Beyond Stupid–Seven Causes & A Tote Bag
Like everyone I know, I have been struggling to understand how so many people could have voted for a man like Donald Trump to be President of the United States of America. The following seem to be likely causes:
The first answer that occurs to most of us is that these people are just astonishingly stupid.
One is stupid – as distinct from merely ignorant – when there are things one could know or could have learned and that are critical to competent living, but one hasn’t learned them.
So, yes, plain old stupidity is doubtless a broad failing that made it possible for people to vote for such a manifestly awful human being.
This is our tote bag, from which we can pick several more specific causes.
1 – TV Nation
To begin with, it is hard to imagine Donald Trump winning the Republican nomination had people not known of him as a TV personality on The Apprentice. This provided him the necessary “platform.”
That such a large number of Americans would immerse themselves in habitual exposure to such mean-spirited drek as The Apprentice, for lack of the good sense to do something better with their time, is itself a judgment on them, of course – and, certainly, on our media corporations, as well.
But the fact that those people – despite having such incontrovertible evidence of his complete lack of character – could support Donald Trump’s bid to become President constitutes evidence that their very grasp of reality has been compromised, in part by their immersion in media fantasies.
One surmises that the boundary between make-believe or spectacle and reality has been erased or badly blurred. And Americans being a notoriously unreflective lot, they don’t notice how compromised their thinking has become and so are unconcerned.
The realities of politics and governance are much further from their acquaintance than the actions they witness on The Apprentice. They don’t even grasp what is at stake in the election of the nation’s chief executive officer. They are incapable of exercising that essential skill known as reality-testing and are incapable of competent judgment.
Give these folks a television actor playing the role of Albus Dumbledore, Headmaster of Hogwarts, let the show run for a year or two, and we could wind up with a pretend Dumbledore as our president. Which, come to think of it, would definitely be better than a bona fide dummkopf.
Immersion in audiovisual fantasies for hundreds and probably thousands of hours, complemented by their avoidance of any activity that would strengthen their practical intelligence, this lifestyle guarantees that such a people will not be capable of executing the responsibilities of citizenship.
2 – The Cognitive Corrals of Our Shared Identities
A great part of what puzzles us is that those voters have either failed to register how objectionable the man’s behavior is or have treated those behaviors as immaterial, truths they can simply choose to disregard.
Here we can remind ourselves that all of us become fitted with cognitive blinders by indoctrination into, and identification with, our sundry collective mindsets.
Our identities as members of different groups – survivalists, fundamentalists, members of any religious sect, political factions, our ethnic and professional identities: these identifications entail our perceiving the world around us in accord with certain tenets.
The incorporation of these frames for our understanding of the world means that competing interpretations will, in the main, not be considered and effectively become inaccessible. We simply don’t think in those terms. And with this, the evidences – the realities – that actually require us to apply these alternative meanings are disregarded or discounted. We are confined within the walls of our collective identifications, and will simply not perceive what is outside these.
The behavior of those who have bought into the Republican identity appears to express this dynamic. Their denial of climate change is but one example.
3 – The Revolt of the Id VS the Ego
Another psychological cause of our current debacle has been brought into focus by the recent demonstrations on the part of white supremacists and the like in Charlottesville, Virginia.
Did you see the face of a young white male contorted with rage, shouting in the midst of his mob? The driver for this acting out is the revolt of the Id against the self-control of the Ego. The Id, of course, being Freud’s term for a childish, irrational and indeed impossible insistence on having one’s own way. Reality – along with others’ needs and rights – be damned.
These people – alas, a great many people – identify with their childish feelings, wants, inclinations, urges. Consequently, they resent a social order, and a government, that stands for socializing those urges, that requires or expects its people to accept a training out of the child’s petulant demands and wants.
They resent that in order to get into better paying jobs they need education, that hated discipline of the human mind.
When they see that the social order is denying them their wants, they would like to behave like the spoiled brat, who yells, “NO! I don’t wanna!”
Donald Trump acts like a spoiled brat, he acts out, and they admire that. They want to live like he does; his having money is, as ever, a sanction for his childish foolishness.
Ordinarily, such behavior is not condoned, even by Republicans. But now, when these people see the President of the United States behaving this way, his example acts as a releaser, and they are free to vent their infantile feelings.
Their inner child says no to development, to maturation, to responsibility, to any subordination of individual inclinations to the common weal.
This is the rebellion of the Id against the Ego.
4 – Ignorance of and Inattention to Psychological
As a society, we have not set before ourselves the shared objective of thinking and learning what is needed if a young person is to develop into a sane and healthy adult. As a consequence, our culture is fertile ground for all forms of arrested development.
Closely related to this cultural lacuna is another that is widely shared – our ignorance of even the most practical, best documented psychological characteristics of human beings. If people are ignorant of what sort of behaviors reveal a mental disorder, they will fail to understand what sort of person they are dealing with.
5 – No Exit! Trapped by One’s Choices
We must add to all of the above the well-known phenomenon in which, once a person commits to some viewpoint – especially if the commitment is made public – it becomes very hard for the individual to change his or her mind. That would be to admit one had been wrong! And that might even prompt the examination of one’s presumptions and reasoning. This seems a likely cause of people’s continuing to support the man despite the ceaseless avalanche of his incompetences.
6 – Self-Interest and a Lack of Moral Principle
Our character as a people has been severely compromised by our submission to the neoliberal economic model, which would justify such abominations as the assertion that the only obligation a company must heed is that of making a profit.
So, there are those voters who expect the new administration to rescind all sorts of limitations and controls on the ability of business interests to exploit the rest of us and the environment. Such persons are thrilled at the prospect of being able to act out of untrammeled self-interest; they intend to be the big dogs in a dog-eat-dog world.
7 – Oh, yeah, and then there’s base misogyny
What odd viciousness is it in this species, that men should have so vilely oppressed women in virtually every culture we know of? Sure, and we’re in dire need of some genetic tinkering there, wouldn’t you say?
The wanton disparagement of Hilary Clinton that was so widespread throughout the presidential campaign was an expression of yet another cognitive-emotional deformity in all too many of our citizens.
While we can acknowledge experiencing a certain satisfaction from diagnosing the inadequacies of those particularly to blame for our current governmental debacle, let us acknowledge as well another inconvenient truth, namely, that we are, all of us, liable to all of these same defects.