Tuesday 25 July 2017

Short Observations

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JMH International Essays — Announcement

Original Essays on the Psychology of Anger and/or Violence 

We thank all those who have submitted an essay to the JMH International Prize Essay Contest. As of now, February 1, 2017, we have decided not to continue with the contest.

For those who feel they have an important contribution to the subject of the Psychology of Anger and/or Violence, please feel free to submit your essay with the form provided here. If the judges agree that the essay is a significant contribution, we will publish it here (subject to agreement with the author).

We include here links related to past essays — For the 2014 contest, click here for the summary article and here for the list of winners; for the 2015 contest, click here for the summary article and the list of winners; and for the 2016 contest, click here.

Longer Observations

Election Day, 2016: Two Psychologies and the Global Age

November 8, 2016

Until today, I thought the most efficient commentary I could make on the 2016 elections would be through images — political cartoons — and I published an online book of 76 political cartoons called Mostly Trump (that can be purchased on Amazon or in the iTunes bookstore).

However, I have just now found myself thinking along lines that are different for me about the meaning of this election and thought it might be useful to write them out.

The overall idea is that there is a shift of perspective going on in individuals in the United States and probably in Europe. It is a shift from the personal, local, and even national points of view to a global point of view.

This newer view sees us as all together: peoples, animals, plants, oceans, land masses, atmosphere, and so on.

The older perspective is of me over here and you and the rest of the world over there. Or there is a perspective of me, as an American, over here, along with other Americans, with the rest of the world over the oceans.

There are also, in the older ways of looking at things, the perspectives of a religion (the view of a Christian or a Jew or a Moslem) or of a race or of a man or of a woman or of a type of person (an intellectual, a manual worker, an athlete, a gay person, and so on).

The newer perspective does not abandon the older ways of looking but adds point of view. It sees things from the point of view of the planet or the solar system. It sees all of us humans on the same level and as "planet mates" with the animals and plants. An elephant in Africa is not "out there," alien to us, but living alongside us on this planet, sharing it with us, and vice versa.

This newer perspective, it seems to me, pops up in different fields of intellectual study, even in the sciences.

For example, in the abstract field of Physics, we have Chaos Theory that theorizes that the smallest event in one part of the world can effect the whole planet (if I understand the theory correctly). This seems to me an expression of a "larger" perspective and is consistent with the larger perspective we are discussing.

All of this dovetails with (or is caused by) what some are calling the Third Industrial Revolution. Technological innovations have made it that any person on earth can communicate with any other person almost instantaneously and at very little cost. 

In addition, It is possible for each of us to create things by ourselves and on our own that could have only been produced in the past by a massive joint effort. For example, each of us can make and produce and publish and distribute books and music and film. It is possible that it is a matter of time before each person on earth, with very little knowledge or ability or wealth, will have it within his or her ability to produce weapons of mass destruction.

Among other things, this massive increase in the power of the individual means that any human on earth can have a massive effect, and quickly. It also means that the single thought or emotion of a single person who, to the old point of view, is of the very least significance, can have the greatest significance for everyone. There are no more insignificant people. And no thought or feeling of anyone can be dismissed as meaningless or insignificant.

It is also more and more possible for individual and groups of individuals to influence significantly the plant and animal kingdoms as a whole and the atmosphere of the planet itself and its oceans and even its mountains. This power used to be thought of as god-like, but now it must be considered human-like.

Another consequence of this Third Industrial Revolution is that one person (or robot) can do the job of ten or even a hundred and maybe a thousand people. This means that, at the very same time the individual with his or her thoughts and feelings and fantasies assumes monumental importance and power, this same individual is becoming, from a financial point of view, more and more useless. Feelings of powerlessness stemming from the loss of ability to support oneself and ones family, and the feelings of humiliation this brings combine with the ability to communicate about it all and the ability to do something about it. It is easy to blame individuals or groups for these problems, and it is easier than ever to express your views and feelings to thousands and even millions.

Because of these and other factors, we seem to be witnessing a massive power shift. As Jung predicted, women seem to be moving more and more into positions of power which corresponds with an increased awareness of the value of the feminine. In America, Latinos and African Americans communities are growing, and they are accumulating more and more wealth and more and more political power.

For those who have, for hundreds of years, dominated and controlled and set standards and moral codes and tastes and written and enforced laws, this is terrifying. It is not new on the face of the earth for a people in power to be afraid of the people they control. What seems new is the development of what we might call a Global Perspective. It is still possible and necessary and even desirable to see from within your own power group. But it seems that, for a variety of reasons, more and more people are also seeing from the Global Perspective. They see themselves as parts of massive group interactions and see how it would look from someone above, outside any of the groups. 

At the same time, and because of the above mentioned increased technological abilities of the individual, it is less and less likely that any one group will be able to control everything and everybody.

So it seems there is a direction of history that we can detect. No matter what a person thinks of Astrology, it is useful, with the ancient Greek philosopher, Plato, to divide history into two thousand year periods (that is, Platonic Years). Astrologers tell us that around the year 2000, we entered a new Platonic Year that they call the Age of Aquarius. It seems to be an age where the female element is to move into an equal position with the male, and so on. Put this way, the movement we are seeing, including the shift to a Global Perspective, seems inevitable.

And yet people who have always been in the ascendance will, just as inevitably, try to plug up what they feel is a dam breaking. They fear a flood that will inevitably destroy them, and they can not help but launch a counter-attack in which they will see themselves as heroes: They are heading off the flood of darkness. This heroic movement will, inevitably, have racial and religious overtones.

Trump seems to be part of this counter-movement, or, at least, he seems to have allied himself with it. This movement exists in the U.S. and also in Europe. It has developed in atmosphere of despair and terror and hopelessness.

As mentioned, it has racial overtones, and the goals of some in the movement are almost identical with the traditional goals of the Ku Klux Klan.

It can be seen as anti-women (anti-female), anti-gay, anti-global, anti-Islam, anti-ecology, and so on.

It is an attempt to stop change. Even if change is inevitable, even if the New Age has begun and can not be stopped, this does not mean that there won't be war and destruction before peace and harmony establishes itself (if it ever will). As Hegel pointed out, history can be seen as a series of clashes of opposite forces out of which syntheses of the forces emerges. Each synthesis is a force that clashes with its opposite creating a new synthesis. So there is a progress, but it is fitful and often painful. From within the political arena, we can see that each election brings to power a party that is expressing power and one aspect of the truth. After a time it loses its truth and another party emerges that fights it. If Hegel is right, out of these clashes, progress occurs.

We may not know what the "goal" is, but there is a development. So the disruption caused by one side winning and displacing the other seems to be natural and as something that should be expected. We have two sides of our personalities and both are real. They may clash (for example, between our passivity and our aggression), but there seems to be the possibility of an integration that grows from these clashes.

There is always the chance that the conservative force will win and win forever. But, because of the technological revolution mentioned above, It is hard to picture any one force winning completely and dominating forever. It is, I think, more probable that there could come a point where both sides are so powerful that they will destroy each other and the whole planet if they don't make peace.

If Clinton should win, she will have a big job on her hands. It may be an impossible job. She and her supporters can not just relax and go to sleep and return to the good and happy life and assume the other side has disappeared or has been destroyed.

There is a book series called Left Behind. It is about how more and more religious Christians will be taken away, to another, higher world, leaving behind those who aren't willing to sign up for and live the Christian life. It is possible to use the left behind concept in a different context and in an opposite way: The Global Age is leaving many behind. There are many who have already "popped" into this New Age, whereas people such as Trump may not be willing to come along or are too afraid. They are the ones who are being left behind. It is the very people who read the Left Behind series and think of themselves leaving the rest of the world behind, it is these people who are getting left behind.

The Hopi Indians say that we are now in the Fourth World but that it is coming to an end. There will be painful signs that will mark the beginning of the Fifth World, the last world (perhaps the pain of the 2016 election campaign is such a sign). The Fifth World will be, according to Hopi prophecy, be a world of peace and harmony.

It is possible, it seems to me, that the Fifth World has already begun and that many have already "popped" into it. Trump, and many who see him as their Saviour, are still in the Fourth World and don't want to come along into the Fifth.

This way of looking at the current election seems to me more constructive and, perhaps, more accurate than just seeing the two sides as mortal enemies with one being evil and one being good. And it can give Hillary Clinton — a woman, mother, and grandmother — if she wins, a model for handling the country’s  birth into a new age and a new world.

November 9

I think Hillary Clinton's ads revealed her true and deep concerns. All the ones I saw impressed upon the viewer possible effects on children of Trump's words and antics. These ads were aimed mostly at women (or at the "mother" point of view) as were the ads that praised Hillary as a life-long advocate for children and women.

There was one other group of ads that asked us the question whether we want an "unstable" man deciding life and death issues for us.

I think ads from both of these groups must have had the intended effects on many voters.

What Clinton's ads did not show were people out of work, closed factories, workers displaced by job outsourcing, out-of work people displaced by robots, the pain for many people caused by Obamacare, small businesses that can no longer function under the weight of government regulations, and the threat of attacks by radical Islam.

It seemed to many that either she didn't know these problems existed, didn't know that people are worried about them, or that she didn't see these problems as of primary importance.

Clinton made her biggest pleas to women and, for the last week or so, to people of color (through rally-concerts).

She chose the Javits Center with its glass ceiling to receive election news. This choice symbolized, I think, her main goal throughout the campaign and throughout her professional career — becoming the first woman president. She hoped to break through the glass ceiling.

It seems to me that  all this was not just Hillary's group making a campaign miscalculation but rather helps us paint an accurate portrait of who Hillary is. To me she has always seemed like a 1960's liberal, intellectual, woman's libber — with all the positives and all the limitations of this life stance.

The part of me that is anti-establishment and sees arrogance and aloofness and naiveté and lack of self-knowledge in the Democratic politicians I have met, is happy to see Hillary (with all her email and campaign tactic scandals) swept away. It feels as if a new beginning in Washington might be possible. Maybe the Republican majority with the new president can clean things up and bring into the fore parts of our personalities that have been undervalued and repressed.

There is hope, though I do not appreciate the gloating of the victors (seen on TV). And I think the victor's apparent profound happiness and confidence in themselves is naive, even foolhardy, though, probably, natural. Republican virtues will probably be promoted, and, we predict, excesses will soon start occurring.

However, even if Clinton's view of reality (along with the value system embedded in it) was limited, it does not mean it was incorrect. Her view is a valid piece of the whole picture, one piece of the picture of the future.

What will Trump do with his new and expanding power? As with many other things about his behavior, I think there is no way to predict. For me, one important sign for our future (and for the future of the country and maybe even for the future the world) is how he will react when people disagree with him and stand up to him. As a businessman, he is not used to being crossed. When he is, he fires people. Temperamentally he seems to react with anger when he is criticized. How will he handle Congress and the American people when his is crossed? Will he shoot first and ask questions later, if ever? Will he feel he is bigger than the government, bigger than democracy, bigger than America? Will he move out of Washington, sweep away constitutional restrictions to his power?

Trump has used the word revolution many times. I wonder if, deep down, he does or doesn't respect the concept of democracy. I also wonder which, in a showdown, we Americans would choose: Security (including financial security) or Liberty. Is democracy, a failed experiment?

It seems to me Abraham Lincoln must have been very brave and singularly focused when he spoke about the "unfinished work ... so nobly advanced” by those who fought at Gettysburg and pledged us to be “dedicated to the great task remaining before us.”

I wonder if I and my friends and neighbors and fellow countrymen will stand with Lincoln with his same high resolve  “… that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth."

In the meantime, from a psychological angle, we have no choice but to monitor our own selves and the good and bad forces in us, including the heavenly and the demonic. If we are honest with ourselves, we have the right to hope that we, at least as individuals, will find a new and more complete understanding of who we all are and where we are going and that this awareness will lead to “a new birth of freedom” within ourselves.

Two Approaches to Understanding Psychology

via reflection on the world
via reflection on one's immediate experience

   the One   the Whole
the Sacred
the Ordinary
feeling stuck
feelings of failing,        of dying
 waking up — feeling reborn
   focusing   on the self
confronting the   unconscious
the whole person
living in multiple       worlds
learning about     the world
feelings of success,     of the good life