Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Who This Man Is

- I'm sure you are as tired as I am at hearing our president described as a leader of a cult, and of warnings how management of such cults historically has paved the way to totalitarian dictatorship. There clearly is some truth to these claims, but I don't think they express the significance of this president. He does lead his followers in ritual: recounting to them a story of the American people's lost greatness, of being weak now and under attack, the story of how his people, acting together under his guidance, will immediately be able to recover strength. But this cult leader also plays the clown, claims to be a lover of order while inciting to violence, that is, inciting to disorder, while he himself is openly, even joyously lying, complaining the next minute about lies being told about him by his enemies. Is there any way of understanding him that fits all that together?
- I think there is. Our previous president expressed for the people their exceptional among other nations ability to take on any new role.* We call this hypocrisy, from the Greek hypokrites, actor on a stage, when we believe roles are deliberately taken on and left behind to deceive others. Our previous president claimed to want change but kept things almost entirely as they were. Accordingly many call him a hypocrite. If in doing this with virtuosity he expressed to the American people their unique ability to take on roles at will, and was loved by them for performing this important service of aiding their self-recognition, helping them feel more comfortable with themselves, what is our current president expressing about the American people and comforting them with, if anything?
- You are going to tell me.
- Our current president expresses the American people's predilection for, not taking on roles at will, but at will writing the scripts for their own individual, self-instituted rituals of rebirth, done in the company of others at a revivalist church, or done following the script of a story told to oneself about one's personal relations, seeing an enemy to be fought, a successful fight concluding with the order of the world returned to and personal power restored. The time of fighting is left behind and forgotten with the old life of weakness. The president attacks when he's feeling weak, then calls himself a very stable genius when he feels reborn by imagining how his words have decimated his enemies and that he now lives in a world of order and safety. His lies are the scripts, the made up stories of his constant battles to reestablish order out of perceived disorder, and since the truth about these lies is that they do truly perform this function they are not really lies, truth is a feeling and personal belief. At his rallies the people follow their leader's example, along with him they self-consciously throw themselves into ritual, at times clowning out the ritual as their leader does. They follow the course of his wild swings, from his claiming he is intelligent and self-controlled and a lover of order, to his deliberately exciting fears of being under attack, to making a joke of himself because he wills himself to travel the path of ritual along with his followers and along with them is reborn god-like out of his old ridiculous self, all faults left behind. Order and disorder, violence and steady-as-it-goes confidence, lies and truth, each are phases of rituals instituted at will, each has its time and place, each phase rehearsed calling to mind its place in the ritual sequence (1. weakness 2. violent group response 3. recovered strength) much as in music a refrain gathers its feeling from its recalled and anticipated position in the song as a whole.**
- The president's supporters participate in this virtuosic show, which far from being chaotic and meaningless, comfortingly reflects back to them their personal lives.

Further Reading:
The Character Of Donald Trump
Renaissance & Palingenesis
Liars & The Free Market
Love Of The People
* See: Killers
** “In an ever-changing, incomprehensible world the masses had reached the point where they would, at the same time, believe everything and nothing, think that everything was possible and that nothing was true. ... Mass propaganda discovered that its audience was ready at all times to believe the worst, no matter how absurd, and did not particularly object to being deceived because it held every statement to be a lie anyhow. The totalitarian mass leaders based their propaganda on the correct psychological assumption that, under such conditions, one could make people believe the most fantastic statements one day, and trust that if the next day they were given irrefutable proof of their falsehood, they would take refuge in cynicism; instead of deserting the leaders who had lied to them, they would protest that they had known all along that the statement was a lie and would admire the leaders for their superior tactical cleverness.” ― Hannah Arendt, The Origins of Totalitarianism