Monday, June 18, 2012

The Reign of Resentment: Barack the Solipsist

 “We are the ones we've been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.”

                                                            Barack Obama

Solipsism:  a theory holding that the self can know nothing but its own modifications and that the self is the only existent thing.


Some of President Obama’s detractors think that he is a Socialist.  His supporters scorn the notion. It is difficult after reviewing much of what he has done, said and written to believe that he is not.  His autobiography and the account of the authors he read and admired, his mentors, his actions as a politician, suggest that he is. The Europeans still love him, and why not?  He is one of their own, a dogmatic, secularist statist, contemptuous of men and women who make their own way in the world, even more disdainful of  the red state un-sophisticates who as he put it, “cling to their guns or religion or antipathy to people who are not like them.” This is a man whose world view expressed in his own words in Dreams from my Father is fundamentally shaped by alienation, resentment and grievances.  He came to see himself as a man with an historic mission – to fix the grievances – the classic Marxist.
Like all the great Marxist ideologues who find themselves historically appointed to order other people’s lives, Obama apparently fancies himself to be a genius, a man far above all others. Stalin was the “Great Teacher,” Mao, the “Great Helmsman,”….  Obama in 2008 became … “The One”, “the Change we seek.”  He would in his own words, “heal the planet” and “fundamentally transform the United States of America.” This is not the rhetoric of regular campaign politics, not the typical blustering of an aspirant to high office. It unabashedly expresses the fantasy of an egomaniac. The monumental energy and enthusiasm of his campaign came not from his ideas or vision or achievements.  There was no content beyond the candidate, personally – his eloquence, intelligence and personality.
The 2008 campaign of Barack Obama was thus a huge paradox – on the one hand it was all about HIM, his brilliance, his charisma, his style, but at the same time he was nothing (NO THING) that could be defined or described in a substantive, empirical way. His complete lack of executive experience, scholarly, intellectual depth and legislative accomplishment turned out to be an advantage, a useful nothingness that let him be an alluring mirage, completely protean, a wholesome, earnest, moderate, “pragmatist” who could charm the independent voters disillusioned by George W. Bush, but at the same time  let him play the role of a cerebral “activist,” radical enough to enthrall the elite Leftwing stalwarts and the Hollywood limo-set of his party who loath those Neanderthals who drive pickup trucks, go to church and live in awful places like Texas, North Dakota and rural Indiana.    
The Obama campaign was all about The Obama who managed to be everything to everybody.  Once elected, however, he could not avoid revealing that his enthralling message of Hope and Change was smoke and mirrors.  Hope and Change could be nothing other than nothing because nothing, after the fumes of his soaring oratory dissipated, was what Obama was offering in the way of a better America.
Obama has always been exclusively about Obama.  Every political office he has held was merely a prelude to the next step up; his career a non-stop exercise of self-adulation and self-promotion.  Obama, one must conclude, governs as he has lived, that is as a solipsist. The solipsist believes that the self can know nothing but its own modifications and that the self is the only existent thing.  Obama as our leader has turned out to be that complete "Self" undergoing the only modifications that matter, his own. He contemplates nothing but his own self’s facets of perfection, preternaturally blind to certain intractable features of a world outside of that Self that he will not and cannot comprehend.
Obama’s solipsism should have been recognized during his campaign, not so much a political campaign but rather the successful creation of a cult of personality.  The personality cult is the culminating phase of solipsistic rule where the number of courtiers who eagerly chime in a unison voice to affirm the ruler’s wisdom and infallibility, reaches a critical mass. And so it was. As Assistant Managing Editor of Newsweek, Evan Thomas announced on television to fellow Obama-worshiper, Chris Matthews, Obama was “a sort of god.” (“In a way, Obama's standing above the country, above -- above the world, a sort of god.") Mr. Thomas never elaborated on just what “sort of god” we all might expect Obama to be, but suffice it to say that he and his colleagues who formed the bulwark of the Fourth Estate had conceived a mighty strong “crush” on this U.S. Senator of two years tenure, most of it spent campaigning for President. The crush demolished whatever critical capacities they might have exercised. The Gods exist to be admired and worshiped, not criticized. With their fawning adulation and uncritical devotion, by the time of his inauguration Obama became the genius who was the resurrection and amalgamation of Abraham Lincoln, FDR and JFK.
Obama was the refreshing, stunning contrast first to the harridan, been-there-done-that Hillary Clinton then to George W. Bush, by the end of his Presidency deemed to be intellectually, morally flawed and deeply so. Bush now was a palooka, a political PiƱada whom everyone took turns whacking. McCain, helpless and old was no match. Obama in stark contrast was a star – cool, contemporary, photogenic, an Olympian standing high above the fray, descending only to bestow calm, impart his wisdom and receive thanks.
Bush was served up as the benighted antipode to an unblemished Obama, a uniquely singular individual (The One), morally and cognitively complete, a phantasm proclaiming that “We are the Change we Seek.” Obama thus became a totality, both the question and the answer, that Self, outside of which nothing else is important or relevant. There was, however, no “We”. There was only Obama himself mirroring the “Genius of Obama” to be held in contemplation, admiration and … anticipation.
The anticipation is long over and so is much of the admiration. With his re-election campaign of character assassination and four-plus years of solipsistic rule we possess a real, empirical grasp of the “Change we seek.” Our Chief is that Change, a change that has not turned out not to be what many people who voted for him had in mind. Something very essential was lost in the translation from rhetoric to reality.  Like all of the other solipsistic princes, his modifications of Self have produced nothing that seems to have made his subjects, other than his friends and political supporters, any better off. 
The disappointment that inevitably follows in the wake of the prince’s shortcomings of Self turns the solipsism into a rather ugly spectacle of blame and resentment.  Since the Self is perfect, the appearance of the gross disparity between perfection and reality which inevitably happens cannot be the doing or fault of the prince. With the arrival of the dashed high expectations and the unfulfilled promises someone or something must be blamed. The great solipsists have always been prodigious blamers. There is nothing else, practically, for them to do, and when the time for it comes … be careful.  For the misery of his realm, Stalin blamed the “wreckers” and “Trotsky,” Mao, the “capitalist roaders” and “running dog imperialists,” and for Castro, it was “Uncle Sam.”  Obama blames George Bush, the Republicans, and the European financial crisis. There is always a scapegoat du jour. The blame brings into clear focus the objects of the solipsist-prince’s acid resentment, namely those who have failed to recognize his genius and conform to his perfect understanding. The blame enables the prince to preserve for himself his image of his unsullied Self. 
The fate of the solipsist-Self is an immersion in resentment.  It seems reasonable to predict that over the next several months one will see in President Obama a man full of blame, increasingly resentful. When he finally departs, resentment will be all that remains.