Text of a letter about belief in society
I mentioned things going
wrong at a certain Oxford College, and I would not like you to think that any
criticism of anyone in particular was implied.
I fully accept that all those who are obviously implicated, or have ever
been implicated, in the barbed-wire entanglement that inhibits our progress,
are fully virtuous and admirable people acting in accordance with the expected
standards of their professional positions.
But since I am now being
uninhibited about our situation, perhaps I had better say explicitly that my
underlying assumptions about human nature are different from those usually
made. The belief in society involves an
acceptance of certain beliefs about human psychology. It also goes along with traits which I would describe as
irresponsibility, meanness, dishonesty and sadism. In a general way I expect people to exhibit these
characteristics, academics in particular.
It can be demonstrated
that these attitudes are likely to appear attractive to those in the grip of
the human evasion, as I called the syndrome in my book. But one may say they arise in general from
the fact that the reaction to the realities of the existential situation has
been diverted so as to focus it on other people rather than 'reality' per se.
Rather than reacting
expansively to extend his own territory, which is likely to lead to being
painfully frustrated, the evasive person expresses his power by enjoying the
subjection of others to the restrictions of finiteness. So the direction of attention towards other
people as the source of validation and significance, although passing as
altruistic, is fundamentally sadistic.