With regard to all basic questions, a great sector of our culture has just one function to befog the issue. One kind of smokescreen is the assertion that the problems are too complicated for the average individual to grasp. On the contrary, it would seem that many of the basic issues are very simple, so simple in fact that everyone should be expected to understand them.
To let them appear to be so enormously complicated that only a specialist can understand them tends to discourage people from trusting their own capacity to think. The result of this is twofold, a scepticism and cynicism towards everything that is said or printed, and a childish belief in anything that is told with authority. This combination of cynicism and naivety is typical of the modern individual.
Another way of paralysing the ability to think critically, is the absence of any kind of structuralised picture of the World, or "The Proper Structuralised View Of The World". (An outline knowledge of Cosmology, and the Evolution, and the History of Man. "HEC")
Facts lose the specific quality, which they can have only as parts of a structuralised whole and retain merely an abstract quantitative meaning, each fact is just another fact, and all that matters is whether we know more or less. The media have a devastating effect on this score. The announcement of the bombing of a city or the deaths of hundreds of people is shamelessly followed by an advertisement for soap or wine. Those of a fashion show follow pictures of war. The trite thoughts or breakfast habits of a fashionable nonentity are reported with the same seriousness as events of scientific or artistic importance.
Because of all this, we cease to be genuinely related to what we hear, our emotions, and our critical judgement become hampered, and eventually our attitude to what is going on in the world assumes a quality of flatness and indifference. Life loses all structure, it is composed of many little pieces, each separate from the other and lacking any sense as a whole.
The individual is left alone with these pieces, like a child with a puzzle. The difference however, is that the child knows what a house is and therefore can recognise the parts of the house in the little pieces he is playing with. Whereas, the adult does not see the meaning of the whole with the pieces, which come into his hands, he is bewildered and afraid and just goes on gazing at his little meaningless little pieces.
Economic crises, unemployment, war, govern man’s fate. Man has built his world, he has built houses and factories, he produces cars and clothes, he grows grain and fruit. But, he has become estranged from the products of his own hands, he is not really the master any more of the world he has built, on the contrary this man made world has become his master before whom he bows down, whom he tries to placate or to manipulate as best he can. The work of his own hands has become his God. He seems to be driven by self-interest, but in reality his total self with all its concrete potentialities has become an instrument for the purposes of the very machine his hands have built. He keeps up the illusion of being the centre of the World, and yet, he is pervaded by an intense sense of insignificance and powerlessness, which his ancestors once consciously felt toward God.
Condensed in part from ‘The Fear of Freedom’ by Dr Erich Fromm. Historian, Lewis Mumford writes of one of Fromm’s books, "If any single book could bring mankind to it senses this book might qualify for that miracle".