The Century of the Self or How We Have Been Played

(Disclaimer: This post may not be for everyone, but for students of 20th century history, psychology, sociology, marketing, media and politics, who are also believers in Christ, it think this documentary provides vital lessons. It should be watched through a filter of scripture, a few angles of which I have provided below.

Remember that “The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever”.

If you don’t want to be bombarded with all the worldly ills of “The American Century”, then you may want to invest your time elsewhere.)

“We must shift America from a needs to a desires culture.  People must be trained to desire, to want new things even before the old have been entirely consumed.  We must shape a new mentality in America.  Man’s desires must over shadow his needs.”

– Paul Mazer of the now bankrupt Lehman Brothers in the 1930’s

the-century-of-the-selfIn 2002 the BBC aired a documentary series on the influence of Sigmund Freud and his family (and one of his students who rebelled against him) on America, via mass marketing, over the last hundred years. I watched it this week and it is one of most fascinating sociological documentaries that I have ever seen. If you are someone who has ever bought anything or had a worldview, you need to watch this.

I am a therapist, and was one long before I ever went to school. I naturally started falling into that role somewhere in junior high, and figured along the way that I should either stop it or learn how to do it right so I didn’t screw with people’s heads or their spiritual lives.

So I got a BS in Psych, with a concentration in child development, and an MS in clinical counseling with a concentration in adolescent and family therapy. During my upbringing under a good youth pastor and my education by good, ethical professors at Johns Hopkins, I had the same basic principle drilled into me:

That my skills and abilities were not to be used selfishly, to get what I wanted, but in the service of others, to meet their needs.

It was the message of Christ who gave up all his rights and power in order to serve sinners, and it is the message of good ethics in psychology where a therapists uses his power over his client to serve him in helping him to become more healthy, aware and functional. In both cases, stern warnings were given that those in power over another person were to tread very lightly as using the power that had been entrusted to them for selfish gain was wholly immoral and in the case of Christ, proof of being lost and bound for hell. (Matthew 23, Matthew 25:31-46).

As a result, it has always been difficult for me to watch those in power, both in the church and those in the mental health arena, abuse their power to serve their ego or their wallet. Watching this phenomena from the bottom of the societal food chain in my youth, (the best perspective for discerning who is who, but the worst place to be if one of the “wolves” are in power) it became clear that if you sat quietly and watched those in power closely enough, you could see who was who by their fruit. (Unfortunately I kept forgetting this lesson; failing to sit quietly and pay attention, put me to task to relearn this lesson a few times in life).

Which bring us to the BBC series, “The Century of the Self”. Continue reading “The Century of the Self or How We Have Been Played”