LEARNING FROM CATASTROPHE

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 need.
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.
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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
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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 downfall.
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
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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.
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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 and fools.

 

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© 1999 Timothy Wyllie

 

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