Between Stockholm Syndrome and Lima Syndrome
Part 3: Interpersonal, Political and Financial Stockholm Syndrome
The love-and-hate relationship between hostages and captors has not escaped Hollywood. As outlined in Stockholm swooning: 22 films where women fall in love with their kidnappers, Stockholm Syndrome has been around even before the 1973 incident at Kreditbanken in central Stockholm. Films from The Sheik (1921) to Three Days Of The Condor (1975) to In Time (2011) share the Stockholm Syndrome theme. For the sake of gender equality, I think, there should also be films where men fall in love with their kidnappers.
It's probably not a stretch to say that politicians and legislators who are beholden to special interest groups and K Street lobbyists suffer from Political Stockholm Syndrome. Basically these politicians are being kept as hostages — voluntarily or otherwise — for fear of losing campaign donations to finance their election or re-election campaigns. Handcuffed by a conflict of interests and torn apart by two opposing forces — whether to kowtow to their campaign donors or to serve their constituents — they become ineffective legislators and too paralyzed to execute their promised agendas. Like reforming Wall Street for example.
Which brings us to Financial Stockholm Syndrome. In his November 2009 blog, Dylan Ratigan, the fiery New York Times best-selling author and MSNBC's former host argues that "Americans Have Been Taken Hostage" — the title of his post. American taxpayers, according to Ratigan, have been taken hostage to a broken system in which taxpayers "provide the banks with the use of $14 trillion from the Federal Reserve, much of the $7 trillion outstanding at the US Treasury and $2.3 trillion at the FDIC" to bail-out Goldman Sachs and other mega banks. This underlines the previous paragraph: Congress, so far, has refused to outlaw the most anti-competitive structure known to the American economy, often referred to as "too-big-to-fail banks". Since most of our 401(k) and Individual Retirement Account investment portfolios include stocks and bonds, basically we all suffer from Stockholm Syndrome. By continuously investing in a broken system that we sustain and feed in with out pre-tax dollars, we (including myself) are practically bonding with, and supporting, our captors. How foolish, one may say; but the alternative is to invest in a Picasso or Vermeer or Cezanne, and how many can afford that?
In this day and age most of us also suffer from Consumer Stockholm Syndrome. We are shackled by what we call "brand loyalty", handcuffed by Conspicuous Consumption and blindfolded by a desire to shop 'til drop and buy 'til die in order to keep up with the Joneses. As illustrated in "The Corporation" (2003) documentary, some of the best creative minds have been employed to create illusions — castles in the air, if you will — that divert consumers from the real issues through the so-called Perception Management. Much more important than selling products, in fact corporations do sell "a better way of life" and plot subtle propaganda to sustain consumers' dependency on — even addiction to — their products.
Anyone who doubts the magnitude of Consumer Stockholm Syndrome, should simply observe the ridiculous annual ritual of shoppers who camp out over the Thanksgiving holiday. These hard-core shoppers valiantly endure the cold, rainy, and windy November darkness in pursuit of securing a place in front of the Black Friday line, merely to get the most desirable "doorbuster deals" offered by quite sophisticated captors. Even if these hostages know that the doorbuster deals are merely "derivative" products, which are specifically manufactured with lower-quality specifications just for the Black Friday commotion, that is just fine. Like in other versions of Stockholm Syndrome, the irrational bonding and sympathy towards the captors is irresistible; and the captors understand it. Since 2005 mega-retailers have taken advantage of Cyber Monday to entice online shoppers with even more "online-only-deals" the Monday after Thanksgiving.
[To be continued.]
Johannes Tan, Indonesian Translator & Conference Interpreter