In previous writings, this column has concerned itself with the relationship between evil and the human living environment in which it is found. It is one of the fundamental ideas of this column that the transformation of living environments by modern technology has led to a transformation in the very nature of human evil. And it is important to understand this transformation if we are to understand the nature of Donald Trump’s behavior.
Basically, what is being postulated here is that the presentation of evil in the form of human behavior is intimately connected to the nature of the living environment in which the evil behavior is being presented. The one commonality between evil in more traditional organic living environments and evil in modern technological living environments is that, in both cases, the person manifesting evil behavior is unable to create enough of a psychological barrier separating him from the basic configuration of stimuli in his living environment in the external world. As a result, he is overwhelmed by this configuration of stimuli and has to develop strategies of behavior in order to effectively combat it. This is where the evil behavior comes in. It allows him to protect his sense of self from the spillover external world stimuli. It allows him to expel the unwanted stimuli.
I think this model can be useful, because it takes into consideration both the excessive stressors created by a particular destabilizing configuration of stimuli in the external world as well as the excessive stressors created by structural problems in the minds of certain individuals who are predisposed to mental imbalance, particularly in certain kinds of living environments.
In most cases, evil in more traditional organic living environments has been caused by an overload of organic flowing blendable continual stimuli in a person’s mind which has, in turn, been generated by a spillover of overwhelming organic flowing blendable continual stimuli from the more natural environment in which the person is living. It is as if the person is trying to defend himself against being swallowed up by an external world of organic stimuli that have been internalized. To prevent himself from being swallowed up by these organic flowing blendable continual stimuli and losing his sense of self, the person tries to compress them, focus them, and expel them by committing defined discrete crimes full of passion on people outside of himself. By focusing the emotion on specific objects of hatred, aggression, even revenge, a person can expel the overwhelming emotion without exploding apart.
Traditional evil allows a person to stand apart from the world he experiences as swallowing him up through his mind. Everything in this traditional more natural world is experienced as threatening to swallow him up, swallow up his sense of self, flooding him with emotions and impulses and making him like an animal. In other words, the environment in which he lives undifferentiates him: his physical living environment, his community, his family. He acts out in a destructive way against even the people closest to him. He turns on them when he senses their encroaching on his mental space.
All this is very different from modern technological evil. In the experiential void of modern life, the sensory vacuum, people use evil to connect to other people to feel alive, not to separate themselves from people as in traditional evil. To overcome numbness, evil people today connect with the people around them in an aggressive hurtful way. Modern evil people have no personal barriers against the vacuum that surrounds them. They become number than more normal people and only by generating hurtful abrasive friction, hurtful tension pocket events, can they feel alive. Modern evil people commit crimes of numbness which have a very different flavor from the evil acts committed in more natural, more traditional environments. Previously, I have called crimes committed in more traditional organic environments crimes of passion. I use the term of crime of passion very differently from the way it has been used in traditional Mediterranean societies. In the latter, a crime of passion occurs when a person discovers that his lover or spouse is cheating on him, and so the aggrieved person takes revenge on his lover or spouse, or on the secret rival or on both. I use the term to cover when a person commits any aggressive action against another person that allows him to expel the enveloping explosive organic stimuli that threaten to swallow him up.
So how does Trump fit into this classification. At first glance, Trump does seem to be a traditionally evil man with a lot of strong surface emotion, a lot of strong surface passion. But the fact is that Trump seems to have difficulty focusing on any one object of anger very long. He just flip-flops all over the place, constantly shifting his focus, trying to shock himself as well as all his followers - the Trumporgs – to life. He has had so many different public objects of wrath on his Twitter account. Instead of a mass shooting by a numb lone gunman, Trump commits ongoing mass character assassinations,
And Trump wants to shake things up in order to feel alive. In order to leave his own imprints, Trump wants to decrease the cost of health care, even if it means getting rid of benefits for the middle class and the poor. He wants to get rid of environmental regulation, wants to change the tax code to make things better for the wealthy, wants to shake up trade agreements. The turmoil created by all his shake-ups creates abrasive friction, situational tension pockets, in the reactions of his fellow Americans which in turn helps him to feel alive. Those who are for his proposals and those who are against are in constant conflict and are incapable of collaborating or compromising, and he loves it. And it doesn’t always matter if Trump succeeds in achieving his obvious goals, because just as important, if not more important than achieving the goals, is achieving the process that moves towards those goals. The turbulent process becomes the solution to his numbness.
Trump is pathologically numb. So are his followers, the Trumporgs. Such people, in order to feel alive, have to tear apart social structure, social institutions, protections and relationships, so that they can feel the rush of ongoing social disorder and even anarchy that result. And as the social disorder and anarchy are created, Trump can rush in saying he is the only one who can create order, even as he continues to create disorder and anarchy. So that the need for his authoritarian style of leadership can be ongoing.
And the disorder and anarchy create suffering, misery and pain. They are evidence of modern evil as manifested by Trump and the Trumporgs. And as long as our modern technological living environment continues to create extreme sensory numbness, people like Trump and the Trumporgs will continue to make their appearance.
© 2017 Laurence Mesirow