“To be stupefied,” Jared Russell explains in his provocative essay Stupidity, “is to regress in the face of the unexpected, to have one’s critical faculties paralyzed.” The contributors to Room 2.20 may be terrified and even heartbroken in the face of the unexpected, but they are not stupefied.
I relocated from San Francisco to Caracas, Venezuela, in March 1999, just one month after Hugo Chávez assumed the presidency. He presented himself as a socialist intent on helping the underclasses and ending corruption, and I was ready to sign up. In addition to my practice and teaching at Universidad Central de Venezuela and Universidad Católica Ándres Bello, I started writing a monthly article in the English-language newspaper under the title “The Psychology of Everyday Life,” addressing topics such as childrearing and adolescent issues.
In the Anglo-American world, men are brought up to value a body image that is hard, flat, and impermeable, more like a wall, whereas women are taught to value or at least be content with one that might be softer or more flexible and is certainly leaky, like a fence.
Donald Trump’s penchant for attacking his opponents by projecting onto them his own disavowed personal attributes and apparent self-assessments has been a consistent feature of his rhetorical style and remarked upon by many observers. For instance, in her recent book The Death of Truth: Notes on Falsehood in the Age of Trump, Michiko Kakutani (2019) observes, “Trump has the perverse habit of accusing opponents of the very sins he is guilty of himself: ‘Lyin’ Ted,’ ‘Crooked Hillary,’ ‘Crazy Bernie.’
In explicating the thought of Socrates, Nietzsche wrote that philosophy was an effort “to harm stupidity” (The Gay Science, §328). According to Nietzsche, humanism teaches us that it is our egotism that is to blame for our misery. Socrates taught the youth of Athens that it is our thoughtlessness that is to blame.
There is a psychic fissure in America’s exceedingly fragile democratic body politic. In the face of political tribalism and an awakened and reinvigorated far-right white nationalist movement in America, civil servants (nonelected career public servants) from the Departments of State, Defense, NSC, and elsewhere have come forward to testify truth to congressional power, attesting to the impeachable actions of the Trump administration—actions that depict a criminal and amoral public enterprise. These nonpartisan officials are bearing witness and speaking truth to power, regardless of whether siloed Republican representatives of the House and their counterparts in the Senate are willing to hear the critical testimony of federal bureaucrats.
Mind of State is a new weekly podcast where politics and psychology meet. Each episode features lively commentary on current events, policymakers, and the body politic, and how we have arrived at this moment, as observed through both a political and psychological lens. Mind of State explores how “mind” impacts “state” — and vice versa…