Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Progress vs. inertia

I received the following in an email. I thought it was interesting, if nothing else. I neither endorse nor condemn the following (rather inflammatory) conclusions - I offer them as food for thought.

Anyone who wishes to offer their own thoughts is (as always) most welcome to do so. I will copy your comments into a post, if you so wish.
Obama and the Palin Effect
* Words from Deepak <> by Deepak Chopra

Sometimes politics has the uncanny effect of mirroring the national psyche even when nobody intended to do that.

This is perfectly illustrated by the rousing effect that Gov. Sarah Palin had on the Republican convention in Minneapolis this week.

On the surface, she outdoes former Vice President Dan Quayle as an unlikely choice, given her negligent parochial expertise in the complex affairs of governing.

Her state of Alaska has less than 700,000 residents, which reduces the job of governor to the scale of running one-tenth of New York City. By comparison, Rudy Giuliani is a towering international figure.

Palin's pluck has been admired, and her forthrightness, but her real appeal goes deeper.

She is the reverse of Barack Obama, in essence his shadow, deriding his idealism and turning negativity into a cause for pride.

In psychological terms the shadow is that part of the psyche that hides out of sight, countering our aspirations, virtue, and vision with qualities we are ashamed to face: anger, fear, revenge, violence, selfishness, and suspicion of "the other."

For millions of Americans, Obama triggers those feelings, but they don't want to express them.

He is calling for us to reach for our higher selves, and frankly, that stirs up hidden reactions of an unsavory kind. (Just to be perfectly clear, I am not making a verbal play out of the fact that Sen. Obama is black.The shadow is a metaphor widely in use before his arrival on the scene.)

I recognize that psychological analysis of politics is usually not welcome by the public, but I believe such a perspective can be helpful here to understand Palin's message.

In her acceptance speech Gov. Palin sent a rousing call to those who want to celebrate the irresistance to change and a higher vision. Look at what she stands for:

* Small town values — a nostaligic return to simpler times disguises a denial of America's global role, a return to petty, small-minded parochialism.

* Ignorance of world affairs — a repudiation of the need to repair America's image abroad.

*Family values — a code for walling out anybody who makes a claim for social justice. Such strangers, being outside the family, don't need to be needed.

* Rigid stands on guns and abortion — a scornful repudiation that these issues can be negotiated with those who disagree.

* Patriotism — the usual fallback in a failed war.

*"Reform" — an italicized term, since in addition to cleaning out corruption and excessive spending, one also throws out anyone who doesn't fit your ideology.

Palin reinforces the overall message of the reactionary right, which has been in play since 1980, that social justice is liberal-radical, that minorities and immigrants, being different from "us" pure American types, can be ignored, that progressivism takes too much effort and globalism is a foreign threat.

The radical right marches under the banners of "I'm all right, Jack," and "Why change?Everything's OK as it is."

The irony, of course, is that Gov. Palin is a woman and a reactionary at the same time. She can add mom to apple pie on her resume, while blithely reversing forty years of feminist progress.

The irony is superficial; there are millions of women who stand on the side of conservatism, however obviously they are voting against their own good. The Republicans have won multiple national elections by raising shadow issues based on fear, rejection, hostility to change, and narrow-mindedness.

Obama's call for higher ideals in politics can't be seen in a vacuum. The shadow is real; it was bound to respond. Not just conservatives possess a shadow — we all do.

So what comes next is a contest between the two forces of progress and inertia. Will the shadow win again, or has its furtive appeal become exhausted?

No one can predict. The best thing about Gov. Palin is that she brought this conflict to light, which makes the upcoming debate honest. It would be a shame to elect another Reagan, whose smiling persona was a stalking horse for the reactionary forces that have brought us to the demoralized state we are in.

We deserve to see what we are getting, without disguise.


Dick Monahan said...

While I have little respect for Mr. Chopra, a well-known exponent of alternative medicine (often known as "woo"), and the "psych speak" in which this piece is written is mostly BS, his bullet points are worth consideration.

X said...

"negligent parochial expertise in the complex affairs of governing."

as opposed to Obama's expertise...

also, I find this phrase, "Obama's call for higher ideals in politics" a bit hypocritical after how his campaign has treated Sarah Palin.

Dick Monahan said...

Can you cite an example or two of "how his campaign has treated Sarah Palin" to which you object?

X said...

well, the most recent was his "lipstick and the pig" comment yesterday, but I'd say claiming she can't be a good mother for her children because she's nominated for VP is a good one, or perhaps when they referred to her ties to a Nazi sympathizer (Pat Buchanan)?

Grant most of what's been said about Palin hasn't come from the campaign itself, but there are a few examples, and you would think for a man who claims to be about changing the politics as usual, he would do a bit more to make sure the trashing of Palin doesn't continue.

Dick Monahan said...

None of those is a citation. The first has been debunked by damned near every news organization in the country. You are simply continuing the silly arguments about nothing that have marked this race so far.

X said...

Dick, Dick, Dick, the first hasn't been debunked at all. Just because the candidate goes on Letterman and professes his innocence doesn't make it so.

Gillian Swart said...

X, who else is going to debunk it? Obama is the only one who knows what he intended. You have decided he's lying when he says he wasn't calling her a pig. If someone says an action is throwing pearls to swine, is s/he calling the people s/he is referring to pigs?

Plus, McCain said the same thing about Clinton's health care plan - so even if you think it was a slam, they are now equal slam candidates.

For all talk about liberals being too sensitive, conservatives can't take what they dish out.

X said...

Yes, but it's the lipstick reference that changes your argument. That was the most memorable line from Palin's speech, and of the hundreds of figures of speech Obama's campaign could have chosen (perfume on a pig, old dog new tricks, etc.) they chose to run with that one, a phrase they used in a Bidden speech earlier that day. That's where the suspicions arose, and Obama has a history of those types of snide, thinly veiled comments, which is what people picked up on.

I personally think he probably didn't realize what he was saying was going to come off like it did, it was just poor editing on the part of him and his speech writer, and he ended up sticking his foot in his mouth, which happens to everyone, but you can't deny that people that drew the conclusion that it was intentionally have some decent points.