Wednesday, March 9, 2016

American political campaign: dance of the unconscious Shadows of Trump, his acolytes and enemies

Never before have we had so much information in bits and pieces flooded upon us by radio and television and satellite, yet never before have we had so little inner certainty about our own being. The more objective truth increases, the more our inner certitude decreases. Our fantastically increased technical power, and each forward step in technology is experience by many as a new push toward our possible annihilation. Nietsche was strangely prophetic when he said:

We live in a period of atomic chaos...the terrible apparition..the Nation State.. and the hunt for happiness will never be greater than when it must be caught between today adn tomorrow; because the day after tomorrow all hunting time may have come to an end altogether.

Sensing this and despairing of ever finding meaning in life, people these days seize on the many ways of dulling their awareness by apathy, by psychic numbing, or be hedonism. (Rollo May: The Discovery of Being:Writings in Existential Psychology)

And to May’s penetrating insight we might add, that in our vacuum of inner certitude, we project our fears directly onto a “saviour” whom we falsely believe will relieve us of our emptiness. This presidential campaign is far more about the emptiness inside millions of voters than it is about The Donald. However, it is the Donald who is the target of our projections, unconscious though they are, and in this mass unconscious projection, the American electorate is entering a phase of dangerous tragedy, whether or not that tragedy takes the form of a fifty-foot wall, or a nuclear explosion, or even a world economic meltdown worse even than the 2008-9 implosion.

The real tragedy that could come out of the nomination, and thereby potential election of The Donald is that those projections cannot and will not be fulfilled. The American Dream, that prophetic myth that has sustained the country for well over two centuries has never had to integrate the internet, the billions in propaganda spending, the loss of “pride” and purpose among the ordinary American people, and the opportunism, ego and narcissism of one like The Donald. Unconscious projections place untenable and unbearable expectations on the object of those projections. Whether the target is considered the most heroic, or the most evil (and Trump is being targeted with both varieties of projection, it is the unnamed, and unacknowledged and precipitous projections that ultimately fail everyone.

Extrinsic portrayals of the vulgar language Trump uses on the stump, the depth and the venality of the campaign to undermine him, his own complicity in this epic and transnational dance of deaf and dumb psyches (that of the electorate and that of Trump himself) and the profit-driven motive of the complicit and opportunistic media, political handlers, pundits...all of these factors enmeshed in the over-arching time-table of the election campaign itself...and they all rush in to generate a confluence of influences over which no single actor or agent has control. There is no possible outcome from this dance of the phantoms (the Shadows of the candidate and the Shadow of the culture) for the simple yet explosive reason that reality, both the objective and the subjective realities of the universe resulting from this monumental collision of Shadows and the emerging explosion of psychic atoms, neutrons and positive and negative ions. From this collision, only multiple mirages can play out: more and more exclamations of power, success, inevitability and megalomaniacal power over (without a hint of specific proposals except the kind of Cecil B. De Mille fifty-foot walls (characteristic of his epic biblical films) that pour like a cataract from his bottomless narsissictic (yet hollow and empty) ego and the increasingly intense cry of his supporters that he is the only one who can save the country. His growing cadre of opponents also play their part in this Greek tragedy: projecting their existential fears for the survival of one or more of a) The Republican Party, b) the United States itself, c) the global economy, or d) the collapse of the planet’s ecosystem or e) the first nuclear war.

Unfortunately, it is not feasible to speak or white about this drama without warning of the exaggerated expectations of both parties to the dance. It is also not possible to speak or write about such a dance of ‘shades’ or Shadows, without sounding moralistic, somewhat arrogant and certainly somewhat pretentious.

However, the need for the ‘writer’s apology/defence pales beside the profound empathy the writer feels for both partners in this cosmic dance, because it epitomizes the kind of dance of the Shadows that besets domestic, professional, legal, parliamentary and yes, diplomatic conflicts everywhere. At the centre of both partners is an excess of hubris, linked to anger, boiled in a cauldron of alienation and contempt, and nurtured by a rejection of the specialist, intellectual, technological and bureaucratic culture that has risen over the last half century or more. And, of course, when there is this quantum of the disease of anger, hate and revenge, much of it will be and is misdirected. Unfortunately, different from the human experience of grief, loss and the process of dealing with a profound loss like a death, or a divorce, this dance does not exhibit or evoke honour, empathy, compassion or sensitivity.

The only human response to such an impending falling off the cliff is sadness and a whisper of a warning. The political response could conceivably include an awakening by the political professional class that the unconscious does indeed play an integral part in the working out of the public agenda. The face that the unconscious, both individual and collective, has been expelled from the halls of academia, for the express reason that it is not empirical, not measureable, not repeatable and not testable by all of the known tasting instruments (cognitive, chemical, physical, ethical, sociological) known to human culture.

Yet if America itself, and through her example and experience, sad and potentially tragic as that may be, can embrace without fear or shame the twin-headed creature of the objective/subjective aspects of reality, both personal and human, as well as external. It was Rollo May, himself, who told us that the single most penetrating problem of being human is that, at one and the same time, we are both subjective (subjects) and objective (objects). It was Melody Beattie who posed the concept of the march of archetypes through human lives, as portrayed in novels and movies, from the innocent, to the orphan, the victim, the warrior, the wanderer and finally the magician. And any movement out of one archetype and into another requires a transition period, or a time as ‘wanderer’....

Clearly, the United States is wandering in the wilderness of one of the most monumental transitions from one kind of political and historical period, to another of a very different kind. This transitional stage, the letting loose of the Shadows of both a candidate and the electorate, if it is to serve the purpose of aiding and sustaining a kind of political, cultural, and historical development, will need the best informed, the most courageous and the most prophetic and poetic imaginations to steer the ship of states through the shoals and the rocks lying in wait to imperil the little vessel. And since the voyage has already begun, and the projected voyage has not been yet committed to either hard copy or digital screen, this cruise could end up like a voyage to and from Hell, as were those cruise trips for so many affluent tourists have described following the collapse of their ship’s many systems.

The political culture is no country is comfortable delving into the beyond of the individual or the collective unconscious. And what could potentially emerge from this emergent collision of the tectonic plates of a leader’s unsconscious and that of his new-found political acolytes. Neither the individual aspirant nor the electorate is open to this portrayal of the drama in which they are both engaged, even imperiled. Nevertheless, this enmeshment cannot and will not be ended without a further act of desperation by both sides, including especially the portion of the electorate who simply detests The Donald.

It has been a long time, if not perhaps even centuries, since such an epic dance of the polarized and radio-active unconscious of such high-wire actors has played out. Certainly it has not happened in the digital age, embracing the eyes, ears and the imaginations of people around the world.

And, let us not forget that in his prophetic voice, Winston Churchill warned the world, “America always does the right thing, after it has does everything else!”


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