Politically induced delusional systems

    By Tarek Ali Hassan
    Friday, April 23, 2004

  Is the information transmitted to us by the "authorities" always true and accurate. Or are we "the public" even in the established democracies, easy prey to manipulation and a process that Bernays referred to as engineering consent, i.e. engineering perception

"Politically induced delusional systems”

An adjuvant handout supplementing the slides and talk for the seminar lecture by:
Tarek Ali Hassan, FRCP at the AUC department of Political Science on April 20th 2004

In harmony with the cross disciplinary multidisciplinary approach,
I shall import biology, physiology, psychology, psychopathology, neurology and art- history into the domain of political science

What do we mean by a Delusional system?
  1) story

When I was a medical student we had to have sessions in what was then called the lunatic asylum at Abbassiya. We went there as a group of rather terrified and bewildered students and our tutors were at pains to explain to us the then current definition of madness and a person gone mad. A mad person, they told us, is a person who is locked in assumptions and perceptions dissociated from reality and yet persistently fails or refuses the test of reality validation and or any input or logic contrary to these assumption..

In other words, a person locked in his or her own perception of reality regardless of the feedback from “real*” reality as determined by his or her environment of the time and place, in parallel with rejection of documented events and test sequences.

In short it was a person locked in a system of reality, in this case, a delusional system that is resistant and closed to feedback from external and environmental sources.

The delusional system is as equally resistant to any amount of invalidation from external sources or experiences, as it is to documented neutral data and test sequences. The person/s locked in a delusional system is impervious to any amount or any quality of perception-modifying input. In other words person/s locked in delusional systems are unable to develop or to grow, unable to communicate or "listen" or dialogue in any relevant sense.

What our tutors then failed to tell was that delusional systems do not only enclose persons but they can take-over groups, whole societies, nations, races, political systems. Their creation, feeding and amplification can become the natural pursuit of many professionals in politics, in mass media, in the arts, advertising, marketing, medical and legal professions

  2) some insights from physiology of the brain: multi-source neutral input,
to interpretation according to cumulative aquired memory-store
visual to psychovisual,
aural to psycho-aural, pshycho-emotional, psycho-cognitive etc.

The healthy brain is continuously, receiving, filtering, processing a non-stop flow of multidimensional input that is completely neutral. The more a person has learnt to allow space for open ended imaginative processing the richer the experience and the deeper the perception.
We were always reminded, seeking answers, contemplating history, that a healthy growing socio-political structure allows space for multiple interpretations and for imaginative deviation, being seeds for all creativity and creation.

So as not to be lost in the infinity of interpretations for all input, we are in parallel reminded of the importance of dynamic multi-sided validation, continuous reality testing and modification of assumptions, goals and means according to continuous feedback circuits. We are also reminded of the difficult test of translation of assumptions from the infinite world of imagination into the material world. Thus achieving and testing for tangible proof of the validity of the assumption/s while reserving judgment throughout the process. It is a difficult process demanding vast amount of social , political and emotional maturation but is nevertheless the difficult lot of mature human consciousness and mature societies.
Given the human individual and group predicament, modesty and an open mind is imperative. We have to mature from the telescopic enclosure of believing we were in possession of absolute, static and permanent truth, to the richness of the relative, dynamic, interactive, ever-growing, multi-dimensional process (by the way note how art eloquently reflects these opposing static versus dynamic stances, which are really stages in the maturation of individuals or societies as we experience the difference between monophonic, non-dramatic, non-developmental music and art on one side and polyphonic, dramatic, developmental art on the other. Appearing briefly in pre-dynastic Osirian Egypt, Sumer, Greece, then dying out during the Papal-hegemony in Europe which managed to take the World from the Egypto-Hellenic enlightenment to the depths of the dark ages until Greco-Osirian enlightenment helped by the initial dedication of Islamic scholars to rationality, logic, research and learning, started to reappear midwifing the renaissance and the re-establishment of the right to deviate and breakout of imposed mono-dimensional hegemony.

  3) Story in the lunatic asylum part II

While we (the novice students) were wandering in the vast gardens where "non-dangerous" patients were allowed. We –terrified- were suddenly descended upon by one enormous terrifying giant of a man claiming to be the grand Emperor and demanding immediate show of submission:
"on your knees before the Emperor! you mean ignorant subjects"
We were actually quaking at the knees.
"How dare you not know me; the great Emperor ?
You! Have you not heard of my great and glorious exploits,
He added perhaps taking in that we were shocked at his non-imperial appearance, wearing rags and barefoot. "my great and glorious past, you stupid fools? You do not know it. You are unaware of it?"

Reality testing came quickly in the form of the burly male nurse supervisor who was following the scene and intervened in the nick of time to save us, closely followed by three assistants who were even more gigantic and thug like than our patient. They immediately proceeded to rain blows and kicks onto the Emperor till the barefoot Emperor, in rags and unprotected, collapsed, weeping onto the ground!
" The Emperor has been molesting you?" asked the chief nurse.
"I warned you not to molest the students you scum! Emperor cockroach with the glorious past and magnificent exploits", "has he been repeating his stories about his glorious past and exploits?!!, ha, ha, ha!"
"As punishment you are to sweep the floors of all the corridors of the number 6 wing, under my personal supervision. You will go on sweeping until I tell you to stop". "Yalla, be quick, get on with it you scum!!" (he howled at the helpless Emperor) who it seemed had no choice but to submit and obey.

  4) nightmare

We take off with our imagination leading us into a number of nightmare follow-up scenarios which actually materialised and took place in many parts of the World in the twentieth century and threaten to resurface in the twenty first, thanks to our incredible inability to learn from history.

Supposing this mad deluded emperor received funds, resources and weapons from some external source. An army springs around him, a rising numbers of followers materialise. Soon enough there will sprout "thinkers", writers, artists, etc. singing his praises, experts and Bernays's* to sell him to the people and to the World. As long as our mad deluded emperor held in an iron hand the "treasure" and the well weaponised army, the dynamics of this delusional system-support will be unstoppable.. The nightmare is compounded as we realise that, had the "emperor" not been mad at the beginning, the conditions of absolute power are such that the isolation into unitary intput is a sure path to make the dictator mad. The failure of any mirror or valid return of position-determining radar or sound bytes or any initiatives to reflect anything but his own perceptions, is sure to lose him all sense of perspective and drive him deep into the immune uni-dimensional delusional system with consequent decision and action-blunders.(typical examples from Hitler, Mussolini, Saddam, Bokassa, Idi Amin, Pol Pot etc.. etc..). Few people realise that the dictator having disempowered all normal dynamics in his World, if not mad at the beginning becomes mad, achieves madness by definition. He lives in a terrible state of solitary confinement with distorted perceptual feedback (mainly by selective feedback, and suppression of opposing or unpleasant information), a situation worse than the most horrendous tortures conceived in spy and science fiction novels.(torture by sensory and input deprivation and or distortion.)

  5) On the genesis of political delusional systems

From the dawn of history, it seems that with the rise of centralised controlling power structures, human societies have been manipulated into various delusional systems full of assumptions protected, for stability and continuity, from unbiased validation or invalidation.

The sad reality gleaned from biology, neurology and human social evolution, as well as the greatest works of art (Homer, Mozart, Sophocles and Euripides), is that whereas socio-political reality strives for fixation, easy unitary simplification, black/white polarisation for easy answers, reality in human personal and group life is a dynamic, multidimensional, interactive process, a continuous drama which can not countenance black/white polarisation even if we need easy diagnosis and easy separation for our easy peace and comfort.

This leads us to the hypothesis that to a lesser or greater extent, all human societies so far survive by creating around them a greater or lesser amount of a priori assumptions and delusional systems. Some societies have made significant breakthroughs learning to survive and dialogue with alternatives and with “other” and to allow effective space and rights for "different" and the “other”. The more successful a socio-political system is in that line the more creative and inventive it becomes and the more of a contributor to human social evolution it can be.

  6) Unnecessary imposed and learned limitation in a potentially rich, interactive, interdependent and pluralistic World

It is tragically the norm that we are all born into polarised uni-dimensional static view of self and of the world.
We are all born into Religions, turned institutionalised dogma, heavily protected dogma at that. We are very early manipulated away from the experience of religion as drama; living drama. We ignore the calls for justice, integrity, freedom, development and growth and hand the whole drama into the deadly confines of dogma very eloquently symbolised by enclosing Osiris in a wooden coffin and securely nailing Jesus to a hard wooden frame. We are inculcated into uni-dimensional perception of history in which "we, I" are always right and righteous all the way and "they, them, other" are always wrong, and evil. We are inculcated into a history written, documented and transmitted by the victors.

Find me any school curriculum anywhere in the World, that transmits to the learners a multisided view of history. The education and the learning upbringing forces to which the vast majority of the peoples of the world are exposed, are outdated, outmoded and out of synch with the times and the needs of our particular stage of human evolution and the new challenges facing the race and the globe (short comment on computer games pathologically polarised into goodies baddies linear logic and into utter dehumanisation of the stereo-typed "other" in win/lose orientation without alternatives). Time and perspective may show that the great sound and fury and tragedy of the "war on terror" was simply an ineffective and probably counterproductive but very costly (in material and human terms) side show increasing the level of violence all over the World, while the inevitable march of human social evolution towards non-violence and pluralism is taking place in spite of the short sightedness of politicians enclosed in their delusional systems. In this respect, a much greater contribution to pluralistic peace and security comes from the activities of the national geographic magazines and its documentation, information and communications about the history and geography of various peoples and the neglected peoples of the World and their drama closely supported by sincere people based International Development Agencies and International cultural Agencies.

The terrible responsibility of being scientific about politics

With this supplement I hope to throw light on the fact that science and scientific study imposes certain responsibilities on all scientists and students of science. Political scientists have a responsibility to advocate a scientific concept of truth and not a political concept of truth. We all have a responsibility to make and maintain a peaceful World and that peace and security will always elude us as long as we opt for a mono-dimensional win/lose peace and security and not a multidimensional win/win just peace and security for all. I hope I have elaborated sufficiently the hypothesis that mono-dimensional stances are variations of the delusional states lurking like viruses to infect and corrupt individuals, groups and whole nations

I hope to make even a little dent into the "I am alright Jack" posture and the "all the fault lies with the "other" the "others".

Beware the madness of the normal

Violent mono-dimensional dictatorships, regimes and political systems create a situation where the normal socially correct persons are completely mad, being blocked and locked in an unchallengeable, non-dialogical (non-interactive) uni-dimensional delusional system, and the few who dare perceive outside this closed mono-dimensional reality are considered deviant, subversive and mad. So we have an almost comic situation where the sane, those capable of perceiving alternatives, able and willing to countenance them, are considered mad or even traitors and the mad, closed up in their rigid delusional system are considered sane.

It is sobering to be aware that the self-same process of thought-dictatorship which will not operate easily in open pluralistic democracies, can be made to gain dominance in times of war, panic, communal hurt or affront. War, panic, general hurt are therefore welcome gifts to autocrats or leaders obsessed with visions of heroic exploits against some well demonised evil, who feel inhibited by democratic process and dream of some excuse to over rule it. It is a time where the military and suppliers, and the security agencies have a full green light for expenditure without limit over-ruling public welfare. Under these conditions a public enlightened in democratic process and human rights, will gladly hand more and more power, freedom and resources to the executive, the armed forces and unaccountable even clandestine agencies, all of whom operate, in a real democracy, only under the full restrictive scrutiny and constraints of "we the people" and their representatives. Given full freedom by the conditions of War or national panic these normally bridled and accountable agencies acquire full license, full resources, to commit any amount of violence, of atrocity, any amount of over-ruling of basic democratic and human-rights principles, in the process of "winning", beating the "other" the "enemy" "evil" into submission, a process that by definition can never end. It logically leads to the impossiblr pursuit of destroying or submitting all "other". The short of it is that War is as dangerous and disruptive to self and to democracy as it is dangerous to the enemy.

I am sure all of you will discover echoes of situations where major forces find excuses to break out of democratic process, out of accountability, transparency and control by "we the people" even in the most liberal of societies.

Shockingly it is an exact –if discordant- simulation of the pattern that normally occurs in the most cruel and fascist dictatorships.

"We the people" everywhere even in the most liberal democracies, in search for a secure peace for themselves and their children, need to abandon complacency and exercise every inch of "people" constitutional powers to prevent governments dragging whole nations into irreversible situations, against the real will and long term interest of the people, serving the glory and interests of leaders, armies and shady non-transparent minorities with hidden agendas.

This last remark is both to reassure and to worry everybody that the phenomenon of powers breaking away from accountability, transparency and human rights commitment, is universal!

Yet in liberal pluralistic democracies saving mechanisms mercifully exist for checking and obstructing decisions that go against long term balanced public feeling and interest once the "people" abandon complacency and take positive interest and action.

In search for solutions and resolutions
Education for pluralistic, interactive peace

Does the educational orientation and curriculum anywhere in the World, transmit to the learners during their formative years, a balanced multi-sided view of history? Is there any curriculum that sees the predicament, achievements and failures of the human race as a cumulative process contributed to negatively and positively by all races all cultures and all religions, listening carefully and integrating into the whole picture the vision and perceptions of the "other", the vanquished and the crushed (an important insight gained from the feminist movement). The World has become our pulsating global village inextricably interconnected and interdependent with a fragile threatened life-supporting environment and an enormous widening gap between the privileged and the underprivileged. We all have to spare no effort, ingenuity or resource to create the conditions for an interactive non-violent pluralistic secure life together. The old win/lose, conqueror/vanquished, privileged intimidating the deprived into submission, is no path to stability, security and peace less so, while the privileged take every chance to flaunt/brandish their advantages in non-stop fevers of propaganda, advertising and selling and short-sided pride, vanity and assertion of supremacy without real tangible mass support for the deprived to start on the road of self help and self development. Many peoples of the World rightly perceive that the path to self help demands changes. They also perceive that the path for development is continuously frustrated by the powerful World leaders who support regimes, not according to their loyalty to the interests of their own people and their development. but according to their loyalty to the interests of the strong and powerful. There can be no alternative to a pluralistic, win/win interactive peace achieved by finding the balance points between disparate interests reflecting a faith in Universal human rights and justice. We can never find out and/or activate the interests of peoples into becoming a dynamic effective participant in international dialogue unless and until the peoples of the world are empowered to diagnose, express, participate and communicate and choose their honest accountable representatives.
All realities around us have changed but we adamantly cling to our closed boxes or rather to our politically induced delusional systems including outmoded concepts of peace and security. As repeatedly pointed out in this article, the education and the learning upbringing formative forces to which the vast majority of the peoples of the world are exposed, are outdated, outmoded and out of synch with the times and the needs of our particular stage of human evolution and the new challenges facing the race and the globe.(a suggested study on computer games ferociously training our children into the win/lose principle and into the "other" as enemy).

  9)  Are there any inroads for relevant participation of "the people" in autocratic regimes?
Or in democracies moving towards dictatorial practices using war, panic and security as an excuse
Lofty principles that are rapidly reversed under stress are neither lofty nor can they play their vital role as universal principles midwifing a troubled and unequal world into peace and security .

The phenomenon of resistance to maturation into pluralistic interactive multisided global dialogue is universal! Yet in liberal pluralistic democracies, saving mechanisms mercifully exist for checking and obstructing decisions that go against public feeling and interest once the "people" abandon complacency and take positive action.

  10) Dilemmas facing mono-dimensional reality regimes with the advent of globalisation, the web, satellite tv and international trends towards liberalisation and democratisation.

First problem is that mono-dimensional reality power structures create mirror image mono-dimensional reality opposition which is marginalised and so mostly underground potentially violent and equally fanatic and non-dialogical.
Second problem is that mono-dimensional reality power structures create systems for the promotion of the mediocre and second-rate. These systems are threatened with excellence and creativity and develop complex mechanisms and legislation for exteriorisation, disempowering and marginalisation if not outright criminalisation of the distinguished, the creative and the first rate.
A vicious circle of disordered pattern of relations whereupon every generation contrives, for to be poorer in knowledge and performance than the generation before and certainly poorer than the "boss". A general poverty of ability, performance and imagination holds such societies down with a powerful anti-movement inertia

  11)  In pursuit of preservation of the status quo against all pressure from within and without.
The deadly art of appearance of reform without substance

Facing the new challenges of modernity, globalisation, human rights, free trade etc., mono-dimensional reality regimes have invented the ingenious art of "appearance without substance or mechanisms for safeguarded implementation of cosmetic reforms without any essential change".
New political arts:
Appearance of democracy without democracy,
the appearance of free elections without free elections,
the appearance of pluralism without pluralism,
the appearance of free information without free information,
the appearance of multiparty system with absolute one power, one party hegemony,
the appearance of progress without progress. Examples: legislation will frequently lead to the opposite of what it is purporting to do in the rosy and flowery preambles.
Much legislation in this environment is like a well crafted car with the spark plugs removed by law, a well crafted aeroplane without propellers which are also banned by law. Systems theory turning in its grave day by day.
Big noise about human rights,
human rights counsels but unempowered under emergency laws,
big noise about academic freedom under the shadow of heads of universities, deans of faculties, as political appointees,
political party pluralism under a system with complete disempowerment under reigning laws, closed circuit political party elections and presidential elections with no alternatives.
In the absence of separation of powers and careful balance between them, we get a locked closed circuit, "Me" to me to me non-dialogue/dialogues and debates appearing with self-righteous amplification on mass media and television firmly held under absolute state control of mass media. To prove to all how liberal and pluralistic we all are!

Ignored warnings
- The continued erosion of the environment and the Earth's resources.
- Viruses, bacteria,micro-organisms and other noxious entities (mad cow disease and attackers of the human genome learning new pathways to hurt and damage
- The threatening biomass of the deprived and malnourished AIDS infected or exposed millions weakened by deprivation, pollution and short sighted unnatural practices, encouraging the above looming disasters waiting to take hold of the human race. Just recall the Spanish virus after the bizarre first World War

  1)  THA Hassan, "A call for a dynamic multidimensional philosophy of complementarity", and other articles, (published by the General Egyptian Book Organisation, 2004) including a chapter about an imagined address of an American President to the UN presenting a recipe for peace and security after 9.11

Feedback welcome:
The ZKH Foundation for holistic Human Development
E-mail: tali@idsc.net.eg


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