Wisdom Books: Listen, Little Man! by Wilhelm Reich

Listen, Little Man! is a great physician’s quiet talk to each one of us, the average human being, the Little Man. Written in 1946 in answer to the gossip and defamation that plagued his remarkable career, it tells how Reich watched, at first naively, then with amazement, and finally with horror, at what the Little Man does to himself; how he suffers and rebels; how he esteems his enemies and murders his friends; how, wherever he gains power as a “representative of the people,” he misuses this power and makes it crueler than the power it has supplanted.

Reich has us to look honestly at ourselves and to assume responsibility for our lives and for the great untapped potential that lies in the depth of human nature.


Read the following short excerpt from the book Listen, Little Man!:

THEY CALL YOU Little Man, or Common Man. They say your day has dawned, the “Age of the Common Man.”

You don’t say that, little man. They do, the vice presidents of great nations, the labor leaders, the repentant sons of the bourgeoisie, the statesmen and philosophers. They give you the future, but they ask no questions about your past.

You’ve inherited a terrible past. Your heritage is a burning diamond in your hand. That’s what I have to tell you.

A doctor, a shoemaker, mechanic, or educator has to know his shortcomings if he is to do his work and earn his living. For several decades now you have been taking over, throughout the world. The future of the human race depends on your thoughts and actions. But your teachers and masters don’t tell you how you really think and what you really are; no one dares to confront you with the one truth that might make you the unswerving master of your fate. You are “free” in only one respect: free from the self-criticism that might help you to govern your own life.

I’ve never heard you complain: “You exalt me as the future master of myself and my world. But you don’t tell me how a man becomes a master of himself, and you don’t tell me what’s wrong with me, what’s wrong with what I think and do.”

You let the powerful demand power “for the little man.” But you yourself are silent. You provide powerful men with more power or choose weak, malignant men to represent you. And you discover too late that you are always the dupe.

I understand you. Because time and time again I’ve seen you naked in body and soul, without your mask, political label, or national pride. Naked as a newborn babe, naked as a field marshal in his underclothes. I’ve heard you weep and lament; you’ve told me your troubles, laid bare your love and yearning. I know you and understand you. I’m going to tell you what you are, little man, because I really believe in your great future. Because the future undoubtedly belongs to you, take a look at yourself. See yourself as you really are. Hear what none of your leaders or spokesmen dares to tell you:

You’re a “little man,” a “common man.” Consider the double meaning of these words “little” and “common”…

Don’t run away! Have the courage to look at yourself!

 

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