Suffering, the Other, and a Vote for Trump CONTiNUED
False projection’s opposite, freedom from oppression, celebration of difference, neither mimesis nor domination, “would depend on whether the ruled, in face of absolute madness, could master themselves and hold the madness back. Only the liberation of thought from power, the abolition of violence, could realize the idea that has been unrealized until now: that the Jew”—the Black person, the Muslim refugee, the Mexican immigrant, the disabled person, the LGBTQ person, the woman—“is a human being,” (Horkheimer & Adorno, 1944/2002, p. 165). Such a step, Horkheimer and Adorno assert, “would indeed prove the turning point of history” (p. 165). In contrast to Freud’s evolutionary process of civilization as passive (Einstein et al., 1939), what is suggested here is active and arduous. True empathic realization of the humanity of others is difficult, and often comes at a personal cost. While systems of power larger than the individual shunt us into pathways of pathological projection and complicity, only an intentional and persistent process of self-exploration, followed by ego-syntonic political action, can lead to the end of violence. The exploration is shadowy and threatening. Like Aidan’s psychotherapy process, it will require encountering affects and complexes we would prefer to repress. Once they have been encountered again and again and recognized, however, we might have more flexibility regarding our choice of action, more control over the course of history.
Unconscious processes on individual and social scales will always affect the political environment. The solution to their eruption in unexpected and dangerous directions, arrived at with the help of Freud (Einstein et al., 1939) and the Frankfurt School, suggests that perhaps the vision of a better world where things are done on purpose and in keeping with the ego-syntonic American ethos can one day come to fruition. If so, however, the unconscious forces to be acknowledged and examined are formidable. The work required will be grueling, but meaningful.
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