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Posts Tagged ‘capitol riots’

The storming of the US Capitol building is an inauspicious start to the year, but a logical enough step in the ongoing manifestation of the phenomenon of Trumpism. I hesitate to call it the endgame, as I suspect there is more to come in the months and years ahead. I’ve hesitated to write about it, not because I don’t have an opinion, but more because I’m growing tired of opinions, including my own, and I am struggling to make sense of a world that defies analysis.

We are none of us capable of persuasion to the other’s point of view any more. It’s the conclusion I come to at the end of “Winter on the Hill”, where I have my protagonist transcend the fray and hunker down, preparing instead for the storm he knows is coming. Storms cannot be resisted. They have to blow themselves out, and you pick up the pieces afterwards. The storm of Trumpism hasn’t passed and, no matter what happens to the man himself, his legacy will dog every step of the Biden presidency, and beyond.

Footage of that mob, some of them armed, some of them seemingly bent on hostage taking, some militarised, some bizarrely costumed, presented an outrageous assault on the senses. It was sinister of course, and shocking, but there was something else, and I couldn’t get at it until now. It was the image of the horned man – an element of the absurd.

This is not to minimize the seriousness of events, quite the opposite – people died. But the absurd is an element in all encounters with the Daemonic, and there’s a significant element of it too in Trumpism and its deployment of “conspiracy”. By “Daemonic” I’m not talking about the familiars of old Nick, or demonology. It’s more subtle than that. It has to do with the psychology of mass events, and the influence of the collective unconscious in shaping human affairs.

In the personal psyche, what you do not acknowledge is lurking within you, you will be made to own ten times over. The same goes for the collective psyche, and there have been aspects of it we have been failing to acknowledge for a very long time. Rising inequality, endemic racism, sexism, xenophobia and white supremacy are the more manifest symptoms, but the sickness is an innate lack of meaning in western life and our ability to blame it on the “other”.

The American election, though fair, was hardly a rout. Close to 75 million people voted for Trump. Not all of these voters will be Trumpists. Many were traditional Republicans with nowhere else to go. But he still maintains a substantial base of believers who fervently deny his sins, and whose reality is bounded by information they fully believe in – though that information seems absurd to others. Attempts to falsify their belief system with reason counts only as proof of the validity of the Trumpist world-view, to the Trumpist, and to the universality of the conspiracy against them.

It’s like dreaming. The dream sets the rules of the game, and we believe in the dream-world totally, only realizing its absurdness when we wake up. It’s no use pointing out the dubious nature of absurd beliefs to those still locked in the dream. Critical thinking is crushed by the Daemonic. People possessed by it appear grotesque and, in its darkest manifestations, they are murderously absurd.

Here in the UK, we have not yet seen Parliament overrun by the Daemonic, though female, leftist and black and brown MPs are routinely threatened by white, right wing nationalists. Meanwhile the Conservative party is still polling at 40%, even with 100,000 dead from Covid, while it ducks and weaves around one scandal after the other. Yet sufficient numbers of the beleaguered are still dreaming them an easy ticket, so they are able to do no wrong. This too seems absurd, another symptom of the emergence of the Daemonic in the collective psyche, one that denies the rational. It has us applauding the Health Service, while simultaneously denying it the means of survival. (I recognize of course my own partisanship in this paragraph, and therefore the parameters of my own reality).

I don’t know where America is going, not with the belief system of so many completely at odds with the rational. Certainly the face of it is an ugly one, a rejection of democratic norms in favour of a violent white-nationalist anarchy. That’s not a reality I would be glad to own as a white person. The UK has its problems with the absurd too of course. In spite of assurances to the contrary, we’re likely looking at another lost year, spiralling deaths, and an economy in ruins, to be paid for by the poor. How we find our balance in such madness remains to be seen, but my prognosis isn’t hopeful. Holding to the virtues of selflessness, and at least some degree of self-analysis, society staves off the collective rampage of the Daemonic. But once it’s broken through and begins to alter our reality it cannot be dealt with, or contained and must run its course.

There’s plenty more to come, I fear. It will be violent, irrational, and above all absurd, like another world merging with our own, sweeping away all norms, a dream-world where down is up and up is down, and where seriousness of purpose is defiled by horned men, shouting.

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