Prisoners Of Ourselves is a compilation of lectures given by by Gunduz Vassaf, a Turkish man educated in America. His main thesis is that we accept invisible totalitarianism into our lives without realizing it. The standardization of culture, food, and consumer products all forces us into a mold, and what we may think of as creative expression is still within a model forced upon us under the guise of personal freedom. If you choose not to participate in this model, which is becoming increasingly impossible thanks to how it’s intertwined with consumerism, you’re ostracized and then exiled for not conforming.
…the variety in human behaviour with respect to all its aspects ranging from type of sexual activity to paradigms of thinking is becoming one-fold. People are to be judged against a world consumer’s standard totalitarian criterion of normalcy.
When you standardize life and culture, you also standardize thought, ensuring it stays within a sphere that doesn’t threaten those with power, who are actively encouraging the standardized model. Such standardization is an effective method of wealth extraction and human control.
Vassaf takes the concept “everything about modern life is totalitarian” and applies it to anything he can find, even the structure of our homes, stating that it is totalitarian to have living spaces that are already delineated with a room to cook, a room to sleep, and so on. As you can imagine, sometimes his idea works, but often it doesn’t, especially when he advocates for social justice ideas of gender fluidity and other labels that critique features of advanced civilizations as “oppressive.”
While Prisoners Of Ourselves had some good spots, a work like this could possibly be used as a justification for leftist ideologies by gangs of women with blue hair, especially since it pushes subjectivity by advocating for what doesn’t feel totalitarian and oppressive instead of having rigid moral and quality standards.
Daylight is totalitarian
Daylight is a decoy. Light blinds us. It is at night that our eyes are wide open. All our other sense are also more attentive, for the forces of order have shut down their machines. At night we listen to silence, see into darkness, give free reign to our bodies and imagination. One is no longer the consumer of countless messages that try to imprison our senses during the day. The constant humming of the oppressive megamachine has stopped. Now, the source of energy is within. The night is the background for man’s performance of the mind.
The “meaning of life” is felt and questioned at night. Nobody talks about it over lunch. Life is a subject of the night.
Judgement is totalitarian
An independent man will never get himself into a situation where he will allow himself to be judged.
If we substitute “independent man” with “500 pound man,” would he still make this assertion?
Language is totalitarian
From birth on, the more the child is trained in the use of spoken language, the more he wears a “straight-jacket” in terms of his relationship with life. The infinitely immense capability of the brain to differentiate, to see things both singly and in interchanging relations on the basis of their particular qualities and characteristics, becomes more limited when the child gradually confines himself to our words, to abstraction and to generalization.
Because of the spoken word, because of the exaggerated dominance of the spoken word, we consciously experience less. We see, hear, smell, touch, taste less. We bypass many experiences. We attend less to life and more to our simplification and particular abstraction.
Of the infinite variety that we could experience, the few that we actually do experience are immediately codified and standardized in words.
Speechlessness leads to an expansion of the senses, silence to a heightened form of communication. For in silence we share a bonding that encompasses and goes beyond verbal exchanges. Silence is the gestalt of all that is sensed. The spoken word is an intrusion into silence, an intrusion into wholeness. It disturbs, differentiates, categorizes and finally reorders a minute part of our total experience.
Speech is a futile act of “momentary immortality.” A cry of, “I exist.” Silence is a consciousness of our relation to both time and timelessness. It is the infinite and the speck of dust at the same time. Silence is many dimensional, multi-sensual. Speech, in its categorical, ordering fashion, can only convey some of the experiences of the five senses.
The moment we reduce a multi-dimension, multi-sensual experience to one spoken word, we destroy the infinite richness surrounding us. We castrate the imagination of man and impose a totalitarian order. We have imprisoned the world with words. In the process we have also become prisoners of our own words.
Words and language are being used by globalists to control the masses, so voluntarily relinquishing the use of words to fight back would then automatically lead to a self-imposed imprisonment of your own “free will.” Silence in the face of words is a pacifist strategy that will likely only increase the oppression he speaks of.
Psychology is totalitarian
The role of the psychiatrist is oppressive. His duty is to help people conform to the norms and standards set by the ruling elite. Whether he is successful in his work with the individual is of no great importance for society. If he is “successful,” the “patient” returns to society as a docile, co-operative citizen. If the psychiatrist is unsuccessful, the “patient” is ostracized, either locked up and put away in a hospital or drugged up and banished to the streets.
The role of the psychiatrist is oppressive because his primary interest is not in the health or so-called sanity of the individual. His main obligation is to uphold the accepted standards of behaviour established by the ruling elite, class, part or culture. In upholding such standards, the psychiatrist reinforces those very institutions that limit man’s growth and freedom.
“Understanding, predicting and controlling behavior” is the unwritten logo of our social sciences—especially psychology as a behavioural science. That is the purpose of psychology. Whose interests does it serve? The collected information with respect to our behaviours is the basis of power for the post-industrial (post-modern) establishment(s). Information about our behaviour enables them to control society, to control their “citizens,” to control and exploit us. Information is power.
Standardization of man is oppressive
The standardization of man, madness, and freedom in the twentieth century has removed any sense of intensity in the life itself. Nothing is intensely felt. There is no time for depth. All experiences must be fleeting. Experiences are like chattel—to be bought or gotten ride of, to be experienced at will. We choose experience as if buying something from a department store.
In spite of the permeation of standardization and totalitarianism, those who can still be made are indeed very strong and unique individuals. One should not use the word “mad” lightly, for there are very few who can be accorded that privilege. It is a privilege accompanied by great suffering. It is a suffering that is rarely alleviated. The path of the mad is so lonely that although he may have empathy with the world and the cosmos, he is also beyond praise and punishment.
Modern apartments are oppressive
The space-efficient apartments of recent origin, reflects the utmost in the totalitarianism of living space. When looked in from the outside, one often sees that all TV sets are in the same place in one apartment building after another. The couch where one sits to watch television is also in the same place. We eat, defecate, and have sex exactly in the same surroundings. It is very simple for a complete stranger to walk into a flat and find everything as if he had been living there for years. The living spaces of today no longer reflect the individual nor the cultural differences of their occupants.
A bird’s nest, which is the result of instinctive behaviour, shows more variation and use of natural surroundings than the block apartments we are building throughout the world today.
Hero-worship is totalitarian
Not daring to live in freedom, we delegate it to heroes whom we worship. Heroes are characteristic of the totalitarianism in us. They are also an absolute must for totalitarian regimes.
Heroes are as clearly defined and as standardized as a McDonald’s hamburger. The hero in all his details must meet with all the prejudices and value judgments of society.
All the attributes of a hero must meet the ideals, values, doctrines of the establishment of the ruling class(es). There must be nothing ambivalent or ambiguous about him. All images of those who are presented to us as heroes are totalitarian.
Without heroes we are individuals. With heroes we are a group. Individuals have consciences and principles. Groups adjust and have laws. Individually we live, collectively we survive.
Communists write stories about brave children fighting the enemies of the people, capitalists have their “rags to riches” heroes, Jesuits tell tales about the lives of the saints, nation-states worship their liberators.
Public relations agents representing sports figures, actors and singers pimp their clients to children and the young.
It is critically important for totalitarian rule to “capture” or “kidnap” the child’s mind with a hero. The child unquestioningly assumes a system of values and a particular ideology through heroes. As adults we often continue the allegiances we had as children.
A free man can have no heroes, for a hero implies the status quo. It implies a model to be emulated.
Information is totalitarian
Our so-called information society has a shorter memory span and knows less history than perhaps any society of previous centuries. This is not because of censorship or a major calamity like the ancient library in Alexandria burning down. Rather, we are faced with an information overflow that makes us unselective in what we hear, see or read. There is so much news that it has become a background noise in our daily lives. Just like fast food, fast sex and fast culture, fast news is also totalitarian in that it leads to a people who are desensitized and who can no longer discriminate.
Before printing presses news passed by word of mouth. In a way, there were as many newspapers, as many journalists, as there were people. The eyewitness accounts and reactions became the collective information of the people. News was indeed by the people for the people of the people. Media specialists and technology have facilitated the establishment’s control over news and information.
The refined totalitarian societies have discovered that what works for children is also valid for adults. What is new and fast will always arouse our attention and in emphasizing the present, eradicate the past. A society with little or no sense of history is easy to govern. Such a society is uncritical and easily led by the establishment.
The greatest fear of those who rule is not the opposition but not to be taken seriously.
Most of the author’s essays were published in 1986, well before the age of the internet, which has only amplified the problems he spoke of.
Sexual identity is oppressive
Vassaf takes a hard left turn on sexual identity by adopting a 100% blank slate position (i.e. gender is a social construct). I doubt he could have imagined the tranny horror show that would happen 30 years later, because he seems to sincerely believe that allowing men to become women would free them from totalitarianism.
He fails to understand that our biological destiny would make this change lead to psychological suffering, mental disorders, drug addiction, and promiscuity. He also did not consider that the ruling elite can foster sexual confusion in order to create weak individuals that won’t pose a threat to their power.
The enforcement of sexual identity is one of the most oppressive uses of power.
The elite he so hates is now using his ideas to keep their elite position. He missed when failing to consider that nuclear families with rigid sex roles is a far greater threat to the elite than sexually confused individuals who pick identities that they “feel” are correct before becoming a slave to their sexual wants.
He also sympathizes with feminism but at least saw how it could lead to a new form of totalitarianism. The “seeds” he spoke of has indeed become all grown up.
“Look at me as a person not as a sexual object,” is a statement of revolt against the existing order. It however denies the existence of sex and carries seeds of yet a great totalitarianism. Our technological innovations along with notions of sexual egalitarianism are taking us towards the denial of evolution based on male and female potentialities.
If we deny male identity and masculinity, would that help the elite maintain power?
Consumer choice is totalitarian
Like consumer preferences, all types of allegiances are also the result of one-sided relationships. They are simply chosen. The one-sided choice is the most complete power relationship. Is it the ultimate in domination. But it is also a fantasy. For although our choices and support is wooed by political parties, sellers of consumer goods, entertainers and religious sects, it is actually they who control us by offering, limiting and defining our choices. In decided to choose we assign rulers. It is they who amass fortune and power through our support.
The increase in choice that we have is an illusion, since that choice is centered around trivial matters of pre-packaged experiences and entertainment junk that does not threaten the power holders. We have what Vassaf calls “material and psychological obesity.”
Seeking immortality is totalitarian
The American psychiatrist Robert Lifton holds that the motivating force behind all our actions is to seek immortality. He cites four types: religious (the eternal soul), genetic (our seed living on through our offspring), creative (our names will live on through our works), and historical (with each action, each one of us is creating and becoming part of history). Against, another typical contemporary view that man must somehow belong forever, leave his imprint in history and dominate the future. Nothing about love, joy, sharing or merely playing.
Hey guys, stop trying to change the world and play with each other instead.
Setting goals is totalitarian
Once one has a fixed goal—a goal to be reached at all costs with dedication, determination and sacrifice—it seems that one has become subordinate to one’s goal, that life itself has become subordinate to the goal.
Even if he is right, he offers no alternative besides going on to state that goal-setting interferes with “love.” Then wouldn’t love be the goal, and wouldn’t you be subordinating yourself to that? A lot of his ideas were not completely thought through.
Pre-recorded music is totalitarian
Musical instruments for example left our houses to be replaced by records and discs. The family no longer makes music together. We still dance, but it is no longer an expression of our lives. Our dances come and go out of fashion in accordance with the dictates of the music industry.
Photography is totalitarian
Our relationship with the camera manifests how the push button image is substituted for the real. With each relentless snapshot, all that is photographed is consumed, exhausted from its natural setting to become part of a series of unconnected images.
We in our century have become image consumers.
With the first recorded images of man in cave painting some 35,000 years ago, image and magic were intertwined. The image had an all encompassing life giving presence, before which man was humble. In our century it is the image that is endlessly manipulated by man. The image is no longer lasting, being constantly created and destroyed. By ruling over images one rules over people. The image makers and the image destroyers are one and the same. They are the rulers.
There are enough leftist ideas in the book that I suspect Vassaf would give lukewarm support to today’s social justice world order that is being used by the elite to destroy the family unit and traditional society while depopulating certain races, but it came in bursts and wasn’t entirely distracting from his more reasonable points. We shouldn’t be surprised of this since Vassaf has spent too much time in toxic academic atmospheres.
While Vassaf does have a handful of good ideas, he tries to apply one model for everything, forcing square pegs into holes that don’t quite fit. I’m not sure if he’s trying to be an agent of destruction to the traditional and godly order or if he’s just an idealistic academic who wants peace, love, and sharing for all mankind. Either way, his work is not especially useful for masculine men who are finding themselves in the minority.
Read More: “Prisoners Of Ourselves” on Amazon