Political stress, anxiety and despair are on the rise. People feel a sense of woe, worry and helplessness. Due to chaotic political change, often sensationalized by the media.
A large percentage of Americans don’t feel that anything is wrong. Perhaps they are correct. If so, wonderful. I am rooting for them. Or perhaps they have a denial blind spot. It’s hard to face you’re waiting for a bus that isn’t coming. In any case, all of us should become aware of the telltale signs of dire political risk.
No one can deny that major political change is necessary. But, as we go, we need the moral courage to evaluate if this is really the change we need.
America’s problems, and those of the developed world, are psychological and spiritual—not political. Isaac Asimov put it well: “The saddest aspect of life right now is that science gathers knowledge faster than society gathers wisdom.”
The Founding Fathers had wisdom. They understood that money and muscle—without heart, spirit and intelligence—is garbage. Their vision came from an appreciation of a deep inner life.
The Founder Fathers’ aimed for authentic freedom. Not freedom to buy $45K watches and second homes in the Hamptons. But freedom to pursue the noblest task of all: To become who we truly are, in our innermost essence. To better appreciate America’s original vision, read Jacob Needleman’s book, The American Soul: Rediscovering the Wisdom of the Founders.
The conflict between the political left and right can be a ruse. Too often the conflict is not about differences in social philosophy, but about power and money lust. Political philosopher John Stuart Mill’s astute observations apply: The political left and the political right BOTH tend to be correct in what they affirm, but BOTH wrong in what they deny.
Love of country demands that we see and serve its best interests. Such service requires the capacity for compromise. Politicians incapable of compromise are dangerous, because they view conflict through a win or lose lens. Think of the debate on health care, going on now for decades. It’s about money and power, not health. Studies consistently show that America has the worst health care system in the industrialized world. The win is money for the few, not health for the many. The moneyed and powerful few tell us we are exceptional lions, so they can have their way with us as sheep.
Inexperienced people with political power are prone to self-righteous convictions, that only their views are correct. And they’re inclined toward extreme views, which as Yeats noted, is the signature tendency of empty souls.
Two important things to understand about how we got here: 1) In 2010, the Supreme Court’s Citizen United decision ruled, in a 5 to 4 vote, that corporations have the legal right to finance local, state and federal elections. 2) Due to political money lust, the FCC killed the Fairness Doctrine in 1987, thereby negating a 1928 law identifying the public as owners of the airwaves—not private corporations.
So today we have powerful corporations financing election campaigns. And media corporations, privately owned by the mega rich, which can operate as state media. Many of these owners imagine themselves as alpha males. Wealthy alpha males, and their wannabes, can be a dangerous breed. Because, on an unconscious level, they would rather die and kill than face that they’re weak, wacko and wrong. Drunk with ego power, they feel licensed to dominate, deceive and harass.
Many psychologists have questioned the mental health of president Trump and his advisors and cabinet. I don’t think this is the issue. I hope that the pressures of political power will force Trump and his people into experiences of awareness and even sacred heat. So they might wake up before they take us into positions of no return. If they don’t, then the worry may be much worse than having leaders with psychological problems.
I agree with psychoanalyst Steven Reisner’s concerns. The real worry we have is that people running our government know how to deceive and manipulate. By using social psychology research on susceptibility to persuasion. Which enables them to emotionally control large numbers of people. They can persuade people to believe that 2 and 2 equals 5. With inflated egos, they create discord, disunity and false views.
The worry is not that politicians consciously intend to create a fascist state, it’s that they will do so without realizing it. Dark archetypes reside deep in the human mind. History shows clearly that, when triggered, these archetypal powers can spread like a viral infection. And possess people’s minds. Murder, mayhem, horror and heartache often result.
Our Founding Fathers sought to protect the United States from tyranny. They knew well that tyranny does not enter through a well-lit front doorway. It arrives on a moonless night, through the back door, while everyone sleeps. If it arrives here, it will be waving the American flag.
We are living in high risk times. Hopefully one day we will look back and think we were unnecessarily worried and alarmed. But right now, we need to be aware and so we must be well-informed individuals, not group-think fans of our side’s team. We need to be aware of history. I suggest two books: On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century, by Timothy Snyder, Yale’s Richard Levin Professor of History. And The Origins of Totalitarianism, by political theorist Hannah Arendt.
What we really need is a next evolutionary step in consciousness. The one we are stuck in is the real problem.