November 06, 2007


Photo credit:

El Cabrero has a special respect for things, people and ideas that have proven themselves in tough situations. The ideas of the late Viennese psychologist Victor Frankl would certainly qualify. He developed these in the crucible of Nazi concentration camps but found they had applications in less extreme conditions as well.

Frankl found that people who had a sense of purpose or meaning in their lives were better able to bear up to unbearable conditions and keep a sense of their humanity in the face of dehumanizing treatment. He also believed that people always retain a degree of inner freedom:

Man can preserve a vestige of spiritual freedom, of independence of mind, even in such terrible conditions of psychic and physical stress....

Fundamentally, therefore, any man can, even under such circumstances, decide what shall become of him--mentally and spiritually. He may retain his human dignity even in a concentration camp. Dostoevski said once, "There is only one thing that I dread: not to be worthy of my sufferings." These words frequently came to my mind after I became acquainted with those martyrs whose behavior in camp, whose suffering and death, bore witness to the fact that the last inner freedom cannot be lost.

Some things that helped people retain a sense of purpose were love for others, a desire to accomplish certain things, a sense of accomplishment for past achievements or even the determination to bear suffering with dignity. But

Woe to him who saw no more sense in his life, no aim, no purpose, and therefore no point in carrying on. He was soon lost.

END GAME. Apocalyptic religious types can't get enough war these days.

NAFTA AND EVERYTHING AFTER. Here's a good one from the Boston Globe about the downsides of "free trade" agreements. Congress is considering extending a NAFTA-style agreement to Peru.

MORE ON HEALTH CARE. According to the Economic Policy Institute, employer-provided health insurance continues to decline. According to the author of the report, “A universal health care system would provide Americans with access to the type of health care appropriate for the most prosperous nation in the world.”

AMERICANA. Here's a lengthy but good piece from the New Yorker about how America modernized. There's a cool Thoreau thread running through it.

HOW'S THAT NEXT WAR COMING? According to the McClatchy papers,

Despite President Bush's claims that Iran is pursuing nuclear weapons that could trigger "World War III," experts in and out of government say there's no conclusive evidence that Tehran has an active nuclear-weapons program.

Of course, the great thing about this administration is that they've never let facts get in the way of an unnecessary war.

MONKEY BUSINESS. It looks like they can rationalize too.



The Film Geek said...

Hey: I'm enjoying your comments on Frankl. His perspective is easy to talk about, of course, and harder to put into practice during times of extreme distress. I always admire the ability folks who really live this philosophy; it really is freedom.

El Cabrero said...

Frankl would definitely fall into the non-jacknut category. I was surprised to find out that he lived until 1997. Pretty tough.