Deep Sight with John Colarusso: Myth and Politics – E9

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Deep Sight with John Colarusso: Myth and Politics – E9

in this installment I going to get somewhat personal and discuss with you the relationship relationship between myth and politics I am an expert on the caucuses mountain region and starting in the 90s the area erupted into Wars and one day I walked into my office received a phone call from Tom Lantos late Tom Lantos congressman for from California and from his human rights a Marjorie Farrar asking if I would conduct through Washington or help conduct through Washington and Abkhazian delegation I knew the people I couldn’t say no I knew the leader we were personal friends Vladislav our agenda and began a nine year association with Washington as a security adviser for eight years to the Clinton administration and one year to w now the question that came up on last several times in the course a sense was how how could an ethologist become an effective political and security adviser and I had a fairly good run actually as a helper on the Washington stage when these terrible wars are racking and tearing apart the region that I knew and the people that I cared for and my response is may sound glib but it’s simply this that the transition from myth to politics is absolutely seamless it’s a very profound statement actually as simple as it sounds and I think if you understand myth and look at it in all its dimensions not just linguistically as I tend to do but in other ways as well it certainly in terms of archetypes in terms of narrative structure and whatnot it’s very similar to politics and I think the current season of the presidential campaign is a very good example of this and one might have is a subtitle not just myth in politics but why Donald is so scary and other huge problems there should be on one alternative title for this now in myth we have stories that are not only entertaining but help shape the identity and the sense of self of the people who hear them particularly thirty younger people and our often characterize as mine art and art saga efforts have been as giving the voice of a people whether it’s settings or Circassians our costumes so there are residences here of concepts of self concepts of community to whom you belong what you are and of course this is what politics does this is how politics goes beyond the level of the Klan and goes into the level of the nation and the community in the nation and provides an identity that needs to be supportive and sustained that is the essentials for a good life and for self-fulfillment within that nation and acts as a way of protecting that from alternate nations who have perhaps adversarial ambitions or are outright threats to the community to which you prolong the easy way to characterize this as good versus evil the opposition hero versus villain and myth gives us these opposition’s often and very clear and traumatized forms the truth is as a complex as our societies can be and as complex as individuals are the typical political discourse tends to polarize things in pretty much the same way and right now between Donald Trump and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton we see a polarization does that intense and in many ways that’s simple it is a classic mythic confrontation between good and evil as seen from one group’s perspective and evil first good as seen from another groups perspective now of course life is the continuity it’s a trivial statement and once you are no longer young and you’ve establish your identity you’ve heard your myths there are other myths and myths that offer hope all four directions offer words for the future so one of the themes of Mythology is

also hope for the future hope for the good the one what’s a good future okay generally not always something about generally and to some extent what’s happened in our society in the last say two generations is that a theme of liberalism has emerged and if one mustn’t you find that that’s fulfillment of the individual that is tolerance for variations between people that is a effort to forgive things that otherwise might be seen as failing is to help and to more or less level the playing field so everyone has a chance to have some kind of self fulfillment it rotates around the individual and the individual has power through the process of democracy expressing their individual preferences at the higher level and generally speaking the entire effort can be said to be an exercise in attaining and maintaining and promoting that the future of freedom now that’s a nice English word free freedom then why not kick if you turn to Sanskrit and you go to the old war bands that were running around in ancient India four thousand years ago they practice pre Adama prea the same word is free in English Adama dumb freedom pre Adama exactly the same idea of freedom so it has very ancient roots it’s not if we think of it sort of a modern manifestation of certain generations and the aftermath of terrible wars in the 20th century but it’s got ancient roots that go back at least 4000 years and probably farther so this is an eternal aspiration and what myths do is he talk about stuff that does not go away stuff that lasts generation through generation century by century millennium by millennium and in a sense our political aspirations will do the same now they’re couched politically the things our couch they’re pecked to a leader depict an event or petrol revolution the establishment of the United States breaking away from the British Empire so on and so forth and what we’re doing is evoking something that’s already there we’re bringing up an archetype we’re bringing up an ancient ideal and we’re pegging it as an invention of a certain time there’s myths too exactly the same thing someone will come in and the great hero comes in and he brings freedom defeats the monster and maybe by Oedipus solving the riddle of the Sphinx of course he ended up badly but still he freed the people of Thebes from terrible curse and these sorts of things and we we do the same kind of thing we peg it to certain things founding fathers and that’s our stuff now let me let me give you one analysis of the motive behind the American Revolution one idea was that the elites including the founding fathers and mothers obviously of this era tried to mimic as I saw naturally there their state the British aristocracy and to enjoy the privileges and fancy furniture chandeliers so forth that were familiar to them or their parents from their roots back in England now all that stuff had to be brought in by ship and it was extraordinarily expensive much more so than it was back in the homeland this is before the Revolution and they became mired in debt and it was so deeply mired in debt that they banded together and figured out of the congressional Congress that cause of that constitutional Congress meant that they only hope they ever had but get out from under the debt was to break away from England themselves independent and set up another country no that’s not myth and they may not be true but that certainly is one historical argument that I have read about the roots of the American Revolution we don’t talk about that way we don’t think about it that way and I must confess I myself when I read about these very plausible explanations the very mundane explanations was stunned and realized that I had been engaging as we all have in a political myth about the history and emergence of the United States now I’ve been in Canada for a while I’m a dual citizen I’ve been in Canada for a while and and come to find out an alternate home then there’s a myth about Canadian Confederation and the emergence of Canada and I looked into that as well well what happens there was an American Civil War they thought about anthology about we’ll have we come back to that the British supported the Confederate side the Confederate side lost the British bet on a losing force the Union

side was entitled as was still accustomed to seek war reparations from the British for what they saw as interference and making their effort to subdue the south even more difficult than it might have been and the British said oh okay what we’ll do is we’ll give you Canada and then you’ll have this huge territory you can have it all and at that time there was no Canada it was a geographical term it wasn’t a political entity was part of the British Empire and the British covered entirely entitled to do that now somehow another a handful of about six or seven in centering around Ottawa got wind of this and they didn’t want to be turned over it states they were afraid that they would confiscate the property of these fairly wealthy wealthy men so they got together and said look let’s declare a country then they can’t tear us turn us over and we’ll be free of this horrible threat and so it happened somehow they did this and and then when the Yankees called them went to London to to get their Canada London say oh sorry it said these characters have turned around and declared themselves to be a nation we’re gonna have trouble doing it now but we’ll just give you money instead it’s funny settle for the money more or less but even so for another 20 years there were little bands of fighters from uppers upstate New York wanting to seize Ontario they’re called Athenians after Finn McCool and his band and they would go up and fight and carry on and cause trouble in Ontario they eventually were ineffective and things settled down in the two countries became amicable neighbors but again another myth and I tell this to Canadians and they too are astonished and since it’s not my myth I’m more inclined to believe that one and and go with this so one thinks of these glorious marvelous emergences and cooks them in and glory clucksten in virtue and cloaks him in heroism and the truth may not be that at all may be self-serving manipulations and chicanery but glory these things these virtue these are mythic concepts and even the Romans understood that because when the generals returned and marched under the triumphal of March there was a little person assigned a whisper in the ear of the general SiC transit gloria thus passes glory because it’s a thing of the moment even though it’s or built-in as an archetype it comes and it goes back again so you you know man as a hero to his family and nothing is glorious for very long hang out there in a kind of mythic space and we can turn to it and we want it to be there now in our own time the hope for the good and the appropriation of virtue and glory has accrued to the liberal ideology the business of pre Adama of freedom and this has become a largely entrenched component of the political climate of the United States the alternative the conservative side has struggled to maintain a facade of goodness in some way of meeting the hopes of people of a polity at large the population at large and has basically had not an enormous amount of success in doing this now along comes Donald Trump and where Trump is doing is offering one of the alternative dreams that is mythic component of American identity and that is the attainment of wealth and the attainment of power and the ability to act in free oneself and the constraints that poverty per se but normal income normal position in society imposes on everybody and the fact that in fact Trump Trump look I took my kids to antic City I’m from New Jersey I took him to Atlantic City here kids come from Canada and look at that landing city we get there what’s happened the very day that the bank’s seized oops Trump’s assets in Atlantic City they were stringing up the tape saying do not cross foreclosure like this I know he doesn’t succeed in this this is a kind of a myth that he himself has created surrounding himself a distortion of the actual reality a cloaking of the reality in not in sexual terms but in terms of kind of glorious a in terms of virtue now if you know these facts it’s not there and his assertion to the contrary is seen as a lie but those people who want somehow to feel that the wealth is still possible that’s some kind of freedom from governmental constraint and we’re getting moral complex and there’s

more more constraint they turn to Trump they find and Trump someone who is an iconoclast a kind of hero a kind of trickster hero if you will and that’s another archetype from this someone who can look at the order say it’s bad say it’s a mess I’m gonna fix it I’m gonna undo this I’m gonna make misery for the people in power and we are gonna succeed I’m gonna come up with an alternative reality and carry the day forward so trickster figures particularly in Europe are destructive but the trickster figure answer is getting again a trickster figure in the spectrum of tricksters in North America is also a creator so coyote not only makes a mess of things but from the messy mix creation and serve Donald isn’t really more like coyote than he has like low-key perhaps but that’s from the perspective of the other side and there’s a polarization so some of us find his facial expressions his pronouncements everything about him a threat he’s a terror I want to see he’s a villain what are we done well I think he’s just a kind of empty dragging example of a kind of overweening businessman occasionally you run across somebody like that I have had dealings with people like that I don’t see him as a monster or a villain because I’m aware of the machinery of mythology but most people are not and it’s very natural that these mechanisms hit into play because we’re worried about mythological issues here where I used the wrong adjective maybe maybe I said political issues it’s very hard to tell which one to use sometimes I feel inside my head now we have threats and one of the things that our identity is supposed to do is be protected and enjoy the protection of the larger powers that control and maintain the hero the uro supposed to protect us the leader right now what threats do we have we actually have threats we have serious tangible threats we have a resurgent Russia at sea of course it’s going to have its own mythology about what its position in the world is we have a ambitious expansionist China accordingly they will have their own view of things and couch their terms and virtue and the real problem when I was an advisor to Clinton I was occasionally a back-channel diplomat the real problem sitting down at the diplomacy table is that you’re confusing someone whose ideas and attitudes are entirely different from yours and the most natural thing in the world is to see them as corrupt vicious villain and from their perspective no there are a hero their virtuous they’re pushing the protection and an enhancement of their world and to realize that their attitude is different as it looks to you is sincerely embraced and is preconditioned by the heritage and history of their own land and their own people and they have created their own mythological narrative that justifies their position so I found very quickly I’m noting about moral relatives and I’m talking about a moral prison and so we have very similar morals in a sense but with very different goals for those morals because we occupy different places on earth have different histories and we’re looking for different different mythologies and different narratives that play out in adversarial and conflicting ways and one has to respect to understand that and come to somehow try to manipulate that to find a common ground is very difficult that’s one kind of threat and one of the difficulties involved and I’ll frankly I’ll put forward a political opinion and that is that the temperament exhibited by Donald Trump makes that kind of encounter impossible that individual Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has in fact done this and probably is constitutionally much more capable of carrying out this kind of confrontation than their adversary is I’m not saying guys a political endorsement I’m saying as a matter of analysis view in my perspective on politics which I the privilege to engage in for a while and in mythology which is one of my major focuses and profession we have other threats as well that are not particularly imbued with worldview or whatever in the terms of an adversary with a different history we have a tangible threat and global warming and there’s the asteroid or whatever may come crashing into and we’re going to worry about those as well perhaps and the global warming issue curiously is either embraced despite some some complexity and the size of you know science is not clear-cut students come to me to say I want to know the truth in well I can’t do that but we’re gonna argue for a certain something right so science was finally sort of settled and made a very solid case that global warming is really there so it’s a little late now say it’s not maybe ten years ago the debate might have still been a reasonable debate but not anymore no they they made a strong case for that in terms of science pretty good that’s a real threat people don’t want to hear this why they won’t be able to do what they’re used to doing they want people that make the kind of money from oil that they were making machine oil collapse

financially so they think they say it’s a myth people believe in it why well myth that Mark Twain said myth is someone else’s religion in which you do not believe I will come back to that so again the the people who embrace this worry and people who don’t want it because it will have adverse consequences for their position and viability in society will characterize 1-month belief as myths these are lives these are nonsense these are irrational assessments of what’s going on and embracing it for silly reasons and one of herd mentality these issues come up this is another kind of threat altogether but in a sense this relies on a kind of modern structure and our set of information criteria and so forth and other science and there were perhaps people that would talk about the universe and whatnot but there was no scientific technique technique in the old days and so on and so this is not an archetype but the see issue of belief in this and what not becomes moral an archetype so the bottom line for the archetype in the mythic thinking here is simply that of confrontation polarize interests the basis for well I did it yeah I guess or something take it oh yeah suddenly it’s become very noisy I think there’s a high school flashing the walls something widget was touching I was punching some boy I heard didn’t fight about that so science is not part of the archetype but the embracing of an opinion is and the polarization is an archetype and is a mythic that confrontation so the endorsement of global warming or the adherence to scientific finding about global warming and the resistance to it is couched in mythical terms as a matter of belief and again a polarization that one’s talking another now the the issue of myth in myth we can talk UPS tracking about archetypes and about narrative lies and all those sort stuff one of the crucial things about myth is its evocative power it calls up images and the images may vary from generation to generation and as a myth modifies or alters through the centuries and may actually change some of its messages and why not the images will go along with this and what’s remarkable I think about myth is how powerful the ‘i vocations can be and we all have a section on this at one point i will talk about exactly these features but now with the politics we have the same capacity and it’s a modern one it began with Kennedy Nixon and now we have these debates with the media we I actually watched these people perform actually move they’re actually becoming images and they can be linked to the mythic thinking and therefore their dress their posture their mannerisms their habits their very appearance the shape of face and all this these become the machinery or say the components of the mythical narrative a mythical structure in itself they feed in to the mythic mythic objects of identity and polarization of threat now in this regard and again I’m not endorsing but I’m just analyzing as a pathologist or political analysts again the confusion mrs Clinton has done a much better job in maintaining a composed neutral and reassuring manner Donald Trump with his strong statements as his facial expressions his gestures in life at first entertaining but now after having been you know clinging what around talking about Marco Rubio sweating and all that was sort of funny but they now become almost ominous in a way that the signals he’s giving these facial signals the scowl supposed to be I guess serious as maybe how he thinks of it his scowl the sources of his mouth and he’s carrying on the waving I was these now seemed almost to fit into a pattern that we would recognize at a very low simple level of communication back and forth as threats as dangerous as a some way an expression of intense hostility there for anger there for a lack of control and the leader has to maintain control

no matter what because come crazy things happen if you lose your head and you’re a leader everything’s lost so it is challenging that even the supporters that the Trump had early on and his numbers are declining I think as a consequence there will be a residue that will still stick by him probably because they for some reason dislike what has happened in the last administration the Obama administration maybe before with a click even back to the Clinton years there is some resentment against the establishment and that is self is the idea revolution and given the the use of revolution as a virtuous event in the history of the United States also in history of Canada like that the idea of revolting against the established order immediately carries with it a semantic component of virtue of hope for the future and so forth and so people backing Donald Trump despite his bad luck body language and his threatening images that he’s unconsciously projecting will cling to him as a hope against the established as if as the virtue of revolution the virtue of a new world order a loop pattern for society these people of course that people probably have the least gain from maintaining the the current the current order they’re probably the poorest the ones I’ve seen their jobs go overseas through through trade agreements and just allowing companies to send their factoring off off-base it’s always said what’s an economic thing we can’t do anything about it no no the exporting jobs is not an economic thing it’s a political thing it has to do the welfare and identity of the society and the identity is a complex thing it’s based on financial security it’s based on financial power it’s based on heritage it’s based on who your family members are and whatnot it’s based on where you live it’s based in fact on perhaps your local dialects but very very strong cue that language is very strong to you there is even perhaps a layered effect to this and the top one would be the nation and the stresses that have emerged from economics from changes in the economy and the loss of jobs and all this has in fact threatened the very top layer of identity of the United States itself and I don’t see I don’t see a true a real appreciation of this among the Democrats and among the advisors around Secretary Clinton and this is something they should pick up on I think this is an essential thing that if you have to address I keep waiting for them to address the grievances of the people who do support Trump I haven’t really seen an effective effort to do that I saw an effort to denounce them one of the deplorable basket well that’s an opinion base from the mythology of the liberal goodness in the virtue spectrum and they’re not in the virtuous fragment they’re not but they would see themselves as a people who need a change to retain their virtue and retain their world and their identities and those are threatened and when the greatest threats you have is threats to identity they all have probably three forms one is a kind of mystical form that you fear and there’s a ghost you know horror movies that kind of thing threat to actually the boundary of your human identity in some way and these are elements used in horror movies then there’s a threat actually to your person well maybe you’re facing a mafia hitman or you know if you’re in the battlefield villain you’re in trouble but the other threat is a social threat because you have a social identity based on per se economy and so forth these various factors and that is as big a threat perhaps of being faced by a ghost being faced by an enemy soldier and I think what really has to be done in the political life of the United States is that someone has to come forward and appreciate the degree of fear anger and dissonant and disillusionment of the people who have not benefited from the policies of the last so you know say 20 years going back to Clinton and before perhaps with Reaganomics and the trickle-down blah blah and all that and they have to somehow do this in a fashion that is nonpartisan and will lift these people up and answer and address some of their problems Bernie Sanders sort of had that in a sense and in some ways perhaps he would have been far ahead of Trump and further than Secretary Clinton but the illnesses matter of political machinery and so forth and the other but I do think that what one has to take from politics that is true and myth and the reason that myth is useful here is it gives you some idea of the pain and the motivation of your adversaries and the people across the table from you