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NoME Part Three: Chapter 7: Session 848, April 11, 1979 7/34 (21%) tornadoes nuclear reactor exterior Mile
– The Individual and the Nature of Mass Events
– Part Three: People Who Are Frightened of Themselves
– Chapter 7: The Good, the Bad, and the Catastrophic. Jonestown, Harrisburg, and When Is an Idealist a Fanatic?
– Session 848, April 11, 1979 9:21 P.M. Wednesday

[... 8 paragraphs ...]

(Pause.) The American experiment with democracy is heroic, bold, and innovative. In historic terms as you understand them, this is the first time that all of the inhabitants of a country were to be legally considered equal citizens one with the other. That was to be, and is, the ideal. In practical terms, of course, there often are inequalities. Treatment in the marketplace, or in society, often shows great divergence from that stated national ideal. Yet the dream is a vital portion of American national life, and even those who are unscrupulous must pay it at least lip service, or cast their plans in its light.

(Long pause.) In the past, and in large areas of the world now, many important decisions are not made by the individual, but by the state, or religion, or society. In this century several issues came to the forefront of American culture: the exteriorization of organized religion, which became more of a social rather than a spiritual entity, and the joining of science with technology and moneyed interests. Ruburt’s book on [William] James would be good background material here, particularly the sections dealing with democracy and spiritualism. In any case, on the one hand each individual was to be equal with each other person. Marriages, for example, were no longer arranged. A man no longer need follow his father’s vocational footsteps. Young adults found themselves faced with a multitudinous number of personal decisions that in other cultures were made more or less automatically. The development of transportation opened up the country, so that an individual was no longer bound to his or her native town or region. All of this meant that man’s conscious mind was about to expand its strengths, its abilities, and its reach. The country was — and still is — brimming with idealism.

(Long pause at 9:37.) That idealism, however, ran smack into the dark clouds of Freudian and Darwinian thought. How could a country be governed effectively by individuals who were after all chemicals run amok in images, with neuroticism built-in from childhood — children of a tainted species, thrown adrift by a meaningless cosmos in which no meaning could be found (very intently)?

[... 2 paragraphs ...]

There was some hope, at least, in looking for better living conditions personally. There was some hope in forgetting one’s doubts in whatever exterior distractions could be found. Idealism is tough, and it is enduring, and no matter how many times it is seemingly slain, it comes back in a different form. So those who felt that religion had failed them looked anew to science, which promised — promised to — provide the closest approximation to heaven on earth: mass production of goods, two cars in every garage, potions for every ailment, solutions for every problem. And it seemed in the beginning that science delivered, for the world was changed from candlelight to electric light to neon in the flicker of an eye, and a man could travel in hours distances that to his father or grandfather took days on end.

[... 2 paragraphs ...]

(9:55.) Some people looked, and are looking, for some authority — any authority — to make their decisions for them, for the world seems increasingly dangerous, and they, because of their beliefs, feel increasingly powerless. They yearn toward old ways, when the decisions of marriage were made for them, when they could safely follow in their father’s footsteps, when they were unaware of the lure of different places, and forced to remain at home. They have become caught between science and religion. Their idealism finds no particular outlet. Their dreams seem betrayed.

[... 2 paragraphs ...]

Cults, however, deal primarily with fear, using it as a stimulus. They further erode the power of the individual, so that he is frightened to leave. The group has power. The individual has none, except that the power of the group is vested in its leader. Those who died in Guyana, for example, were suicidally inclined. They had no cause to live for, because their idealism became so separated from any particular actualization that they were left only with its ashes.

The leader of Jonestown was at heart an idealist. When does an idealist turn into a fanatic? (Long pause.) When can the search for the good have catastrophic results, and how can the idealism of science be equated with the near-disaster at Three Mile Island, and with the potential disasters that in your terms exist in the storage of nuclear wastes, or in the production of nuclear bombs?

[... 12 paragraphs ...]

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