Psychological Survival -or- 1001 Voices of the Fool on the Hill

The Gulag Archipelago -or- The Great Escape in the Global Village

One of the best World War II movies that the Hollywood dream factory created was the "Great Escape" with Steve McQueen as the "Cooler King". While McQueen and Co. were acting in a fictional prison, many live in the global village as "psychological prisoners". As a student I read Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn's "The Gulag Archipelago", which describes living in a Russian forced labor camp. Solzhenitsyn was critical of the Soviet authority and the political foundations of the communist regime. Solzhenitsyn could be seen as a "political prisoner". 

As a segue into the dream below and its interpretation, we can read about other notable "prisoners of conscience" and their dreams. Those who have protested against political tyranny such as "Socrates on Death Row" (read dream interpretation), and those living under Hitler's totalitarian Nazi regime; read "The Psychodynamic Problem of Democracy" and "Inside the Third Reich of Dreams".  

Paul Newman (as the prisoner "Luke"), does a star turn in the Hollywood dream factory film "Cool Hand Luke". The signature line spoken in the film; "what we have here is (a) failure to communicate.", provides the archetypal voice of the totalitarian regime. As well, the film "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" provides a study of the authoritarian "institutional process", where psychological resistance against a tyrannical authority is not completely futile. 

In "The Uses and Abuses of Psychology" Hans J. Eysenck discusses the abusive uses of psychology, many of which I have experienced "first hand". Three such incidents are immediately brought to my mind. The first involved a "conformity experiment" when I was a University student, the second was the use of "sodium pentothal" which was forced upon a non-violent patient at a psychiatric institution, and the third an in class episode where a student was denied the right to academic freedom of expression. These true stories, were never officially discussed, and perhaps have even been "erased from official history", will be given voice in a different interpretation. 

We can psychologically view such "uses and abuses", in the following dream; 

Sara 44, American Unemployed 

I run into a guard of a prison camp.  He is sitting outside behind a desk and he is complaining about the prisoner's behavior and how nobody is doing anything about it.   I look around and I notice that the prison is made up of old, small, and dirty trailers that are so close together that there is no room for any space between.   I hear one of the prisoners yelling at another prisoner and he is smashing a lead pipe up and down for effect to make his argument scarier and intimidating. 

The scene shifts and I'm in a shower in one of the trailers, but I'm on the side of the wire fence where the guard is stationed. I start to realize that the only thing separating me from the prisoners is a strand of chicken wire fencing.   I become scared and decide to flee.   As I am running away I am starting to view the scene in the third person and the girl running is no longer me, yet I still feel a great deal of terror in the situation.   As the girl is running, all of the other prisoners are running in the same direction. They have somehow escaped.   I am afraid for the girl because she is the only girl and I know she will be attacked if they catch up with her.  Some of the male prisoners appear feminine, so I want the girl to pretend she is one of these males appearing to be female. A group of the prisoners encounter her and she pretends to be a male and then one of the prisoners grab her crotch and the truth is revealed. At that point I wake up. 

Mr Hagen's Reply:Poverty of the American Dream-or-Night Watchman in the Global Village 

The idea of the night-watchman State has been discussed by Robert Nozick in Anarchy, State, and Utopia. Unfortunately, the State as night-watchman is often found sleeping on the job, and a "watch dog" becomes necessary to wake him up. A serious social problem develops when both fail, then we are more often than not in the psychological throws of a nightmaric totalitarian State. One film that shows us the nature of the problem, is "The Pelican Brief". 

In your dream, you say that the "scene shifts", and you move from the grammatical "first" to the "third" person mise en scene narrative. In your dream, you have told us, that the prisoners live in "dirty trailers", which appears overcrowded. You yourself are taking a shower in a trailer on the other side of the fence. You have also told us, that you are currently "unemployed". In America being in a "trailer", has the association and connotation of "trailer trash". 

Such an unemployed "first person" narrative of the dream shows the "Poverty of the American Dream". One such literary work of an American fictional "mise en scene" story of poverty is, John Steinbeck's "The Grapes of Wrath". You also say, that all that physically (and psychologically) separates you from the side that the prisoners are on, is a "strand of chicken wire fencing". 

The American class structure is discussed in Barbara Ehrenreich's "Fear of Falling: Inner Life of the Middle Class". Ehrenreich known as a "muckraker" performs the social role of "watchdog journalism". The IIDR can also be seen in this "watchdog journalistic" light, as it relates to the psychological influences on people's dreams. 

Much like in the film "The Great Escape" the prisoners in your dream also all escape. Escape from the poverty of the American nightmare is not easy, instead it is difficult. Many need help. In their book "Psychological Survival: The Experiences of Long-Term Imprisonment" Stanley Cohen and Laurie Taylor reference the American sociologist Howard Becker's paper "Whose Side Are We On?" In the paper, Becker argues that when doing sociological research is difficult because the observations become contaminated by "sympathy". Cohen and Taylor state; "It is not a question of whether we take sides, but whose side we are on." 

The dream interpretation "Civilizations die of Suicide" reminds us of the "schizotypal" character problems of civilizations. All sovereign States need to have a watch-person and watch dog, so that peaceful interventions can be undertaken when existential threats to our global civilization happen. If they do not, then the dreams of this planets civilizations and humanities journey may come to an abrupt nightmaric end. 

Further Reading: 

  • Vivian Patraka, "Spectacular Suffering"
  • Richard Sennett, "Hidden Injuries of Class"
  • Karl Malkoff, "Escape from the Self"
  • Erich Fromm, "Escape from Freedom"

Postscript: The Watchdog in Our Dreams -or- Society of the Bystander 

Moving our "socialized" focus of our visual perceptual field from the "egocentric" first person observer position, to the "omniscient" third person observer is imperative to understand the inter-personal process of the story telling arc of our global society. Said differently, this global "mise en scene" perspective of our everyday life and our dreams, is one that requires a narrative paradigmatic shift from the first to a third person narrative. One story of the real uses and abuses of "psychological experimentation" was carried out under the direction of an American psychologist, who "lost perspective". We know this "incident" as "Zimbardo's Prison". It would have been interesting to see as part of a "de-briefing" of the students, what kinds of dreams they had, while inside the prison, and after they were "released" back outside. 

Reportedly, the social psychologist John Darley became interested in the social problem of "bystander" behaviour at an emergency scene after the "Kitty Genovese" murder. Other dream interpretations such as "Anatomy of Nightmares" and "Streetproofing" (where "no-one would help") posted at the IIDR website address the social problem of the "diffusion of responsibility". 

The IIDR is dedicated to watchdog journalism and investigative reporting using the self-reflective lens and the projective "silver screen" of our dreams. In this way, the IIDR's aim is to make the inner life of "A People's History" (read dream interpretation) of dreaming in the global village visible and "transparent" for all to see. 

We can end on a final sentimental note, one that the Beatles song "The Fool on the Hill" attempts to musically reflect.  It presents a lyrical "theory of mind", of a man with "1000 voices", whose mind from a social cognition perspective is "empathetic" and sees the world from a "societal" global village perspective "spinning round". (Read the dream interpretation "The Empathetic Civilization".)

All material Copyright 2006 International Institute for Dream Research. All rights reserved.