YDS: The Clare Spark Blog

May 15, 2013

Who is Barack Obama?

Filed under: Uncategorized — clarelspark @ 7:41 pm
Tags: , , , , , , , ,
Moderation taught here

Moderation taught here

My most popular blogs have dealt with the enigma of POTUS, with a consensus among many of my readers that he is a narcissist, possibly of the most malignant and incurable variety. This blog makes the claim that Obama’s personality is the wrong focus of attention. We do better to look at the incoherence of the base that elected him, and what is the bond that links him to such disparate sectors of the electorate, ranging from Wall Street liberals, Hollywood moguls and celebrities, teachers unions, the AFL-CIO, youth culture, environmentalists, and “racial” minorities, including liberal Jews still tied to the New Deal embraced by their parents. (See http://clarespark.com/2012/04/06/diagnosing-potus/ and http://clarespark.com/2010/04/05/is-potus-crazy/.)

Moreover, there is wide difference among both supporters and critics as to his “real” politics: Is he a stealth Leninist, a crypto-Muslim with jihadist sympathies, a liberal internationalist in the Wilsonian tradition, or a traditional Democratic Party centrist (the latter a diagnosis by disgusted Leftists and populists who hoped for a more radical, anti-imperialist agenda)?

Mental health professionals and cultural historians have (perhaps) unwittingly aided the current focus on personality disorders, especially with the proposed revision of DSM-IV in the news during the last year. (On the theoretical foundations of the DSM manuals see http://clarespark.com/2012/12/09/neurotic-vs-objective-anxiety-dsm-iv-and-beyond/. Also “identity politics” as promoted by social democrats.) That and the popularity of mental health and relationship advice on radio and television have taken the voting public into private space at the expense of a broader and more appropriate education in political and economic theory, about which the general public is ignorant, thanks to decades of indoctrination in schools and universities regarding remaking ourselves so that we are wiped clean of “prejudice” toward “the Other.” Such a purification ritual has served some social movements and their upwardly mobile adherents, but destroyed our critical faculties.

The questions we should be addressing are these: why are so many American voters glued to celebrity culture, including pundits of either major political party? Why are the public schools so awful in urban ghettoes, and who made them that way? Why has public speech deteriorated to the point where the English language has been ground down to such exclamations as “awesome”! “amazing”! “cool”! No tribe of grunting savages in the prehistoric ages of our species could have survived with such a limited vocabulary. If we taught Shakespeare today, would students even be able to read him with comprehension? Or a plot summary, even? Meanwhile, my blogs, deliberately written to a non-academic audience, are often deemed to be “over the heads” of many readers.

To answer the question posed in the title of this blog: we cannot look into the heart of Barack Obama. We are not psychoanalysts who have treated him for many years, with accurate information about his childhood and the many traumas he may or may not have endured. But we can look into his social policies, and evaluate their content and efficacy. These fail on the grounds of intelligibility and effectiveness. Both our economy and our safety as Americans are on the table.  Yet “moderates” in both parties urge us not to get over excited or too “extreme;” rather, find your “community” and cuddle up with it, no matter how incoherent or internally divided on major issues the “members” may be. (I am thinking specifically of Charles Krauthammer and Bill O’Reilly, who yesterday advised their viewers on Fox  to lay off POTUS and Hillary Clinton until “facts” on such matters as the AP scandal are uncovered.)

I would be happier with “the moderate men” if they refrained from cooling us out, and departed from the safety of their cliques inside the Washington DC Beltway. They won’t of course, for they are paid handsomely for their services to the status quo, specifically to the ideal of the neutral state, and of the notions of “healing” and “closure.” (See http://clarespark.com/2010/11/06/moderate-men-falling-down/.)

We are in terrible trouble, and have no one but ourselves to rely upon. We still have the internet and social media. These must be protected above all else, whatever our politics. The republic will stand or fall depending on our defense of free and inquisitive communication, let the chips fall…. (For a follow-up blog see http://clarespark.com/2013/05/16/divide-et-impera/.)

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4 Comments »

  1. […] The vagueness of what constitutes “identity” leaves us not only mired in collectivist categories, but makes it hard to pin down political speech, for it too is vague and undefined, very much like the IRS rules for tax-exempt organizations. However, recent revelations suggest that antagonism toward progressive ideology, including welfare state economics, falls outside of the permissible boundaries of charitable and related organizations. Tea Party localism is now as dangerous as Marxist-Leninism was held to be in the late 1940s and early 1950s under the aegis of the dread McCarthy-ites and the John Birch Society. For more on this understudied subject see the following examples. (This is the follow-up blog to http://clarespark.com/2013/05/15/who-is-barack-obama/.) […]

    Pingback by Divide and rule: moderate men and the IRS | YDS: The Clare Spark Blog — May 16, 2013 @ 9:32 pm | Reply

  2. I measure student comprehension with papers and exams. Essay exams, not MOOC multiple-choice things. This fall I’ll be teaching (in an introductory sophomore course; I’m not a Shakespearean) Julius Caesar and its sequel, Antony and Cleopatra. I have taught The Tempest, but not as an anti-imperialist fable. About whether my students transfer any of Shakespeare’s language to the way they think about the world I don’t know. Some of them do come back after the course is over, sometimes years after, to talk about the books they first heard about from me, but the all-time favorite when we have that conversation is Anna Karenina. Surely I’m not the only teacher who has had that experience. Sursum corda.

    Comment by jonathanmorse — May 16, 2013 @ 1:24 am | Reply

  3. I teach Shakespeare today. Lots of people teach Shakespeare today.

    Comment by jonathanmorse — May 16, 2013 @ 12:04 am | Reply

    • I congratulate you and all the other scholars who teach Shakespeare. How do you measure student comprehension? Which Shakespeare do you teach, by the way? The Tempest is often mentioned on NPR, perhaps because it is taught as an anti-imperialist fable. Finally, is the psychological and political sophistication furthered by Shakespeare’s plays and poems transferred to the ways students think about their world? Or is that not something that you have time to follow?

      Comment by clarespark — May 16, 2013 @ 12:07 am | Reply


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