The Life of Julia
Like the Sirens Song in Homer’s Odyssey, President Obama’s creative 2012 campaign ad, featuring “the Life of Julia,” attempted to lure unsuspecting voters with “promises” of a good life, and government program support from cradle to grave. While panned by Republicans and some news organizations, it nonetheless appealed too many who share Obama’s vision for America.
Does the average American really think about the implications, which are about control at both the personal and a societal level of this seemingly insidious vision?
Psychologist Julian B. Rotter developed the concept of locus of control in 1954. It is indeed, a powerful concept on so many levels. Human beings have tendencies or an orientation towards either an internal or external locus of control. People with a tendency towards an internal locus of control tend to believe they are responsible for their own success; report being happier and more independent, and often achieve greater success in the workplace also known as “self-determination.” Those with an external locus of control tend to blame outside forces for their circumstances and lot in life. They don’t believe that they can change things. Those with this orientation tend to be unhappy, with feelings of hopelessness and helplessness.
Furthermore, psychologist Dr. Martin Seligman notes that “the cause of learned helplessness is being repeatedly exposed to an uncontrollable event, or what is perceived as an uncontrollable event. After many repeated and failed attempts to accomplish something while in an uncontrollable event, the brain “learns” that success is beyond his or her control. Once “conditioned” to this belief, the individual gives up hope and effort, even when later exposed to an event where control is possible. Often, people with external locus of control don’t understand where much of the feelings of unhappiness, anger, helplessness and hopelessness come from. It is insidious.
From a micro level to a macro level, many in society, thanks largely to our federal and local government programs, including welfare, housing and even Obama Care, are unknowingly becoming indoctrinated into developing an external locus of control and thereby becoming “victims” of “learned helplessness.” Dependence on big government and its programs tends to build and nurture an external locus of control. ” I would also submit that with greater dependence on big government programs comes anger and unhappiness, when the system inevitably fails to live up to growing expectations.
Thomas Hobbes, an English philosopher who wrote in favor of the “Leviathan,” strips the individual of human qualities that contribute to the essence of life, such as motivation, inquisitiveness and competition. Hobbes believed Man could not be trusted with his own freedom without direction from what he referred to as the “Sovereign,” or Commander in Chief. In essence Hobbes was essentially promoting external locus of control.
This is not what the Founding Fathers would have wanted for their descendants.
Philosopher John Locke believed that men direct their own lives, influencing the Founding Fathers and the Declaration of Independence. In the Second Treatise of Government, Locke wrote about “the care therefore, of every man’s soul belongs unto himself. And is left unto himself. “
There is something immensely freeing in Locke’s statement, allowing individuals who would otherwise not dream of that possibility.
Finally, in Viktor E. Frankl’s seminal book, Man’s Search for Meaning, a memoir about life in a Nazi death camp, he noted that “We who lived in concentration camps can remember the men who walked through the huts comforting others, giving away their last piece of bread. They may have been few in number, but they offer sufficient proof that everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of human freedoms- to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances to choose one’s own way.”