Monday, January 22, 2007

America Psycho

A recent article on, “Bush and the Psychology of Incompetent Decisions,” by the father-son team of John Briggs Sr. & Jr., provides an uncomfortable insight into the peril America finds itself in. The Briggs team analyzes the now-voluminous information that finds in President George W. Bush a psychologically troubled man, obsessed with the need to at once escape his father’s influence, get his approval, and defeat him all at the same time. Hounded by years of clear failure, and now the stresses of a presidency gone wrong, Bush is portrayed as being at or near a critical juncture where the prospect of failure in Iraq so plays into longtime fears of inadequacy that the wall of defenses designed to disguise that fear seriously jeopardize any ability he may have left to make sound decisions. Thus, though “the Decider” pretends to be certain of the right course to victory in Iraq, in reality this is all bluster, yet another aspect of what Briggs & Briggs call Bush’s “Christian Defense”–i.e., the “perfect defense against any doubts he or anyone else might have” because of the divine hand presumably guiding him. So though on the surface the President’s certainty might seem reassuring, analysis reveals “more and more that, psychologically, he’s defending himself against the very feelings of uncertainty that are the necessary concomitant to making tough decisions. His tough decision-making is a sham.”
This leaves the United States and its people in a perilous position. Having supported Bush in his defenses for so long—most people, after all, have some feelings of inadequacy and so admire someone like Bush who has apparently pulled off a monumental leadership scam by sheer nerve—we are reluctant to confront the disaster we now see in the making. As Briggs & son put it: “We don’t dare to really confront the scale of his incompetent behavior, because then we would have to face what it means to have such an incompetent and psychologically disabled decision-maker as our president. It raises everyone’s uncertainty.”
In fact, to this writer, “facing what it means” is the real point here, i.e., that America itself is in psychological trouble. Consider that three of our last five presidents were either impeached or seriously subject to investigations that could have meant impeachment: Nixon, Clinton, and Reagan (for Iran-Contra). Two others have been Bushes, with all the muck and mire that implies. But it’s not just a question of leadership. America’s standing in the world, despite the fact that it has reigned as the lone superpower since 1989 when the Soviet Union collapsed, has been steadily eroding. From our peak of economic power after WWII, we have become the world’s largest debtor nation and that debt is growing. We import far more than we export, producing not so much those famous American-made goods any longer but primarily services and entertainment. Indeed, we find ourselves almost in the position of a third-world country: we import billions of dollars worth of manufactured products from places like China and India and Japan, and export mainly agricultural products like wheat, corn and soybeans. Morally, we no longer lead but resist those forces of reason and sanity which demand a policy on global warming, on the International Court of Justice, and on a fair policy regarding nuclear weapons. In fact, we are the world’s chief supplier of weapons of all kinds, a reality that renders our complaints about Iraq’s WMD (false), and Iran’s possible moves to acquire nuclear weapons (unproven) both hypocritical and impotent. A list of the democratic leaders we have overthrown or assassinated in recent years, added to the list of dictators we have supported and continue to support, is enough to make one wretch with shame.
And yet, all we hear from our leaders, both in the White House and the Congress, is breast-beating about our role as the hope of all the world, the envy of all other nations, the greatest force for good ever to appear on the planet.
In this sense, we are, psychologically, the equivalent of our dysfunctional president. We are riddled with defenses, smug about our chosen role as God’s elect, impervious to criticism from abroad, and constantly ready, like our President, to bully and brutalize any nation that refuses to conform to our demands. Meantime, our role as the world’s chief consumer/polluter and the overwhelming leader in the production of greenhouse gases –with 1/20 of the world’s population, we contribute nearly 1/4 (22%) of the carbon dioxide—and our refusal to do anything about it, suggests that to maintain our illusory self-image (read “lifestyle”), we are willing to undermine life itself.
In short, a psycho president leading a psycho nation. One can only wonder if anything short of a major collapse—either the president’s, or ours—will wake us up.

Lawrence DiStasi

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