Alexander Lowen, M.D., asks a curious question in the last chapter of
his book, “Narcissism: Denial of the True Self.” He asks on “what
grounds can we describe the state of our culture as insane?” After
passing over the legal and psychiatric definitions of insanity, Lowen
offers a common sense definition. Today’s culture is insane because it
But given who we are and what we’ve become, most Americans do not see
their culture as self-destructive. This is because the destructiveness
involves a shared blindness — and a shared insanity.
Unable to look within, lacking historical perspective, many Americans
no longer recognize the need for prescribed boundaries and principles.
As Christopher Lasch explained over two decades ago, American culture
has become intensively narcissistic. Not surprisingly, narcissism
produces self-destructive behaviors.
In this context, we should consider the globe itself, and the raw
geographical space that Western civilization has occupied. From this we
can see that the West has been imploding for several decades. At the
beginning of the 20th century, the West occupied most of the world’s
land. Today, the West has retreated into a small corner.
Is this direct evidence of self-destructive behavior on the part of
an entire civilization?
Many years ago, James Burnham wrote a book about the West’s dramatic
spatial contraction. It was entitled “The Suicide of the West.”
Burnham proposed the following analysis:
1) The land area of Western civilization has been shrinking;
shrinkage was not forced upon the West by a superior adversary;
was not caused by a lack of material power;
4) it must therefore derive
from internal or spiritual factors.
According to Burnham, our civilization’s decline has been triggered
by spiritual changes that have occurred over the last 100 years.
Although Burnham mainly writes about the ideology that justifies Western
suicide (i.e., liberalism), other writers have described the West’s
spiritual transformation in terms of narcissism or excessive
self-regard. If narcissism causes self-destructive behaviors in a
person, we ought to consider the possibility that narcissism can cause
self-destructive behaviors in whole countries or civilizations.
Where can we find, in our immediate political landscape, a
destructive individual with an equally destructive agenda? If the
society itself has become narcissistic and self-destructive, then
society’s higher leadership should also prove to be narcissistic and
As it happens, we have President Bill Clinton, who personifies the
West’s self-destructiveness. If you do not believe this, consider
Clinton’s recent behavior. While Special Prosecutor Kenneth Starr was
investigating him, Clinton dared to make sexual advances on Kathleen
Willey and Monica Lewinsky. He committed perjury in the Paula Jones
lawsuit. The result was national humiliation and impeachment.
The delusional and self-destructive tendency of our time would like
to say that Clinton’s behavior is merely a case of personal immorality.
Setting aside the fact of perjury and obstruction of justice, which are
not mere issues of personal immorality, does anyone seriously imagine
that Clinton’s self destructive tendency only involves his
out-of-control sex life?
It is unfortunate, but Clinton is also politically out-of-control.
His national security policy tends toward the destruction of the United
States. And this has not been noticed by most Americans because they
share Clinton’s inner world of illusion. They share his narcissism and
his hatred of limitations.
Nothing illustrates this better than Clinton’s desire to unilaterally
disarm the United States.
George Washington, the father of our country, said that if you want
peace you must prepare for war. But according to Bill Clinton: If you
want peace, be unprepared for war.
The president can color his giveaways to Russia and China as
victories if he wants. He can blanket the country with comforting words
and promises about “peace in our time.” But his arms control proposals
– like de-alerting our nukes or unilaterally reducing our strategic
arsenal — are insane.
Future historians might one day describe Clinton’s national security
policy as something out of the Grand Academy of Lagado, which was
described by Jonathan Swift in “Gulliver’s Travels.” According to
Swift’s fanciful account, the professors at Lagado were engaged in
various futile endeavors, like extracting sunbeams from cucumbers, or
attempting to reduce human excrement to its original food, or contriving
a new method of building a house by beginning at the roof and working
downwards to the foundation.
Bill Clinton, it seems, is a graduate of the Grand Academy of
Lagado. He is “the universal artist” who has labored 30 years to
improve human life by condensing air into a dry tangible substance and
by softening marble for use as pillows and pincushions.
Next month, Clinton will meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
It is said that Clinton will offer large reductions in America’s nuclear
forces to secure a legacy for himself as a peacemaker. Rep. Curt
Weldon, R-Penn., has alleged that Clinton wants to slash the current
U.S. nuclear arsenal of 7,200 warheads down to 1,500 warheads. It has
been reported that Clinton denies Weldon’s charge, but the Clinton theme
has always been “deny, deny, deny.” Nobody should be fooled by this.
Besides, Clinton’s Pentagon already supports the idea of unilaterally
reducing U.S. strategic forces by more than half, even though the START
II Treaty has not been ratified by the United States Senate (and
probably won’t be).
Caught up in a world illusion, Bill Clinton believes that a
disarmament treaty is a peace machine. You put the crushed remnants of
your nuclear arsenal into one end of the machine, then you turn the
magic crank and universal peace comes out the other end. For all the
good it will do, he would have better spent his time attempting to
extract sunbeams from cucumbers.
Bill Clinton wants to bring about peace on earth and good will toward
men. He wants to make a square circle. But Clinton cannot reduce human
excrement to its original food, and he cannot build a house by starting
with the roof and working down to the foundation. It is equally
impossible that he should somehow succeed in making the lion lie down
with the lamb.
“Every schizophrenic,” says Dr. Alexander Lowen, “has an inflated
self-image, which is out of touch with reality.” Grandiosity, he adds,
is itself “an expression of unreality.” The narcissist, of course, is
saturated with self-grandiosity. And Bill Clinton is no ordinary
narcissist. He wants to transcend all limits. Perhaps he has become a
soap bubble, floating into the sun.
But all soap bubbles are sure to burst.