Lifton and “Superpower Syndrome” Continued


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.”

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