Can We TRANSCEND the Brewing US Civil War?
EDITORIAL, 23 Nov 2020
“If only a worldwide consciousness could arise that all division and fission are due to the splitting of opposites in the psyche, then we should know where to begin.”
― C.G. Jung
A civil war is brewing in the US as Trump’s unprecedented assaults on democracy set landmines yet to explode.
How did we get to this point of the pathological splitting of the opposites? What does the Transcend Method offer us now?
Splitting of US Political Culture
In my youth, at 6:30pm, US households watched the evening news on ABC, NBC, or CBS TV with calm, avuncular anchors like Walter Cronkite.
Since 1996, Roger Ailes with Rupert Murdoch shaped FOX News, appealing to those who felt left out of the mainstream. FOX prematurely called the 2000 election for Bush. Ailes brilliantly exploited and sensationalized the 9/11/2001 attacks and gave a platform for fundamentalists like Attorney General John Ashcroft in the Bush/Cheney administration, legitimizing extremist voices that were formerly marginalized. FOX became number one, identified with the Republican Party.
The 2003 US invasion of Iraq fueled outrage and cries from the left to “take our country back.”
Despite Trump’s attempts to delegitimize Obama, his election, experienced as a humiliating defeat, provoked backlash, the emergence of the Tea Party, and cries from the right to “take our country back.” Non-college educated whites felt threatened. Immigrants were blamed and “otherized,” paving the way for Trumpism.
Social media evolved, reinforcing fragmented silos, driving opposites farther apart, giving rise to extremist groups like Antifa, QAnon, and Neo Nazis groups like Proud Boys.
COVID-19, infuses existing splits with intense emotions, amplifying mistrust of government and fear of tyranny. Terror management theory states that mortality salience provokes more extremism.
The police murder of George Floyd triggered a quantum leap, driving multitudes, including young whites into the streets for peaceful protests, elevating Black Lives Matter (BLM). Rare violent acts dominated FOX News. Mob rule was conflated with the Democratic base. Racial tensions and calls to “Defund Police” sparked moral outrage. FOX magnified every appearance of unrest.
Before the election, Trump, in Machiavellian fashion, brilliantly created a compelling illusion for his base to believe that he could only lose if the election was rigged. They believe he won by millions and they were cheated by the elites, generating political hysteria. 75% of the 73 million who voted for Trump believe that Biden’s election was fraudulent.
When FOX called the election in Arizona for Biden, with some anchors reporting that there was no voter fraud, Trump loyalists erupted in rage. Believing FOX “sold out” many Trumpists switched to more extreme Newsmax and One America. Feeling unfairly censored by social media giants like Twitter and Facebook, they turned to extremist app Parler, Extremists’ ratings spiked. Trump marchers now chant, “FOX News sucks!” They feel that they’re fighting an enemy determined to destroy America, and their rage feels righteous to them.
Figure 2: Galtung’s Triangle Redrawn
The Archetypal Realm and the Cult of Personality
Trump has built a cult of personality. He creates an alternate reality through his rallies and his uncanny genius at tuning into people’s grievances and sense of humiliation and making them feel better about themselves. His crowds chanted, “Super Trump” after is recovery from COVID-19.
Since Walter Cronkite, US culture has devolved from difference to splitting, causing it to descend into the primitive archetypal realm of good and evil.
Differentiation of the opposites is a function of healthy development toward higher level integration, promoting individuation and maturity. Thesis – antithesis – synthesis. Splitting is a function of pathological development. Impacted by trauma and fear, opposites split, causing a dread of integration. Leaders promoting a union of opposites (Gandhi, MLK, Sadat, and Rabin) are assassinated by those stuck in one extreme.
Dualism, DMA and US Deep Culture
The US two-party system, a structural conflict generator, bakes dualistic thinking into the US psyche. We mindlessly accept our party’s positions and automatically reject the other’s, without discernment.
This exemplifies Galtung’s DMA Syndrome, Dualism-Manicheism-Armageddon, dividing the world into us/them, good/evil, right/left, Democrat/Republican, in a win/lose “battle with no compromise, no transcendence, only the victory of one over the other.[i]”
Jung and Galtung: The Transcendent Function and the Transcend Method
The archetypal wisdom of Galtung’s Transcend Method is supported by Jung’s theory of the Transcendent Function, considered the most significant psychological factor for mediating the opposites. “It is a natural process, a manifestation of the energy that springs form the tension of opposites.”
Jung described the method in psychoanalysis of bringing unconscious contents into dialogue with consciousness “to produce a wholly new perspective.” Jung explained that,
“It is exactly as if a dialogue were taking place between two human beings with equal rights.”
He added that,
“From the activity of the unconscious there now emerges a new content, constellated by thesis and antithesis in equal measure and standing in a compensatory relation to both. It thus forms the middle ground on which the opposites can be united.”[ii]
“The confrontation of the two positions generates a tension charged with energy and creates a living, third thing ….. a movement out of the suspension between the opposites, a living birth that leads to a new level of being, a new situation.” P 90[iii]
“The Transcendent Function is the primary means through which reconciliation is accomplished.”[iv]
Since the Dems lost House seats and Trump received almost 74 million votes, it was a humbling experience for both sides, creating a context for dialogue as equals.
As Galtung explains, negotiation involves compromise. Neither party is satisfied, but that dialogue can produce transcendence. It requires creativity, which produces a new reality that includes and transcends the opposites.
It’s Time for Political Therapy: Applying the TRANSCEND Method
Johan Galtung conducted therapy with a couple experiencing incompatible contradictions. She was a spiritual Buddhist; he was a materialistic businessman. Applying the Transcend Method, he suggested they open a Buddhist bookstore, bridging incompatible goals, creating a new reality, fulfilling their needs.
In 1995, Galtung helped resolve a territorial conflict between Peru and Ecuador, recommending a ‘binational zone with a natural park’, attracting tourists to benefit both countries.”
Solutions require creativity, nonzero thinking to create a new reality, to include and transcend the opposites.
We can design sound policies to transcend right/left conflicts, realizing that these solutions occur in a context of an archetypal drama toward Armageddon, masterfully orchestrated by Trump, supported by cronies, enabled by silent cowards—all intent on manipulating a hysterical base in order to sabotage reconciliation.
We can address basic human needs, identify legitimate goals, address just grievances, solve real problems, and calm tensions to shift dynamics by creating compelling mediating forces and drawing energy from the extremes. As my grandmother would say, “It wouldn’t hurt.”
“The more alternatives, the less likely the violence.”
— Johan Galtung
Proposed solutions should include principles and strategies that:
- Build a center to mediate the opposites.
- Identify people respected and admired who can reach people.
- Create a third category to overcome “hypocognition,”[v] the inability to have ideas for which we have no language or concepts.
- Create a category of win-win, post partisanship, write a “Declaration of Independents” that encourages people to think for themselves.
- Dignify people who feel insulted by elites. Stop humiliating!
- Give people graceful, face-saving ways out.
- Don’t blame people or politicians for past decisions. Allow and support transformation, but don’t expect it.
Reframe the Left-Right Axis
The left-right frame is compelling and seems obvious, but that is not the only way to look at things. Why should climate be a left/right issue?
This is an emotionally charged, ubiquitous accusation that dominates speeches and negative ads. Most don’t know what it means, but it smacks of Venezuela and Cuba, and it frightens FOX viewers, who believe Democrats will destroy America.
Reframe socialism. Galtung spoke of a hybrid model. Come up with something new. Perhaps call it “Bothalism.”
The Affordable Care Act, ACA, known as Obamacare was a monumental achievement. Its name is problematic. Trump’s driving passion has been to undo every Obama policy. Republicans have tried relentlessly to repeal it. Biden will call his version “Bidencare” – bad idea.
Dems should work with Republicans to improve the policy, which should include novel policies that encourage preventive medicine, nutrition, improving immune function to reduce high rates of chronic, degenerative diseases and reduce health care costs. Then give them credit: Call it Americare.
FOX, MSNBC and CNN engage in destructive mutual disparagement, humiliation, and fear mongering.
Desmond Tutu said,
“There comes a point where we need to stop just pulling people out of the river. We need to go upstream and find out why they’re falling in.”
Media incitement is where many are falling in.
FOX plays to the grievances of those who feel forgotten and humiliated. MSNBC and CNN play to elites and some minorities oblivious to the pain of FOX viewers, whom they insult. Each misperceives the other and rejects ideas they might agree on.
We have no calming Walter Cronkite. My fantasy is to create an appealing forum to transcend the split to save our country. All three can rebrand themselves and improve ratings – a legitimate goal. I imagine CNN as a mediator between FOX and MSNBC, renamed Collaborative Negotiation Network.
The newly branded CNN can pair hosts like Rachel Maddox and Laura Ingraham, Chris Wallace and Chris Hayes for dialogue rather than debate, to explore new ideas. A neutral party—like a political therapist—can explore a third way, identify legitimate goals of each and creative ways to meet them, reduce fear, and help people think more deeply. They can humanize each other and be entertaining. Hosts can visit each other’s shows, like a “sleepover” to reach new audiences.
We need a new cadre of Walter Cronkites, which are now found mostly on public television. Judy Woodruff is a shining example. We also need real mediators/political therapists.
Conclusion: Transcendence Is the Answer
Given that Jung considered the Transcendent Function to be the most significant factor in the psyche and given that it is the centerpiece of Galtung’s life’s work (not to mention that it’s the name of our organization), transcendence has a profound, archetypal truth fundamental to our existence, and our survival.
So why is such a basic truth so far from our collective consciousness?
Jung claimed that consciousness is a work against nature, “Opus Contra Naturum.” The splitting of opposites is the unconscious processes run amok. Recognizing what is going on is the first step in making the unconscious conscious.
As Johan teaches us—Diagnosis, Prognosis, Therapy. It’s time for political therapy.
[i] P 20, Webel, Galtung, Ed. Handbook of Peace and Conflict Studies
[ii] “Definitions,” Collected Works 6, par. 825.]
[iii] On Psychic Energy 1916 published 1957
[iv] On Psychic Energy 1916 published 1957
[v] “Hypocognition” Robert Levy, psychiatrist and anthropologist observed in cross-cultural study of emotions that island people in Tahiti had no words for “grief” and “sorrow,” so lacked concepts and social systems to support mourning. After loss, they described themselves as feeling “sick” or “strange.”
Diane Perlman, PhD is a clinical and political psychologist, devoted to applying knowledge from psychology, conflict studies and social sciences to designing strategies and policies to reverse nuclear proliferation, to drastically reduce terrorism, reduce enmity, and to raise consciousness about nonviolent strategies for tension reduction and conflict transformation. She is a visiting scholar at the School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution at George Mason University, is active in Psychologists for Social Responsibility, the TRANSCEND Network for Peace Development Environment, and on the Global Council of Abolition 2000. Some of her writings can be found on her websites, www.consciouspolitics.org and www.SanityandSurvival.com. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tags: Anglo America, Biden, Conflict Analysis, Conflict Transformation, Elections, Solutions, Trump, USA
This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 23 Nov 2020.
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