Friday, November 21, 2008

Carl Jung, George Bush, and 'White Heat' ---the Psychopathic 'Will to Power' and World War

by Len Hart, The Existentialist Cowboy

No one has yet made a psychopathic killer criminal movie quite like 'White Heat', a 1949 classic starring James Cagney. The unlikely parallel was George W. Bush whom many feared would reprise Cagney's searing, most memorable performance. For as long as Bush occupied the Oval Office, anyone could imagine George Bush as Cody Jarrett, figuratively climbing on board a nuke, declaring himself to be on top of the world before blowing it all up!

Monsters from the ID

As Bush occupied the Oval Office, monsters from his id made themselves at home. Typically thin-skinned, Bush became unhinged amid the chance that he might plunge the world into a world war the external projection of his internal struggle against demons of his own creation, the spawn of his twisted id.
In the movies, this dynamic was embodied in Cagney's portrayal of Cody Jarrett, whom reviewers called an 'incendiary, disturbed gang leader '. Jarrett, like Bush, became an archetype, a Wotan, literally, the 'monster from the id', Bush's id, the collective worst impulses of mankind made flesh.

As in the movie, 'White Heat', primitive forces threatened to drive Bush in a Hegelian dialectic to an inexorable and iconic apocalypse. In 'White Heat' the process resulted in one of moviedom's most memorable and most disturbing scenes. It has been described as apocalyptic, a word that describes Bush's 'adventure', his war of naked aggression against Iraq, a war in which some 1.6 million people have died by his hand.
White Heat is, of course, the movie that gave us "Top of the world, Ma!", as iconic a Hollywood misquote as "Play it again, Sam" and "We don't need no steenking badges." That cry caps the climactic gunfight showdown between Cody and an army of T-men atop a natural-gas refinery, and the famous fireball explosion that follows may be Cody himself finally spontaneously combusting, not just the timely immolation of all those volatile fluids beneath him. By that point in the story, Cody is pure uncorked id. Whether doing away with witnesses at his gang's train robbery in the opening scenes, or taking cool pride in the casual comeuppance he gives his ambitious lieutenant Big Ed (Steve Cochran) — who has been helping himself to something on the side with Cody's sexy, vulgar wife and mob moll, Verna (Virginia Mayo) — Cody is a force of nature, as efficient and cold-blooded as a forest fire. Not even the government men, who track Cody with sophisticated postwar technology, can stop him. Instead, it's the human element that brings about Cody's Greek tragedy downfall. He risks a trusting friendship with Vic Pardo, a worshipful crook he meets in prison. Pardo, though, is actually Hank Fallon (Edmond O'Brien), a "copper" who infiltrates gangs by posing as a criminal. When Cody catches on to "Pardo's" betrayal, he almost weeps, a staggering moment of pathos that inflates Cagney's character to three dimensions, guaranteeing that we'll remember him long after the movie has ended.
But it's Ma herself who really makes Cody Jarrett more than just another homicidal thug. Played with chilling mother-love by Margaret Wycherly, Cody's devoted mom is as amoral as any killer on the screen. When middle-aged Cody sits on Ma's lap for love and comfort before one of his crippling headaches, we witness a dynamic that's just steps away from Hitchcock's Psycho eleven years later. In a prison chow hall, Cody snaps when he hears that Ma has died, and Cagney draws out Cody's berserk grief into an animal wail that doesn't stop as he barrels crazed through prison guards who drop before him like straw men. When the big moment comes, Cody's exclamation to the heavens before his apocalyptic finale is as inevitable as Oedipus's own fate, but with a kablooey that 1949 audiences may have felt was not just dramatic, but outright atomic. The gangster genre would never be the same old same old again.
When the big moment comes, Cody's exclamation to the heavens before his apocalyptic finale is as inevitable as Oedipus's own fate, but with a kablooey that 1949 audiences may have felt was not just dramatic, but outright atomic. The gangster genre would never be the same old same old again.
--Mark Bourne, White Heat
Wotan Awakened

In 1936, Jung tried to describe what was happening in Germany —as many now try to understand what is happening in America. In his essay, "Wotan", Jung described developments in terms of the mythology of the god Odin, a.k.a. the Germanic god Wotan. Jung wrote: "We have seen him come to life in the German Youth Movement."
We were even beginning to regard war between civilized nations as a fable, thinking that such an absurdity would become less and less possible in our rational, internationally organized world. And what came after the war was a veritable witches’ Sabbath. Everywhere fantastic revolutions, violent alterations of the map, reversions in politics to medieval or even antique prototypes, totalitarian states that engulf their neighbours and outdo all previous theocracies in their absolutist claims, persecutions of Christians and Jews, wholesale political murder, and finally we have witnessed a light-hearted piratical raid on a peaceful, half-civilized people.
--Carl Gustav Jung, Wotan
It is not 'Gods' who came to life in America but, rather, demons loosed upon an unsuspecting world. Gods or demons, they are but manifestations of the human personality.
Bush shares his 'demons' with a demographic represented in Germany by the Nazi party, in America by the Ku Klux Klan, the radical right, the GOP.
The banks are not to blame. There is a generalized contraction of credit in the non-bank financial system where structured finance has blown up and taken half of Wall Street with it. It's the end of an era. Here's how economist Henry C. K. Liu sums it up in his "Open Letter to World Leaders attending the November 15 White House Summit on Financial Markets and the World Economy":
"Neoliberal economists in the last three decades have denied the possibility of a replay of the worldwide destructiveness of the Great Depression that followed the collapse of the speculative bubble created by unfettered US financial markets of the 'Roaring Twenties'. They fooled themselves into thinking that false prosperity built on debt could be sustainable with monetary indulgence. Now history is repeating itself, this time with a new, more lethal virus that has infested deregulated global financial markets with 'innovative' debt securitization, structured finance and maverick banking operations flooded with excess liquidity released by accommodative central banks. A massive structure of phantom wealth was built on the quicksand of debt manipulation. This debt bubble finally imploded in July 2007 and is now threatening to bring down the entire global financial system to cause an economic meltdown unless enlightened political leadership adopts coordinated corrective measures on a global scale."
Rome is burning. It's time to stop tinkering with a failed system and move on to "Plan B" before it's too late. 
--Mike Whitney, This Is Not A Normal Recession: Moving on to Plan B
The GOP threatens to uncork the evil genie, to summon up the Norse 'god' Wotan, to lift the restraints upon every person's very worst motives, impulses and desires. There are good reasons for the restraints imposed by the 'superego'. Without them, people like Cody Jarrett, George W. Bush, Adolph Hitler, Pol Pot, and Augusto Pinochet would kill us all in a global conflagration. It is easy enough to imagine Bush, still seeking his father's approval, perhaps competing with him for Bar's attention, climbing upon the pinnacle of his industry's icon --the oil refinery. It is easy enough to imagine Bush screaming from atop a refinery tower: "Top of the world, Ma! Top of the world".

Dr. Gustav Gilbert, the American psychologist at the war crimes trial of Nazis at Nuremberg concluded that 'evil' was the 'utter lack of empathy'. I might add: empathy with another is possible only if one has come to terms with one's own "shadow", one's own "source of creativity", one's own humanity. One who cannot see humanity in either self or others is a Nazi in spirit, a person lacking 'empathy', a person lacking the ability to see him/herself in another place, time, or body. Those who may be described as Gilbert described 'Nazis' are what Jung would call 'inauthentic'; they live lives hidden behind masks.
Whoever battles with monsters had better see that it does not turn him into a monster. And if you gaze into an abyss, the abyss will gaze back at you.
--Friedrich Nietzsche
Bush Rejected by Peers

A rejection by peers is mythical. Many so-called primitive tribes make a ritual of ostracizing a member who has breached the most sacred shibboleths.  Jung and Joseph Campbell would have had much to say about the fact that some world leaders simply refused to shake Bush's hand. Some even looked away. Bush himself ducked and overtly dodged Angela Merkel.

Bush was shunned by peers. In some Eastern cultures, the loss of their respect might have required a ritual suicide. More recently, Japanese and British commanders were expected to shoot themselves.

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