Monthly Archives: October 2017

Baseball

There is no experience more intense than a baseball field in crisis.

And none more so than Game Five in a tied World Series – which is exactly what baseball hurled at us in last Sunday’s five hour and 17 minute contest.

(The word, agony, comes from the Greek word, agon, meaning contest.)

Watching Game Five was utter agony. That’s baseball! A football play lasts around five seconds. Mano-a-mano between pitcher and hitter may go on five minutes. Unendurable tension. Folks often leave when watching alone on television. Overwhelmed by anxiety. Need 50,000 fanatics screaming and waving towels. Need group support!

I had thought the only perfect invention of man was the 90 feet from home plate to first base. After seeing replays at second, third and home plate, safe or out often a matter of two inches, the entire 360 feet of the base paths are as close to perfection as the flawed human race will ever manage.

Major league ball players are a wonder, a combination of Herculean
powers and The Red Shoes. Yet, despite these immense gifts, no mere mortal has to listen more carefully to the voice of reason, which counsels persistence. Baseball is a game of failure! Of the seven billion folks on the planet, not more than ten can hit the major league curve ball. A hitter has 1.2 seconds to make a judgment on a pitch coming at him 100 miles an hour. All players fail at least two out of three times at bat.

Tonight is do-or-die for the Dodgers. The first inning is the key. If Hill can get by Springer, Bregman and Altuve, we East Coast/West Coast Dodgers fans will live happily ever after.

Remember – last week the temperature was 103 degrees, favoring hitters. Tonight it’s in the 60s, favoring pitchers. That’s us.

Remember – The Baseball Gods are very jealous of their reputation. Like most gods, a sensitive bunch. Verlander has not experienced failure. The gods have been keeping score. Their product celebrates failure!

“IT’S TIME FOR DODGERS BASEBALL!”

The Breakdown of Civilization

Eric Saund sent me philosopher Daniel Dennett’s book, “From Bacteria to Bach and Back.”

It has left me sick at heart, suffering from too much insight.

Dennett writes, “Our civilization has been running smoothly – with some serious disruptions – for thousands of years, growing in complexity and power. Could it break down? Yes, it could.” He points out that it is the work of vastly many individuals acting in concert. “Human cooperation is a delicate and remarkable phenomenon…quite unprecedented in the natural world. It depends on trust, a sort of almost invisible social glue.” However, he warns, “Trust is not a ‘natural instinct’ hard-wired by evolution into our brains.”

No behavior is more destructive of trust than violent projective identification. It is an artillery barrage, projecting hate. It never runs out of ammunition. In earlier blogs, I have referred to The Death Instinct, Freud’s discovery that some individuals are possessed by violent demons. He found it impossible to modify their destructiveness. Every day comes fresh evidence of Trump’s demonic behavior.

Violent projective identification is not an obscure psychiatric metaphor. It is as real as the Las Vegas gunman shooting into a crowd of 22,000 concert goers from his eyrie 30 stories high. And as real as Trump firing off endless tweets from his impregnable position in Trump Towers, such as shooting moral condemnations into the 3.4 million Puerto Ricans, ravaged by a Category Five hurricane. Or demeaning Gold Star mothers.

No leader engages with the world as relentlessly violent as Donald Trump, with the possible exception of Kim Jong-un of North Korea. Trump has over 4,000 nuclear weapons, Kim Jong-un perhaps seven.

We don’t need psychiatrists or mental health experts or learned historians to tell us what’s happening. After all, he is our president. Each of us is affected by Trump’s ACTIONS. They are unleashed by inexhaustible hatefulness and are violently directed into our innards. We are the experts in assessing Trump. We experience him every day. His piecemeal destruction of The Affordable Care Act threatens a huge impact on our lives. His appalling response to the devastated Puerto Ricans was communicated in every newspaper and TV news program. What are we to make of his lies? And like the black and terrifying skies that portend tornadoes, Trump’s cavalier attitude towards nuclear weapons leaves us naked in a world that is within his powers to destroy. In fact, he has asked, “Why have such weapons if they are not to be used?”

Dennett makes a profound observation, “We have bootstrapped ourselves into the heady altitudes of modern civilization, and our natural emotions and other instinctual responses do not always serve our new circumstances.” Let me cite three.

Why do billionaires such as the Koch brothers trash the planet in order to get richer?

Why do religious institutions fight contraception in a world that has gone from one billion inhabitants in 1830 to well over seven billion today?

We are all much more human than otherwise, yet a murderous relationship has grown between the Islamic world and that of the Christian, even though each goes back to Father Abraham.

Dennett is deeply disturbing. Prophets do that.

Appalling Irresponsibility!

Simon Levy hit the nail on the head when he observed that Trump’s “demons are infecting the psyche of our country.”

By contrast, Rex Tillerson, the Secretary of State, and Senator Bob Corker talk irresponsibly. Egregiously so. Tillerson calls Trump a moron. Corker describes the White House as an adult day care center. Cute. “He and Trump are playing word games?” you ask. Well, in the same interview, Corker suggests Trump’s behavior is leading to World War III. Corker is the current chairman of the Senate’s Committee on Foreign Relations, perhaps the most powerful position in the Senate, after that of Majority Leader. He uses his immense authority to engage in name calling. That is an an appalling irresponsibility.

How does “World War III” come trippingly off Corker’s tongue! Does Corker have any idea what he is saying? Does he recognize that the destruction of civilization is within Trump’s power. Does he think that’s a coloring book Trump is reading, the one with the mushroom clouds?

It is common knowledge that our President is unfit. That Trump is beset by demons is not news to the majority of Americans. He demonstrates this terrifying fact every day. His approval rating is 32% in one poll.

Why doesn’t Corker and his fellow Republicans invoke the 25th Amendment, passed in 1967? This Amendment reads in part,

Whenever the Vice President and a majority of either the principal
officers of the executive departments or of such other body as
Congress may by law provide, transmit to the President pro tempore of
the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives their
written declaration that the President is unable to discharge the
powers and duties of his office, the Vice President shall immediately
assume the powers and duties of the office as Acting President.

There is nothing in our Constitution that stands in the way of President Trump, by himself, authorizing a nuclear attack. There is a way, however, to remove a president who lacks judgment, while having unfathomable destructive powers.

The Diagnostic Statistical Manual, the psychiatric compendium of all mental disorders, has been thrown at Trump. Diagnoses rain down on him.

Demons are not mentioned in the Manual.

What is terrifying about Tillerson’s referring to Trump as a moron, or Corker’s cute metaphor about day care centers, is that they are not merely rhetorical. They are accurate descriptions of Trump’s unfitness for office.

Trump is beset by demons.

The Death Instinct

For our survival, we have to recognize, understand and contain –

Violent Projective Identification.

Putting it another way –

We have to prevent Trump from wrecking the planet.

Elections have consequences, none more so than last November’s. It made Trump the most powerful man in the world!

Freud was taken aback by the destructive forces lurking in man’s inner self. He referred to them metaphorically as demons and linked them with Thanatos, a Greek mythic figure who personified death. For Trump, his demons surface frequently in the guise of tweets. In my judgment, they are a key to understanding how he works the presidency.

Put yourself in the shoes of San Juan’s mayor, Carmen Yulin Cruz. A Category Five hurricane had all but destroyed the island of Puerto Rico, which, of course, included San Juan. Nine days after the catastrophic storm, effective Federal response had still not materialized. The mayor went on TV and told Trump and the world, “We are dying.”

Trump responded with a barrage of tweets, deriding the mayor’s alleged weak leadership. In one tweet, he slammed her as a “politically motivated ingrate.” In fact, she had been working night and day, helping victims and trying to get government help for them. She was obviously exhausted, barely hanging on. Trump had spent the two week-ends subsequent to the appalling disaster at his golf resorts.

Patient reader, what is your response to Trump’s response?

Mine is murder! I want to kill the sonofabitch.

THAT is violent projective identification!

The small-town, harmless, dedicated mayor Cruz had stirred up violent feelings in Trump. The slightest criticism always does. Immediately his inner Vulcan, like that ancient god of forge and fire, hammered his murderous rage at the mayor into some twenty tweets, objects he could project as efficiently as the packages of paper towels he tossed to the Puerto Ricans.

Tweets are a major vehicle for projecting Trump’s violent feelings, thereby ridding himself of them. As he is my president, I am keenly responsive to his actions. Trump’s violence towards mayor Cruz got projected into my belly. It became an identifiable part of me.
I experienced murderous feelings because of his murderous behavior.

That’s what is meant by Violent Projective Identification.

Trump’s use of tweets inexhaustibly projecting raging states of mind makes it a certainty his internal world is populated by demons, dreadful carriers of hate. They are the source of his lethality. They are a gang of killers. By virtue of his office, he has planetary powers for projecting these immensely powerful explosive devices, however he pleases.

The National Football League – “You’re fired!”

The White Nationalists – “Blame on both sides”

Some 200 nations sign Paris Climate Accords – Trump withdraws

Iran Treaty on nuclear development – Trump threatens to withdraw

“Rocket Boy” – a callow, volatile leader! – with a hydrogen bomb and an ICBM!

A “moron” can’t become President of the United States.

A “moron” can work violent projective identification with the mastery of a Rock Star. And, in brutal fact, Trump gathered some 62 million votes on November 8th, 2016.

President Trump has no legislative interest, no knowledge how the U.S. Congress works, no curiosity, no sense of objectivity.

What he has are his demons. He projected them violently into Puerto Rico, a tiny island 135 miles long. He projects them violently across the globe, 196 million square miles.

He’s the most powerful man in the world, and he is demonic.

Filthy Rich!

The Republicans have trotted out their tax proposals, insisting piously they are aimed at improving the lot of the middle class. In fact, Trump claims it’s the biggest break for the majority of plain citizens since the founding of The Republic. It isn’t. According to impartial, financial experts, trained economists all, that is a lie. As always, the proposed revision of the tax structure benefits the wealthy. The Rich get richer, not so much the 1%, but the 0.1%! And that raises a profound problem –

Why do the Filthy Rich work as hard as busboys to get filthier?

Here are thoughts from Montaigne –

Epicurus said that being rich does not alleviate our worries: it
changes them. And truly it is not want that produces avarice but
plenty…

There is more trouble in keeping money than in acquiring it. When I
had more to spend, the spending weighed no less heavily upon me.
When it comes to plucking out hairs, it hurts the balding no less
than the hairy: once you have grown used to having a pile of a
certain size, you can no longer use it. You don’t even want to slice
a bit off the top…

Limits are hard to discover for things which seem good, such as
saving. You go on making your pile bigger. You deprive yourself of
the enjoyment of your own goods; your enjoyment consists in hoarding
and never actually using.

Here is Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice –

Prince Morocco asks Portia,

“Deliver me the key.
Here do I choose, and thrive I as I may!”

The Prince opens the golden casket.

“O hell, what have we here?
A carrion death, within whose empty eye
There is a written scroll. I’ll read the writing.

‘All that glitters is not gold —
Often have you heard that told.
Many a man his life hath sold
But my outside to behold.'”

Montaigne published his essay in 1580, less than twenty years before Shakespeare wrote the play. Both make the same observation –

When you’re Rich you are at risk to lose your inner world, that is, you are in danger of losing your soul.

Montaigne uses a brilliant metaphor to expose the internal vacuity: one becomes preoccupied with one’s hair-do. It has to be just so. “For heaven’s sake, don’t take any off the top!” Forget the poor, the disabled. Forget victims of hurricanes. “I have an appointment with my hair-dresser.”

Shakespeare observes that money blinds. It’s The Strip at Las Vegas at three o’çlock in the morning. Inwardness, a level of consciousness that illuminates the dark corners of the human interior, is impossible with the dazzle and the glitter. In the light of day, however, riches are so-much carrion.

The Rich are vulnerable precisely because the outside and the external are a constant seduction. They think what is merely glitter suggests something meaningful and worthy. These days I have thought of John McCain. He owns seven houses. At least six of them stand empty. Always have. Do the arithmetic. How much time and energy did the rich senator expend on buying seven houses? How large a portion of his soul’s allotment did he sell off doing such foolishness?

1500 years before Montaigne and Shakespeare, Jesus told the parable of Dives, a member of the Filthy Rich, who could afford only a few crumbs from his table for the beggar at his gate. Whoever wrote the Republican Tax Plan sure knows the first part of the story – but, like President Reagan’s atheist son, “is not afraid of burning in hell,” its ending.