The simplest cases of speech blunders are immediately noticed and spontaneously corrected.
Where one deals with motivation through actually repressed feelings, the solution requires
a painstaking analysis, which may sometimes strike against difficulties or turn out unsuccessful.
-- Sigmund Freud* --
Find out what it means to me.
Our prior post touched on Obama´s hamartia** lurking beneath his misspelling of the word respect -- a classic Freudian slip -- during a White House ceremony. You can watch his faux pas on YouTube.
Numerous readers wrote to say they want more on Obama´s r-s-p-e-c-t blunder. Frankly, the request took me by surprise. I thought Freudian analysis was going...going...
I begin on a methodological note with a personal twist.
Dr. Walter Langer, a renowned psychoanalyst, was a close family friend. During World War II, he worked for the OSS, forerunner of the CIA, for whom he wrote a study that later became The Mind of Adolph Hitler: The Secret Wartime Report. Days after his work was declassified in the 1960s -- and before it was edited and published in book form -- Walter gave me copy. The original text was both electrifying and prescient. Among other things, Walter predicted Hitler would commit suicide.
What the Internet mentions but does not give full faith and credit to:
Walter Langer had been one of Freud´s students. The Nazis grabbed Freud and demanded a ransom. After the money was paid, Walter got the call to escort Freud to the border. He told me how, after the train left the station, SS officers started inspecting the compartments one-by-one. Was Hitler going to arrest Freud (Walter too, probably) and steal the ransom money?
The clomp of boots came closer; Walter closed the curtains. The SS inspected every compartment except the one occupied by Walter and Freud. All I can say is: what a movie.
Walter Langer never claimed his study was a psychoanalysis of Hitler whom he never met. While writing this post, I kept Walter´s work and its methodology close in mind -- and heart.
To the point: I make no claim whatsoever to psychoanalyze Obama. Not only am I not a psychoanalyst, I never met Obama. And even if those two conditions were met, I still would not present on the Internet anything approaching a full analysis. I don´t know what the political consequences would be. Do you?
However, the above doesn´t prevent me (or anybody else) from reading classic psychoanalytic texts and having ideas. And when readers write, I respond.
What I am about to say is based entirely on public knowledge. It is also, to a significant degree, untouched by secondary sources. I have never read a single psychoanalysis -- Freudian, Jungian or otherwise -- of Obama. I deliberately refrained from doing so because I wanted to interact directly with Freud´s The Psychopathology of Everyday Life with zero outside interference. Ditto Freud´s book: I have never read a single commentary by reviewers and critics. If I were conducting a full analysis, I would of course do otherwise.
Call this post, then, a back-to-the-roots incursion.
I hope a large part of what you are about to read is creative without being original. We have a different purpose, to wit:
In conducting a top secret, psychological study of a political leader, Walter Langer was not alone. Today, the behavior of Russia -- especially Russia -- , China, Iran, Syria and other nations strongly suggests they have in front of them analyses of Barack Obama. We ask: (1) What is their psychological portrait of him likely to be? (2) How might they be using it to manipulate him?
We have a third question, to appear later.
What follows is provisional and partial -- a preface to a preface. Political considerations in mind, we will not cross certain boundaries and only hint at certain answers.
If successful, we will manage to say simultaneously too little and too much.
* * *
I start with two dissenting null hypotheses which I know many readers share. Both are different versions of the following argument: all slips of the tongue are simple cases. They are psychologically meaningless. Obama´s spelling error reveals nothing about him.
Null Hypothesis 1. Freud observed (pp. 53, 81) that speech mistakes are "contagious." I agree. It would be fascinating to know why they are so readily transmitted. Unfortunately, Freud did not pursue the subject.
Obama made his speech mistake while talking about Aretha Franklin´s song, "Respect." You can listen to her original 1965 recording here. I will never forget the first time I heard "Respect." My response was...great song but she says "r-e-s-p-c-t." Aretha Franklin misspells "respect"! (If you listen closely, you will notice she does not misspell respect; rather, she combines "p" and "e" to form "pe-eee.") Accordingly, one can write off Obama´s slip as the product of contagion; as such, it has zero explanatory power of his personality in general, of his hamartia in particular.
I don´t buy Null Hypothesis 1.
Read the song´s lyrics. "Respect" is a no-nonsense work. There is enough meat*** in there to write a score of books -- talk about a best-seller waiting to happen -- and Ph.D. psychology dissertations. This blog has visitors from around the world, Moscow and Peking included. Beyond any doubt, among them are intelligence officers who will now go over the "Respect" with a fine tooth comb.
What they will discover:
"Respect" is a power-full song. It stirs up unconscious archetypes and feelings about power, authority, order, legitimacy. "Respect" does what all cultural artifacts do: call out something from the unconscious and put a name on it. Frankly, I can think of no better starting place for a complete psychoanalysis of Obama.
We come to Null Hypothesis 2. It is simply the direct unmediated argument that all verbal mistakes are psychologically meaningless.
Meaningless? Note what Obama did -- or rather did not do -- immediately after he made the mistake. He continued talking as if no error had occurred. Freud observed (pp 96-7):
"There are many intelligent and honest people who are offended if we tell them that they made a mistake in speaking...But the emotional trace which clings to the demonstration of the mistake, which manifestly belongs to the nature of shame, has its significance...it invariably points to the participation of a motive in the formation of the disturbance."
The crowning blow came the following day. The White House underscored the shame motive in its written transcript of Obama´s speech. R-s-p-e-c-t was hosed down, scrubbed up, corrected. Officially, the mistake never happened...
By covering up, the White House uncovered itself. If Obama´s mistake was meaningless, why was it changed?
The Freudian conclusion is clear. With no immediate or spontaneous correction of the blunder on Obama´s part -- on the contrary -- we are not looking at a simple verbal stumble but rather a complex case involving repressed feelings, the solution to which would require a painstaking analysis.
Is it possible to gain insight into a solution without a long arduous analysis? We will return to this question.
There is a second reason to believe Obama´s blunder was no simple error:
Aretha Franklin wrote off the mistake by saying Obama was "tired."
Our response: roll the YouTube video. You will hear the audience laugh raucously immediately after Obama slipped. Freud used (p. 106) just such an outburst as a devastating rebuttal of the simple mistake-nothing-more argument:
"The merriment and derision which are sure to be evoked at the decisive moment through such linguistic mistakes speak conclusively against the generally accepted convention that such a speech-blunder is a lapsus linguœ and psychologically of no importance."
In other words, if the mistake was meaningless, why was it...meaningful?
Nevertheless, Aretha Franklin touched on something crucial. To say Obama was tired was to say his guard was down. We agree but don´t think his momentary inattention can be ascribed to physical tiredness which likely would have been manifested elsewhere that evening.
If not physical tiredness, then, what caused Obama to lower his defenses? And why is it important?
Freud observed (p. 80) that in order for a speech mistake to happen, normal inhibitions must be relaxed:
"With the relaxation, or, more unequivocally expressed, through this relaxation, of the inhibiting attention, the uninhibited stream of associations becomes active...The disturbing element is either a single unconscious thought, which comes to light through the speech blunder, and can only be brought to consciousness by a searching analysis, or it is a more general psychic motive, which directs itself against the entire speech."
There had to be something in the air that caused Obama to loosen up, to let his guard down, in order for the interfering unconscious element to well up, seize control.
The title of the occasion tells 95% of the tale: "In Performance at The White House -- Women of Soul." Obama must have felt extremely relaxed because he was playing the role he prefers: not the nation´s top decision-maker on Ukraine or fiscal policy, much less the boss of 4 million federal employees, but master of ceremonies. He was doing what he loves and does best: performing as an after-dinner motivational speaker. (Ultimately, of course, the truth of our observation is in the pudding. If it is correct, we will see more of Obama in that role after he leaves the White House.)
Having countered the major objection to Freud´s thesis, we move on to the subject at hand. Why is Obama´s spelling error highly revelatory?
* * *
We start by refining our question. Why and how did "Respect" do what it did: trip Obama up?
Sock it to him?
A brief digression is in order. Why do Freudian slips occur? What purpose -- if any -- do they serve?
The answer is simple, at least initially. Freud said (p. 52) of slips, lapses, etc.: "To avoid the awakening of pain through memory is one of the objects among the motives of these disturbances." Later, Freud discounted the plurality of objects and motives, and became adamant (p. 138) about pain: "The forgetting in all cases is proved to be founded on a motive of displeasure." I bring up this point because Obama investigators may find it fruitful to sift through non-displeasure motives. As indicated, Freud did not exclude them entirely.
Freud frequently used himself as a case study of speech-mistakes. To elucidate the lapsus/pain connection, he said (p. 8) of a name he could not remember:
"That is, I wanted to forget something [painful], I repressed something. To be sure, I wanted to forget something other than the name...[That desire] brought about an associative connection between itself and [the] name, so that my act of volition [to remember the name] missed the aim... "
Pursuing Freud´s logic: Obama left out the letter e -- missed the aim -- because it invoked something painful he had repressed. What was that something?
The most obvious explanation is that e looks and sounds like he. Is there a he somewhere, the memory of whom is painful for Obama and whom he unconsciously wants to forget? For intelligence officers trying to figure out what makes Obama "tick" -- curious expression -- that question is likely at the top of their list. Indeed, Obama´s autobiographical book Dreams From My Father, which the officers have no doubt read and reread, can be interpreted as a 173-page overcompensation by consciousness for a suppressed unconscious desire to forget that he. (Sidebar: the book was published in 1995, long before Obama began his political career and too early to be spayed and neutered by pr consultants and political advisors).
I am sure Russian, Chinese and other intelligence services detected that he and have concluded that Obama has a father complex. Simply put, it is impossible to read Dreams From My Father and conclude otherwise. Obama is (p. 4) up front about it: "...what has found its way onto these pages is a record of a personal, interior journey -- a boy’s search for his father..."
Found its way implies an unconscious rather than conscious process, as if an inner muse dictated the book. I think one indeed did a lot of the writing; we will see who -- or what -- in a moment.
A father complex means Obama is riddled with ambivalent feelings toward authority; he swings back and forth between fear/distrusting and admiration/seeking. I think Putin (among other leaders) is deliberately behaving and speaking in a manner so as to activate Obama´s father complex, thereby triggering unconscious emotions that create "static," i.e., that interfere with -- if not subvert -- rational and realistic decision-making on Obama´s part. We saw the upshot most recently in his Syria and Ukraine policies: clumsy, naive...missing the mark.
I will not pursue further Obama´s father complex -- despite the fact there are insights to be gained from doing so -- due to political concerns and a regard for a certain analytical priority elaborated below.
* * *
An unconscious disturbing element does not step out of the dark randomly. For it to move to the foreground, there must not only be a suitable outer environment in general (which we identified) but also something particular in it that serves as a trigger or catching device for projections of the unconscious. Freud said (p. 72) of sound/visual associations such as e/he:
"...it is some similarity between a certain word in the intended sentence and some other word not intended, which allows the latter to assert itself in consciousness by causing a disfigurement, a composition, or a compromise formation (contamination)."
Obama´s r-s-p-e-c-t is a textbook case of a disfigurement -- a condensation which Freud said (p. 77) is "the most active part in the construction of a dream." The truncated style of Obama´s error suggests that what we are seeing in the YouTube video is nothing less than a full-blown unconscious process at work under the full light of TV cameras.
Something reinforces that suggestion:
If a picture is worth a 1,000 words, one gesture can be worth a 1,000 pictures. If you observe closely Obama´s facial expression when he blunders, something analogous to an electrical brown-out occurs. Whatever it is, it is not conscious.
E/he is not the only verbal association that may have triggered Obama´s mistake.
Freud commented further (pp. 4-5) on his inability to remember a name:
"The forgetting of the name could not be explained until I had recalled the theme discussed immediately before [it]. This forgetting then made itself known as a disturbance of the newly emerging theme caused by the theme preceding it."
In the YouTube video, two preceding themes appear:
(i) Immediately prior to the forgotten letter e is the letter r. "R" sounds like our. Does Obama have an unconscious complex regarding the collective, other people, viz., with society? His trademark emphasis on unity (watch his speech to the 2004 Democrat Party Convention) suggests yet another conscious overcompensation for an unresolved, unconscious dilemma. In that regard, we will present later a quote from his book that is highly probative.
As with the father complex, Intelligence agencies could not fail to notice the society complex. The United States´ formalistic, half-hearted effort to consolidate international cooperation in the Syrian crisis (the Geneva peace talks went nowhere); America´s inclination to go it alone without the U.N. or Britain and attack Syria; Obama´s failure to fire Undersecretary of State Victoria Nuland after her "Fuck the E.U." outburst (see prior post -- was she simply voicing the unvoiced sentiment of Obama?): all suggest a lack of confidence in others, a distrust that is being manipulated by foreign powers. In the latter regard, history speaks for itself. The most recent example: at the end of the U.S.-Russia contest for influence in the Syrian crisis, Syria tallied up as a solid victory for Putin. He wanted to ward off a U.S. attack and keep Bashar al-Assad in power, which is exactly what happened.
(ii) In addition to the letter r as a preceding disturbing element, we also need to look at the phrase, "When Aretha first told us what". It immediately precedes r-s-p-e-c-t. First told us: one (and only one) implication is that nobody ever told us before what respect means. We didn´t know; we were ignorant until "Respect" came along.
The implication is huge. During the White House event, the jacket that Jim Crow hung on Blacks -- they are stupid, lazy, uneducated, incapable -- lingers on a hook in the background as something over-understood. That is to say:
Does Obama unconsciously (not consciously) accept the jacket, at least in part -- and "proved" its correctness by misspelling respect, thereby self-sabotaging the entire purpose of his White House event? Viewed this way, r-s-p-e-c-t strongly indicates the presence of a profound inner contradiction. Freud noted (pp. 332-3):
"The impulse which manifests itself in the disturbances of the action is frequently a counter-impulse...The cases in which the disturbance is the result of an inner contradiction are the most significant ones, and also deal with the more important activities."
The absent-but-present jacket is the direct contradiction of Obama´s conscious purpose that evening. He verbalized that purpose immediately after the mistake, viz., the song "became a rallying cry for African Americans and women, and then everyone who felt marginalized because of what they looked like or who they loved. They wanted some respect." Given that inner contradiction, Freud´s important activity, a White House event with a message dear to Obama´s heart, created the ideal setting for him to make a truly diabolical spelling error.
What is the Jim Crow jacket functionally and substantively? One of Freud´s observations cited above needs to be reiterated. He said the disturbing element is "either a single unconscious thought" -- e.g., e/he, r/our -- "or it is a more general psychic motive, which directs itself against the entire speech." The jacket, which is a collection of the white man´s own negative traits which he cannot consciously admit and therefore projects onto Blacks, is a textbook example of a general psychic motive that was directed against Obama´s entire White House speech. We are not looking at an elephant in the room; we are looking at a mammoth.
Let´s come down hard on the matter at hand: does Obama feel unconsciously that the Jim Crow jacket fits? Deep down, does he believe he is unworthy of the presidency? A trespasser? An imposter?
Noticeably, Putin lifts the jacket off the hook now and then, dusts it off. For example, he remarked (see our prior post) of the West´s policy in last month´s Ukrainian crisis, "They must have really lacked political instinct and common sense..."
Putin´s comment was no gratuitous dig. On some level, his remark must be meaningful -- otherwise I wouldn´t be writing about it and you wouldn´t be reading it. Words can only acquire meaning within a context. Could that context for Obama be the jacket complex? If that is the case, the r-s-p-e-c-t incident demonstrates that a single phrase -- indeed, a single letter or word -- suffices to give wings to a general psychic motive of inferiority, stupidity, incompetence. If the ensuing, soaring flight does not shoot down sound decision-making by Obama, what will?
Intelligence services seem to be fully aware of that capability; specific instances, examples, cases are piling up. I think they will continue to do so, for reasons given below.
Unconscious father and societal complexes with two letter associations, r and e, in quick succession to activate simultaneously both complexes; a relaxed atmosphere during an important event; the mammoth jacket hanging in the background: r-s-p-e-c-t was a bad idea whose time had come.
* * *
But ambiguity is richness.*****
-- Jorge Luis Borges --
To repeat: nothing approaching a full analysis is intended here, but that doesn´t prevent us from having ideas and opinions.
What is the road to a solution? That is our third question.
I decided to include it because of its paramount importance. A solution would render useless the subliminal tools which others are using -- blatantly so, in my opinion -- to seduce, disorient and mislead Obama.
Our priority, then, is diametrically opposed to that of intelligence agencies.
The photos of the Russian and Chinese intelligence headquarters at the top of this post cannot but make you wonder what is happening in their entrails. Behind the closed windows and guarded doors, wonder stops here: they are spending vast amounts of resources trying to figure out Obama.
I venture to guess they have concentrated first and foremost on Obama´s father complex. It is the most obvious, as well as most conventional, lead. And in fact an understanding of that complex may suffice for them to achieve their goal: at least get Obama to occasionally knock himself off balance; at most cause him to defeat himself.
In our search for the road to the solution, unlike intelligence agencies we go on and ask another question:
Why is the father complex there? What caused Obama to make an absolute out of his father? Did the father complex create ambivalent impulses, a love/hate relationship with authority, or did ambivalent impulses create the father complex? If the latter is true, Obama´s hamartia or basic frailty is not what it appears to be at first glance, an excessive love of father -- a father hunger -- but something else, deeper...
True, there is an answer to the why of Obama´s father complex on a strictly personal level. His father left (abandoned?) the family when Obama was two years old. However, a father complex per se cannot be explained entirely on a personal basis. For one thing, not everybody who lost their father has a father complex. For another, millions of people around the world make an absolute out of an absent father as well as of other things, e.g., their religion, country, football team, a singer, the girl next door, their mother. Why?
With that question, we enter a land far from Newton and Descartes. It is the land of the most complex and important logic of all: the logic of emotions.
We come to an alternative explanation of Obama. You won´t find it anywhere else; it is taboo.
Obama is a quintessential middle class man. That calls for an explanation:
In writing The Source of Terrorism: Middle Class Rebellion, I was compelled to do what previously had not been done: define middle class in a way that provided insight not only into what that class is but also why it gives birth to the majority of terrorists. Over the decades, I developed a definition of middle class rooted in anthropology, notably the works of Arnold Van Gennep, Mary Douglas and Franz Baermann Steiner, as well as in Aristotle´s Politics and Freud´s Totem and Taboo.
Source defined middle class in terms of its dual meaning: (1) the conventional one we all know and use. The middle class is the socio-economic class between rich and poor. (2) The nonconventional meaning which is broader. Middle class is any status or condition that is marginal, intermediary and/or transitional.
The socio-economic middle class is to the broader meaning what a class is to its phylum. For understanding societies, the socio-economic middle class is probably the most important representation of the marginal/intermediate/transitional phylum; however, it is by no means the only case. Everybody has been middle class countless times and in countless ways. If you went someplace in a car, you were in the middle until you arrived.
The broader meaning of middle class has been most thoroughly analyzed in anthropology. Mary Douglas presented the heart of the matter in her discussion of Arnold Van Gennep, who
"saw society as a house with rooms and corridors in which passage from one to another is dangerous. Danger lies in transitional states, simply because transition is neither one state nor the next, it is indefinable. The person who must pass from one to another is himself in danger and emanates danger to others. The danger is controlled by ritual which precisely separates him from his old status, segregates him for a time and then publicly declares his entry to his new status. Not only is transition itself dangerous, but also the rituals of segregation are the most dangerous phase of the rites.…The whole repertoire of ideas concerning pollution and purification are used to mark the gravity of the event and the power of ritual to remake a man -- this is straightforward."******
The viewpoint that danger and impurity are inherent to the middle class phylum completely contradicts the prevailing Aristotelian viewpoint of the socio-economic middle class as the center of moderation and compromise, of reason and responsibility, of fairness, of peaceful reconciliation of rich and poor. That contradiction is why our explanation is taboo, for it cannot be publicly recognized that the socio-economic middle class has a dark side -- that it is a source of irrationality, of extremism, of terrorism -- even though most people will acknowledge in private the dark side exists.
Both the Aristotelian and anthropological viewpoints have truth. That reality leads to the bottom line. Source:
"Our picture of the middle class is now ambiguous. If there is a key to understanding the socio-economic middle class, it is ambiguity and the ambivalent attitudes accompanying it...[O]ur definition of the socio-economic middle class is the zone where moderation + danger = ambiguity."*******
With the above perspective in mind, the first few pages of Dreams From My Father confirm the conclusion that Obama is middle class in both meanings of the term. (i) He comes from the socio-economic middle class. (“´After all, you don’t come from an underprivileged background,´ a Manhattan publisher helpfully points out to me," p. 4) (ii) With a white mother and black father, he is middle class in terms of race. A consummate intermediate/transitional/marginal man, then, if there ever was one.
The ambiguous status and milieu of an intermediate/marginal/transitional condition create and maintain ambivalent feelings. "On the one hand, on the other;" "There is the good side and the bad side." Understandably, the middle class man tires of being tossed to and fro. That displeasure (Freud´s word) can give rise to a search for relief in an absolute -- because an absolute is the opposite of ambivalence.
As previously indicated, the father-as-absolute is only one of innumerable absolutes which can be offered as solutions. Innumerable because the middle class psyche, given its fundamental ambivalence, can convert anything into an absolute. A straight line can qualify.
Obama makes (p. 6) a resounding statement of his own ambivalence/absolute connection: "At the time of his death, my father remained a myth to me, both more and less than a man." Any extreme******** always testifes to the presence of its opposite nearby, usually in a latent condition. That presence and its tension is what gives the first extreme its energy, i.e., makes it an extreme.
In Obama´s case: my father was a myth, more than a man. Of course, as a real live human, my father could not but occasionally fall short of a mythological status; therefore...my father was less than a man. Inferior. A violent drunk? A womanizer? In the extremist-dynamics of middle class psychology, it is all or nothing. Life is not heaven; therefore, it must be hell. The Child of the Good becomes -- and instantly so -- the Child of the Bad.
The telltale heart of the consummate middle class man -- the man of extreme moderation -- is something that is not there: no moderating intermediate points to fall back on.
Source holds (p. 394) that the way out of entanglement in ambivalent feelings begins with a simple recognition and hard acknowledgement of them: "By holding ambiguity and ambivalent emotions surrounding it in consciousness -- by not repressing, denying, explaining away, or otherwise minimizing them..." Anything less only serves to preserve the autonomy of unconscious ambivalence -- the source of displeasure and of a whole plethora of problems noted here.
What difference does awareness make? Everything.
Start with a cue from the singular success of Alcoholics Anonymous. The group will not work with an alcoholic unless he first openly and unconditionally acknowledges what he is.
When a middle class man becomes conscious of and admits without reservation his ambivalent emotions, he can begin to control them -- instead of being controlled by them; he can cease to be possessed by an unconscious archetype. In that process, he ceases to be available for manipulation by others who recognize and understand the archetype.
There is something else ambivalence-made-conscious brings to the middle class man: a freeing up of energy that makes available the richness which ambiguity can furnish. For a case study, look no further than Obama. Despite himself, had he been white he would not have been president.
Where does Obama stand? Does he fully acknowledge his racial intermediate/marginal/transitional status and consciously deal with it, or is he doing something else? Who or what is in control?
His book (p. 4) provides the answer:
"They know too much, we have all seen too much, to take my parents’ brief union -- a black man and white woman, an African and an American -- at face value. As a result, some people have a hard time taking me at face value. When people who don’t know me well, black or white, discover my background (and it is usually a discovery, for I ceased to advertise my mother’s race at the age of twelve or thirteen, when I began to suspect that by doing so I was ingratiating myself to whites), I see the split-second adjustments they have to make, the searching of my eyes for some telltale sign. They no longer know who I am. Privately, they guess at my troubled heart, I suppose -- the mixed blood, the divided soul, the ghostly image of the tragic mulatto trapped between two worlds."
Mixed blood, divided soul, trapped between two worlds: Obama found the door to a full recognition and acknowledgement of his ambiguous black and white, intermediate/marginal/transitional -- middle class -- status. Did he turn the handle, enter? Confront the truth?
This is what happened:
"And if I were to explain that no, the tragedy is not mine, or at least not mine alone, it is yours, sons and daughters of Plymouth Rock and Ellis Island, it is yours, children of Africa, it is the tragedy of both my wife’s six-year-old cousin and his white first grade classmates [who would not play with him], so that you need not guess at what troubles me, it’s on the nightly news for all to see, and that if we could acknowledge at least that much then the tragic cycle begins to break down..."
The tragedy is not mine alone, it is yours; Plymouth Rock; first grade; nightly news: Obama blew off the encounter. He turned, walked away from the very acknowledgement he rightly intuited is the key. A momentous discovery went undiscovered. Read his words again: he explained away; he minimized. He repressed. He copped out.
To this day, Obama attempts to solve his midde class racial status by denying it exists; he says he is Black, period. Slam-dunk; case closed, over and out. No contradiction there. In r-s-p-e-c-t and elsewhere, however, his unconscious is telling him something else. Until he listens, it will continue to speak and always in the same way: self-sabotage.
After his words break down, where did Obama go? He did the only thing he knows how to do. He openly said what it is: hide from himself. He forged ahead in a discordant, hypomaniacal -- almost logorreheic -- torrent of words:
"well, I suspect that I sound incurably naive, wedded to lost hopes, like those Communists who peddle their newspapers on the fringes of various college towns. Or worse, I sound like I’m trying to hide from myself. I don’t fault people their suspicions. I learned long ago to distrust my childhood and the stories that shaped it. It was only many years later, after I had sat at my father’s grave and spoken to him through Africa’s red soil, that I could circle back and evaluate these early stories for myself. Or, more accurately, it was only then that I understood that I had spent much of my life trying to rewrite these stories, plugging up holes in the narrative, accommodating unwelcome details, projecting individual choices against the blind sweep of history, all in the hope of extracting some granite slab of truth upon which my unborn children can firmly stand. At some point, then, in spite of a stubborn desire to protect myself from scrutiny, in spite of the periodic impulse to abandon the entire project, what has found its way onto these pages is a record of a personal, interior journey-a boy’s search for his father, and through that search a workable meaning for his life as a black American."
Lost hopes, fringes, hiding, fault, distrust, circle back, re-write, plugging up, accommodating, projecting, blind, stubborn, protect, scrutiny, periodic impulse to abandon. The granite slab of truth -- the absolute -- Obama is searching for is simultaneously hidden and revealed in those words -- his words -- nowhere else. If it were possible, the While House would hose them down, scrub them up.
What it all amounts to:
Until Obama acknowledges his ambivalence and strips it of its sovereignty, we will only see more of the same pattern: error, frailty, miscalculation, trespass...missing the mark. How can it be otherwise when there is on-going manipulation of his ambivalence by others, particularly intelligence agencies domestic and foreign?
As I write these words we are witnessing a textbook case of ambivalence manipulation by Putin in the Ukraine crisis. He has 40,000 invasion-ready troops parked on the Ukraine border. He says he will not invade Ukraine; however, he also reserves the right to protect fellow Russians. On the one hand; on the other. There´s the good side and the bad side. Putin has found a tool that works: the tired-but- true whipsaw. What is amazing is that apparently nobody in Washington knows what is at the bottom of it or know how to counter it.
I will go ahead and say it. Obama´s hamartia is Hamlet´s. Indecisiveness, created by ambivalent emotions he does not acknowledge, much less control. For now, it is bigger than him.
Update: April 20, 2014. A few days ago, a singularly revealing statement was issued by the Russian Government:
"President Barack Obama said Thursday's deal in Geneva between Russia, Ukraine and Western powers to reduce tensions in the Russian-speaking east of Ukraine was promising but that Washington and its allies were prepared to impose more sanctions on Russia if the situation fails to improve.
´Statements like those made at a high level in Washington that the United States will follow in detail how Russia fulfils its obligations ... are unlikely to help dialogue,´ President Vladimir Putin's spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said.
´You can't treat Russia like a guilty schoolboy who has to put a cross on a piece of paper to show he has done his homework,´ Peskov said in an interview with Russia's First Channel. ´That kind of language is unacceptable.´"
Guilty schoolboy, homework, cross, unacceptable. Tsk-tsk: Peskov went out of his way to define -- blatantly so -- the issue in terms designed to set in motion Obama´s father complex.
Actually, in reducing the Ukraine crisis to a little boy, schoolyard pissing contest, Peskov inadvertently created a magnificent opportunity for Obama to counter. It is difficult to imagine, however, he can see it, much less use it. On top of everything else (see above), Obama cannot count on the CIA to help him; they have a vested interest in maintaining and manipulating his father complex for their own purposes. That may explain why Peskov figured he could make the statement and get away with it.
*Sigmund Freud, The Psychopathology of Everyday Life , p. 335.
**Hamartia (ἁμαρτία) has been alternatively translated as fatal flaw, frailty, sin, trespass, mistake, miscalculation, error of judgment. The problem is, the more the meaning of hamartia is investigated, the more its meaning slips away. That is always the case when a word refers to a phenomenon deeply rooted in the unconscious. Scholars agree, however, that the most basic sense of hamartia is missing the mark.
For more on hamartia, see our post of February 28, 2014, "The Hamartia of Rafael Correa."
***A major indicator of the song´s substance is detectable in a derivative.
The libidinally-loaded expression sock it to me did not originate in Aretha Franklin´s song; however, her recording was probably the source of the phrase´s subsequent use in Rowen & Martin´s Laugh-in TV show (1968-73), which propelled the expression nationwide.
Obama isn´t the first president to be connected directly/indirectly to "Respect." For President Nixon´s "sock it to me," click here.
****Reports continue to circulate that Dreams From My Father was ghost-written by Obama´s friend, Bill Ayers. For one of the more responsible discussions, click here.
Even if the book were 100% written by Ayers, it would not discount our analysis. (i) Obviously, Ayers had input from Obama. (ii) In the end, Obama signed off on the book, owned it, claimed it. (iii) Most importantly, not all the reasons why Obama would have picked Ayers to write the book could have been conscious ones.
***** "...pero la ambiguëdad es una riqueza." Jorge Luis Borges, "Pierre Menard, autor del Quijote," p. 449.
******Mary Douglas, Purity and Danger, Routledge, London, England, 1996, p. 97.
*******The Source of Terrorism: Middle Class Rebellion, pp. 61, 66. Stated in dramaturgical terms: "The possessed of Dostoevsky have stronger ties to the Babbitts of Sinclair Lewis than normally meets the eye." (Ibid., p. 252)
********Carl Jung defined the tendency of extremes to change into their opposites as enantiodromia or “the emergence of the unconscious opposite in the course of time. This characteristic phenomenon practically always occurs when an extreme, one-sided tendency dominates conscious life; in time an equally powerful counterposition is built up, which first inhibits the conscious performance and subsequently breaks through the conscious control.” C. G. Jung, “Psychological Types,” in C. G. Jung, The Collected Works of C. G. Jung, Volume 6, H. G. Baynes, translator, 1990, p. 426. (Paragraph 709). Jung did not attach the vital importance we do to the relationship between enantiodromia and socio-economic milieu.