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Reply to Kenneth Alan Adams and Audrey Crosby's "The 2016 Election, Authoritarian Childrearing and our Suicidal Trajectory" (Journal of Psychohistory, Summer 2017)

One wonders when one reads this article if the foremost interest of Adams and Crosby is to help us understand why the white working class shouldn't be blamed for not being able to keep up with the times, or why they damn well should be! Ostensibly, the foremost inspiration of the article is Lloyd deMause's (borrowing from James F. Masterson) concept of "growth panic," where those who were mothered by unloved mothers who more needed their children as anti-depressants than loved them and who abandoned their children with they showed some inclination to individuate, can no longer handle living in a society which enables too much pleasure and opportunities for self-activation. Their inner punitive maternal alters have had it with them, and with good reason they feel threatened with the prospect of annihilation. Hence they go "Trump" so they can bond with him as the foremost delegate of the Mother Nation and war against all the "spoiled" who ostensibly are willfully ignoring Mother simply to pursue their own commercial pleasures; that is, so they can war against those we know actually came out of warmer childhoods, those who were fortunate enough to possess more loving mothers, belong of a superior psychoclass--i.e., progressives. Ostensibly, that is, Adams and Crosby are encouraging us to understand that when this group says they want someone who represents the split-off Terrifying Mother "locked up!," it's because this group’s own mothers, horrifyingly, actually did lock them up in restricting confines for tortuous long periods in their childhoods--some equivalent of being tightly swaddled, so they could barely more and barely breathe--and are revenging themselves, while re-staging the experience, by making themselves, this time, the persecutor. It's horrible, but absolutely predictable, absolutely inevitable, given that this is what happens to you when you emerge out of a worse psychoclass: you become absolutely dreadful as adults, seething intolerant slurs all over the place, plotting ruination to an abundant array of--if your numbers are large enough--likely doomed targets. 

Societal growth needn't always be threatening to less evolved psychoclasses, according to Lloyd's theory, if it really mostly means change, change you have to adapt to. I mean, because according to Lloyd every group uses a particular societal form to help stabilize their psyches, projecting parts out into institutions like the army, the courts, the jails, etc.--yes, just any kind of societal transformation that parts from the one your own psyche requires for its equilibrium can make you lose your ability to function sanely in the world. But for complete discombobulation, it's growth that means more than just industries shifting from one form into another, from coal to solar, from national production to internationally sourced, from manufacturing work to mostly service industry, for example, which by itself is really more change than it necessarily is growth, that is the problem, but growth that provides more opportunities for self-actualization and pleasure than previous. Something that isn't immediately afflicting but rather greatly pleasing, first, readily enjoyed and relished, first, then afflicting--for many, catastrophically so.

There is no sense that this is why change is so threatening to the white working class in this article, however. Rather, the change we're facing is simply a new world of industry replacing an older one, in sort of the unsparing, necessary way of commerce--just how the world turns, folks! Business is requited to go where the profits are--no malice, companies did what they did, turfed millions out of jobs, for "business was no longer profitable" and they themselves wouldn't survive if they didn't adapt. And by their portraying the change we're experiencing like that we're now somehow out of mind to reappraise the white working class, their motives, their panic, their apparent stupidity and slothfulness, as absolutely understandable given the huge tumult that remaining in their own minds "spoiled bad boys and girls" would present them with, but rather to reinforce the sense of change that every member of the liberal managerial class is comfortable with: that the world ever churns, and it is one's responsibility to try to keep up with it rather than foolishly "yearn for the certainties of a bygone era." And out of this way of construing change, for their absolute inability to make the least adjustment, it is almost impossibly hard to not imagine it fair for the white working class to be summarized and served up in just the same way Hillary did... that is, as racist, sexist, homophobic a-holes, who shout "Lock her up!," "Grab 'em by the pussy!," Trump that bitch!"; that is, as those whom we might want to offer single-payer healthcare to, but whom we righteously hope, nevertheless, die off, and as fast as possible, so their irresponsible decision to so early on pitch their tent and refuse adjustments everyone else has been forced to make is no longer transformed via a political movement into a threat to waylay the rest of us. 

There is no sense in this article--which, again, is about re-introducing Lloyd's idea of societal growth panic into our appraisal of the psychological motivations moving our world--that our greatest obstacle isn't adjusting to growth which makes demands of us and that has brought down calamities like global climate change, but adjusting to growth that is allowing us to enjoy ourselves more than ever before, about it having constituted, for many of us, so close to everything we've ever dreamed we wouldn't mind if it could just coast on in its present form forever (as for example David Frum has been recently arguing for, for a political party that argued for that, principally). And one wonders if the reason that there is no sense of the fundamental reason of why our current "neoliberal" growth can be so threatening to us that it can produce a panic large enough to create apocalypse, in this article, is because the authors themselves are suffering from the condition; that they are themselves suffering from growth panic. 

There is no sense of themselves as id in this article, only as sober witness, as super-ego--for it certainly isn't plausibly them, the liberal, educated class they are part of, that has been responsible for climate growth, is it? They know, rightfully, that if only people like themselves populated the country climate growth would have been confronted hard, probably two or three decades ago. Every time the article mentions "we" in the article and it's "us" doing something horrible, or about to, there's no sense that they and their friends constitute any part; that they are the ones who have in any way "succumbed" or who are in any way suffering from this current plague of growth panic. It's only the idiots, who are everywhere around them, further grouping into deranged Republicans who want to do the like of passing off the sale of nuclear weapons that could blow up the planet as merely reasonable arms deals and who are literally killing good people off of the streets, so afflicted.  

There is no sense of themselves as those enjoying commercial culture, becoming the primary engine behind it, in fact, as corporations focus on the buying power of the liberal managerial class. Rather, only of themselves responsibly making the adjustments required as society confronts all of us with the necessity of letting things go, independent of whether we were ready to do so or not; confronting us with, as they say, the "necessity of individuation," even--a way of making individuation seem about work and duty rather than grand self-realization--rather than with the pleasure in revelling and indulging in it. It is of them disengaging from taking easy-way outs, and of them doing the hard thing, as much as they can, day after day, so to do their part in furnishing successive generations with the best possible future. And if we can do that--and it shouldn't need to be added that WE OURSELVES didn't come out of backgrounds that were exactly a picnic--then surely the white working class could have shown at least SOME cooperative spirit in our changing times, rather than immediately ducking tail and pleading for protective friggin' walls to keep their precious ways of life intact, for Christ's sake!

I left the article not only thinking I was well hedged if I mostly wanted to digest it as one which reinforced my understanding of liberals as mature and responsible than as an article which had me fully appreciate the difficulties the working class find themselves caught within--which again, is that if they allow themselves to individuate, the six horsemen of the apocalypse will be upon them with a Terrifying Vengeful Mother at the lead, and, essentially, their brains will melt--but hedged against thinking the influence of our mothers could really ultimately have much to do with their predicament. The article dips in for a moment, into some kind of essential deMause, and we see not just "authoritarian parents"--really, what else comes to mind in "authoritarian parenting" these days where everyone civilized is a feminist than the abominable father about to terrorize his children silly?--but authoritarian, torturing, abandoning mom--and her solo--inflicting on her children maybe the kind of long-abuse that if somehow linked to what afflicts the mind when society grows and enables one's individuation would of course draw absolutely everyone to take any available way out--whether "easy" or not, a distinction they thought important enough to bring up, for certain so as to make those they’re ostensibly redeeming look terrible, being irrelevant. And also to rage against, not “convenient (emphasis added) scapegoats," but logically predictable ones, for their aptly representing either one’s Guilty Self or the Terrifying Mother. It's contained in one sentence, this deMausian essence is, and has us thinking of how our early predatory experience at the hands of our love-starved mothers meant our psyches being lorded over by installed, watchful, Terrifying Mother alters, who cause "emotional poisons" of such power they threaten "death" to swamp us when we do the thrilling thing of heading for the hills, imaginging, finally, becoming our own persons.

But then afterwards in the article "authoritarian parenting," meaning almost entirely mom, disappears from the text--not only with it slipping out from directly referencing specifically her anymore, but by being elided by the sudden appearance of, certainly not further psychoanalytic criticism, but the standard wash of socio-cultural criticism that is so dominant right now it’s insertion is certain to cow back into deference anything previously scrambled onto the page that represented a different vein of thought and angled for a different vein of judgment. One that defines white patriarchal conquistadors in such a way that it near makes us want to kill every Trump-voter on the planet for their quite clearly criminal creation of a, quote, "sexist social milieu dominated by male hubris." (Mom-blame, Hillary-hate, seems not a logical consequence of suffering abuse at the hands of one's own mother, as it would have on the other page of the article, but of a sexist milieu which redirects anger aroused owing to one’s vulnerability and disgruntlement in that particular direction.). So hedged, the article is, to also present the working class, to present Trump-voters, as those who with "zeal [...] latch onto" things, who dismayingly "succumb" rather than resist, who wretchedly "retreat from anything that smacks of [concern]," who childishly feel snubbed and "aggrieved," whose first instinct is to always "blame" and who can't for a moment think to begin to "realize," who are, or whose preferred proxy is, "unforgivably stupid," who are themselves cravenly "racist, sexist, and xenophobic," than as people who suffered horribly as children and became in adults what they had no other choice but to become, it is difficult to not see them as people we're surveying over who are, more than anything, irredeemably awful, a plague of trolls amongst us (perhaps to righteously secure some kind of de-facto wall against?). 

And Lloyd would instruct us, that if we're psychohistorically informed, if we know all about his theory of societal growth panic and its cause and yet nonetheless even when referencing his theories we’re still creating an "other" around us that cannot be differentiated from human filth, then we are ourselves suffering from growth panic aroused by our own present inability to not sufficiently shut down growth, and are only managing to press on by making massive use of others as "poison containers." If we're feeling mostly guilty about our success, but with some still-existing love-born will and fight to continue indulging in it, we'll do two things to avoid having to shut it down: one, we'll narrate ourselves as responsible individuals and make our accomplishments seem earned in being very hard-won and almost more societally requisite than individually desired and pleasurable; and two, we'll focus all guilt onto, not convenient, but apt groups around us, those who are behaving so reprehensibly already it won't be recognized in our consciousnesses if more filth was loaded onto them. 

Lloyd's account of what happens when most of us no longer have any psychic escape hatches left to make us feel less guilty for our growth--as apparently our growth has become so excessive, nothing can be imagined as slithering through in altered form that our super-egos could be imagined as any longer participating in being fooled by--won't mean a leader who is only thinking "of himself and his rich pals," which is a lingering way of accessing reality which again makes liberals' power and wealth wholly of a different kind. It's going to be of Trump as the chief delegate of our Mother Nation, as someone who ultimately won't be directing us but only following our instructions. He won't be someone who primarily identifies with his father--as the article argues he does, in once again allowing us a hedge against meaningfully digesting its thrilling trespass, threaded into its middle section, in having previously foregrounded "mom" and hedence to her, as the root of the problem--but someone possessed by his torturing mother. Our future, as we pass from a Manic Phase which manages to keep growth going, albeit compromisingly, crazily, cruelly, to doomed War Phase, where Growth has lost all of its tricks and wanders around hopeless, waiting for the inevitable shot to the head, is one where only our best-raised will be exempt from eventually surrendering an environment which empowers their individuation so to cave properly back to a mom who could be imagined having any interest in wanting to receive them.

This is a point I thought the article had no choice but to argue for, given its deMausian wellspring, but which as a surprise in the end, turned off of, in favour of arguing that most of us will never fall back from channeling... Alec Baldwin, not Trump. Unfortunately, if we want to articulate our current situation as one suffering from pronounced growth panic, the only Alec Baldwin we'll end up channeling isn't the one poking fun of Trump but the one who'd rage like a fed-up, furious mother against "spoiled" sons and daughters that show so darn little respect! And that Alec Baldwin is pretty much a Trump-equivalent, not his counter, n’est pas


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