Reiner’s authoritarian personality

In my two previous posts I tried to pin down the totalitarian mindset, what is it that makes Reiner such a vitriolic exponent of prohibition? That prompted me to uncovered Reiner’s moral and psychological weakness. Those things that are hurting not only himself, his psychological weakness, but also the people around him, his moral weakness.

Reiner’s moral weakness is his persecution of the drug user, a characteristic implicitly informed by his psychological weakness, an authoritarian personality. The realisation that Reiner has an authoritarian personality fits perfectly with the standing I have for him in my head but ignorance forces me to ask, what is an authoritarian personality?

I found a good answer in Erich Fromm‘s 1957 article “The Authoritarian Personality“. Fromm defines the authoritarian personality as “the inability to rely on one’s self, to be independent, to put it in other words: to endure freedom”.

I’m struck by this phrase “to endure freedom”.

At the core of the conflict between Adam and Reiner is the polarisation of freedom and security. As John Truby points out “a true opponent not only wants to prevent the hero from achieving his desire but is competing with the hero for the same goal“.

On first inspection the two men have completely different goals. Adam needs to save Christine, and Reiner wants to destroy all drug users. On the surface their desires are different, but I’ve realised the two men are actually fighting over the kind of world they will live in. Will it be a world ruled by freedom or one ruled security?

If Adam is to have a better life at the end of Carrion he must choose freedom to the exclusion of that demanded by Reiner. For Reiner freedom always exceeds to security, the safety of the nation, the security of belonging to something greater, a mindset that accepts the logic of the ruler and the ruled.

Exploring the digression a little further I am struck by the torturous state of mind that Reiner must suffer if freedom is something that has to be endured. The freedom implicit in a choice to take drugs must be physically painful for him. Which gives an indication of his hostility for drug users, and why he is compelled to correct the imbalance with violence. 

That said Reiner’s inability to endure freedom is not the whole story. Fromm’s description of the authoritarian character is complex, more detailed that I can outline here, but when I apply it to Reiner, he is described as an immature personality who “can neither love nor make use of reason”.

Reiner feels alone, gripped by fear, and needs to feel a bond with something greater. A bond he finds “in the symbiotic relationship, in feeling-one with others; not by reserving his own identity, but rather by fusing, by destroying his own identity”. His adherence to the prohibitionist cause is a subconscious desire to be part of a larger unit. What Fromm might describe as “masochistic and submissive character aims” has Reiner belittle himself so he can,”as part of something greater… become great himself”.

Reiner is a “passive-authoritarian” and can only survive by connecting with the figure of an “active-authoritarian”. A character type who, I now realise, is missing from Carrion. He is present in the abstract, in the form of a government, in the “Code-10” laws that seek to marginalise the drug user, but as a tangible character that Reiner has to look up to, has to submit to, they’re missing.

I need to fill this gap if the story world of Carrion is to work. It’s a mistake on my part to think Reiner can function without this figure.

Finally I think it’s a mistake to understand Reiner as an entirely passive. Inherent in the notion of the active and passive authoritarian is the notion of hierarchy. Reiner’s masochistic desire to be ruled, also comes with a sadistic desire to rule. It’s part of the symbiotic tendency inherent in the authoritarian personality, and goes some way to codifying the relationship between Adam and Reiner.

Fromm likens this characteristic to the tyrannical father “who treats his wife and children in a sadistic manner but when he faces his superior in the office he becomes the submissive employee”. Reiner treats Adam in a sadistic manner but in his dealings with his boss is submissive. Put simply he’s a bully.

I’m sure that Reiner’s desire to dominate Adam plays some part in Adam’s rejection of Reiner, but the exact nature of his choice eludes me at the moment. In the story world of Carrion, where the totalitarian mindset is all pervasive, what makes Adam step back and pause for thought?

Perhaps the simple act of hesitation puts him at odds with Reiner? He can smell the scepticism, which is enough to elicits the wrath of the pedant in Reiner.

Adam’s “rebellion” cuts Reiner to the quick, the same way freedom is something he has to endure?

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