Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Stockholm Syndrome America

By Stephen Z. Nemo:

Last weekend, I happened to be channel surfing and came upon a re-broadcast of  an ABC special on Jaycee Dugard, the young  girl who was kidnapped in 1991while walking to school in Lake Tahoe, California. She was held in captivity for eighteen years at the hands of convicted sex offender Phillip Garrido and his wife Nancy.

ABC reported that as a registered sex offender Garrido was subject to regular, unannounced home inspections by parole officers. In some cases, these inspectors walked passed Dugard without taking notice.

Why didn’t she cry out for help?

Trauma psychologist Elizabeth Carll told, “Whenever an abuser shows acts of kindness toward you, it shows you some hope that you will survive. That combined with the terror of what could happen sets the stage for wanting to please the abductor, and eventually feeling positive toward the abuser as a way of coping. The longer you are held captive, the more likely you are to bond with your captor.”

Psychologists call this mental condition the “Stockholm Syndrome.”

And this condition can apply to entire societies. In 2006, Alvaro Vargas Liosa of the Independent Institute explained the electoral success of Venezuela’s late strongman Hugo Chavez: “The perception that Chavez is a redeemer who has come to save Venezuelans from their past has allowed him to do away with most checks and balances through a combination of referendums, elections and decrees that have placed everything from the Congress to the Supreme Court and the National Electoral Council under his personal control… In essence, the nation has been kidnapped by Chavez. Millions of Venezuelans have come to depend on government programs known as ‘missions’ for their livelihood. These programs have placed the welfare recipients at the political mercy of the authorities. Many people are convinced that their personal future depends on handouts rather than wealth creation. Anybody who opposes the government is seen as an agent of the old elite determined to throw the poor to the wolves.”

Jaycee Dugard, who was held captive for 18 years, told ABC News, “Phillip [Garrido] gave me this image of the world as a scary place made up of pedophiles and rapists. I have come to realize this is not true...”

In other words, her sexual abuser convinced Dugard that if she left him, far worse awaited her in the outside world.

Many on the political right believe America is in the midst of a political and financial crisis. That analysis misses the point entirely. Americans are suffering profound cognitive dissonance resulting from Stockholm Syndrome.  

During the presidential campaign of 2012, the White House Captor-in-Chief fed the nation’s deep psychosis by synthesizing the beliefs of his small-government critics, “They've got a simple philosophy,” Obama said ominously, “We are better off when everybody is left on their own, everybody writes their own rules.”

The enemies of Obama’s authoritarian narcissism, then, are those that would chain the oppressive power of Washington in the service of “Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness,” and reacquaint the American family with their long estranged Founding Fathers.

In Lisa Scott’s book “Surviving a Narcissist – the Path Forward,” she observes, “Narcissists isolate us from our family and friends so we become dependent on them… they use various methods of coercion, including gaslighting to cause us to doubt ourselves and become reliant on them.”

This strange psychological dependence was noticed in hostages taken by bank robber Jan-Erik Olsson in Stockholm, Sweden, in August of 1973. Their reaction to Olsson is what inspired the term “Stockholm Syndrome.” So thorough was Krisin Enmark’s  sympathy for her abductor that when Olsson threatened to shoot fellow hostage Sven Safrom in the leg, to show police he meant business, Enmark turned to Safrom and said, “But Sven, it’s just in the leg.”

“How kind I thought he was for saying it was just my leg he would shoot,” Safrom later told the New Yorker magazine.

Stockholm Syndrome Americans are a lot like old Sven: willing to see their cherished liberties trampled in exchange for government’s wounding kindnesses.

To them I say, “Enjoy the bullet, Sven.”

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