Debates among us are nothing new. They have had many forms. Yet this year they are happening in a context that is rich in underlying meaning for any student of the human mind. For example, just to punctuate how very wierd the context is, imagine if one of the topics for a debate were
Obama is a Muslim, pro or con?To us here on Kos that would be absurd. Yet we know that a large part of the republican party would relish such a debate and believe the pro side could win. Likewise the "birther" "issue" and many many other clearly insane beliefs that are widely held in our society. So we salivate as we anticipate Obama making mincemeat of his opponent who seems to be in a state of cognitive dissonance if not more severe mental stress. Even his wife has given us clues that this is true. True as it might seem recent history assures us that the man may still be elected if we let it happen. Recall the Bush on the Couch theory:
Bush on the Couch: Inside the Mind of a President is a 2004 book by psychoanalyst Justin A. Frank. The central premise of Frank's book is that President George W. Bush displays signs of poor mental health which makes him ill-suited to rule the U.S. Frank suggests Bush suffers from megalomania, that he is probably incapable of true compassion and shows signs of sadism, and that as an untreated alcoholic, is in constant danger of a relapse. Further, in Frank's opinion, Bush manifests the symptoms of a "dry drunk", principally irritability, judgmentalism and a rigid, inflexible world view. Frank also analyses, among other things, Bush’s tendency to mix up his metaphors and concludes Bush has substantial problems with abstract, flexible thinking.Nevertheless the man "governed" (as a puppet?) for eight years. And that great republican hero President Reagan suffered from Alzheimer's while in office, according to son
An updated version of the book was released in October 2007, including a new introduction and a new afterword.
Ron Reagan recounts having concerns as far back as 1984.Both these examples are subjects for "debate" (irony intentional) but let us at least throw them into this stew about what this whole circus says about the human mind. Let us look beyond the break to see if we can be ahead of the game this time.
"Watching the first of his two debates with 1984 Democratic presidential nominee Walter Mondale, I began to experience the nausea of a bad dream coming true. At 73, Ronald Reagan would be the oldest president ever reelected...[M]y father now seemed to be giving them legitimate reason for concern. My heart sank as he floundered his way through his responses, fumbling with notes, uncharacteristically lost for words. He looked tired and bewildered."
Two years later the president expressed his own concern about his failing memory:
I live in a community that would come up with a large number of people, possibly a majority, who believe in some of the myths being tossed around about Obama, Agenda 21, "Socialism", Global warming as a plot by scientists to get bigger grants and to even enslave us, and many others. The fact that I, as a socialist am supporting Obama is heeded with pleasure while my many severe disagreements with him are ignored. These aspects of cognitive dissonance and Collective consciousness merely touch the larger problem. It is easy to look at "them" as being in these rather scary mental states. Now, even though it is not totally symmetrical, can you do the next most obvious rational act of thinking? Turn it around. This is hard. If you can do it, you will find yourself in a place like I just admitted to above when I mentioned being a socialist supporting Obama in this election. I have had a lot of cognitive dissonance of my own.
Now if you were able to go that far without lapsing into a mind set set that forbids you to admit such things to yourself, go the next step. Look at the collective behavior of our species on this planet. What do you see? Let me suggest that if you don't see massive levels of addiction to self-destructive behavior your defenses have won over your ability to be open.
So the context for this years debates is ironic if not tragic! The problems we face are enormous yet the topics that are made out to be important in the debates will largely ignore and minimize their importance.
The very context, as I sketched it above, makes this even more disturbing. The human mind has been greatly over rated. Yes we have certain wonderful capacities. Among those we lack is the ability to avoid our excesses and to modify our behavior. Study what is known about addiction and then apply what you learn to the ideas expressed here. You will not be able to escape that we as a species are addicted to self destructive behavior on a large scale and can not get beyond the denial stage. So as you watch the debates or read about them ask yourself what they mean in the context I developed so very briefly here. You will become a new person. But be careful. You can not go back.