Law School Discussion

Should I travel to India?

Caligula Wants the Moon
« Reply #40 on: March 30, 2012, 07:13:50 PM »

Here's another parallel from poster maj:


[...] The "grandiosity gap" - the painful and narcissistically injurious gap between their grandiose fantasies and their dreary and humiliating reality - becomes emotionally insupportable. They decompensate and act out. [...] Unbeknownst to them, they seek self punishment. They are at heart suicidal. [...] This is called "projective identification." They attribute evil and corruption to their enemies and foes. These forms of paranoia are called projection and splitting. These are all primitive, infantile, and often persecutory, defence mechanisms.

When coupled with narcissism - the inability to empathize, the exploitativeness, the sense of entitlement, the rages, the dehumanization and devaluation of others - this mindset yields abysmal contempt for the narcissist's victims. The overriding emotion of terrorists and serial killers, the amalgam and culmination of their tortured psyche - is deep seated disdain for everything human, the flip side of envy. It is cognitive dissonance gone amok. [...] To justify this apparent contradiction, the mass murderer casts himself as an altruistic savior of a group of people "endangered" by his foes. [...]

 [...] Their cosmic significance is daily sustained by newspaper headlines, ever increasing bounties, admiring copycats, successful acts of blackmail, the strength and size of their opponents, and the devastation of human life and property. Appeasement works only to aggravate their drives and strengthen their appetites by emboldening them and by raising the threshold of excitation and "narcissistic supply". Terrorists and killers are addicted to this drug of being acknowledged and reflected. They derive their sense of existence, parasitically, from the reactions of their (often captive) audience.

Erich Fromm suggested that both Hitler and Stalin were narcissistic mass murderers. Hitler and Nazism are often portrayed as an apocalyptic and seismic break with European history. Yet the truth is that they were the culmination and reification of European history in the 19th century. Europe's annals of colonialism have prepared it for the range of phenomena associated with the Nazi regime - from industrial murder to racial theories, from slave labor to the forcible annexation of territory. [...] Moreover, Nazi Germany innovated by applying prevailing racial theories (usually reserved to non-whites) to the white race itself. It started with the Jews - a non-controversial proposition - but then expanded them to include "east European" whites, such as the Poles and the Russians. Germany was not alone in its malignant nationalism. [...] Nazism - and Fascism - were world ideologies, adopted enthusiastically in places as diverse as Iraq, Egypt, Norway, Latin America, and Britain. At the end of the 1930's, liberal capitalism, communism, and fascism (and its mutations) were locked in mortal battle of ideologies. [...]


What was the role of the Jews in all this? [...] The Jews constituted a perfect, easily identifiable, reification of all that was "wrong" with Europe. They were an old nation, they were eerily disembodied (without a territory), they were cosmopolitan, they were part of the establishment, they were "decadent", they were hated on religious and socio-economic grounds, they were different, they were narcissistic (felt and acted as morally superior), they were everywhere, they were defenseless, they were credulous, they were adaptable (and thus could be co-opted to collaborate in their own destruction). They were the perfect hated father figure and parricide was in fashion.


Below it's a quote from Camus' 'Caligula' - no comment is necessary, I think.


CALIGULA: I'm not mad; in fact, I've never felt so lucid. I suddenly felt a desire for the impossible. That's all. (Pauses).

Things as they are in my opinion are far from satisfactory...

That's why I want the moon, or happiness, or eternal life-something, in fact that may sound crazy, but which isn't of this world...

I'm exploring the impossible. ... Or, more accurately, its a question of making the impossible possible...

And what's the use to me of a firm hand, what use is the amazing power that is mine, if I can't have the sun set in the east, if I can't reduce the sum of suffering and make an end to death?

CAESONIA: But that's madness, sheer madness. It's wanting to be god on earth.

CALIGULA: I want to drown the sky in the sea, to infuse ugliness with beauty, to wring a laugh from pain.

- Albert Camus (1965) Caligula

Nice catch, GYalo - while it's true that wanting to be "God on Earth" is crazy, as Caesonia tells him, that's we do on a societal level, when dealing with the mortality issue - with the "artist on the top" orchestrating the whole thing (I think Bion says the leader is usually a man with marked paranoid trends, and if per chance, the presence of an enemy is not immediately obvious to the group, the next best thing is for the group is to choose a leader to whom it is!)

So, all the wars started and carried on for years on end, wars fought over and beyond what that financial rationale would guarantee/justify, with blood being shed 'in vain'. I can actually see here that there's a theory (called TMT) that maintains that all human behavior is mostly motivated by the fear of mortality. The theory purports to help explain human activity both at the individual and societal level.

The terror of absolute annihilation creates such a profound albeit subconscious anxiety in people (called cognitive dissonance) that they spend their lives attempting to make sense of it. On large scales, societies build symbols: laws, religious meaning systems, cultures, and belief systems to explain the significance of life, define what makes characteristics, skills, and talents extraordinary, reward others whom they find exemplify the desired attributes, and punish or kill others who do not adhere to their "cultural worldview."

This "cultural worldview" provides a base of making sense of the world as stable and orderly, a place where one rests their hopes on symbolic immortality (e.g., fame, having children, legacies of wealth or fortune) or literal immortality (e.g., the promise of a life in an after-world). Our cultural world view is a "symbolic protector" between the reality of life and inevitability of death. Because of this men and women strive to have their cultural worldview confirmed by others, thereby receiving the community's esteem (they reinforce each-other beliefs that things are basically OK).

However, when one's worldview is threatened by the world view of another, it often results in one's self-respect being endangered as well. In such a situation people not only endeavor to deny or devalue the importance of others' world views, but try to controvert the ideas and opinions of others which may, as a consequence, escalate into a conflict (say, religious holy wars) - with those religious viewpoints, being in essence, irrelevant in the big picture of things, since they are simply "ideas" people subscribe to.

Culture provides meaning, a kind of coherent worldview that diminishes the psychological terror caused by the knowledge of eventual death. George W. Bush's approval rating jumped almost 50% following the 9/11 terrorist attacks in the US. The tragedy made US citizens aware of their mortality, and Bush provided an antidote to these existential concerns by promising to bring justice to the terrorist group responsible for the attacks (albeit he waged war against Iraq too, not having much to do with the attacks, or actually having any of those WMDs).

With Caligula, Hitler (between-you-and-me, this TMT I told you about, would have never been spelled out were it not for Hitler), and Stalin, of course, things got too far ... with their absolute and unbridled power that corrupted these people to the point of killing literally millions of other people (remember Stalin with that quote?) - I quote, another interesting post:



As a Mother, I totally understand these objections, and so far as I am concerned, I wouldn't endorse PGD.

And yet, if one takes if one takes the stance of the devil's advocate [...]

Mother, does one take the stance very often?

LOL Habibe, you're so funny! 

beepster, some people (like the case certainly is with some law professors, for instance) will take ridiculous stances like these all the time - it is, I guess, kind of like that omnipotent ruler who has so much power in his hands that he goes literally insane.

Remember Caligula - the guy, the one who planned to planned to make his horse, Incitatus, consul?!

Fast-forwarding a bit, Hitler (actually, truth-be-told, the above TMT thing I told you about would not have been spelled out were it not for Hitler!), Stalin were all paranoid leaders who couldn't trust anyone. Their absolute power was what corrupted them and made them all the leaders of corrupted, twisted nations under totalitarian regimes. The paranoia and lack of trust that characterizes many of the dictators is one of the things that allows them to take power. It is also the thing that leads them to murder their friends, confidants and the citizens in their country, thereafter.