The American Left as "crisis cult"

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Clinical psychologist Robert Godwin proposes an interesting framework for understanding the increasingly bizarre behavior of the American Left at his very interesting website One Cosmos. Drawing on the work of psychoanalytic anthropologist Weston LaBarre, he posits that the left has become a "crisis cult" such as are found in societies whose bedrock assumptions break down in the face of the superior strength of foreign cultures impinging on their territory.

Probably the most famous of the crisis cults are the cargo cults which developed in Melanesia.

The Cargo Cults believe that manufactured western goods ('cargo') have been created by ancestral spirits and intended for Melanesian people. White people, however, have unfairly gained control of these objects. Cargo cults thus focus on overcoming what they perceive as undue 'white' influences by conducting rituals similar to the white behavior they have observed, presuming that the ancestors will at last recognize their own and this activity will make cargo come. Thus a characteristic feature of Cargo Cults is the belief that spiritual agents will at some future time give much valuable cargo and desirable manufactured products to the cult members.

The crisis cult LaBarre wrote most about were the Ghost Dancers among Native Americans in the 19th century

when American Indians were facing the complete dissolution of their way of life——loss of their hunting territories, near extinction of the once vast buffalo herds, a series of disastrous military defeats, multiple droughts, and new and fatal diseases. The Ghost Dance was a fantasied solution to all their problems, involving the widespread idea that "a new skin would slide over the old earth, covering up the whites and all their works, and bringing upon it new trees and plants, great buffalo herds, the ghosts of the dead, and the great departed warriors and chiefs." This utopia would come about if only each person in all the tribes danced the elaborate Ghost Dance.

Godwin explains:

...progressives are having to cope with a catastrophic collapse of their world and all of its comforting myths. As each myth crumbles in succession, they become increasingly frantic in papering over reality with the downright strange beliefs of their progressive crisis cult.

Thus come delusional assertions: Bush is an idiot despite degrees from Yale and Harvard; Republicans are questioning the patriotism of Democrats; the monitoring of international phone calls signals the onset of totalitarianism; and (my favorite) Air American founder Sheldon Drobny's assertion that Karl Rove is behind the anti—Semitic posts at Daily Kos.

I think it is almost unquestionable that the Left's belief systems have proven incongruent with the real world. Communism didn't work and only survives as a pretext for despotism in North Korea and China. Welfare is a trap, and poor people's lot in America has improved since access to it was term—limited. Higher taxes on "the rich" depress economic growth and throw people out of work. The list could go on.

With their gods having failed them, leftists have turned to cant, ritual, and hysterical repetition of their golden oldie playlist of slogans. And most of all, to demoinization of their opponents. It is fairly primitive, and often comic, with tinges of tragedy.

Metaphors are an effective way to understand such bizarre behavior. The more the merrier.

Hat tip: Larwyn 

Thomas Lifson   7 27 06

Clinical psychologist Robert Godwin proposes an interesting framework for understanding the increasingly bizarre behavior of the American Left at his very interesting website One Cosmos. Drawing on the work of psychoanalytic anthropologist Weston LaBarre, he posits that the left has become a "crisis cult" such as are found in societies whose bedrock assumptions break down in the face of the superior strength of foreign cultures impinging on their territory.

Probably the most famous of the crisis cults are the cargo cults which developed in Melanesia.

The Cargo Cults believe that manufactured western goods ('cargo') have been created by ancestral spirits and intended for Melanesian people. White people, however, have unfairly gained control of these objects. Cargo cults thus focus on overcoming what they perceive as undue 'white' influences by conducting rituals similar to the white behavior they have observed, presuming that the ancestors will at last recognize their own and this activity will make cargo come. Thus a characteristic feature of Cargo Cults is the belief that spiritual agents will at some future time give much valuable cargo and desirable manufactured products to the cult members.

The crisis cult LaBarre wrote most about were the Ghost Dancers among Native Americans in the 19th century

when American Indians were facing the complete dissolution of their way of life——loss of their hunting territories, near extinction of the once vast buffalo herds, a series of disastrous military defeats, multiple droughts, and new and fatal diseases. The Ghost Dance was a fantasied solution to all their problems, involving the widespread idea that "a new skin would slide over the old earth, covering up the whites and all their works, and bringing upon it new trees and plants, great buffalo herds, the ghosts of the dead, and the great departed warriors and chiefs." This utopia would come about if only each person in all the tribes danced the elaborate Ghost Dance.

Godwin explains:

...progressives are having to cope with a catastrophic collapse of their world and all of its comforting myths. As each myth crumbles in succession, they become increasingly frantic in papering over reality with the downright strange beliefs of their progressive crisis cult.

Thus come delusional assertions: Bush is an idiot despite degrees from Yale and Harvard; Republicans are questioning the patriotism of Democrats; the monitoring of international phone calls signals the onset of totalitarianism; and (my favorite) Air American founder Sheldon Drobny's assertion that Karl Rove is behind the anti—Semitic posts at Daily Kos.

I think it is almost unquestionable that the Left's belief systems have proven incongruent with the real world. Communism didn't work and only survives as a pretext for despotism in North Korea and China. Welfare is a trap, and poor people's lot in America has improved since access to it was term—limited. Higher taxes on "the rich" depress economic growth and throw people out of work. The list could go on.

With their gods having failed them, leftists have turned to cant, ritual, and hysterical repetition of their golden oldie playlist of slogans. And most of all, to demoinization of their opponents. It is fairly primitive, and often comic, with tinges of tragedy.

Metaphors are an effective way to understand such bizarre behavior. The more the merrier.

Hat tip: Larwyn 

Thomas Lifson   7 27 06