Fromm emphasizes the aspect of negative and positive freedom; “Freedom from” and “freedom to” respectively. That throughout history, man has liberated himself from all kinds of authority.
“…the authority of the Church has been replaced by that of the State, that of the State by that of the conscience, and in our era, the latter has been replaced by the anonymous authority of common sense and public opinion as instruments of conformity.”– Erich Fromm, Escape From Freedom
Freedom from the aforementioned aspects, although leading to the incredible progress of man during these past 500 years or so, is termed as negative due to the impact it’s had on man himself. The loss of the security and assurance he had when under the church or the state (even under his parents) has got him to a point where he feels isolated. Lost. Anxious even.
Similar to what Nietzsche meant when he claimed that “God is dead.” That man is at a point where he’s made so much progress throughout history that he doesn’t need the security of medieval religion anymore. Leaving him with one of three choices. Fall back into medieval religion due to the unbearable isolation and anxiety, find a way to cope with life and the uncertainties that come with it, or, probably the fastest rising response today, go into utter despair.
Fromm proposes that the only remedy to this is to achieve positive freedom. “Freedom to”. Man needs to achieve individuality. And while he’s not necessarily wrong, we’re going to take a closer look into this.
When a Culture Is Invested in a Lie
Side note: Let’s get one thing out of the way; “Self-help” is masturbation. Understood? Understood. Back to freedom.
One theory is that man is a victim of what he has made. He has no power over what he has created. In the sense that as much as man has managed to escape from the externalities that were influencing who he was (the church etc.), the internal consequences that are increasingly robbing his peace (isolation, anxiety, etc.) are a product of society around him. The society he has made. Or, in a narrower sense, a product of capitalism.
This is true to some extent. Key word; “to some extent.”
“…we found ourselves confronted with the contradiction that modern man believes himself to be motivated by self-interest and yet that actually his life is devoted to aims which are not his own.”– Erich Fromm, Escape From Freedom
But the problem is not social media. Just like the problem is not your phone. The problem is what you do with it. And that’s not on anybody or anything else. That’s on you.
I’ve said this before. People listen to what they WANT to hear. And if that’s not scary to you, please pack your bags and go back to whatever clan of flesh-eating goblins you came from.
A common definition of a narcissist is someone who is grandiose, extroverted, unusually high level of self-esteem, etc. Google “how to overcome narcissism,” and some articles on the results page will be about “how to deal with a narcissist,” or something along those lines. In other words, it’s not you. You’re good. You have an out. But screw those other abnormal people. They have a problem.
And the articles that are actually about overcoming narcissism reinforce the definition of a narcissist described above. Such that your immediate response will then be, “at least that’s not me.” You’re not grandiose, right? You don’t even spend that much time looking at yourself in the mirror or whatever.
As one Alone put it, when a culture is invested in a lie, the culture is finished.
The state of isolation and anxiety stressed by Fromm is real. And the solution is not a redistribution of income in society for man to once again gain a status of security he once lost. You are in the matrix. And feudalism has made a comeback. Hang on tight kids.