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Stockholm Syndrome

“If Tyranny and Oppression come to this land, it will be in the guise of fighting a foreign enemy.” James Madison

In the days following the latest American election, I found myself musing about why so many people voted for so many cruel, stupid, shortsighted representatives and approved propositions designed to destroy our environment and our healthcare system? Why would millions of people elect the kinds of representatives who have done nothing but wreck our society for the past fifty years? Can we chock this up to mass stupidity? I used to think we could, but this election caused me to seek a slightly more sophisticated explanation, and though I may be wrong, here is what I came up with. America suffers from a severe case of the Oslo Syndrome.

What is the Oslo syndrome? The Oslo syndrome is a corollary of the Stockholm syndrome. Also known as capture-bonding, the Stockholm syndrome is the psychological phenomenon of a hostage or battered wife or terrified military recruit or a victim of fraternity hazing, empathizing and sympathizing with his or her captors in order to enhance his or her chances of survival, even going so far as defending those captors and ultimately identifying with them. The Oslo Syndrome occurs when an entire people is afflicted with the Stockholm syndrome.

How else to explain the majority of voters voluntarily electing representatives who have ruined and promise to continue ruining our society? How else to explain millions of women voting for men who pass laws denying those women access to adequate family planning, birth control, and abortion? How else to explain the majority of voters electing representatives who gladly spend trillions of dollars on war, eagerly cut taxes for the rich, happily fund the annihilation of our environment, and viciously gut our educational system, while gleefully denying a large and fast-growing portion of the American population basic human rights and the necessities of life?

“The worst government is often the most moral. One composed of cynics is often very tolerant and humane. But when fanatics are on top there is no limit to oppression.” H.L. Mencken

Bookmarked on my computer is a photography website called Lenscratch featuring the work of a different photographer every day. A few days ago, while looking at a photo essay on Lenscratch of people in contemporary Japan, I was struck by how many people in the photos were clutching cell phones while eating, walking, shopping, visiting with friends, and working at various tasks. The photo essay was about every day life in Japan, but might have been about people clutching cell phones.

While walking on the beach a few days ago, nearly everyone I saw was clutching a cell phone, including a woman walking her dog, two young men playing Frisbee, three girls walking side by side in the shallows, and a gaggle of parents sitting on beach chairs while their kids played in the sand. I felt I was observing a conquered people submitting to an electronic system of control, many of the conquered choosing to clutch phones rather than wear electronic ankle bracelets sending coordinates of their whereabouts to the authorities.

“A politician divides mankind into two classes: tools and enemies.” Friedrich Nietzsche

I use a large desktop computer for my work as a writer, editor, and seller of things on my web site—books, musical recordings, and note cards. I also use my computer for reading articles, sending and receiving mail, watching sports highlights, movie trailers, and episodes of George Burns & Gracie Allen. Being keenly aware of my compulsive and addictive tendencies, any extensions of my desktop computer are verboten to me, and that includes laptop computers, computer pads, and cell phones. My connection to the Internet and the worldwide web is limited to my use of the not-portable computer on my desk in my office. When I’m in the living room or kitchen or bedroom or outside hauling firewood or gardening, and when I go to the village and beyond, I am not reachable by phone or through the digital ethers. My sanity and functionality and happiness depend on not being connected to the digital-electronic matrix most of the hours of my life.

“There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.” Albert Einstein

When the sun is shining in Mendocino, even in the depths of winter, my favorite place to write is Big River Beach. Nowadays I write with a fine-tipped black ink pen in a composition book of blue-lined paper, nine inches by seven inches. The wildness of Big River Beach, the ambient roar of the waves, the unceasing drama of the swiftly flowing river bashing into the onrushing sea, the dance of the ever-circling gulls and ravens, the fantastic cloudscapes and the absence of anything electrical, are ingredients in an atmospheric recipe that rarely fails to free my imagination.

What I find most tragic about the pandemic of phone clutching is that the phone-clutching person’s imagination cannot be free so long as he or she is tethered to an electronic digital matrix designed to commandeer brain lobes we might otherwise use to think and feel deeply as we interact with the real and glorious world.

Todd Walton’s web site is


  1. Rick Weddle November 22, 2014

    Yes, I think Mr. Walton is right near the Mark, here. Seems to me people here are not near as stupid individually as they’ve been acting in the larger pictures. And why would that be? I’m thinking we’ve been systematically stupified for cash and prizes; a population afflicted with an assortment of Current Traumatic Stress Disorders probably won’t be making rational decisions much. The deliberate Unwitting of America…The Corpiration claims to have got our Number, and eagerly assigned it to us…we be 5150…ever more heavily armed, and dangerous to ourselves and everybody else. The Body Politic gone comatose while the Body Synthetic (the Corpiration) RULES isn’t a recipe for the survival of either. Most unfortunately, since the Corpiration has not one Vital Sign to call its own, survival doesn’t even come close to appearing in their ONLY interest, their bottom line, their next quarter’s earnings. Lucky thing we’ve long since let them have the reins of government, and let them define most everything else for us. Yeehah.

  2. Jim Updegraff November 23, 2014

    The real question isn’t about the 37% that voted but rather why didn’t 63% vote.

    • Rick Weddle November 23, 2014

      Agree, and think there are several real answers to that question. There’s abject apathy; There’s total ignorance of the mechanisms of democratic republics (like without a truthfully informed, active People, you don’t GET a democratic republic), largely because the present population has so seldom seen evidence of any; There’s the excruciating disgust generated by even the word, politics; There’s a big section of People who’re eligible to register who don’t bother; There’s the vast number of all the political spectrum who refrain from voting because there’s no ‘none of the above’ choice on the ballot, nor a choice marked, ‘vote of no confidence,’ nor one for RESET …
      There are other forms of voice besides vote, though, cropping up here and there.

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