Now that it is obvious to all but the most hypnotized that the current Administration
and its imperialist ambitions is on the wane, we can stand back and attempt
to understand what this bizarre episode shows us.
It is a truism to observe that people get the political systems they deserve.
It’s also another way of saying people get the political systems they
In spite of some recent setbacks, there does appear to be an inexorable historical
movement away from dictatorships and tyrannies towards increasingly democratic
levels of self-rule. One of the great advantages of authentic democracies is
that they allow the various political ideologies to move through more rapidly
than dictatorships. And this is almost entirely due to the level of intelligence
and maturity of the governed.
As we step out from under the pall of induced fear and look fairly and squarely
at the situation the US has got itself into, we have a chance to really see
and understand the inevitable consequences of the authoritarian personality,
and its neocon ideology.
Of course, there is nothing very new in this. The tension between freedom and
control is as old as humanity. Evolving from pack animals, we’ve doubtless
needed millennia of strong, controlling leaders. The question we need to ask
ourselves is: after what we’ve seen for the last six years, is this the
sort of government we either deserve, or need? Have we moved as a nation beyond
the need for autocratic, secretive rulers?
The gift that the Bush/Cheney gang bring us is the clarity of the choice, presented
to us in the starkest of terms.
This is no overnight affair. It’s a social cancer that is the product
of many years of plotting and planning by the rich and powerful. With the periodic
interruptions of reform movements like the New Deal, most of the political classes
have always deferred to corporate or individual power.
It is frankly doubtful as to whether these people are ever going to choose to
change, even if they are capable of it. The addiction to money and power is
evidently their cross to bear in this lifetime. Only very few have the character
to break free from, what must be for them, “the good life,” the
very pinnacle of everything they’ve worked for, and see the consequences
of their ill-advised and selfish actions. And I suspect that it won’t
get any easier for them over the next few years.
When the authoritarian personality coalesces into an authoritarian political
system, it needs a compliant and poorly-educated populace, prepared to hand
over their power to an administration that clearly has little interest in them.
Katrina demonstrated this with harsh reality.
As we frequently need disasters in our personal lives to wake us up to the errors
of our ways, so also do political ideologies and those who blindly follow them,
need catastrophes in order to see the consequences of their decisions.
This hasn’t been, and will not be, very pleasant to watch since their
greed and hubris run so deep. Neither would it be wise to relish their downfall.
But, for those who can learn from the impending disaster the perils of putting
their faith in daddy--in the paternalistic state--however self-serving and heartless
it appears to be, should, by this time, have become all too obvious.
Whereas in the elections early in the 21st. Century the current administration’s
blatant use of scare-tactics might have convinced those who
were unwilling to address the multiple causes of terrorism, it’s hard
to believe, given the incompetence of the administration’s response, that
fear-mongering will be quite as convincing this time around.
To the extent people are self-aware they can learn from their own mistakes;
the wise can also learn from the mistakes of others. When we watch our political
leadership make blunder after blunder--assuming they are blunders rather than
the more cynical possibility that they are simply making the wars to feed the
military--we have the opportunity to delve beneath our justified frustration
to understand the psychological drives behind such profound errors of judgment.
By appreciating that the individuals concerned are acting out publicly some
of the more negative aspects of the human personality, we can view them with
more compassion and learn from seeing the results of their hubris.
Pride has always been one of the trickiest hurdles to overcome in the spiritual
journey. National pride compounds the problems even more, especially when it
is based on fragile foundations.
Pride, as opposed to authentic self-esteem, is always based on ignorance. Since
pride emerges from self-concern, by definition it is ignorant of the needs of
others. Pride, because of its ignorance of others will always seek to prop itself
up at others’ expense. Pride blinds the proud, thus ensuring their eventual
While we can’t prevent the outworking of the consequences of the errors
of the leadership, we can learn from it and the apply the lessons to the way
we conduct our own lives.
The apparent unwillingness of individuals within this administration to take
responsibility for their actions is so flagrant and shaming that it serves to
remind us of our own, rather less public, culpabilities. Overweening ambition
and sexual frustration are exemplified by someone like Condi Rice. A Paul Wolfowitz
demonstrates for us the hypocrisy of personal corruption; Gonzales and his ilk
lie through their teeth in such a blatant manner that it can make us ashamed
for every lie we ever told; Bush illustrates for us the consequences of a stubborn
denial of reality, personal delusion and hubris. And what will emerge when Cheney
is revealed as the sociopath he most probably is, is anybody’s guess.
There is clearly a corollary here to the thesis that we get the government we
deserve. We get the leadership we need to help us understand the best and the
worst features of our national identity. When there is an administration as
corrupt and belligerent as this one, then it tends to be the worst aspects.
Those tendencies in the American psyche, which the rest of the world has such
a problem with--the old stereotypes of bullying colonization and the corporate
thug --all comes to the fore.
Yet there is great hope that surely still resides in the American experiment.
For all the corruption and wickedness we see revealed in the current leadership,
we have the capacity to learn from their errors in a way that the main actors
in the melodrama are too locked into their ideology to completely change direction.
When nations make massive changes in direction, they are often precipitated
by revolutions, or are the result of wars, won or lost. In more recent years
we’ve had the opportunity to witness the collapse of the Soviet Empire
and the Apartheid system in South Africa without a major self-destructive upheaval.
There is great hope in this, too.
While it is glaringly obvious that American foreign and domestic policies have
to radically change, few thoughtful people on the planet would wish to see the
United States collapse--it would bring much of the world down with it. There
would be true planetary chaos.
This national transformation will need to be more subtle and it will likely
emerge from the people. As the greed, corruption and global power-games of the
political leadership become more and more obvious, we, the people, have a chance
to see what is really going on. If we can avoid being seduced by denial, and
when we can apply to our own lives the lessons learned from the mistakes of
our leaders, then we will no longer need, or deserve, to be governed by rascals