This is the second post on Robert J. Lifton’s Super Power Syndrome–and the last of a series of eight consecutive posts overall about his thought.
Friday, November 21, 2008
Lifton, p. 152, on Bush’s response right after 9/11:
The debt to the dead, and to the immediate survivors representing them, was instantly transformed into a strong impulse toward retaliative action. Such a sequence is hardly unusual, and could be the experience of any national leader. The danger a leader faces is that of equating a sense of debt to the dead with fierce, amorphous retribution.”
P. 175: The Bush vision of spreading “freedom” and “democracy” across the globe is, in Lifton’s analysis, one of “fluid world control, . . . nothing less than an inclusive claim to the ownership of history.” “Yet,” as he observes a few pages later (p. 178),
a sense of megalomania and omnipotence, whether in an individual or a superpower, must sooner or later lead not to glory but collapse. The ownership of history is a fantasy in the extreme. Infinite power and control is a temptation that is as self-destructive as it is dazzling–still another version of the ownership of death.
And, as he importantly notes later on that same page, such dreams/assertions of (fantastic) power tend to be underlain by “profound feelings of powerlessness and emptiness.” He even more powerfully concludes that paragraph as follows: “Fear of being out of control can lead to the most aggressive efforts at total control of everyone else.”