Sunday, April 26, 2015

A Short Station Break

I have another post in the works, which will continue to expand the suggestions I made in "Scapegoat Survival in Uncertain Times."  (We have already covered the first three suggestions.)  But that post will have to wait at least another week.  Right now I am working on a mechanical engineering grad school project.  (That's why I wasn't posting for a long while until last fall.)  My project involves programming in a mathematical software package called Sage (  It's free and open source, which is very good.  And if you love playing with a computer all day and are a Ph.D mathematician, the online documentation can provide hours of fun.  I don't, and I'm not.  So for me, the last several days have been filled with long hours in which I was moved to pray or tempted to smash things, not necessarily in that order.  (Yes, yes, I too am human!)  As I sometimes say in front of my Russian acquaintances, "Бог, дай милость!"

If anyone knows anything about multiple arguments in a "for" conditional statement, please shoot me a comment.  If you don't know anything about that subject, at least pray for my soul.  I'll try to have something more for you soon. Thanks for your readership.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Self-Healing in a Traumatizing Society

A boy is born in hard time Mississippi,
Surrounded by four walls that ain't so pretty
His parents give him love and affection
To keep him strong, moving in the right direction,
Living just enough, just enough for the city...

– “Living for the City,” Stevie Wonder 

In the building where I work, there is a very nice lunch room, in which there are a number of magazines for people to read at lunch or on breaks. In the late spring of last year, someone left a magazine containing an article about the treatment of trauma and mental illness in the developing world. (When I first started working there, most of the magazines tended to be on the geeky side, although someone later started bringing in clothing fashion magazines and copies of Better Homes and Gardens.)

I read the mental health article with some interest. It described the prevalence of psychological trauma caused by organized violence such as war, as well as the trauma caused by sexual exploitation. (It may have also mentioned human trafficking, but I can't remember.) It also described how health-oriented NGO's were becoming involved in the training of primary health care workers in poorer countries in order to equip them to heal psychological trauma caused by organized violence. The focus of the training is the use of relationships of support and communities of support to help survivors heal. Medications are not the primary mode of the treatments studied, largely because the medications are expensive and therefore mostly unaffordable. However, the relational methods boast a high rate of success in helping survivors manage and heal from trauma. (One of the sidebars to this article described the decline of “talk” therapies and the rising use of medication in the treatment of mental illness in the West, especially in the United States.)

At the time I read the article, I didn't realize how appropriate its information would be for dealing with the events of the last several months. Both the article and the magazine which carried it were thrown away at some point, to be replaced by a clothing fashion magazine. Over the last few months I have tried without success to find an online version of that article. If anyone who reads this blog knows of the magazine, the article, or the authors of the article, please feel free to send me a comment.

In my research, however, I have found a wealth of other material on the subject of managing and healing the trauma caused by organized violence. Almost all of the material was written by researchers and health care workers dealing with traumatized populations in the developing world. But even the most cursory look at events in the U.S. over the last several months reveals that there are plenty of people being traumatized right here by the wealthy, the powerful and the privileged in this country and by their minions. Think of the many unarmed Black men and women who have recently been shot to death by white police in this country – think also of the bereaved families of these victims – and you will have some idea of the trauma being caused by organized violence against the powerless here in the United States. Think especially of the shooting of Tamir Rice, a 12 year old boy in Cleveland, Ohio, last year. Or think of the shooting of John Crawford in a Wal-Mart in Beavercreek, Ohio, as he was buying a toy for his children. One media source reveals that police in the United States killed more people last month than any other nation killed in 2014. That includes China, a country four times as populous as the U.S., a country which, according to Western media, is supposed to be both godless and evil, yet whose police killed far fewer of their own citizens in 2014 than American police did this last March. (See also this and this and this.)

Consider also that the purveyors of trauma have for a long time been expanding their efforts beyond groups traditionally considered to be scapegoats in this country. For instance, there's Governor Sam Brownback (R-Kansas), who recently signed into law a bill that will allow anyone in Kansas to carry a concealed weapon without a background check and without training. This is yet another victory for American gun manufacturers and purveyors of the American myth of rugged individualism and the license to kill in the defense of white American “liberty.” Kansas is the sixth state to enact such a law. I am sure more states will follow. Now all the Constitutional “sovereign citizens” who worship the Second Amendment can traumatize each other, as I'm sure they will, after reading a recent study which links gun ownership to uncontrollable anger. (There are also many studies which irrefutably link gun ownership with domestic violence.)  In many other ways, the wealthy of our country – and the politicians they own, especially the Republicans – are trying to give us all a case of PTSD, as one blogger recently noted.

If you're poor, nonwhite, or both, and you live in the United States of America, it is therefore quite likely that you will have to deal with the trauma caused by organized violence at some time within the next few years. It therefore also necessary to learn how to recognize the effects of trauma, and how to manage and recover from trauma. I have written before about the narcissistic motivations of those who are causing the trauma. (Yes, yes, racism and oppression are expressions of narcissism.) What is the goal of those who abuse their fellow human beings, and how does that message affect the targets of abuse?

The goal of the abuser is to magnify his own grandiosity by invalidating and destroying his target. The height of success for an abuser is therefore to get his victim to internalize the abuser's message – for the victim to come to believe that he or she is worthless, that he or she is worthy of the treatment perpetrated by the abuser, that the treatment received is the victim's fault, to get the victim to endlessly ask, “What did I do to bring this on myself?” Indeed, one of the things that makes the abuse so traumatizing is its unpredictability, and the resulting powerlessness of the victim in avoiding the abuse or managing encounters with the abuser. This is why self-rejection and self-harming behaviors are the pervasive effects of the trauma caused by organized violence. The self-harming behaviors then serve to reinforce the message implanted in the victim that the victim is worthless and deserving of the abuse inflicted by the abuser. (See this, this, and this for a discussion of self-rejection in victims of gender violence. See this for a discussion of self-rejection as one of the outcomes of colonialism, and this for a discussion of self-rejection in victims of racism.)

What then is the key to managing and healing from the trauma inflicted by organized violence? This question has been explored by a number of mental health professionals, among whom is Dr. Richard Mollica, author of Healing Invisible Wounds: Paths to Hope and Recovery in a Violent World. In a presentation given in 2011, Dr. Mollica described the importance of the trauma story in the healing of trauma victims, as well as the creation of a safe space for trauma victims to share their trauma stories. In his words, “Dialogue and empathetic listening between survivor and therapist maximizes the benefits of emotional disclosure.” He also described how to facilitate and encourage the natural process of self-healing of emotional wounds inflicted by severe violence. In that same presentation Beth Filson, a certified peer specialist, described the benefit of relationships of support which can arise within a community of survivors, and the need to foster those relationships. One of the keys to activating the self-healing response in trauma survivors is survivor involvement in projects or teams performing altruistic service for others who are also disadvantaged or who have suffered trauma.

A good example of a healing community of survivors engaged in altruistic service is Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago, Illinois. This is the church which was pastored by the good Reverend Jeremiah Wright for a number of years. This church has a strong Biblical commitment to social justice and the healing of those who have been broken by the injustice of the United States of America. In their statement of the Black Value System, they address many of the same elements of self-healing discussed by Dr. Richard Mollica. The statements in the Black Value system also address the legacy of self-harm produced in the Black community because of the oppressions of a dominant, exploitative society that is hostile to anyone who is different from its members.

We need to form many such communities of healing. The communities need not be large or highly visible, yet they should be deep, rich and full of mutual support. We will need to learn all the healing techniques at our disposal as the United States becomes an increasingly traumatizing place to live. One of the chief goals of our healing must be the recovery of our human ability to observe, orient, decide and act wisely in the midst of a hostile space.  And we cannot wait for someone else to do this recovery for us. We are the ones we have been waiting for, as a writer said a while back. The tools are at our disposal. Let's get to work.

For more information, please read:

“Bringing Order Out of Chaos: A Culturally Competent Approach to Managing the Problems of Refugees and Victims of Organized Violence,” Eisenbruch, et al., 2004

“The ISTSS/RAND Guidelines on Mental Health Training of Primary Healthcare Providers for Trauma-Exposed Populations in Conflict-Affected Countries,” Eisenman, et al., 2005

“War Exposure, Daily Stressors, and Mental Health in Conflict and Post-Conflict Settings: Bridging the Divide Between Trauma-Focused and Psychosocial Frameworks,” Miller and Rasmussen, 2010

“The Impact of War and Atrocity on Civilian Populations: Basic Principles for NGO Interventions and a Critique of Psychosocial Trauma Projects,” Summerfield, 1996

"Invisible Wounds: A Practitioners' Dialogue on Improving Development Outcomes Through Psychosocial Support," World Bank, 2014

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Not Someone Else's Bonsai

The attitudes of a culture toward the people it touches are seen in the impact that culture has on the people and things it touches. Sometimes a culture can turn those it touches into works of art. Sometimes a culture succeeds only in turning everything it touches into garbage. Not infrequently, the culture in question can become confused as to which category its works belong to, and as to whether or not its modifications of the “wild” are actually an improvement.

Consider the practice of bonsai, an Asian art which is over 1,400 years old. The word bonsai is a Japanese modification of the Chinese word penzai. Both words can be rendered as “tray plantings” and penzai is related to penjing, which literally means “tray scenery.”  The object of bonsai is to recreate a large-scale, wild landscape in miniature, using the same living elements which comprise the large landscape, yet at a scale which can be as intimate as a tray in the living room of a house. The living elements of bonsai are trees such as fir, maple, alder and elm – trees which in the wild grow to many times the height of a man. Yet the bonsai sculptor trains these trees from the seedling stage – using wires, bands, pruning and other techniques – to shape the tree into a living sculpture which is usually no taller than a man when mature, and which often grows to less than half as tall.

Imagine for a minute that you are a child in a locale where a large population must inhabit a limited living space. Now suppose that this population comprises a culture which loves greenery and cultivation of living things, yet which is forced to adapt its love of cultivation to limited spaces. Thus they become practitioners of bonsai. Throughout your youth, therefore, the only landscapes you see are miniature, planned down to the centimeter, carefully crafted. Then a day comes when you must travel to another place far away, and you must pass through a wild forest – full of maple, fir, alder, and elm trees, big and tall. Would the sight make you uncomfortable? Would you say, “A tree that is left growing in its natural state is a crude thing...”? 

I mention bonsai, not as a criticism of the art form, nor of Asian culture (for which I have the highest respect), but to use bonsai as a metaphor.

Each of us is a sculptor of others at some point in our lives. But how the sculpture turns out is often highly dependent on the intent of the sculptor. If the sculptor complains that his finished sculpture looks like garbage, maybe we should look at the motives of the sculptor rather than blaming the material which has been sculpted. When sculpting human beings, what material do we start with?

Here I look to the Good Book for answers. Acts 17:26 says that “[God] made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the surface of the earth...” That is, according to biblical Christianity, every one of us has the same origin. Therefore, every one of us is fully human. There is only one race within the human race, and that is the human race. We have the same basic genetic makeup, and therefore the same basic potential. This assertion is backed by science, which has determined that the concept of individual “races” within the human race has no factual validity. In other words, the human race has no subspecies.  The abundant proof of this is seen in such things as the success of “colorblind” organ transplants and blood transfusions.  It is also seen in the similarity of outcomes in those children across all “racial” and ethnic classifications who are exposed to the same “sculpting” process – also known as nurture.

That nurture has been scientifically examined in recent years, and the relative weight of nurture versus nature in producing specific outcomes has been examined as well. In 1993, a team of cognitive psychologists led by K. Anders Ericsson published a paper titled, “The Role of Deliberate Practice in the Acquisition of Expert Performance.”  That paper asserted that innate talent is vastly overrated in the making of an expert in a particular field of endeavor. Rather, the key to the making of an expert is regular, consistent, “deliberate” practice. (Ericsson's definition of “deliberate” is itself deliberate.)

This research turned out to be rather controversial, and it deeply offended a number of people who had come to believe that they and their offspring are innately “all that and a bag of chips.” But there are several examples, both historical and modern, which justify Ericsson's assertions. One example cited in Ericsson's paper is that of Laszlo and Klara Polgar, a Hungarian couple who set out to train their three daughters to become chess masters. As a result, two of them became the best and second best women chess players in the world, and the third is ranked sixth in the world. Ericsson's research is also confirmed by the documented experiences of Shinichi Suzuki, originator of the Suzuki method of music instruction.

The focus of Ericsson and his colleagues, as well as Suzuki, was the outcome of healthy nurturing by mentors with good intentions. But mentors with evil intentions can be just as effective in producing the outcomes they want to see in their protégées. This is why adult children of alcoholics (ACOA's) and adult children of narcissists (ACON's) suffer such damage. Benevolent mentors lovingly encourage those in their care to develop their full potential, but personality-disordered and evil mentors seek to destroy those in their care – through constant put-downs, negativity, and active sabotage.

And when a society is itself narcissistic and dysfunctional, it destructively mentors those populations within it who are targeted as scapegoats. This was the motivation for laws in the antebellum South which made it illegal to teach African slaves to read and write. (See this and this.)  This was the motivation for segregated schools in the American South, and schools in the North which were de facto weapons of mass destruction.  This was the motivation for the first counterattacks against the minority education victories won during the civil rights struggles of the 1960's.  This is the motivation for the continued disparity in expectations, discipline and outcomes between white and minority children in American mass education, whether public or private. This is also seen in the portrayals of minority culture which are deemed to be acceptable to mainstream media (see this and this), media whose owners tend to look for the most dysfunctional elements of minority culture (especially Black American culture) in order to make sweeping generalizations about an entire people from one small element of what is after all a heterogeneous culture. Then they endlessly rebroadcast this elements to a defenseless and clueless public, saying thus that “THIS is what minorities are, and THIS is all they will ever be.” And they turn around and attempt to use the school system again as a weapon of mass destruction as the Oakland school district tried to do in the 1990's when it tried to force all Black children to be taught in the language of “Ebonics.”  One of the crowning successes of American mass media has been its ability to convince broad American society that Black Americans constitute a “criminal race” even though the facts contradict this. (See this and this for instance. Did you know that there are studies which indicate that actual rates of drug use among Black American youth are far lower than among White American youth, and that there is a higher percentage of White youth selling drugs than Black youth?)

The experience of minorities of color therefore continues to be similar to that of trees “sculpted” with fire, chain saws, battery acid and Roundup by a sadistic bonsai gardener who likes bare dirt better than soil “contaminated” by living matter. Yet seedlings manage to escape and turn into something much healthier than their sculptors planned. Some examples of plants which turned out differently than their sculptors intended include Junot Diaz, a writer from the Dominican Republic who made a name for himself by publishing gritty stories about life in inner-city ghettos in the American Northeast. Now he is working on a passion which for a long time was secret, namely, his desire to become an author of science fiction.  There is also Lloyd Ferguson, PhD, an emeritus electrical engineering professor who is also part of the Affordable Learning Initiative at Cal Poly Pomona. For many years Dr. Ferguson taught electromagnetics using a textbook written by another notable Black academic, namely Dr. Matthew N.O. Sadiku.  And there is veteran astronaut Robert Curbeam, and Vladymir Lamadieu, an information technology professional with a law degree who is also a good guitarist.  And there is Candace Makeda Moore, a Black American doctor now practicing medicine in South Africa.  I haven't even begun to scratch the surface of other female Black academics, professionals, or intellectuals, nor the vast number of Hispanics in the United States who are turning out differently than the masters of our predatory society had hoped. These all turned out as they did because they were not sculpted by American culture, or they learned to sculpt themselves in spite of American culture. In daring to be different, they risked the wrath of those who would accuse them of not “keepin' it real.” Not a few of the accusers are white!

Although high achievers in a scapegoated group can arise even in the midst of a culture which seeks to destroy them, the fact is that the scapegoating is almost always damaging. Dysfunction almost always results in the targeted group. This is seen across cultures and in many nations. The example of the Burakumin of Japan is illustrative, showing that the sort of dysfunction which arises from cultural scapegoating is very similar to that experienced by many members of the Black American population. It is also the same sort of dysfunction produced in Irish and Welsh populations by British occupiers from the 1700's to the early 20th century.

What scapegoated groups must therefore do is to disconnect from their abusers as much as is humanly possible. You're not somebody else's bonsai. Stop letting abusers treat you as if you were their plant to be ruined by them. There is also a need to heal the damage done by sadistic sculpting. And those who have been damaged will have to take charge of their own healing. That will be the topic of my next post.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Scapegoat Survival In Uncertain Times

As I have said in the past several posts, the United States is a narcissistic nation which is facing the constraints reality is now placing on the fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance and beauty which have been poured into the American psyche from the founding of this nation until now. The truth is that these fantasies were never really meant for anyone but their creators and masters, who happen also to be the people who ruled and shaped this country from the start. The enjoyment of those fantasies came at a certain cost – a price paid by the less privileged residents of the United States, including dark-skinned minorities, Native Americans, and for a while, women. The cost was also borne by those nations unlucky enough to have things that the United States wanted, without also possessing the means to defend themselves from having those things taken by force.

When people with a grandiose view of themselves become constrained by a reality that teaches them that they really are not “all that,” such people frequently react badly. This is the reason for the rolling back of equal protection and the escalation of violence against people who have historically been scapegoated in this country, such as people of color. The rollback is now being expanded to target women. The people doing the rolling back and committing the violence are predominantly rich, white and male (although there are a few women going along for the ride).

Therefore, unfortunately, the times we all live in have gotten more uncertain than ever for some of us. To those of us who are tired of being treated as scapegoats for dysfunctional American society, I have the following suggestions: 

  • Know your opponent (and his disease).
  • Know yourself.
  • Learn to heal your trauma.
  • Become rich in things which cannot be taken away from you.
  • Disengage from the system as much as possible.
My last few months of blogging have been an attempt to help people with suggestion #1. There are other resources as well for those who want help. Those who want to survive and thrive in these times must learn about malignant narcissism, not only as a problem in interpersonal relationships, but also as a driver of national culture and the policies of the wealthy and powerful members of our nation. One benefit of learning these things is that you will be able to stay strong mentally when the privileged (and formerly privileged) try to dump their hostility on you, and you will have tools for protecting yourself.

We'll explore the other suggestions in future posts.  That exploration will lead us in some directions which are not normally associated with life in the United States, as we consider the adaptive strategies which are being used by many residents of the developing world.  Stay tuned.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

The Sick Dreams of Fevered Minds

I was reading a few of my favorite blogs this week when I stumbled on the news that the LAPD had recently shot an unarmed homeless African-American man.  The trouble for the LAPD is that someone caught the entire incident on video and audio.  The officers involved initially said that the man had a gun; then they said that the man reached for an officer's gun.  I leave it to the reader to tell from the video whether the officers were lying.  (Of course, there's one rather stupid gadfly whom I expect to hear from with a loud, profanity-laden justification of the shooting regardless of what the video shows.  But people are beginning to tune him out.  Maybe I should too.)

To me, the shooting is yet one more evidence of the decompensation of privileged, entitled, narcissistic Anglo-American society.  As I discussed that decompensation with some online acquaintances, I brought up two other pieces of evidence: the movies American Sniper and 50 Shades of Grey.  One of those acquaintances questioned my assertion of a connection between the two movies, and in doing so, forced me to logically analyze what started for me as an intuitive association between the two.

So I wrote, "To me it seems that the U.S. is longing for a return of days in which America was supreme in the world, and in which Americans could dispense with politeness in their dealings with people different from them.  That is no longer the world in which we live, because of the contraction not only of the global economy, but of the American economy.  And starting wars in order to tip the balances in our favor is not working like it used to.  So many formerly privileged people in this country indulge in fantasies of heroic invincibility - as seen in movies like American Sniper, a movie which conveniently ignores the real reasons why the U.S. overthrew Saddam Hussein, and which romanticizes the killing of over 1 million Iraqi's.  If heroic fantasies of invincibility don't work, there are fantasies of power to obtain any desire one wants - as seen in reactions of many moviegoers to 50 Shades of Grey, who don't see the movie as a warning, but as a legitimization of the deviant desires of the rich and powerful.

"But fantasies alone are not enough for some people, and they are acting out against any targets they can find, in order to convince themselves that they still hold a position of power and privilege over those they consider to be less than themselves.  That's where we see the shootings - especially mass shootings - committed predominately by white males..."

In resposnse, the acquaintance shared with me the Chris Hedges article I linked to at the top of this post.  Hedges sums up both movies quite nicely in this quote: "[50 Shades of Grey], like “American Sniper,” unquestioningly accepts a predatory world where the weak and the vulnerable are objects to exploit while the powerful are narcissistic and violent demigods. It blesses this capitalist hell as natural and good." 

This is the sick society in which we live just now - a society in which most of us are getting poorer due to the contraction of the industrial economy, while the wealthy not only continue to concentrate all remaining wealth into their hands, but also manufacture fevered dreams of continued "unlimited power, success, brilliance," etc. to shove down our throats.  To those who allow themselves to be indoctrinated by such dreams, I'll leave one quote: "But if you bite and devour one another, be careful that you don’t consume one another." - Galatians 5:15.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Living Through National Decompensation

For the last three months, the main focus of the posts on this blog has been the psychological examination of the public American persona. That persona is characterized by a certain pathology, which I have identified as narcissistic personality disorder. According to the Fourth Edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-IV) of the American Psychiatric Association, the signs of this disorder are as follows:

“a pervasive pattern of grandiosity (in fantasy or behavior), need for admiration, and lack of empathy, beginning in early adulthood and present in a variety of contexts, as indicated by five (or more) of the following:

(1) has a grandiose sense of self-importance (e.g., exaggerates achievements and talents, expects to be recognized as superior without commensurate achievements)
(2) is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love
(3) believes that he or she is 'special' and unique and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high-status people (or institutions)
(4) requires excessive admiration
(5) has a sense of entitlement, i.e., unreasonable expectations of especially favorable treatment or automatic compliance with his or her expectations
(6) is interpersonally exploitative, i.e., takes advantage of others to achieve his or her own ends
(7) lacks empathy: is unwilling to recognize or identify with the feelings or needs of others
(8) is often envious of others or believes that others are envious of him or her
(9) shows arrogant, haughty behaviors or attitudes.”
According to the site from which I copied this description, there should be added a tenth characteristic, namely, an exaggerated desire to mete out justice.

How does the behavior of the United States, both historical and recent, stack up against this diagnosis? Let's look at a few characteristics.

Grandiosity and Requiring Excessive Admiration: We would like to believe that we are and have always been the greatest nation on earth, and that we are the most exceptional people on earth. This, by the way, is not just a feature of American narcissism, but of Anglo-American narcissism. Therefore, in an odd irony, one of the greatest champions of American exceptionalism is Rupert Murdoch, an Australian who became an American citizen so that he could buy up most of American electronic and print media. This is also the myth that has been preached from the pulpits of mainstream white America's churches from the nation's founding until now.

Preoccupation with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love: I can't speak for the “ideal love” part, but this nation certainly seems to be preoccupied with the other fantasies, as seen in the movies we make and watch, the celebrities we exalt, and the supposed cleverness, genius and ingenuity of which we constantly boast. This preoccupation is also seen in the constant pushing of the Horatio Alger myth that anyone in this country can get rich, and that this is something we should all want.

Entitlement, Exploitation and a Lack of Empathy: In order to exalt ourselves in our own eyes, we have abased much of the rest of the world, to the point of dispossessing people of their lands, robbing them at gunpoint, murdering them and enslaving and oppressing them. Yet we have felt entitled to do so, and have been genuinely surprised by the resulting hostile “blowback.” We can't for the life of us figure out why our enemies are fighting us, except that in some vague way, “they hate our freedoms.” Unable (or actually unwilling) to comprehend our enemies, we ascribe their motivations to an inchoate and unnameable “savagery.”

Envy, Arrogance and an Exaggerated Desire to Mete Out Justice: This explains the peculiar American tendency to justify its aggression and oppression of the world by casting itself as the world's “policeman.” This is the motivation for a few lines of Francis Scott Key's “Star Spangled Banner”:

O thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand
Between their loved homes and the war's desolation.
Blest with vict'ry and peace, may the Heav'n rescued land
Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation!
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto: "In God is our trust."

And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
o'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!
That Key's hymn is a direct contradiction of the New Testament is a fact that seems to have escaped a few American “Christian patriots,” but that is a subject for another time.

Certain writers have described the narcissistic personality as a “grandiose self” manufactured by a person who is actually very fragile on the inside. The grandiose self is the compensatory mechanism of such a person. However, when that grandiose self is effectively contradicted by outside events, the person who constructed that self is liable to suffer an episode of decompensation.

In a previous post, I began to describe what American national decompensation might look like. In future posts I will elaborate on that description, and will begin to describe the moral choices facing a person living in our decompensating society. My point of view will be Biblical as well as technical, and for every finger I point outward, there will be three pointing back at me – which is to say that the posts will be more of a personal diary than an analysis.

Meanwhile, the literature I have read indicates that two signs of decompensation are a worsening of narcissistic behaviors combined with a diminishing of sound judgment and cognitive function.  Here then are a few signs of American national decompensation for you to chew on: first, the U.S. is busy building the infrastructure needed to become a major oil and gas exporter, even though most independent analyses of U.S. oil and gas reserves and production show that shale and tight oil production is at peak or will peak by 2016. Why are we doing this? Because certain members of our ruling class want to continue to live in the fantasy that this is the greatest nation on earth, even though reality contradicts this fantasy. (See this also.)  Another sign of decompensation is our continual and escalating search for any nation we can start a fight with. Narcissists have a great deal of inward hostility, and they need a target on whom to dump it. This narcissistic nation, having long used the poor and the nonwhite within its own borders as its toilet bowl, is looking to build more outhouses in the Mideast and Eastern Europe (i.e., the Ukraine).

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Beneath The Event Horizon

As I have watched the unfolding events in Greece over the last several weeks, I've had a strong sense of deja vu.  Consider the trajectory of Syriza: in a country where the majority of citizens are oppressed by the current ruling regime, and where the majority of citizens are sick of the current regime, a party of "outsiders" and "mavericks" comes to national attention.  What brings them to national attention is their very outspoken criticism of the current ruling regime, combined with boasts of how they will change things to relieve the oppressed masses.

Once they reach a critical mass of popularity, however, these "outsiders" and "mavericks" begin to become more "nuanced" in their confrontation of the existing regime and the systems created and managed by the existing regime.  The fight for ostensible political power between the outsiders and the entrenched regime becomes quite colorful and emotional, yet a day comes when the dust settles and the "outsiders" find themselves in power.  This event is heralded with great celebrations of "hope" for "change," and many self-styled spokespersons for the oppressed masses write letters or blog posts addressed to the new regime, outlining their desires to see their hopes fulfilled.  However, during the fight and afterward, the "outsiders"-turned-rulers become so nuanced that eventually they become indistinguishable from the entrenched regime they replaced.

Sound familiar?  The political career of the current President of the United States has followed just such a trajectory, as foreseen in a long-winded post I wrote a while back.  But this phenomenon is not limited to Obama.  The entire Democratic Party is guilty, as we have seen with Governor Jay Nixon of Missouri, with Hillary Rodham Clinton, and with John Kerry, who ran against George W. Bush in 2004 on a platform of vacuous and vague promises of "change" that was remarkably similar to the platform on which Barack Obama ran for the Presidency in 2008.

I'd like to suggest that Syriza's capitulation shows that not just in the United States, but throughout the West, participation in the official political process has become a complete waste of time for ordinary people.  How could it be otherwise, when the wealth of the world is concentrated in the hands of such a small number of people?  The political process is no longer of any value precisely because, once wealth concentration exceeds a certain percentage of the total wealth available to a society, it is economic power that trumps all other forms of power.  How can ordinary Americans - no matter how numerous - influence the trajectory of government when most of the wealth in America is held in the hands of a few?  And how can the ordinary citizens of any country in the West take charge of the governance of their own countries when most of those countries are beholden to the world's richest banks?  (By the way, according to the list of banks I linked, if the size or assets of a bank are computed according to "Generally Accepted Accounting Principles" as is done in the United States, then JP Morgan and Bank of America are the #1 and #2 banks in the world.  Citigroup is #5.  These are all American banks.  The list of top investment banks is even more interesting.)

We therefore find ourselves - most of us - in a situation where we no longer have any real control over where we are headed as a nation or as a world. It's like being sucked beneath the event horizon of a black hole; once you go under, there's only one direction left to go. Therefore, in 2016, why look for a supposed "outsider" or "maverick" to vote for? If they're famous enough to be voted for, they're already bought and paid for. Why not rather look for non-political avenues for carving out a meaningful life for yourself? If you must vote, vote for one of your pets - at least they won't lie to you. Кошка за президент!