What is the fascination that we humans seem to share about larger than life individuals? Are we playing out our own unconscious, or perhaps tragically even denied, insecurity as perpetual orphans, wandering around looking to be rescued? A British psychiatrist, Bolby, through his work with children, writes about what he conceives as a fundamental and universal human dilemma: that we all suffer a monumental loss, separation, abandonment, alienation, early in our lives, and spend the remainder of our time on the planet attempting to mend the rupture.
If there is even a kernel of validity in the theory, then there is a potential to unify humans of all colours, languages and cultures, if we are prepared to acknowledge our shared pa in. On the other hand, there is also the potential that, without recognizing our pain, we enter into a world view that seeks out and even depends on a figure, father or mother, to 'be there for us' when others simply went AWOL.
We are all participants in a global experiment that includes our "audience" role in a public drama, each day, the script for which may seem to be written by those names and faces we see on our television screens, yet all the while, our "role" in the writing of that script can never be overemphasized. If we are embued with a kind of hard wiring that begins with separation, alienation, loss, then we will seek out figures with whom we can and do identify, those voices, faces, and personas whose energy gives expression to those basic feelings, thoughts, ideas, and even attitudes that we believe we lack the opportunity to express, in a loud and effective manner. Our shared frustration with those in power finds release in the manner and voice of a public figure who exposes his or her own frustration, thereby relieving us of the danger and risk of so doing. We live, too often, vicariously, through our projections onto whichever figures we choose. And our choices are not completely rational, deliberate or predictable.
The marketing fraternity digs deeply into our pain, our fears, our losses and our inadequacies for the sole purpose of painting pictures of products and services that purport to fill those gaps in our lives. "Drink this lager, and you will have an army of loyal friends who share your good taste for lager."
"Drive this car, and you will have the status that only this brand can give you."
"Apply this cream, and your skin will be so radiant and attractive that both men and women will want to emulate your 'image'."
"Invest with our company, and you will be cutting through the bafflegab that surrounds all the other investment pitches, because we have the best, the most credible and the most proven analysts of a supersonic global market."
Companies, like individual people running for office, carve out their perception of their unique "offering" and then buy writers and artists and composers to create the background 'set' for the selling of that offering. After being exposed to decades of manipulation, by companies shilling their brand, and politicians cunningly 'telling their story', like all overfed and bored and cynical consumers, our role has shifted from consumers who rush to the circus of a "Barnum and Bailey" barker who just arrived in town to skim our pocket change with cheap thrills and then move on to the next "sucker" town, to a more demanding and discerning consumer/audience who seeks a more substantive offering than another cheap thrill to fill the pain of our separation and alienation.
Nevertheless, there are many whose need for attention, any kind of attention, especially the kind of attention that purports to speak their language, and hold their views, regardless of how simplistic or distorted from reality those views are, like moths drawn to a light bulb, fly to the incandescence of any light, in numbers dependent more on the degree of incandescence than on the substance of the offering. A shooting star from the skies will find millions at their telescopes in the middle of the night, taking in the light show. A new planet, like Hebron 452, will generate public commentary, especially given the potential that it might house 'life' in some form similar to the life on earth. All of the 'lone-wolf' shooters in schools, churches, movie houses will generate more moths of media granting them a few minutes of infamy, even if posthumously, that they believed they were starved of in their lives.
And those "media moths" will be motivated by the research that demonstrates that there are millions of other 'moths' in living rooms, bars and rec-rooms, feeding on the words and the images of the first-line moths presenting the images on the television. Outside of the mainstream market, infested with those paid shillers, unpaid, and often obscure artists attempt to paint a picture that is not dependent on the acclaim and the dollars that comprise the drum-beat of the consumer marketplace. Like Arthur Miller, through his 1950 Pulitzer Prize-winning tragedy, Death of a Salesman, these writers see behind the public 'show' into the private lives of people like Willy Loman, whose life as a salesman has foundered on the rocks of reality, depression,, loneliness and alienation, not only from his own self, but also from his wife and sons. Penetrating the hollowness of the public pursuit of status, Miller illustrates its cumulative impact in the suicide of Willy.
And although that play is now half a century old, the alienation, separation and loss of individual lives is still playing an active role in the public drama that unfolds daily through the public media. And the reasons for the alienation, separation and loss are both the same as they always were, and somewhat different. Similar, in the fact that families are more fragmented and cut-off from each other given a universal attachment and fascination to tech devices that take them away to fragmented conversations with friends when they might be having face-to-face encounters with other family members. Even President Obama has had to ban cell phones from the dinner table, and lay on the reasonable expectation that his family talk to each other. And different in that the culture has become so violent, disrespectful and annoying rendering many public encounters offensive. At the gas bar this week, for example, I watched as several drivers strolled through their gas-up, and their pay-up and their window wash in a deliberately casual and isolated manner (as if they were the only ones seeking gas) while many others watched and waited in line. When I commented to the attendant that I was a little offended, he replied instantly, "So are we offended with the drivers around here...and the problem is that no body cares any more!"
And like abandoned orphans, we feel our original pain again, even at the gas pump.
And that pain wants a pill....and it seeks a pill in whatever form it can find.
And, if the pain is strong enough, the pill we seek may well be more dangerous than the pain itself.
And that's where the larger-than-life offering from a company, or a politician takes on a new kind of significance.
We can all see around North America, buildings around which thousands of cars are parked...these buildings include casinos, shopping malls and athletic stadia. People are attempting to satisfy appetites that apparently are not satiated, as these scenes continue to play themselves out. On a smaller scale, bars and pubs are filled with people talking about the 'talking heads' they are watching on the television, and gaming rooms are filled with those engaged in a virtual reality, one they call more real than the one the mainstream considers real, given the games' cut-to-the-chase presentation of conflict, strategy, tactics and winning/losing.
Carole Pearson, in her The Hero Within, wrote in the 1990's that the American culture was dominated by the Victim (Women) and the Warrior (Men) and that her hope was that both would find their Wanderer, and transition to their Magician. In 2015, one could reasonable speculate that the Orphan, and the Innocent are more prominent in American culture, and the dependence on the 'great figure' as the answer/rescuer/protector has grown rather than declined. Many women have found their Warrior voice, and men have started to explore their victim through their acknowledgement of their emotional pain, heretofore repressed and hidden from public view. However, the regression into a shared adolescence, one that includes both the Innocent and the Orphan, by both genders, perhaps for different reasons (women because their needs have not been met by the Feminist Agenda, their shared warrior, and men because their wandering is still misconstrued as weakness by many) seems more prominent.
Angry disillusionment, disenchantment, and narcissistic rebellion against all institutions, all collective decisions 'in the public good' seem to be echoed and amplified by raucous and offensive drama and political rhetoric that could be summed in the growth of extreme sports, as the epitome of the recovery and rise of the individual, in an ironically failed attempt to regain personal power and authenticity. Little wonder that we have become deadened emotionally to the bombs and the bullets and the refugees and the starving and are fascinated by inconsequential and ephermeral conflicts like that between "The Donald" the all the other presidential candidates.
When we believe we have been abandoned, isolated and victimized by a system over which we have no influence, we revert to our early patterns, and regress into archetypes we still need to developmentally transition from their negative to their positive attributes, and even to seek new ways of being adult, confident and willing to participate, so that the public square and the public good are once again supported by the best of our angels, and not those in need of the nano-second of public adulation.
We are, after all, capable of being more and different than abandoned adolescents at the latest rock concert, in our public lives.