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INTEGRAL WORLD: EXPLORING THEORIES OF EVERYTHING
An independent forum for a critical discussion of the integral philosophy of Ken Wilber



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Elliot BenjaminElliot Benjamin is a philosopher, mathematician, musician, counselor, writer, with Ph.Ds in mathematics and psychology and the author of over 150 published articles in the fields of humanistic and transpersonal psychology, pure mathematics, mathematics education, spirituality & the awareness of cult dangers, art & mental disturbance, and progressive politics. He has also written a number of self-published books, such as: The Creative Artist, Mental Disturbance, and Mental Health. See also: www.benjamin-philosopher.com.

SEE MORE ESSAYS WRITTEN BY ELLIOT BENJAMIN

Trump at rally

After Trump/Kavanaugh

My Personal Perspective

Elliot Benjamin

“It is that cruelty, and the delight it brings them, that binds his most ardent supporters to him.”
Adam Serwer, The Atlantic

In a number of my previous Integral World articles I included what I have referred to as an “integrative” perspective, in which I chose to offer a perspective that was free of Wilber's formal “integral” quadrant, levels, lines, types, etc. nomenclature, but focused on the essential meaning of offering a balanced divergence of contrary perspectives [1]. However, while I could conceivably do something similar to portray the diversity of perspectives on the respective merits of U.S. President Trump and recently confirmed U.S. Supreme Court justice Kavanaugh, this would be nothing more than a philosophical intellectual exercise for me, and I have no interest in writing this kind of an essay at this point in time. For I believe that the current political situation in The United States has reached one of extreme urgency, with the recent confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. And what particularly concerns me is the adoring crowds of Trump supporters at Trump rallies, licking up all the mockery, derision, scorn, and cruelty that their hero dishes out to them, whether it is of a Kavanaugh accuser, an undocumented immigrant, or a handicapped reporter.

The word “cruelty” is especially significant here, as described in a recent initial article in The Atlantic by Adam Serwer [2], and a follow-up article that appeared in The Daily Kos, in which the following was conveyed [3]:

“When Donald Trump mocked Dr. Christine Blasey Ford at his really last night in Mississippi, many of us felt something akin to a muted gasp of horror in our bodies. Just as we had become so benumbed—almost acclimated—to this President's casual employment of random cruelty, it was still shocking to see the laughing faces of those people in the stands behind him—people to whom we have, up to this point, afforded at least the notion of some semblance of humanity (after all, they were born here), cackling and roaring mindlessly, responding to their master's gleeful prodding with shouts of “lock her up!”
In truth, it was less Trump's abysmal dearth of empathy that surprised us, than the reactions of those so-called Americans whooping with him, reveling in the spectacle of their shared, wholly irrational hatred and the prospect of imagined violence against other Americans, a violence for nothing more than the sheer fun of it. A revenge fantasy, a moment of sweet malice for them all.”

And to now take a glance at some of the powerfully disgusting scenes that Adam Serwer has painted for us in his Atlantic article [2]:

“The artifacts that persist in my memory, the way a bright flash does when you close your eyes, are the photographs of lynchings. But it's not the burned, mutilated bodies that stick with me. It's the faces of the white men in the crowd. There's the photo of the lynching of Thomas Shipp and Abram Smith in Indiana in 1930, in which a white man can be seen grinning at the camera as he tenderly holds the hand of his wife or girlfriend. There's the undated photo from Duluth, Minnesota, in which grinning white men stand next to the mutilated, half-naked bodies of two men lashed to a post in the street—one of the white men is straining to get into the picture, his smile cutting from ear to ear. There's the photo of a crowd of white men huddled behind the smoldering corpse of a man burned to death; one of them is wearing a smart suit, a fedora hat, and a bright smile. . . .
These grinning men were someone's brother, son, husband, father. They were human beings, people who took immense pleasure in the utter cruelty of torturing others to death—and were so proud of doing so that they posed for photographs with their handiwork, jostling to ensure they caught the eye of the lens, so that the world would know they'd been there. Their cruelty made them feel good, it made them feel proud, it made them feel happy. And it made them feel closer to one another.”
A lynching in Marion, Indiana, 1930.
A lynching in Marion, Indiana, 1930.

Now in all fairness, one may ask what relation these horrid scenes of not all that long ago have in common with Trump supporters currently attending Trump rallies. After all, one can in all honesty say that no one is getting lynched or burned to death at these rallies (though someone did get murdered with a car vehicle). But Serwer is not put at ease by this kind of reassurance, and neither is the author of the follow-up article to Serwer, as described above. As Serwer conveyed [2]:

“The cruelty of the Trump administration's policies, and the ritual rhetorical flaying of his targets before his supporters, are intimately connected. As Lili Loofbourow wrote of the Kavanaugh incident in Slate, adolescent male cruelty toward women is a bonding mechanism, a vehicle for intimacy through contempt. The white men in the lynching photos are smiling not merely because of what they have done, but because they have done it together. . . .
Their [Trump supporters] shared laughter at the suffering of others is an adhesive that binds them to one another, and to Trump. Taking joy in that suffering is more human than most would like to admit. Somewhere on the wide spectrum between adolescent teasing and the smiling white men in the lynching photographs are the Trump supporters whose community is built by rejoicing in the anguish of those they see as unlike them, who have found in their shared cruelty an answer to the loneliness and atomization of modern life. . .
Trump's only true skill is the con, his only fundamental belief is that the United States is the birthright of straight, white, Christian men, and his only real, authentic pleasure is in cruelty. It is that cruelty, and the delight it brings them, that binds his most ardent supporters to him, in shared scorn for those they hate and fear: immigrants, black voters, feminists, and treasonous white men who empathize with any of those who would steal their birthright. The president's ability to execute that cruelty through word and deed makes them euphoric. It makes them feel good, it makes them feel proud, it makes them feel happy, it makes them feel united. And as long as he makes them feel that way, they will let him get away with anything, no matter what it costs them.”

Serwer gave a concise but effective summary of some of the nuts and bolts of Trump's cruelty, and the adoration he received for this from his supporters [2]:

“We can hear the spectacle of cruel laughter throughout the Trump era. There were the border-patrol agents cracking up at the crying immigrant children separated from their families, and the Trump adviser who delighted white supremacists when he mocked a child with Down syndrome who was separated from her mother. There were the police who laughed uproariously when the president encouraged them to abuse suspects, and the Fox News hosts mocking a survivor of the Pulse Nightclub massacre (and in the process inundating him with threats), the survivors of sexual assault protesting to Senator Jeff Flake, the women who said the president had sexually assaulted them, and the teen survivors of the Parkland school shooting. There was the president mocking Puerto Rican accents shortly after thousands were killed and tens of thousands displaced by Hurricane Maria, the black athletes protesting unjustified killings by the police, the women of the #MeToo movement who have come forward with stories of sexual abuse, and the disabled reporter whose crime was reporting on Trump truthfully. It is not just that the perpetrators of this cruelty enjoy it; it is that they enjoy it with one another. Their shared laughter at the suffering of others is an adhesive that binds them to one another, and to Trump.”

And as conveyed in the follow-up article to Serwer [3]:

“The shared embrace of cruelty and nascent sadism is the tie that binds Trump's base of support. Serwer recalls the photographs of early 20th century lynchings, depicting both the lynchers themselves as well as the bystanders to the spectacle, all smiling ear-to-ear, mugging for the camera while the broken and torn bodies of African Americans, their faces grotesquely contorted, dangled behind them from a tree. The same cruelty that animated the faces of Trump's supporters as he castigated an almost-certain victim of an attempted rape last night in Mississippi stems from the same impulse on display in the photograph [see the photograph above]. . .
It is a desire to be one with the pack, a desire to share something forbidden, and in that sharing, find a shared sense of celebration over the anguish of others. This is the world that Trump has brought us to. It's a place riddled with the sickness of anger, greed, privilege, and envy. It's an un-American world, to those of us brought up to believe in the decency of others. But it's a world we should look at with a pitiless examination. Because if this many Americans can so easily find pleasure in the suffering of other Americans, whatever their reasons, then this country has little reason or hope to endure, its pretense to any shared “values” revealed as utterly false. . . .
For some of us with a more cynical bent, the Trump administration has brought out what we always suspected to be the true character of many of our fellow countrymen. It is the same type of character that turned a blind eye towards slavery, the same type of character that ignored, or worse, romanticized, the genocide of Native Americans, and yes, the same type of character that, on another continent, took mute satisfaction in seeing those railcars transporting “undesirables” to camps somewhere far away to the East.. . . .
Shame will never work with these people, because they have none. Appeals to conscience will not work, because they have none. The only weapon we can wield against them is our vote.”
I see the advent of Trump and all his destruction as a disease that we have to live with.

I very much began with an integrative perspective after Trump got elected, as can be seen from my initial articles that describe my work in trying to bring Trump supporters and non-supporters together to “understand” one another [4]. However, my work gradually evolved to the point of my working to build “progressive bridges” and impeach Trump, no longer attempting to communicate with Trump supporters [5]. And the latest episode in Trump's “successes,” which is the successful confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, in spite of a number of witnesses ignored in the supplemental FBI investigation and 150 mental health practitioners advocating for a psychological assessment of Kavanaugh related to possible alcohol abuse [6], solidifies for me why I no longer am interested in spending my time trying to understand the perspective of Trump supporters. It is not that I have no interest in understanding people who still support Trump, and I realize that not all of these people are devoid of human empathy, and have “other” reasons for their continuing support of Trump. But Trump's magnetic support of his base that brings out the worst qualities in his loyal fans, as impactfully described in both Serwer's article and the follow-up article [2], [3], leave me deeply troubled and tremendously concerned about the future of both the United States and the world. Consequently I have decided to devote my energies to working to limit Trump's power as much as possible, whether it be through impeachment or solely through a democratic majority in the house of representatives as an outcome of next month's 2018 midterm elections.

Donald Trump
“They are still looking for the collusion.
Where's the collusion? Find some collusion!”

In short, I wholeheartedly agree with the last line of the follow-up article to Serwer [3]: “The only weapon we can wield against them is our vote.” In spite of all the obstacles to free and fair elections that have surfaced in the United States—from big and dark money in politics to gerrymandering, it is still true that we live in a democracy and not a dictatorship (in spite of the title of one of my earlier Integral World Trump articles [1]). Thus, with enough massive public voting for democrats in the November, 2018 midterm elections, it is quite feasible that Trump's power can be severely diminished. And this is what I think is most important right now, for what I believe is (without exaggeration) the preservation of the human race. Sometimes I stop and take in the stark reality that apparently something like 100 million people in the United States (about a third of the country) comprise Trump's base, and this horrifies me. I don't know how many of these people are bona fide white supremacist racists, and perhaps I don't want to know. I prefer to focus on the rest of the population of the United States, which is approximately two/thirds of the country. In particular, speaking very roughly, about half the country is adamantly against Trump and is in favor of impeachment proceedings [7], and this leaves something like 50 million people who can make the difference between Trump growing in his destruction of humanity, or finally the beginning of the end of Trump's power.

I see the advent of Trump and all his destruction as a disease that we have to live with. The confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court will be with us for many years, and I believe will result in tragic outcomes for many people. But there is in all likelihood little that can be done about this, although there is already a movement launched to undertake impeachment proceedings against Kavanaugh [8]. The devastating consequences of Trump's presidency to the environment, immigrants, human services, and most especially the very real danger of nuclear war, is all too real to be minimized. It is very much there, and will continue to be very much there unless the United States affirms in enough numbers that this is not what the country wants to be continued. And this translates once again to “the only weapon we can wield against them is our vote.”

I know—this is not a very “integrative” perspective. But what more can I say? I truly believe that what it means to be any kind of decent and ethical human being is now at stake, so I'll save being more philosophical again for after Trump is finally gone from our lives. Then perhaps I can get back to some of my previous philosophical musings, such as exploring the possibility of bona fide spirituality, psychic phenomena, and even life after death, from a multitude of perspectives in true philosophical integrative fashion. But not now. Not while I am living in a country dominated by President Trump.

Being philosophical and integrative in politics with Trump at the helm is just not something that I am able to or want to engage in at the present time. Hopefully there will be a more uplifting future in which I will feel able to once again engage in my more integrative philosophical musings.

Notes/References

1) See for example my January, 2017 Integral World essay that I wrote shortly after Trump's inauguration, entitled "Fighting Against the Trump Dictatorship: An Integrative Perspective", www.integralworld.net

2) See Adam Serwer (2018). "The Cruelty Is the Point: President Trump and His Supporters Find Community by Rejoicing in the Suffering of Those They Hate and Fear", www.theatlantic.com, Oct 3, 2018

3) See Dartagnan (2018). " For Trump Supporters, 'The Cruelty Is the Point': Adam Serwer for The Atlantic", www.dailykos.com, Oct. 4, 2018

4) See a 2017 expanded version of my article with the same title as in [1], in La Voz de Esperanza, 30(3), pages 3, 6, 11; and a 2017 follow-up article entitled Still Fighting Against the Trump Dictatorship in La Voz d Eesperanza, 30(6), pages 10-12. Retrieved from www.esperanzacenter.org

5) See my 2017 and 2018 La Voz de Esperanza articles (www.esperanzacenter.org) entitled (respectively): "Resisting Trump: Building Progressive Bridges" (30(10), pages 10-12) and "To Impeach or Not To Impeach" (31(7), pages 6, 7, 10; an earlier Integral World version of the latter article is available at www.integralworld.net); see also my 2018 article: "Building Progressive Bridges, Resisting Trump, and Humanistic Psychology: Part 1" in Pinnacle Journal, 5(2), www.pjpub.org

6) See the articles "150 Mental Health Professionals Sign Letter Calling for Psychological Assessment of Brett Kavanaugh" by Walter Einenkel (2018), www.dailykos.com; and "FBI 'Investigation' Into Kavanaugh Has Ignored More Than 40 Potential Witnesses" by Laura Clawson (2018), www.dailykos.com, October 3, 2018

7) See the Free Speech for People website at www.freespeechforpeople.org and the Need to Impeach website at www.needtoimpeach.com

8) See the Free Speech for People website at www.freespeechforpeople.org





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