politics has the uncanny effect of mirroring the national psyche even
when nobody intended to do that. This is perfectly illustrated by the
rousing effect that Gov. Sarah Palin had on the Republican convention
in Minneapolis this week. On the surface, she outdoes former Vice
President Dan Quayle as an unlikely choice, given her negligent
parochial expertise in the complex affairs of governing. Her state of
Alaska has less than 700,000 residents, which reduces the job of
governor to the scale of running one-tenth of New York City. By
comparison, Rudy Giuliani is a towering international figure. Palin's
pluck has been admired, and her forthrightness, but her real appeal
She is the reverse of Barack Obama, in essence his shadow, deriding
his idealism and turning negativity into a cause for pride. In
psychological terms the shadow is that part of the psyche that hides
out of sight, countering our aspirations, virtue, and vision with
qualities we are ashamed to face: anger, fear, revenge, violence,
selfishness, and suspicion of "the other." For millions of Americans,
Obama triggers those feelings, but they don't want to express them. He
is calling for us to reach for our higher selves, and frankly, that
stirs up hidden reactions of an unsavory kind. (Just to be perfectly
clear, I am not making a verbal play out of the fact that Sen. Obama is
black. The shadow is a metaphor widely in use before his arrival on the
scene.) I recognize that psychological analysis of politics is usually
not welcome by the public, but I believe such a perspective can be
helpful here to understand Palin's message. In her acceptance speech
Gov. Palin sent a rousing call to those who want to celebrate their
resistance to change and a higher vision
Look at what she stands for:
- Small town values -- a nostaligic return to simpler times
disguises a denial of America's global role, a return to petty,
- Ignorance of world affairs -- a repudiation of the need to repair America's image abroad.
- Family values -- a code for walling out anybody who makes a
claim for social justice. Such strangers, being outside the family,
don't need to be needed.
- Rigid stands on guns and abortion -- a scornful repudiation that these issues can be negotiated with those who disagree.
- Patriotism -- the usual fallback in a failed war.
- "Reform" -- an italicized term, since in addition to
cleaning out corruption and excessive spending, one also throws out
anyone who doesn't fit your ideology.
Palin reinforces the overall message of the reactionary right, which
has been in play since 1980, that social justice is liberal-radical,
that minorities and immigrants, being different from "us" pure American
types, can be ignored, that progressivism takes too much effort and
globalism is a foreign threat. The radical right marches under the
banners of "I'm all right, Jack," and "Why change? Everything's OK as
it is." The irony, of course, is that Gov. Palin is a woman and a
reactionary at the same time. She can add mom to apple pie on her
resume, while blithely reversing forty years of feminist progress. The
irony is superficial; there are millions of women who stand on the side
of conservatism, however obviously they are voting against their own
good. The Republicans have won multiple national elections by raising
shadow issues based on fear, rejection, hostility to change, and
Obama's call for higher ideals in politics can't be seen in a
vacuum. The shadow is real; it was bound to respond. Not just
conservatives possess a shadow -- we all do. So what comes next is a
contest between the two forces of progress and inertia. Will the shadow
win again, or has its furtive appeal become exhausted? No one can
predict. The best thing about Gov. Palin is that she brought this
conflict to light, which makes the upcoming debate honest. It would be
a shame to elect another Reagan, whose smiling persona was a stalking
horse for the reactionary forces that have brought us to the
demoralized state we are in. We deserve to see what we are getting,
analysis by Deepok Chopra explains why I felt strange when I listened
to Palin's speech at the RNC. Part of me liked it, there is an
attraction in criticizing others. Socrates in "The Republic" tells how
people cannnot resist looking into a pit with decomposiing bodies in
it, even tho they knew it was horrible.
from Plato, Republic, Book 4
"Well, I said, there is a story which I remember to have heard, and in
which I put faith. The story is, that Leontius, the son of Aglaion, coming
up one day from the Piraeus, under the north wall on the outside, observed
some dead bodies lying on the ground at the place of execution. He felt a
desire to see them, and also a dread and abhorrence of them; for a time he
struggled and covered his eyes, but at length the desire got the better of
him; and forcing them open, he ran up to the dead bodies, saying, Look, ye
wretches, take your fill of the fair sight.
I have heard the story myself, he said.
The moral of the tale is, that anger at times goes to war with desire,
as though they were two distinct things.
Yes; that is the meaning, he said.
And are there not many other cases in which we observe that when a man's
desires violently prevail over his reason, he reviles himself, and is
angry at the violence within him, and that in this struggle, which is like
the struggle of factions in a State, his spirit is on the side of his
reason; -- but for the passionate or spirited element to take part
with the desires when reason that she should not be opposed, is a sort of
thing which thing which I believe that you never observed occurring in
yourself, nor, as I should imagine, in any one else?"
from Plato, Republic, Book 4
"our aim in
founding the State was not the disproportionate happiness of any one
class, but the greatest happiness of the whole; we thought that in a State
which is ordered with a view to the good of the whole we should be most
likely to find Justice, and in the ill-ordered State injustice: and,
having found them, we might then decide which of the two is the happier."by DR. CARL GUSTAV JUNG
"The psychological rule says that when an inner situation is not made conscious, it happens outside as fate. That is to say, when the individual
remains undivided and does not become conscious of his inner opposite, the world must perforce act out the conflict and be torn into opposing halves."