Wednesday, July 26, 2017


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- After our talks do you know what I do?
- Regret you wasted your time.
- Never. I try out the ideas on other people.
- How does that go?
- Sometimes better than others.  Last time, not so good. I was asked a question I couldn't answer. The subject of conversation was our favorite these days, our new president and how we ended up with him. I talked about his character or lack of and the character of the people who voted for him or their lack of character, about how people with weak character are more susceptible to being led into ritual behavior, about the particular ritual behind fascism: a group of people are told they are weak, that the cause of their weakness was outsiders who have come within them and are undermining their strength, and how the people can regain their strength by violently attacking their enemies anywhere and everywhere.
- Were you understood?
- More or less. And I was understood when I went on to talk about our president's narcissism and how his lies are not taken as true statements about the world but as statements his supporters like to imagine themselves participating in making.
- And was that understood?
- Again yes, more or less. But I was asked then what should have been to me an obvious question: how does someone like the president who contradicts himself in every speech he makes, actually in nearly every sentence he speaks, manage to lead masses of people in ritual?
- How does he do it?
- I didn't and don't have an answer so I'm asking you: how does he do it?
- When you hear the word 'ritual' you think first of some small isolated community living in a remote jungle, right?
- Right.
- Some stay home and take care of children, some go out and hunt or gather fruits and vegetables. Now these roles - hunting, gathering, caring for children - they are assigned by tradition and are not much the subject of thought. What about our roles, is the same true?
- No. We take on our roles deliberately and we think about them a lot.
- When a natural disaster strikes the primitive community it is not difficult for members to imagine themselves in a ritual that enacts a battle between gods in which an old weak god dies and is reborn a new strong god. Identification with the god is easy: in their thoughtlessness about the role they play in life they are no less a mysterious entity to themselves than is a god.
- And we narcissists* are in love with thinking about ourselves and our roles.
- "We" meaning everyone but you and me.
- Of course. So how does it work? The president can't get out two words without the second contradicting the first, and his supporters, far from being jungle dwellers ready and willing to lose themselves in their group, pride themselves on their individuality.
- Our question is how it happens that the same fascist that loses himself in real or imagined group violence consciously conceives of himself as an individual with his own self-chosen role in life?
- Yes. How have we ended up with a country of conservative fascists, individualists who love to throw themselves into group violence. Your answer?
- What do the president's supporters say when confronted with their leader's vulgarity, brutality, dishonesty, incoherence...
- ...With his every possible failure of human character. They say he is not a standard evasive politician like the others. He's himself.
- He has a role then, that of individual, an individual under attack by establishment politicians. Do you see how this works out?
- Not yet.
- Ritual requires losing one's self awareness in group violence. The president seems to be in all directions at once, but is consistent in this presentation of himself as an individual under attack. Cannot he be leading his supporters in a ritual of identification with him and his struggle?
- His supporters are conservative believers that government is a danger to their individuality, yet they go to the president's fascist style rallies to join in a crowd united by fear and hatred of outsiders. Identifying with their leader they retain their sense of being individuals even in the crowd.

Further Reading:
Trump's Lies
Mass Murder, Anyone?
Philosophy & Science Of Betrayal
* See: The Narcissist