We can imagine that at birth our mind is like a vast plain, without valleys or hills, where the flow of perceptions begins to run freely, like a river carving its own course. In reality we need to imagine not one but tens, hundreds, thousands of rivers starting to cut deep channels in that plain, transforming it slowly and inexorably into a completely different landscape, made of valleys and hills, gullies and insurmountable cliffs, and especially a certain number of ‘psychological basins’ of different dimensions where the waters run together. Within this landscape the new flows of perception can no longer run freely, but have to follow the channels already cut, contributing in turn to deepen them, and, consequentially, to increase their capacity to draw in other psychic flows (for this reason we will call them ‘basins of psychic attraction’, in tune with
the modern language of Complex System Physics).
Culture and education readily interfere with this natural process, starting to build dams, barriers, locks and canals in order to control the turbulence of those currents, to direct them along preferred courses and above all to limit each individual’s ‘psychic attraction basins’ (PAB) to specific areas of his or her mental territory. And it is these artificial boundaries imposed upon the mental landscape that define the limits of ‘Common Sense’ (we will call it the ‘CS Region’) for any given culture: anyone who oversteps these limits will no longer be able to relate effectively with their own social group, leading to ‘deviant’, ‘abnormal’ behaviour, they will immediately be catalogued, at best, as maladjusted, eccentric or transgressive, at worst as mad or criminal. They will be expelled, imprisoned, fought against or reduced to silence. In extreme cases they may even be tortured or burnt at the stake (once it was physically, nowadays only psychologically, but the effects are similar).
Thus we are only apparently free to think, wish and imagine what we want. In reality our entire mental life is strictly confined within our CS region, defined by our culture: and this is a psychological prison far more powerful than any prison made of bricks and metal bars, for the simple reason that we are not even aware of it. As a fish is not aware of the water it swims in, we do not even see this prison, and even less do we feel the need to escape from it. Indeed, our conditioning is such that, if we occasionally happen to put our nose outside it, we immediately feel unpleasantly dizzy, guilty or ashamed for reasons that we cannot explain, but which we classify as negative sensations, and try to suppress. Without realising that with them we also suppress the fundamental urge to explore new mental territories that has always been the basis for the human creative drive, for that change in interior perspective that is the real motor for evolution and progress.
But, I also believe in what Jung wrote about the collective unconscious, too. And, like he once asked- what if the collective psyche goes crazy? You can feel it sometimes in the mass media, which echoes quite a bit of the collective psyche. It's not an entity any more so than evil is, but it sure as heck can behave like one.
I will say, though, that Rousseau talking about man's fundamental goodness was, at that time, still a fairly fresh idea in a Western world that still was full of people who had been fed the opposite of that for a very long time. That was a good start.