The condition of alienation, of being asleep, of being unconscious, of being out of one’s mind, is the condition of the normal man.
Society highly values its normal man. It educates children to lose themselves and to become absurd, and thus to be normal.
Normal men have killed perhaps 100,000,000 of their fellow normal men in the last fifty years. (1990a: p. 24)
Long before a thermonuclear war can come about, we have had to lay waste to our own sanity. We begin with the children. It is imperative to catch them in time. Without the most thorough and rapid brain-washing their dirty minds would see through our dirty tricks. Children are not yet fools, but we shall turn them into imbeciles like ourselves, with high I.Q.s if possible. (1990a: p.49)
A little girl of seventeen in a mental hospital told me she was terrified because the Atom Bomb was inside her. That is a delusion. The statesmen of the world who boast and threaten that they have Doomsday weapons are far more dangerous, and far more estranged from ‘reality’ than many of the people on whom the label ‘psychotic’ is affixed. (1990b: 12)
We are living in an age in which the ground is shifting and the foundations are shaking. I cannot answer for other times and places. Perhaps it has always been so. We know it is true today. (1990a: p. 108)
It is unfortunate that personal and subjective are words so abused as to have no power to convey any genuine act of seeing the other as person (if we mean this we have to revert to ‘objective’) but imply immediately that one is merging one’s own feelings and attitudes into one’s own feelings and attitudes into one’s study of the other in such a way as to distort our perception of him. In contrast to the reputable ‘objective’ or ‘scientific’, we have the disreputable ‘subjective’, ‘intuitive’, or, worst of all, ‘mystical.’ It is interesting, for example, that one frequently encounters ‘merely’ before subjective, whereas it is almost inconceivable to speak of anyone being ‘merely’ objective. (1990b: 24-25)
When I cerify someone insane, I am not equivocating when I write that he is of unsound mind, may be dangerous to himself and others, and requires care and attention in a mental hospital. However, at the same time, I am also aware that, in my opinion, there are other people who are regarded as sane, whose minds are as radically unsound, who may be equally or more dangerous to themselves and others and whom society does not regard as psychotic and fit persons to be in a madhouse. I am aware that the man who is said to be deluded may be in his delusion telling me the truth, and this in no equivocal or metaphorical sense, but quite literally, and that the cracked mind of the schizophrenic may let in light which does not enter the intact minds of many sane people whose minds are closed. (1990b, p.27)
Playing the game of reality with no real cards in one’s hand. (1990a: p. 148)
They are playing a game.
They are playing at not playing a game. If I show them I see they are, I shall break the rules and they will punish me.
I must play their game, of not seeing I see the game.
(1974: p. 1)
We are not able even to think adequately about the behaviour that is at the annihilating edge. But what we think is less than what we know: what we know is less than what we love: what we love is so much less than what there is. And to that precise extent we are so much less than what we are. (1990a, p.30)
Love and violence, properly speaking, are polar opposites. Love lets the other be, but with affection and concern. Violence attempts to constrain the other’s freedom, to force him to act in the way we desire, but with ultimate lack of concern, with indifference to the other’s own existence or destiny.
We are effectively destroying ourselves by violence masquerading as love.
“The Mystification of Experience” (1990a, p. 50)
The way that we attend to each other is the way that we treat each other. The way we treat each other is not reified as pills and things as “treatment”, but is the way we treat that person. It should not be a noun it should be an active verb. The way we treat one another is the therapy. (1988, 23mins.)
It is not enough to destroy one’s own and other people’s experience. One must overlay this devastation by a false consciousness inured, as Marcuse puts it, to its own falsity.
Exploitation must not be seen as such. It must be seen as benevolence. Persecution preferably should not need to be invalidated as the figment of a paranoid imagination; it should be experienced as kindness. Marx described mystification and showed its function in his day. Orwell’s time is already with us. The colonists not only mystify the natives, in the way that Fanon so clearly shows, they have to mystify themselves. We in Europe and North America are the colonists, and in order to sustain our amazing images of ourselves as God’s gift to the vast majority of the starving human species, we have to interiorize our violence upon ourselves and our children and to employ the rhetoric of morality to describe this process. (1990a: p.49)
From the moment of birth, when the Stone Age baby confronts the twentieth-century mother, the baby is subjected to those forces of violence, called love, as its mother and father, and their parents and their parents before them, have been. These forces are mainly concerned with destroying most of its potentialities, and on the whole this enterprise is successful. By the time the new human being is fifteen or so, we are left with a being like ourselves, a half-crazed creature more or less adjusted to a mad world. This is normality in our present age. (1990a: p.49)
I think a lot of people are caught in that trap, if you love someone or if you think you love someone or you if want to love someone… then a lot of people are caught in that trap that they ought to trust or believe the person they love. Because they love them. But I don’t see that that follows at all. We expect disinformation, simulation, every form of deception in every walk of life. When it comes to sexual relationships, some people still cling on to the idea that this should somehow be or this is in our present world less sodden with deceit and mendacity and taking advantage and all that sort of thing than any other walk of life. Bedrooms are the most dangerous places in God’s earth! More dangerous than the streets of Los Angeles, more crimes of violence are committed in bedrooms, more murders are committed in bedrooms as far as I know than in any other location. Talk about ‘safe sex’! If you don’t go that way you go the other way.
It’s a very high risk occupation, especially for the heart. Sex is a, no what is it… ‘life is a sexually transmitted disease with a hundred percent mortality’. (1988, 29mins.)
As long as we cannot up-level our ‘thinking’ beyond Us and Them, the goodies and baddies, it will go on and on. The only possible end will be when all the goodies have killed all the baddies, and all the baddies all the goodies, which does not seem so difficult or unlikely since, to Us, we are the goodies and They are the baddies, while to Them, we are the baddies and They are the goodies.
Millions of people have died this century and millions more are going to, including, we have every reason to expect, many of Us and our children, throttled by this knot we seem unable to untie.
It seems a comparatively simple knot, but it is tied very, very tight – round the throat, as it were, of the whole human species.
But don’t believe me because I say so, look in the mirror and see for yourself.(1969, p.124)
There is something I don’t know
that I am supposed to know.
I don’t know what it is I don’t know,
and yet I am supposed to know…
Perhaps there’s consolation in the sigh
That cannot find the who or what to blame.
How can I help my fellow man, and make
A contribution to the commonweal
There’s light and love and joy and freshness yet.
Will you save your next life for me? For Jutta, Sonnet 5
Laing, R.D., 1969. The Politics of the Family. New York: Pantheon. Laing, R.D. 1974. Knots. Harmondsworth: Penguin Books Ltd.
Laing, R.D. 1979. Sonnets. London: Michael Joseph Ltd.
Laing, R.D. 1988. Did You Used to be RD Laing? Video. Vancouver: Third Mind Productions.
Laing, R.D. 1990a. The Politics of Experience and The Bird of Paradise. (reprint) London: Penguin Books Ltd.
Laing, R.D. 1990b. The Divided Self. (reprint) London: Penguin Books Ltd.