The Ecstasy of Barack

Discussion of the influence of Jaynes's theory on works of fiction, film, and in popular culture.
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The Ecstasy of Barack

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The Ecstasy of Barack

Feb. 24, 2008
by Kathleen Parker, Washington Post Writer's Group

Much has been made of the religious tenor of Barack Obama's presidential

Reports of women weeping and swooning---even of an audience applauding when
The One cleared his proboscis (blew his nose for you mortals)---have become
frequent events in the heavenly realm of Obi-Wan Obama.

His rhetoric, meanwhile, drips with hints of resurrection, redemption and
second comings. 'We are the ones we've been waiting for,' he said on Super
Tuesday night. And his people were glad.

Actually, they were hysterical, the word that best describes what surrounds
this young savior and that may be more apt than we imagine. The word is derived
from the Greek hystera, or womb. The ancient Greeks considered hysteria a
psychoneurosis peculiar to women caused by disturbances of the uterus.

Well, you don't see any men fainting in Obi's presence.

Barack Obama has many appealing qualities, not least his own reluctance to be
swaddled in purple. Nothing quite says, 'I'm only human' like whipping out
a hankie and blowing one's nose in front of 17,000 admirers. The audience's
applause was reportedly awkward, as if the crowd was both approving of anything
their savior did, but a little disappointed at this rather ungodly behavior.

So what is the source of this infatuation with Obama? How to explain the
hysteria? The religious fervor? The devotion? The weeping and fainting and
utter euphoria surrounding a candidate who had the audacity to run for leader
of the free world on a platform of mere hope?

If anthropologists made predictions the way meteorologists do, they might
have anticipated Obama's astronomical rise to supernova status in 2008 of
the Common Era. Consider the cultural coordinates, and Obama's intersection
with history becomes almost inevitable.

To play weatherman for a moment, he is a perfect storm of the culture of
narcissism, the cult of celebrity, and a secular society in which fathers
(both the holy and the secular) have been increasingly marginalized from
the lives of a generation of young Americans.

All of these trends have been gaining momentum the past few decades. Social
critic Christopher Lasch named the culture of narcissism a generation ago
and cited addiction to celebrity as one of the disease's symptoms---all tied
to the decline of the family.

That culture has merely become more exaggerated as spiritual alienation and
fatherlessness have collided with technology (YouTube, Facebook, MySpace,
etc.) that enables the self-absorption of the narcissistic personality.

Grown-ups with decades under their double chins may have a variety of reasons
for supporting Obama, but the youth who pack convention halls and stadiums
as if for a rock concert constitute a tipping point of another order.

One of Obama's TV ads, set to rock 'n' roll, has a Woodstock feel to it. Text
alternating with crowd scenes reads: 'We Can Change The World' and 'We Can
Save The Planet.'

Those are some kind of campaign promises. The kind no mortal could possibly
keep, but never mind. Obi-Wan Obama is about hope---and hope, he'll tell you,
knows no limits.

It is thus no surprise that the young are enamored of Obama. He's a rock
star. A telegenic, ultra-bright redeemer fluent in the planetary language
of a cosmic generation. The force is with him.

But underpinning that popularity is something that transcends mere policy or
politics. It is hunger, and that hunger is clearly spiritual. Human beings
seem to have a yearning for the transcendent---hence thousands of years of
religion---but we have lately shied away from traditional approaches and
old gods.

Thus, in post-Judeo-Christian America, the sports club is the new
church. Global warming is the new religion. Vegetarianism is the
new sacrament. Hooking up, the new prayer. Talk therapy, the new
witnessing. Tattooing and piercing, the new sacred symbols and rituals.

And apparently, Barack Obama is the new messiah.

Here's how a 20-year-old woman in Seattle described that Obama feeling:
'When he was talking about hope, it actually almost made me cry. Like it
really made sense, like, for the first, like, whoa...'

This New Age glossolalia may be more sonorous than the guttural emanations
from the revival tent, but the emotion is the same. It's all religion by
any other name.

Whatever the Church of Obama promises, we should not mistake this movement
for a renaissance of reason. It is more like, well, like whoa.

Kathleen Parker can be reached at [email protected]
John R. Schedel
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Joined: Tue Mar 31, 2009 6:02 am

Re: The Ecstasy of Barack

Post by John R. Schedel »

Parker seems to be on to something, here. Bernard Goldberg describes a similar response in "Slobbering Love Affair". Such accounts give further credence that Americans (among others) may be experiencing a kind of "bicameral/archetypal" phenomenon that has not taken place in the political arena since the days of the JFK "Camelot phantasy".
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