Identification is a Psychological Trick Allowing the Poor and Helpless to Feel Happy Because of their Illusion of Being Equal to the Wealthy and the Strong

A great many Americans beset by delusionary thinking, seems to believe that they are already rich. In 2001 a major news magazine ran a public opinion poll asking the question, “Are you among the richest one percent of the population?” Almost 20 percent believed they were; another 20 percent said they expected to be in the top one percent sometime in the near future. This poll suggests that something on the order of 40 percent of the public – which would amount to well over one hundred million people – place themselves in that exalted rank. Perhaps that finding explains why so many Americans approved the sweeping tax cuts carried out by the Bush administration. They even approved of repealing the inheritance tax, which is paid only by millionaires.
Theodore Roszak, “World, Beware!” 2006, Between the Lines, Toronto, p. 215

Because of the existence of identification – when I feel love and dedication to my king or Commander-in-Chief I as if psychologically become like him: I identify with him, become identical to him, I feel and think as he does.

This ability to identify with and feel similar to another people who are in actuality incomparable with us (they are financially and in their social influence and respectability so much worthier than we are) is one of the strongest pleasures given to us by our human nature.

Grateful to identification’s existence, I, who is, for example, just a poor Russian peasant, am able to identify with Stalin and feel that I am as mighty and glorious as he – I am him in my self-sacrificial loyalty and my dedication to his will, in my admiration of him, in my ideological imitation of him.

Because of identification, I, who is just a poor German guy or girl, have the opportunity to identify with Hitler and feel as superhumanly strong and wise as my Fuehrer, and I start to respect myself, to take myself seriously, and feel ahead and above the whole world.

I, a penniless loser can identify with the richest people and feel myself rich and feel upbeat and happy and full of banknotes in my trousers.

I, who is prosaic and a little vulgar can identify with a glamorous super-star (whose vulgarity has magically dissolved in glamour), and come to feel myself glamorous, irresistible and charming.

I, with my shamefully average and vulnerable body, can identify with an athletic super-hero and then come to feel myself as a champion loved and admired by everybody.

I, with my everyday ordinariness, can identify with “our army” – with those who know how to kill and torture, and I feel myself as strong and I take a firearm and learn how to hit human targets and I feel damn good and really great; I feel expanded as if I am participating in and part of a giant enterprise of our military might.

I identify with Super-man, Bat-man and Spider-man and I feel myself out of reach of any danger as an angel, and I, indeed, get the ability to do things which I could have never otherwise dared and always believed to be too big for me.

Because identification exists, I, who is just the opposite of the hero or the great achiever, I am, indeed, able to identify with the exceptional people because I like to think that I am capable of being greater/stronger/richer and smarter than I am in reality.

The reflex of identification helps us, the poor suckers, to be in this illusion – to feel that we are like the people with a better destiny than our own. Identification is an amazing trick of our human nature that allows people to feel they are simultaneously themselves (in all their prose and misery) and like those whom they admire/worship/idealize and identify with – somebody bigger, mightier and better. Identification was “invented” by the impersonal “mind” of the human togetherness to prevent bloodshed (conflicts between rivaling and competing human individuals, and between the frustrated ruled masses and the proud rulers). And it, indeed, often prevents and minimizes fruitless clashes between persons in a close proximity to one another. But identification also helps bloodshed that is considered “meaningful”, like wars with other nations when the poor soldiers’ identification with their mighty decision-makers makes them feel so good that they are happy to sacrifice themselves.

In today’s American reality of monopolistic domination over the markets an unnatural but habitual identification with the wealthy (who seduce the poor and the uneducated to admiringly identify with their power and wealth instead of thinking about their own interests) pacifies to the point of freezing the ability of the masses to resist the massive losses of jobs, melting health care and the disappearing roofs over people’s heads. The seductive lullaby of identification anesthetizes people’s frustration and stimulates their conformism. Identification postpones the disaster of blind mutiny, but, of course, simultaneously, makes it even more inevitable and devastating.