Undergoing the RNC Convention I felt like I was witnessing an Orgy of the Reptilian Brain. Words that come to mind are the following: Venom; hatred; anger; denial (not a word spoken about the most important issue of our time, climate change or any other issue about a world other than the human world); anthropocentric narcissism; ego; Trump Towers; misogeny; scapegoating; fear mongering; despair (Thomas Aquinas says there is no worse a human can do than to teach despair); sentimentalism (of which the underside is always violence); self-pity; aggression; patriarchy; more coal and therefore more climate change and destruction of the earth; the strong man who will fix everything.
During the interminable rant by the candidate himself the final night, there dawned on me the realization that I had seen this all before: There was a stark resemblance between the Donald and Mussolini, not only the way he jutted his chin upwards after a promise he shouted but also in his claim that "only I can fix" the litany of problems and anxieties he laid bare. The only things missing from the Mussolini films were the folded arms and the balcony. The message and the messenger were decidedly déjà vu. As was the unmitigated shouting and anger emitting for 75 minutes from the messenger's mouth and eyes of hatred.
As with Mussolini, we should not underestimate the genius of Trump to exploit the anger and frustration of many American voters, a great number of whom rarely vote but do vote for him. Thomas Aquinas says that a politician must know more about the human soul than a doctor knows about the human body--Mussolini, Hitler and others gave evidence that they knew the resentful side of the Italian and German souls respectively in the 1930s. Not only the depression but Germany's loss in WWI and the Versailles Treaty that followed were part of that resentment in the German soul that Hitler so readily manipulated (with the assistance of corporate and even religious leaders) and for which he created ample scapegoats (Jews, communists, socialists, homosexuals, gypsies among others).
There are multiple scapegoats in the Trump worldview as well: Mexicans, Muslims, immigrants (other than his own wives of course), women presidential candidates, homosexuals (to read the RNC platform), etc. A recent interview with Trump's ghost writer for The Art of the Deal, who has now recanted any connection to Trump, revealed recently that as far as he knows Trump has never read a book in his life. His tweeting and responding to the compulsive 24-hour news cycle is the limit of his intellectual depth.
But Trump's intuition should not be underestimated; that is where his ready access to the wounded American soul comes in play. That and his vast experience in the media including not only his reality TV show but his admiration for Roger Ailes, the henchman behind Fox News (re-iterated just this morning in spite of the revelations of Ailes having sexually harassed numerous female employees and who as a result was just fired by Fox News and Rupert Murdoch).
The media has been an integral part of Trump's strategy and success: sycophants all, they have treated him like a genuine presidential candidate worthy of the office and have given him billions of dollars of free air time during the primary campaigns. For every 10 minutes that Bernie Sanders was granted free air time by the networks, the Donald received 243 minutes of free air time! When asked Why? the CEO of CBS actually confessed that even though Trump might be bad for the country he was good for ratings which apparently are the single bottom line of his company. If this fact does not lay bare the utter corruption of the current capitalist system ruling America I don't know what could.
The Democrats by no means have clean hands when it comes to the rise of the Donald and his orgy of reptilian brainitis and the uncritical acceptance of the consumer capitalist bubble in which our culture operates. While Obama has accomplished some decent things as president, one thing he did not accomplish was to take the economic scandal he inherited and turn it into a teaching moment for the country about the limits of the consumer capitalism on which our economy runs and ruins God-given nature. He appointed not one but two Wall Street henchmen to run his economic and treasury departments, Larry Summers and Timothy Geither, whereas one would have been plenty. He could have prosecuted the banksters who ran away with billions at the expense of Main Street but he did not, and his attorney general, so well connected to Wall Street, did not.
It is to those millions wounded on Main Street that much of the Donald's anger and resentment is appealing. People who lost their pensions, their homes, their life savings, their jobs, wanted to see some semblance of justice done to the Wall Street predators, but next to nothing was done. Nor did Obama (who DOES read books) bother to call in genuinely wise economic thinkers such as David Korten to advise his financial and treasury so-called experts about a healthy future economic system that might actually work for everyone and not just for the few. The fact that the Donald has been successful in convincing so many abused workers that he can fix their problems, though a billionaire in league very much with Wall Street and with a tax plan that would grant people like him millions of dollars of tax deductions, is testimony to his skills at appealing to peoples' guts if not to their brains.
The pent-up anger and moral outrage tapped by Trump was utterly predictable--I have been writing and talking about it for years--but the Beltway geniuses, including the president himself, so enamored with Wall Street and so indebted to it, seemed unable to grasp how deeply economic injustice triggers outrage and resentment. They are completely out of touch with the third chakra of the people of America, where anger is stored. This is the resentment that is mostly feeding the Trump happening and the Trumpster Republican party. Democrats are part of the problem and they really ought to confess their sins in order to clean the slate and move on to some solutions.
Thanks to the Bernie Sanders movement and the authentic questions he has raised in his campaign, Hillary Clinton and the Democratic party in general may be moving in a direction that is more real and more inclusive of people's genuine needs and some workable solutions. One that is inclusive of the mammalian brain (think: compassion and kinship) and not just the reptilian brain (think action/reaction, win/lose).
Will this result in the setting back of the orgy of reptilian-republican brainset? Time will tell. And the hard work of people still committed to some democracy in spite of Citizens United, Scalia-like Supreme Court justices who are shills for corporate powers, the marriage of finance and government (otherwise defined as "fascism" by none other than Mussolini) and Mussolini-look alikes in policy as well as profile.
This election is an "all men and women on deck" election. We cannot afford a takeover by the party of Trump, the party of the reptilian brain, denial of the sacredness of creation and more.
David Orr defines hope as "a verb with the sleeves rolled up." There is a lot of work to do to resist the reptilian brain takeover of our country.