I have a morbid penchant for reading the biographies of socialists who, having seen their ideological schemes fail utterly, lose all contact with reality. Not out of nastiness, mind you, merely that such life-stories seem rather to illuminate the psychology of the Left. Take, for example, the 19th century social reformer Robert Owen. Owen began his career as an industrialist par excellence. During this ‘money-making’ phase of his life he was able greatly to improve the conditions of his workers and was instrumental in bringing about the 1819 Cotton Mills Act, one of the first pieces of employment legislation in the world. And then he went all left-wing.
He devised plans for the masses to wear uniforms and live in identical parallelogram shaped buildings on collectivised farms where they would surrender their children to be raised by central authorities. He attempted to implement these ideas by setting up small socialist communities in North America. They all failed miserably, devouring the fortune that Owen had accumulated while working in industry. And then he went properly mad: he began to receive supportive visits from famous dead people. As he would relay, “the certainty of the immense permanent advantages … of [my societal] system … has been confirmed to me by the spirits of Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, the Duke of Kent and Grace Fletcher”.
Owen was one-third of what Friedrich Engels would later refer to as the “three great utopians”. Another was the French thinker Charles Fourier. Several proto-socialist communities were set up in accordance with Fourier’s highly prescriptive principles (everybody living in identical buildings etc). These communities would all eventually fail. Fourier, however, would go on to predict that if his socialistic principles were widely adopted, all men would grow to be seven feet tall and develop tails with claws on the end of them, and that six moons would orbit the earth [seriously]. He also invented the term ‘feminism’.
The 19th century German radical, Wilhelm Weitling, was another such character. Weitling’s treatise – Guarantee of Freedom and Harmony – was described by Karl Marx as the “brilliant, literary debut of the German working class”. Its plan involved everybody living in pentagon-shaped buildings and tilling the land. Like Owen, Weitling went on to set up socialist communities in North America. These too were abject failures, collapsing into anarchy and scenes of desperate, muddy people in a field fighting over possession of bits of rusting agricultural equipment. Weitling would live the rest of his days in poverty, while attempting to prove that all of the solar system revolved around the earth.
If one is to find a common thread that runs through all of this prescriptive socialist claptrap/madness, it would be ‘narcissism’. The socialist visionary believes himself to be imbued with unique powers of insight. Ghosts and moons and human tails aside, what could possibly be more narcissistic that the belief that one’s own central plan could replace the infinitely complex ‘invisible hand’ as organiser of society?
The mental disorder ‘Narcissistic Personality Disorder’ (NPD) is characterised by obsessions of “unlimited success, fame, fearsome power of omnipotence, unequalled brilliance”. By this yardstick socialism is a form of insanity. The ‘socialism = lunacy’ thesis makes perfect sense. One of the marked differences between the Left and the Right is that, for the Right, there can be no capitalist Utopia, no fixed point of finality where perfection is attained. Capitalism is a work in progress. That is its sole state. For to ever reach any conclusion would be for it to cease to be capitalism. An ossified hierarchy would come into being, devoid of competition. But that’s all too messy and un-egocentric for socialists.
That is why we must help left-wing people. They are mentally ill. I propose utilising Dr Walter Freeman’s treatment for personality disorder, developed in the 1930s: ‘ice-pick lobotomy’ therapy. It could be done quickly and humanely. Just – bop! – then wipe the ice-pick down and chuck it back in the tool-box. It would be an act of kindness.
Okay, okay. So I’m not being entirely serious. I do not really want lefties to have ice-picks stuck into their heads. For a start, there are clinical risks involved in the use of ice-pick therapy (see Leon Trotsky). And then there’s the fact that declaring political opponents to be insane could be perceived as being a teeny-weeny bit ‘Soviet’ in character.
But whaddya know? The use of psychiatry as a political weapon is back in style! Just check out the hysterical treatment of Donald Trump. A recent edition of Newsnight kicked off by asking, ‘Is Trump mental?’ [I paraphrase]. ‘Yes he is!’ came the response, with presenter Evan Davis deploying the ‘N word’ – narcissist. Journalist Christina Patterson, speaking on Sky News, said that Trump has Narcissistic Personality Disorder. A couple of days later comedian Ruby Wax claimed that Trump has mental health problems. A cover story in The Atlantic magazine considered Trump’s sanity for a full 9,000 words. Diagnosis: narcissistic nut job. And so on and so on.
Dr Andrei Snezhnevsky, the Soviet-era psychiatrist who developed the use of psychiatry as a political weapon, would be so proud if he weren’t presently burning in hell. Rather than engage in policy discussion, the Left is attempting to undermine Trump by labelling him a mentally ill narcissist. The irony is that Trump is presently appointing people to his cabinet who wish to dismantle the State. Trump is saying, through his actions, that the State should make fewer decisions. This non self-centred position is being labelled as narcissistic by the narcissists of the liberal-Left. Now that is a lack of self-awareness bordering on the delusional. Somebody get a doctor.
(Image: Mark Dixon)