The rise of Donald Trump, which at the same time is a repudiation of a well-thinking and comfortable Republican establishment, represents a critical point of inflection in our understanding of the wellsprings of human action. Oddly enough, it’s best illuminated by Friedrich Nietzsche in this little allegory from Thus Spoke Zarathustra:
[The] tight-rope walker had emerged from a little door and was proceeding across the rope, which was stretched between two towers and thus hung over the people and the market square. Just as he had reached the middle of his course the little door opened again and a brightly-dressed fellow like a buffoon sprang out and followed the former with rapid steps. “Forward, lame-foot!” cried his fearsome voice, “forward sluggard, intruder, pallid-face! Lest I tickle you with my heels. You belong in the tower, you should be locked up, you are blocking the way of a better man than you!” And with each word he came nearer and nearer to him: but when he was only a single pace behind him, there occurred the dreadful thing that silenced every mouth and fixed every eye: he emitted a cry like a devil and sprang over the man standing in his path. But the latter, when he saw his rival thus triumph, lost his head and the rope; he threw away his pole and fell, faster even than it, like a vortex of arms and legs. [Nietzsche, Thus Spoke Zarathustra, Penguin Classics, pp. 47-48.]
There have been many interpretations of this symbol-rich story. My favorite is Carl Jung’s. Jung was a renowned psychoanalyst, and the goal of his psychoanalytic method was an “authentic life,” by which he meant a life in which one’s conscious and unconscious personalities are integrated. Our conscious life is that of the tightrope walker. The buffoon stalking him represents our unconscious instincts.
In the allegory, the goal of the tightrope walker—the ego or conscious persona—is to reach the second tower. He is up in the air because he has become unmoored from the earth, from his natural instincts. He resides in an intellectualized, artificial reality constructed by ivory tower denizens and sustained by talking heads. This reality is not his, he does not understand it, and he feels alienated from it. But he does not confront these feelings, because it’s easier to simply go along to get along.
Midway across the rope, he’s at a crisis point, though he’s not yet conscious of it. “Beneath the surface he is suffering from a deadly boredom that makes everything seem meaningless and empty.” (M-L von Franz, “The Process of Individuation” in C. G. Jung, Man and his Symbols (London 1978), p. 170.) And it is at this point that the “Shadow” emerges. To the undifferentiated, uncomprehending mob below, the Shadow looks like a buffoon. But looks are deceiving. Like its counterparts in mythology, the Shadow is a trickster, a shape-changer. How you perceive him depends on how well you know yourself.
The tightrope walker has no choice but to deal with the Shadow, for it is an integral part of him and won’t be denied. It is the repository of his worst fears and his best hopes. On the one hand, it contains those instincts that society has required him to repress, because they don’t fit within its artificial constructs. Yet the more he denies them, the darker the Shadow becomes, and the more frightening the encounter with it.
On the other hand, the Shadow is also “the true spirit of life as against the dead weight of the arid scholar” (C. G. Jung, Memories, Dreams, Reflections (London 1983), p. 262), for it links us to our natural instincts—bringing us back down to earth—by tapping into the archetypes of our collective unconscious. Having acquired them over the millennia, they give meaning to our lives, for they locate us within history and connect us to our past. They are the patterns of behavior to which we instinctively refer when confronted with the need to act quickly and decisively.
A perfect example of this occurred several days ago when three brave Americans stopped a heavily armed Moroccan jihadist intent on committing mass murder on a packed high-speed train travelling from Amsterdam to Paris. The Americans heard gunshots and immediately sprang into action. One of them got the jihadist into a headlock, while another disencumbered him of his weapons and beat him with his own rifle. They hogtied him. Hogtied him? How insensitive! How long before CAIR complains of this blatant Islamophobia? A cellphone video shows him trussed, shirtless, face down on the floor with his legs tied up in the air.
The Americans didn’t stop to consider that the jihadist might be a member of a historically oppressed culture, or what slights he might have been subject to in his past. You have to have a Ph.D. in something or other to think so precisely on the spot. Only a product of many years of déformation professionnelle in one of our Ivy League universities could have his native hue of resolution so obscured by the pale cast of thought that he loses the ability to act when action is clearly needed.
Neither did they heed the advice of Homeland Security. Had they done so they would have locked themselves in the bathroom and waited for help to arrive. “We just kind of acted. There wasn’t much thinking going on,” said one of the heroes. Studies have proved the obvious: if you stop and deliberate in extreme circumstances, you won’t act. One scholar cited the “danger of deliberation” as the biggest deterrent “extreme altruism.” Being in touch with your instincts, then, makes you more human, and less of a by-the-book rule-following automaton.
American soldiers are fairly unique in risking their lives to save others. Dakota Meyer was a 21-year old Marine who’d been expressly ordered to stay away from the intense fire that was pinning down his buddies after being ambushed in Afghanistan. Defying his commanding officer, he evacuated 12 men, provided cover for another 24 to escape, and killed at least eight Taliban. His reaction was instinctive, and his instincts were strong. He was unable to do otherwise.
These men were able to act so quickly by tapping in to the Hero archetype of our collective unconscious. In America, the Hero is someone who defends the defenseless against those who would kill them. He is John Wayne, the valiant cowboy who kills Liberty Valence, the outlaw who has been terrorizing the inhabitants of a small frontier town. In the movie, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence, Liberty symbolizes lawless anarchy. Today, it is the Islamists who are the dark, anarchic force that threatens civilization, and the Hero is all the brave men and women who have been fighting it on our behalf, and also on behalf of the local populations the Islamists have been murdering.
The Hero is one of the archetypes of America’s collective unconscious that the Liberal elitists and their media supporters are trying to destroy. Though there were a great many acts of heroism under fire during our time fighting in the Middle East, few were honored and there was a remarkable paucity of reporting on them.
A couple of years ago President Obama actually proposed awarding medals to our soldiers fighting in Afghanistan. The enemy was vicious and recognized no rules of engagement. But the medals Obama had in mind were to be awarded for “courageous restraint” in the face of fire. For not fighting back! Presumably, the medals were to be awarded posthumously. Obama backed off of this plan only when General Petraeus refused to serve under these conditions.
We know where this sort of thing got Petraeus.
The “courageous restraint” medal was an attack on one of the most basic of human instincts—the survival instinct. Nevertheless we are inculcating this passive and cowardly ethic in our young men today. No heroes, our sissified pajama boys will prefer to sip hot chocolate at home whilst contemplating the advantages of Obamacare. Training in cowardice starts early: a 7-year old boy was suspended from school because he chewed his Pop Tart into the shape of a gun. This is only one of many such incidents across the country.
One would have thought that the Mother archetype was inviolate, seeing that it’s been around forever. Images of mothers cradling their babies in their arms and nursing them having been found going back to the Neolithic period. Images of the Madonna and Child fill our churches and museums. What woman can see a baby without wanting to hold and nurture it? But the archetype of the good Mother is being expunged as it is being replaced with images of a very different sort: we see babies whose mothers have “donated” them to science. In laboratories across our country, supported by government grants, they are being dissected—even while still alive—and their organs and body parts harvested and sold for “research.” This research will help us find a cure for Alzheimer’s, explain Barbara Boxer, the stupidest woman in the Senate.
Traditionally, the Father was the provider of sustenance and safety for the family. He hunted and brought food back to his wife and children. But fathers are no longer cool, the elites tell us. The state will be your husband, an Obama campaign video assures Julia, a young single mother. The state will provide for your children. Young mothers of the world unite. Throw off the chains of matrimony. You have nothing to lose but your independence from your government.
Say the word “creation,” and one is likely to free-associate to the image of the naked man and woman standing by a tree in the Garden of Eden. In this manner, couples would pair up and go on to have children. The historicity of this event is irrelevant, say evolutionary biologists. What’s important is that this was a smart reproductive strategy. Fathers were more likely to care about a child they could assume was theirs, and this family structure would contribute to a more stable society.
Increasingly, though, this image is being phased out. The couple on top of the wedding cake might be Bruce and Tom, or Mary and Sue. And those images of moms nursing their babes—wait for them to be denounced as politically incorrect by the LGBT crowd, who are bound to be offended by the suggestion that the mother must be a woman. Come January 2016, California birth certificates will become gender-neutral, so that one can choose the term “parent” instead of mother or father.
The religious traditions that our families have observed for generations and to which we turned in times of joy and sorrow, they are being shredded by our courts. As new “rights” for different interest groups are increasingly being read into the Constitution, traditional rights that happen to be in the way are expunged. Your religious convictions don’t allow you to extend your services to a gay marriage ceremony? Say goodbye to your business, even if there are dozens of other options for the betrothed couple in the immediate vicinity. Only Muslims still have the freedom to believe and practice in the manner prescribed by their local mullah, even if that includes praying for the death of the infidels.
But we’ve left our tightrope walker midway to his destination, pursued by his Shadow. At this point the tightrope walker must make a choice and he must make it quickly. He can continue to run away, to reject an integral part of himself and remain an empty husk, defined by society. He’ll be identified in terms of his race, religion, ethnicity, gender, social class, job, and all of the other labels society uses to fit individuals into its schemata. Jean-Paul Sartre called such inauthenticity mauvaise foie, “bad faith,” and he uses the example of an obsequious waiter to illustrate it. The waiter
does his utmost to conform to the archetype of the waiter, that is, to everything that a waiter should or is expected to be…. [His] exaggerated behaviour is evidence that he is play-acting at being a waiter, an automaton whose essence is to be a waiter. By sticking with the safe, easy, default ‘choice’ and failing to entertain or even recognise the multitude of other choices that are open to him, the waiter places himself at the mercy of his external circumstances. In this important respect, he is more akin to an object — ‘a waiter’ — than to a conscious human being who is able to transcend his existence to give shape to his essence.
Alternatively, the tightrope walker can embark on the arduous and frightening task of assimilating his Shadow, of re-establishing his connection with his instincts, of defining himself as the unique individual that he is. The consequences might be unpleasant, however, as his new self-awareness will cause him to question and reappraise prevailing social norms, and this is unlikely to contribute to his popularity. He might be kicked out of his club or his political party.
Alas, our tightrope walker is not up to the task. Rather than assimilating his Shadow, he’s overtaken by it and is psychically destroyed.
Collectively, we Americans are the tightrope walker. We have allowed ourselves to be defined by the soul-destroying narratives of the Left. We have become lazy and fearful, and we are suffering a kind of paralysis. So when our Shadow appears on the scene, in the person of Donald Trump, we lash out. We ridicule him and call him names. And we project our fears onto him. Fearful that we’ll be called racists, we call him a racist. Fearful that we’ll be called nativists, sexists, and other bad words, we call him those names.
In this way, we don’t have to actually listen to him. If we listened, we’d be compelled to acknowledge that what he is saying is logical and reasonable, and consistent with our instincts. He is telling us that our country is a runaway train heading for a crash, and he is outlining the things we must do to get it back on track. And some are hearing him.
Like the Stump for Trump sisters I described in my last article on these pages. These African-American women don’t need an advanced degree in economics to know that bringing in a lot of low-skill aliens will screw the working class and benefit the elites. The competition for jobs will drive down the job opportunities and wages of the workers, while their employers land a windfall. The elites will have no shortage of cheap nannies, gardeners, manicurists. The gap between the rich and poor will continue to widen.
And like Chanell Temple, the African-American woman who could not restrain her outrage when San Diego City Council hired two Hispanic illegals to sit on it. She doesn’t need a law degree to know that the birthright citizenship provided for in the 14th Amendment was intended to apply to slaves who were brought to America against their will and not those who chose to come here illegally.
Like Edward Morfin, a 57-year-old Hispanic from L.A. who doesn’t need crime statistics to tell him that criminal aliens are a threat to Hispanic as well as to white Americans. Reacting to Trump’s contention that Mexico sends us its criminals, he said, “Finally somebody got up there and said what needed to be said. He said what everybody’s thinking but is afraid to say out loud.”
Donald Trump is giving a voice to Americans who want to get back to basic American values, who want to make America great again. Like the tightrope walker in our allegory, we’re midway across the rope, and must choose our future. Do we have what it takes to make it all the way?