Thursday, August 27, 2015

cathedralized media and politics not dispassionate, they're vindictive, conniving, and passive aggressive...,

theatlantic |  His statements are completely consistent with his approach to both his business and entertainment careers, which was to connect with people’s guts at the expense of their reason. In his 1987 book, The Art of the Deal, Trump explained his modus operandi: “The final key to the way I promote is bravado. I play to people’s fantasies.  People may not always think big themselves, but they can still get very excited by those who do.  That’s why a little hyperbole never hurts.  People want to believe that something is the biggest and the greatest and the most spectacular.”

There has been a tremendous amount of discussion about the “anger”and “frustration”of Trump’s supporters. But it’s not just anger. Tapping all of the passions, including avarice and lust, is the unifying theme of his career. And therein lies the problem.

People have been wrestling with the problem of the passions in politics as far back as Plato and Aristotle. Plato described three parts of the soul—the appetites (like lust), the spirited (military courage), and reason. Reason was a charioteer trying to control the “dark steed” of the passions. The only way to control the appetites was to force the horse to the ground and whip him until he bled.

It’s a violent metaphor, but the ancient diagram has proven stable, continuing today in modern brain science, and even the Pixar movie Inside Out, which tracks the teenage protagonist’s struggle to understand and control her inner impulses.

The problem of the passions in politics was central to the thinking of America’s founders, as well. Take James Madison, the father of the Constitution. As a boy studying with his tutor Donald Robertson, Madison first learned the idea that “our passions are like Torrents which may be diverted, but not obstructed.”

In college, Madison was taught by the great Scottish cleric John Witherspoon that passions originated in an object of intense desire. Passions of love included admiration, desire, and delight. Passions of hatred were envy, malice, rage, and revenge. Most important however was the “great and real” distinction between selfish and benevolent passions. A benevolent passion, Witherspoon taught, came from the happiness of others. A selfish passion stemmed from gratification (like Donald Trump’s stroking of his own ego)—and was the most dangerous to a republic.

The passions are slippery for anyone seeking to control them, particularly in democracies with free speech. But that doesn’t mean they can’t be tamed.