Public Enemy #1 as Supreme Leader?
TRANSCEND MEMBERS, 23 Jan 2017
Thinking Otherwise about Framing the Engagement with Society’s Worst Fear
23 Jan 2017 – Donald Trump has just been elected 45th President of the USA, against all expectation by many sectors of society — and despite every effort to prevent this outcome. Trump won according to the rules of the American democratic system; however ,their appropriateness may be called into question after the fact.
It is claimed by those that voted otherwise that Trump failed to win the popular vote, even though this is irrelevant according to those rules. Little reference is made to the fact that an unusual proportion of the American population failed to vote anyway. Little is said about how those who lost would have behaved had they won according to those rules — or how they might then have denied the significance of any failure to win the popular vote.
A massive movement has been mobilized to resist the policies of Donald Trump — as 45th President of the USA. The movement is striking in that it apparently has associated progressives of every kind (together with the intelligence community) — “uniting together” birds of very different feather. The concern here is the seeming assumption that “Not-Trump” is a viable strategy for a society in crisis. Missing is any sense of what the protestors have to offer collectively in response to that crisis — other than more of what had proven to be so ineffectual long before the election.
In a real sense it would seem that an unusual degree of unity among progressives and cultural creatives has been achieved only through their opposition to Trump. In the absence of that common enemy, could it be said that progressives and cultural creatives have been able to articulate policies which have attracted significant political support — or would be able to do so once Trump has been “disappeared” in some manner? However surreal it may seem, Trump has been able to achieve a degree of support according to the conventions of the American political process.
Potentially more to the point, does the emergence of Trump suggest that progressive thinking has something to learn from his success? How is it that in other contexts cultural creatives attach great significance to learning from adversity, but that no attention has been given to the nature of that learning in the current situation? Is learning how to resist all that there is to be learned?
The question here is whether the current dynamic in response to Trump, in the US or elsewhere, signals processes to which psychohistory will be especially attentive. Societies have a long history of benefitting from the existence of enemies on which their processes can focus (Nazism, Communism, Islam, etc). The threat by another may be cultivated to that end. Threat within a society may also be recognized — exemplified by the witchhunts of religion, those of an ideological nature (McArthyism), and contemporary efforts to eradicate terrorists.
The US and its allies have variously engaged with exemplars of such threats over the past decades — Joseph Stalin, Saddam Hussein, Adolf Hitler, Muammar Gaddafi, Osama bin Laden, Ho Chi Minh, Fidel Castro. It could be readily assumed that these are now to be understood as “mission accomplished”. However, given the nature of the widespread preoccupation with the election of Donald Trump, does the current situation suggest that in psychosocial terms it is inappropriate to consider the threat they represented as “finished business”?
To the extent that society needs such a threat, especially the US, has failure to engage appropriately with the threats of the past now resulted in “reactivation” of the ghostly presence of such exemplars? Is there a real sense in which society has yet to engage effectively with its own “shadow“, as understood from one psychoanalytical perspective? Are the multiple crises and the wicked problems faced by governance to be understood as aspects of this poorly explored “shadow of humanity“?
Could the emergence of Trump as president of the world’s superpower also be recognized as a process by which “Public Enemy #1” has effectively been appointed as supreme leader — in order to engage the collective attention? Has the unconscious collective need to engage more fruitfully with the contradictions and paradoxes of the challenge of otherness engendered this outcome? This could be a consistent with the analysis of John Ralston Saul (The Unconscious Civilization, 1995).
Other than the prospect of Trump endeavouring to implement policies deplored as disastrous by many, and of protestors obsessed with voicing criticism and opposition on every imaginable occasion, is it to be expected that any strategic insight will emerge which will enable the challenge of the immediate future to be fruitfully reframed?
In an increasingly divided society, is it to be expected that any commentary will necessarily be strategically partisan in highlighting the dangers of policies promoted by Trump? Is any other claim to insight now to be called into question as necessarily extremely suspect — and a danger in its own right?
How can society be expected to respond to what is perceived as an unusual strategic challenge exacerbating fundamental divisions? Are there learnings for the response to the unprecedented levels of migration? What of the response to those of radically different cultural perspectives — whether or not they can be framed as terrorists? What of the response to challenges of resources and the environment?
This comment follows from an argument made prior to the election (Value of a Disastrous President of the World’s Superpower? 2016) and another subsequent to the election (Engaging an Opposing Ideology via Martial Arts Philosophy: reframing the challenge of Trump and Jihadism as worthy opponents, 2016).
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