Lidija Rangelovska



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Q. Mr. Trump has recently threatened two other wealthy men with reprisals for behvior that he relates as being against him: Tom Ricketts (also, Ricketts' family) allegedly for "secretly" spending money against him and possibly his political ambitions, also Jeff Bezos, whose Washington Post has editorialized against his presidential candidacy. He has also threatened to sue Ted Cruz for his ad about Trump's varying positions on abortion. Is such behavior likely to be a trait of NPD? Also, one doesn't usually associate narcissism with violence, but Trump has apparently come out for ordering our military or intelligence personnel to murder the families of terrorist combatants, also to torture terrorists (or suspected terrorists or collaborators) in ways "much worse than waterboarding." These are war crimes. Does this suggest problems in his make-up beyond NPD? 

A. All narcissists lack emotional empathy and are, to some extent, anti-social. Many narcissists are somewhat psychopathic and, therefore, sadistically prone to violence. They get a high and derive an almost sexual gratification from wielding power and inflicting pain and humiliation on others. It sustains their grandiose fantasy of omnipotence (that they are Godlike, all-powerful). That's why many narcissists are litigious, threaten "their enemies" incessantly, seek to embarrass and humiliate them in public, stalk them, and harass them recurrently. Narcissists have a black and white view of the world: if you are not 100% with me, you are 110% the enemy (this is known as "splitting" in the psychological jargon). Trump strikes me as this type of narcissist. 

Q. Is it your considered opinion that Donald Trump would represent a significant danger were he to become president of the United States of America and if so, how?

 

A. You just have to look at Trump's business history to extrapolate America's future under a President Trump. Narcissists are unstable and go through repeated cycles of self-destruction (with other people usually paying the heft of the price). Narcissists tend to be divisive, vindictive, confrontational, aggressive, hate-filled, raging, incoherent, judgement-impaired, and irrational. Narcissists are junkies: they are addicted to attention ("Narcissistic Supply") and will go to any extreme to secure it. Narcissists are liars, confabulators, and miserable failures (although some of them, like Trump, are geniuses at disguising the fact that they are, in fact, losers). Is this the kind of person you want in the White House? 



The Trump Revolution

Trump’s supporters and fans are frustrated. In 1939, a team of psychologists, led by John Dollard, hypothesized that frustration always leads to aggression. Legitimate grievances against a dysfunctional, corrupt, and compromised polity, a deceptive ethos, an American Dream turned nightmare, a broken system that no longer works for the overwhelming majority and appears to be unfixable lead Trump’s base to feel that they had been betrayed, abandoned, duped, exploited, abused, ignored, disenfranchised, and trampled upon. They are in the throes of dislocation, disorientation, and trauma. Their declining fortunes and obsolete skills render them insignificant and irrelevant, and their lives meaningless. It is hopelessness coupled with impotent helplessness.  

Trump’s adulators seek to bypass the system and even to dismantle it altogether – not to reform it. This is the stuff revolutions are made of and the pronouncements of Trump’s cohorts are inadvertently copy-pasted from the texts of the French Revolution, The October Revolution (which led to Bolshevism), and even the Nazi Revolution.  

Such conditions often give rise to cults, centered around a narcissistic or psychopathic leader-figurehead. In Trump’s case, the abyss between his life’s circumstances and his followers’s is unbridgeable and yet, they hope that by associating with him, however remotely, some of his glamour and magical, fairytale success will rub off on them. Voting for Trump is like winning the lottery, becoming a part of a juggernaut and of history. It is an intoxicating sensation of empowerment that Trump encourages by telling his voters that they are no longer “average”, they are now, by virtue of following him, “great” and “special”, even if only by proxy. 

Trump idealizes his voters and they return the favor. In their eyes, he is the Cleanser of the Beltway’s Augean Stables. He, singlehandedly, “in 10 minutes”, will destroy the ancient regime, the old order (of which he had been a part since age 21), settle scores, “Dirty Harry” style, and, thus, make their day. It is a nihilistic mindset. Some of his followers gleefully contemplate the suspension of the Constitution and its elaborate check and balances. Others compare him to the first Roman Emperors. They wish to unburden themselves by transferring their decision-making and responsibilities onto The Chosen One.  

To his acolytes – and contrary to much evidence – Trump is a “doer”, with a long list of (mostly illusory) accomplishments. He is best equipped to get things done and to prioritize. In Washington, where appearances matter far more than substance, no one is better credentialed that The Donald, they smirk. These champions of small government and Conservatism look to Trump-when-President (in other words: to the State!) to generate jobs, to insulate them from the outside world, to protect them from illegal aliens and terrorists (surely one and the same), and, in general, to nanny and cosset them all the way to the bank. The world is a hostile, psychopathic place and who best to deal with it than an even more hostile, narcissistic leader like Trump? We need a bad, big wolf to navigate through the jungle out there. This is a form of collective regression to toddlerhood with Trump in the role of the omnipotent, omniscient Father. 

In abnormal psychology this is called “shared psychosis”. The members of the cult deploy a host of primitive (infantile) psychological defense mechanisms as they gradually dwindle into mere extensions and reflections of their skipper. Theirs is a malignant optimism, grounded not in reality, but in idealization: the tendency to interact not with Trump himself, but with an imaginary “Trump” that each fan tailors to suit his or her fears, hopes, wishes, and fervent fantasies.  

Then there is denial: a pathological response, the repression of inconvenient truths about Trump and their relegation to the unconscious were they fester into something called “dissonance”. Dissonance breeds rage and violence and these oft accompany nihilistic and destructive political cults. Denial goes well with splitting: the demonization and denigration of opponents and adversaries, critics, and bystanders. “If you are not 100% with us, you are 1000% against us and if you are against us, you are the enemy to be sucker-punched and carried out on a stretcher.” 

But by far the strongest psychological defense mechanism is fantasy. When reality becomes unbearable, fantasy, however improbable and implausible, is a welcome refuge. This is Trump’s forte: the promulgation and dissemination of fantasies customized to resonate irresistibly with the weaknesses, fears, disenchantments, and disillusionment of his hapless hoplites. 

One such fantasy Trump actively encourages is that he is just acting to the crowds now. His below-the-belt obnoxiousness is just for show. In a feat of rationalization worthy of Houdini, Trump’s legions attribute his crass boorishness to “market research” and reasoned electoral calculus. Once elected, he will miraculously be transformed into a “presidential” and dignified politician who plays by the rules and is by no means buffoonish, vulgar, and offensive, they insist with a knowing wink, as though they have ever truly been in-the-know, pals with the Great Man Himself. Such intimations of arcane knowledge cater to their growing sense of self-importance. Indeed, Trump’s may well be the first post-modern narcissistic mass movement. 

Such admirable thespian skills attributed to Trump (and proudly owned by him) require the inbred personality of a consummate and thoroughly psychopathic con-artist. Narcissists effect these transitions effortlessly precisely because they only have a False Self (a confabulated grandiose image that they project) whose sole aim is to garner narcissistic supply: attention and, if possible, unmitigated adulation and admiration. Faking it is second nature to the narcissist: exaggerating, lying, pretending, shapeshifting, Zelig-like. Whatever it takes. 

Another fantasy is that the narcissist will never turn against his own people. Trump will mercilessly crush the coterie of corrupt power brokers in Washington – but will never ever direct the full might of his gratuitous sadism against his followers, fans, ardent supporters, and fawning admirers. History, of course, teaches otherwise. Sooner or later, the narcissist cannibalizes his own power base and treats as enemies his most rabid lackeys and toadies

Peopled shrug and say: “but ain’t all politicians narcissists?” The answer is a resounding: no. Granted, it would be safe to assume that most politicians have narcissistic traits. But, as the great psychologist Theodore Millon observed, there is a world of difference between being possessed of a narcissistic style and being a full-fledged, malignant narcissist. The famous author Scott Peck suggested that “narcissism” may just be a modern fancy byword for “evil”. He may have had a point. But, evil should be contained, not elevated to the position of Leader of the Free World. 

Will Trump Quit the Race?  

Even his most ardent foes agree that Trump is not stupid and that he is a relentless fighter. Based on what flimsy evidence? His own repeated and vociferous reassurances, of course. Yet, when we apply the cold instruments of psychology to both boasts, they appear to be decidedly shaky.  

I will dispense with his claim that he is intelligent by referring the reader to the incredible transcripts of his recent interviews with the New York Times and the Washington Post. As he emerges from these painful exchanges, he makes Sarah Palin look like a towering intellect by comparison. Scoring well in all manner of IQ tests requires an endowed vocabulary, an awareness and knowledge of current affairs (which indicates curiosity, a pillar and hallmark of intelligence), and analytic skills. Trump demonstrates not a hint of these three. 

His second attempt at self-portrayal as a dauntless warrior merits much deeper study. 

Start with the facts: Trump is a quintessential quitter. He had quitted marriages, business deals, enterprises, and campaigns. When things get rough, he reflexively abandons ship. He is labile, desultorily hopping from one harebrained scheme to another, one romantic union to its successor, one burst of self-promotion to a spectacular, implosive feat of self-destruction. Indeed, this is his brand: a feckless, reckless, daring, unpredictable, vicissitudinal Trump with a capital T. 

Trump is taking a lot of flak, heat, criticism, and mockery from his reference group: the people whose opinions he values, whose club he wants to join, to whom he wishes fervently to belong, and by whom he dreams to be finally and unconditionally accepted and respected. I am not talking about his mindless supporters and fans whose dreary lives he probably abhors and whose unthinking loyalty inspires in him only profound contempt. No, he aspires to be counted among the very people that he constantly denigrates, belittles, and humiliates: eggheads, pundits, accredited public intellectuals, analysts, the elites, his father. Indeed, their rejection of him is the trigger for his unbridled wrath. Hell hath no fury like a narcissist scorned. 

Trump feels entitled to be admired, adulated, specially and exceptionally treated, and revered (he compulsively seeks “narcissistic supply”). Instead, he is mocked and insulted (he garners “negative supply”). These massive and recurrent narcissistic injuries may well be enough to put him off and, thus, derail his quest for the nomination. Faced with deficient narcissistic supply in their chosen Pathological Narcissistic Space (their stomping grounds, their “kingdom”), narcissists disengage and move on as swiftly and as decisively as circumstances permit. Trump is no exception. But he is so invested in his grandiosely fantastic self-image, that he is likely to go through decompensation and acting out.  

What are these? 

In extremis, when all the narcissist’s default behaviors, charm, stratagems, and solutions fail, or when only negative, fake, low-grade, and static narcissistic supply is to be had, the narcissist "falls apart" in a process of disintegration known as decompensation (the inability to maintain psychological defenses in the face of mounting stress.) This is accompanied by “acting out”: when an inner conflict (most often, frustration) translates into aggression. It involves acting with little or no insight or reflection and in order to attract attention and disrupt other people's cosy lives. 

The dynamic forces which render the narcissist paralysed and fake – his vulnerabilities, weaknesses, and fears – are starkly exposed as his defences crumble and become dysfunctional. The narcissist's extreme dependence on his social milieu for the regulation of his sense of self-worth is painfully and pitifully evident as he is reduced to begging, threatening, and cajoling. 

At such times, the narcissist acts out self-destructively and anti-socially. His mask of superior equanimity is pierced by displays of impotent rage, self-loathing, self-pity, passive-aggressiveness, and crass attempts at manipulation of his friends, family, and colleagues – or the public comprised of his disaffected and outraged acolytes. His ostensible benevolence and caring evaporate. He feels caged and threatened and he reacts as any animal would do: by striking back at his perceived tormentors as well as at his hitherto "nearest" and "dearest". 

But, if Trump is, as I suggested, a malignant narcissist, how could he possibly justify withdrawing from the race at this late stage, having promised so much to so many? Isn’t he emotionally invested in winning? 

Narcissists rationalize their actions. Rationalization is a psychological defense mechanism. It is intended to cast one's behavior after the fact in a favorable light. To justify and explain one's conduct or, more often, misconduct by resorting to "rational, logical, socially-acceptable" explications and excuses. Rationalization is also used to re-establish ego-syntony (inner peace and self-acceptance).

Cognitive dissonance – the state of having simultaneous and equipotent but inconsistent thoughts, beliefs, or attitudes - usually provokes rationalization. It involves speech acts which amount to the devaluation of things and people very much desired or perceived positively but frustratingly out of one's reach and control or socially deemed unacceptable. In a famous fable, a fox, unable to snag the luscious grapes he covets, says: "these grapes are probably sour anyhow!" This is an example of cognitive dissonance in action. 

Trump is likely to use three lines of defensive reasoning:  

(1)  They don’t deserve me. I am much ahead of my time, perspicacious, and sage. People are just not ready for me. History will vindicate me; and/or

(2)  I am quitting the race in order to protect my family and heal the wounds of the nation; and/or

(3)  I have proved what I wanted to prove (whatever that may be). No need for me to continue to waste my time and resources. I have better things to do. 



Return

Jesus Christ, narcissist



Note:

Though most of the quotes in this essay are from the Gospel of Saint Matthew, I was careful to compare them with the texts of the other three canonical gospels. Where the gospels disagree, I avoided using the quote altogether.

Illegitimate and adopted children, especially of humble origins, often develop narcissistic defenses to fend off persistent feelings of inadequacy and inferiority. Admittedly, it is highly unlikely that Jesus was an illegitimate child. Adulteresses in ancient Judea were stoned to death. But, equally, there is little doubt that the circumstances of Jesus's birth were shrouded in mystery. His mother, Mary, got herself pregnant but not by having sexual intercourse with her lawfully-wedded husband, Joseph.

Early on, Jesus developed magical thinking, compensatory grandiose delusions, and fantasies of omnipotence and omniscience. A firstborn, he was much pampered by his doting mother. He was a prodigy, a Wunderkind: highly intelligent and inquisitive and more comfortable in the company of adults than with his peers.

When he was a mere 12 years old:



"(T)hey found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the doctors, both hearing them, and asking them questions." (Luke 2:46)

Even at this tender age, he showed a marked lack of empathy and a full-fledged case of pathological grandiosity:



"His mother said unto him, Son, why hast thou thus dealt with us? behold, thy father and I have sought thee sorrowing. And he said unto them, How is it that ye sought me? wist ye not that I must be about my Father's business?" ("My Father" being God - SV). (Luke 2:48-49)

Gurus at the center of emergent cults are inevitably narcissistic, if not outright narcissists. The self-imputation of superiority, epiphanic knowledge, and infallibility and the assumption that others need and crave the guru's message are at the heart of an elaborate construct which often borders on the psychotic:

"... (T)he people were astonished at his doctrine: For he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes." (Matthew 7:28-29)

Referring to his 12 disciples, Jesus made clear that: "The disciple is not above his master, nor the servant above his lord." (Matthew 10:24)



"He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me. He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it." (Matthew 10:37-39)

Here is how Jesus, the lowly, unmarried, and itinerant son of a carpenter - an abysmal failure by the standards of his society - viewed himself:



"When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats ... And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal." (Matthew 25:31-32 and 25:46)

"Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father, and he shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels?" (Matthew 26:53)

Contrary to his much-cultivated image, Jesus, like the vast majority of cult leaders, lacked empathy and was a heartless and irresponsible manipulator whose magical thinking ruined the lives of many. He instructed his followers to commit acts that must have had harshly adverse impacts on their hitherto nearest and dearest. Jesus monopolized the lives of his disciples to the exclusion of all else and all others:



"For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. And a man's foes shall be they of his own household."  (Matthew 10:35-36)

 

"Then one said unto him, Behold, thy mother and thy brethren stand without, desiring to speak with thee. But he answered and said unto him that told him, Who is my mother?  and who are my brethren?  And he stretched forth his hand toward his disciples, and said, Behold my mother and my brethren!"  (Matthew 12:47-48)

 

"And Jesus, walking by the sea of Galilee, saw two brethren, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea: for they were fishers. And he saith unto them, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men. And they straightway left their nets, and followed him. And going on from thence, he saw other two brethren, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, in a ship with Zebedee their father, mending their nets; and he called them. And they immediately left the ship and their father, and followed him." (Matthew 4:18-22)

Consider the disastrous effects their actions had had on their fathers and their families, now left to starve. To Jesus, evidently, these were irrelevant considerations.

Jesus healed only those who visibly, volubly, clearly, publicly and repeatedly worshipped him. In other words, he extended his gift only to his sources of narcissistic supply. There are numerous instances in the four canonical gospels where Jesus actually bargains with the afflicted and demands - sometimes in anger - their unconditional adoration. He is happiest when acknowledged and affirmed as Christ, the Son of Man (son of God). Those who do not recognize his splendid grandeur, unbounded might, and implied divinity are "dogs" and "swine" (Matthew 7:6)

His much-touted love of the poor was not a match for his malignant self-love. When his disciples upbraided a woman for anointing Jesus with expensive ointment because the money could have been better used to help the poor, the great humanist, Jesus, had this to say:



"Why trouble ye the woman? for she hath wrought a good work upon me. For ye have the poor always with you; but me ye have not always." (Matthew 26:10-11)

The principles espoused by Jesus were malleable and easily bent. He professed to minister only to the Hebrews (Sons of Israel) and steadfastly refused to heal the Gentiles whom he called "dogs". When a woman of Canaan beseeched him to cast the devil out of her daughter ("Have mercy on me!"), he retorted, shockingly:



"I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel ... It is not meet to take the children's bread, and to cast it to dogs."  (Matthew 15:24-26)

But he soon forgot and retracted this lofty "principle" when she adulated him:



"Then Jesus answered and said unto her, O woman, great is thy faith: be it unto thee even as thou wilt. And her daughter was made whole from that very hour." (Matthew 15:28)

Similarly, he cured the servant of a Roman centurion after his master catered to Jesus's by-now rampant megalomania:



"When Jesus heard it, he marvelled, and said to them that followed, Verily I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel. And Jesus said unto the centurion, Go thy way; and as thou hast believed, so be it done unto thee. And his servant was healed in the selfsame hour." (Matthew 8:10 and 8:13)

Jesus's initial false modesty soon gave way to bragging and outlandish, often confabulatory claims.

Whenever he affected a miracle - such as restoring eyesight to the blind, cleansing lepers, reviving the crippled, and raising the ostensibly dead - Jesus beseeched them to keep mum about the events. One of many examples:

"And their eyes were opened; and Jesus straitly charged them, saying, See that no man know it." (Matthew 9:30)

But Jesus was not averse to blatant self-promotion when his false modesty failed to elicit narcissistic supply:



"Go and shew John again those things which ye do hear and see: The blind receive their sight, and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them." (Matthew 11:2)

 

"I say unto you, That in this place is one greater than the temple ... For the Son of man is Lord even of the sabbath day ... behold, a greater than (the prophet) Jonas is here ... behold, a greater than (King) Solomon is here." (Matthew 12)

 

As a true narcissist, Jesus reprimanded others for his own brand of behavior. This psychological defense mechanism is called "projection".



 

This is how he described the Pharisees, the scribes, and the Sadducees (and, inadvertently, himself and his own conduct):

 

"(T)hey say, and do not. For they bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men's shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers. But all their works they do for to be seen of men: they make broad their phylacteries, and enlarge the borders of their garments, And love the uppermost rooms at feasts, and the chief seats in the synagogues, And greetings in the markets, and to be called of men, Rabbi, Rabbi." (Matthew 23:1-6)

Narcissists are disruptive, counter-dependent, combative, and resent authority (rebellious and contumacious). They feel that they are above the law, or, rather, that they are a law unto themselves. They hold themselves to be immune to the consequences of their actions:



"Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword." (Matthew 10:34)

"And Jesus went into the temple of God, and cast out all them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves, And said unto them, It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves."  (Matthew 21:12-13)

Narcissists are ill-disposed towards disagreement and criticism. They react to the slightest hint of either with narcissistic rage and fury that knows no bounds and no mercy:



"And thou, Capernaum, which art exalted unto heaven, shalt be brought down to hell: for if the mighty works, which have been done in thee, had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. But I say unto you, That it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment, than for thee." (Matthew 11:23-24)

"He that is not with me is against me" (Matthew 12:30)

"For I say unto you, Ye shall not see me henceforth, till ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord." (Matthew 23:39)

Narcissists react particularly badly when their concocted personal myth, their False Self, is directly and effectively challenged and they are consequently discredited and humiliated in public:



"And when he was come into his own country, he taught them in their synagogue, insomuch that they were astonished, and said, Whence hath this man this wisdom, and these mighty works? Is not this the carpenter's son? is not his mother called Mary? and his brethren, James, and Joses, and Simon, and Judas? And his sisters, are they not all with us? Whence then hath this man all these things? And they were offended in him. But Jesus said unto them, A prophet is not without honour, save in his own country, and in his own house. And he did not many mighty works there because of their unbelief." (Matthew 13:54-58)

Ultimately, the narcissist pays the price for years of ill-treating others and sucking their energies dry with constant demands for attention, adulation, and affirmation. People get tired of the overbearing and overweening presence of the narcissist in their lives, of his disruptive and destabilizing influence, and of the pernicious effects he has on their nearest, dearest, and communities. Invariably, they seek to banish him and extricate themselves from his cult. The authorities usually are forced to intervene and lock the narcissist up or, worse, crucify him.

Even his closest followers, supporters, and disciples give up on the narcissist:

"Then all the disciples forsook him, and fled." (Matthew 26:56)

"Then did they spit in his face, and buffeted him; and others smote him with the palms of their hands, Saying, Prophesy unto us, thou Christ, Who is he that smote thee?"  (Matthew 26:67-68)

"Peter remembered the word of Jesus, which said unto him, Before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice." (Peter, indeed, denying knowing Jesus thrice - SV) (Matthew 26:75)

And the fickle "multitude" (the common folk), who were supposed to be the mainstay of Jesus's power and popularity, betrayed him gleefully and with a clear sense of relief and good riddance:



"Whether of the twain will ye that I release unto you? They said, Barabbas ... They all say unto him, Let him be crucified ... they cried out the more, saying, Let him be crucified ...  Then answered all the people, and said, His blood be on us, and on our children ... And they that passed by reviled him, wagging their heads, And saying, Thou that destroyest the temple, and buildest it in three days, save thyself. If thou be the Son of God, come down from the cross. Likewise also the chief priests mocking him, with the scribes and elders, said, He saved others; himself he cannot save. The thieves also, which were crucified with him, cast the same in his teeth."  (Matthew 27)

Return

Hitler - The Inverted Saint



"My feeling as a Christian points me to my Lord and Savior as a fighter. It points me to the man who once in loneliness, surrounded only by a few followers, recognized these Jews for what they were and summoned men to fight against them and who, God's truth! was greatest not as a sufferer but as a fighter.

In boundless love as a Christian and as a man I read through the passage which tells us how the Lord at last rose in His might and seized the scourge to drive out of the Temple the brood of vipers and adders. How terrific was his fight against the Jewish poison.

Today, after two thousand years, with deepest emotion I recognize more profoundly than ever before the fact that it was for this that He had to shed his blood upon the Cross.

As a Christian I have no duty to allow myself to be cheated, but I have the duty to be a fighter for truth and justice . . .

And if there is anything which could demonstrate that we are acting rightly, it is the distress that daily grows. For as a Christian I have also a duty to my own people. And when I look on my people I see them work and work and toil and labor, and at the end of the week they have only for their wages wretchedness and misery.

When I go out in the morning and see these men standing in their queues and look into their pinched faces, then I believe I would be no Christian, but a very devil, if I felt no pity for them, if I did not, as did our Lord two thousand years ago, turn against those by whom today this poor people are plundered and exploited."

(Source: The Straight Dope - Speech by Adolf Hitler, delivered April 12, 1922, published in "My New Order," and quoted in Freethought Today (April 1990)

Hitler and Nazism are often portrayed as an apocalyptic and seismic break with European history. Yet the truth is that they were the culmination and reification of European (and American) history in the 19th century. Europe's (and the United States') annals of colonialism have prepared it for the range of phenomena associated with the Nazi regime - from industrial murder to racial theories, from slave labour to the forcible annexation of territory.

Germany was a colonial power no different to murderous Belgium or Britain or the United States. What set it apart is that it directed its colonial attentions at the heartland of Europe - rather than at Africa or Asia or Latin and Central America. Both World Wars were colonial wars fought on European soil.

Moreover, Nazi Germany innovated by applying prevailing racial theories (usually reserved to non-whites) to the white race itself. It started with the Jews - a non-controversial proposition - but then expanded them to include "east European" whites, such as the Poles and the Russians.

Germany was not alone in its malignant nationalism. The far right in France was as pernicious. Nazism - and Fascism - were world ideologies, adopted enthusiastically in places as diverse as Iraq, Egypt, Norway, Latin America, and Britain. At the end of the 1930's, liberal capitalism, communism, and fascism (and its mutations) were locked in mortal battle of ideologies. Hitler's mistake was to delusionally believe in the affinity between capitalism and Nazism - an affinity enhanced, to his mind, by Germany's corporatism and by the existence of a common enemy: global communism.

Colonialism always had discernible religious overtones and often collaborated with missionary religion. "The White Man's burden" of civilizing the "savages" was widely perceived as ordained by God. The church was the extension of the colonial power's army and trading companies.

It is no wonder that Hitler's Lebensraum colonial movement - Nazism - possessed all the hallmarks of an institutional religion: priesthood, rites, rituals, temples, worship, catechism, mythology. Hitler was this religion's ascetic saint. He monastically denied himself earthly pleasures (or so he claimed) in order to be able to dedicate himself fully to his calling. Hitler was a monstrously inverted Jesus, sacrificing his life and denying himself so that (Aryan) humanity should benefit. By surpassing and suppressing his humanity, Hitler became a distorted version of Nietzsche's "superman".

But being a-human or super-human also means being a-sexual and a-moral. In this restricted sense, Hitler was a post-modernist and a moral relativist. He projected to the masses an androgynous figure and enhanced it by fostering the adoration of nudity and all things "natural". But what Nazism referred to as "nature" was not natural at all.

It was an aesthetic of decadence and evil (though it was not perceived this way by the Nazis), carefully orchestrated, and artificial. Nazism was about reproduced copies, not about originals. It was about the manipulation of symbols - not about veritable atavism.

In short: Nazism was about theatre, not about life. To enjoy the spectacle (and be subsumed by it), Nazism demanded the suspension of judgment, depersonalization, and de-realization. Catharsis was tantamount, in Nazi dramaturgy, to self-annulment. Nazism was nihilistic not only operationally, or ideologically. Its very language and narratives were nihilistic. Nazism was conspicuous nihilism - and Hitler served as a role model, annihilating Hitler the Man, only to re-appear as Hitler the stychia.

What was the role of the Jews in all this?

Nazism posed as a rebellion against the "old ways" - against the hegemonic culture, the upper classes, the established religions, the superpowers, the European order. The Nazis borrowed the Leninist vocabulary and assimilated it effectively. Hitler and the Nazis were an adolescent movement, a reaction to narcissistic injuries inflicted upon a narcissistic (and rather psychopathic) toddler nation-state. Hitler himself was a malignant narcissist, as Fromm correctly noted.

The Jews constituted a perfect, easily identifiable, embodiment of all that was "wrong" with Europe. They were an old nation, they were eerily disembodied (without a territory), they were cosmopolitan, they were part of the establishment, they were "decadent", they were hated on religious and socio-economic grounds (see Goldhagen's "Hitler's Willing Executioners"), they were different, they were narcissistic (felt and acted as morally superior), they were everywhere, they were defenseless, they were credulous, they were adaptable (and thus could be co-opted to collaborate in their own destruction). They were the perfect hated father figure and parricide was in fashion.

This is precisely the source of the fascination with Hitler. He was an inverted human. His unconscious was his conscious. He acted out our most repressed drives, fantasies, and wishes. He provides us with a glimpse of the horrors that lie beneath the veneer, the barbarians at our personal gates, and what it was like before we invented civilization. Hitler forced us all through a time warp and many did not emerge. He was not the devil. He was one of us. He was what Arendt aptly called the banality of evil. Just an ordinary, mentally disturbed, failure, a member of a mentally disturbed and failing nation, who lived through disturbed and failing times. He was the perfect mirror, a channel, a voice, and the very depth of our souls.



Note - Exclusionary Ideas of Progress

Communism, Fascism, Nazism, and Religious Fundamentalism are as utopian as the classical Idea of Progress, which is most strongly reified by Western science and liberal democracy. All four illiberal ideologies firmly espouse a linear view of history: Man progresses by accumulating knowledge and wealth and by constructing ever-improving polities. Similarly, the classical, all-encompassing, idea of progress is perceived to be a "Law of Nature" with human jurisprudence and institutions as both its manifestations and descriptions. Thus, all ideas of progress are pseudo-scientific.

Still, there are some important distinctions between Communism, Fascism, Nazism, and Religious Fundamentalism, on the one hand, and Western liberalism, on the other hand:

All four totalitarian ideologies regard individual tragedies and sacrifices as the inevitable lubricant of the inexorable March Forward of the species. Yet, they redefine "humanity" (who is human) to exclude large groups of people. Communism embraces the Working Class (Proletariat) but not the Bourgeoisie, Nazism promotes one Volk but denigrates and annihilates others, Fascism bows to the Collective but viciously persecutes dissidents, Religious Fundamentalism posits a chasm between believers and infidels.

In these four intolerant ideologies, the exclusion of certain reviled groups of people is both a prerequisite for the operation of the "Natural Law of Progress" and an integral part of its motion forward. The moral and spiritual obligation of "real" Man to future generations is to "unburden" the Law, to make it possible for it to operate smoothly and in optimal conditions, with all hindrances (read: undesirables) removed (read: murdered).

All four ideologies subvert modernity (in other words, Progress itself) by using its products (technology) to exclude and kill "outsiders", all in the name of servicing "real" humanity and bettering its lot.

But liberal democracy has been intermittently guilty of the same sin. The same deranged logic extends to the construction and maintenance of nuclear weapons by countries like the USA, the UK, France, and Israel: they are intended to protect "good" humanity against "bad" people (e.g., Communists during the Cold war, Arabs, or failed states such as Iran). Even global warming is a symptom of such exclusionary thinking: the rich feel that they have the right to tax the "lesser" poor by polluting our common planet and by disproportionately exhausting its resources.

The fact is that, at least since the 1920s, the very existence of Mankind is being recurrently threatened by exclusionary ideas of progress. Even Colonialism, which predated modern ideologies, was inclusive and sought to "improve" the Natives" and "bring them to the White Man's level" by assimilating or incorporating them in the culture and society of the colonial power. This was the celebrated (and then decried) "White Man's Burden". That we no longer accept our common fate and the need to collaborate to improve our lot is nothing short of suicidal.

Also Read:

Latent Nazis - Conversation with Young German Intellectuals

Renaissance and Nazism as Ideas of Progress

Fascism - The Tensile Permanence

Narcissistic Leaders

Islam and Liberalism

Democracy and New Colonialism

A Dialog about Anti-Semitism

Return

Putin and Russia's Second Empire


History teaches us little except how little we can learn from it. Still, there is nothing new under the sun. Thus, drawing too many parallels between the environmentalist movements of the late 19th century and their counterparts in the second half of the twentieth century - would probably prove misleading. Similarly, every fin de siecle has its Fukuyama, proclaiming the end of history and the victory of liberalism and capitalism.

Liberal parliamentarianism (coupled with unbridled individualistic capitalism) seemed to irreversibly dominate the political landscape by 1890 - when it was suddenly and surprisingly toppled by the confluence of revolutionary authoritarian nationalism and revolutionary authoritarian socialism.

Yet, every ostensibly modern (or post-modern) phenomenon has roots and mirrors in history. The spreading of the occult, materialism, rationalism, positivism, ethnic cleansing, regionalism, municipal autonomy, environmentalism, alienation ("ennui"), information networking, globalization, anti-globalization, mass migration, capital and labour mobility, free trade - are all new mantras but very old phenomena.

Sometimes the parallels are both overwhelming and instructive.



Overview

Karl Marx regarded Louis-Napoleon's Second Empire as the first modern dictatorship - supported by the middle and upper classes but independent of their patronage and, thus, self-perpetuating. Others went as far as calling it proto-fascistic.

Yet, the Second Empire was insufficiently authoritarian or revolutionary to warrant this title. It did foster and encourage a personality cult, akin to the "Fuhrerprinzip" -but it derived its legitimacy, conservatively, from the Church and from the electorate. It was an odd mixture of Bonapartism, militarism, clericalism, conservatism and liberalism.

In a way, the Second Republic did amount to a secular religion, replete with martyrs and apostles. It made use of the nascent mass media to manipulate public opinion. It pursued industrialization and administrative modernization. But these features characterized all the political movements of the late 19th century, including socialism, and other empires, such as the Habsburg Austro-Hungary.

The Second Empire was, above all, inertial. It sought to preserve the bureaucratic, regulatory, and economic frameworks of the First Empire. It was a rationalist, positivist, and materialist movement - despite the deliberate irrationalism of the young Louis-Napoleon. It was not affiliated to a revolutionary party, nor to popular militias.  It was not collectivist. And its demise was the outcome of military defeat.

The Second Empire is very reminiscent of Vladimir Putin's reign in post-Yeltsin Russia.

Like the French Second Empire, it follows a period of revolutions and counter-revolutions. It is not identified with any one class but does rely on the support of the middle class, the intelligentsia, the managers and industrialists, the security services, and the military.

Putin is authoritarian, but not revolutionary. His regime derives its legitimacy from parliamentary and presidential elections based on a neo-liberal model of government. It is socially conservative but seeks to modernize Russia's administration and economy. Yet, it manipulates the mass media and encourages a personality cult.



Disparate Youths

Like Napoleon III, Putin started off as president (he was shortly as prime minister under Yeltsin). Like him, he may be undone by a military defeat, probably in the Caucasus or Central Asia.

The formative years of Putin and Louis-Napoleon have little in common, though.

The former was a cosseted member of the establishment and witnessed, first hand, the disintegration of his country. Putin was a KGB apparatchik. The KGB may have inspired, conspired in, or even instigated the transformation in Russian domestic affairs since the early 1980's - but to call it "revolutionary" would be to stretch the term.

Louis-Napoleon, on the other hand, was a true revolutionary. He narrowly escaped death at the hands of Austrian troops in a rebellion in Italy in 1831. His brother was not as lucky. Louis-Napoleon's claim to the throne of France (1832) was based on a half-baked ideology of imperial glory, concocted, disseminated and promoted by him. In 1836 and 1840 he even initiated  (failed) coups d'etat. He was expelled even from neutral Switzerland and exiled to the USA. He spent six years in prison.

An Eerie Verisimilitude

Still, like Putin, Napoleon III was elected president. Like him, he was regarded by his political sponsors as merely a useful and disposable instrument. Like Putin, he had no parliamentary or political experience. Both of them won elections by promising "order" and "prosperity" coupled with "social compassion". And, like Putin, Louis-Napoleon, to the great chagrin of his backers, proved to be his own man - independent-minded, determined, and tough.

Putin, like Louis-Napoleon before him, proceeded to expand his powers and installed loyalists in every corner of the administration and the army. Like Louis-Napoleon, Putin is a populist, travelling throughout the country, posing for photo opportunities, responding to citizens' queries in Q-and-A radio shows, siding with the "average bloke" on every occasion, taking advantage of Russia's previous economic and social disintegration to project an image of a "strong man".

Putin is as little dependent on the Duma as Napoleon III was on his parliament. But Putin reaped what Boris Yeltsin, his predecessor, has sown when he established an imperial presidency after what amounted to a coup d'etat in 1993 (the bombing of the Duma). Napoleon had to organize his own coup d'etat all by himself in 1852.



The Balancing Act

Napoleon III - as does Putin now - faced a delicate balancing act between the legitimacy conferred by parliamentary liberalism and the need to maintain a police state. When he sought to strengthen the enfeebled legislature he reaped only growing opposition within it to his domestic and foreign policies alike.

He liberalized the media and enshrined in France's legal code various civil freedoms. But he also set in motion and sanctioned a penumbral, all-pervasive and clandestine security apparatus which regularly gathered information on millions of Frenchmen and foreigners.

Modernization and Reform

Putin is considerably less of an economic modernizer than was Napoleon III. Putin also seems to be less interested in the social implications of his policies, in poverty alleviation and in growing economic inequalities and social tensions. Napoleon III was a man for all seasons - a buffer against socialism as well as a utopian social and administrative reformer.

Business flourished under Napoleon III - as it does under Putin. The 1850's witnessed rapid technological change - even more rapid than today's. France became a popular destination for foreign investors. Napoleon III was the natural ally of domestic businessmen until he embarked on an unprecedented trade liberalization campaign in 1860. Similarly, Putin is nudging Russia towards WTO membership and enhanced foreign competition - alienating in the process the tycoon-oligarchs, the industrial complex, and the energy behemoths.

Foreign Policy

Napoleon III was a free trader - as is Putin. He believed in the beneficial economic effects of free markets and in the free exchange of goods, capital, and labour. So does Putin. But economic liberalism does not always translate to a pacific foreign policy.

Napoleon III sought to annul the decisions of the Congress of Vienna (1815) and reverse the trend of post-Napoleonic French humiliation. He wanted to resurrect "Great France" pretty much as Putin wants to restore Russia to its "rightful" place as a superpower.

But both pragmatic leaders realized that this rehabilitation cannot be achieved by force of arms and with a dilapidated economy. Napoleon III tried to co-opt the tidal wave of modern, revolutionary, nationalism to achieve the revitalization of France and the concomitant restoration of its glory. Putin strives to exploit the West's aversion to conflict and addiction to wealth. Napoleon III struggled to establish a new, inclusive European order - as does Putin with NATO and, to a lesser degree, with the European Union today.

Putin artfully manipulated Europe in the wake of the September 11 terrorist attacks on the USA, his new found ally. He may yet find himself in the enviable position of Europe's arbitrator, NATO's most weighty member, a bridge between Central Asia, the Caucasus, North Korea and China - and the USA.  The longer his tenure, the more likely he is to become Europe's elder statesman. This is a maneuver reminiscent of Louis-Napoleon's following the Crimean War, when he teamed up with Great Britain against Russia.

Like Putin, Napoleon III modernized and professionalized his army. But, unlike Putin hitherto, he actually went to war (against Austria), moved by his (oft-thwarted) colonial and mercantilist aspirations. Putin is likely to follow the same path (probably in Central Asia, but, possibly, in the Baltic and east Europe as well). Reinvigorated armies (and industrialists) often force expansionary wars upon their reluctant ostensible political masters.

Should Putin fail in his military adventures as Napoleon III did in his and be deposed as he was - these eerie similarities will have come to their natural conclusion.

Also Read:

Communism and Feudalism

Russia: Russian Roulette

Lucky Russia

Foreigners and the New Russian Economy

The Janus Look

The False Maps of Maskirovka

The Tragedy of Errors (Book Review)

The Betrayal of History (Book Review)

Russia's Second Empire

Russian Roulette - The Security Apparatus

Russian Roulette - The Energy Sector

Russian Roulette - The Financial Sector

Russian Roulette - The Russian Devolution

Russian Roulette - Russian Agriculture

Russia as a Creditor

Pinks in Space - The Space Industry

Russia's Vodka Wars

Lukoil's Changing Fortunes

Russia's British Turning Point

Let My People Go - The Jackson-Vanik Controversy

Fimaco Wouldn't Die - Russia's Missing Billions

The Chechen Theatre Ticket

Russia's Israeli Oil Bond

Russia's Idled Spies

Russia's Last Oligarch

Dimitry Goes to Washington

Russia's Middle Class

Russia in 2003

Russia Straddles the Euro-Atlantic Divide

Russia's Stealth Diplomacy

The Axis of Oil

Russian Synergies - YukosSibneft
Return

Gruevski's Macedonia, Greece, and Alexander the Great



History's Forgotten Madman
The government of Macedonia has recently changed the name of its puny airport to "Alexander the Great". This was only the latest symptom of a growing cult of personality. Modern-day Macedonians, desperately looking for their ancient roots in a region hostile to their nationhood, have latched onto their putative predecessor with a zeal that defies both historical research and the howls of protest from their neighbor, Greece.

In a typical Balkan tit-for-tat, Greece blocked Macedonia's long-sought entry into NATO, citing, among a litany of reasons, the "irredentist provocation" that was the renaming of the airport. Macedonia has designs on a part of Greece, Greek politicians claim with a straight face, and the denizens of this tiny polity have no right to the heritage of Greece of which Alexander the Great is an integral part.

Not to be outdone, Macedonian television is now awash with a lengthy ad depicting the precocious leader berating his pusillanimous and craven commanders ahead of a crucial battle. He speaks fluent Macedonian (the current day, Slav language) and ignores their wise counsel. This pathetic abuse of screen time is supposed to indoctrinate latter-day Macedonians to dare, be decisive, and to face challenges. Alexander the Great would have greatly disliked contemporary Macedonians: they are peace-loving, overly-cautious, consensual, and compromise-seeking. It seems that their own government finds these laudable qualities equally offensive.

It is beyond me why both Macedonia and Greece wish to make a deranged mass murderer their emblem and progenitor. There is little that is commendable in both Alexander's personality or his exploits. Having shed the blood of countless thousands to fulfill his grandiose fantasies of global conquest, he declared himself a god, suppressed other religions bloodily, massacred the bulk of his loyal staff, and betrayed his countrymen by hiring the former enemy, the Persians, to supplant his Macedonian infantry.

Alexander the Great was clearly insane, even by the cultural standards of his time. According to Diodorus, a month before he mercifully died (or, more likely, was assassinated) his own generals invited Babylonian priests to exorcise the demons that may have possessed him. Plutarch calls him "disturbed". He describes extreme mood swings that today would require medication to quell and control. The authoritative Encyclopedia Britannica attributes to him "megalomania and emotional instability". It says:

"He was swift in anger, and under the strain of his long campaigns this side of his character grew more pronounced. Ruthless and self-willed, he had increasing recourse to terror, showing no hesitation in eliminating men whom he had ceased to trust, either with or without the pretense of a fair trial. Years after his death, Cassander, son of Antipater, a regent of the Macedonian Empire under Alexander, could not pass his statue at Delphi without shuddering."

Alexander was paranoid and brooked no criticism, or disagreement. When Cleitus, his deputy, had a petty argument with him in 328 BC, Alexander simply ran a lance through his trusted general and had the army declare him a traitor and, thus, justify the slaying. The same fate befell Cleitus's unfortunate successors as second in command.

From his early youth, Alexander has been reckless (though fortunate) and unusually bloodthirsty. He used the fortuitous occasion of his father's murder to liquidate anyone who opposed him, even implicitly. He then went on a rampage that alienated and united all the Greeks against him. Even his famed campaign against the Persians owed its success to the latter's precipitous decline rather than merely to Alexander's military genius. Long before he came on the scene, other Greeks (the Ten Thousand, Agesilaus of Sparta) have defeated the Persians decisively. His bloodlust never abated: when his army mutinied in India and forced him to return to Babylon, once there, he executed scores of his satraps, military commanders, and other functionaries.

Alexander was known for his hubris and unmitigated narcissism. Using humiliating language, he twice rejected offers of peace from Darius the Great King of Persia, whose family he held captive. When Parmenio advised him to accept the second offer by saying: "I would accept, if I were Alexander", he retorted: "So would I, were I Parmenio". Parmenio paid for his independence of mind with his life: Alexander later ordered him assassinated and his son executed. He also murdered anyone who had anything to do with the two.

When he tried to impose on his free-spirited troupes the obligation to prostrate themselves in his presence, he was subjected to such ridicule that he reversed his decision. But, he kept on wearing the Persian royal garb and he did execute Calisthenes, an hitherto obsequious historian (and nephew of Aristotle) who wouldn't bow to him. The Spartans held Alexander in derision. They published a decree that read: "Since he (Alexander) wishes to be a god, let him be a god".

Wherever he went, Alexander was escorted by scribes whose job it was to embellish history and manufacture legends about their employer. Consequently, most of what is commonly "known" about Alexander is false. But, even so, numerous accounts of his drunken and violent reveries remain, in which he habitually murdered people and tore down cultural treasures (such as the palace of Xerxes). That Alexander was a prodigious imbiber of wine cannot be denied. Virtually all the eyewitnesses concur: Ptolemy, Alexander's bodyguard; Nearchus, his admiral; Eumenes the scribe, his secretary; Chares, his chamberlain; Aristobulus, his military engineer. So do historians who relied on such accounts: Diodorus, Plutarch, Arrian, and the anonymous author of "Historia Alexandri Magni" (History of Alexander the Great").

One could only fervently hope that the government of Macedonia fails in its campaign to transform its citizens into mini-versions of this monster.
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Narcissistic

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