Government v. Society

Photo of Sigmund Freud
(Madsjune, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

Austrian neurologist Sigmund Freud, believed that civilization (government) diminishes the liberty and freedom of the individual. We incorrectly believe that social structures promote and safeguard our liberties, whereas in fact they restrict them, causing significant dissatisfaction. The demands of civilization require us to give up our instincts; as we know from Freud’s theory, this is the hardest thing for humans to do because we are fundamentally egocentric and motivated by our instincts. Furthermore, Freud argues that these renunciations might end up hurting us. I believe the persecution and mistreatment of LGBT members in Russia and the horrors of conversion therapy are just a few examples that show how showcase the effects of the government limiting a person’s freedom.

In an article written by the Human Rights Watch, it says that “ Russian government officials and parliament members claim that the goal of the “gay propaganda” law is to protect children from potentially harmful subject matter, the law in fact directly harms children by denying them access to essential information and increasing stigma against LGBT youth and their families. Given the already deeply hostile climate for LGBT people in Russia when the law was passed, it is not surprising that its passage coincided with an uptick in often-gruesome vigilante violence against LGBT people in Russia…” (Human Rights Watch). I believe this emphasizes Freud’s view of civilization, because it showcases a group of people who are being silenced and are forced to give up their natural born rights, in order to assimilate into society. It also shows a specific group of people being oppressed, due to government intervention.

The New York Times also supports Freud’s view of society, as it details the lengths the government will go to, in order to take away someone’s freedom of expression. In the article, it states that “ The therapist ordered me bound to a table to have ice, heat and electricity applied to my body. I was forced to watch clips on a television of gay men holding hands, hugging and having sex. I was supposed to associate those images with the pain I was feeling to once and for all turn into a straight boy. In the end it didn’t work. I would say that it did, just to make the pain go away…” (The New York Times). This supports Freud’s views of civilization and just goes to show that government intervention upon society’s freedoms, doesn’t always work out.

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