Children of the Beast & Erich Fromm

Sam Sewell
Children of the Beast


“The average man doesn’t want to be free. He wants to be safe.”
– H.L. Mencken

Most people see the conflict between limited government and big government as a political battle between conservatives and liberals.  This conflict is much more profound than political theory can encompass.

In this essay the metaphor of “The Beast” is used to represent big government and “Children of The Beast” to reveal the nature of those who support or are dependent upon big government.

My analysis is offered in two sections:

  1. The inherent inefficiency and inertia of large, complex entities
  2. The inherent evil of large, complex entities

“The Beast” is too big to be responsive to human will

“This system is like a steamroller with an unresponsive steering wheel;
no matter who is in the driver’s seat it continues to crush the people.”
– Aristotle The Hun

At every level of life we recognize that the more complicated any system becomes the less efficient its function. Complicated systems overwhelm the people who participate in them.

For example, let’s look at people and their possessions.  Most of us have made the observation that as we accumulate “things” there comes a time when our things own us, rather than us owning our things.  My wife has created a system that prevents her closet from taking over our house.  She will not put a new piece of clothing into her closet unless she eliminates something that is already there.

Many businesses have a similar policy.  In addition to not adding a new policy without eliminating an outdated policy, managers do a periodic analysis of the existing bureaucracy to determine what paperwork and procedures need to be eliminated.

Governments do not implement similar solutions.  Most government programs have a constituency of voters who will object to “their” special interest program being eliminated, resulting in a system that eventually overwhelms the citizens.  Not only are government agencies inefficient, they often produce “schizophrenic” results, like attempts to reduce the use of tobacco at the same time that tobacco growers are receiving government subsidies.

Jubilee button from jesusistheword.orgThis not just a modern problem!  The same dynamics were present in large systems thousands of years ago. Bureaucratic inertia was as much a cause for the fall of the Roman Empire as barbarians at the gates.  The ancient Jews had a solution to the problem that has escaped the attention of leaders of modern government systems.

“This fiftieth year is sacred—it is a time of freedom and of celebration, when everyone will receive back their original property, and slaves will return home to their families. ” 
– Leviticus 25:10

Every fifty years all debts were cancelled, all slaves were freed, and all land was returned to the ancestral owners.  There were several other provisions associated with the Year of Jubilee. This religious tradition was a way for an entire culture to be reset or “rebooted” in order to wipe out the accumulated bureaucratic inertia.  We modern people can “defrag” our computers but we don’t know how to “defrag” our federal government.

The problems associated with complex systems are not unique to the government of the United States.  In fact the founding fathers who created the Constitution built in some safeguards because they were already aware of the problem.  The 10th Amendment is one of those attempts to curtail the unrelenting tendency of government to grow into a curse upon free men and women.

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

This Constitutional Amendment was intended to restrict the power and size of the federal government.  Over the decades the federal government has steadily centralized its power, while the 10th amendment has been mostly ignored.

For example, if the 10th amendment were respected, the Federal Environmental Protection Agency would cease to exist, and individual state agencies would protect the environment of each state.  Also, the Federal Department of Education would be eliminated, and local school boards would set the standards and supervise the education in each individual community.

As you might suspect “’The Beast’” and “The ‘Children of The Beast’” are adamantly opposed to such corrections.

It is a fundamental truth that all systems grow to the point where their internal inertia causes them to fail.  So it is clear that we are struggling with dynamics more profound than modern politics in the United States.  These dynamics are rooted into the very nature of reality, and even show up in complicated systems of the physical world of engineering and physics.  The more complex the system the less efficient and more unwieldy it becomes.

“The Beast” that Was, and Is Not, and Yet Is – Revelation 17:8

Now, there is a riddle for you!  I remember a speech I heard by the flamboyant trial attorney, Gerry Spence.  He said, “I had a very successful career working for corporations and the government.  I won every case that went to trial.  Then I became aware that I was working for virtual, non-human entities that had no actual existence.  My clients were artificial abstract ‘creatures’ whose only claim on reality was a concept or a contract defined by the laws of man.  I also noticed that when I won a case for a corporation or the government that real live human beings, with blood pumping through their veins and breath moving in and out of their lungs, were victimized by the ‘non-breathers.’  That is when I vowed to never have another non-breathing client for the rest of my career.  If you can’t fog up a cold mirror with your breath, I will not be your attorney.”

I think Gerry Spence solved the above riddle.  If it doesn’t breathe, it is “The Beast”.  If “The Beast” serves human needs it should be domesticated, cared for, and kept on a tight rein.  If “The Beast” intimidates human beings and expects the humans to serve It, the time has come to bring out the cattle prods and force ““The Beast”” back into submission.

Metaphorically, American citizens are struggling with “The Beast” that has forgotten who is serving whom. I wonder if the right to bear arms includes cattle prods.   :-)

Our elected leaders are expected to accept the responsibility of controlling “The Beast.”  Why do you think the Constitution has all those phrases, “The government shall not…?”

If our elected leaders begin serving “The Beast” it becomes the responsibility of each individual citizen to ensure “The Beast” is properly subordinated to we the people.  Many of our elected leaders are “Children of The Beast.”  Many of our citizens have become “Children of The Beast.”  They worship the glory and the power of “The Beast,” they accept gifts from “The Beast,” and they become dependent upon “The Beast.”

Why are there so many “Children of the Beast”?

What is the human motivation that allows people to overlook the dangers of “The Beast” and choose a politician for his charming personality traits, rather than donning the warrior spirit capable of subduing “The Beast?”  A partial answer to that question was provided by Erich Fromm in his book “Escape from Freedom.”   He moved from Germany to the United States in 1938, giving witness to his love of freedom.  Freud thought human personality was determined by conditioning having an effect on biology. Marx saw peoples’ lives as determined by their society and economic systems.  Erich Fromm challenged these two reigning intellectual systems of his time with the idea of freedom.

Fromm originally wrote “Escape from Freedom” in 1941 to explore the psychological reasons for the success of Nazism in Germany. If one were to pair this Fromm classic with Eric Hoffer’s 1951 bestseller “The True Believer,” a rich understanding of human political behavior would emerge.  Fromm makes freedom of the individual a central characteristic of human nature!  Hoffer documents the evil that is endemic to mass movements.

A little bit of history is required to understand this.  One example of lack of individual freedom is represented by animals, as well as by humans who have not transcended their animal nature and are still controlled by a Freudian biological determinism.  Animals and unenlightened humans don’t worry about freedom; instincts and conditioning are the determining factors.  Such life forms accept what life offers, and mostly adjust to whatever reality they inhabit.

An example of political and economic lack of individual freedom is the pre-renaissance feudal society of the middle ages.  Personal freedom was not conceivable for most people in the middle ages.  Basically, if your father was a peasant, you’d be a peasant. If your father was a king, you would become a king.

So for most of human history there was very little individual freedom and there were very few mass movements.  This simple life began to be transformed when people started to see individual humans as being important to the universal scheme of things.  First came the Renaissance, and then came the Reformation which introduced the idea of each of us being individually responsible for our own soul’s salvation behind the rallying cry “Every man his own Priest.” And then came the democratic revolutions and overthrow of kings.

Now we expected to govern ourselves, and we all had a hand in determining our destiny and making collective policy!  So the idea of the individual, with individual thoughts, decision-making authority, personal emotions, moral conscience, freedom, and intimidating responsibility came into being. But with individuality came isolation, alienation, and bewilderment. Freedom is a difficult thing to have, and Fromm believed that when they can, the unenlightened man tends to flee from it. Escaping from freedom is now an important motivating factor of our species.  Because the need to escape from individual freedom emerged in human consciousness, mass movements began to appear in human society.  Fromm sheds light on the dynamics with these two quotes:

The person who gives up his individual self and becomes an automaton, identical with millions of other automatons around him, need not feel alone and anxious any more. The price he pays, however, is high; it is the loss of his self.

This loss of identity then makes it still more imperative to conform, it means that one can be sure of oneself only if one lives up to the expectations of others. If we do not live up to this picture, we not only risk disapproval and increased isolation, but we risk losing the identity of our personality, which means jeopardizing sanity.

Erich Fromm can tell us a lot about what is behind how most people vote. He makes the point that most people are terrified of being an on-their-own, take-care-of-themselves, free, adult human being. So, we attach ourselves to surrogate family units and surrogate parents to escape from our freedom. That translates into belonging to and becoming psychologically and physically dependent organizations as diverse as the company for whom we work and our boss, to the church we attend and our pastor, and the political party to which we belong and the parent figure who gets our vote.  Identifying with the group becomes our new collective identity, and we surrender our individual identity and freedom.

Ask any pastor, teacher, psychotherapist, supervisor, or elected official and they will be happy to confirm that the people they deal with are all trying to work out their childhood agendas on any available authority figure.

Some of us want a ‘sugar daddy’ and a ‘sugar family’ to take care of us, so we cede our personal power and freedom to this Democratic Parent and Party who promises to provide life’s necessities and define reality for us.   The details of politics and policy positions pale into insignificance when compared to the need to escape from personal freedom and responsibility.

Some of us want a ‘strong daddy’ who will protect us from danger and who expects us to be strong as well, so we vote for a Republican Parent and Party. We need to belong to a strong family with a strong leader, so we will feel safe.  And once again, the details don’t really matter that much.

Borg Queen

No matter for whom we are voting, we are choosing our kind of family, and our kind of parent. Most folks choose the candidate for the qualities they want that will fill their psychological needs. The issues aren’t nearly as important as the personal evaluation of the person’s character. If they like the person and trust that candidate to be “their kind of parent,” they will make that selection.   Most people are not aware of the dangers of “The Beast,” and our collective duty to subdue “The Beast,” so they elect a leader who meets their personal needs.

Obama isn’t mature enough to inspire parental psychological needs. Obama is more like the overly friendly stranger with ice cream to offer if you will get into his windowless van.  The quasi-religious mass movement that is driving his presidency will likely falter because of weak faith. However, Obama has a potent, short term advantage: “It’s all about the Ice Cream …..”  But don’t get the idea that the Republicans are free of the influence of The Beast.  No matter their party persuasion, those involved in politics are mostly “Children of The Beast.”


Some voters still embrace their personal freedom, and the responsibility that comes along with it.  They study the issues, and they vote on the issues.  They know the nature of “The Beast” and they live up to their duty to tame “The Beast.”  But sadly, they are a distinct minority. Don’t expect people to vote on issues. They seldom do. My guess is that more people will vote on how the candidate looks than on what the candidate believes. They vote for whoever meets their personal, psychological needs.  And “The Beast” will continue to rule until the citizens are all armed with cattle prods.


Gulag Note:

For the other side of the societal pathology, the collectivist leader, see “Leftism, Obama & Ponerology: Studies of Human Evil in Political Spheres,” by Kelly O’Connell.

Rev. Sam Sewell is an ordained Christian clergyman, a psychotherapist, a member of Mensa, a U.S. Navy Veteran, and a Member of the Association For Intelligence Officers. He is a frequent commentator on religious and political issues. 

Images added by Gulag Bound


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