Sunday, September 4, 2022


The Trump administration has been the worst U.S. presidency in history with an extraordinarily fierce approach to class warfare. But let us consider what fascism is: At its most basic level, fascism is a dictatorship established through and maintained with terror on behalf of big business. It has a social base, which provides the support and the terror squads, but which is badly misled since the fascist dictatorship operates decisively against the interest of its social base. Militarism, extreme nationalism, the creation of enemies and scapegoats, and, perhaps the most critical component, a rabid propaganda that intentionally raises panic and hate while disguising its true nature and intentions under the cover of a phony populism, are among the necessary elements.*

- I've discovered something interesting, or at least I think I have. We've endlessly gone over ritual in politics and economics,** but we've never talked about ritual in psychology. 
- What would be a psychological ritual?
- Reenactment of the story: 'People like me used to be individual, safe and strong; but we've been attacked and now suffer from uncertainty and aimlessness, yet with a selfless re-dedication to the criticized customs and roles of the society we live in we'll find we've recovered our direction and confidence.'
- Individuals are attacked by false ideas and recover by discovering better ideas. 
- That is more like religious mysticism. In religious mysticism's story you learn how bad ideas have trapped you within a bad world, but practicing your ability to replace those false ideas by true knowledge frees you to enter into the true good world. In a ritual of psychology, conversely, individuals who struggle with other individuals for society's more desirable places, weakened by devaluing attacks from within and without, learn to fight back, regain strength, recover a sense of rightness of their competitive social battle to acquire monopoly over resources.
- To dominate and hoard.
- If you like.
- You're speaking of Jordan Peterson.
- Of his whining complaints, his belligerent defense of his claims, his smug satisfaction in conventionality.
- Are you surprised to find that at least one psychologist has discovered how to crowd manage ritual in terms of the individual's mind's damage and repair?
- Not really. Psychology, an increasingly popularized science, if science is what it is, was ripe for the picking.
- Ritual must have its sources somewhere in human nature. It doesn't come out of nowhere.
- Plato in the Republic looked at a just city to find out what justice in the individual looked like. He related government by the many, of the few, of one, to a single dominant part of human nature: the government of the many expressed the desiring part, the government of the few expressed the spirited part, the government of one expressed the reasoning part.
- But he showed how a society composed of classes each of which emphasizes only a part of human nature leads to a fixed society. Once change is allowed in, each class cannot adequately even perform its own function. A leader who is only reasonable is a coward, a soldier who is only courageous is a fool. The rational leader has to be practiced, skilled in dealing with insecurity and change, and that requires courage.
- Should I tell you a story from my own life how private life can take on a life of its own and become public?
- I'm listening.
- Many years ago I played a small part in a ceramicist friend's exhibition for his master's degree at the university. I had the idea that the philosophy book*** he at the time was helping me produce be stacked up for sale in a pot he'd make, a pot to be distinguished by a large crack, top to bottom. Now, having returned to L.A. after a decades long absence, what did I see up at the university, in the square outside the exhibition hall, but a giant metal pot at least twenty feet high cracked from top to bottom.
- Did anyone buy your book of 'crackpot' philosophy?
- We sold about fifty. Anyway, how should we look at this coincidence?
- A democratic government simply lets different people's desires compete with each other without any foundation in reason. Here with the two cracked pots public art had brought you and your friend's private joke out into the open.
- Into the open, private to public, where the willingness and strength to endure insecurity is expressed in both individual and society, as in Pericles' famous funeral oration description of the Athenian citizen as both self controlled and independent thinking: 
We alone do good to our neighbors not upon a calculation of interest, but in the confidence of freedom and in a frank and fearless spirit. To sum up: I say that Athens is the school of Hellas, and that the individual Athenian in his own person seems to have the power of adapting himself to the most varied forms of action with the utmost versatility and grace.
So are we any closer to finding out where ritual comes from in individual human nature? An answer lies in that very book of philosophy for sale at the student art exhibition. I'd written there that a sort of ritual was behind not only the psychological pathology of physical compulsive behavior but behind also the mental compulsions that made use of a sense of self that couldn't get out of itself. A compulsive movement, mental or physical, allows a blanking out of self observation. Yet when the movement is over sight appears of a self having just acted so terrifyingly meaninglessly that the compulsive movement is again resorted to for evading that sight, which movement, when again seen for the evasion it is, the flight to compulsive movement recurs once more. Do you follow?
- Yes.
- When you see your self repeating compulsively, meaninglessly the same action, that was what we call despair. When the world you see, no matter how hard you try to look away or reinterpret, always seems to be attacking you, that was what we call paranoia. When you see your own relation to the world as illegitimate, unsuitable, undesirable, that was what we call disgust. Does this remind you of anything?
- Jordan Peterson's individual male's despair at feeling himself weakened by a critical liberal society's undermining his urges to dominate and hoard, leaving him in a paranoid relation to the world, with the whole situation he finds himself in society disgusting. If the public structure of ritual grows out of the private structures of despair, paranoia, and disgust, private compulsive cycles behind public cycling performances of ritual, where do they - despair, paranoia, and disgust - come from?
- From an individual's feeling locked in a role in a world not allowed to change.

Further Reading:
** Fascism as ritual in politics, neoliberalism as ritual in economics.
*** Sex for Success¸ 1989. A philosophical study of sexuality and economics. UCLA Libraries and Collections, N7433.4.M617 A74 1989