LXXXIV – The Madness of Emperor George

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While
campaigning for reelection, President Bush declared: "Knowing
what we know today, we still would have gone into Iraq." That
Hussein had no weapons of mass destruction nor ongoing efforts to
create them, no Iraqi ties to al Qaeda or involvement with the attacks
of 9/11 were, by Bush's own admission, irrelevant to his plans to
attack an innocent nation. Truth, in other words, has no meaning
in this man's calculation of his actions. Mr. Bush went even further
in declaring, on the one hand, "I don't think you can win"
the war on terror, but adding that America cannot retreat from this
war because, to do so, would "show weakness" to the world.

Most
Americans are probably uncomfortable with the thought that their
president might suffer from madness. The mere contemplation of such
a possibility simply does not compute within minds that have been
conditioned to believe in the rationality of the political process
which is supposed to filter out the unstable, the crazed fanatics,
and those of "extremist" dispositions. How could a man
become and remain president if his thinking and actions were dominated
by irrational impulses?

And
yet, unless the rest of us are equally affected by madness, how
else do we explain behavior that not only bears no relation to clearly
demonstrated truth, but admittedly contradicts that truth? One dictionary
defines "paranoia" as "a tendency toward suspiciousness
and distrustfulness of others that is based not on objective reality."
Might this definition describe a man whose thinking is dominated
by the worldwide presence of an "axis of evil," and who
persists in the childish view that "if you're not with us,
you're against us?" And when there is absolutely no evidence
to support a war he undertook and insists on continuing, are his
acts not grounded in a lack of "objective reality?"

Another
dictionary defines "paranoia" as a "mental disorder,
characterized by persistent delusions." A "delusion"
is further defined as a "false opinion or belief which cannot
be shaken by reason." What better term to describe a man unrestrained
by revelations that his stated reasons for attacking Iraq were totally
unfounded but that, even on the basis of such falsehoods, he would
still have gone to war? Might his insistence on going to war — and
seeking new enemies to replace the beleaguered Iraqis — not qualify
as an "obsession," which one dictionary tells us is "an
anxious and inescapable preoccupation with an idea or feeling?"

Paranoia
is often associated with "megalomania," which dictionaries
define as "a mania for doing great or grandiose things,"
or "an excessive overestimation of one's own importance."
Did Bush not confirm this symptom of himself when he declared that
"God wants me to be president?" What more exalted delusion
of grandeur than to imagine oneself to be God's anointed agent for
ferreting out the forces of "evil" on earth?

In
partial mitigation of his deluded mindset, it must be noted that
the madness of George Bush is the madness of a society that produced
such a man — and others like him — elevated him to power, and sustains
his authority even in the face of his continuing patterns of lies,
deceptions, and arrogance. I wrote, shortly after 9/11, that the
attacks of that day "have struck deeper into our conscious
and unconscious minds than any of us has begun to imagine."
In varying ways, most of us are still engaged in a catharsis associated
with these events, with many of us yet unable to discover their
deeper meaning.

To
begin with, the destruction of the WTC did far more than kill nearly
3,000 people. It also visually symbolized the ongoing collapse of
vertically-structured social systems (a topic I have taken up in
earlier articles in this LRC EBook). Most Americans went into an
unfocused rage. In a fit of self-righteousness — for which Americans
play second fiddle to no others — it became important to find someone,
anyone, to punish for this crime. The alleged perpetrators
were all dead, so upon whom could the self-righteous direct their
anger? The first recipients were the goat-herders and other peasants
of Afghanistan. Attention was later brought to bear upon Iraq, even
though there was absolutely no evidence of Iraqi involvement in
the 9/11 atrocity.

But
Iraqi innocence was beside the point. Iraq had been selected as
the designated scapegoat for America's unrequited anger, and if
the Iraqis objected to this "honor" bestowed upon them
by America, this provided all the more reason to intensify the attack.
In June of this year, the ultra-jingoistic Bill O'Reilly raged against
the Iraqis for not fully appreciating the destruction and killing
American forces were perpetrating upon them. His proposed solution
was to "bomb the living daylights out of them," a recommendation
he also made regarding Iraqi resistance in Fallujah. "Why doesn't
the U.S. military just go ahead and level it?," he asked, adding
"we know what the final solution should be." This is the
kind of thinking that represents the collective madness in which
so much of America is enmeshed.

In
January, 1940, Christopher Isherwood wrote the following in his
diary: "Am I afraid of being bombed? Of course. Everybody is.
But within reason. I know I certainly wouldn't leave Los Angeles
if the Japanese were to attack it tomorrow. No, it isn't that. .
. . If I fear anything, I fear the atmosphere of the war, the power
which it gives to all the things I hate — the newspapers, the politicians,
the puritans, the scoutmasters, the middle-aged merciless spinsters.
I fear the way I might behave, if I were exposed to this atmosphere.
I shrink from the duty of opposition. I am afraid I should be reduced
to a chattering enraged monkey, screaming back hate at their hate."

While
9/11 Commissions conduct their make-believe investigations and conclude
that events of that day were produced by failures of intelligence,
it is more to the point to suggest that there is a continuing "failure
of intelligence" in this country that has nothing to do with
the CIA, FBI, NSA, or the Pentagon. Long before that deadly day
of three years ago, the minds of most Americans had collapsed into
a preoccupation with irrelevancies, trivia, and a continuing insistence
upon being entertained. The idea that the intelligence of Americans
might be energized to address problems which the political establishment
prefers not to be recognized, has long been absent from social discourse.
Even the Democratic and Republican conventions reflected this flight
from thoughtfulness. The William F. Buckleys and Gore Vidals no
longer exchanged thoughtful observations — and barbs — with one
another as they had decades ago. Boobus electorus was now
treated to the ruminations of Hollywood performers, rock musicians,
country-western singers, and professional wrestlers!

To
abandon one's mind — along with the control and responsibility for
one's life that follows — is to collapse into madness. When done
by enough people, the social effect is to turn a country into a
Mad Hatter's tea party, or worse. One saw reflections of this collective
madness in the faces of airhead Republicans listening to Arnold
Schwarzenegger, as he crowed from his perch about the alleged "virtues"
of President Bush, a "leader who doesn't flinch, who doesn't
waiver, who does not back down." He failed to mention that
such steadfastness was most pronounced when Bush's house of lies
and deceptions came crashing down, a quality Schwarzenegger would
equate with "inner strength," but which could also be
taken as evidence of paranoia.

As
if to emphasize the fungible nature of the two major parties, Democratic
Senator Zell Miller harangued the GOP faithful with the kind of
irrational, brawling rhetoric that would have embarrassed Cotton
Mather. That Republicans felt comfortable cheering on this kind
of lynch-mob oratory reflects a deep-seated frustration even among
the ruling classes.

Across
the midway were the lobotomized Democratic party conventioneers,
who took such pains — including trying to lock up protestors in
"free speech" cages — not to allow any semblance of philosophic
or moral criticism to creep into their prime-time extravaganza.
One had the feeling that what most terrorized the Democratic faithful
was the fear that a genuine issue — such as the war or the Patriot
Act — might arise and expose the sham nature of the election, and
that their party would be blamed for this!

The
madness of war-making goes well beyond the dead and maimed bodies
and minds of its immediate victims. Casualty counts reflect only
what is of interest to institutions to calculate, namely, the material
costs of combat. There is a toxic quality to war that affects the
inner life of individuals and, as a collective consequence, the
society itself. In the degradation and dehumanization of the individual
lies the destruction of all mankind. This is the point of Isherwood's
observations. It is difficult to avoid war's venomous nature. Even
the individual who manages to retain a constant energized awareness,
will never be fully insulated from war's impact upon his or her
life.

The
political spectacle of the 2004 elections ought to have made clear
to you that there is absolutely nothing that either the politicians
or the state can do to bring an end to the destructiveness of war.
Politics is the mobilization of war, what Randolph Bourne
called "the health of the state." Politicians will no
more act to dismantle the war system than crime syndicates will
work to end the war on drugs. We need to extricate ourselves
from this organized insanity, a task we can accomplish only
by observing our own thought processes — at the same time being
aware that the "observer" is the "observed."

In
his work on the processes of "individuation," Carl Jung
offered crucial insight into our efforts to withdraw our energies
from the collective madness that is destroying us. The observations
of J. Krishnamurti are also relevant to our task: "War is the
spectacular and bloody projection of our everyday living. We precipitate
war out of our daily lives; and without a transformation in ourselves,
there are bound to be national and racial antagonisms, the childish
quarreling over ideologies, the multiplication of soldiers, the
saluting of flags, and all the many brutalities that go to create
organized murder."

Politicians
and the media continue to exploit 9/11 for their narrow ends. For
the rest of us, however, these events — and the political forces
that produced them — continue to represent a form of entropy that
we have yet to work out of our systems. We must remove such destructive
energy, recognizing that those who stand to gain from our remaining
in a state of fear about "terrorism" will be of no help
to us, and will try to keep us groveling at their feet. Our choice,
as always, is to look within our own souls, and listen for those
inner voices that continue to speak to us, even over the roar of
the crowd.

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