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“The inclination to aggression constitutes the greatest impediment to civilization.”

NEW YORK — Why is the world so violent? Why can’t civilization contain it? Freud knows!

Few thinkers understand human aggression as powerfully as the founder of psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud.  His 1929 essay, “Civilizations and Its Discontents,” remains the definitive text on human destructiveness. As beheadings, school shootings, war, police brutality and sexual violence continue unabated contemporarily, its relevance is undeniable.

“Men are not gentle creatures,” Freud wrote, “but … creatures whose instinct (is) aggressiveness.”

Judson Memorial Church and New Books in Psychoanalysis will host a reading of Freud’s seminal essay to ring in 2015. Readers includes psychoanalysts, actors, academics, Pulitzer prize winners, architects, clergy, diplomats and war veterans who have lived Freud’s words personally.

“Freud tells us that humans have destructive urges that we direct outwards,” said Tom Carter, the managing director of the Hanover Search Group, and a longtime U.S. diplomat who served in Nicaragua and was a delegate to the U.N. Security Council. “Freud was also correct in saying that violence demands catharsis. Today, in response to pronounced racist aggression in America, protests such as we see around NYC have a cathartic impact.”

“I spend a lot of time trying to convince myself and others of innate human goodness,” added Micah Bucey, Community MInister of the Arts at Judson Memorial Church, “but this is meaningless without acknowledging the destructive and violent impulses we all feel. ‘Civilization and Its Discontents’ explores what it means to be human, warts and all. In our current crises of human destruction, we need honest exploration now more than ever.”

About the event:

“Civilization and Its Discontents: A Marathon Reading”
Saturday, January 3, 2:30-7 pm

Judson Memorial Church
55 Washington Square South (bet. Sullivan and Thompson Sts.)
New York, NY

Map here.