Escape From Inception and the President

Escape From Inception and the President
by Paul Morantz
(c) August 2011

(Special note. This seems a time where President Barack Obama, unable to overcome Republican will that he fail, has reached his lowest approval level, seemingly unable to garnish help for the economy or medecine, helping instead GM but at expense of innocent individual money lenders and pensioners; this criticism of his behavior modification Executive Order is not intended to add to his sea of troubles; this is not about politics–his choice of action just failed to take in the big picture–but creating a wake-up call).

It was the eve of the Beatles invasion. When Happy Days was life, not a TV show. My high school senior class gathered on a Santa Monica beach–celebrating graduation and friendships we had no doubt would extend long beyond our current 17 years of existence.
As campfires flickered, alcoholic beverages–snuck from homes or procured by tipping some adult in a liquor store parking lot–were circulated. Slightly inebriated I pinned Manny in an impromptu wrestling match hoping somewhere close by Irva, the girl with those green eyes, would be impressed. Eventually too many senior class farewell toasts led to my early departure from a night we all pledged to hold so dear.
Before passing out and being rolled in a blanket as a log for my classmates to sit on, I became aware of sounds of loud, angry shouts emanating from lighted windows in a tall red-brick three story building mushrooming from the edge of the beach. Attracted, drawn, I staggered closer. One of my classmates, I don’t know who, spoke as if he knew the question on my mind:

“Addicts live there…prostitutes and bank robbers. It’s a rehab place. That’s Synanon.”

Good, I thought and then oddly I became immobilized in the sand by a fear that I did not come close to understanding, somehow afraid to take a step closer towards the building. It seemed like an eternity I stood there but I am sure only moments went by before I retreated and continued contributing to my disorientation.

I had had, I suspect, been a moment of laughter to any God watching, treated with a future “glimpse (See True Story of the Rattlesnake in the mailbox,” but today I remember the moment not so much for its Twilight Zone warning, but as a mourning for what had passed, dissolved into the crazy 60’s—a time of Father Know’s best, Life with Riley and the Nelsen family.

While it is true bigotry stood tall in the 1950’s, mandating its 60’s abandonment, the counter movement had as well swept away America’s proudest time. The greatest generation had saved Europe and the world and now rested in prosperity and hammocks. Movies were about heroes, not sociopath killers and drug dealers. Instead of urging rape and mayhem, music was about Tammy whispering her love for the bachelor. Happy There After was the right spouse and a white picket fence. Rather than watching Porn, we stared at Audry Hepburn. Family meant something other than the mob and it was the Golden Rule generation, not the Me generation or the Look at Me generation. We didn’t go to bars at 2 a.m. looking for women, we went in the afternoon to malt shops. Boys and girls went steady. One could hitchhike without fear. It was a time to Love Thy Neighbor. Repairmen came to repair and not rip you off. Drugs were something proscribed when you were sick and doctor’s made house calls. “Road rage” was not yet a vocabulary term. Businesses cared about their employees. The customer “was always right.”

So wouldn’t it be great after 60 years of social and moral decay it all came back? The President thinks so. And he is quite right. It may be the only way to avoid oblivion. History supports that. He signed an Executive Order to establish an Advisory Board to select morals that behavior modification experts are going to install. He has been joined by (a rich trust by a philanthropist uses images to change our thinking).

Something does indeed have to be done. An 18th century 6 volume book The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire by English historian Edward Gibbon stands as a clear and convincing warning we must do something. Of no coincidence the book is cited recently by a suicidal character played by Tommy Lee Jones in the movie “Sunset Limited” to explain why America is not worth living in anymore.

As to Rome, Gibbon explains that a succession of Emperors each tried to out do his predecessor in providing “circus” for the public in the Coliseum. What had started once as fighting between gladiators grew to competition on how gruesome a kill could be created. Christians were fed to lions, others tied to horses driven in opposite directions. Women were draped in the fur of a female donkey in heat and served to male donkeys that mounted from the rear.

Rome became a republic that not only did thumbs down on life but they had sex in their seats while the festivities went on.

Gibbon wrote this gradual loss of civic virtue caused Rome to become so weak it succumbed to barbarian invasions. Further, religions had replaced the dedication to the glory of Rome.

If Gibbon is right, and we take note the United States is no longer the world leader in education, technology, or standard of living, one need only to trace the loss of values to the birth of the me generation, simultaneous death of the Golden rule and entertainment producers, Jerry Springer having led the way, taking morals lower and lower as long as it brings the ratings up and up.

Commencing with the Arthur Penn 60sh movie, Bonnie and Clyde, our entertainment has turned from good guys to the bad guys, celebration of crime pays and ain’t murder fun. We are saddened when Bonnie and Clyde died. In real life they would shoot you just to see which way the wind caused your body to fall. Walter Matthau (Charley Varrick 1973) and Bill Murray (Quick Change 1990) are lovable criminals who say it’s all right to commit one major crime and take money from others, even if innocent people get killed, if you stop afterwards. It is OK if you have not found a way to make a lot of money honestly. Today instead of watching crime bustors on film we watch crime crews, like an Ocean 11 series.

When I was kid the film world suggested great careers in public service, and encouraged women to aspire for equal jobs. Now we are told a neat vocation where you can get the girl is to be a hitman, and girls are best off pole dancing if they want to learn how to rip rich guys off.

First there is gangster rap and now there is Narcocorrido, Hispanic music that glorifies murderous drug lords and young Mexican Americans have praised it, saying it is about time they admit what they are about and solute it in music.

HBO which brought us perhaps the best look at important current events, also teaches, for ratings, that women can best aspire to be strippers and hookers, each should be happy to go down on her best friend in front of her boyfriend on his birthday.

While the Sopranos at least taught us that these people are sociopaths and if ever you wind up living next door, move, HBO followed with reality shows making heroes of real Dons.

Reality Shows. God forgive us. Following Jerry Sprnger’s discovery decadence spurs voyeurism which in turns brings riches, entertainment turned to exhausting the worst in social behavior. Is there any character in True Blood with an IQ over 50? We have finally seen the ultimate combine in Femme Fatales which bring together Twilight Zone/Outer Limits story telling but each tale requiring soft porn and women using men to get what they want.

Showtime canceled a movie on Synanon–the great first drug rehab possibly founded by a sociopath– it had developed for years, replacing it with a series—Dexter– where the star is a sociopath role model who teaches killing and mayhem is a good way to get back at someone. Its initial promotion of the show was even more reprehensible; one girl says to the camera, “everyone is entitled to one flaw,” while another says what counts is that the killer has “great abs.” New is “Breaking Bad” where the message is if you are dying of cancer it is all right to raise money for your family by destroying the brains of others, i.e. sell crystal methadone.

The worst may have been the recent movie Inception. To understand its representation of moral decline you start with the original 1962 Manchurian Candidate. While inaccurately portraying brainwashing procedures (actually it was about a form of hypnosis never achieved), the character played by Lawrence Harvey is turned into a controlled assassin for a conspiracy between his mother and North Koreans to place a communist in the White House. In the end Frank Sinatra eulogizes him as a hero who fought off his programming and kills his own mother in defense of his country. Next came 1984 Dreamscape where technology sends an assassin into the President’s dream; Dennis Quaid then enters the nightmare to save the President.

But in Inception, the plot is to benefit a greedy billionaire by eliminating business competition by entering the dreams of an heir to a rival company and convincing (in essence, brainwashing) him to choose to sell his competing businesses and start something else. Free choice is taken away.

The team that is going in is doing it for money; the hero, played by Leonardo DeCaprio, motive is to have a criminal conviction removed from his record so he can come home. The only character with a speck of conscious is played by Ellan Page but she only cares the team is not aware of DeCaprio’s psychological problems that endanger them; she has no concern that they are psychologically making their victim’s life decision for him.
For me, the most awful part of the movie is when it ends and the audience applauds. After all, there were neat special effects. So yes, Mr. President take us back in time to bicycles and lollipops.

And arguably, there is no more likely to be successful means than to install a program of thought control. It will produce success the fastest. But can we risk the cure? And do we accept it works only as long as it is employed?

Chuck Dederich proved that. He made his followers before it was fashionable in outer society give up drugs and (after told by a doctor he had to quit smoking and lose weight), ban sugar, eat bran, run, enjoy gracious dinning, aerobics and quit smoking. Jim Jones did it, too. They proved as did Joseph Stalin and countless totalitarian leaders that thought reform is the quickest and most likeliest way to succeed.

So how did Barack Hussein Obama II began. On June 10, 2010 he issued an Executive Order (does not need Congress approval) establishing the National Prevention, Health Promotion, and Public Health Council which is intended to use Skinner’s behavior modification methods to induce a unified populace thinking as to proper lifestyle. Sec. 6 (c) focus—seem unassailable—as it focuses on smoking cessation, better nutrition and exercise, mental health, substance abuse avoidance, prevention of domestic violence and avoiding major diseases. Better values can save money. Treating obesity States costs US $150 billion a year, the treating smoking related illness is $185 billion a year and the cost of cholesterol related illness is $53.1 billion a year.

The problem lies, however, is the execution. Instead of reasoned speeches, like Nancy Reagan’s “Just say No” in the eighties, People are selected to choose our values which by media spots, imagery and worst of all “peer pressure” will be induced.

The problem does not lie in the concept it will not work. To the opposite, the problem is it will work as long as we employ thought reform pressures. That is the message of cults and all the stories told from Manson to Jeffs. Thought reform is very successful while in use. It is powerful enough to accomplish the values changes, get people off drugs and live different live; but it is so successful that it can get people to change their spousal partners, abort their children, lynch or burn dissidents and commit mass suicides and/or murders. That history has proven that thought reform is like nuclear energy: It may be the best ever to keep the lights burning but eventually a catastrophic price is paid. Chaos theory says it can’t be controlled. And all thought reform regimes end in ruin.

Even if we assume the Pres. has only the best values in mind, who guarantees a psychological history of each advisory executive given the power to influence. Once the system is in place what happens if the next Pres. is another Richard Nixon or George Bush, Jr? Do we want them injected by psychological means into us all. Nixon wanted to do away with the 2 term limitation, Bush, Jr., convinced a country to waive flags as innocent were slaughtered in a country whose leader wanted to kill is Dad.

Concern is further exemplified by a recent misguided book– a First-Rate Madness—by Nassir Ghaemi, director of Mood Disorders at Tufts Medical Center, who contends the best Presidents were those with mental abnormalities—mania, depression and other disorders– that led to solutions to abnormal crises, where as to normal brains act to middle of the road. He even advocates Nixon did normal thing –lied (So also Bill Clinton).

There is no doubt mental issues have often equated to special insight and genius. But unresolved child hood traumas eventually lead to, as sociologist and author Edgar Schein noted, to uncontrolled insecurity, paranoia, obsession with enemies and purges. Yes depression was in the mix for John F. Kennedy who was brilliant in the Missile Crisis (but also did Bay of Pigs and Marilyn) Martin Luther King, Jr. (who also womanized), Winston Churchill and Franklin D. Roosevelt.

But abnormality in leaders also brought us Chuck Dederich, Jim Jones, Bhagwan Rajneesh, Attila the Hun, Genghis Khan, Napoleon, Nero, Adolf Hitler, Sadam Hussein, George Bush, Jr., Osama bin Laden, and despite Dr. focus Ghamei’s diagnosis, Richard Nixon.

Even the good doctors best example, Abraham Lincoln, is not a sure thing. It is well known that before becoming Pres. Lincoln was suicidal and obsessed with finding a place in history. While no doubt he delivered some historical speeches, his decision to invade the South, which was then raped and plundered, was responsible for a horrible amount of death and ruination. It is best defended by the proposition that no slavery shall exist on this continent, but that concept was not what started the war. A brilliant former ex-slave after the war began got Lincoln’s ear. The war itself started with the decision that to keep the nation strong for the future it could not lose the South. But where in the Constitution did it say that a state could not secede from the union, and (absent slavery issue) why could not people so economically and culturally different choose to govern themselves just as the original colonies chose self government rather than British rule? Certainly, United States power was maintained, but did it have the right to force its will in order to do so. How many lives were lost? How many lives were ruined? If the South won, wouldn’t its leaders be today’s heroes? Not Lincoln.

The bottom-line is the warning that thought reform works as long as it is employed, then it fails; it is as Dr. Robert Jay Lifton wrote, one of the greatest dangers to man, and once in place it is inevitably goes wrong. Any insanity of the leader will be transmitted rationally as sanity to the followers. Presidents and advisory boards are just as susceptible.

Further, Americans have a history of pursing freedom of thought. Assuming the better life of a Skinner’s box, most people, given the choice, would choose their freedom to decide for themselves regardless of the chaos that comes with it.

Unfortunately, or fortunately, depending on one’s view, the President may be getting help in the modification field.

“The Foundation for a Better Life,” was started in 2000 with a $700 million endowment from Mr. Philip Anschutz, a wealthy evangelical Christian with an estimated net worth of $7 billion as of October 2010. In the first campaign on November 9, 2001 more than $10 million was spent on the initial campaign, 10,000 billboards, signs and posters nationwide advocating the values of “unity” and “courage” with images of flags and firefighters. Its messages have aired on 7 Networks, 900 TV stations, 5,000 theatre screens and in Spanish to 21 Latin American Countries.

It states “We create public service campaigns that model the benefits of a life lived by positive values. In turn, we hope to inspire people to make values a part of their own lives, and then to communicate the benefits to others.”

The foundation set up a website to communicate values and solicit stories of heroes. further produces television shorts intended to indoctrinate. In one, a woman tells her hospitalized father that he did a good job of raising her, but that she can take care of herself now and that it is all right for him to stop fighting and die. The message is delivered that those believed to have illnesses that are terminal will do the best thing for their family to terminate. Never mentioned, which at least the Pres. does when he advocates the same, is given the aging of the baby boomers population early termination of life will save the taxpayers enormous Medicare expenditures. The issue is a delicate one, with pros and cons, but in the end it should be an individualized choice, and not one to be taught as what is right by a consistent bombardment of images.

The Pres. already passed a bill that insurance companies must pay for a medical consultation on whether someone should live or not and suddenly there has been a transformation of Dr. Jack Kevorkian from Dr. Death who the state put behind bars, to a documentary and movie making him a hero. From my view, and I am just one person, Dr. Kevorkian did raise the question that one should have the right to decide when enough is enough, but also raised the issue of do we allow one man to decide for himself when a person is incurable.

Anschutz’s fortune came from oil, land, railroads, telecommunications and Anschutz Entertainment Group (AEG), the world’s largest owner of sports teams and sports events, and profitable sports and entertainment venues. Using entertainment to sale “thinking” is clearly accessible.

While the Foundation claims no religious foundation it also remains very secretive as to who is behind it. While Anschutz is an evangelical Christian and the foundation president Gary Dixon has deep Mormon ties and reportedly was inspired by the association’s billboard campaign called God Speaks, which garnered attention in 1999 and 2000.

It can be argued that together the two are doing what religion can do best, but again it is a system not of advocacy of reasoning, but conditioning. Will human psychology eventually change the nature of the message? Whatever the message, it is going to work.

In anonymous blogger may have summed it up best:
“There’s nothing wrong about their ads, but I find them somewhat creepy. They remind me of Big Brother, or an Atheist message of morality. They have tons of money because every other commercial on cable is theirs. I did a search on them but didn’t come up with anything. Am I paranoid?”
What will be Anschutz’ messages tomorrow. He is a Republican who has patronized George W. Bush’s administration and a number of religious and conservative causes including denying equal rights to gays, criticizing evolution theory, advocate television censorship and has produced films with Christian themes. Keep in mind we are supposedly a nation of all religions, even though once Time Magazine did a crazy cover story arguing the idea that we should claim Christianity as the nation’s religion given its role in so many Hollywood movies.

This is one script I hope the Pres. orders a re-write.