLA’s abduction of Patty Hearst. When hostage-takers go for broke and abduct an entire nation, the percentage that goes “Stockholm” is much higher. Psychologist Dee Graham argues that all women suffer it to some extent in order to survive in a sexist society. Today we have millions of Americans being held captive by a small band of terrorists known as “The Ruling Elite,” AKA “The Richest 1%.” They held us hostage before by threatening to allow the financial system to collapse if we didn’t put up trillions of dollar to bail them out. Now they’re demanding more.

Stockholm Syndrome occurs when captives are seriously threatened, but then shown kindness by their captors. In this case, the captors have insisted that if we hand over the money, they will create new jobs and hire us, a seeming act of kindness for the millions who’ve been unemployed for months or years. Years of intimidation and abuse has effectively brainwashed us into believing that jobs are the ultimate goal, rather than material and social well-being, even when those jobs are mind-numbing, back-breaking and poverty-inducing.

Psychologists believe that this illogical behavior stems from our natural need to form attachments to the nearest powerful adult, like babies do with their parents, to increase the chances that we will be fed and cared for or, in this case, provided with work. These powerful adults, sometimes referred to as bosses, make us work so hard that we no longer have the time and energy to maintain healthy relationships and attachments to our significant others and children. So we start to attach to them instead, aspiring to become rich ourselves, lusting after them.

Doctors Gabor Mate and Gordon Neufeld argue that when children replace their natural and healthy attachments to parents with attachments to peers, the effects can be devastating for families and for the children’s development. When this happens, parents must work toward restoring their child’s attachment to them. The same applies to grownups suffering from this collective Stockholm syndrome. They need to seek professional help at once. They need to break their dysfunctional attachments with the rich and powerful and lose their unhealthy desires to dress like Bill Gates in the bedroom, so they can be healthy and whole once again.

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