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The Captive Mind Essay

1173 words - 5 pages

The Captive Mind by Czeslaw Milosz is a book that looks at the political intellectuals in Poland at the time it was under Soviet rule. This wartime period caused a lot of turmoil for the Polish intellectuals because they were particularly susceptible to moral self-destruction and spiritual slavery. In Milosz's theory, Marxist indoctrination worked like a slow, mind-altering drug envisaged in the novel Nienasycenie by Stanislaw Ignacy Witkiewicz. The pill, allegedly invented by "Murti-Bing, a Mongolian philosopher," worked wonders: "A man who used these pills changed completely. He became serene and happy"(4). Calling Marxism "the New Faith," he develops his comparison even further, and in the next chapter adds another dimension of the indoctrination process, something he calls "ketman," after a Muslim custom observed by the French writer Gobineau in nineteenth-century Persia: Milosz refers to the concept "ketman," according to which, when in an untenable position because of belief or ideology, one has a right to hide or deny one's views publicly, as faith is considered a matter of individual and private conscience. Milosz states that modern societies display various kinds of "ketman": nationalistic, professional, skeptical and ethical. He further states that the term "ketman" perfectly describes the thinking of Eastern European intellectuals who engaged in the game of pretending to fully support the Communist regimes. These Communist regimes emerged with the help of these intellectuals who later continued to protect the existence of these regimes while priding themselves on their internal and intellectual reservations.Milosz established two major premises, the mind-controlling system and the fine art of deception (often turning into self-deception), he could now progress to the main body of his book, the makeup of the four contemporary Polish writers he wished to single out, called simply Alpha, Beta, Delta, and Gamma.Alpha's real name, Jerzy Andrzejewski, has become well known outside Poland through the huge international success of his novel Popiól i diament (1948). In The Captive Mind Milosz could predict the moral decline Alpha (the Moralist) was to experience in the next few years. He had a brief revival of freedom in 1956, which then he was able to free himself from the constraints of socialist realism, but he never fully recovered. His last major novel bears testimony to that fact that after being a compilation of political, social, and moral conflicts within a group of Polish intellectuals, but wound up a failure, as if confirming Milosz's opinion of his friend: "Only a passion for truth could have saved Alpha from developing into the person he became" (110).Gamma (The Slave of History) was a pseudonym given by Milosz to Jerzy Putrament, his fellow student before the war. "Gamma became a Stalinist," recalls Milosz. "I think he felt uneasy writing his passionless poetry. He was not made for literature" (148). And indeed, Putrament...

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