Neurosis In Cold War America.


Back when mainstream Media had a certain amount of Public Interest attached to it, the airwaves were filled with shows asking questions, looking for answers, prodding and probing.

One such show ran on CBS Radio in the mid-late 1950's called The Great Challenge. Usually hosted by a member of CBS News, this panel program posed a warehouse full of pertinent questions over what was going on with our society.

This episode, subtitled "Individual Relationships In A Mass Society" played host to a number of distinguished figures in the psychiatric and sociological professions, including Dr. Brock Chisholm, Dr Lawrence Kubie, Dr. Ralph W. Tyler, Dr. Erich Fromme, Dr. Lionel Trilling and Dr. William Foote Whyte, all pondering what was going wrong with America and why were we going so . . .well . . .crazy.

Dr. Ralph Tyler: “The point is, that you cannot be as an individual, free and able to express all the potentialities you have, to think and act in various ways, unless you have an opportunity to get stimulation from other people. We want variety in our society because it makes society interesting. If you have to sit with Joe and you know fifteen minutes ahead of time exactly what Joe’s going to say and how he’s going to say it, and many people at their homes or at work find just that relationship that there’s nothing novel, nothing exciting, nothing interesting. Other people bore you and you bore other people. And our concern here is that it’s through human relations of an individual sort an original, a creative sort, that life itself becomes interesting, it’s worth living.”

Dr. Brock Chisholm: “I suppose that there’s a lot wrong with this generation as there has been a lot wrong with all previous generations. But it’s more important now that it used to be. Because even while a lot of people in the past couldn’t get along together at all, and fought each other as they did, the results were usually fairly local. Only a few thousand or occasionally larger numbers of people were killed, but the human race was itself never threatened. In this generation there is required a whole new attitude that is appropriate to a new kind of world about which our ancestors knew nothing, and the requirements for adjustment to that changed world will probably, I would say I believe quite certainly, produce more neurosis, or at least liberate or motivate more neurosis or provide channels for the neurosis that is there already and encourage it to show.”

Bear in mind we're talking about a period of time, smack in the middle of the Cold War, where visions of obliteration were almost daily ruminations brought on by media and the practitioners of fear at the time. No wonder the 1950's were often considered "the dawn of Miltown".

At any rate, CBS Radio assembled a group of the best minds at the time and kicked it around. Maybe not offering solutions, but certainly letting everyone know they weren't alone in this - some comfort for sure.

Here is the April 22, 1956 installment of The Great Challenge, hosted by Howard K. Smith.

BTW - the "youth" they are referring to are in fact your parents and in some cases, your grandparents. Remember that, and perhaps giggle.


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