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Superpower Syndrome | by Earthworm
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Superpower Syndrome

A psychiatrist sheds light on the thinking behind the need for absolute power. It is the same psychology embodied by Darth Vadar and handily explained, in the final episode of the Star Wars epic, as his fear of the death of his beloved which spurs him to control everything rather than allow uncertainty into his life or let the force take care of things.


This author confirms that fear of death is the underlying psychology of superpower syndrome, but he also offers quite a bit more on the subject that I found helpful. And that was chiefly in his analysis of apocalyptic thinking and how it ties into the tendency, especially in western mythology, to think in terms of good and evil and eradicating the latter. His inclusion of Japanese apocalyptic thinking post-Hiroshima allows him to extend this dualistic story to the East, but he is chiefly focusing on how this plays out in Christian and Islamic mythology. It is a story of purification through destruction especially by fire, but also includes the purification of the race as with the Nazi agenda and other forms of purification either/or thinking. He claims that all religions have this story, but he does not address the religions that embody the yin and yang mix, and the teachings on how to live with ambiguity. (It may be that Western psychology itself is a need to alleviate ambiguity.)


He addresses how apocalyptic technology—giving humans the ability to annihilate the planet—has brought this internal story to planet threatening levels particularly the way the Bush administration has played it out by embracing preemptive war. This change is what makes superpower syndrome so dangerous and has alarmed enough writers to take it on in various books. Yes! magazine did a recent cover story on how to step down from the superpower agenda and join the community of nations through diplomacy. These discussions all mention how the desire to control in the name of absolute security will ultimately lead to the collapse of said superpower, mainly because you can never control it all and the effort to do so will bankrupt us and rob us of domestic infrastructure maintenance.


He gives a blow-by-blow account of what happened on a psychological level to Americans in light of the apocalyptic imagery provided by the 9/11 events. This was helpful as I did not live any of the stages of response he describes as part of being a survivor of a traumatic event. This includes death anxiety, survivor guilt, psychic numbing, suspiciousness, and the resulting search for meaning in this ordeal. (In the Tsunami, it was the Westerners who were focused on "why me, why us, why now" while the Thais were like "shit happens" and how do we make sure the dead don't come back to haunt us. Note: there were absolutely no ghost stories to contend with post 9/11; Karen Kingston, fung shui guru from England, says that those who died in the towers died very clean deaths so maybe that's why. And maybe fire is purifying after all.)


As is the tendency of psychiatrists, this author has taken the patients story at face value and analyses it accordingly without questioning that perhaps the patient's story is in itself pathological. He does not consider that Osama bin Laden may have had nothing to do with 9/11 per the analysis of the Osama video claiming the 9/11 deed, having now been shown to be a fake. What then would be the psychological underpinnings of that fabrication? This would have been a much more interesting story if he had brought in the need for American apocalyptic storytelling to invent al Qaeda as the enemy as reported by the BBC documentary The Power of Nightmares. More interesting still, if he had analyzed the Bush administration in light of MIHOP or LIHOP theories (Made It Happen On Purpose or Let It Happen On Purpose). I would have been interested in what goes on in the minds of leaders who kill their own people to create false flag events. He did not even analyse the psychological need for survivors to invent conspiracy theories. I had to refer to Wickipedia re: 9/11 to assure myself that all facets of reality were still being addressed by the democracy of content providers. It is possible that the inability of psychiatrists to consider more than one story is part of the dualistic, black and white apocalyptic think mode that he is warning us against.


Though the book annoyed me on these many levels, I found it helpful in showing me how my own recent thoughts of economic collapse in the US was a version of apocalyptic thinking. And having recently learned that it took Rome 300 years to fall and the Mayans who did it quick, a 100 years, I feel much more relaxed about it now. Even though we are headed for deep economic doo doo with oil prices spiked again, it will still take a while for societal collapse. And with nothing to do people will have more time to think about things.


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Taken on June 6, 2008