The King is Dea... Wait, Not So Fast! (1.09.10)
There's no way I have time to write an all-new post this morning. However, in the spirit of the occasion, I'm revisiting something I wrote a few years ago, because if our cOOnvision is truly omniscient, it should help us to understand our political future. The bottom line, people, is that there is nothing to be afraid of. These men are nihilists. Fucking amateurs. They're out of their element. And they're about to enter a world of pain. As Walter Sobchak himself said, Nothing is fucked here, Dude. Come on, you're being very un-Dude.
When I say that the Obamanauts are about to enter a world of pain, I mean that they will eventually know the dark side of the wave of fantasy upon which they are riding. Only in this case, it seems unusually dark, for it is the same darkness that currently attaches to President Bush. As much as he is hated, Obama is loved, and for reasons that are equally insane because they are a precise and predictable function of each other.
They say that Obama represents the "longings" of a new generation, but I don't believe that at all. Rather, this is baby-boomer 101, the last gasp of a generation that is fueled by a pathological idealism that is just the other side of its dark cynicism.
Although we focus on the moonstream media and their political action wing, the Democrat party, there is probably not enough blame placed on that grazing multitude known as the American public. For if the public were only more sophisticated, they wouldn’t fall for the arguments presented by the left, which rely upon a high degree of emotionality matched by a low degree of logic. Political analysts implicitly assume that people’s attitudes and opinions are the result of rational reflection, but in fact, it has been estimated that fewer than ten percent of the American public are reliably in Piaget’s highest cognitive developmental stage of formal operations thinking. And even then, one cannot escape the cosmic law of bullshit in --> bullshit out.
According to psychohistorian Lloyd deMause, “Most of what is in history books is stark raving mad -- the maddest of all being the historian’s belief that it is sane.” He believes that large groups are almost always driven more by fantasy than reality. Different nations and groups have different “group fantasies” which are designed not to negotiate with reality but to contain fears and anxieties. For example, the further back in history one travels, the more one can identify group fantasies that clearly have no basis in fact and are driven by irrational anxiety and fear -- witch hunts, senseless wars, racial scapegoating. But so long as one can detach from the madness and survey the contemporary psycho-political scene with even-hovering attention, one can see it just as clearly in the present.
For example, the entire “war on terror” is being waged against Islamist fantasists who are completely out of touch with reality. Unfortunately, this doesn’t make it easier to combat them, but more difficult. Israel has been fighting a version of this fantasy since its very inception, but in truth, Jews have been at war with paranoid anti-Semitic fantasists for over two thousand years. Fantasies are obviously quite lethal. The most persistent fantasy is that the God of Israel is not real, which is why the Jews are and will always be targets of the evil ones, whether it is the fantasists of Islam or of the left.
The important point is that the fantasy precedes the reality, and will look for conditions in external reality to support it, identical to the manner in which the paranoid mind operates. According to deMause, the state of the group fantasy is what national opinion polls actually capture. That is, they take a snapshot of the “mood of the country,” which mostly consists of “gut feelings” that have varying degrees of connection to actual conditions, and more to do with the shifting nature of the group fantasy.
Remember, the bulk of the population is not thinking logically, so it doesn’t matter how many cognitively mature individuals there are at the margins of a poll. That the economic downturn was largely caused by Democrat regulation (e.g., the Community Reinvestment Act) is inconsequential. In contrast, FDR was able to sustain a unifying group fantasy despite economic polices that aggravated and extended the Great Depression for years.
Likewise, job one for Obama will be to forge and sustain a unifying fantasy, not to deal with reality. This is one of the reasons the Democrats will be unable to let go of President Bush, because they desperately need him as a "poison container" in order to keep the toxins out of Obama (more on which below). This is a somewhat unique situation, because it means that the Democrats in effect will want us to have two fantasy leaders, which reminds me of how the infant splits the world into a good and bad breast.
A national opinion poll doesn’t necessarily provide objective information about actual circumstances, but certainly tells us how it “feels” to be part of a historical group at a particular time. Not only that, but deMause turns the presidential “approval rating” on its head. He doesn’t believe that it actually measures approval so much as disapproval about how effectively or ineffectively a leader is “containing” the public’s anxiety. Negative passions are much more influential, which is why truly happy people have little impact on politics, since it would never occur to them that a politician is responsible for their happiness. But unhappy people find all sorts of illusory reasons to explain their unhappiness, including politics.
Just as the group is mainly driven by fantasy, it is primarily looking for a leader who can reassure it about the world and diminish its anxiety. In this regard, it is a mistake to think of the leader as an oedipal parent; the process is much more primitive, involving the need for preverbal and pre-oedipal (before the age of three) projection and containment, which is in turn much more "psychotic" and fantasy laden, since it escapes the reach of language. Using this method, one would not say that President Bush has a 25% approval rating, but a 75% “toxicity” rating. Meanwhile, Obama has what, a 12% toxicity rating? As soon as he actually does something, he will begin to accumulate toxins, and this number will rise.
This is one of the reasons it is so wearying to be president, because it involves the day-to-day processing of so much irrational projection of hatred and anxiety (and in the case of the US President, these projections uniquely come from the entire world).
All therapists know how difficult it is to deal with just one borderline patient in their practice, but it is as if a president must deal with the projections of millions of difficult patients who are irrationally experiencing him as either their savior or as evil incarnate. The president must be a receptacle for continuous projections from various levels of emotional immaturity and unreality. And in the case of President Bush, who never fought back and engaged with the projections, it only made that part of the population more enraged with him, just as a borderline patient would feel outraged if the therapist did not take their perceptions seriously, no matter how crazy (or a child will become more enraged at the parent if you don't take the pain behind their "I hate you!" seriously).
Another critical point -- and one of the most important things I learned in my training -- is that idealization is a powerful defense mechanism that serves to protect its recipient from rage, contempt, or devaluation. So if a patient is immediately angry with me, I can deal with that. It's a relief, because they are at least in touch with their feelings. But if they come in and immediately idealize me, then I know that I am in for a bumpy ride, for when the idealism wears off, I will be blamed. It's like, "how dare you not be perfect!" (This is why trolls don't bother me as much as someone who wants to see me as Guru B'ob. You can imagine.)
It is fascinating to note that as the left became so out of touch with their fantasies about President Bush, they came to imagine that he actually did fight back in the most dangerous and extreme ways -- that he didn't tolerate dissent, that he questioned people’s patriotism, that he destroyed our civil rights, that he punished ideological enemies, that he defecated on the Constitution (you can read that projection with braille!). Pure projection. The reality that is “seen” by the left is driven by their own fantasies. (Now they even want to put him in jail; this is exactly what Future Leader says when he's really pissed off at us: "You're in jail! Time out forever!)
deMause notes that people who are stripped of important group fantasies will feel like they are going crazy -- just as primitive groups who are suddenly “decultured” of the myths that have served to organize their cognitive/emotional world. (You will note that no one on the right is "going crazy" over Obama, whereas the left lurched toward insanity right away, to such an extent that they even attempted to steal the 2000 election through the courts.)
It is fair to say that the left has been dealing with this sort of primitive anxiety since the 1980’s, as their various political fantasies have been discredited one by one. But just like a religious group that predicts the second coming, the majority of leftists simply dig in their heels when their predictions prove false. This shows the extent to which outward political ideology often rests on a deeper structure of irrational fantasy that is nearly impossible to eradicate. I think it also explains all of the manic and irrational giddiness we are seeing in the media, as their fantasies are restored.
And now we come to the future. deMause outlines a four-part process that the fantasy leader undergoes in relation to the group. At first the group will see him as unrealistically strong, magically able to unify the group and keep enemies at bay. Certainly we saw this in the months after 9-11, when President Bush was so popular. Again, his popularity had little to do with the actual merits of his policies, but with the public’s need to feel safe, and the feeling that Bush would protect them. Obviously, this is where Obama is, except that the omnipotent fantasies of strength surrounding him are unusually grandiose and primitive.
Stage two is the “cracking” stage, when the feelings of magical nurturing begin to deteriorate, so that the public’s mood begins to feel unstable and dangerous. The leader begins to be experienced as weak, unable to control events. Here again, when this happens, look for the left to frantically attempt to re-project all of this into President Bush, in order to perpetuate the fantasy.
Stage three, “collapse,” occurs when the public begins to feel that the fantasy leader is helpless to prevent catastrophe -- when the group’s anxiety has become unhinged and uncontained in a completely unrealistic way. This brings on pure rage and free-floating paranoid fantasies of death and destruction. Thus, in the case of President Bush, he was unrealistically blamed and vilified for all sorts of things outside his control -- hurricane Katrina, rising gas prices, "global warming," the Democrat-fueled housing bubble, etc. At this stage, the fantasy leader is seen as weak and vulnerable, which triggers a wave of near homicidal anxiety that aims to purify the group by ritual slaying of the divine king, identical to what took place in the most primitive tribes. So today is not just the coronation of the new king, but the ritual blood sacrifice of the old one. But he was scourged for so long, that he was virtually dead anyway -- or only "alive" with primitive projections.
Obama doesn't seem prone to locate our enemies externally, where they actually exist, i.e., in Islam. But every theology needs a satan. Again, for this reason, I think the fantasists of the left will be unable to "let go" of President Bush, since he has become so vital to their psychic equilibrium. But they don't fool us.