The Political Animal in History -or- Dreaming of Donald Trump

This Field Note is about the political heavyweight contender for the American Presidency, Donald John Trump, and the American Dream and the American Nightmare (1). James T. Adams in his book "The Epic of America" had coined the idea of the rhetorical mythos of the "The American Dream". From a psychodynamic perspective, the epic rhetorical tides of American history are closely linked to the political history of America's political culture (2,3), and the dreams of Americans (4,5) and their American Presidents (6).

Kelly Bulkeley is an American dream researcher who has collected dreams about Presidential candidates for many political election cycles. Here is a more recent dream he has posted of a 53 year old male writer from Oregon.

I find out something about Donald Trump....I go running through a hall, like a dorm or apartment building, to tell other people about some point a spotted snow white leopard runs out from a door to my right and starts running along with me on my left....The leopard is playfully nipping at my hand with its teeth....I can tell the animal is friendly, but I realize I have to be careful, it is a powerful beast....

Donald Trump and the White Snow Leopard -or- Fables of Power and the American Dream

From a grammatical perspective, the dream's linguistic turn  (7,8,9,10,11,12,13,14,15,16,17,18,19,20) is told from a first person story telling (21) point of view (22). We can see from the English punctuation of the text of the dream that the dreamer gives pause five times.... In essence, the writer is telling the reader that he has had to stop and think, while writing. These pregnant pauses are the philosophical rhetorical (23) food for thought that this political idiomatic dream and American tall tale of folklore provides the reader (24,25).

The dreamer "finds out something about Donald Trump" and the writer's desire is to "tell people about it." From a narrative perspective, the dream exhibits an oral cultural (26) "show and tell" didactic (27,28) method of instruction and illustration (29,30,31) of human nature. We can read in Aristotle's "Politics", that humans are "political animals", and from the dream (32) we can conclude that the dreamer sees Trump as a "powerful" political animal (33). The poetic "analogy" between human and animal nature is that they are both born wild and untamed (34,35). The etymology of the idea of the fable (36) derives from the Latin word "fabula", which comes from the root fari, meaning, to tell. Tracing the rhetorical genealogy (37) of the linguistic turn of the tell-tale political fable, we find it having a long storied mimetic (38) oral history (39).

Oneiric fables seen in this sense, can be read as an emblematic medium of political communication, and the message (40) becomes subject to a rhetorical analysis of social order (41,42,43). In modern times, such a satirical political fable of power (44) was told by another writer, as a cautionary tale, namely George Orwell's "Animal Farm". In the end, Animal Farm's dystopian "doublespeak" political slogan reads; "All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others".

Fables are cautionary tales, which rhetorically warn about the dangers about being the weaker party. In this political sense, fables provide an anthropomorphic survival guide by employing animals in a social reality that features them on an unequal moral footing in a competitive political arena of superiority and inferiority (45), dominance and submission, elitist and populist ideological (46) power relations (47). In Friedrich Nietzsche's words, such a competitive political arena creates a master-slave morality.

The fabulous (48) discursive social formations of Greco-Roman society, language and mentality were oneirically organized around such a master-slave body politic of inequality (49,50). The origins of the American Civil War (51,52) are found in a variety of political conflicts...ideological, economic, and the social issue of slavery (53). Were all men created equal... (54)?

Freud in "Interpretation of Dreams" asked what do animals dream? Freud's rhetorical answer for geese, was "maize". Using this oneiric "collective unconscious" rhetorical logic (55,56,57), what do political animals dream of?  Friedrich Nietzsche's answer, the desire for the will to power (58,59,60). The will to power is embodied in the rhetorical idea and political figure of speech of the "body politic" (61) which predates Aristotle. In order to understand the "collective unconscious" (62,63,64) body politic and the will to power, we can turn to a cultural animistic reading of Aesop's fable of "The Belly and its Members", which provides food for thought.... As a political unconscious analogy, metaphor and political guiding fiction, the communicative body political efforts of the power elites' social control over the functioning of the organic and mechanical solidarity of the parts and whole of the city or nation generates the political health or illness of the social order of reality (65,66,67,68).

The language of dreams, fairy tales (69) and fables (70) have always provided genealogical access to the body political archeology (71) of "uncensored" rhetorical and ethical discourse about social control and social order. Such a body political form of modern Aesopian discourse analysis was developed by the French philosopher Michel Foucault. Nietzsche rightly diagnosed the social, historical (72) and psychodynamic political problem that such a master-slave morality rhetoric creates, namely "ressentiment" (73). In contrast, the ancient Greek philosopher Socrates understood that as a subversive teaching method, Aesop's fables served the political voice and vision of democracy, justice and equality (read, Field Note "Aesop's Fables Rock"). In modern times, few writers have captured and protested the social problems of institutional political censorship, ressentiment and alienation that is found at work in society, like the writings of Franz Kafka (74,75,76,77). The fabulous opening line of Kafka's "Metamorphosis" reads; "When Gregor Samsa woke up one morning from unsettling dreams, he found himself changed in his bed into a monstrous vermin."  

Applying this Kafkaesque anthropomorphic fabulist language to the American political "rhetoric of the dream" (78) that we are analyzing, we could begin with; "Once-upon-a-time, in America" (79). Animal studies have shown that many species (including humans) are territorial. Donald Trump has the psychological personality traits of a political animal (80) and he has staked out his "territorial imperative" (81) with his hostile deliberative rhetorical slogan "America First" (82).

Does anyone else see and hear the geo-political fabulist international arena problem this American imperial (83,84) "spatial turn" of "Make America Great Again" presents...? Such rhetoric can only politically echo in the ears of those Americans who still remember Lyndon Johnson's legacy of the failed "Great Society" domestic policy platform, and the foreign policy of the Vietnam War.

In the dream, Donald Trump is seen as "a spotted snow white leopard", a man who is running for President. As a member of the cat family the snow leopard is a predator and sees the weaker animal as prey, a potential meal. The mythology of animal worship both East and West is diverse, we can find the symbolic idea of the cat in ancient Eygpt and in the modern quantum physics thought experiment of "Schrödinger's cat". As an English political totem animal, and emblem, the heraldic animal blazon of the leopard was used by King Edward III. Trump's own heraldic attitude and American call to arms found in his fabulous political dream pageantry raises a red flag of concern. Is it not the Bible (Jeremiah 13:23) which provides a cautionary tale that the quick to anger leopard cannot change it spots...?

There are a litany of "Trumpisms" (85,86,87,88),  and other formulaic political sloganeering battle tactics that Trump has decided to use, including Nixon's "Silent Majority" (89), a group of "disenchanted" political voters who Trump evidently has identified and is clearly trying to rhetorically appeal to (90,91). From a dreaming perspective, the traumatic collective memory (92) semiotic signs of the American political rhetorical wrong turn (93) began with the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Kennedy assassination, and moved on into the Johnson (94) and Nixon (95) era years.

Here, is where we can read the rhetorical "memoria" source of the present knotted "ad hominem" violent partisan party politics, social problems, and symptoms (96,97) of failed political communication. This bi-partisan political "failure to communicate" (98) and the ensuing rhetorical "culture war(99,100,101,102) has had deleterious forensic rhetorical effects on "The American Voter" (103), and the American Dream, for many, turned American Nightmare (104). Are we all not tired of seeing and hearing the "polarized" violent rhetorical culture war, which essentially embodies what the philosopher Harry Frankfurt called "bullshit"?

The reception of the Aesopian political rhetorical language of the dreams of the "Wretched of the Earth" has been handed down to the disenchanted American "Underclass". The oneiric American graffiti of the failed politics of the American Dream is written on the walls of their Aesopian underclass voters dreams. It is found in the dark hallway tapestry of gothic rhetorical language of their nightmares, namely, social inequality, injustice, ressentiment and alienation of the politically disenchanted and disenfranchised (105,106,107,108,109).

Nietzsche in "On the Geneology of Morals" understood that the rhetoric of the master-slave dialogue was born of the ethical ideas of the ruling class. The aesthetic reception of Nietzsche by the American ruling class is evidenced in the Field Note "Money and Class in America" which is based on a dream that the American writer Lewis H. Lapham had in the late 1960's. Lapham's docu-drama "The American Ruling Class" underscores the social psychological influence and decision making of the American power elite.  The dream researcher G. William Domhoff  (110) asks "Who Rules America?", arguing that the answer is found in the social power network of the brain trust of the American upper class

Trump the presumptive head of the GOP is evidently seen by some voters as an American captain of industry (111,112,113), and by others, as having the commercial ethos of an American "robber Baron" (114) as evidenced in the tale of Trump University. Either way, he has become a business "shaker and mover", a wheeler and dealer, part of the ruling upper class, and the presumptive Republican nominee for President of the United States. If the artistic modes of persuasion appeal to ethos, logos, and pathos, then Trump's sales "playbook" (115) and the marketing of the American Dream (116) found in the "Art of the Set" appeals primarily to the advertising of pathos, which envisions the business metaphor of priming the "roller coaster of emotions".

Such a "felicific calculus" business philosophy of poetic pathos preys on the pain-pleasure (117) vacillations of the American gothic nightmares of fear (118), and the hopes, "dreams and goals" of narcissistic materialistic wishful thinking (119,120). Has anyone else noticed that Trump's roller coaster sales pitch and marketing hook uses the purloined, inverted and "commercialized" dramatic structure of the "Freytag Pyramid"¿ 

Explaining the political dangers of narcissistic marketing personality leadership (121) plays into the wheelhouse of the underrated American sociologist and social critic Vance Packard who attempted to show the manipulative psychological forces shaping America (122,123,124,125). Such rhetorical manipulation (126) and the search for success becomes one of the central dramas of American everyday life which politically fuels the dark gothic triad that can be readily found at work in Lapham's "Money and Class in America".

Seen by some as "leftist propaganda", the American sociologist Barbara Ehrenreich has shown how minimum wage workers have been "nickel and dimed". We need only turn to the dreams of the working poor which can be readily collected to find political scientific understanding. Bernie Sanders and now the Democratic presumptive nominee Hilary Clinton seem to be the only people calling for a $15.00 minimum wage, is this an American political pie in the sky pipe dream...? Trump's initial position was to abolish minimum wage. Where would that lead...? Now, evidently the Republican presumptive nominee's position is content upon passing the buck, letting the individual States decide.

We all know how the Nazi narcissistic leadership's political dystopian turn to the right in Germany historically turned out. We also know how the Nazi regime's rhetoric and linguistic turn of the "Language of the Third Reich" influenced the body political dreams of ordinary Germans as evidenced by Charlotte Beradt's "Third Reich of Dreams". Margaret Atwood in her satirical "The Handsmaid's Tale" warned of a dystopian American political turn to the right. Atwood's tale features a covert politically induced right turn by blaming Islamic terrorists for an attack on America. Sound familiar...? This Clinton vs Trump partisan election will target and make a political play for the "undecided" voters, said differently, this election will most likely be decided by the vacillations of the American "swing voter" and the political swing States.

We can see the American spectral political "language game" (127) and rhetorical topos of "left" and "right" at work in the writers dream; "at some point a spotted snow white leopard runs out from a door to my right and starts running along with me on my left...." A Nolan chart can create an ideological electoral geographic map of the political territory of the United States and its' left and right , blue and red spectral partisan politics. What such a two dimensional Cartesian "political compass" charting sorely lacks, is a depth psychological dimension of the dreaming political brain and its concomitant prevalent political horizon of expectation found in American dreams and alienating nightmares. Here, dream research of the political animals' dreaming brain has fallen far short, in that for the most part, despite Freud and Jung's efforts (and many others) to make the dream and nightmare an object of mainstream science, it is seen as a "fringe science", at best.

On a few final notes, and food for thought...about the body political (128) rhetorical anatomy (129) of the American Dream (130) and the American Nightmare (131,132), the American culture industries (133,134,135,136,137,138) and the ongoing political ideological culture war. The social cognitive architectural (139) analogies of house (140), collective memory (141) and dream space (142,143) are found in the work and dreams of Harold Bloom. Bloom's memory palace is featured in the Field Note The Western Canon and the Art of Memory. The American neuropolitics  (144,145) of the dreaming brain and political memory would reveal a deep architectural map of a house (146, 147), collective memory palace and dream visions that are deeply divided, featuring an agonistic rhetorical landscape of political alienation (148).

The writers' dream reflects the epic mythos of the American civil religion of the American Dream (149,150), and a rhetorical landscape (151,152,153) of the everyday group psychological (154) machinery of talk (155,156) which sorely needs to be reformed, transformed and revolutionized (157) into the civil religion of the "Song of Myself",  singing and speaking the democratic (158) body political electric of the ethos, logos and pathos of the all inclusiveness of the American dream. Such an epic dream factory understanding is found in Lewis Lapham's dream, where the American political theatre and art history of the civil religion of American dreams is projected on the walls of the New York Museum of Modern Art.

From this global political dream screen (159) perspective, an oneiric filmography (160,161,162) of the rhetorical remembrance of American dream vision is made visible. Only by creating such a poetic zeitgeist spirit of psychodynamic body political understanding of the American dream (163) and the traumatic (164,165) American nightmare can a nation begin to heal (166,167) and find political common ground. Civilizations have been built and destroyed as a collective (168) political enterprise, the political and social dramatic mechanics of both utopian and dystopian (169) existential forces are readily made audible and visible in the Aesopian belly and its members' psychodynamic body language (170) of the American dream and American nightmare. For now, all that is certain, it will be one hell of an American rhetorical maelstrom (171), and partisan political roller coaster ride in the Magic Kingdom....



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28.  Seth Lerer, Children's Literature: A Reader's History, from Aesop to Harry Potter

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31.  Bruno Bettleheim, The Uses of Enchantment

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35.  Claude Levi-Strauss, The Savage Mind

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38.  Erich Auerbach, Mimesis: The Representation of Reality in Western Literature

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52.   Harry Beacher Stowe, Uncle Tom's Cabin

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63.  Jean-Michel Rabaté, The Pathos of Distance: The Affects of Moderns

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88.  Arthur Schoepenhauer, The Art of Being Right

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93.  Alan Bloom, The Closing of the American Mind

94.  Doris Kearns Goodwin, Lyndon Johnson and the American Dream

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97.  Kenneth Burke, The Rhetoric of Hitler's "Battle"

98.  Holy Weeks, Failure to Communicate

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100.                      James Davison Hunter, Culture Wars: The Struggle to Define America

101.                      Gregory S. Jay, American Literature and the Culture Wars

102.                      Rhys H. Williams, Cultural Wars in American Politics: Critical Reviews of a Popular Myth

103.                      Angus Campbell, The American Voter

104.                      Ernest Hartmann, Dreams and Nightmares

105.                      Franz Kafka, Amerika

106.                      Leslie Fiedler, Love and Death in the American Novel,

107.                      J. Heuschers, A psychiatric study of fairy tales: Their origin, meaning and usefulness

108.                      José Ortega y Gasset, Revolt of the Masses,

109.                      Philip Slater, A Dream Deferred: America's Discontent and the Search for a New Democratic Ideal

110.                      G. William Domhof, The Scientific Study of Dreams: Neural Networks, Cognitive Development, and Content Analysis

111.                      Stjepan Mestrovic, Thorstein Veblen on Culture and Society

112.                      Stuart Ewen, Captains of Consciousness

113.                      Hans Enzensberger, The Consciousness Industry: On Literature, Politics and the Media

114.                      Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, Capitalism and Schizophrenia

115.                      Donald Trump, The Art of the Deal

116.                      Roland Marchand, Advertising the American Dream

117.                      Michel Foucault, Discipline and Punish

118.                      Barbara Ehrenreich, Fear of Falling

119.                      Mark Grossman, Political Corruption in America: An Encyclopedia of Scandals, Power, and Greed

120.                      Thorstein Veblen, Conspicuous Consumption

121.                      Louise Vinge, The Narcissus Theme in Western European Literature

122.                      Vance Packard, The Hidden Persuaders

123.                      Vance Packard, The Status Seekers

124.                      Vance Packard, The Naked Society

125.                      Daniel Horowitz, Vance Packard and American Social Criticism

126.                      Denise Winn, The Manipulated Mind

127.                      Jean-François Lyotard, The Postmodern Condition

128.                        A. Musolff, Metaphor and Political Discourse: Analogical Reasoning in Debates about Europe

129.                      Northrop Frye, Anatomy of Criticism

130.                      Alan Elliott, A Daily Dose of the American Dream: Stories of Success, Triumph, and Inspiration

131.                      Donald L. Barlett, James B. Steele, The Betrayal of the American Dream

132.                      Hendrick Smith, Who Stole the American Dream

133.                      Theodor W. Adorno, The Culture Industry

134.                      Walter Benjamin, The Arcades Project

135.                      Thorstein Veblen, The Theory of the Leisure Class

136.                      Herbert Marcuse, One Dimensional Man

137.                      Umberto Eco, Travels in Hyperreality

138.                      Jean Baudrillard, America

139.                      Alexandre Kostra and Irving Wohlfarth (eds), Nietzsche and "An Architechture of Our Minds"

140.                      Gaston Bachelard, The Poetics of Space

141.                      George Lipsitz, Time Passages: Collective Memory and American Popular Culture

142.                      Gaynor Kavanagh, Dream Spaces: Memory and the Museum

143.                      Victoria Mills, The Museum as ‘Dream Space'

144.                      Drew Westen, The Political Brain: The Role of Emotion in Deciding the Fate of the Nation

145.                      George Lakoff, The Political Mind

146.                      Lewis H. Lapham, Hotel America

147.                      Don E. Fehrenbacher, The Origins and Purpose of Lincoln's 'House-Divided' Speech

148.                      Jack Murray, The Landscapes of Alienation

149.                      Jim Cullen, The American Dream: A Short History of an Idea That Shaped a Nation

150.                      James Guimand, American Photography and the American Dream

151.                      Lloyd F. Bitzer, The Rhetorical Situation

152.                      Gregory Clark, Rhetorical Landscapes in America

153.                      Barbara Klinger, "The Road to Dystopia: Landscaping the Nation in Easy Rider" in Steven Cohan, ed., The Road Movie Book

154.                      Didier Anzieu, The Group and the Unconscious

155.                      Anne Freadman, The Machinery of Talk

156.                      Marshall McLuhan, Understanding Media

157.                      Terry Eagleton, Walter Benjamin, Or, Towards a Revolutionary Criticism

158.                      Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America

159.                      Robert T. Eberwein, Film and the Dreamscreen

160.                      Linda Hutcheon, Narcissistic Narrative: The Metafictional Paradox

161.                      Linda Hutcheon, Historiographic Metafiction

162.                      Lionel Abel, Metatheatre

163.                      Lionel Trilling, The Liberal Imagination

164.                      Cathy Caruth, Trauma: Explorations in Memory

165.                      Deirdre Barrett (ed), Trauma and Dreams

166.                      Kelly Bulkeley, Dreams of Healing

167.                      Carl A. Meier, Healing Dream and Ritual

168.                        Pierre Lévy, Collective Intelligence: Mankind's Emerging World in Cyberspace

169.                      Gordon B. Arnold, Projecting the End of the American Dream: Hollywood's Vision of U.S. Decline

170.                        Monique David-Menard, Hysteria from Freud to Lacan: Body and Language in Psychoanalysis

171.                      Michael Cohen, American Maelstrome: The 1968 Election and the Politics of Division




All material Copyright 2006 International Institute for Dream Research. All rights reserved.