Image by Tim Travers Hawkins
Biblical exegesis, known in Judaism as Torah studies, has at its core the twin concepts of pshat and drash, denoting respectively, the surface and the depth meanings of a given passage in the Torah or the Gemarah (oral tradition). Applying this analysis to Hans Christian Andersen’s famous parable about the king who had no clothes, we arrive at a fork in the road: the pshat is that everyone knew that the king was naked; they were simply embarrassed to admit it. It thus took a small child, unencumbered by social mores, to point out the obvious. This surface interpretation of the parable assigns it the meaning of a critical commentary on the ways of polite society, the political correctness of the Victorian age, which, taken to its extreme, stopped people from pointing out the obvious and acting accordingly.
The deeper meaning of the parable, however, is quite different. Imagine that the adults, not being bound by social mores, were simply incapable of seeing that the king was naked. They were, in fact prisoners of what Dilbert’s creator Scott Adams calls a “delusion bubble”, fully believing that the king was presented in all his ceremonial finery. In this interpretation, the little boy is not an innocent, quite the contrary, he is the only one who, existing outside of the delusion bubble, is capable of discerning reality as it really is. He is the sophisticated one, while the deluded adults are the rubes, the victims of a delusional state of mind.
It is worth pointing out that the consequences that are likely to befall the little boy for his cry that the king has no clothes are starkly different depending on whether the surface or the depth interpretations have more validity in a given situation. Upsetting social mores, especially by a minor child spans the awkward to cute range of the scale. Pointing out to the adults in the crowd, the seriously powerful folks, that they may be experiencing a mass delusion, telling them that the king has no clothes when they perceive him as fully clothed, is likely to land the boy in a strait jacket or worse.
Image by gdcgraphics
In my previous column I pointed out that Trump, like the little boy in Andersen’s parable, exposed the Democratic Party as an utterly un-American, not to say anti-American and deeply corrupt institution, one that is far further to the left on the political scale than most Americans previously realized. That was the pshat, the surface meaning of our story. But the pshat-drash dichotomy only works as an analytical tool when both the surface and the depth interpretations can be simultaneously true. Accepting a non-obvious depth meaning is impossible when it collides with the obvious surface meaning, rendering it nothing but a cop-out, a ruse.
An example of this is the attempt to define the term jihad as an internal struggle for personal betterment. This depth or drash interpretation only works when we accept that jihad is also, in its surface meaning, a holy war by Muslims to subdue and assimilate other cultures. Those who deny the surface meaning come across as apologists for terrorists and head choppers. So if exposing the extreme left wing tendencies and moral corruption of the Democratic Party is the surface meaning of our Andersonian parable, what is the its depth meaning? And is it even correct to define Trump’s unveiling of the Democrats as pointing out the obvious? I would argue in the affirmative; most people who support the Democratic Party today are fully aware of its left-wing extremism. In fact, they can’t get enough of it. Similarly, the party’s moral corruption, its support of on-demand abortions of fully viable fetuses, its embrace of sexually abusive Hollywood culture, and its coddling of the Clinton crime family, are all well-known and accepted features of today’s Democratic Party. In calling them out Trump was not telling the Democrats or their supporters anything new, he simply infringed on the social mores of the day that make any criticism of the Left socially unacceptable.
With Trump’s election and his staying in power for three quarters of a year while aggressively pursuing (in the face of tremendous opposition by his own party) the exact agenda he had run on, goes beyond the surface and well into the depth meaning of the parable. Trump’s presidency is destroying key aspects of the delusion bubble that has for at least eight years encompassed much of the American public, especially on the coasts and in the major metropolitan areas. What are these?
• That the so called “patriarchy” is finished. It isn’t. The world is still ruled and will always be ruled by middle-aged (and in the case of America, white) straight males or females who, like Maggie Thatcher, or Theresa May, or Golda Meir, or Queen Elizabeth I, or Catherine the Great, think and behave like males.
• Being homosexual is normal. It isn’t. For homo sapiens, like for any other species of sexually reproducing animals, homosexuality is a deviation because it does not produce issue and perpetuate the species.
• There are more than two sexes. There aren’t. Putting lipstick on a Bradley does not make him into a Chelsea. He is still a human male, though a deeply disturbed one.
• America is not a white and Christian country. It is. While minorities are very important to American life in culture, sport, business, academia, etc., America is still at its core a country of people with European ancestry and deep Christian faith.
• America takes celebrities seriously. It doesn’t. Most Americans recognize Hollywood and sport celebrities for what they are; very (narrowly) talented performers who are extremely well compensated to provide hardworking Americans with a bit of escape and relaxation. Not a single one of these people is taken seriously when discussing anything outside of their immediate field of expertise.
• America trusts the main stream media. It doesn’t. Established media has low double-digit approval ratings and most Americans know it to be biased and prone to spreading propaganda.
• Americans have blind trust in their public institutions like the FBI, the CIA, or the IRS. They don’t. Americans have a healthily skeptical view of these institutions, especially since Congress has recently been failing in its oversight obligations.
• White Americans feel guilty for alleged crimes committed by their remote ancestors and believe they have “white privilege” for which they wish to atone. Wrong. White Americans feel no such guilt and realize that far from having “privilege”, they are being actively discriminated against in college admissions and in hiring.
• Americans women are feminists. They are not. Most American women believe in traditional families and many would love nothing more than stay home and take care of their families if they could afford to do so.
• Finally, and this is the biggest delusion of all, people inside the delusion bubble perceive that their delusion is shared by everyone else. Naturally, this is a foundational feature of any delusion bubble; since the people inside it believe their delusion to be reality, they expect everyone to experience the same “reality” as they do. They don’t.
What Trump’s election and actions have shown is that most Americans do not live inside the delusion bubble. What the remarkable run of the stock market has shown is that those same Americans are willing to bet their hard-earned money on them being right rather than wrong about the real state of affairs in America. For the denizens of the delusion bubble it must seem that the reality around them is shifting and becoming unmoored; like that creepy feeling when you sit in a train and the train next to you starts moving giving you the impression that it is you who are in motion while all your other senses are telling you that you are sitting still, they feel that their reality is the “fixed” one, while everybody else is becoming unhinged.
This, to once again channel Scott Adams, cognitive dissonance is a source of a series of interconnected hysterias that have been descending on us in rapid succession. The biggest one, of course, is the Russia conspiracy, whose utter lack of merit only serves to feed the need for other, ever stranger hysterias. Now we are in the midst of sexual harassment hysteria wherein women and in some cases men hysterically accuse other, older and more famous men of various acts ranging from sexual innuendo to actual violent rape. This hysteria is now reaching its crescendo and will soon crash like the Russia one when it becomes clear that no criminal or civil lawsuits are being brought forward and that none of the accusers is willing to be cross-examined about their claims in a court of law. The various victims of this particular hysteria like Weinstein, Halperin, and now Spacey, all of whom are creeps, but none of whom had likely done anything illegal, will quietly regain their lucrative contracts and positions of power and the world will simply continue as it has always done.
America, for whatever reasons, has always been prone to seasonal hysterias. There was the Yankee anti-slavery hysteria prior to the Civil War that gave birth to domestic terrorists like John Brown and precluded a peaceful end to the vile institution of slavery in the South. Then there was the temperance hysteria of the nineteen teens that resulted in Prohibition; a very costly exercise that transferred vast wealth into the hands of criminals and established organized crime as a constant in American life. The latest hysteria was the American response to the horrible terror attacks on 9-11-2001. While the results of that particular hysteria are yet to be fully appreciated, we owe it an unprecedented loss of our constitutional rights, a historic increase in the size of the federal government, and several trillion dollars wasted on unnecessary wars in the Middle East.
The combined Bolshevism – social justice – weaponized feminism hysteria that is upon us now is yet another one in a long series of quintessentially American responses to stress stimuli such as technological disruption, economic insecurity, and global instability. Luckily, it seems that the current hysteria has brought with it more quickly than its predecessors an antidote in the person of President Trump and his America First movement. Thus we may hope that its deleterious effects will be more fleeting and less severe than some of the recent historical precedents.