||CHAPTER 11: TASKS OF THE NEW PSYCHOLOGY||Page 31|
The old psychology that is taught in American universities and used to train American psychotherapists is entangled, like the rest of the educational system and the mass media, in the web of militarism and inequality that pervades U.S. society. It is incapable of meeting the needs of those who are striving to translate the emerging vision of peace into reality.
The new psychology must proclaim the values of peace and justice. Its very purpose should be to promote these values in the people. This is totally unlike traditional psychology which takes a position of political "neutrality" and claims that it should not be involved in questions of values and purpose. Practically speaking, there is no such thing as neutrality. Silence can only be interpreted as acceptance of the dominant militarism of the society. The new psychology must begin from the standpoint that its task is to oppose the values of militarism and promote the values of peace and justice. It should teach the pursuit of peace as the purpose of life.
It is not enough to stress the values of peace and justice in the family and within the circles of traditional peace and justice organizations. The new psychology should take part in the struggle to promote the values of peace and justice in the government, the mass media, and the educational systems. Whether it is the election of Congressional candidates who will speak out and work for peace, or the struggle for peace education programs in the public schools and universities, or the task of printing letters-to-editors or appearing on talk shows in order to provide an alternative to the media's militarism, the task is difficult, but ultimately necessary and rewarding. We may put ourselves in the place of the parents of a King or Pollack, the ministers of a Balch or Muste, and the teachers of an Addams or DuBois to see what the ultimate fruits can be.
The rising emphasis on values and purpose for peace comes at a time when the problem of alienation is more acute than ever for society in general and for psychology in particular. Inundated by media programs of violence, children are not sure if they will ever grow up to be adults, let alone take their part in the cycle of generations. Depression, hopelessness and despair are everywhere, and the resultant problems of suicide, drug and alcohol abuse, and criminality have reached epidemic proportions.
Anger is on the increase, fueled by increased levels of economic and political exploitation. Terrorism is also on the increase. To some extent the terrorism is conducted by the forces of militarism. But to some extent, it also comes from the accumulating anger in people who feel that have no other resort for social change. However, rather than advancing the cause of peace, terrorism victimizes the innocent and fragments the peace movement, frightening people away from activity. To reduce terrorism, the new psychology can provide an optimistic rather than pessimistic channel for the expression of anger, turning it to constructive rather than destructive action.
Many see the rise in anger as a sign for despair, but the new psychology will see it as a force to be harnessed. However, anger is not only ignored as a positive force, but it is actively discouraged by contemporary American psychology textbooks. It is treated as if it were pathology and disease, and it is blamed for the ills of society including war and crime, while the true economic and political roots of these phenomena are hardly discussed.
It will not be enough for the new psychology to "authorize" anger. Anger is a skill that needs to be harnessed so that it is used constructively rather than destructively (footnote 14). When I say that "anger is the personal fuel in the social motor that resolves the institutional contradictions of history," I imply that anger is useless unless it is put into the "social motor." The new psychology must help engage people in today's "social motor," which is the peace movement, teaching them that their anger takes on constructive value within that social context. At the same time, it must guard against the harnessing of anger into reactionary social movements such as fascism.
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