Tuesday, July 9, 2024

cell913blog.com #62

 After reflecting on the cabal of the current right-wing Republican candidate and party, and posing the question of whether ‘any voice’ can counter its zealotry, it is time to put the Democratic ‘mess’ under our lens.

A tragically fumbled opportunity in a 19-minute mental circuit-breaker performance, by president Biden, ostensibly explained by Biden’s statement, ‘even though his mic was closed, he kept yelling at me and I let him distract me,’ (words to that effect), and a surfeit of backstories that his mental acuity has been questioned for some time, none of his ‘personal’ condition can negate or escape the global reality that the world seems to be facing multiple crises, which, taken together, seem to many to comprise an existential crisis of epic proportions.

The initial furor around the debate debacle, now, 10 days after the event, seems to have subsided, at least so long as the NATO conference is in session in Washington. A few days of reprieve for Biden, or a change of the ‘channel’ remains an unanswered question. Given the zeitgeist of the country, anxious, worried, somewhat fearful and certainly uncertain, and the gargantuan volume and hatred of the trump cult, people like Richard Hass are unlikely to be persuaded that Biden is the best Democrat to lead to a defeat of trump and his evil.

And there is a flag of note in the concept of the trump evil. Odious thug, he is without doubt. And yet, he also gives voice to the deepest, darkest, and most unsettling instincts of, not only America, but also of each of us. On the political, geopolitical, historical, and philosophical lexicons, we speak of ‘oligarchy’ versus democracy, or tyranny versus personal freedom and rights. From the psychological lexicon, we speak of man’s coming face to face with his/our/my/your worst, most despicable and dangerous instincts. Today, it is inconceivable to think only of Putin, or Russians, Xi or the Chinese people, Kim or the people of North Korea, or the ayatollah or the people of Iran as exclusively the loci of evil. And any conflation of evil into those names, as either a conscious or unconscious denial of our own capacity for, harbouring of, imagining of evil within our psyche, not only refuses to dispel its power and threat, but actually heightens the potential for evil to reach up and grab us by our collective throat.

And while Biden and the Democrats are determined to define the presidential race in ‘good versus evil’ terms, we all know, (not merely cognitively but in our ‘gut’) that such a binary depiction, analogous to the clarity of the cartoonist, the satirist, the prophet, serves to simplify the choice for voters, while at the same time, blinds him/her, for the moment of the decision to the multiple and more complex and far less readily reducible to the binary issues we all face.

America, herself, is not without a history of the darkest impulses known to humanity, as are all the other nations in the world. America, however, seems to have developed, nurtured and sustained a ‘rose-coloured eye’ that, as integral to her embrace of idealism, patriotism, exceptionalism, all of this moving toward a ‘more perfect union,’ serves also to diffuse, deflect and deny her darkest instincts. The ‘high road’ of aspirational rhetoric, (Reagan’s beacon on the hill) cannot and will not, however, completely erase the darkest personal, psychic, or national instincts.

Indeed, a thunderous, vacuous, hollow, intractable, irreverent and despotic voice, such as the disconnected larynx of trump, has done, and predictably will continue to do, two things simultaneously: arouse the ire, zealotry and frenzy of his cult, and deepen the anxiety, fear, neurosis and depression of his political opponents. Both sides are giving voice, within their party, to both their highest ideals and their worst fears. And, taken together, while the public consciousness concentrates on the ‘divide’ between what is depicted as ‘good’ (Democratic) versus ‘evil’ (Republican), and both sides depict their opponent as embodiment of evil, each side is trapped in both the language and the perception of fear. And the way ‘fear’ is depicted for each side is identified, embodied in, and circumscribed by the other.


The essential ingredients, even the definition of  democracy as the contention of relative merits of opposing ideas, policies, perceptions, approaches and the presentation of arguments, including both rational and emotional ‘pitches’ have been trashed, as the darkest fears, and the language, and personification of those fears (in the ‘other’) now strut into the political, rhetorical, psychological coliseum of the gladiator of the psyche. No longer is the political defeat of the opponent defined by, or restricted to, his political defeat at the polls. Only his ‘political death’ can satisfy this current conflict.


The moderation, rational, professional respect and consideration both for the facts on the ground facing the nation and thee ability, integrity, respect and honour of the opponent have both suffered the ignominy of ‘war’ in which the first casualty is truth. Senator Moynihan’s ‘you are entitled to your opinion, but you are not entitled to your own facts,’ has atrophied on the battlefield (altar?, funeral pyre? stock exchange?) of what has become scorched earth rhetorical and psychological war to the death.

In such a ‘black-and-white’ dichotomy, not only is the voter demeaned, insulted and dismissed. So too are the basic premises, ideas, structures, institutions and all public trust in those previously ‘revered’ at best, and ‘agreed’ at least, entities, taken together, the sine qua non of democracy and the rule of law. Attempting to replace those foundational entities by and through the imposition of a personality cult is the very definition of despotism.

Whether Biden and his Democratic friends are able to mount a ‘case’ to depict a future that envisions the restoration of respect, honour, dignity and integrity to both the institutions and the people charged with the representation and leadership of their best intentions, or not, seems almost as overwhelming as the vision of a reconstructed Kyiv or a rebuild Gaza.

Indeed, the political landscape of the United States, at this moment, seems appropriately analogous to those devastated geographic and political landscapes. Just this morning, a children’s hospital was demolished by another Putin missile, as if to thumb his nose at the NATO conference convening this morning in Washington. It is that exaggerated and incorrigible and seemingly intractable expression of evil that the world not only cannot comprehend, nor can it tolerate. The very notion that an American presidential candidate proudly identifies with, champions and nurtures such profound and despicable evil, brings the inevitable face-to-face confrontation with ‘evil’ itself, into every American, Canadian, Russian, Chinese, Korean, Iranian, and German, French, Italian and all other nations’ living rooms.

Formerly, public rhetoric spoke, wrote and cowered at the thought of nuclear holocaust, as the ‘end of humanity’….and Hiroshima, Nagasaki together provided a physical, historic and sensate encounter with the spectre of nuclear devastation. Today, images of the ‘apocalypse,’ long considered merely a poetic, irrational, surreal and thereby dismissible mist on the consciousness of humanity, surround us hourly. Fires, floods, wars, hurricane, rising record-breaking temperatures are colliding with a withering, overwhelmed, confused, frightened and seemingly despondent political, intellectual, rational, scientific, economic and even a psychological capacity to comprehend, and to begin to address a future so threatening as to be debilitating. And the collision is a threat to all of us.

For Biden, at this moment to abandon his “attack, attack” modus operandi in the face of the personal, political and existential (politically) headwinds he faces, would be unthinkable. However, in his position as president, if he were to recover from this latest threat to his political ‘life,’ he has a significant opportunity to begin the process of public, conscious, even heroic acknowledgement of the presence of, the inevitability of and the inscrutable power of the darkest instincts in each and everyone of us, including also all of the institutions, including especially thleaven e religious entities. Only if and when we begin to countenance our personal, social, political, economic, psychological, and theological and ideological ‘evil’ as a shared yeast to leaven our inflated, exaggerated, and overwhelmed “ego” both on the personal and the national levels, can and will we come to our senses within the United States, and around the world.

This is no panacea, promulgated by some “bo-hunk scribe from podunckville”. This prospect, coming from both personal shame, sorrow and the tragedy of self-sabotage and the perspective of intuition that such shame and sorrow are not exclusive to a single individual. Climbing ‘down’ from the literalist interpretation and dogmatic injection of ‘having dominion over the earth’ not only to a kind of environmental stewardship of creation, but also to a clear acceptance, tolerance and embrace of our personal, conscious and unconscious darkest instincts, as integral and essential components of a universe whose complexity, like our own, has been barely unpacked.

We are all intimately connected to each other, not only through our genetic framework, but also through our hereditary legacies from civilizations long ago left to the historic archives for scholars. Human history, a complex trail of narratives of empirical data and surprisingly mysterious, numinous, and imaginative dreams, fantasies, perceptions, ghosts, and voices, images, none of which come from our ‘will’ or our consciousness, or our cognition tends to suggest that our empirical fixations, and the reductionisms to which our shared political fortunes have succumbed, are insufficient.

We need a new myth, a far more life-giving and sustaining story to hitch our wagon to than the basic heroic myth of conquering, defeating and decimating our enemies….given that our enemies have gained the ascendancy in our own house.

The terror of ISIS, the terror of Hamas, Hezbollah, the invasion of Putin, and the hatred of humanity embodied in the political ideology and rhetoric of trump and his cabal seem as if they are conceived in the same part of the human psyche that accompanies each of us, from a psychological perspective. And if we are going to be strong and determined sufficiently to face ourselves, we have to re-consider our fixation on the empirical, without abandoning its relevance, significance and import. Any new and life-embodying myth has to rise above the vision of a metanoia on the level of morals and ethics. And in order to reach down to that ‘truth’ we will have to sacrifice our invincibility, our vulnerability and our historic, male-dominated, heroism.

And there is no politician currently on the world stage who more integrally and authentically embodies that sacrifice.

Can we hear, see, and embrace the sacrifice?


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