Thursday, May 12, 2005

Choosing How to React to Coercion

Have just been reading Victor Frankl's "Man's Search for Meaning" which deals with the matter of how people reacted to being incarcerated in Auschwitz and Dachau. He writes that people, even under these most dire of circumstances had a choice about how they reacted and that it was often those of an apparently sensitive disposition, who were used to having creative interior lives, rather than the apparently more robust or avoidant personalities, who coped best with the pressures of the camp.

Still haven't finished the book...usual reasons, (I fall asleep reading Dr Seuss and the Gruffalo, which is by no means terrible, in fact is absolutely wonderful, but not currently particularly pertinent). Nonetheless, from the first two-thirds of the book, I have concluded: since the camp inmates could still find it within themselves to chose how they reacted to the circumstances, it is probably best that in the course of waiting for the chance for easy autonomy, ie: for the disassembling of all those useless coercive structures, such as over-intrusive government, the myth of compulsory schooling, the notion that bullying is good for you and the ever-present milk-all- over- the- books type problem, to develop the rather complex mix of both recognising potentially coercive sources of pressure, accepting them as a normal expectation, rather than as an extraordinary infringement and then changing my reaction to them! This hopefully means that I will do my best to sock it to these sources of coercive power, whilst not suffering from a heart attack in the process.

Ho humm.....well, can but dream and slightly ironic, given that I've just been ranting more or less uncontrollably about pathetic government in very recent previous post!


Anonymous said...

Here, here! Why not choose to reject aggressively and constructively whilst one can?

That is one of the conclusions I drew, although perhaps not with the aggressive bit...

I also felt that there are many circumstances that reproduce some of the severe limitations and hardships of the concentration camp. Old age, I feel, is one of them. We end up living imprisoned in bodies that let us down and are unable to act out our inner desires. We become potentialy coerced by our own shell. Then, too, it is very clear how some people manage to use their inner lives, combined with a specific sort of attitude, to grow heroically rather than deteriorate to a ranting, unpleasant toddler who hates the world. Unfortunately, in the same way that the extremities of the camps pushed people into two types of men, so does old age, and usually it is the worse side that wins out.

Presumably, reactions to the political body in power can be seen in the same way!

Carlotta said...

I think I actually agree with your first conclusion..."the sock it to them" is meant to be a sort of rational, clean, good looking, killer argument, rather than anything full of passionate hatred. It seems that it is all a matter of achieving a fine balance between enervation and torpor!

Great book though, an all-time favorite...have just finished it, whilst DH did some "burning", I think he calls it. Goodness knows quite what this is. It seems to involve playing an awful lot of different tracks in rapid succession incredibly loudly, until everyone has to lie down.