A major part of Europe and parts of the globe have been involved in the environmental actions called Let's do it! World Cleanup 2012, aimed at cleaning up natural surroundings and illegal garbage dumps. The global environmental cleanup action is patterned or planned on the project »Let's do it, Estonia!«, carried out by Estonian volunteers in 2008. The action, introduced to Slovenia two years ago, was met with a tremendous response from the public.
Slovenia is one of the East-European ex-communist transition countries whose »comeback« to capitalism was done in a rather rampant, unfortunate, even corrupt fashion. The new capitalists and the nouveau riche lack moral judgment, with small-scale sleazeballs blindly following suit. A number of East-European countries have witnessed thriving corruption, clientelism, cronysm, elitism and social networking, such as the old-boy network, over the period of the last twenty years. It is then no great wonder that this type of environmental movement first sprang up or took root in East-European countries, where there was no end to prospering callous and presumptuous moral degenerates, who would rise to influential positions, yet maintaining their addiction to moral imprudence and to a diversity of economic, financial and political vices.
In 2010, during the time of the first environmental action “Let’s clean up Slovenia in a day!” a psychoanalytic thesis was formed, “When the state or society cannot be cleansed of all their moral vices, it is the cleaning of physical filth or illegal garbage dumps that can make a difference.” So far, so good. It is, however, worthwhile noting that it is just in some countries that he action is met with a tremendous response.
Interestingly enough, Slovenia surpassed Estonia in the response to the cleanup action in 2010 and this year too. A legitimate psychoanalytic thought leads to a conclusion that an environmental of the kind can be thought of by orthodox environmentalists and, above all, those that are painfully aware that their country or society is vice-ridden. What is meant here as vice is not mere sexual vices, which will thrive all around the world, but rather the vice found in politics, finances, esp. banking, and economy. It is, of course, difficult to draw a clear parallel between political, economic and banking vices and a general moral corruption of (some) politicians and (some) economists or bankers. General moral corruption is not inherent just to tycoons but also to marginal, small-scale moral degenerates who mushroomed during the transitional period in a number of East-European countries. Well, Westerns Europe, Northern and Southern Americas, Australia and capitalist Asia, eg. Japan and South Korea, are no exceptions. Africa is one of a kind. Eastern Europe, however, makes an exceptionally interesting case, as the former real-socialist countries would not see the rise of diligent and hardworking people only, but also those who had acquired their wealth in rather suspicious or outright dishonest circumstances, or profiteered in some other way during the transitional period.
The Super-Ego, the Freudian concept of moral standards that usually cause pangs of conscience in people that have committed a sin or have been deceitful in some way, has lead to an interesting phenomenon regarding the environmental cleanup action, namely, people who are covertly morally corrupt feel ‘pressed’ towards acts of clean(s)ing. Analysis of biographies of some mafia bosses and their accomplices shows that many of those have been drawn into continuous cleaning of objects and rooms or places as well as washing their bodies. Some would go on cleaning up the surroundings of their houses. Some would wash their hands or take a shower several times a day, brushing their bodies, without being dirty or sweaty. They washed for no good reason or (physical) need, as it were. Their need to clean(se) themselves stemmed from their psyches. Psychopathology of everyday life is well acquainted with the phenomenon of compulsive hand-washing. It is well-known that pathological hand washers rinse their hands for some unconscious or repressed guilt. They rinse out the vices or sins from their past.
Estonia and even more so Slovenia were faced with a theoretical question of why so many East-Europeans - for instance a record-breaking 300,000 Slovenian volunteers, making up some 20 % of the cleanup-able population - decide to take part in an environmental action. According to psychoanalytic theories it is not necessary for so many people to cleanse themselves of their guilt or past mean actions at the symbolic unconscious level of their mental reality. However, each person, including the honest ones, has an intimate or emotional symbolic attitude towards their country. It is fully legitimate to claim that many volunteers take part in the cleanup actions because of their loyalty to the organizers and their environmental awareness. We may, however, bring another reason to light: it was an unconscious desire on the part of many volunteers to clean(se) their country or society of the vices that have been committed by other fellow citizens.
How come the idea of a cleanup action cropped up in the first place and why would it be met with such a wide response? Are illegitimate garbage dumps really so disturbing? Psychoanalysis allows us to expose some latent reasons for this and paradigmatically similar cleanup environmental actions. Orthodox psychoanalysis would make it possible to claim that it is not about questions of ecology or nature, but rather of corruption and moral sinfulness of people whom “something unconscious” drives into symbolic cleansing. What is at stake here is not mere (manifest) cleaning of nature, but rather (latent) cleansing of the soul. It may not be the very person’s soul. It may be the corruption of the fellow citizens who soiled their country or society in the past.
The moral purity of a country or their citizens, especially the purity in economy, finances and politics, can be measures in the number of people involved in cleanup actions. The greater the lack of moral judgment, the greater the overall problems, the greater the corruption and clientelism, the more people are involved in this type of action. Some cleanse themselves of their past sins, other people cleanse themselves of the sins committed by those soiled their shared country and society.
It has to be noted that on a global level there are a great many politicians, economists, bankers and a number of people from other walks of life who are morally corrupt, yet such cleanup actions have not been organized there so far. This, however, does not disprove the universality of our psychoanalytic interpretation of a symbolic comparison between moral corruption on the one hand and environmental cleanup actions or an overall tendency towards cleaning on the other. Through symbolic mental processes, the human mind transforms or “reads” the everyday reality as perceived by senses according to its own spontaneous and involuntary symbolic logic.
Many women are observed to clean their homes in a near-compulsive fashion as good as every day, decorating or making them beautiful at the same time, as many of these women have unclean or untidy or disorganized family (sexual or partner) relationships. In some cases people will (unconsciously) reproach themselves, taking on the blame for some sins. This is reflected in their gaudy, clinically-sterile living spaces. Tasteless, gaudy decoration of the living spaces and the home surroundings derives from an (unconscious) desire to make themselves more beautiful in their own eyes as well as in the eyes of other people – in reality they are very “ugly”, “dirty”, somehow “untidy” or even morally corrupt.
Moral people will not even think of simply dumping some irritating garbage “wherever”, in a secret place. A normal and cultivated person will throw their refuse and garbage into special waste containers. Covert dumping of waste and garbage carries some symbolic value. The ritual of illegitimate waste dumping in a secret place is practised primarily by people who have problems with their (im)morality or their sinful nature. In a secret and symbolic way, some people dump the sins that no one knows of. Normally, people dump their waste into containers, so everybody can see and know where the refuse has been disposed of. Covert illegitimate dumping brings some sense of relaxation, which, in turn, carries an indirect message that the person is inflicted with some vices or sins that they hide away or are ashamed of – and this is the very reason why these are secretly and illegitimately dumped. Secret and illegitimate garbage dumping (in nature) contains a somewhat perverted status of a symbolic confession, as known from the paradigm of classic Christian confession by an ordinary sinner. The country having many illegitimate garbage dumps may be said to have many people who wish to secretly “dump” or rid themselves of their sins and other (concealed) mind-inflicting problems.
Just as environmentalists try to sensitivize people to the issues of waste disposal, they could address a moral lecture at corrupt politicians, elite tycoons and “small-scale” crooks, driving home the message that their country will face cultural downfall, if business (economy), everyday life, politics and banking tolerate such corruption as is now happening, especially in the East-European countries during the transitional period. The fact is that it is deceivers, liars and thieves that have been economically and politically thriving in Eastern Europe for the last twenty years of transition. Moral people find it difficult enough just to live and make their ends, causing them to burn out. These people suffer from the absurdities of the system and moral wrongs done to them. The suffering is greatest for those that live by the moral code, yet have to see others make profit from contentious businesses or political power.
Theoretically, it is quite reasonable to expect that in the times of recession and corruption there will be someone in the East-European countries, especially some politician, to add a new action “Let’s start up our country!”
Roman Vodeb, double M. A., is a Slovenian theoretical psychoanalyst and an independent scholar. He has published five books in which he applies psychoanalysis to sport, ideology of sport and gender. He writes for Slovene media, providing psychoanalytic interpretation of current social events and issues dealing with gender issues, politics, sport, culture and art.