I was poking around on the net looking for ideas on the archetypes currently shaping American politics and I found this article written by William Irwin Thompson. Good observations which very much speaks to the heart of my frustrations in the political dialogue these days:
“Politics is not based upon reason or reasoning, but emotions and identity; its seat in the brain is the amygdala and not the frontal neocortex. We like to think that when there are political problems, there are political solutions, but our tragic predicament is that there is no simple solution to the emotional dynamics of human culture, because as the neuroscientist Antonio Damasio has pointed out, emotions are necessary and empower our sense of values and good judgment. The brain is not a digital information-processing computer, so we cannot achieve wisdom by stripping ourselves of emotions and values. We have to learn how to deal with complexity and ambiguity, and for this process a sense of humor and compassion for one’s opposite or opponent is better than ideological zealotry.”
And Bob Dylan reminds us, “They say that Patriotism is the last refuge to which a scoundrel clings. Steal a little and they throw you in jail, steal a lot and they make you King.”
While it’s distasteful to me to cling to a political identity, disengaging from the conversation won’t change our current predicament, one in which we find ourselves unable to have the conversations that can broaden and deepen our perspective rather than pitting ourselves against each other. We have perhaps lost the ability to listen to each other and can’t see that our ideas and ideals are failing us no matter the political identity we embrace. To find our way perhaps we need to know and accept how truly stuck we are, with our ideas and each other. What then can be gained by a search for, and an understanding of, the archetypes found within and between political positions if anything?
As a disclaimer I should add that I am not asserting a privileged position of insights or special knowledge, nor suggesting as a solution, that there is a way to be outside of the influence of ideas, imaginings and fantasies about the world. But is it possible and then helpful to explore the vision, ideals, and fantasies that inform a Republican or Democrat’s worldview and so drive one to adopt a particular political position?
Most of my adult life I have been disengaged from politics, never having developed an interest in reading newspapers, or watching TV news, believing that my short life span would be wasted by efforts to affect a giant monster as is Politics, preferring to focus my attention on issues that are more ontological in nature. But now that I have made a certain peace with the mundane questioning of “who am I and what do I want,” (which perhaps should have been answered a little earlier in life and is thankfully assumed for many if not most of us), I find my gaze turning outward, into the bigger world and find that politics is almost as popular as Sports and Entertainment. Almost.
And so, I may never be able to shake the feeling that I am a political newcomer, or an outsider, and perhaps that is why I haven’t been able, by shopping around, to find the outfit that fits well and looks good on me. Libertarians are having the most engaging conversations and I do feel a kinship with their strong emphasis on breaking up the love affair between career politicians and their business cronies and understanding that to move towards a more peaceful coexistence with the rest of the world, we must be willing to act more peacefully with ourselves, other countries and also to stop coercing allies with monetary bribes.
So remains the question then of why can I not identify myself as either an R or a D? And what can an archetypal perspective bring into the political conversation? To address the first question I’ll reflect a bit on what I think R’s and D’s want, by glancing briefly at the positions they take on what have become the pressing issues of our time:
- America’s place in the world (Who we are; external relationships and history)
- The Citizenry (Healthcare, education, culture and religion, political power)
- Political Identity (what being an R or a D seems to say about us)
- The Future (Immigration, globalism, apocolyptic fantasies)
To be continued…thank you Sir Bob for the blog theme music: