Vincent Bugliosi, author of The Prosecution of George W. Bush for Murder, raised an important point about political and social dysfunction in America when interviewed in The New York Times this week about his explosive bestseller.
Noting that the mainstream media has been ignoring his book, Bugliosi, a former Los Angeles county prosecutor, said the liberal media are fearful of reviewing his book or giving him opportunities to promote it on the broadcast talk-show circuit because of their fear of the right wing. "The left wing fears the right, but the right does not fear the left,"- he said.
Bugliosi makes a vital point, about which progressives have been in denial. We're afraid of right wingers. They're not afraid of us. Let's admit that this is a problem for us. It's nothing to be ashamed of. It's a quirk in the human psyche, and I have a theory that illuminates the source of the problem.
Before getting to that, let's consider the significance of this fearfulness. Doesn't this fear of ours mean that, unwittingly, we're enablers of the right wing's lower-consciousness compulsion to control others and to treat us abusively? Doesn't it suggest that we're the ones who are letting down our country because we haven't established and consolidated the inner power needed to be fearless?
Those are prickly thoughts to swallow. If we don't swallow them, how can we develop the stomach for exercising power and for ruling in a way that keeps in check the brutish impulses in the American psyche for power, ego aggrandizement, military adventurism, and hoarding of wealth?
We bemoan the way the GOP uses fear of terrorism to scare up votes. We might now begin to bemoan and rectify the way that we, through our psyche, allow the GOP to get away with using fear of its ruthlessness to keep us in check. Has Barack Obama, who this week said "I am someone who is no doubt progressive,"- been under the influence of this fear factor in his rightward drift?
Not all progressives have this fear, of course. And liberals probably have more of it than do progressives. But here it is on our side of the political divide, so let's just take mutual responsibility for it. It signifies strength to recognize our weakness.
Where does this fear come from? It can be understood in psychoanalytic terms. We all have aggression and passivity in our psyche. Many of us are personally familiar with the discomfort or anxiety produced by the inner dialogue between our inner critic (the aggressive superego) and "defensive little me"- (the subordinate ego). The human psyche is polarized by aggression and passivity. This conflict enables the superego to run us ragged with its constant badgering and belittling.
The superego has no business judging us or telling us what to do. In fact, it's an illegitimate authority in our psyche, a manifestation of the fact that we're unfinished works of art. We concede power to the superego because it's so intimidating and authoritarian. We fail to establish our own true authority. We can't feel our legitimate authority because our consciousness, clouded over by self-doubt and ego identification, is entangled in the subordinate ego's passivity and experience of non-being.
It's my theory, as I describe it in Democracy's Little Self-Help Book, that right-wingers identify (unconsciously and emotionally) primarily with the superego, while those of us on the left are more aligned with the subordinate ego.
To quote from my book: "The inner critic is the inner intelligence from which the ideological or doctrinaire right wing acquires its perceptions, values, and manners of relating. Unconsciously, such right-wingers are mimicking the moods, mannerisms, and methodology of inner aggression. They are emotionally aligned with this major player in the psyche."-
Meanwhile, on the left, we "react to the right wing, its rhetoric and initiatives, in much the same way that, through our inner passivity, we react to inner aggression. The politics are very similar. Inner aggression has us on the run. It holds us accountable. It exercises an authority that is irrational and often cruel, to which we react""defensively, passively, and passive-aggressively""in ways that can be very self-defeating."-
The conflict in the psyche between aggression and passivity is reflected in America's foreign policy. We accuse the right of being too aggressive and the right accuses us of being too passive. For the right, anything less than ferocious aggression feels like passivity. For us, being appropriately aggressive can feel like being too aggressive. The more we are failing to achieve inner progress, the more likely that""through projection""some of us will, painfully and ineffectively, bemoan the lack of progress in society and the world.
Of course, people on the left can be aggressive and people on the right can be passive. But the left has its default position in passivity, as does the right wing in aggression. Right wingers are not afraid of us because they know we won't (to our credit) become as vicious or ruthless as they are capable of being. What will frighten them, though, is liberation from our passivity. Because they're so entrenched in their own inner status quo, they don't see us making that big move anytime soon.
We each discover our power when we transcend the inner conflict between aggression and passivity. Understanding the conflict means we can step back from it with more objectivity. When we each become a model of freedom from the tyranny of emotional conflict, we take America a step closer to becoming a model of democratic excellence.