One of the many things Freud taught us [see my tutorial, The Thought of Freud, archived at box.net] is to look closely at the details of the non-rational elements of our thought processes for clues about their origin and meaning. He used this technique most famously and successfully in his analysis of dreams, but the advice has a much broader applicability. A case in point: My son, Tobias, alerted me to a Salon.com story about a meeting called by the head of the Georgia State Republican Party at which a documentary was screened concerning a conspiracy between the UN and Obama to use mind-control techniques developed by the Rand Corporation. I was rather startled to read that the goal of this insidious project is -- wait for it -- to get us all to move to cities.
At first, of course, all we can do is scratch our heads at the sheer bizarrerie of this paranoid theory. But it takes very little thought to uncover the real sources of the fantasy. America has for generations been undergoing a steady movement of populations from rural areas and small towns into cities and their suburbs. This is in fact a world-wide trend. Far and away the largest cities are to be found in Asia and Latin America, not in Europe or North America. When I was a boy, New York's seven million inhabitants made it the largest city in the world, but now there are many cities around the globe that are two and three times that size.
In recent decades, the hollowing out of rural and small town America has proceeded apace. The psychic dislocation is enormous for millions of Americans who define themselves essentially in relation to the small towns and farms where they grew up. It is completely natural and also totally irrational to explain this painful life-altering change as the product of a hostile conspiracy.
What makes such thought processes politically significant is that people exhibiting them seem to have captured large parts of the Republican Party.
One final thought as I prepare to fly out to San Francisco tomorrow to see my grandchildren and their parents. For several years the conventional wisdom has been that the election of a Black president was a life-altering, game-changing revolutionary transition for America, but I am beginning to think that the real revolution, with which millions upon millions of Americans simply cannot deal, is in fact the re-election of a Black president.