Derangement: Internal to External to Political

Varadero, Cuba

Friday, July 7, 2017


Derangement: Internal to External to Political

If the internal world differs too greatly from the external one, serious problems occur.

For example, persons with schizophrenia–a mental disorder causing hallucinations and delusions–experience a mis-match between their internal worlds and their perception of the external.

These differences also cause problems interpersonally.

Such interpersonal difficulties are perhaps best exemplified by persons who have paranoia. These individuals — rarely encountered by depth psychotherapists because of their distrust of others — enter new interpersonal environments with suspicion.

Imagine this:

You manage a local coffeehouse, and unwittingly hire a person with a serious paranoid problem. You might notice little at first. Typically paranoid persons behave in a distant way with coworkers. They keep to themselves; they view others with suspicion.

The other workers will soon take notice. They shy away from such individuals. Or, commonly, they begin gossiping about them. They whisper behind their backs.

At some point, the paranoid persons notice subtle alliances forming against them. Their paranoia increases. They withdraw further, perhaps behaving strangely or otherwise increasing the distancing behavior of their colleagues. A vicious cycle results.

Mapping this well-understood systemic effect onto the political, consider the same phenomena played out on a global scale. Two immediate examples come to mind.

First, Cuba continues to be treated with suspicion by the US. By analogy, the US is the paranoid person and Cuba the colleague. Cuba is a small country with around 12 million inhabitants — hardly a real threat to our country of 350 million.

After the 1959 communist revolution, the government seized all private property. Many Cubans fled to the US, particularly Florida. Meanwhile, the Cuban economy fell to pieces, partially because of the loss of individual incentives and competition, but mostly because of embargoes by the richest capitalist countries.

These wealthier nations feared communism spreading to their shores. Therefore, they isolated Cuba. As often occurs, the common people suffered. Salaries were lowered. The standard of living declined. Basic necessities — food, water, medicine, gasoline — became in short supply.

Shortly thereafter, Soviet Russia began supporting Cuba. A period of relative prosperity began. Russia saw Cuba as another experiment in communism. They became fellow paranoids disliked by the the equally paranoid developed world. The Soviets gladly supplied Cuba with many kinds of material support.

Then, immediately after the fall of the Soviet Union in 1989, Russia stopped supporting Cuba. Basic necessities quickly ran out, resulting in one of the worst periods in Cuban history. Food became scarce. Tourism all but came to a halt.

Cuba only survived by accepting financial donations from Cuban-Americans and others, bringing in money from Cuban physicians and engineers working in other countries, and revamping its tourist industry.  It was an awful time for the country.

I personally met several Cubans who spoke of their parents weeping over their inability to feed their own children.They were tearful themselves as they remembered that time.

Since then, Cuba has gradually grown. Donations from Cubans remain the greatest source of financial support for the country, with tourism a close second. After Obama restored diplomatic relations with Cuba in 2014, the country’s growth accelerated. Individual enterprises began developing, creating a tentative mixture of communism and capitalism. Cuban and American people developed friendships and business relationships.

Sadly, only a few weeks ago, Trump resumed restrictions on trade and travel in Cuba. He thinks it will punish the country for its military-communist government.

In truth, it will hurt Cuba as well as the US.

Like the person with paranoia working at the coffee house, the US foments distrust in the Cuban government and its people. The short period of openness and dialogue initiated by Obama has come to an end.

Second, I write as Trump meets face-to-face with Putin for the first time. One isolationist meets another. One paranoid meets another. One fool meets a Mafia-like boss. And, the more-intelligent latter comes much better prepared.

In the long term, a sound matching between internal and external realities makes for a more effective life.

Countries that meet peoples basic needs, distribute resources fairly, and are open to dialogue are like effective individuals. If these countries then converse openly and respectfully with one another, support free trade, and honor the limited resources in the small globe on which they co-exist, every member of the human family could live in peace.




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