I have what some would consider to be an off the wall theory to explain the improbable election of Donald Trump.
Consider this possibility: what if it was meant as a warning sent to the American people by our collective unconscious? What if it’s purpose was to alert us to perilous self-destructive impulses that lie below the level of our national awareness – impulses that would bring a tragic end to the American experiment?
Donald Trump embodies, and is a reflection of, the worst elements embedded within the fabric of American society. He has given free expression to the bassist and most vile elements within our culture. He has turned good into evil and evil into good. He has made heroes of murderous despots and turned virtuous men of honor into villains.
But now, because of the toxic presidency that WE brought about, we know these impulses exist within the nation’s (our) psyche. Now we can answer by engaging our collective goodwill to purge this toxic energy. We can overcome the doctrine of hate and division by infusing our national consciousness with the healing energy of compassion and kindness.
Indeed, Trump is not the cause of our present malady – he is a symptom.
His toxic presidency has made us aware of the dis-ease of fear infecting our cultural anatomy. Fear breeds hatred and hatred breeds violence, both physical and emotional.
As such, surgical removal is not the answer.
There is always the threat the cancer has metastasized and will recur. The cure must come from recognizing the organic source of the disease at its deepest levels. We can then work to first, heal the emotional wounds causing fear and hatred, and then radically reprogram our social and economic relationships. That means reprogramming to support the best impulses of the human soul – and being satisfied only when everyone is involved and benefits equally.
None of this is easy, but it’s the only effective antidote to toxic Trumpism.
People need good lies. There are too many bad ones. -Kurt Vonnegut /
Politics, Money and Culture
Politics, money and culture have become bound together in an immense Gordian knot. Many accept this perverse relationship as normal. However, it is not normal, and the co-mingling has produced an intractable force which exploits society’s willingness to substitute pleasure and power for value and meaning.
Besides having aesthetic value, the arts are legitimately used to raise awareness and help resolve issues that affect society. But they are also used as a means for achieving crass political ends.
Politics (the act of influencing actions and policies for the purpose of gaining and keeping power) has become like something straight out of a Kurt Vonnegut novel. Current events bear an uncanny resemblance to the writer’s comically addled characters and absurd story lines. The line between reality and satire has become so blurred, it’s sometimes difficult to tell which is which. Add to this the current phenomenon of “fake news”, and another layer of insulation distances the public from the whole truth.
Culture (the self-expression of a society through the humanities and science) has become a debris field, contaminated by an unending stream of success-toting false prophets, and littered with victims of the insatiable appetite for money and power. Culture ought to be a beacon of truth, creating a vital mythology of place and time that speaks from and to the human soul. Politics/government can be used to either empower or hinder society’s engagement with that truth.
The present reality is a Political-PopCulture, a toxic symbiosis, with each using the other as fodder for propaganda to further cynical purposes and selfish ends. What the Political-PopCulture presents as truth is a fraud. It is the arts in service to aggregated power. That same power props up and manipulates a pseudo-culture based on fads, appetites and the lowest common denominator in social craving – all done to sell the latest non-essential or worthless superficiality.
In reality, this is censorship. It represents the suppression and subversion of authentic self-expression.
Having a constitutionally guaranteed free press is supposed to mean having access to media which is not restricted by censorship in political, ideological or cultural matters. At its best, it would empower authentic self-expression by exposing the fraud created by those in power. But the powerful know that suppression of a free press – which includes creating media outlets which blatantly present propaganda as fact (Fox) – is the most effective way to manipulate public opinion.
Special interests also work hard to prevent transparency in government. We know from history that governments which lack transparency are in for trouble. And our recent history has demonstrated a disturbing aversion to the disclosure of “secret” information (Edward Snowden). Thus the question: just what is “big media” ignoring or being restrained from reporting?
Ironically, a seemingly simple idea like government of, by, and for the people will mean different things to different people. The Tea Party member in Kansas and the Democratic Socialist in New York have very different interpretations. Even as ideologies debate the definition of “person”, Citizens United endows corporations with personhood, which further erodes the ideal of a representative government already under siege by special interests and big money. It’s all good for the Political-PopCulture and its beneficiaries, but it is soul-killing in its effect on society as an organic system.
The appearance of what’s called alternative media (not to be confused with the Alt-right), including citizen journalism and collaborative journalism, is one response to what some believe is the sell-out by big media outlets to the power brokers. Many are militantly iconoclastic with distinct axes to grind. Some have been exposed as fronts for the fake news movement. It’s too soon to know how effective these alternatives will be in the long run. Personally, I have found value in some, but absurdity as well.
Loosening the Knot
“Turn on, tune in, drop out” was a phrase popularized by Timothy Leary in the 1960’s. He spoke about using psychedelic drugs to gain freedom from a sterile, conforming and ultimately fraudulent culture. I’ve been thinking about this phrase in connection with political pop-culture. I see a link, but in a nuanced (and a less drug-induced) way – and it may offer a way out of the conundrum. By flipping the phrase to drop out, tune in, turn on, we just might have a pathway.
First, drop out of the Political-PopCulture. Refuse to be seduced by the lure of an easy, mindless, synthetic, and superficial way of life. Reject group-think. Refuse to blindly follow the lead of the pseudo-culture’s manipulation.
Next, tune in to a more mindful, sustainable and authentic lifestyle. Nurture the nonlinear right side of the brain. Take responsibility for one’s own physical, mental and spiritual health. That includes the community – as in neighborhood, town, state, country and planet.
Doing the first two things gives individuals and communities the freedom to turn on their innate creative core. It inspires and encourages innovation in the search for ways to solve problems which don’t do injury to self, others or the planet. Cultural expression is free to take form organically, without being shaped by the influence of political agencies whose only interest is in perpetuating themselves through their soul-stealing fraud.
Admittedly, this is a streamlined solution to a complex challenge. It’s one of those simple tasks that are difficult to do. It requires nothing less than reprogramming ourselves after a lifetime of relentless cultural conditioning. It requires letting go of long held cherished beliefs. It means realizing that we have been mislead by people and institutions we trusted implicitly. It also means being willing to forgive those people and institutions in order to move on and accomplish all the great things of which we’re capable.
A nation’s culture resides in the hearts and in the soul of its people. -Mahatma Gandhi
Watching the Donald Trump reality tour lead up to the election has brought to mind one of my all-time favorite sci-fi movies. It’s not difficult to see the drama being played out between Trump, the Republican Party, and the American public having a curious similarity to the movie plot.
Here’s a quick synopsis of Forbidden Planet, the classic from 1956: (Opening graphics look familiar?)
In the 23rd century an expedition from earth travels to a distant planet to learn what became of a previous expedition. They find a survivor, a scientist and who tells them about a highly evolved race (the Krell) which once inhabited the planet, but had mysteriously disappeared. They learn of an enormous atomic powered machine built by the Krell and capable of materializing anything imagined. Thus, it is possible to form and project matter with the power of thought.
But there’s a problem (no doubt). While projections could result from thoughts in the conscious mind, the same could be spawned by the unconscious mind. While the Krell built a culture which on the outside appeared orderly and beneficial, inwardly there was a massive amount of pent-up destructive desire which coalesced in the society’s collective unconscious to create an “Id Monster”, an indestructible energy force which inevitably turned on them and ultimately wiped them out.
Using the film as an analogy, the GOP then represents the Krell and Donald Trump is the Id Monster, the manifestation of the Party’s repressed dark side which cannot be contained or controlled. The harder the party has tried to hold it back, the bigger and more powerful it has become, until finally bursting forth with full defiant, unapologetic, narcissism. It first appeared diffusely as the Tea Party, and now in concentrated perfection as a supremely destructive force.
Just as the Id Monster was created from the Krell’s own repressed but powerful desires, Trump is a monster of the Republican Party’s own making, created from the energies of its entrenched destructive impulses, buried beneath the veneer of respectability. Publicly, the party uses words designed to convince Americans it really is about inclusiveness and concern for the wellbeing of all. But a leopard can’t change its spots, and the repressed side of the Republican psyche remains.
Behind closed doors, in the belly of the base, the same old GOP lurks, stubbornly unrepentant, hostile toward those who are different, afraid of change and anything that departs from the “way God intended”. It’s here, where the party’s collective unconscious has coalesced to bring forth its own version of the Id Monster. The Donald has become a force unto himself. He cannot be controlled and all attempts to eliminate him have failed. He has become a poison for which there is no known antidote.
This is reminiscent of another sci-fi classic – Alien. There’s a scene where it’s revealed that Ash, the ship’s science officer, is actually a machine which has been instrumental in bringing a murderous creature on board. Before being terminated by the crew, he informs them that the monster they’re dealing with is hostile in the extreme and also indestructible. His last bone-chilling words are, “You have my sympathy”.