We need a climate movement that tackles climate change, says Naomi Klein. Well, yes, but we’ve known that for 25 years (and she wouldn’t dispute that.) What’s interesting to me is why it keeps not happening. And recently I read a rather good essay written in the 1980s about … nuclear war. The tools the author uses – insights from Melanie Klein – transfer well to climate, I fear…
Melanie Klein traced how the individual at first structures this perception of the world in terms of the paranoid-schizoid position and gradually, if all goes reasonably well, is helped by good experiences to withdraw projections of his own frightening emotions and see himself and those around him in more realistic terms. This latter state she called the ‘depressive position’. One can see how societies, too, struggle between these two psychological positions on such matters as attitudes to criminals, to the mentally ill and to foreigners. There is at one level a comfort and simplicity in being able to differentiate the right-minded members of one’s society, including oneself, from these disturbing deviants who should be mistrusted, avoided and restrained if not actually attacked. Clearly they become the carriers of what is aggressive, mad and alien in oneself and it is a powerful test of a society’s maturity to begin to withdraw the primitive projections which lead to this scape-goating. It is conversely a great test of a group’s maturity to be able to withstand the experience of receiving these projections without lapsing in turn into excessively paranoid states of mind.
from “Psychoanalysis and the threat of nuclear war” by Jane Temperley
Page 262 of Crises of the Self: Further Essays on Psychoanalysis and Politics
ed Barry Richards
London: Free Association Books 1989
This great test? We’re failing it comprehensively. Oh well, so it goes.