Wednesday, September 10, 2008

A Cogent Observation

I am hesitant to get back into the political conversations so prevalent right now but I was struck by this essay by Deepak Chopra.

Obama and the Palin Effect - Deepak Chopra

Sometimes 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 goes deeper.

She is the reverse of Barack Obama, in essence his shadow, deriding his idealism and exhorting people to obey their worst impulses. 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 denial of America's global role, a return to petty, small-minded parochialism.
-- 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 heeded.
-- 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 narrow-mindedness.

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, without disguise.

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8 comments:

Bill Baar said...

Small town values -- a denial of America's global role, a return to petty, small-minded parochialism

She sends her son off to Iraq today.

I paticipate in my Church's peacemaking goup and stunned to hear the neo-isolationism I hear (and they're all Obama supporters).. we have no business intervening anywhere... Zimbabwe, Darfur... it's really an attitude of let the foreigners stew in messes of their own making.

LinguistFriend said...

Well, I guess that I haven't given enough attention to Deepak Chopra.

ms. kitty said...

I have tended to think of him as more new agey than I am and was intrigued by this essay.

Miss Kitty said...

Thanks for posting this, Ms. K. Sarah Palin scares the bejeezus out of me.

Chuck B. said...

Ms. Kitty:
Great post. Thank you.

Baar:
Clean our your ears my friend. The issue is not isolationism, the issue is motive. The right was against "nation building" Bush ran on the idea, and here he is.

Maybe this is a little too complex, but going after Iraq fufilled the neo conservative dream of having active influence in middle eastern oil. Not control, the New American Century Iraq War planners supported only a hand in OPEC as a tactical edge against Chinese Demand and Russian petrochem control. That was the point of IRaq, there weren't WMDs, our own intelligence said there weren't and the neo's crafted their own con. Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11, and human rights was not part of the argument for the war.

Being a liberal I scope the liberal blogs and I have not read anything against intervention in Darfur from the left. The issue is that our military is stretched so thin due to corporate greed masquarading as national defense that it is a moot point.

Ms. Kitty, a question:
Has anyone ever written about the parallel between reality and plot at the center of "Three Days of the Condor?"

Remember the end of it? "When the lights won't come on and its cold, Americans won't car where it comes from, they'll want that oil and want it now. So we play games, how many men, how many tanks..."

ms. kitty said...

Chuck, I don't have an answer to your question and I haven't seen the movie, but now it's going on my Netflix list!

Joel said...

She can add mom to apple pie on her resume, while blithely reversing forty years of feminist progress.

By being the first woman to have a credible shot at the second-highest office in the country. Raising a family and holding down a demanding career. Doing the whole thing through her own determination and hard work, rather than marrying power and leeching off it. She's such a Stepford Wife.

Bill Baar said...

Chuck B.

The isolationism on my Church's Social Justice Committee is straight from the 30s. It can be very blunt. Many felt we had no business getting involved in Zimbabwe's business and there is a clear sense of a sort of tough love approach to places like Zimbabwe. They'll just have to sort out their own messes especially in Africa.