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The Masochistic Electorate

In the corrupted currents of this world
Offence’s gilded hand may shove by justice,
And oft ’tis seen the wicked prize itself
Buys out the law…

The central metaphor of our time, perhaps of any time as Shakespeare indicated, is the abuse of power. Often, the wealthy do buy out the law. There is corollary to this rule, perhaps a more important one—the insanity of giving power and authority to a person or persons who use it directly against one. There are degrees of this and many examples in history. The Germans giving Hitler power. The Stockholm Syndrome. Severin begging his mistress to whip him. In America, we have our own unique version.

In a very real sense, a large part of the American electorate is masochistic in the classical sense of the term—with “a tendency to assume a role of submissiveness and apparently to enjoy humiliation as the outcome of feelings of worthlessness.” This tendency, more than political aspirations, I think, explains the psychology of Glenn Beck and his followers, a group of people with so little regard for themselves that they literally beg the wealthy to take every entitlement they have. Their political protests seem bizarre—declaiming the very things that would support them (medical insurance reform, Medicaid, Social Security)—unless you factor in their need to be punished. Only in America would the commonest of the common champion paranoia and ignorance as the highest qualities of man, and far from railing against injustice, actually hasten it upon themselves.

November 12, 2010   Comments Off on The Masochistic Electorate