Towards a New Culture
The following is excerpted from Towards a New Culture: From Refusal to Re-Creation, Outline of a Humane and Ecological Alternative, available on amazon.com and
as a free download.
The global uprisings and occupy movements have brought the question of a realistic social utopia again into focus. "What's next after capitalism?" turns out to be a more important question then how to simply overcome it.
After the 1968 students movement in Germany had faded away, Dieter Duhm, psychologist, sociologist and one of the movement's intellectual leaders, began working on a comprehensive research project for building concrete utopia. After the more than thirty years of work, the project today has its base in the international Tamera Peace Center in Portugal, where around 200 people work on ecological and social models for a future without war, connected to a global network. In 1981, he wrote the book Towards a New Culture, now published in English for the first time. On the occasion of Dieter Duhm's 70th birthday this Wednesday, September 19, we want to present some central ideas of this revolutionary approach.
The compelling political, economic, ecological, social, technological, psychological, medical, scientific, and mental-spiritual questions of our time need different answers than those available within the framework of our established ways of living and thinking. The analysis of all of these questions leads to the same realisation: they can only be solved truly and with lasting effect if the human finds a fundamentally new relationship to himself, to his fellow humans, to all other living beings, and the entire planet. A "new relationship" means a new behaviour, a new way of life. In the heart of a new approach towards an ecological culture stands a liberated, unsentimental, and active love relationship with all that lives.
Earlier [...] a few basic characteristics of the new culture were described, without which a new order of humane society, oriented upon the laws of life, can hardly be possible. These characteristics are: solidarity with all living beings, life research, free sexuality, non-violence without repression of aggression, grass roots democracy through transparency (especially in the emotional and sexual areas), and constant social feedback through direct human contact. These characteristics cannot be realised at the depth of their true meaning on the basis of present-day emotional, character, and ideological structures; in part, they cannot even be understood. They seem to go against empirically determined laws of human behaviour. But in reality they only go against the empirical laws of the existing cultural era which is based on bioenergetic self-suppression. The realisation of the above-mentioned characteristics requires an inner process of change for the individual we could term "emotional cleansing."
What does "emotional cleansing" mean? It means that love and hatred are freed from their mutual embrace; that one feels no fear when one needs to fight, and no inhibitions when devotion is called for. It means that one does not force a smile when one would rather cry or scream, that one learns to differentiate between love and the need for someone to lean on, between a "yes" that stems from the heart and a "yes" that stems from the fear of being rejected. It means that one no longer confuses one's lover with one's mother or father; that one does not confuse emotional hypersensitivity with love of one's neighbour, or the rage of being personally hurt with the rage against the destroyers of life, and one's own cowardice with consideration and tolerance. Emotional cleansing means that the emotions and energies can flow again because they are free from hypocrisy, that the feelings of inferiority and guilt disappear because the inferiority and guilt have disappeared. It means getting rid of false feelings of shame with which we have denied our best and most vital urges, and that true shame emerges, the shame over our constant repression of the truth of the living world within ourselves and others, for no other reason than for our fear of the eyes and judgement of others. Fundamentally, emotional cleansing means to overcome the entire psychological and cultural system that Wilhelm Reich called "the character armour."
The character armour is both a system that keeps down the biological energies and a psychological-ideological protection against all invasions of life that have been forced out, and against all signals from buried truths, longings, and love. The cultural era of the character armour has declared all grapes that hang too high to be sour and hated everything sweet that was unreachable. It despised and rejected the lust for which it had always longed, made impotence into the virtue of abstinence and turned cowardice into morals. This mendacity has become a solid structure and a permanent part of all that has been handed down as "education", "humaneness", and "human dignity". People instructed others about freedom and did not see the trap in which they themselves were caught. They developed theories as an excuse for their own fears, attacked the state and society but resisted every attack on their own character armour.
For the regulation of their social lives people of the old culture needed external ideologies and authorities. By being armoured beings, they could not rely on the honesty and reason in the human feedback they got through contact with their peers. Since they also were pent-up and full of latent cruelty they had to protect themselves against asocial excess through a system of laws and punishment. Fear has therefore been a central element in regulating society. If there can be said to exist one single central change of paradigm for our total culture, then it will be anchored in the change-over from a social order regulated by fear to a social self-organisation rooted in free and direct human contact.
Of course this change cannot occur overnight, not even in small model communities. But centres and support groups need to be established which, through their social and psychological structures, will be able to facilitate this central process of transforming human society. Using all available human and sociological intelligence, we need to replace fear as a regulating principle by something we could call ... love. The "home", of which the philosopher Ernst Bloch wrote, actually does lie in love, in a free, unsentimental love containing no remnants of fear, lies, or hatred; and the great nondum, the unredeemed part of history, lies for now in this, the greatest of unredeemed human longings. When it is fulfilled, when the human is loving in full sensuality, stands awake and fully present in the world, then finally a mode of existence will have been realised that we have always at heart known exists.