The Captive Mind

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The Captive Mind by Czeslaw Milosz is a book that looks at the political intellectuals in Poland at the time it was under Soviet rule. This wartime period caused a lot of turmoil for the Polish intellectuals because they were particularly susceptible to moral self-destruction and spiritual slavery. In Milosz's theory, Marxist indoctrination worked like a slow, mind-altering drug envisaged in the novel Nienasycenie by Stanislaw Ignacy Witkiewicz. The pill, allegedly invented by "Murti-Bing, a Mongolian philosopher," worked wonders: "A man who used these pills changed completely. He became serene and happy"(4). Calling Marxism "the New Faith," he develops his comparison even further, and in the next chapter adds another dimension of the indoctrination process, something he calls "ketman," after a Muslim custom observed by the French writer Gobineau in nineteenth-century Persia: Milosz refers to the concept "ketman," according to which, when in an untenable position because of belief or ideology, one has a right to hide or deny one's views publicly, as faith is considered a matter of individual and private conscience.

Milosz states that modern societies display various kinds of "ketman": nationalistic, professional, skeptical and ethical. He further states that the term "ketman" perfectly describes the thinking of Eastern European intellectuals who engaged in the game of pretending to fully support the Communist regimes. These Communist regimes emerged with the help of these intellectuals who later continued to protect the existence of these regimes while priding themselves on their internal and intellectual reservations.

Milosz established two major premises, the mind-controlling system and the fine art of deception (often turning into self-deception), he could now progress to the main body of his book, the makeup of the four contemporary Polish writers he wished to single out, called simply Alpha, Beta, Delta, and Gamma.

Alpha's real name, Jerzy Andrzejewski, has...