Academic journal article The Journal of Psychohistory

U.S. Annihilation Anxieties and the Search for Enemies

Academic journal article The Journal of Psychohistory

U.S. Annihilation Anxieties and the Search for Enemies

Article excerpt

The doom of a nation can be averted only by a storm of flowing passion, but only those that are passionate themselves can arouse passion in others.

-Adolf Hitler

On September U1 2001, America felt its vulnerability even to threats that gather on the other side of the Earth. We resolved then, and we are resolved today, to confront every threat from any source that could bring sudden tenor and suffering to America.

- George W. Bush

Horrific crimes perpetrated by nations upon delegated scapegoats are found throughout history and are well documented in the social sciences. Few people, however, have conveyed the impact of profound loss at a group level with the searing poignancy of Elie Wiesel, holocaust survivor and Nobel Prize-winning author. In his memoir, Night, Wiesel narrates the protracted hanging death of a child at the hands of Nazi executioners - and its murderous effects within the souls of the witnesses.

For more than half an hour he stayed there, struggling between life and death, dying in slow agony under our eyes. And we had to look him full in the face. He was still alive when I passed in front of him. His tongue was still red, his eyes were not yet glazed. Behind me, I heard the same man ask, "Where is God now?" And I heard a voice within me answer him: "Where is He? Here He is - He is hanging here on this gallows....1

The death of God in the emotional organization of a child, as told by Wiesel in his memoir, is more than a chilling metaphor for the psychological effects of shared trauma. Psychoanalytically, group members experience their group and its constellation of vitalizing beliefs at an unconscious level as a maternal body, a protective uterine-like structure that absorbs the collective annihilation anxieties.2 All injuries and heinous crimes inflicted upon the group body are also inflicted upon the unconsciously held maternal being/love object. In fact, clinical evidence bears out that murder or genocide committed against our group are not the only carcinogens to our sense of cohesion, continuity of life and merger with maternal/parental powers. AU forms of rapid change, high social transience, environmental and man-made disasters, economic and technological advancements, societal developments and freedoms, also trigger group stress: fears of death and annihilation.3

The purpose of this paper is to analyze the collective stressors of the contemporary U.S. Group - experienced from the late 1980s to the first decade of the twenty-first century. This paper identifies eleven macro-historical events that have triggered national growth panic and mobilized the U.S. population's dangerously high levels of death and annihilation anxieties. The paper shows why this shared psychopathology is symptomatic of the U.S. Group's massive regression to fetal and childhood traumas where, according to psychohistorical theory, the fear of death and annihilation are implanted. This paper also advances the theory that the U.S. Group - not unlike many other advanced societies in history - has a need for enemies to ward off annihilation anxieties. Finally, this paper shows within a psychohistorical perspective that, given the magnitude of the shared traumas, history of sacrificial wars and defense systems against the fear of mortality, the U.S. Group will be in search of external and internal enemies for years - even decades - to come.

SYMPTOMS OF DEATH AND ANNIHILATION ANXIETIES

A decade into the twenty-first century, the U.S. Group is exhibiting nearly all the classic symptoms of a nation that is overwhelmed by annihilation anxieties and is in need of enemies. It is waging multiple wars on multiple fronts- Afghanistan, Iraq and proxy military activities in Pakistan and Yemen and is in search of terrorists/enemies around the world. While waging never-ending wars and global manhunts for this and that AI-Qaeda operative, the U.S. economy is in dire straits, the likes of which have not been seen since the Great Depression. …

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