Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Therapeutic Alientation

What is therapeutic alientation? McWhorter writes that it is:

alienation unconnected to, or vastly disproportionate to, real-life stimulus, but maintained because it reinforces one's sense of psychological legitimacy, via defining onself against an oppressor characterized as eternally depraved. (p. 6)

McWhorter writes that it's obvious that "there's been something uniquely hideous going on in poor black America since--ironically--the War on Poverty. If the four hundred-plus years of black American history from the early 1600s to 2006 were compressed into twenty-four hours, something went seriously wrong only at about ten o'clock P.M. Why?

"My purpose will be to show that it must stop being considered "controversial" to acknowledge that cultural change played a central role here. Specifically, I believe that we cannot understand our past without fully facing that alienation and disidentification can thrive independently of modern causes because they can serve other psychological purposes. There can be no useful perspective on black America's trajectory that neglects the impact of therapeutic alientation. To move forward, we must trace it, face it, and erase it. This book, section by seciton, is about how we can do all three." (p. 12)