Blog # 117a – Boss Trump and the Uses of Humiliation


Blog # 117a – Boss Trump and the Uses of Humiliation

The manipulation of emotions and their consequences plays a major role in the politics of power i n America today. The emotion of humiliation is a weapon in the hands of Boss Trump, strengthening is power by undermining the resistance to it. Their victims in the broader society litter the landscape of political action. The search for dignity, which may be seen as the opposite of humiliation, is partly in response to humiliation by its direct and indirect victims.  The causes and consequences of humiliation need to be understood by those opposing its human cost.

Calling Michael Cohen “incompetent” as a lawyer is an obvious example, meant to denigrate him and undercut anything he might say. It’s become  standard practice for Boss Trump to let loose twitters aimed at humiliating critics of any of his policies or positions by name. It leaves his victims with a choice between an ongoing contest with someone with a wide audience and a sharp tongue, or endure the humiliation in a silence that is in itself humiliating in its necessity, the choice that Attorney General Sessions seems to be making.  And humiliating his critics directly has a wider benefit for Trump: those witnessing his humiliation of his critics themselves become intimidated by what they see, and restrain any inclination to join in. That they feel thus constrained is itself internally humiliating, and a further defensive reaction can be to accept Trump’s side of the story and persuading oneself of its correctness, a many seem to be doing vociferously at Trump rallies and in interviews. They thus justify a potentially humiliating exchange with an apparent show of support, joining Trump’s reputed hard core loyal base.

But humiliation plays a broader societal role, a role of which Trump is a beneficiary but not a principal cause. It often produces the clichéd “white working class,” response of those who may be active in the work force but still feel insecure, underpaid, working below their capacity or deserts. It can be expressed as a claim to a lost dignity, a feeling of helplessness in conceding to bosses’ power, a feeling that has often fueled labor unrest, but that can also lead to a form of inhibition in its expression by an attribution of the result by defenders of the status quo to lack of ability,  lack of education, laziness, the victim’s own conduct, own fault. That can be a humiliating perception, and because so widely accepted and so insistently reinforced by those in power like but not limited to Donald Trump and his direct entourage, it is also likely to lead to humilitation inhibiting fighting back.

uch self-blaming, such created humiliation and the inhibition to which it may lead is often reinforced by well-meaning critics of the reality it reflects. When Hilary Clinton spoke of “the deplorables,” when the Harvard grads or the lucky investors or those in securely positioned armchairs who view the passing parade and “don’t understand how anyone can swallow Donald Trump’s lies or condone his behavior,” they can easily be perceived as looking down on their fellows, as being members of an elite not recognizing the lived experience of the less fortunate. If many of the “white working class” are emotionally humiliated in the social structure of society as they experience it, so are many of “the elite” inhibited from questioning those social structures that have produced their own advantages for fear of having to face some humiliating causes.  The elite may find it hard to accord to others less well stationed than themselves the dignity that those others feel they also have a right to demand.

Humiliation can also lead to a variety of emotional responses. Opioid addiction, gang membership, street violence, domestic abuse, can  all be read as distorted reflections of a search for a dignity which prevailing relationships do not provide for their  victims.  An unconscious and inhibited identification with the boss can play a role, a desire to be oneself a boss, to have all that freedom which the real bosses have and which they are often faulted for exercising. Such responses often create difficulties of understanding in well-meaning efforts to address their causes

Conclusion: If humiliation is a widespread and debilitating emotion, its existence is not an inherent aspect of human nature. If there is humiliation, there are humilitationees and humilitationors.

When Trump humiliates anyone, what he is doing can be explicitly labeled and condemn as such, without long arguments about who’s right and who’s right in the dispute. Boss Trump can be challenged for simply acting like a bad boss, and who likes a bad boss, even if they’re right every now and then. And if those who are being deprived of their dignity by a bad boss or his lackeys, what is going on can be pointed out without reinforcing it by another form of humiliation in how it is pointed out as a necessary lesson the more well-off need to teach their less understanding others. .

  My thanks to Don Bushnell and Thomas Scheff for the provocation that lead to these thoughts                                                                .          They should not be blamed for the result.

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Blog #121 – Immigration and Foreign Policy


Immigration Policy

Letters from the August 13-20, 2018, Issue

Written July 19, 2018 [minor elisions, insertions]

Re The Nation’s July 16/23 special issue, “Needed: A New Foreign Policy”: Truer words were never written. But there’s a puzzling aspect here as well. The one issue that has mobilized Americans politically today—immigration reform—appears only as a minor point [in of foreign policy]. The growing inequality among nations, which is the ultimate cause of the immigration problem, is presented as an aspect of economic growth, or as a blot on our humanitarian values, and it’s both. [Local and national level reforms are urgent, But the causes [of immigration] are international. Shouldn’t it be front and center [a foreign policy issue also?] Only international measures can ultimately deal with it. Yet Trump is strikingly oblivious to its causes.
Peter Marcuse
santa barbara, calif.

The above appeared as a letter to the editor of The Nation. But, apart from the omission of consideration o the relationship between home immigration /emigration issues and foreign policies, there are   a number of other concerns that should be highlighted in any serious reconsideration of foreign policy for the United States. I list only a few briefly here, and hope they will be developed further shortly in the Nation’s 4-part series, which  is still incomplete as I write this,  and elsewhere.

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What are the practical and political implications of this analysis?

Only to mention a few:[1]

An International Fair Labor Standards Agreement, whose agenda could include wage, working conditions, protection of rights toorganizx, transparency. Possibly integrated into tariff considerations? Environmental standards for goods in international commerce?

An international enforcement agency, with provision for fines for violation as financing?International labor code or standards, and reqilrement for posting on products and disclosure

Tariff policy on goods where code compliance not transparently posted?

International support for right to organize as human right

Spelling out local legal status of rights provisions of international law?

International standards for fair elections, with international  non-recognition of results of non-complying designation of holders of key political offices ?

Major economic development assistance (Marshall Plan (for hight emigration countries)?

An International Fair Labor Agenda?

With an  enforcement agency, and recipient of fines for violation as financing?

International labor code or standards, and reqilrement for posting on products and disclosure?

Tariff policy on goods where code compliance not transparently posted?

International support for right to organize as human right?

Clear, comprehensive, and legally enforceable provisions for prevention of discrimination against members of any group defined by ethnicity, color, gender, or culture.

Minimum standards for public education, with coordinated international assistance?S

Economic development assistance for high emigration countries?

All seen as legitimate agenda items for foreign policy debates and international agreements.

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Clearly pie n the sky, in terms of actual formal implementation. But perhaps useful as a statement of goals and basis for a vision of what an international democratic and humane world order might look like?

To put up against the vision of an international world order led by an “again great America,” whose leadership is voluntarily accepted by the rest of the world, despite its own internal failure to adopt such proclaimed standards or act as an active and open-minded model for others on the world stage?

Not “Americans to make America Great for Americans Again,”  but

But “All Together to Help Make the World Freer, More Equal, and More Democratic for All. Now.”

[1] A number of more detailed and thought-throug of veersions of such a list, intheform of social movement and political and religious and humanistic groups, and deserve coordinated and serious study.

Blog #118 – Explaining “President” Donald Trump’s Behaviour.


Blog #118 – Explaining “President” Donald Trump’s Behaviour.

Recent efforts to explain Donald Trump’s behavior in clinical psychiatric terms are provocative,[1] but may be unnecessary. Democratic U.S. Rep. Ted Lieu is proposing a bill that would require the White House to have a psychiatrist on staff.[2] A petition at Change.org, accusing Trump of mental illness and asking for his removal from office, has been signed by nearly 25,000 health professionals. The New Republic published a story this week speculating that Trump may have an untreated sexually transmitted disease that has led to a condition called “neurosyphilis,” characterized by “irritability, loss of ability to concentrate, delusional thinking, and grandiosity.”

And on Tuesday, the New York Times published a letter signed by 35 psychiatrists, psychologists, and social workers accusing the president of “grave emotional instability” that makes him “incapable of serving safely as president.” Though it is considered a breach of ethics to evaluate or diagnose public figures, they wrote, “We fear that too much is at stake to be silent any longer.” Allen Frances, a former chairman of the Department of Psychiatry at the Duke University School of Medicine. disagreed, calling it “an insult people who have mental illness.”

“President” Trump has simply not been able to overcome his insecurity about “winning” an election in which he received 2,868,686 fewer votes than Hilary Clinton did,[3] in a low-turnout election in which he ended up with less than half of all eligible voters voting for him.[4] And this despite all of his name calling, lying, and not so ethical efforts to undermine Hillary’s campaign, even with the apparent help of his Russian counterpart. Having to face the legitimacy of his election and being labeled “President” Trump may be much more unnerving for him than being called “crooked” Clinton ever was for her. Everyday child psychology may be a simple enough explanation for the conduct a person with such an outsize self-image; a more medically-based approaches may not be needed. Think of the expected behavior of the bully in the sand box when his braggadocio no longer intimidates those subject to it. Perhaps Trump should be treated in the pediatric ward rather than the psychiatric? If not in both?

 

Peter Marcuse

August 2, 2018

[1] California Journal, Robin Acarian, “Talking Trump and mental health,” http://enewspaper.latimes.com/infinity/article_popover_share.aspx?guid=93f3dcf0-698d-42a3-9cdc-bb5070205776

[2] https://www.democracynow.org/2017/2/15/rep_ted_lieu_to_introduce_bill

[3] By Gregory Krieg. CNN December 22, 2016. It’s official: Clinton swamps Trump in popular vote – CNNPolitics https://www.cnn.com/2016/12/21/politics/…trump-hillary-clinton…vote-final final-count/index.html

[4] Why is voter turnout so low in the U.S.? Politics Nov 6, 2016 https://www.pbs.org/newshour/politics/voter-turnout-united-states