Selections from: Listen, Little Man! By Wilhelm Reich
Listen, Little Man: Your heritage is a burning diamond in your hand.
See yourself as you really are. Listen to what none of your leaders and representatives dares tell you: You are a "little, common man." Understand the double meaning of these words: "little" and "common."
You are afflicted with the emotional plague. You are sick, very sick, Little Man. It is not your fault. But it is your responsibility to rid yourself of this sickness.
You confuse the right to free speech and to criticism with irresponsible talk and poor jokes. He who has to protect the living against the emotional plague has to learn to use the right to free speech as we enjoy it in America at least as well for the good as the emotional plague misuses it for the bad. Granted equal right in the expression of opinion, the rational finally must win out.
What is important is not individual treatment but the prevention of mental disorders. You have locked up the crazy people, and the normal people manage this world. Who, then, is to blame for all the misery?
You have begun to play a governing role on this earth. It is on your thinking and your actions that the future of humanity depends. You give impotent people with evil intentions the power to represent you. Only too late do you realize that again and again you are being defrauded. You must come to realize that you make your little men your own oppressors, and that you made martyrs out of your truly great men.
You are different from the really great man in only one thing: The great man knows when and in what he is a little man. The little man does not know that he is little, and he is afraid of knowing it.
For you are afraid of life, Little Man, deadly afraid. You will murder it in the belief of doing it for the sake of "socialism," or "the state," or "national honor," or "the glory of God."
I recognized the deadly fear of the living in you, a fear which always makes you set out correctly and end wrongly. You had the happiness of humanity in your hands, and you have gambled it away. You had the world in your hands, and at the end you dropped your atom bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Through the centuries, you will shed blood where life should be protected, and will believe that you achieve freedom with the help of the hangman; thus you will find yourself again and again in the same morass.
I found what makes you a slave: YOU ARE YOUR OWN SLAVE-DRIVER. I have ceased to be willing to die for your freedom to be anybody's slave. I tell you: Only you yourself can be your liberator!
You yourself create all your misery, hour after hour, day after day. You think the goal justifies the means. You are wrong: The goal is in the path on which you arrive at it. Every step of today is your life of tomorrow. You stand on your head and you believe yourself dancing into the realm of freedom.
You could have long since become the master of your existence, if only your thinking were in the direction of truth. You are cowardly in your thinking, Little Man, because real thinking is accompanied by bodily feelings, and you are afraid of your body. Many great men have told you: Go back to your origin - listen to your inner voice - follow your true feelings - cherish love.
The kindly individual believes that all people are kindly and act accordingly. The plague individual believes that all people lie, swindle, steal and crave power. Clearly, then, the living is at a disadvantage and in danger.
There is only one antidote to the germs of the emotional plague in the mass individual: his own feeling of living life. The living does not ask for power but for its proper role in human life. It is based on the three pillars of love, work and knowledge.
You beg for happiness in life, but security is more important to you, even if it costs you your spine or your life. Your life will be good and secure when aliveness will mean more to you than security; love more than money; your freedom more than party line or public opinion; when your thinking will be in harmony with your feelings; when the teachers of your children will be better paid than the politicians; when you will have more respect for the love between man and woman than for a marriage license.
You will no longer believe that you "don't count." You will know and advocate your knowledge that you are the bearer of human society. Don't run away. Don't be afraid. It is not so terrible to be the responsible bearer of human society. Inflated leaders would have no soldiers and no arms if you clearly knew, and stood up for your knowledge, that a field has to yield wheat and a factory furniture or shoes, and not arms. All you have to do is to continue what you have always done and always want to do: to do your work, to let your children grow up happily, to love your mate.
You are GREAT, Little Man, when you are not small and petty. You are great when you carry on your trade lovingly, when you enjoy carving and building and painting and decorating and sowing, when you enjoy the blue sky and the deer and the dew and music and dancing, your growing children and the beautiful body of your woman or your man, when you learn to understand and think about life. You are great when you hold your grandchildren on your knees and tell them about times long past, when you look into an uncertain future with their trusting childlike curiosity, when you lull your newborn to sleep, when you sing the good old folk songs.
Follow the voice of your heart, even if it leads you off the path of timid souls. Do not become hard and embittered, even if life tortures you at times. There is only one thing that counts:
to live one's life well and happily.
Listen, Little Man, by Wilhelm Reich, 1948. Translated by Theodore P Wolfe. The Noonday Press, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, New York, NY.
Selections chosen, arranged, and edited by Gregory Wonderwheel