Friday, November 23, 2018

A Vicious Place

The world according to Trump -- notice a trend here?

Reporter: "Who should be held accountable?" [for Jamal Khashoggi's murder]

Trump: "Maybe the world should be held accountable because the world is a vicious place. The world is a very, very vicious place." -- November 22, 2018.

"The world is a vicious and brutal place. We think we're civilized. In truth, it's a cruel world and people are ruthless. They act nice to your face, but underneath they're out to kill you." Think Big and Kick Ass in Business and in Life, Donald Trump & Bill Zanker, 2007, p. 71.

"Life is not easy. The world is a vicious, brutal place. It's a place where people are looking to kill you, if not physically, then mentally. In the world that we live in every day it is usually the mental kill. People are looking to put you down, especially if you are on top. When I watched Westerns as a kid, I noticed the cowboys were always trying to kill the fastest gun. As a kid, I never understood it. Why would anyone want to go after the fastest gun?

"This is the way it is in real life. Everyone wants to kill the fastest gun. In real estate, I am the fastest gun, and everyone wants to kill me. You have to know how to defend yourself. People will be nasty and try to kill you just for sport. Even your friends are out to get you!" Think Big and Kick Ass in Business and in Life, Donald Trump & Bill Zanker, 2007, p. 139.

"Well, not all people. But it's a vicious place. The world is a vicious place. You know, the lions and tigers, they hunt for food, we hunt for sport. So, it can be a very vicious place. You turn on the television and you look at what's happening." Interview with John Barton, Golf Digest, October 13, 2014.

"This is the most deceptive, vicious world. It is vicious, it's full of lies, deceit and deception. You make a deal with somebody and it's like making a deal with-- that table." Interview with Lesley Stahl, CBS 60 Minutes, October 15, 2018.

"This is a r-- this is a vicious place. Washington DC is a vicious, vicious place. The attacks, the-- the bad mouthing, the speaking behind your back. --but-- you know, and in my way, I feel very comfortable here." Interview with Lesley Stahl, CBS 60 Minutes, October 15, 2018.


Bruce Wilder said...

Nicely done.

I sometimes try to get my friends to see the relevance of work on the psychology of political attitudes, but mostly it makes no impression -- they are too wrapped up in ideology and narratives in which they themselves feel righteous or safe or just safe. Usually I am at pains to defend the "deplorables" who fall for demagogues making "populist" appeals. My friends often struggle to even understand what a populist appeal is or who it targets -- the classic target being the "authoritarian followers" studied by Bob Altemeyer.

The other side of authoritarianism, however, is the demagogue, drawn from the ranks of those psychologists class as having attitudes shaped by orientation to social dominance. Social dominance orientation is an interesting constellation of personal experience shaping character and expressed political attitudes. Trump exemplifies SDO, maybe exaggerates it due to his apparent hypomania. And, you've nailed one aspect of that pattern: an attitude bordering on anarchic amoralism that filters his perceptions.

People throw around "fascism" but cannot be bothered understanding the dynamics of political authoritarianism. Trump generates so much faux outrage from people with the memory for politics of a may fly, it can be hard to gain a perspective grounded in observable facts, but your excellent post serves, very well.

Anonymous said...

Really well-done portrayal, however frightening.

Sandwichman said...

Thanks Bruce,

It seems that resistance to a systemic psychological analysis is because it doesn't offer much hope for a magical cure. People would prefer to believe that all this is not "normal" and that a midterm election, a congressional investigation or a raft of indictments from Mueller will "Make America Sane Again."

On the contrary, Trump's hypomania is no big deal. His deplorables' devotion is perfectly understandable. What is disturbing is the "political economy" that cultivates, reinforces and promotes precisely the pathological traits of otherwise unexceptional people. I am using political economy in a dual sense here -- both its conventional meaning of the regularities of production and distribution of goods and services and an unconventional sense of the rules of production and distribution of political power. The two are of course related but they are not identical.

Over the course of the 19th and 20th centuries, the epistemological fantasy of subduing nature -- and commonalty -- became an entrepreneurial fait accompli. At this juncture, the damage done can't be repaired. Paradise Lost. Who can say that the straight-up manic defense of denying ecological devastation is "less rational" than the round about oedipal green-growth fantasy of subduing mother earth sustainably (so she doesn't notice).

Economic "growth" is a bad analogy (Kuznets, Georgescu-Roegen). But it is also something else. It is an opposite. D.W. Winnicott identified the characteristics of the manic defense as "omnipotent manipulation and control and contemptuous devaluation." The use of opposite sensations to deny feelings of depression, sadness or remorse is one of the ways of exhibiting the manic defense. The most commonly used sensations are "alive," "moving" and "growing" as opposites to "dead."

One can, of course, use the word "growth" non-manically to refer to growth, per se. Trees grow. Babies grow. Suspicion is warranted, however, when the word is used metaphorically and obsessively to refer even to the accumulation of instruments of destruction and death -- and especially to the accumulation of instruments of destruction and death. World War II, they say, got us out of the depression. But who is to say that it wasn't getting out of the depression that gave us World War II?

In playing with the cognates designating the "Great Depression" and the Melanie Klein's "depressive position" I am not deviating from the psychological diagnoses of "animal spirits" or "business confidence." Economists have always viewed that depressive position of trade as something to be resisted and opposed rather than as an occasion for maturation, remorse and reparation. The confidence fairy is paranoid-schizoid.

Said the rock to the tree,
Hope and pray
that they don't see
how beautiful
you are
or they'll take you
they'll rape you
I'm telling you...


Said the rock to the tree,
I have watched them for centuries
You know they move in circles
they never move in straight lines
They've done this all before
they'll do it all again
I don't know how many times
They've done this all before
they'll do this all again
That's how they pass their time

Sandwichman said...

I see that my link to the Bob Wiseman song, "Rock and Tree" is non-functional. So here it is:

john c. halasz said...

I'm impressed with knowledge of psychoanalysis, S-man, or at least what's worth keeping from it.