Suppose we divide emotions into two classes, those that are evoked by our experiences as individuals, and those that are evoked as members of a group. Psychoanalysis focuses on our relationships as individuals. The Couch is the work-bench of two people alone in a room, an intimate setting, investigating, first and foremost, the emotional vicissitudes of our sexuality. Politics and religion, by contrast, are group structures, and the emotions unleashed by them have shaped human history.
How powerful are the emotions that come from group membership? Well, I never have watched an entire soccer match, but I did, happily, witness Iceland defeat England in the just concluded European games.The emotional flood-tide that engulfed Icelanders is beyond words. The Icelandic sports announcer could not stop screaming. Massive crowds in Iceland went delirious. In fact, 8% of the entire population of that volcanic rock had traveled to France to see the contest.
It just so happened that a visiting Scotsman from Glasgow had spelled out the David and Goliath particulars of the contest, Iceland with a population of 350,000 against England with a population somewhere around 50 million. So there I was, in front of my telly, watching soccer. Soccer? Okay, okay, I agree it is the most popular sport on the planet! And David triumphed.
That same visitor, in spare moments, also happened to be reading a history of the War of the Roses. He described for me an endless succession of battles waged with clubs and axes and a whole array of appalling weapons. The armies hacked each other to pieces. The dismemberment went on with the enthusiasm of the Icelandic announcer.
The Republican Party begins its convention in a few days. Donald Trump, whom it universally railed against as a con man, a cancer, and a malignant ignoramus, it now supports and will choose him as its candidate for the Presidency.
Immanuel Kant observed that the most difficult function of mind is to make sound judgment. In fact, he claimed it could not be taught. Either one has good judgment or one doesn’t; it is a faculty one is born with. Maybe so. Another way to look at the problem is the context. If it’s political, such as the GOP convention next week, then how does one think straight in the emotional firestorm of group life?
Claudius assured Hamlet, “You cannot reason with the Dane and lose your voice.” What one can’t reason with is the Republican Party and the political statement it is making in its support of Trump. Eleven million deported immigrants lose their voice forever. Not voting on a Supreme Court nominee is beyond reason.
What is to be done?
With the Republican Party surrenderd to Trump, the general election is not a contest in which the loser lives to fight another day. With Trump and his party, it is now all-out war which threatens our democracy. That truth, if recognized, will rouse the citizenry. Our beloved country is our most powerful group. We’ll scream on its behalf from now until November.