December 27, 2012

A psychoanalyst looks at Barack Obama

William Manson, Counterpunch  - In his recent book, psychoanalyst Justin Frank describes a childhood deficient in stable attachments and consistent guidance: an absentee Kenyan father who abandoned him, an Indonesian stepfather (temporary), and a Kansas-born mother who often parked him with his grandparents while she pursued anthropological fieldwork and employment elsewhere. Such shifting and transient parental care could hardly have promoted a secure sense of stable, supportive attachments and the confidence of being unconditionally loved. One might add that such an unusually multicultural upbringing, with its shifting social norms and caretakers, would naturally encourage a cultural if not moral relativism—a tendency which could only have been enhanced by the professional ethos of his anthropologist-mother.

I offer a more parsimonious, if less nuanced, viewpoint than Dr Frank and others. Undervalued as a child–with a compromised social identity, damaged self-esteem, and the sense that love and acceptance could only be won through “specialness”–Obama would eventually pursue “the highest office in the land.” He would, as it turned out, over-achieve his psychological imperative—proving indubitably to himself as well as others that he was indeed a highly “superior” person of ultimate status in society.

“Compensatory narcissism”: attaining the office was an end in itself, the ultimate status symbol and ego-prop for an otherwise “hungry” self-identity. He did not aspire and attain the office in order to implement policies for the betterment of the citizenry or for world peace. Rather, he merely adopted policies requisite to his foremost goal: retention of his exalted rank for another four years. For instance, this former law professor helped schedule the assassination of bin Laden on May 1, 2011—exactly eight years to the day after Bush kicked off his re-election campaign, under a triumphal “Mission Accomplished” banner.

... As a former constitutional law professor who has ordered assassinations of U.S. citizens and signed the NDAA bill, does he evenbelieve in the Constitution (and Bill of Rights)– which he swore to defend? Ultimately, does he believe in anything—except persuading the public to support the exalted self-aggrandisement of President Barack Obama? We have become so accustomed to politicians, once elected, “selling out” and “betraying their principles”—that we may fail to recognize the absence of any principles in the first place.

William Manson is a psychoanalytic anthropologist and author of The Psychodynamics of Culture (Greenwood Press).

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

This factor was more satisfactorily explained by the president's career environment in Chicago and Illinois politics and a decade at the same U of Chicago that promoted Pinochet. Although he spent formative years in Massachusetts, and therefore became a writer, the puritan intolerance of moral wrongs didn't rub off. Similarly compare the political realism of Illinois' Lincoln whose thing was to preserve the union, versus Sumner of Massachusetts who called out the senate for its crime against Kansas and evangelized for freedom and equality.

Anonymous said...

Glad someone is calling out Obama. He is an elitist.