One of the biggest lies in the last debate came from Trump, obviously, in a slew of his other lies, which are so habitual for the man that lawyers dealing with him come in pairs to better withstand the torrent of his whoppers and remain anchored in reality.
No, it was not “Nobody respects women more than I do,” one so obvious that it elicited guffaws from the audience; nor any other of old and tired ones he’s been regaling us with this past year.
I’ve visited so many communities. This has been such an incredible education for me, Chris. I’ve gotten to know so many, I’ve developed so many friends over the last year.
Yes, he’s visited many communities. No, this has not been an education for him, incredible or other, as the man is incapable of learning. And most definitely he has not “developed” friends, as he is even less capable of friendship and forming close relationships with human beings.
One is tempted. You’ve developed many friends, you say. What are their names, Donald? What are their stories? Their needs and dreams? Friends know each other’s names, stories, needs and dreams.
Donald Trump, like other people with his character defect, does not have friends. He has associates / sycophants and a trophy family with movable members, all parts of his narcissistic supply. His relationships with them are transactional, based on an exchange of goods — adulation and other services for financial support and related perks.
They are most definitely not based on empathy, compassion, and mutual understanding of the human (i.e., non-mercenary) kind, with deepening knowledge of each other’s characters and needs, reciprocal care, and a desire to help each other in development. There may be people within his close circle who had such desires for him at one time, but had to give them up as they saw his lack of empathy and capacity for growth and change, and had to protect themselves from his callousness, abuse and exploitation.
Those people would not be his family, however, as his family appears to be infected by the incurable and deadly disease of Trumpitis, manifested so clearly in their empty and/or hardened — distrustful and contemptuous — faces. Apparently Trumpitis kills the soul; and if we allow it, it would do to America what it has done to members of the Trump clan.
Abuse and exploitation of others come easy to people without a functioning conscience, most of whom are psychopathic and/or narcissistic, as their lack of empathy and guilt makes it natural, for them, to treat others like objects. This manifests in their actions, of course, but also in their words.
Trump’s language of objectification — and that’s apart from his other open expressions of blatant disrespect and derision for others, especially those who are weaker or not sufficiently adulatory toward him — has been amply demonstrated in this election season.
Objectification of others is the root of all evil. There really is no other. Greed, lust, pride, aggression, self-seeking are problematic sources of much misery, but in themselves they fall under the common shortcomings rubric. When combined, however, with dehumanization / objectification of others, they become truly devilish.
Evil is just that: Treating others as things to use for one’s whim/wish/need fulfillment, to be discarded and/or destroyed when they no longer serve that function, as is the natural consequence of objectification.
For Trump, people exist solely as such things/props in his personal psychodrama. He does not know or understand them, nor cares to acquire such understanding. His assessment of others is black-and-white nasty or nice, based on how well they fulfill the function of providing him with adulation and a sense of power. The nice ones are those who submit and sing songs of his praise; the nasty ones are those who refuse to do so.
Even when he’s trying to sound appreciative, he cannot come up with better, more detailed and elaborate descriptors of others beyond amazing or tremendous or something equally pat and meaningless. That’s because his understanding of others is as shallow as his self-knowledge and his self-knowledge is as shallow as his understanding of anything else about life. And that shallowness comes from a lack of conscience.
In her brilliant 1941 essay mentioned in the last post, Who Goes Nazi?, Dorothy Thompson presents a gallery of human characters assessed on their susceptibility to Nazism. She briefly sketches their life stories and possible (and plausible) reasons why they would, could go Nazi — or not.
In that room full of people, many of whom would go Nazi in a heartbeat, there is only one character who, as she says, is a born Nazi:
I think young D over there is the only born Nazi in the room. Young D is the spoiled only son of a doting mother. He has never been crossed in his life. He spends his time at the game of seeing what he can get away with. He is constantly arrested for speeding and his mother pays the fines. He has been ruthless toward two wives and his mother pays the alimony. His life is spent in sensation-seeking and theatricality. He is utterly inconsiderate of everybody. He is very good-looking, in a vacuous, cavalier way, and inordinately vain. He would certainly fancy himself in a uniform that gave him a chance to swagger and lord it over others.
It is pure coincidence that this character’s name starts with a D. Could have been David, for all we know. Or Dennis. But he too is an obvious narcissist bereft of conscience, like that other D whose tantrums and dangerous ambitions we are forced to endure today. Thompson nails his chief characteristics, including sensation-seeking and poor impulse control (which make focusing on anything for longer periods of time impossible — thus inability to learn), his vanity and desire for adulation, exploitation of others, grandiosity and a lack of conscience manifested in his lack of empathy, shame and guilt.
Any of those traits, but most especially the latter, predispose one to
Trumpism Nazism. Conscience-based character defects, like narcissism and psychopathy and their whereabouts, are the very pathology that makes people susceptible to influences of authoritarian thugs and their ideologies.
In his WaPo column, Gerson asks:
What explains [Trump’s] pervasive shallowness? Laziness? Lack of curiosity? Who knows?
It is exasperating to hear that “Who knows?” question today. Because if after over a year of intense and relentless exposure to a nearly archetypal narcissistic psychopath it is still unclear that his shallowness is a predictable manifestation of his character defect, then we, collectively speaking, are not seeing what we should. That, of course, means that we remain blindly vulnerable to manipulations of these characters and the mayhem they inflict on humanity. And we are not learning the lessons we are meant to learn.
Gerson’s throwing his hands up like that suggests the biggest lie of this last debate as well as the whole debacle of 2016 election: That no one knows. That we don’t know.
We are past any excuses for our ignorance. If Thompson could get it, 75 years and several bloody world catastrophes, caused by leaders with this character defect, ago, then we should be well aware of it today.
That someone like Trump is so close to American Presidency is a sign from forces of the Universe & Co. that America is in dire trouble and must mend its ways ASAP. It is as though those forces (and please don’t ask what exactly they are) not only held a mirror, in the form of The Orange Menace, to our lives and collective psyche, but shook us forcefully and repeatedly to make us open our eyes. Yet we refuse.
There is a profound significance to Trump’s candidacy. He is so clearly a manifestation of our shadow, and so extreme because we’ve kept sweeping our problems under the rug, pretending they don’t exist for so long that we need an extreme reminder, a warning, of just how far we are on the path of self-destruction.
Whether we will heed that warning is another matter. Who knows?