American Politics and Frankenstein
Attached is an article from the Guardian that is an excerpt from a book by Stephen Kinzer just published entitled Poisoner in Chief: Sidney Gottlieb and the CIA Search for Mind Control. And it reminded me of Mary Shelley’s book Frankenstein and here’s why.
As everyone knows, in Frankenstein, Dr. Frankenstein obsesses over his ability, by means of modern science, to create life. As I read and taught this book, a question eventually occurred to me: Frankenstein already possessed the ability to create life, as do most human beings, via reproduction. So why was Frankenstein so obsessed with creating life scientifically? Why not just create life “the old fashioned way?”
The answer Shelley provides is that Frankenstein wanted to create life so he would be considered god-like; that is, having powers that until then were only possessed by the gods or by God. Frankenstein craved, lusted after immortality and this craving displaced the more common form of lust that, in the best of cases, fuels reproduction, the creation of new life.
The same impulses are visible in the CIA’s experiments trying to “perfect” mind control. As Kinzer put it: “During this period, there was an obsession at the CIA: there is a way to control the human mind, and if it can be found, the prize will be nothing less than global mastery.” What Kinzer might have written to be more precise is that the CIA was obsessed with controlling the human mind scientifically, that is, with the use of drugs. Controlling the human mind is not all that difficult and, as every semi-intelligent politician or shyster knows, it can be done “the old fashioned say,” through propaganda or spectacles that occupy or overpower the minds of ordinary human beings and make them malleable. As admen like to say: “You can sell shit if it’s packaged properly.” And, of course, they and politicians do that every day in every way.
But why isn’t the old fashioned way sufficient? Well, because it does not guarantee, as Kinzer puts it, mastery. It’s mastery that the men in the CIA were seeking, just as it was mastery that the US government was seeking while claiming it was seeking “national security.” This is what underlay modern science and modern politics, a craving for mastery that would make its practitioners god-like or immortal. For our ambitious and hubristic politicians, the goal is mastery, global mastery and sacrificing lives, both human and non-human lives even in great numbers, is the price that must be paid to achieve such “immortality.”
Kinzer recounts the price that Olson had to pay if he wanted to achieve the kind of mastery he and the CIA wanted to achieve.
“Olson also saw human beings suffer. Although not a torturer himself, he observed and monitored torture sessions in several countries.
“In CIA safe-houses in Germany,” according to one study, “Olson witnessed horrific brutal interrogations on a regular basis. Detainees who were deemed ‘expendable’ – suspected spies or moles, security leaks, etc. – were literally interrogated to death in experimental methods combining drugs, hypnosis and torture, to attempt to master brainwashing techniques and memory erasing.”
As Mary Shelley realized so long ago, when she was still a teenager, was that the desire for mastery, a desire that underlay modern science and modern politics, leads to dehumanization, leads to a spiritual crisis that would, if left unchecked, devastate humankind, turning us into monsters ala’ Dr. Frankenstein. For in the end, as even Dr. Frankenstein comes to realize, his creature and he are both monsters. It would seem as if Dr. Olson became aware of the same phenomenon. The troubling thing is, though, that our elites have not come to the same realization.