Friday, May 02, 2003

Delusion and Dysfunction

On another note, close related to the previous post, I was listening the to local community radio station in Portland, KBOO, this morning. They had on as a guest the writer Derrick Jensen. I have never heard of him before, but what I heard from him made me want to go out and buy one of his books. He talked a lot about communication and language and how many people simply don't see things that are going on around them that they don't want to see. He brought up, as a for example, the three rules of a dysfunctional family: 1) Don't talk about the bad thing going on in your family 2) Don't talk about rule #1 3) Don't talk about rule #2 In a truly dysfunctional family the situation has gotten so bad that not only do people not want to confront the bad thing, they don't even want to confront the fact that they don't want to confront it and they will deny to their dying breath that they are avoiding dealing with the fact that they are avoiding dealing with it. I was struck, while hearing this, by how similar it sounds to the way America works today. So many people who are in a position to see just how bad things are (Democrats, Republicans, members of the press, etc.) continue to act as if things really aren't that bad (for instance, see my recent complaints about the lack of outrage on the part of the Democrats about the GOP's attempts to exploit 9/11 for the upcoming Republican convention). Not only do they refuse to acknowledge that there is a problem, they refuse to acknowledge that they are even avoiding the problem and act surprised when anyone suggests that they are. You don't need to resort to conspiratorial theories about right-wing bias in the media when it is easier to explain their behavior as simply the actions of deluded individuals. Andrew Sullivan, by his recent comments, demonstrates that he is a prime example of a deluded individual. I don't question the fact that he is honestly shocked at how Bush handled the Santorum mess. Nor do I consider him stupid for not seeing it. He just doesn't want to acknowledge the bad thing that is sitting in the middle of his living room because, to do so, would require acknowledging a lot of other bad things he has had to do in order to avoid acknowledging that one bad thing. It can ben an extremely traumatic experience when people wake up from a form of self-delusion . It is an experience that requires an extraordinary level of courage to come to terms with your own part in that delusion. This is an important point to remember when it comes time to convince the average American that Bush is not as great as they think he is. They are becoming so entwined with the proposition that he is a great leader that, to admit it is false, would require them to admit to all the ways they have fooled themselves into thinking it was true. How many people do you know who could withstand the psychic backlash that would produce? If we are to convince people that Bush is the danger that he is we cannot simply assault their delusions directly. That will just encourage them to defend them even harder and to sink farther into the delusional state. In other words, the more we attack their approval of Bush the more likely that approval is to become as deep as it is wide. What is the correct way for dealing with this? I don't really know. The best suggestion I can make is to turn the conversation around and require them to justify their belief in Bush's leadership abilities. Don't attack them for their delusions. Let them try to draw you into their delusional state. But come prepared with logic and facts to refute whatever it is that they say. The point is that you have to get them to come to the conclusion that they are the ones who have gotten it wrong. You can't do it for them.


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