When you think about inspiring words of leadership, great speeches that stir the heart, they all have something in common. They evoke values which connect people to themselves and to their neighbour.
Their words touch on some universal recognition that the quality of life is more important than its width. There is a sense of lyrical poetry or a sudden cadence of imagination that invites the listener into some greater awareness of themselves and their purpose.
And sometimes its just the opposite…
The invitation to regress, to have permission to suspend the hard work and moral demands of critical thinking, to indulge Poor Me, can be mightily seductive.
“Thinking is difficult, which is why most people judge.” CG Jung
Judging ahead of time, pre-judice, is an attractive ticket because it invites us to sit back and bask in our own glory… provided of course that we can then find a scapegoat to carry the group shadow. None of which should be too difficult since judging ahead of time is precisely that we know what is going to happen next, a big plus in an age of anxiety.
So speeches reduced to sound bites and slogans appeal to a far older part of the hind brain than the lofty ideals of the neo-cortex.
” We ask little except that ye abstain from red meat and fornication”. Acts 15;29
Mr Trump has taken considerable critisism for both the content and the style of his speeches. Some say that his incoherence indicates the onset of senilty. They cite and compare a variety of speeches from his earlier years in which he seems to manage grammer and syntax perfectly well.
Of course this would be no great surprise for a man of 71, but there is a further consideration that has ramifications greater than the precise nature of his medical diagnosis….
…people speaking in tounges has been part of Bible Belt culture for some time. When folk get inflated they regress. This impacts coherence, but scarier than diminished diplomatic finesse, is the mind set that goes with it, which is that if you want to understand me you will just have to keep pace and figure it out. Listen better. Follow me as I flit from flower to flower.
The concept of Symbiotic Omnipotence, coined by psycho-analyst Masud Kahn, is useful for understanding the significance of incoherent narcissistic rhetoric. One of the key features of Symbiotic Omnipotence is that it is a double act, a folie a deux, a between, in which the psyche of both parties, starting with mother and child, stay in a partly fused state built on mutual superiority. In adult life this dynamic often plays itself out in co-dependent relationships where the glue is delusional shared specialness.
“Isnt it wonderful that we both hate the same things.” Seymour Skinner from the Simpsons.
The contribution of third parties is denigrated as insignificant or fake, eroding….
”…the perception of others as valuable or nourishing, through subtle collusion and indulgences”. M. Khan
There is no real point in making oneself understood in any case since the world is reduced to Them and Us, fools who cannot comprehend and allies who already get it.
Under such circumstances correct grammer and lofty syntax come a poor second to the attitude which says ” I dont have to make sense and nor do you.”
People love this. You can get to be a very particular kind of baby all over again. Its an invitation to act out all the petty grievances and violent tendencies that had to be repressed the first time around, all of which then led to the sorry pass whereby identity has to be shored up with knowing what happens next and forging the kind of relationship with the world that….
”enables a person to both perceive and deny [reality]”. M. Kahn
useful, say, if you had some command codes and a red telephone.
Wanting to be great again is the secret wish to be the omnipotent baby in the room, without any constraint, seeped in specialness, but one which urgently needs the Symbiotic Other to define it, to manifest its hopes and dreams.
A classic instance of symbiotic omnipotence in the news concerns one Kevin Gugliotta, a Pennsylvanian priest who has recently been sentanced for peddling child pornography. He says he did this to punish God for not letting him win at poker.
“According to pre-trial records, Gugliotta told probation officers that he was an avid poker player, and he felt God was attacking him when he lost games.” RT Question More.
What is so scary about this is not just that friend Gugliotta assumes Gods involvement in his loss, but that his own response to such divine wickedness doesnt have to make sense in the process, unless he perhaps had some personal wish to be the nasty thing that happens to nice people.
Permission to be above the law, both those of the land and those of linguistic coherence, is a dicey prospect for anyone, especially a leader. To succeed, he needs Others who will bite, in their millions, at the tempting invitation to be similarly unconstrained, having been seduced into the conviction of their own specialness, but still needing the Opioid Epidemic from Hell to manage the gap between the American Dream and the Nightmare of Hate.