Changes in Our Group Psyche

By  Mariamne  Paulus

The 2016 Presidential campaign has offered a fascinating look into the changes occurring in our national group psyche. Donald Trump has been an outspoken reflection of all things no longer politically correct, and yet still alive in a large portion of the society. He speaks out loud the things they would like to say but no longer feel free to say publicly. He speaks in hyperbole, capturing the strong emotions behind the statements and encouraging people to hold strong to their convictions and points of view.

It has long been the practice, not only in our culture but in most cultures, to find identifiable scapegoats to blame for problems in the society.  Racial and ethnic prejudices and practices of discrimination appeal to our lesser selves in which we prefer to take the path of least resistance.  If we can lash out at others we don’t have to look for solutions within ourselves.  Trump makes it easy to perpetuate the very attitudes that we have been trying to change in our culture.

A case in point here in Arizona: a group of high school senior girls, as a prank, took a photo in which their t-shirts spelled out “Nigger” and posted the photo on social media.  This racial slur is no longer permitted to be used in public places and the girls have been suspended, barred from all school activities, and prevented from participating in their graduation celebrations and ceremonies.  They were not “PC.” However, on the national stage a candidate for the Presidency moves forward with impunity regardless of what groups he slurs because many people still wish they could continue to hurl epithets at easily identifiable groups.

On the opposite end of the spectrum we have Bernie Sanders proposing radical changes in our capitalist system to champion equal opportunities for all and shared wealth across social and ethnic lines. Bernie’s proposed electoral revolution would be a move toward Socialism, something that has long been viewed as unpatriotic by the majority who believe that Capitalism and a free market economy are the American way.

Stretched in between these two polarities are the majority of Americans.  We share the sentiment that things need to change and the impatience with politicians who seem unable to get anything done.  We agree with some ideas and not with others, but we do not see a clear way forward.  In that regard our elected representatives are a reflection of the electorate.  They do not see a clear way forward either, and they stay stymied, unwilling to compromise and yet lacking the kind of vision that would make it possible to lead us through chaos to a new order.

The most we can say is that this election process has shown us that the urge to change is strong in our culture but that a new paradigm has not yet coalesced into a vision of what is possible. Dissatisfaction with the status quo is the first step forward. But when dissatisfaction devolves into anger and destructive violence nothing new gets born.  What is needed is a new vision and a plan for how to manifest that vision.

As individuals we can contribute to this energy of hope for the future by clarifying our own visions and by setting the intention to bring those visions into being.