DW Winnicott - Discussion of War Aims


some notes from "Discussion of War Aims" written in 1940 by D.W. Winnicott, Home is Where We Start From, W.W. Norton & Co., New York, 1986, pp, 211-220. http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/892616048

We can examine the possibility that we do stand for something valuable, and if we think we do, we try to work out just what that something may be. And when the words 'Democracy' and 'Freedom' appear in the discussion, we can try to understand what those words mean.
To clear the ground I would ask for acceptance as an axiom that if we are better than our enemies, we are only a little bit better. ... it is no use pretending that human nature is fundamentally different in Germany and in Great Britain, although this, I admit, leaves me with the burden of explaining the admitted dissimilarity of behaviour in the two countries.
Total behaviour includes historical responsibility; it also takes into consideration the widening of the basis of motivation through one's unconscious identification with one's enemies. Total behavior also takes note of the capacity of the individual to get gratification in connection with ideas, perhaps aggressive or cruel ideas, and to derive relief when intolerable ideas that threaten to become conscious are acted out -- that is, when responsibility for them is shared by other members of a group.

... human nature, called collectively the social structure, is no simple matter; and no help comes from ... denying the power of greed and aggression that every individual has to deal with in his own self if he is to appear to be civilized. The easy way out for the individual is for him to see the unpleasant parts of himself only when they appear in others. The difficult way is for him to see that all the greed, aggression and deceit in the world might have been his own responsibility, even if in point of fact it is not. The same is true for the State as for the individual.

... if we acknowledge the importance of greed in human affairs, we shall find more than greed, or we shall find that greed is love in a primitive form. We shall also find that the compulsion to attain power can spring from fear of chaos and uncontrol.

Democracy is the exercise of freedom, and parliamentary government is the attempt to make freedom possible through the willingness of individuals to tolerate their opinions' eclipse if they are outvoted. This willingness to put up with not getting one's own way if one cannot get support of the majority is a remarkable human achievement involving much strain and pain. It can only be possible if the gratification is allowed of a periodical illogical riddance of the leader.

... Surely the essential thing in democracy is that the people not only elect but also get rid of leaders, and take responsibility for this.