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Essays/Papers

Analysis of Metaphor: Methodology for the Psychological Interpretation of Culture

Ideologies contain and articulate psychological meanings. How is it possible to decipher the latent content of ideological texts? My method, analyzing metaphor, consists of identifying recurring images and figures of speech in the writings and speeches of individuals who have been significant in defining and promulgating an ideology. Through this method, I reveal the fantasies that the ideology seeks to express.
Awakening from the Nightmare of History

A psychological approach to the study of society seeks to identify the sources and meanings of its cultural formations. For any ideology or institution, I pose the question: “Why does it exist?” To understand an element of culture requires uncovering the psychic function that it provides or performs. An ideology or institution comes into being—is embraced and perpetuated—insofar as it does something (psychologically) for individuals within that society.
Aztec Warriors/Western Soldiers: The Body Politic Feeds Upon Human Bodies

The First World War was undertaken and perpetuated under the assumption that the "lives" of nations were more significant than the lives of human beings. Germany, France and Great Britain were fed with the bodies and blood of soldiers—sacrificial victims—in order to keep these entities alive. "The individual must die so that the nation might live" is a phrase that has been uttered throughout the history of warfare. What does this mean? The First World War represented an enactment of this proposition: the nation was imagined to come alive insofar as individuals died—was fed with the bodies and blood of sacrificed soldiers.
Buddhist Practice as a Method for the Analysis of Political Ideology

Buddhism is a psychological practice revolving around the idea of "non-attachment." It proposes a method that allows the self to develop distance from culture. This methodology is applicable to the study of political ideology: Buddhist practice cultivates a psychic space of distance or separateness from cultural ideals and values. By virtue of Buddhist practice, one nurtures and expands a part of the self that is separate from ideologies with which one might identify. The objective is to develop a psychic place or space that has not been colonized by the symbolic order.
Civilization and Sacrificial Death

The evidence indicates that Hitler waged war in order to sacrifice the German people. His was an ideology of death: kill others (the nation’s “enemies”), then act to bring about the destruction of Germany. There is not a single sentence in Mein Kampf about “conquest.” Of course, most people embrace the shared fantasy of Hitler as a failed conqueror. It also seems as if the sun revolves around the earth.
Death to the Non-Believers: Political Violence as Terrorism

The phrase "Death to the non-believers" conveys the central meaning of collective forms of violence. Members of one group seek to dominate or kill members of another group that do not bow down to the sacred object worshipped by one’s own group. Terroristic violence is intended to compel belief: to force members of another group to submit to the same sacred object to which members of one’s own group have submitted.
Eliminating the Evil Enemy

The ideology of nationalism is constructed based on a binary. On the one hand is one’s own country, conceived as absolutely good. On the other is the enemy, conceived as absolutely evil. Absolute goodness is imagined to be threatened by absolute evil. In order to rescue goodness from evil, the source of evil (the enemy) must be destroyed. Collective forms of violence grow out of a myth or fantasy projected into reality.
History and Sacrificial Death

The creation of 'History' requires: (1) Political leaders who persuade human beings to perform acts of violence. (2) People (journalists and historians) who record performances of political violence. It is not as if the violent acts that constitute history are separate from the recording of these acts. Journalists and historians are active participants, not bystanders. Their role is to 'witness' violent political acts, and thus to create 'history' by recording them.
Hitler, Lenin—and the Desire to Destroy “Parasites”

The revolutionary objectives of Hitler and Lenin were identical: to remove or cut out or amputate the source or cause of a deadly disease within the body politic—in order to prevent the national organism from decomposing or dissolving. Violent political acts thus become necessary and unavoidable: If the disease within the body of the people is not eliminated or destroyed, the nation will die.
Hitler's Body and the Body Politic: The Psychosomatic Source of Culture

Through systematic analysis of images and metaphors, it is possible to reveal the deep structure of an ideology. Based on analysis of the images and metaphors contained within Hitler’s writings and speeches, I have found that his ideology revolved around a fantasy about the body, more precisely, about the German body politic. Nazi actions represented the enactment of this bodily fantasy.
Hitler, War—and the Holocaust

Hitler created the Holocaust based on his understanding of warfare as the occasion when nations sacrifice their soldiers. "If I don't mind sending the pick of the German people into the hell of war without the slightest regret for the spilling of precious German blood,” he declared, “then I naturally also have the right to eliminate millions of an inferior race that breeds like vermin." The Holocaust grew out of Hitler’s insight into the meaning of warfare. If he as a national leader had the right to order German soldiers to die, he reasoned, why did he not also have the right to require Jews—mortal enemies of the German people—to die?
Ideology, Perception, and Genocide: How Fantasy Generates History

I have developed a method for uncovering the sources of ideology. I examine ideological statements as if manifest content to reveal an ideology's latent meaning. I place emphasis upon specific words, phrases, images and metaphors bound to central terms of an ideology (e.g., in the case of Nazism, terms like "the German people," "the Jew," etc.). Hitler’s Ideology (1975) presents recurring images and metaphors contained within Hitler's writing and speeches in order to reconstruct the central fantasy that was the source of Nazism.
“I Move, Therefore I Am:” Elvis Presley, Rock ‘n’ roll, and the Liberation of the American Body

In 1957 Jerry Lee Lewis sang, “You shake my nerves and you rattle my brain. Too much love drives a man insane. You broke my will, but what a thrill. Goodness, gracious, great balls of fire.” Rock ‘n’ roll was the force that split the atom and shattered the American ego: a nuclear explosion releasing vast quantities of heat and energy. We live today in the aftermath of a blast that occurred over 50 years ago. The great ball of fire continues to simmer. Everything is still “hot”, and we have barely come to terms with the radioactive fallout.
Love of War

War is loved because it provides the occasion for sacrificing lives to rescue a sacred ideal. The proof of the pudding is in the dying and killing. If sacrificing one’s life for a sacred ideal is good, how can war be bad? Sacrificing one’s life for society’s sacred ideal constitutes the essence of goodness.
Making Conscious the Unconscious in Social Reality

Hitler projected his own symbiotic fantasy into political units. Austria symbolized Hitler's body, and Germany the body of his mother. Hitler's political ideology aimed to destroy the boundaries separating Austria and Germany—so that the two separate bodies politic could fuse into one. The actualization of this fantasy would mean that henceforth the “twofold destinies of Austria and Germany” would be “eternally one.” If Hitler had his way—fulfilled his dream—there would be "no separation of history into Germany and Austria.”
Nationalism, Nazism—Genocide

The Nazi movement grew out of an ideology embraced and shared by millions of people. The actions of the Nazis grew out of their ideology: they acted out propositions or theorems contained within it. In this paper, I delineate the underlying structure of Nazi ideology: a coherent fantasy that shaped the ideology and was the source of the energy invested in it.
Nazism as Bodily Fantasy

The Nazi dream of unity was rooted in a fantasy of the nation as a gigantic “body politic"—consisting of the German people as the flesh and blood of this body.  Margaret Mahler defined symbiosis (1969) as the fantasy of "somatopsychic omnipotent fusion:" delusion that two separate organisms are “contained within a common boundary.” Nazi ideology recreated the delusion of symbiosis in the individual's tie to his nation. Nazism imagined that German bodies were bound to a national organism. The fantasy of fusion was enacted in mass rallies where tens-of-thousands of bodies massed together to create the illusion of a single body acting in unison.
Organic Metaphors and Genocidal Violence

I hypothesize that metaphors used by revolutionary political leaders contain the reasons for the violent actions that they seek to undertake. These leaders experience certain classes of human beings as the source of pain, suffering and disease. They experience certain entities as if present within their own bodies. In seeking to cure a disease within the body politic, the revolutionary or genocidal leader is struggling to come to terms with a disease contained within himself.
Political Violence as Collective Psychopathology

Well over 200 million people were killed in the twentieth century as a result of political violence generated by nations. Episodes of mass slaughter are given names like war, genocide, democide, social annihilation and murder by government. It seems as though the world has been living through an epidemic, or malignant disease.
Pyramids and the Origin of Western Civilization

I suggest that the psychic mechanism that compels us to link ourselves with political leaders today is the same mechanism that generated attachment to Pharaohs during the time of the Pyramids. In each instance, some extraordinary force or power is imagined to emanate from a place in society outside the self. This place—separate from one’s personal, private life—is conceived as the center of society.
Rescuing the Nation from Death

There is a profound connection between the idea of one’s nation and the idea of an enemy. The enemy is the Siamese twin of one’s nation—what must be destroyed if one’s nation is to survive. Nationalism revolves around rescuing one’s nation—saving the country from death. The enemy is the source of death. For Hitler and the Nazis, Jews were the enemy par excellence.
The Human Body Becomes a Body Politic

The individual’s sense of smallness and limitations is overcome or denied through a psychic mechanism whereby one equates one’s ego with an entire nation. Freud said that the ego is ultimately a body ego. Incorporation of the nation into the self-possesses a psychosomatic meaning. The entire nation becomes a part of one’s body. One’s body becomes a body politic.
The Law of Sacrifice

Human beings sacrifice their lives to preserve the Union, for France, for Great Britain, for Germany, for the Emperor, for the Communist revolution, for Iran, for Allah, for a Tamil homeland, or for “freedom and democracy.” The ideas or entities (nature of the “sacred object”) for which people die differs (the content of the belief is fungible), but the mechanism is the same. The idea or entity that is worshipped comes alive to the extent that human beings die in its name.
The Nation as an Immortal Organism

The historical drama of Nazism and the Holocaust constituted the enactment of a fantasy. The Nazis sought to forge Germany as a body politic not subject to death and decay. If Jews could be removed from within the nation, Hitler hypothesized—then the body politic could live forever. In spite of Hitler’s prodigious efforts, however, he could not escape the feeling that Germany was disintegrating.
The Nation is Everything

Nazism constituted a pure culture of nationalism: distillation or crystallization of its central fantasies. Deutschland über alles (Germany above all): The nation would reign supreme, swallowing individuals: consuming everyone and everything.
The Psychosomatic Meaning of Nationalism

Nationalism was the essence of Nazism. Nazism was profound nationalism–nationalism carried to the nth power. Hitler explained, “You are nothing, your nation is everything.” Totalitarianism meant that the German nation was to encompass everyone and everything. And each individual German would come to encompass everyone and everything—to the extent that he abandoned his individual identity and became “at one” with the nation.
The Soldier as Sacrificial Victim

Hypocrisy lies at the heart of the institution of warfare. People plug into the spectacle and relish the fantasy of their nation's power and glory. They embrace war as a righteous struggle between good and evil. However, most people themselves do not wish to be put in harm's way. War is enjoyable to the extent that killing, suffering and dying are delegated to someone else. Further, people would rather that the carnage take place somewhere else.
"Uploading": The Human Creation of Culture

What does the development of the Internet tell us about the nature of culture—the symbolic order? Thinking about it, we realize that each and every element of culture was “uploaded” at one point or another by a human being. Reality is a human creation. A discourse that becomes an element of culture is an idea that resonates with large number of people: that goes viral, and remains viral, spreading and taking hold of human beings within a given society.
What is the Relationship between Attachment to (the idea of) God and the Proclivity Toward Violence?

The proclivity toward violence is contained precisely within the need to maintain belief in the omnipotence of a particular object. Hitler and Bin Laden are people who believe in the omnipotence of the object that they worship (“Germany” or “Allah”), and who react with rage when contemplating the idea that others do not worship this object as they do. The “Other” or symbolizes disbelief; is an “infidel” whose existence calls into question the absolute truth, or omnipotence, of one’s own belief.
Why do Ideologies Exist: The Psychological Function of Culture

According to Hitler's fantasy, each German individual constituted a cell forming a gigantic "national organism." The force of disintegration within Germany was working to cause the cellular structure of the nation to fall apart. Hitler acted to persuade the German people to come together in order to constitute a unified, cohesive body. If the people could "hold together like a single block of steel," then the national body would not succumb to the force of destruction.