Listen, Little Man

From a book of the same name by Wilhelm Reich, the “hero” of Century of the Self Part III; the psychoanalyst who showed us a way out of the Freudian embrace of the unconscious consuming mind, inspiration to millions of freaks and the New Left, champion of the masses:*

All three illustrations are by William Steig and come from the original book


…Having learned from a great man that machines operate in accordance with certain laws, you build machines for the purpose of killing and regard living things as machines.  In this you have gone astray, not for three decades but for three centuries.  You have imprinted false conceptions indelibly on the minds of many thousands of scientific workers, and moreover done direct and serious injury to life itself, because, on the basis of this fallacy, you have been led, for the sake of your dignity or your professorship or your religion or your pocketbook or your character armor, to persecute, slander, imprison, or otherwise damage anyone who was really on the track of the life function.

I know, I know, you want your “geniuses” and you’re ready to honor them.  But you want nice geniuses, well-behaved, moderate geniuses with no nonsense about them, and not the untamed variety who break through all barriers and limitations.  You want a limited, cropped and clipped genius you can parade through the streets of your cities without embarrassment.

That’s the way you are, little man.  You can spoon it in to the last drop, you can help yourself and gobble it up, but you can’t create.  And that’s why you’re where you are and what you are; why you spend your whole life in a dismal office, punching an adding machine or hunched over a drawing board, or in the straitjacket of marriage, or in a schoolroom teaching, though you hate children.  You’re incapable of developing, you’ll never get a new idea, because you’ve always taken freely but given nothing, because you’ve always helped yourself to what someone else has given you ready-made.

You don’t understand why this is so and must be so?  I can tell you, little man, because when you came to me with your inner emptiness or your impotence or your psychic disorder, I learned to recognize you as a rigid animal.  You can only gobble and take, you’re incapable of creating or giving, because your basic bodily attitude is one of holding back and of defiant mistrust; because you panic when the primordial impulse to love and to give stirs in you.  That’s why you’re afraid of giving.  And essentially your way of taking means only one thing: you have to stuff yourself full of money, food, happiness, and knowledge, because you feel empty, starved, and unhappy, devoid both of true knowledge and the desire for knowledge.  That’s why you go to such lengths to sidestep the truth, little man.  The truth might arouse a love reflex.  It might, in fact it would, show you what I’m trying, if only inadequately, to show you now.  And that, little man, you don’t want.  You want only to be a consumer and a patriot.

“Did you hear that?  He’s attacking patriotism, the mainstay of the state and of its germ cell, the family.  This must be stopped!”


That’s the way you yell, little man, when someone calls your attention to your psychic constipation.  You don’t want to know, you don’t want to listen.  You want to shout hurrah.  I let you shout hurrah, but you won’t let me tell you why you’re incapable of happiness.  I see fear in your eyes, because my question hits you deep down.  You’re in favor of “religious tolerance.”  You demand freedom to love your religion, whatever it may be.  So far so good.  But you want more than that: you want everybody to observe your religion.  You’re tolerant toward your religion but no other.  And it sends you into a rage that anyone should worship not a personal God but nature, that he should love nature and try to understand it.  When a married couple find that they can no longer live together, you want one member to hale the other into court with accusations of immorality or brutality.  And, oh, you puny descendant of great rebels, you refuse to countenance divorce by common consent.  You’re afraid of your own prurience.

You want the truth in a mirror, where you can’t take hold of it and it can’t take hold of you.  Your chauvinism, little man, springs from your bodily rigidity, from your mental constipation.  I don’t say this to scoff at you, I say it because I’m your friend, even if you tend to kill your friends when they tell you the truth.  Take a look at your patriots: they don’t walk, they march.  They don’t hate their true enemy: they have hereditary enemies, who change every ten years, from sworn enemy to lifelong friend and back again to sworn enemy.  They don’t sing songs, they bellow anthems.  They don’t embrace their girls; they fuck them and tot up their score for the night.  The worst you can do is kill me, just as you’ve liquidated so many of your true friends: Jesus, Ranthenau, the warmhearted Karl Liebknecht, Lincoln, and many more.  But patriotism has liquidated you, little man, trampled and crushed you by the millions.  And still you’re determined to go on being a patriot.


*The extreme anger does not reflect the wonderful attitude he harbored towards human potential – this came after he was completely discredited by the mainstream scientific community and imprisoned in the United States.

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3 Responses to Listen, Little Man

  1. pythonisms says:

    I also enjoyed that book. Have you read Colin Wilson on Reich ? Thanks for looking at my blog. 🙂

  2. deadondres says:

    Hey pythonisms! Thanks for stopping through. I am not that familiar with Colin Wilson, I gotta check him out!

  3. Pingback: Optimism | Active Philosophy

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