State of Mind Blog

Updates on Murray’s Writing

Golfing While America Burns

murray schane state of mindTrump declared a national emergency, then flew off to Mar-a-Lago to play golf all day. Was that a Nero-fiddling-while-Rome-burns moment?

This is why we are hearing, loud and louder, the voice of Ocasio-Cortez. Everyone says, right-on and bright as she is, that she is too young, too new to Congress, too green (and legally too young) to win the Democratic nomination. But her message is filtering up the ranks and across the country and down to the younger voters. She is beating a drum that has more shrill and vibrant authenticity than any of Trump’s flatulent-minded followers will ever hear.

But fascism never won by majority rule. Fascists seized every public platform and entrained their media guns on ears they filled with truly fake news and plain-old mendacious propaganda.

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“[T]hese politicians must possess the oratorical power of a Demosthenes and the persuasive infighting political savvy of a Roosevelt.”

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I have a neighbor, a one-time liberal, who out of loneliness and boredom tuned his radio to talk shows which are dominated by radical, lying right-wing zealots who have mastered the art of endless mind-boggling, mind-bending dogma. Suddenly he emerged a low-minded conservative, he who at age forty cheated his way onto a state workmen’s compensation pension and social security for disability. Like the Trumpers on federal retirement benefits, he sees undeserving, non-white people as exploiting the tax-paying white majority, usurping his pride of place, the one he never earned and deserves less.

Many people near and dear to me, all genetic liberals, have fallen under the mirage of false principles and unprincipled leaders. Because those defenders of the Constitution, the congressional Republican majority, are measuring our future by the number of votes they hope to retain, they cling tenaciously to their place on the greed stream that feeds them and promises them more to come, if only they blind their eyes and block their ears.

It’s as if the whole country is being pushed onto a seamy gravy train that is actually heading toward a socio-political Auschwitz where nothing will make us free, or prosperous or happy.

We need master politicians whose passion is democracy with all its world-beloved precepts: life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, along with freedom of the press, separation of state and religion, and even reasonable gun possession which entails rational control.

And these politicians must possess the oratorical power of a Demosthenes and the persuasive infighting political savvy of a Roosevelt.

Meanwhile, the voice of reason and the practiced rule of law must be pushed forward by the true majority of Americans. The wake-up call has been sounded, is being shouted. But it must be heard. The silence of those in power must be pushed to find its veracious, honest voice. They must be shamed or somehow persuaded to save democracy, to honor the Constitution they have all sworn to defend and uphold.

Freud, who never lived in a democracy and did not understand its true worth, tried to comprehend the ways of nationhood in his Civilization and Its Discontents. It would seem he overvalued the force of greed and the pride of authority. But those qualities he understood too well. They are becoming the vermicular, slivery keystone of current American politics. These corrupting values are sliding under us. Freud’s idea that second generations must seize power and eschew their forebears’ reigns of governance is being enacted here and now. Our constitution, that still proud mode of living and ruling, appears about to be shredded and discarded.

Was Freud right after all? Are democracy and all its trappings only to be tossed aside as moments of some deep psychosocial fantasy?  The ancient Greeks invented democracy—and then invented much of the genius of western civilization — but it lasted only one hundred years. Our democracy has been going for two hundred and fifty years. Is its time up?

What we lack is a theory of mass media psychology. Lots had been written about group psychology and the herding instinct as well as group pressure toward conformity and alignment of personal belief and group emotional responsivity. Freud’s pessimism led him to produce his theory of the “death instinct” which will topple every civilization.

Mass media works two-fold: it magnifies the group processes that shift whole sections of society’s belief system, and it re-shapes the internalized, emotion-driven aspect of the listening, watching self. The frenzy we see at Trump rallies, like those we can see of Hitler and Mussolini rallies, display in miniature the crowd effect now being blown up by mass media to almost global dimensions. The public becomes hostage to an invidious,  invasive, internally revisionary socio-psychology. Principles and beliefs and behavior shift irrevocably. Truth will be written out of our lives.

How are we going to cope with all that, America?

Will we save ourselves? Will we Ssve democracy?

10 comments on Golfing While America Burns

  1. Carl Barnett says:

    “Truth will be written out of our lives.” Thank you for sending this. Facing truth is paramount in this world today.

    1. Murray Schane says:

      Couldn’t agree more or more heartily.

  2. Harold Kane says:

    I think we need to understand the rage underneath the anti-government sentiment permeating the ranks of the republican party. Their willingness to follow wherever the orange menace goes beggars the imagination. I can understand the venality of those
    who chase the almighty buck and the passion of those who seek to maintain their power but the hostility toward liberal values found in the so-called “little guy” working the fields, fixing the cars, cooking in diners and just squeezing by mystifies me. Why aren’t they marching in the streets demanding social and economic justice instead of oiling their guns and hurling racial epithets. What’s broken in their neural circuitry? Why can’t they perceive injustice and bigotry as self-destructive events that lead down the path to autocracy? Do we all need to be very afraid?

    1. Murray Schane says:

      We have to wonder if the human brain is capable of overriding relentless, mega-scale campaigns to overtake its independent functions

  3. Tristan says:

    Very well described problem. I’m not sure a solution is possible. Misinformation is easier to mass distribute than at any other time in history. There are an infinite number of on-line cranks spouting this or that crazy mindset. Simultaneously, the ability to co-opt the many “open” on-line platforms to control a broad misinformation narrative is a power never before in existence. Russia, or any large enough agglomeration of human and financial resources can target any part of the world – or all parts of the world – across many internet platforms. They can produce original content or relay existing content with an overriding goal, as was the case in 2016. All this combines, I think, with a pre-set disposition in people to be easier led by fear and to subordinate individual reason for inclusion in a group mentality.
    It then falls to the aggregate political and social immune system of a society to either repel or succumb. In the last 2 years, as you describe, we have seen our so called leaders casually abandon a 250 year tradition of democratic processes and ideals for very small, short term gain. The price has been a succession of body blows to the core of our society. Will the larger web of concerned citizens, honest reporters and hard at work security agencies unconcerned with court appointments or corporate tax cuts, produce enough leukocytes to restore our country to a place of relative health? Or, is a small amount of time, a foreign hostile government, a body of genital absent politicians and one brutish amateur dictator enough to destroy it all. Time will tell. Breath holding not recommended.

    1. Murray Schane says:

      I share your concern.

  4. Ken Eatherly says:

    Johnathan Swift, 1710:
    “… as the vilest Writer has his Readers, so the greatest Liar has his Believers; and it often happens, that if a Lie be believ’d only for an Hour, it has done its Work, and there is no farther occasion for it. Falsehood flies, and the Truth comes limping after it; so that when Men come to be undeceiv’d, it is too late; the Jest is over, and the Tale has had its Effect…”

    1. Murray Schane says:

      That Swiftian pessimism applies like an arrow in the bullseye of today.

  5. Jenny Heinz says:

    Thanks Murray. Actually we need much more than politicians. We ALL need to take action, in every way possible, to challenge the steps being taken that push the fascist white nationalist agenda that is assuming power – legally and illegally – worldwide. It requires vigilance and street direct action at every step . This is no time for business as usual. Each person who really gets what is taking place must ask what am I really prepared to do to stop the rolling tanks of racism and the power grab of the autocrats and plutocrats and the billionaires . We need community and activism that grows from intersectionality . And more.

    1. Murray Schane says:

      I can’t agree more. Thanks, Jenny!

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