Thursday, December 22, 2016

The political implications of the discoveries of Alice Miller and an unconscious electorate

"The unexamined life is not worth living." -- Socrates

From the Wikipedia page concerning the same man:
Socrates believed that philosophy - the love of wisdom - was the most important pursuit above all else. For some, he exemplifies more than anyone else in history the pursuit of wisdom through questioning and logical argument, by examining and by thinking. His 'examination' of life in this way spilled out into the lives of others, such that they began their own 'examination' of life, but he knew they would all die one day, as saying that a life without philosophy - an 'unexamined' life - was not worth living.
When I think of what Socrates said, I agree with him, but I think of examining life in the more personal sense. What motivates me to do what I do? What happened to me when I was a kid and how does it affect the person that I am now? Who am I? What do I want?

I just finished reading a fascinating article by Ryan Cooper at The Week. It's about recent events in North Carolina and calls that evidence of tyranny in America. Specifically, Cooper has taken note of successful efforts by Republicans to assert control in North Carolina, even when they lose elections. Republicans in that state are really upset with their loss and the governor is even contesting the results. So they have passed laws on their way out that significantly reduce the power of the governor, post election.

To further explain the context of Ryan's claim of tyranny, it's worth noting that North Carolina was one of the states on the losing side of the Civil War. When Ryan talks about tyranny in NC, he's talking about the institutionalized oppression of minorities that been entrenched there for more than two centuries. Though it is much less evident today than it was even in 1964, disenfranchisement is still a problem. 

Disenfranchisement is a very polite word for tyranny. I suggest here in this post, that tyranny is where the person or party in power imposes the personal fate of their childhood upon everyone else. From the same article:
"About every modern dictatorship, for instance, has some form of pseudo-democratic legitimation, typically a one-candidate vote where a 99 percent approval rating extracted by threats of violence "proves" the dictator's popular backing."

When I read that passage, I'm sure Ryan is making an allusion to the long history of racial oppression in North Carolina. Notice that The National Review holds an entirely different view and re-assures us that North Carolina is nothing like it was in the 1860's. 

Never you mind that both parties are already jockeying for points among the public in anticipation of the next election. Sadly, most of the political posturing is not for the people who live there, it's for the donor class who might someday bestow real money upon their election campaigns. That's oppression that few of the elite pundits are willing to talk about, regardless if the source if liberal or conservative.

I see these conditions in North Carolina and America in general as a result of the reward/punishment pedagogy of American child rearing practices, particularly from families of conservative, religious and authoritarian origins. American child rearing practices have been evolving to be sure, but the reward/punishment regime has been prevalent for well over 400 years, so perhaps we shouldn't be too surprised about finding any sort of tyranny in America.

Threats of violence is often what it takes to permit an unpopular minority to assume power in any state. Where else do we see threats of violence? How about the family?

Noted psychologist and author, Alice Miller wrote about families in her books. For Your Own Good: Hidden Cruelty in Child-Rearing and the Roots of Violence (Amazon) taught me that the boy Hitler was beaten savagely by his father on a daily basis. I learned that he boasted to his sister that he had learned how to stifle his urge to cry and to count each whack when he was spanked. I also learned that he made every attempt to impose the fate of his childhood upon the country he would later rule, and I dare say that he succeeded in no small measure. While many are content to equate Hitler with evil, few are truly willing to examine and discuss the reasons he rose to power and did what he did.

For Your Own Good, reviews the early life of a drug addict, a serial killer and Hitler, all to show the results of abusive child rearing practices when those same people became adults. Her review of Hitler's life made the biggest impression upon me by demonstrating the political implications of authoritarian culture. Succeeding books books by Miller repeat the theme with more recent examples of how childhood tyranny results in adulthood tyranny.

In Breaking Down the Walls of Silence, Miller discusses Hitler, Stalin and Nicolae Ceausescu. All were beaten and abused by their parents. All unconsciously sought to impose the fate of their childhoods upon the people they claimed to represent. The story of Ceausescu made the biggest impression upon me. From page 102 of the same book:
As Ceausescu, aided by Communist ideology, came to power, he presented himself as "a God with inordinate wishes." He brought down on the entire Rumanian people the fate that had once been his own: a superfluity of of children, enforced by the insane whim of a god-like dictator, children one could neither feed nor keep warm. As priests and the confession box had seen to the upholding of God's dictates in Scornicesti, so the "Securitate," Ceausescu's secret police, were enjoined to watch over and check the wombs of of Rumanian women. They were to see to it that the dictator's godlike "wish for a nation of families teeming with children" - children who would then freeze to death - was fulfilled. Nor were women, on any account, to have time to devote themselves to their children. Enforced births would see to that. They were to have it no different than Ceausescu's own mother, who, compelled by an alcoholic to conception after conception, had no choice but to let her children grow up in misery and want. By proxy, the tyrant revenged himself for his personal fate on thousands of mothers, fathers and children. Because he refused to face his destiny, keeping his story and feelings from that time completely repressed, he drove an entire people to the brink of destruction.

I know, that passage seems unreal and extreme. I had misgivings about putting it here in it's entirety in this article. I decided to put it here because I want to raise awareness that when we're acting unconsciously, the political implications are extreme and dangerous. Even in modern times.

As I read that passage from the book again to recount for this article, I could not help but be reminded of a well documented American conservative schism to enforce birth after conception, yet continue to cut public support for health care, child care, education and training. The message seems to be something like, "God loves you until you're born. Then you're on your own, punk."

On a higher level, the results of the election past arise from identity politics, an unwise and unreasonable belief in the sanctity of a two-party state and a clear unwillingness to deal with the resulting corruption of big money in politics, head on.

Notice also that every tyrant has had their assistants. They have an army of people who identify with him and his cause, yet are unwilling to address the corruption of the party or the leaders of the same. Identity politics is exemplified by people like Hitler, Stalin and Ceausescu. 

In a similar vein, we can see the same thing with Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, both of whom are champions of identity politics. Few pundits were willing to admit that "the emperor has no clothes" during the election. Of the elites who supported them, all are living under a sort of family code of silence, consigned to toe the line for threat of ejection, ostracism or, perhaps something far worse. The rest of us have practically no influence on our government because we lack the money to influence government. That's tyranny. 

Conservatives and liberals alike who expressed horror at the prospect of tyranny (with Trump or Clinton - take your pick) need only look in the mirror to find a solution. Only with awareness of one's own history, can anyone become alert to their own tendency to accept tyranny without question. Maybe someday it may be common knowledge that every act of oppression and tyranny is an attempt to exact the personal fate of the oppressor upon anyone and everyone else who might have had the misfortune to be nearby. I just can't think of a better reason why one person or class of persons would seek to oppress another.

If we truly want to save America, then a thorough self-examination becomes a worthy cause. I know, it's not a very popular subject and even in familiar company, it can be an uncomfortable subject. Until we are willing to look at ourselves objectively, perhaps with help from others, we may then see that we have brought on the election of people like Donald Trump and George Bush as president. We can elect people like President Obama who claim to be progressive, yet disappoint us with unrivaled support for "free trade" agreements like the TPP. We played a part in nominating Hillary Clinton, whether we wanted to or not. We live with a government that will not yield to ordinary people. 

With greater awareness of our own personal history with it's political implications, we may then see that it is no mystery how two of the most unloved candidates for president were presented as our only choices last November. What we have now, with Trump as president and a political class supported by big money in politics, was brought upon us not by conscious will, but by unconscious compulsion. I can't find a better reason for it because nobody likes being told what to do.
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