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The Tyranny of Emotional Infantilism Imperils America
Modern Leftism and Magical Thinking
By Kelly O’Connell Sunday, May 2, 2010
In midst of one of the most amazing displays of irrationality in modern Western history, Americans are left to ponder: What the devil has happened to the USA? Arguably, roots of America’s current confusion are traceable to an infection of leftist Magical Thinking.
This is essentially the thought pattern of how children perceive the world, a mindset based upon substituting wishful thinking for reality. One of the chief characteristics of Magical Thinking is a denial of the principles of science. It is a dangerous belief system because it causes folks to assume that as long as their motives are right, all their plans and undertakings will work out.
The unrealistic thought pattern of Magical Thinking now informs American public policy and statecraft at every level—on economics, foreign relations, rule of law, environmentalism, etc. It is a world-view based upon the notion the “right” people will provide successful leadership for America, simply because they are “good,” and not the old “bad” leaders. Most intriguingly, this outlook is characteristic of not just children, but also sufferers of Narcissistic Personality Disorder, which Dr. Ali Sinan believe is a diagnosis fitting Barack Obama.1
I What Is Magical Thinking?
Magical Thinking deludes folks into believing the world is exactly as they hope it to be. Dictionary.com defines magical thinking as…“a conviction that thinking is equivalent to doing, occurring in dreams, the thought patterns of children, and some types of mental disorders, esp. obsessive-compulsive disorder.” Leonard Zusne and Warren H. Jones, authors of “Anomalistic Psychology: A Study of Magical Thinking” write Magical Thinking is “a fundamental dimension of a child’s thinking.”2
Perception of linear time is avoided while cause and affect and natural laws are dismissed. In this mental disorder, focus is placed upon how things “should” be, while all personal responsibility is cast aside. The self and one’s comrades are identified as above criticism. Opponents are made devils, their ideas treated as laughable, and are personally attacked as idiotic, mentally unwell people beneath contempt, simply for disagreeing with magical thinkers.
Sir James Frazer, unparalleled scholar of primitive religions, developed many standard elements defining Magical Thinking in his Sympathetic Magic theory. This explains much “magic” practice in primitive societies, as seen in Voodoo believers. Frazer describes this in his masterpiece, the 12-volume Golden Bough3:
Sympathetic Magic: The Principles of Magic
IF we analyse the principles of thought on which magic is based, they will probably be found to resolve themselves into two: first, that like produces like, or that an effect resembles its cause; and, second, that things which have once been in contact with each other continue to act on each other at a distance after the physical contact has been severed. The former principle may be called the Law of Similarity, the latter the Law of Contact or Contagion. From the first of these principles, namely the Law of Similarity, the magician infers that he can produce any effect he desires merely by imitating it: from the second he infers that whatever he does to a material object will affect equally the person with whom the object was once in contact, whether it formed part of his body or not. Charms based on the Law of Similarity may be called Homoeopathic or Imitative Magic. Charms based on the Law of Contact or Contagion may be called Contagious Magic.4
II Primitive Examples of Magical Thinking: Voodoo
In primitive societies, belief is often founded upon Magical Thinking. According to Webster’s, Voodoo is “a religion that is derived from African polytheism and ancestor worship and is practiced chiefly in Haiti.” An example of Frazer’s “sympathetic magic” is found in the “voodoo doll.” A “houngan” voodoo magician prepares a human image. He will do various things to the likeness, hoping to cause similar results to the targeted person, such as “causing pain” to the doll by sticking pins into it.
III Modern Liberal Examples of Magical Thinking
A. Government & Human Nature
Belief: Leftist leaders are presented as enlightened, selfless, saintly and pure persons, not unlike a child’s idea of the perfect parent. The state itself is deified, taking the place of religion. All programs are therefore described as well-conceived and meant only for good.
Classical pagan governments had no Bill of Rights or separation between religion and state to protect citizens. In the Roman Empire, the emperor was deified; all religions were a subset of the state, who called on the priests for answers, but then chose whether to accept their findings. Therefore, to attack the gods was to wage war against the state.
Modern liberalism uses a similar model. Today’s leftist leaders are often presented to the public as boasting the most outlandish, godlike talents, reminiscent of the Deeds of the Divine Augustus5 (Emperor Caesar Augustus’ autobiography). Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has often been described as the world’s most brilliant woman. Likewise, Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama are presented as the greatest and wisest minds of their age. This puffery is necessary to create a human interface between the people and the deified state, as seen in all Marxist cults of propaganda, erected for every communist leader.6
All communist revolutions have presented the superhuman “Great Man” model of a leader who drives the revolution to inevitable victory. These set-props are an irreplaceable backdrop for neo-pagan statecraft. Such nonsensical political theater richly reveals Magical Thinking towards deified government. For example, it clearly helps the argument if the state proposes transparently nonsensical policies, if the “World’s Smartest Man” is the human face touting these ridiculous programs. Wishful thinkers process life through childish “rose colored goggles.”
Socialist governments see humanity through childish eyes of wishful thinking, as pall past Marxist programs were either impossible to achieve, or destined to produce opposite results of their claimed goals. For example, Chairman Mao launched his Great Leap Forward, heralded to quickly reform the country’s farm systems. Instead, it resulted in the biggest human-caused famine in history when perhaps 40 million Chinese peasants starved to death. But Magical Thinking based on na√Øve faith in Marxist doctrines caused incredible numbers of innocent victims to die in communist countries.
According to Marx, there is no such thing as a soul or human nature. Therefore, government can reprogram people like robots to carry out tasks. With no human nature it follows there is no soul, and so when godlike leftist regimes decide people need to be disposed of, it is not immoral.
B. Economics, Socialism, Capitalism, Taxes & Healthcare
Belief: Economics is easy if people would not be so greedy, and just share what they have with others.
If any undertaking reveals the modern penchant for Magical Thinking, it is the liberal approach to economics. In the first place, consider recent fixations with Keynesian economics, touting deficit spending to create growth. Obama’s “Stimulus” package was meant to cause growth, simply by being named and implemented, highlighting Frazer’s Law of Similarity.
Perpetually increasing tax rates lowers standards of living, creates more government waste, bloated bureaucracies, loss of rights, and activist governments. But since everyone deserves health care as human rights, if government decides to provide this, we can afford it, because it is the moral choice, and therefore cannot backfire.
Arguments for socialism defy common sense, science, and history. Will all people continue to work diligently when property rewards are removed by the state? Communism posits human problems vanish when private property is abolished. But history proves these ideas never work. Further, the worst hells on earth have resulted from application of this exact theory.
C. International Relations & Pacifism
Belief: American is arrogant and bullies other countries, resulting in bad karma. Arrogant states will suffer for bad actions and attitudes.
Liberal international political theories are based upon wishful thinking of “how things should be.” The notion for conducting international politics resembles the old pagan Hindu belief in karma; which claims like actions result in like results. So, if you commit evil on someone else, evil will come back on you. Karma illustrates wishful thinking within a pagan religious setting, now indistinguishable from Obama’s ethics in conducting American foreign politics.
For example, leftists believe the American military needs reducing as armies wage war; and war kills people; and it is always wrong to kill others; since it is murder. By reducing your army, other countries will note and respect you, and then reduce their own armies. But if we stop pouring money into arms, and instead invest in the world’s poor, we will gain blessing for doing the right thing.
D. Anti-Science, Global Warming & Green Energy
Belief: If you hurt the earth, the cosmos will hit you back even harder. Eventually it will kill all the capitalist evil-mongers for their selfish, destructive greed.
The gassy Global Warming myth is pagan religious drama driven by Magical Thinking. In ancient Rome, when natural disaster occurred it was assumed the gods were offended. In the modern liberal world, man has sinned against the god of earth, ie “Gaia.” Therefore, we must sacrifice so god will not be vexed at mankind’s impiety. It is unmistakable that much of rhetoric delivered by Global Warming advocates comes not just in pseudo-scientific terms, but also couched in simplistic, moralizing religious terminology.
A classical analogy: During the First Punic War, Roman consul Publius Clodius Pulcher mistreated the sacred chickens aboard his ship. The fowl had no appetite when offered feed before an important battle. (Roman augury foretold the future based upon behavior of birds. Whether the sacred hens would feed, and how, was a grave matter to prospects for coming battles. Holy fowl refusing feed prophesied defeat.) Instead, Pulcher, observing the birds not heartily eating, lost his temper and tossed them overboard, shouting, “If they won’t eat, then let them drink!” Many lives were lost in the ensuing battle, directly blamed upon Claudius’ impiety.7 Of course such behavior now seems incredible. But is it any more laughable than the unhinged adherents of Global Warming and their carbon fixation?
A typical conceit of Magical Thinkers is evil, capitalist fuel companies conspire to keep the world in sooty fog instead of allowing alternative energy. But companies seek fossil fule because the payoffs are so much higher than almost any other fuel source. Of course, we should create as much natural energy as possible. But each method of energy creation has burdens of production. There will always be oil leaks, coal mine collapses, broken solar collectors, and every other technology failure known to man. And wishful thinking will not change this.
A chief characteristic of Magical Thinking is rejection of the principles of science, eschewing the notion that all physical bodies and natural phenomenon are under the law of cause and effect; and that all such elements are discoverable via observation and testing. In Global Warming, careful science was abandoned by egotistical “scientists,” pawning a grand motif where sinful capitalistic man attacked the earth for greed, then was menaced by mother earth’s death. This story is no more sophisticated, and no less judgmental than the classical myth of Sisyphus. He likewise was sentenced for greedy highway-robbing, condemned to eternally roll a stone up a hill he could never surmount.8
As richly illustrated by the last half-year debacle over methods of the Global Warming “researchers,” this “science” is a fact-free myth meant to illustrate the deeply felt beliefs of modern earth-worshiping, illogical neo-pagans. The myth is chiefly based upon conviction mankind has overstepped his bounds, is ruining the earth in the name of capitalist greed, and now must be reigned in and punished. In this sense it’s both a pagan and anti-materialism Marxist tale, animated by the illogical principles of Magical Thinking. “Science” is just a prop to move the story towards its socialist, misanthropic conclusion.
E. Demonizing “Enemies”
Belief: Enemies of liberalism are obviously illiterate, crazy or evil, and so must be put down as wicked rebels against reality.
Liberals attacking their “enemies” is a transparent tribal element of primitive Magical Thinking mindset. According to childish leftists, simply opposing their political, cultural or religious positions creates permanent enmity. (Emotivism is the philosophical theory that one’s emotions reveal objective truth.9) In other words, the people you hate are independently wicked—which you know, since you hate them. It is a pagan rite to imprecate, excoriate and execrate one’s enemies. Examples of the anathematized abound with conservative public figures such as Sarah Palin, Rush Limbaugh, philosopher Anthony Flew, etc. This is the result of applying Magical Thinking by way of the secular monotheistic creed of Political Correctness, that brooks no opposition without an attendant presumption of insanity, illiteracy or evil attached. This is a refusal of the Western tradition that while rejecting your opponents ideas, you still treat them with respect, as encouraged by classical liberalism.
Conclusion: Summary of Liberal Magical Thinking
Application of Magical Thinking in society is a grave problem as it replaces genuine thought, analysis and science. It assures wise decisions won’t be made, so results are never optimal.
The following ten aspects are essential elements of neo-modern liberal Magical Thinking, being it is:
- Anti-Christian & uses karmic ethics;
- Antinomian (lawless);
- Emotivist (feeling oriented);
- Nihilistic (extreme doubt of a rational world).
Principled conservatives, libertarians and liberals should join and reject the infantile Magical Thinking world-view and resultant childish policies. If not, our entire society will be permanently driven off the cliff by repeated childlike policies and political decisions. Then, every good that all the leftists in America have long wanted to pursue will be just a faded memory of lost opportunities.
|Kelly O’Connell Bio
||Kelly O’Connell Most recent columnsKelly O’Connell is a writer and attorney. He was born on the West Coast, raised in Las Vegas, and matriculated from the University of Oregon. After laboring for the Reformed Church in Ireland, he returned to America and attended law school in Virginia, where he earned a JD and a Master’s degree in Government. He spent a stint working as a researcher and writer of academic articles at a Miami law school, focusing on ancient law and society. He then returned West and worked as an assistant district attorney. Kelly is now is a private practitioner with a small law practice in New Mexico.
Kelly can be reached at: email@example.com