Thursday, February 22, 2024 #28

 Some readers may be wondering it these pieces are dedicated to some kind of harmonious, universal awakening, on a spiritual level, as if the world were suddenly imagining a climb to the top of some mythical, mysterious mountain in order to come face to face with visions ‘meeting ‘God’ who there is about to inject ‘peace, harmony, tolerance, the release of all notions of bigotry and racism, ageism, sexism, and some kind of release of the ‘power motive’. Some salvific awesome incandescent moment of transcendence, some kind of entry into the personal alchemy of transformation, as the resolution of all of the existential crises we all face is not only demonstrably unlikely, but actually specious in the extreme.

In 2005, James Hillman debated Depak Chopra at Emory University, one a subject whose title was, “War, Peace, and the American Imagination”.

“Early in the dialogue, Hillman noted that ‘unfortunately we have images of peace that are passive, nothing happening, no trouble, white doves, olive branches’…What Chopra was defining as peace in the Eastern tradition, as he put it, ‘the transcendence of opposing energies that allows one to dwell in the state of pure consciousness’….Hillman basically found ‘bloody boring'…Peace where there is something to fight for or stand to or resist or believe in or find work in (is)not simply the absence of war, that’s the incorporation of war in something.’  

When Chopra sought to draw comparisons from Buddhist traditions to the Jungian idea of psyche and ‘the sphere that differentiates into the archetypes and then into the personal development,’  Hillman responded that he would ‘like to go back to the diabolic imagination. I’d like to come down. How do we account in our culture for the fertility of a diabolical imagination?...When the imagination has lost its cultural archetypal roots, when it is no longer fed with value…then it becomes a kind of self-destructive fantasy.’ This could be seen in the video war games, and the real ‘war games’ as well.

Later, after Chopra spoke of the importance of shifting ‘our allegiance to the feminine archetypes,’ (he named Hera, Demeter, Athena, Persephone, and Aphrodite) so that we might ‘begin to tell ourselves these new stories…we will see the emergence of a new culture and use of language.’

Hillman responded: I said we were addicted to innocence we’re also addicted to newness. Every bloody thing in Amerca has to be new, why? Why are we talking about emergence, evolution…Why are we talking about what’s coming. We don’t know what the hell’s coming, let’s face that right off the bat. We know what’s here, and it’s pretty bloody serious…we are in a very serious destructive phase, and it doesn’t do us any good to be wishful and hopeful, it does us a lot more good to be faithful to what is, what really is, and to struggle with it.  (Dick Russell, The Life and Ideas of James Hillman, Vol. 1, The Making of a Psychologist, 2013, Helois Press, New York, pps. 358-359)

Doubtless, these exchanges will be read by some as an anti-feminist retort. Nothing could be further from the truth. It was the prospect that any single pathway into ‘euphoria’ and ‘new culture’ would be considered an avoidance of being faithful to the facts on the ground, as they exist that seems intended. Reading Nelson Mandela’s autobiography, (LRTF), one can turn to almost any single page, to find the writer deeply immersed in the ‘what is’ and ‘struggling with it’. While he never loses either hope or his optimism that, somehow, sometime, however, and whenever, the dismantling of apartheid will take place and the envisioned democratic state of South Africa will take its place, he is never fantasizing over the utopia of some never-never land.

His address to the court, ‘in answer to a question as to whether democracy could be achieved through gradual reforms, I suggested it could.

We demand universal adult franchise and we are prepared to exert economic pressure to attain our demands. We will launch defiance campaigns, stay-at-homes, either singly or together, until the Government should say, ‘Gentlemen, we cannot have this state of affairs, laws being defied, and this whole situation created by stay-at-homes. Let’s talk.’ In my own view I would say, ‘Yes, let us talk’ and the Government would say, ‘We thing that the Europeans at present are not ready for a type of government where they might be dominated by non-Europeans. We think we should give you 60 seats.The African population to elect 60 Africans to represent them in Parliament. We will leave the matter over for five years and we will review it at the end of five years.’ In my view, that would be a victory, My Lords; we would have taken a significant step toward the attainment of universal adult suffrage for Africans, and we would then for the five years, say, We will suspend civil disobedience. (Mandela, LWTF), p. 251.

Grounded, confrontational with respect, and committed to an epic cause… Peace where there is something to fight for or stand to or resist or believe in or find work in (is)not simply the absence of war, that’s the incorporation of war in something….When the imagination has lost its cultural archetypal roots, when it is no longer fed with value…then it becomes a kind of self-destructive fantasy.’ This could be seen in the video war games, and the real ‘war games’ as well...(Hillman from above)

It is not to suggest or to argue that innocence and diabolical imagination are twin poles of a polarity here. Rather it is to suggest that we become ensnared in rhetorical jousting that has ‘no value’….as if to move into a delusional kind of political vacuum. The American presidential election, for instance, is highly significant for the next months and years of global existence, and potentially survival. Nevertheless, the political ‘war games’ like those video war games, exude a vacuity of authenticity, integrity and ‘value’. The ‘war game’ of the election contest is empty of what Hillman might call ‘the cultural archetypal roots’ of America’s deep-rooted historical and generic roots: racism, expansionism, international engagement/isolation, modernity, rebellion against oppressive abuse of power, wealth distribution, and creative innovation. Each of these archetypes warrant legitimate, reasoned, researched and fact-based debate.
None of that is happening. In their place, we have a pseudo-war-game around the personality of a treacherous, and dangerous former president, his legal entanglements, and the ‘age’ of his opponent. The discussion, reporting, analysis and far more insidious than what previously were dubbed ‘horse-race’ coverages, have all devolved into what kids in the 1950’s referred to a ‘fake fighting’ when the wrestlers came to the local arena. The question of whether or not the populace has lost the critical capacity or the will to differentiate ‘fake’ from ‘authentic’ or whether that question applies equally or more appropriately to the political class will fill doctoral theses for decades, if not centuries.

If the standard of public grasp of both the persons for whom they will vote and the depiction of the issues proffered as ‘serious and real’ has slid into what becomes ‘anyone’s alternative facts’…in order to appease this demonstrable false prophet….then his marketing savvy, deception, lies, pre-pubescent intellect and vocabulary, will continue to seduce millions. And his ‘cause’ has a chorus of leaders elsewhere, who have recognized the ‘political trading value’ of this kind of phoney, hollow, delusional and seductive rhetoric. Frightened people, for any number of reasons/causes/signs/attitudes/perceptions/beliefs…are among the most vulnerable and malleable and compliant of populaces. And to generate more fear and more fear, as if to add signatures to the existential threats, without doing anything to address, confront and ameliorate their threat, is the essence of a valueless ‘war game’. And we see it playing out all around us.

This kind of wave of ‘straw-men-and-women’ shouting under banners of ‘christian nationalism,’ or ‘denazifying Ukraine,’ or ‘eliminating Hamas,’ or, as in El Salvador, under a newly ‘elected leader,’ Nayib Bukele, who ‘has won a Congressional supermajority (and)…will control a staggering 54 of 60 seats in the Central American country’s legislature, empowering him to do whatever he likes….He’s already jailed nearly 2% of the adult population as part of a ferocious crackdown on gang violence, and he already got a friendly court to rule he could flout term limits. His allies even say eh aims to ‘dismantle’ democracy. And…his success at slashing the murder rate to pieces has made him incredibly popular. That’s true not 0only at home but also abroad, where some in other violence-wracked Latin American countries_-Mexico, Columbia. Ecuador, Chile—are increasingly enamored of Bukele. (GZero Daily, February 21, 2024)

The word ‘deconstruction’ has been closely aligned with the philosophical notion of postmodernism, ‘largely a reaction against the intellectual assumptions and values of the modern period in the history of Western philosophy (roughly, the 17th through the 19th century)….Postmodernists dismiss (the) “idea of objective reality, a reality whose existence and properties are logically independent on human beings- of their minds, their societies, their social practices or their investigative techniques. Postmodernists dismiss this idea, as a kind of naïve realism. Such reality as there is, according to postmodernists, is a conceptual construct, an artifact of scientific practice and language. This point also applies to the investigation of past events, by historians and to the description of social institutions, structures, or practices by social scientists. (Also, as to the descriptive and statements of explanatory scientists and historians can, in principle, be objectively true or false) The postmodern denial of this viewpoint-which follows from the rejection of an objective natural reality- is sometimes expressed by saying that there is no such thing as Truth.(Similarly as for the notion that) Through the use of reason and logic, and with the more specialized tools provided by science and technology, human begins are likely to change themselves and their societies for the better. It is reasonable to expect that future societies will be more humane, more just, more enlightened and more prosperous that they are now. Postmodernists deny this Enlightenment faith in science and technology as instruments of human progress. Indeed, many postmodernists hold that the misguided (or unguided) pursuit of scientific and technological knowledge led to the development of technologies for killing on a massive scale in World War II. Some go as far as to say that science and technology---and even reason and logic—are inherently destructive and oppressive, because they have been used by evil people, especially during the 20th century to destroy and oppress others. (

In a blatantly bi-polar, black-and-white, abuse of this kind of nuanced, thoughtful, introspective, critical thought, we find “anti-woke’ political rhetoric, for example, over such matters as Critical Race Theory. Defined by Britannica, CRT (is) an intellectual and social movement and loosely organized framework or legal analysis based on the premise that race is not a natural, biologically grounded feature of physically distinct subgroups of human beings but a socially constructed (culturally invented) category that is used to oppress and exploit people of colour. Critical race theorists hold that racism is inherent in the law and legal institutions of the United States insofar as they function to create and maintain social, economic and political inequalities between whites and nonwhites, especially African Americans. Critical race theorists are generally dedicated to applying their understanding of the institutional or structural nature of racism to the concrete (if distant) goal of eliminating all race-based and other unjust hierarchies.

In the social and political vortex of postmodernism and such theories as CRT, among a populace that is familiar with neither perspective, and intellectually withdrawn from the kind of debates and discussions that take place in graduate school seminars and lectures, leaders who espouse chaos, carnage, devastation and mayhem (even yesterday communism and fascism, from trump), will achieve a decibel rating that far outreaches the decibel rating of a mere moderate, modest, humble and introspective mediator of ideas, arguments, fiscal options, legal options and the stability of the nation. And such a decibel rating, stampeding over the airwaves in pursuit of advertising dollars and the equivalent of ‘click-views’ will generate much ‘heat and very little ‘light’ as the vernacular goes.

Indeed, generating ‘heat’ (call it hate, anger, contempt, revenge, pay-back, elimination of enemies, or euphemistically, political rhetoric and campaigning) among confused, alienated, under-educated, under-paid, and perhaps even under-employed is a primary propaganda technique that plays into the hearts and mind of the alienated. They think, believe, act as if, they have found their saviour. Ironically, tragically, and potentially dangerously, in such a political climate, even the thought of a potential second term of this monster makes the capitals of the world quake, not to mention the ordinary streets and towns where ordinary people live.

Mandela’s mind and heart must be pounding with apprehension given his clear-minded, determined, disciplined and truth-based fight for freedom…a freedom that, to many including this scribe, seems farther away in the first quarter of the twenty-first century that it did in the last quarter of the twentieth century.


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