This week, Robert and Dave switch gears back to the series focused on a few shows that bring meaning and potential benefit in the media. Specifically, television shows that possess themes crucial to wake us up from the dangers that we are facing, prejudices we have, and ideas that support survival on the planet. Highlighted today is The Americans. We cannot help but love the Russian family that is portrayed as spies planted in the United States in this show. Not only how the main characters love each other, but how they love their kids. These relationships humanize them in such a way as to melt the barrier between them and us watching in our living rooms. The upper echelons of the power of Putin are as corrupt as it gets, representing the most disturbed leaders like Hitler, Stalin, and the worst elements of Trump. These authoritarian influences guide us into black-and-white thinking that blocks many of us from seeing how similar all of our needs and desires are as people.
The Americans takes place during The Cold War, under the leadership of Gorbachev in Robert’s eyes, more than any other leader in America or Russia, he spoke to world peace. Gorbachev declared an innocence and a common responsibility to negate nuclear war. The Americans, as a TV show, revealed common elements that allowed universal humanness and collective responsibility to be seen. The key is not to see each side as equal, but to be able to see the fragility and the massive contradictions on both sides. We need to teach our kids that we too have made our mistakes and that it is important for us to be humble as a country to try and create as much unity as possible when our country and world are so threatened.
Mentioned in this episode
The Global Bridge Foundation
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The Missing Conversation, Episode 70.
Robert Strock (00:03):
God bless our freedom with accountability for collective responsibility. If we don’t have collective responsibility, and use our freedom to incorporate that, then it’s another word for supporting an element of narcissism.
In this podcast, we will propose critical new strategies to address world issues, including homelessness, immigration, amongst several others, and making a connection to how our individual psychology contributes and can help transform the dangers that we face. We will break from traditional thinking, as we look at our challenges from a freer and more independent point of view, your host Robert Strock has had 45 years of experience as a psychotherapist, author, and humanitarian, and has developed a unique approach to communication, contemplation, and inquiry born from working on his own challenges.
Robert Strock (01:02):
Thanks again for joining us at The Missing Conversation where we address the most pressing issues that the world’s facing today, and where we look for the most practical, inspiring programs and innovative ideas to support survival on the planet. Today, we’re gonna continue to explore the lessons that the series of shows that have been selected, that have a theme that is quite crucial to helping wake us up to both the dangers that we’re facing in the world and the prejudices we have, and implicitly how we can be guided to have a better chance to live and survive. All of these shows can support us to break free from what we are taught that isn’t true, what we were taught when we were “growing up,” in quotes, and encourage us to do our own individual contemplation, not to just be carbon copies of prior generations that had war and defense departments and alienation and projection of anger onto others, whether it’s other nations or of parties and The Americans is one of those really classic shows, one of two that I believe really highlight two nations or two nation-states that really black and white each other. And we would so benefit if we could see the positive side of each and realize we need to both find a middle ground and also admit our failures. So before we really enter into it, I’d like to introduce Dave, my partner at The Global Bridge Foundation and dearest friend for 50 years.
Thank you. And, and, uh, I really look forward to this again, this theme, this black and white theme, uh, and taking what really has been our entertainment industry, trying to reflect back to us what we have been taught with some insight, rare as it may be, entertainment provides some insight and applying it and seeing where we can apply it in other places just beyond the program itself. So, thank you.
Robert Strock (03:33):
And I wanna highlight as I did maybe in the beginning of these episodes that I’m someone who has a very, very hard time finding television series that have really deep meaning. So, I ask you to really listen carefully to the meaning because it’s not like I think every TV show has a meaning. This is really rare. And The Americans really does what I would consider to be the very best job at humanizing, quote, “the enemy.” And really, if we’re opening our hearts, we can’t help but love the Russian family that’s portrayed as Russian spies planted in the United States. Not only do we love how they love each other, but we love how they love their kids. So here we have a country, the Soviet Union or Russia that really has not been a model of family, has really taught collective responsibility, has, has really thwarted the trust even between families.
And I happen to be very close to a couple of Russian families where I can see the inner workings, I know the histories from a very deep personal sense, and a couple of clients as well. And the family structure was one where it wasn’t uncommon there to actually be afraid to share what you thought as a child with your parent, or you may get turned in; something that’s absolutely inconceivable to us in America. On the other hand, you have some very loving people who are very committed to a collective sense of community, a collective sense of responsibility, and a sanity and life motives, and I’m not talking about the upper echelon of power of Putin. Putin is as corrupt as it gets and he certainly represents the most disturbed element like a Hitler, like a Stalin, like a dare I say it, the worst elements of Donald Trump.
You know, where it really isn’t on that political level about the underlying philosophy or underlying values of the country, but what, what we’re really trying to show in The Americans isn’t about, as we talked about in Homeland, isn’t about the upper crust of the political realm. What we’re talking about are people that have some power, but not in politics, or don’t have some power, maybe have enough resources to be able to survive so they’re not caught in a complete survival struggle because we’re mobilizing anyone that’s in a survival struggle no matter where they are, especially if they’re doing what they can, they’re not being getting given a blanket noble just because they’re poor, but if they’re really doing what they can for their family, that is as good as it gets, even for someone that takes care of the world when they have wealth. So, what the show really shows is a couple whose love is very moving, which is not something, honestly that I’ve really seen in any other movie or any other television show to the degree of nuance and love and sensitivity, even though it became very complex because they had responsibilities at spies, they had to kill people, they had to have sex with other people.
So it was not a traditional love. You had to look beyond the activities of murder and other things to see that there was a real love and a profound protectiveness of their kids. And then you saw the FBI with its mission and levels of self-centeredness, affairs, different elements of it not being clean. And it revealed the show itself revealed the general theme that was very similar in Homeland, where you saw the benefits of some individual freedom, some caring for the family in The Americans, and it really hinted at but didn’t show directly the lack of emphasis toward family in Russia. The whole theme was if you got sent back to Russia, you’d be honored by the government, but it wasn’t about personal relations that didn’t matter so much. What mattered was the commitment to the whole. So you were led into a world where on the one hand you had the drive toward power, the drive toward wealth, and on the other hand, the drive toward the principle of taking care of the whole.
Now it’s important that I grant the listener that the whole really involved the whole of Russia. It wasn’t the whole of the world, but at least it was a whole that was not just localized to the family. However, it also showed a different kind of hole, h o l e in the family system itself, in the Russia aspect of it, where there wasn’t the normal trust and development that’s so critical to have another level of mental health. So if you superimposed the collective theoretical responsibility of caring for something beyond the self and the caring for the self, then we really have a society that doesn’t exist in the world yet today that takes the best of the collective responsibility in the communist theory, not practice and the American theory of individual freedom and caring for the family, which is only half practiced. So again, similar to what I said in the last episode, I don’t know if it’s my bias or not, I still would rather for sure be in America rather than Russia.
That’s not a question. But if it was Trump’s America with those ideals being fostered, I have no sense of whether I would rather be in America than in Russia. Because in a certain way, as has been pretty obvious to those that have observed Trump and Putin are good buddies, or at least they’ve appeared to be friendly toward each other. The beauty of really seeing love for family in a Russian couple humanized me to question, it brought me into a series of inquiries. I wonder how many families there are where there are real love in Russia. And I know from my experience with the people I know well, that there are a fair amount of families that are, and aren’t, not as many nowhere near as many as America, but they were taught that there is a collective responsibility. If I look at the amount of collective responsibility that is taught in a real way in our educational system, in our psychology, and the way that we do psychology, in the way that we are political. In theory, yes, we’re doing it for America, but in practice, power and freedom has taken over one great clear distortion that really struck me in the heart.
And I felt embarrassed that I didn’t know and many of you may know that there were approximately 400,000 people that were Americans that died in World War II. And there were some range between 17 million to 25 million Russians. That was left out of my history that I absorbed, and the heroism of America and the lack of effort to stop and sacrifice, to stop Hitler, would’ve humanized my view of Russia had I known that. And if it was there, it must have been one sentence or my issues of resisting education may maybe rose its ugly head, but I’m quite sure it was never emphasized.
Just want to be clear here that this story, as I understand it, is set in the time of the Soviet Union. It isn’t set in the time post-Cold War Russia did become a different animal where, and having visited Russia, uh, I have an experience of that which is not really that relevant to what was going on in this program. And so to me, uh, people who are embedded in a foreign country, regardless of which country and where they’re from and where they’re going to, and their loyalty to that country, I think you well-spoken, it is not taking into consideration the whole, it is not honoring our planet in any sense of the word. It is a loyalty and in some ways a cult, you could call it, uh, it has similarities. It has a loyalty that allows you to do things that you otherwise would not look at as moral or legal or otherwise permissible. And in the context of a loving relationship, in the context of an FBI that has corruption inside of it, um, I don’t know where to look, where I can’t see some corruption, really.
Robert Strock (14:10):
I’m really glad you gave it the perspective of when it was filmed. And it was particularly because right at the end of that time period was Gorbachev. And Gorbachev, in my eyes, more than any other leader in America or Russia, spoke to world peace. And I remember being blown away when I saw in Time Magazine Gorbachev saying “One thing that all Americans must understand that under no circumstances will the Soviet Union ever attack America in a nuclear way. We will never be the instigator.” And he declared an innocence and a common responsibility that was beyond Russia. Now, that represented a significant minority of Russians that did go beyond Russia. It allowed him to be in power for a period of time. But, since that time, the company, the country fell apart and the dominant part of the country, certainly politically, has taken over, ironically, the ideals of America, of greed, wealth, power, and addiction to it.
So, in that way the politics there are even more severe, other than perhaps you might say, equivalent to the mini version of it with Trump and white nationalists, who really believe they have superior rights to superior wealth in a radical way. But the point here in the TV show is that it really revealed the common elements that allowed the humanness to be seen and the collective responsibility to be seen there, and the fragility of the family system where it had the FBI agent breaking up and having affair and the breakdown of the moral fiber of a lot of the family system. Now, that doesn’t mean, again, this could be taken out of context, that the family system isn’t really a foundational unit, but as a catalyst, as a catalyst to the greater responsibility. So, what this seemed to imply to me was the family system, whether it be the great Soviet family of the spies, or the great family systems in America. Then being guided to this collective responsibility that socialism implied, at least in theory, and Gorbachev actually—and I think a very ironic way—was the best leader in trying to promote world peace.
I’m really glad you brought up our current situation in identifying, uh, to put it broadly red states and blue states factions of one of our political parties that seem to identify as authoritarian. And the difficulty, similar to the program of empathizing, being able to roll reverse, being able to have an understanding that allows, and I will speak personally, allows me to, uh, take a position where I can see, yeah, that makes sense from that side. It’s hard, it’s hard, it’s breached friendships, and in a significant way The Americans with nuclear war at stake represented the extreme of that where there was no ability to cross over except eventually with Gorbachev and of course he didn’t last long before it reverted to what it was, you know, in some ways authoritarian under Putin.
Robert Strock (18:28):
I would say the country reverted, not so much him, I think. The other contradictions that exist in both societies is so glaring, whether it’s the political division that you just mentioned in America where we have our own significant 35% base of people, and maybe it’s only 15 or 20 and maybe only 15 or 20 are really just trying to keep in power. But there’s a hardcore 20% that are either sympathetic with the white nationalists. Our white nationalists believe that that’s the right way to go, are addicted to power and wealth, are not really interested in the world in America. And then you have the other contradiction of a Gorbachev in the Soviet Union and his peace orientation. So, the key thing is to be able to see frailty, massive contradiction on both sides. Doesn’t mean it’s equal, doesn’t mean as you’re listening to this show, well, I’m still an American, that was badmouthing America.
I can just hear the black-and-white thinking being heard as you’re listening to this. But I wanna make it very clear, I am still with some self-doubt, I am still pro-America by a fair amount versus being pro-Russia, especially when I take into consideration that hardcore 20%. But I do believe that we badly need to teach our kids as, as is spoken in The Americans that most parents, many parents don’t even teach chores or responsibilities that prepare their children for life. The protection is so great, they want them to feel good. They don’t want them to cry. They want, they want them to have a perfect bedtime, perfect everything, and insulate the children dominantly from the dangers of the world, from the perils of the world. That’s not the case in the Soviet Union. They’re filled with the perils of the world when they’re being raised, which robs them at one level of having a free, a free life, a free-thinking life.
On the other hand, I’d like to, I’d like to have 20% of that be instilled in our education, be instilled in our psychology, be instilled in our politics. I’d like, I’d like to have this be screamed at the rooftops that, like what I said in the last episode, God bless America, or God bless our freedom. No, God bless our freedom with accountability for collective responsibility. If we don’t have collective responsibility and use our freedom to incorporate that, then it’s another word for supporting an element of narcissism. It’s another way of supporting separation in the world. And as a final statement, what I’d like to say is America, in the sanest parts of America, overtly political, because it’s allowed to be free, has a much saner foundation. At least half of America politically has a largely sane foundation, even though it still is driven toward wealth too.
It has its weaknesses, but at least it is trying to care for the people more so. It is allowing freedoms that are important for development. And on the other hand, again, please hear this in a nuanced way. So when we talk about The Americans, we need to learn collective responsibility. We need to teach our kids the importance of really being aware of the world and considering that and what work they do, how they think of other countries, how much they realize that we too have made our mistakes and that it’s important for us to be humble as a country to try to create more unity.
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