The way that situation emerges is my focus in this writing. I will approach it from two points of view: (1) the use of language as a weapon in political discourse, and (2) the archetypal force that erupts in individuals, spreads throughout a group of people, and brings out our worst instincts for political madness.
THE USE OF LANGUAGE AS A POLITICAL WEAPON
In his book, Politics and the English Language, George Orwell makes this very bold
declaration: "Political language -- and with variations this is true of all political parties, from Conservatives to Anarchists -- is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind." (p. 20)
The fiendish truth of Orwell's assertion is that the words used by politicians are probably believed to be true, both by the one who speaks or writes the words, as well as the persons who read or hear the pronouncements. For example, villages may be destroyed and people "relocated" in the name of "pacification" (Orwell, p. 14); countries are destroyed for the purpose of "liberating" its citizens; we justify taking people from their homes, settling them in internment camps, because they are deemed to be a "threat to national security;" we banish people from our country because their religion "condones violence" whereas our acts of genocide among native Americans were not acts of murder and displacement but rather a "God-ordained" act of our "manifest destiny" to create America as a "shining city on the hill."
And so it goes. How early the acts of treacherous aggression become the trite phrases of civilized spokespersons and well-intended citizens. But what if the spokesperson is actually suffering from a mental disorder, such as a narcissistic personality disorder? What if that person feels and believes himself or herself to be entitled to take liberties with persons, to make untrue statements about the character of individuals, to label those who might disagree with him or her as immoral or criminal, and feel entitled to make laws without attention to due process. Granted, those actions are extreme. But that is my point. The mental illness of narcissistic personality disorder is extreme and does not operate with the same sense of compassion and justice which we hope to find in healthy persons.
These personalities with a narcissistic disorder weave their thinking and acting around a web of unconscious psychological defenses:
* projection: seeing other people as carrying the negative traits within oneself,
* denial: not recognizing any faults within oneself,
* rationalization: finding rational explanations to justify whatever one feels entitled to
do or say,
* demonization: seeing persons who disagree as evil or weak or a threat deserving
Through these psychological defenses, and others, the "truth" of any matter becomes what the narcissist claims the truth to be. As in the instance of "begging the question," where one's false proposition is based upon a false premise, an individual may make preposterous claims that slip past our listening ear as rational and true. For example:
"People who disagree with my facts are not honest."
Questioner: "How can you say that?"
"Because people know me to be truthful."
In such a fog of euphemisms, lies, projections upon others, scapegoating, alarmist innuendo, self-aggrandizing bravado, and posturing claims as someone who cares and can make our life better, the demagogue slips through the veil of moral scrutiny and claims the chair at the head of the table as final authority. When finally we ask, "How did that happen; how could we have been so deceived," it is too late. And, of course, in retrospect, we see those circumstances and conditions in society which were exploited in the political process. In retrospect we finally may recognize the absurd promises and lies for what they were when such a person rises to prominence in the fog of words and images that circulate in the language of political-speak about big government, immigration, free trade, health care for all, big corporations, technology replacing humans, etc.
But there is something else going on. We look for the nearest "devils" to blame, plentiful as they are, well-rehearsed as they are in the media. Unseen, however, is a "devil" of a different sort.
THE DEVIL WE DO NOT SEE
The mental illness of a condition such as the narcissistic personality disorder thrives on the anxiety, anger, and search for a savior figure in times of transition, social turmoil, cultural upheaval, political uncertainty, and the break-up of old institutions. But unseen, because it is unconscious, archetypal powers play upon characters on a political stage much like a magnet rises toward the surface of a paper holding iron filings that the magnet shuttles around at will.
Carl Jung used another metaphor to describe the potential impact of archetypes upon individuals and nations. Remember that when he refers to "archetypes," he is describing the neuropsychic structures within the human psyche that universally influence behavior, speech, thought, and patterns of human development, manifesting externally in mythic images.
Archetypes are like riverbeds which dry up when the water
deserts them, but which it can find again at any time. An
archetype is like an old water-course along which the water of
life has flowed for centuries, digging a deep channel for itself.
The longer it has flowed in this channel the more likely it is that
sooner or later the water will return to its old bed.
All human control comes to an end when the individual is caught
in a mass movement. Then the archetypes begin to function, as
happens also in the lives of individuals when they are confronted
with situations that cannot be dealt with in any of the familiar ways.
(Collected Works, p. 189)
Jung's statement above comes from his potent essay, "Wotan," written in 1936, attempting to describe the archetypal power that had overtaken the German nation.
... a god has taken possession of the Germans and their house
is filled with a "mighty rushing wind." ... A hurricane has broken
loose in Germany while we still believe it is fine weather. (p. 186)
The "god" (archetype) that took possession of the people was Wotan, the ancient Germanic deity of "storm and frenzy, the unleasher of passions and the lust of battle; moreover, he is a superlative magician and artist in illusion who is versed in all secrets of an occult nature" [like a narcissist who employs cunning, charming word of illusionary deception]. (p. 182)
And what is the god (archetype) that threatens to possess us at this time? I invite you to join me in considering who this power may be. However, I leave you with these thoughts. We live in a very materialistic age. We are obsessed with power, celebrities, sports heroes, fundamentalist religion, money, the "management of wealth," xenophobic tribalism, expensive toys, a schizophrenic-like obsession with sensationalist sex combined with puritanical moralism, extreme body development, and new religions under the guise of a do-it-yourself spirituality.
If all this sounds narcissistic, I would not be surprised. And if all this passes under the cloud of marketing slogans whose ultimate aim is profit, even at the expense of human life and welfare, I would not be surprised. Nor will I be surprised that the politicians of our day spin their messages in this "cloud of unknowing."
And I will not be surprised if we find that this god's (archetype) name is Mammon.