Friday, December 16, 2005

The Envy of the Left (or No Good News Goes Unpunished)

One of the most important but little known concepts in psychoanalysis is that of envy. It is a term of art, not to be confused with the dictionary definition. While potentially present in all people, it becomes much more problematic when aggravated by primitive defense mechanisms such as splitting and projective identification. It is one of the most important "mind parasites" discussed in my book, One Cosmos Under God.

According to Webster's, envy is defined as "malice," and a "painful or resentful awareness of an advantage enjoyed by another, joined with a desire to possess the same advantage." The psychoanalytic understanding of envy is that it is an unconscious fantasy aimed at attacking, damaging, or destroying what is good, because of the intolerable feeling that one does not possess and control the object of goodness. As such, it is an aspect of what Freud called the death instinct, since it ultimately involves a destructive attack on the sources of life and goodness. Particularly envious individuals cannot tolerate the pain of not possessing and controlling the "good object," so they preemptively spoil it so that they don't have to bear the pain.

What is critical--and so perverse--about envy, is that it is not an attack on "the bad" or frustrating, but a hateful attack on what is good. As a result, the psyche of such individuals confuses what is bad and what is good, and cannot experience a sense of gratitude toward the good, the sine qua non of happiness and mental health. The envious person does not want to have a relationship with the good object, but wants to be that object. If it cannot be the object, then it attacks it to eliminate the tension.

Yesterday was an instructive but disturbing case study in the many ways of envy. Here we had such wonderful news coming out of Iraq, but the left found a multitude of ways to devalue, attack, and "spoil" the news through their excessive envy--by ignoring it, by downplaying it, by qualifying it, and by completely assaulting it with near-psychotic delusions.

I went trolling around the darker precincts of the blogosphere yesterday in search of envious attacks on the good news, and they weren't difficult to find. These samples are mostly taken from dailykos and the Huffington website. Note the specific quality of infantile spoiling:

--"Both sides are participating in these elections to screw the other side and not for any real reason beyond that (although promises to end the occupation, even if lies, represent a tasty carrot)."

--"This is our last chance to leave on terms where we can still claim some marginal success. Because it's all downhill from here. It's the Joke of the Week. An inside joke that few seem to get."

--"Democracy isn't elections. Many a dictator has won an 'election' by overwhelming landslide."

--"This is precisely what BushCo want us to believe. Distract us from the violence and the deaths, of both U.S. and coalition forces and the Iraqi people, by staging these phony elections and giving us these photo ops."

--"Earlier this week, on Air America, I heard about a truck of ballots being intercepted on it's way from Iran.  With Iran & the U.S. both wanting a desired outcome, I don't think it matters what the Iraqis want.  Either Iran or the U.S. is going to win this election, votes be damned."

--"As far as the election goes, the whole thing stinks to me... purple fingers be damned... I've become a bit of a cynic in the last five years..."

--"Bush’s false claims of 'bringing democracy to Iraq' cannot be the prerequisite for ending the occupation and bringing home all the U.S. troops. The invasion and occupation were and remain illegal, and it is our obligation to fight to end it now."

--"This Election is to Make People Forget about the Occupation

--"If the election was successful, troops will come home immediately. Otherwise 'success' is just a Bush lie. Another lie. Bring the troops home now."

--"If Kerry were president, this day would have come much sooner. And far less money and human life would have been wasted."

--"You warmongers cannot have it both ways. If the election was a success, the U.S. is done. If there is a democracy there, the U.S. has no business staying there. It's either a democracy, or a country occupied by the U.S."

--"The IRAQ Elections are rigged... rigged elections is THE ONLY THING repugs are good at!"

--"This time the sunnis participated"... wonder why? No purple finger = no food... You didn't know that? That's right, goebbel's nazi US MSM never tells you that... or anything of value for that matter."

--"This election, as the others, is a farce. The 'victory' Bushpigs are crowing about hasn't happened, and can't happen unless we leave Iraq and they're able to carry out peaceful elections on their own. Does anyone think that they're anywhere near being able to do that? I certainly don't, but then unlike the Bushpigs, I don't have my head up my ass.

--"If the supreme traitors had not stolen your and my vote on 12-12-2000, of course none of this would have happened.... especially 9-11 which was perpetrated by bush. I know, it's a tabou subject in nazi US, but NOBODY in the rest of the world believes the 9-11 fairytale (Why did wtc 7 come down?)."


Envy is such an important but generally ignored concept, probably because people don't want to consider the sinister ways it operates in their own lives. But it is a key that unlocks many mysteries, particularly in politics. So strong and ubiquitous is envy, that you cannot have a political system that doesn't accommodate or find some way to manage envy. You might say that one party will generally represent the envied, the other the envious. Guess which ones.


Victor Davis Hanson has a typically outstanding piece today that highlights the power of envy in shaping people's perception of reality--of their need to spoil the good. He writes:

"For some time, a large number of Americans have lived in an alternate universe where everything is supposedly going to hell. If you get up in the morning to read the New York Times or Washington Post, watch John Murtha or Howard Dean on the morning talk shows, listen to National Public Radio at noon, and go to bed reading Newsweek it surely seems that the administration is incommunicado (cf. “the bubble”), the war is lost (“unwinnable”), the Great Depression is back (“jobless recovery”), and America about as popular as Nazi Germany abroad (“alone and isolated”).

But in the real adult world, the economy is red-hot, not mired in joblessness or relegating millions to poverty. Unemployment is low, so are interest rates. Growth is high, as is consumer spending and confidence.... The military isn’t broken. Unlike after Vietnam when the Russians, Iranians, Cambodians, and Nicaraguans all soon tried to press their luck at our expense, most of our adversaries don’t believe the U.S. military is losing in Iraq, much less that it is wise now to take it on....

Nor are we creating new hordes of terrorists in Iraq — as if a young male Middle Eastern fundamentalist first hates the United States only on news that it is in Iraq crafting a new Marshall Plan of $87 billion and offering a long-oppressed people democracy after taking out Saddam Hussein. Even al Jazeera cannot turn truth into untruth forever....

The world does not hate the United States. Of course, it envies us. Precisely because it is privately impressed by our unparalleled success, it judges America by a utopian measure in which anything less than perfection is written off as failure."


To put it in psychoanalytic terms, I would simply change that last paragraph to read, "The world hates the United States because it envies us. Precisely because they cannot tolerate our unparalleled goodness and success, they attack it and turn America into a uniquely bad object. In doing so they have destroyed the good and conflated good and bad, but at least they don't have to feel the pain of envy."


Dr. Sanity said...

Fabulous post! I wanted to send a trackback ping, but you don't have it enabled. Anyway, I cited you in this post:

The Dementors of the Left

SC&A said...

I second Dr Sanity. Really, really well done.

I'm reminded of the mass hysteria and how many people were leaving for Canada, after the election.

In addition, who can forget the legions of Americans that were going into therapy?

Do we lewt impaired people vote?

Anonymous said...

Excellent Post!

I agree with you about the application of the concept of Envy to explain BDS.
I am currently in the middle of a legal battle where the psychoanalytical definition of Envy PERFECTLY explains the bizarre behavior of my opponents. Just emailed your column to my wife (she has a B.A. in Psych), I am sure she will appreciate it.

goesh said...

Envy and evasion - there was even an MSN article today relating to an incident a year ago or so when zarqawi was in custody and released by mistake - talk about reaching and stretching to avoid a massive and quite peaceful, very successful election turnout in Iraq and of course the news that Bush supposedly had NSA spying on Americans after 9/11 - somewhere big brother has a record of me reminding my wife on about 9/25 to have the battery checkd on her car - 'battery, check, go, be sure to' I'm tagged as a possible terrorist supporter thanks to George....

Anonymous said...

Dear Bob,
I don't know whether to laugh or cry when I see what you have written. Kindly do not abuse psychoanalytic terms in the simplistic ways that you have done. It is obvious from what you have writte that your understanding of Psychoanalysis has been gleaned from books and you have not experienced a personal analysis yourself. I would sincerely advise you to undergo an analysis before you write further on Analysis. Psychoanalysis is not just a theory but also a methodology. I am dismayed to see Psychoanalysis used for such ends. Kindly desist till you have a fuller understanding of Psychoanalysis.

Gagdad Bob said...

Dear Anonymous:

You wrote:

"I don't know whether to laugh or cry when I see what you have written."

--Perhaps more personal analysis could sort out your confused feelings. It's called being "angry" because you disagree with me. I'd be happy to debate you about your disagreement, but I can't do anything about your feelings.

"Kindly do not abuse psychoanalytic terms in the simplistic ways that you have done."

--Kindly do not disagree in a simplistic way with my use of psychoanalytic terms. Would you care to email me a list of your publications? I promise to protect your anonymity.

"It is obvious from what you have written that your understanding of Psychoanalysis has been gleaned from books and you have not experienced a personal analysis yourself.

--It is obvious that your are a leftist first, a psychologist (if that's what you are) second. It is further obvious that no one will confuse you with Sigmund Freud. Or Karnac.

"I would sincerely advise you to undergo an analysis before you write further on Analysis.

--I appreciate the sincerity of your use of the defense mechanism of comtempt.

"Psychoanalysis is not just a theory but also a methodology.

--That's true, but that's also a non sequitur.

"I am dismayed to see Psychoanalysis used for such ends.

--Toward what ends? Understanding collective madness? Many analysts, including Freud, have used it toward such ends. You'll just have to work out your feelings about it in therapy.

"Kindly desist till you have a fuller understanding of Psychoanalysis.

--Kindly? Let's see. In one post we have denial, contempt, passive aggressiveness, argument from authority, and wildly incorrect surmises about my own personal analysis. I'm not surprised that this person posted anonymously. My readers should know that, as in most fields, the majority of psychoanalysts are just institutional hacks with quite mediocre minds.

ShrinkWrapped said...

I am a Graduate of a very well respected Psychoanalytic Institute and have had a successful analysis, (5 days a week, on the couch); I have taught several courses in an American Psychoanalytic Association affiliated Institute; I have supervised Psychiatric Residents, graduate Psychologists and Social Workers in Psychodynamic Psychotherapy, and yet despite my years of schooling and over 20 years of Psychoanalytic practice, I cannot figure out just what your objection to gagdad bob's post could be. Psychoanalysis, starting with Freud, took it as within their purview to apply analytic concepts to understanding human behavior in all spheres. Your complaints seem somewhat inconsistent and incoherent.
Please return to Psychoanalysis as soon as possible so that you can understand how you have allowed your affective distress to impair your rationality.
PS That is called "irony."

OBloodyHell said...

> Your complaints seem somewhat inconsistent and incoherent.

Shrinkwrapped, this is at all unexpected given his likely political interests? Such types are certainly not given to rationalism and introspection. That would be a major danger to their preconceptive worldviews.


Very good post, Bob.

The Pretentious Ignoramus said...

Add to your post the speech by Ellsworth Toohey to Peter Keating in The Fountainhead ("hatred of the good for being good"), and you are really on to something.

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