Despite what I’ve already said, in this final post analyzing Trump I’d like suggest the possibility of a simpler and more nefarious possibility behind the electoral successes of Trump.
It is tautological that the current populace is as responsible for the rise of Trump as the man himself. However much he tells you otherwise, he is not Munchausen. He cannot do the deeds he has done by himself. However much the man says or does, it is other people that need to perform the act of voting for him. So his electoral victories thus far suggest a worrisome number of people want fascism. If we go deeper and grant people freedom of thought and assume they do more than reflexively respond to stimuli, then we have to address their underlying psychology. We have to ask: what is it that drives this attraction?
Basic experiences show us that people can act contrary to what their social situation calls for. Ask Patty Hearst. Or a battered person who stays with the abuser. Think about the times you didn’t correct the wrongs of a terribly acting family member, or remained loyal to your boss even though you’ve been treated poorly and should quit. We repress our desires so often that it becomes normal. Social decorum makes it seem natural to repress, and this in turn shapes our beliefs. As a belief it becomes normative, making us view the repression as the way things ought to be, not simply the way things are. This priming means we begin to repress in other aspects of life. As we adapt, we find new things to be comforted by in each new repression. The feedback now becomes runaway. There is more and more repression, which paradoxically renders more and more pleasure. Taken to the limit, as people get closer and closer to fully completing the unconscious desire to submit, there is libidinal jouissance.
This pleasure, like all pleasures, becomes sought after. As the yearning repeats, it becomes habitual, even comforting. Traditionally, comfort was found in a providing father and a nurturing mother, and ever after is related back to that baseline. Childhood provides a sample of time with little to no conflicts for most. But as we age we take on responsibilities and the conflicts that accompany them. When one desires a conflict free existence, one will, in some form or another, seek out a maternal/paternal figure to provide comfort in exchange for responsibilities. Sometimes the populace finds the surrogate mother and father figures in the most curious of places:
In dealing with the responsibilities and conflicts of life, without taking refuge by regressing to childhood, there is a growing need to take comfort in conforming to societal roles. As a person internalizes those commitments, those needs become interchangeable with wants. One becomes ashamed of the same things that society forbids. To give into variations, to grant yourself the freedom to not follow the herd, is deemed perversion. Thus surrendering freedoms is the price paid for being granted security and comfort via the diktats of a strongman.
The pressures to conform are social. They are bigger than any individual. In institutions of education and work, people are trained to listen and fulfill the tasks before them, to obey the orders society deems necessary. People do have social relations that influence them outside of schooling and employment, but any social relation consists of people who have been similarly trained in the ways of thinking from their own school and work – and thus the cycle perpetuates itself vicariously. It permeates ubiquitously in this manner. It’s all around you right now. Just like the light in the room that enables this passage to be read. Both work when “invisible” and as such shape the perception of all visible things.
If PoMo theory is right about this being the role of society, if what we are doing is only ventriloquizing, then these desires will be present. And they will be present in many people over a period of many years. This means that no matter how strong the opposition from the National Review or the Republican Party, no matter how many people present cogent arguments to the contrary, too many are enjoying the jouissance to let the process stop now.
So how did the structure of things end up like this? To be brusque, certain ideas took hold and formed a society of tolerance that tolerates the intolerable. It’s the reductio of “liberal” tolerance. The Trump campaign has never exploded because our tolerance abounds. It’s not because people hate political correctness. It’s not a backlash against liberals, it’s exploiting them and using their own weapons against them. It’s a culminating point of tolerance. It is tolerance at the point at which it lacks external standards identifying when to be intolerant again.
What ideas became memetic enough to build up such a structure? Any disciple of deconstructionism will start with the individual as Dasein, and call everything else into question. In practice that means calling into question all things outside one’s welt that are found to be inconvenient, whether it be climate change, carbon dating, GMOs, or vaccines. And by all means avoid arithmetic and logic, which are vorhandenheit abstractions and thus are less primordial and less trustworthy.
The problem with this approach is that instead of creating a legion of jack-of-all-trades-master-of-none, there is a mass of narcissists that skipped the hours of training needed to be an expert and have gone straight to being masters-of-all-trades due to a false sense of empowerment. The Enlightenment ideas predicated on a rational Cartesian subject have been supplanted by the ideas of Continental philosophy, which instead pictures rational consciousness as merely one boat floating on a sea of unconscious Will. If that’s the proportion of things, if rationality is just one man in an ocean, then why bother? If the unconscious is not rational, then it is futile to try to comprehend it. This shifts the moral of the story from “it’s hard work” to “it’s not a model of how things stand in reality” that then leads to fatalism. So while the Cartesian res cogitans gave us the Enlightenment, the PoMo Dasein gave us “the terrorism of obscurantism.” The honest and humble search for truth has been replaced by conspiratorial rants online that often have no greater aspiration than to prove the starting assumption. This means the spread of ideas such as a flat Earth, chemtrails, fan death, cryptozoology, reptilian humanoids, ancient astronauts, the Bermuda triangle, astrology, or the Illuminati. In politics, this means any attempt at using rational methods to derive forms of legitimacy doesn’t work as there is no “good” life, there are only different variations of life, none of which can be declared better than any other.
But where did those ideas come from? In short, from the Nazi Martin Heidegger:
And thus we’ve come full circle. The environment that breeds fascism comes from the ideas sown by a fascist. Sorry to skip the full story, but I don’t have the space to go through the whole of his black notebooks.
So that’s where we are presently. It looks eerily similar to narcissism. For Narcissus, his self-love was reaffirmed by Echo‘s persistent desire. She wasted away, but her ventriloquism remained. And instead of learning to reflect intellectually, instead of asking “why am I attracting this kind of person?”, Narcissus gazed at a reflecting pool, absorbed in himself, and wasted away as well. Each one was dominated by the other. Each got their desires. Neither was happy.
In our contemporary age, what better Echo for a narcissist than an entire political party? The vox populi is the echo of Trump’s blank slate that works by him simply being there. Yes, despite all the positions he built a campaign on, he is a blank slate. He is for LGBTQ rights, but he’s not. He is benign in terms of racial relations, but he also is not. He’s prima facie (as a Republican) for fiscal responsibility, but he is not. He’s for interventionism, but also for isolationism. He’s against globalization, but also is tacitly for it. He’s for more security, but also less. He stands for everything, which really means he stands for nothing. That nothingness enables him to be a projection for the tendencies of the masses. This means the projection, not the person, is fascist.
How do you get the projection to end? Well, you need to remove Narcissus from the pool, and get away from Echo. You need to become self-critical. It’s not that Trump supplies something outrageous and thus drums up an audience. It’s that the people want something outrageous and he fills the demand. Demand comes first. The Donald will continue to oblige this demand as he is outfitted with an inferiority complex that would’ve vindicated Adler once and for all:
I don’t think the act will end prematurely. People constantly establish new levels of homeostasis, and can readily adapt to theatrics. This means that Trump could become the new norm and win, thus cementing that norm for a long period. Conscious or otherwise, Trump knows this. His main strategy up until now has been to simply wait for the hatred against him to become boring and then forgotten.
We used to put a lot of effort into opposing existential threats like embryonic fascism. Now we’re in an ersatz inverted world where the outlandish things we previously imagined are coming true, and about half the population of the largest military nation in the world is siding with fascism, while simultaneously denying it.
Finally, just to clarify, I’m not saying people are driven to fascism. I think people can be placed in situations where certain desires are created. There are many examples to the contrary that provide evidence for my own suspicions, which coincide with a certain Brit:
“People do not love their chains or their jailers, and the aspiration for a civilized life, that universal eligibility to be noble, is proper and common to all.” – Christopher Hitchens
So if we need to create the proper conditions to undo the current conditions, how do we do it? Current methods of inquiry are akin to seeking out a Platonic eternal truth that we all have access to inside of us, recoverable by means of recollection, i.e. “be yourself.” But that way contains the danger of simply reaffirming all the biases and preconceptions you already have. It may be that “the truth is out there,” but you don’t have immediate access to it. Truth is a task that must be repeatedly performed. So hopefully, with repetition, things will sink in.
So repeatedly search for truth. And then truly decide whether you want to elect a narcissist, a fascist, or use your vote on someone else: