"It's a provocation from North Korea, it's obvious.
They count on a specific reaction from the partners
and they get it. Why are you playing along with it?
Have ever you thought about it?"
-- Vladimir Putin on North Korea´s latest nuclear test --
Yes, President Putin, we have thought about it.
To understand Kim we must look at both Kim and Donald Trump. In the provocation/response dynamic, each creates the other to an important extent.
I. Kim Jong-un.
The mainstream media love to paint Kim as a mystery man -- inscrutable. Actually, he is an easy call.
Let´s look first at the two latest emanations of an unconscious complex constellated in Kim:
1. On July 4, 2017, Kim answered in unequivocal terms an olive branch tendered by Trump and Secretary of State Tillerson:
Kim launched an ICBM.
On Wednesday morning, North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un, taunted the United States, saying the launch was a Fourth of July “gift” to the Trump administration. The Korean Central News Agency said the country’s citizens were happy with the “great timing” of their leader’s decision to “hit the arrogant Americans in the nose” by conducting the first ICBM test to coincide with Independence Day. “The American bastards must be quite unhappy after closely watching our strategic decision,” the news agency quoted Mr. Kim as saying after watching the missile test on Tuesday. “I guess they are not too happy with the gift package we sent them for the occasion of their Independence Day. We should often send them gift packages so they won’t be too bored.”
Mr. Kim made those remarks “with a guffaw,” the news agency said.
2. America is not the sole recipient of Kim´s “gifts” and guffaws:
The timing of North Korea’s recent nuclear test managed, once again, to embarrass its only ally in the diplomatic world: China.
It was particularly unfortunate for China’s president, Xi Jinping. The test took place hours before Xi took the stage as host of the BRICS summit of major emerging economies — a meeting meant to showcase Beijing as a global player.
This was not the first time that North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong Un, has rattled the Chinese leader: Missile tests upstaged at least two other major events for Xi this year.
Kim´s behavior indicates he is an erstwhile practitioner of dandyism. Albert Camus gave an unsurpassed exposition of the term:
“To live and die before a mirror”: that, according to Baudelaire, was the dandy’s slogan. It is indeed a coherent slogan. The dandy is, by occupation, always in opposition. He can only exist by defiance…The dandy rallies his forces and creates a unity for himself by the very violence of his refusal. Profligate, like all people without a rule of life, he is coherent as an actor. But an actor implies a public; the dandy can only play a part by setting himself up in opposition. He can only be sure of his own existence by finding it in the expression of others’ faces. Other people are his mirror. A mirror that quickly becomes clouded, it is true, since human capacity for attention is limited. It must be ceaselessly stimulated, spurred on by provocation. The dandy, therefore, is always compelled to astonish. Singularity is his vocation, excess his way to perfection. Perpetually incomplete, always on the fringe of things, he compels others to create him, while denying their values. He plays at life because he is unable to live it. [Albert Camus, The Rebel, Vintage Press, New York, 1956, pp. 51-2.]
The dandy finds existence only in the eyes of other people. Marginal and incomplete, without them, he is nothing. Putin´s comment on provocation to generate a reaction shows far more insight into Kim than anything Washington has exhibited to date.
Let´s cut to the chase. Can Kim´s in-you-face defiance, his astonishing dandy behavior, be curtailed?
Camus and Putin provided the indispensable key. To appreciate it requires a brief digression.
Our prior posts on North Korea have emphasized that Trump and his advisers are making a singular, perhaps fatal mistake for millions of people, in talking about and dealing with Kim directly. The September 5th performance of US. Ambassador to the U.N., Nikki Haley, in which she said Kim was “begging for war” was a vintage display of precisely what should not be done. Ditto the face-to-face U.S.-North Korea crisis talks she mentioned.
What is the alternative? We must go further than Putin who implied that simply not responding to Kim´s provocations was enough to fix the problem.
During the Cuban missile crisis, JFK dealt exclusively with Russia, never with the Castro Government. Indeed, throughout the crisis it was as though Castro did not exist.
For JFK the issue revolved around making Russia responsible for Cuba. By dealing only with Russia, JFK forced Khrushchev, the puppet master, to step out from behind the curtain. When he appeared on the world stage what happened was exactly what transpired when the mask was torn off ISIS frontman Jihadi John. Show Over.
In today´s Korean crisis, Russia = China; Cuba = North Korea.
We congealed our JFK-derived policy as The Belvedere Doctrine: It shall be the policy of this nation to regard any missile launched from North Korea against any ally of the United States as an attack by China on the United States, requiring a full retaliatory response upon China.
The indispensable first step to successfully handle Kim: take away his mirror. In Putin´s words, stop playing along. In the current crisis, America and its allies should talk about and deal only with China, the puppet master.
The Belvedere Doctrine does what no other policy can accomplish. It makes – not suggests or requests, much less begs – China be entirely responsible for North Korea. By ignoring Kim, the Doctrine takes away Kim´s Western mirror.
No mirror; no dandyism. That is of course an oversimplification. Removing the mirror is necessary but not sufficient for moderating Kim´s belligerence and resolving the Korean crisis peacefully.
If Kim only exists by provoking others to create him while denying their values – in brief, by being a dandy who lives – and dies – in front of a mirror – why?
II. Kim´s Compulsion to Defy Explained
Kim is possessed by a psychological archetype.
Carl Jung defined an archetype as follows:
(i) Archetypes are systems of readiness for action, and at the same time images and emotions. They are inherited with the brain structure – indeed they are its psychic aspect. They represent, on the one hand, a very strong instinctive conservatism, while on the other hand they are the most effective means conceivable of instinctive adaptation. They are thus, essentially, the chthonic portion of the psyche … that portion through which the psyche is attached to nature. [“Mind and Earth,” CW 10, par. 53.]
(ii) It is not … a question of inherited ideas but of inherited possibilities of ideas. Nor are they individual acquisitions but, in the main, common to all, as can be seen from [their] universal occurrence. [“Concerning the Archetypes and the Anima Concept,” CW 9i, par. 136.]
In sum, a psychological archetype is something deeper than deep in the psyche. Like the wind, we cannot see an archetype per se, only what it does. Those results take the form of ideas and images. They are potentially limitless. However, some forms present themselves more frequently than others: the shadow, the trickster, anima and animus, the great mother, the maiden, the wise old man, rebirth or transformation, the flood, the child and child hero, and the mandala.
Kim´s acts, attitude and words show, over and over again, he is possessed by the trickster archetype. A primordial compulsion, it is bigger than he is – a lot bigger. It rules him, not vice-versa.
The basic characteristics of the trickster:
Lewis Hyde describes the trickster as a "boundary-crosser" …
Often, the bending/breaking of rules takes the form of tricks or thievery. Tricksters can be cunning or foolish or both. The trickster openly questions and mocks authority. They are usually male characters, and are fond of breaking rules, boasting, and playing tricks on both humans and gods.
All cultures have tales of the trickster, a crafty creature who uses cunning to get food, steal precious possessions, or simply cause mischief …
[The trickster is] a sort of catalyst, in that his antics are the cause of other characters' discomfiture, but he himself is left untouched …
In later folklore, the trickster/clown is incarnated as a clever, mischievous man or creature, who tries to survive the dangers and challenges of the world using trickery and deceit as a defense. He also is known for entertaining people as a clown does.
In America, Bugs Bunny is the best-known trickster figure. Froggy the Gremlin, a puppet on a 1950s children´s TV show, every Saturday morning bamboozled pedantic adults into committing silly, self-destructive acts.
The most succinct description of the trickster I have encountered is the tarot card of “The Fool.” (see above image). Jung contended that tarot cards and alchemical studies were unmitigated emanations of the unconscious; he used them as basic tools and texts for analysis. The tarot image is self-explanatory. I would add only that (i) the sun, source of enlightenment, is to the fool´s back; to see it he will have to turn around. (ii) He is about to step off a cliff. His dog (his animal instinct) is warning him. He can still back away. Will he? (iii) The orange and green of his clothes symbolize energy and initiation.
In sum: the fool-trickster archetype is a syndrome, a running together of innocence, foolishness, craftiness, adventure, spontaneity, youth, clumsiness.
Identifying Kim´s trickster complex goes a long way in answering why he is so singularly and violently defiant. But to find out what can and cannot be done about it, we need to go further: what is the trickster archetype on a deeper level?
The following citations are from Jung´s “On the Psychology of the Trickster Figure.”
1. The trickster is deep, primordial.
In his clearest manifestations he is a faithful reflection of an absolutely undifferentiated human consciousness, corresponding to a psyche that has hardly left the animal level …
The figure… is split off from … consciousness and consequently behaves like an autonomous personality. The trickster is a collective shadow figure, a summation of all the inferior traits of character in individuals.
2. The trickster is not all “bad.” He can serve to restore needed equilibrium. In that regard the trickster
stands in a complementary or compensatory relationship to the ego-personality. It is a personification of traits of character which are sometimes worse and sometimes better than those the ego-personality possesses.
On one level, Froggy The Gremlin is a case study in needed compensation.
3. The trickster is not only highly primitive; he is also well-preserved.
[T]he trickster motif does not crop up only in its mythical form but appears just as naively and authentically in the unsuspecting modern man—whenever, in fact, he feels himself at the mercy of annoying ´accidents´which thwart his will and his actions with apparently malicious intent. He then speaks of ´hoodoos´ and ´jinxes´ or of the ´mischievousness of the object.´ … On the civilized level, it is regarded as a personal ´gaffe,´ ´slip,´ ´faux pas,”´etc., … We are no longer aware that in carnival customs and the like there are remnants of a collective shadow figure …
Obama was famously had by his inner trickster when he misspelled “respect” at a White House dinner honoring Aretha Franklin.
4. Belonging to an early stage of consciousness, the trickster does not engage in self-reflection. Bugs Bunny and Froggy never wonder about what they are doing.
Anyone who belongs to a sphere of culture that seeks the perfect state somewhere in the past must feel very queerly indeed when confronted by the figure of the trickster. He is a forerunner of the saviour, and, like him, God, man, and animal at once. He is both subhuman and superhuman, a bestial and divine being, whose chief and most alarming characteristic is his unconsciousness.
5. As was just indicated, the trickster is implacably ambiguous. Neither here nor there, he is both, yet neither of whatever you want or have in mind.
[H]e is in many respects stupider than the animals, and gets into one ridiculous scrape after another ... he does the most atrocious things from sheer unconsciousness and unrelatedness … The trickster is a primitive ´cosmic´ being of divine-animal nature, on the one hand superior to man because of his superhuman qualities, and on the other hand inferior to him because of his unreason and unconsciousness. He is no match for the animals either, because of his extraordinary clumsiness and lack of instinct ...
The malicious tricks played by the poltergeist are as well known as the low level of his intelligence and the fatuity of his ´communications.´
Trump called Kim a “sharp cookie.” At the same time, by risking annihilation Kim is incredibly stupid. Those and other stark dichotomies are the trickster archetype in action.
The trickster´s dualism makes appropriate a dire warning. Should his clever and crafty side be diverted, the fool in him may step off a cliff.
6. The trickster archetype cannot be destroyed. Furthermore, repressing a trickster is ultimately self-defeating. However, if dealt with properly, the archetype can lose its energy.
Mere vestiges of an early state that is dying out usually lose their energy at an increasing rate … the trickster obviously represents a vanishing level of consciousness which increasingly lacks the power to take express and assert itself. Furthermore, repression would prevent it from vanishing, because repressed contents are the very ones that have the best chance of survival, as we know from experience that nothing is corrected in the unconscious ... We have often seen how certain customs, originally cruel or obscene, became mere vestiges in the course of time.
The process of rendering this motif harmless takes an extremely long time … in the case of the trickster a higher level of consciousness has covered up a lower one, and that the latter was already in retreat. [Modern man´s] recollection, however, is mainly due to the interest which the conscious mind brings to bear on him, the inevitable concomitant being, as we have seen, the gradual civilizing, i.e., assimilation, of a primitive daemonic figure who was originally autonomous and even capable of causing possession.
Plainly speaking, other than depriving him of his mirror, what, if anything, can be done to end the possession of Kim by the trickster archetype? To sap its energy and render it a vestige?
In addition to the long time required, there is an another problem: the process must begin with Kim, the trickster. It can occur provided certain circumstances are absent.
[T]he civilizing process begins within the framework of the trickster cycle itself, and this is a clear indication that the original state has been overcome. At any rate the marks of deepest unconsciousness fall away from him; instead of acting in a brutal, savage, stupid, and senseless fashion, the trickster’s behaviour towards the end of the cycle becomes quite useful and sensible … The naive reader may imagine that when the dark aspects disappear they are no longer there in reality. But that is not the case at all, as experience shows. What actually happens is that the conscious mind is then able to free itself from the fascination of evil and is no longer obliged to live it compulsively. The darkness and the evil have not gone up in smoke, they have merely withdrawn into the unconscious owing to loss of energy, where they remain unconscious so long as all is well with the conscious. But if the conscious should find itself in a critical or doubtful situation, then it soon becomes apparent that the shadow has not dissolved into nothing but is only waiting for a favourable opportunity to reappear as a projection upon one’s neighbour. If this trick is successful, there is immediately created between them that world of primordial darkness where everything that is characteristic of the trickster can happen-even on the highest plane of civilization.
As the years passed, Muhammed Ali exhibited the assimilation process Jung described.
Sidebar: today´s prevailing critical or doubtful situation – one packed with shock and confusion -- fostered/entered into by Trump reinforces the trickster figure in Kim.
7. Given its autonomous behavior, the trickster archetype is not merely dangerous; when present on a political level it can be catastrophic.
The so-called civilized man has forgotten the trickster ... He never suspects that his own hidden and apparently harmless shadow has qualities whose dangerousness exceeds his wildest dreams. As soon as people get together in masses and submerge the individual, the shadow is mobilized, and, as history shows, may even be personified and incarnated.
Does the North Korean idolatry of Kim, his grandfather and father as saviors prefigure disaster?
If, at the end of the trickster myth, the savior is hinted at, this comforting premonition or hope means that some calamity or other has happened and been consciously understood. Only out of disaster can the longing for the savior arise—in other words, the recognition and unavoidable integration of the shadow create such a harrowing situation that nobody but a savior can undo the tangled web of fate.
To conclude this point: it is possible, albeit only remotely and with time, for Kim to cast aside/transcend his trickster possession, viz., his violent defiance and need for a mirror -- his dandyism.
Here, however, a new question arises: is Donald Trump the man to activate that transformation?
III. Donald Trump
We dealt with Trump in depth in our post of July 1, 2017, "Why Trump Continually Trumps Trump":
The key to understanding Trump: he is possessed by his psychological shadow.
Here is an introductory summary of Jung´s analysis of the shadow:
The shadow personifies everything that the subject refuses to acknowledge about himself´ and represents ´a tight passage, a narrow door, whose painful constriction no one is spared who goes down to the deep well´. If and when 'an individual makes an attempt to see his shadow, he becomes aware of (and often ashamed of) those qualities and impulses he denies in himself but can plainly see in others — such things as egotism, mental laziness, and sloppiness; unreal fantasies, schemes, and plots; carelessness and cowardice; inordinate love of money and possessions — ...[a] painful and lengthy work of self-education.´
Like Kim Jong-un, Trump isn´t about to take a painful and lengthy look at himself.
Jung´s discussion of the shadow mentions
the danger of falling victim to the shadow ... the black shadow which everybody carries with him, the ... hidden aspect of the personality' — of a merger with the shadow ...
Jung went on to noted that the shadow can overwhelm a person, notably when the conscious mind is shocked, confused, or paralyzed by indecision.
A man who is possessed by his shadow is always standing in his own light and falling into his own traps ... living below his own level': hence, in terms of the story of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, 'it must be Jekyll, the conscious personality, who integrates the shadow ... and not vice versa. Otherwise the conscious becomes the slave of the autonomous shadow.
Twitter is the perfect vehicle for the shadow to well up, seize control.* Brief, fast, easy -- above all, easy; no laborious thinking required. No fuss, no muss. In three words: down and dirty. No censor anywhere; you can be sure Trump´s aides aren´t allowed in his bedroom.
Trump gets a hot idea, can´t resist it, sits down at the computer at 4 a.m., and BANG! – it flies off to the world.
As to why he can´t resist, the shadow knows. It is dictating not only Trump´s words but also his actions, feelings, thoughts, intuitions.
Here is the full quote of Jung on what happens in such cases:
A man who is possessed by his shadow is always standing in his own light and falling into his own traps. Whenever possible, he prefers to make an unfavourable impression on others. In the long run luck is always against him, because he is living below his own level and at best only attains what does not suit him. And if there is no doorstep for him to stumble over, he manufactures one for himself and then fondly believes he has done something useful." [C. G. Jung, The Archetypes and The Collective Unconscious, in Collected Works, ¶ 222, p. 3,631.]
Kim the trickster is the perfect entity to make Trump stumble, fall. To help Trump create doorsteps which appear almost daily (make that: nightly). Trump´s ultimately self-defeating squabble with the NFL and the NBA is the latest example.
In conclusion, Putin asked why Trump plays along with Kim. The answer is, Trump cannot do otherwise. Moderating Kim´s trickster figure requires a level of awareness that neither Trump nor any of his advisers has. Shadow possession makes Trump incapable of taking even the first, indispensable step of removing Kim´s mirror, something which is entirely in Trump´s power to do.
For the reason just given, I see no satisfactory, peaceful solution of the Korean crisis as long as Trump is in power.
The proof of the possession of Trump by his shadow is evident in that possession´s free-floating nature. In the event Kim dies or vanishes from the scene a la Khrushchev, you will see another “enemy” trickster quickly pop up, take his place. Russia, Iran, China: you have been warned.
In the meantime it´s shadow boxing all around, North Korea versus the U.S., all of it utterly unconscious, and -- given what is at stake -- potentially calamitous.
*Update, Monday, September 25. Trump´s Saturday-night gratuitous tweet that Kim and his foreign minister "won´t be around much longer" is a classic effusion of his black shadow, i.e., Mr. Hyde.
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