Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Screwed by Obama

Serendipity works in strange ways. Over the last few days commenters on this blog have drawn my attention to my posts on Camille Paglia, the queen of sexual exuberance. Especially to these two posts: here and here.

Apparently, more than a few serious people are drawn to Paglia's diagnosis of America' sexual malaise, and to her cure. Some of them take serious issue with my call for a return to the Protestant work ethic. They do not agree that we will have to work our way out of our problems. And that we are not going to love or sex our way out.

Then, yesterday, after I wrote a long post about psychoanalyst Adam Phillips, commenter sss seemed to be wondering, implicitly, why I would be bothering to expound at such length on a discipline that is headed to the dustbin of intellectual history.

I responded that even at a time when psychoanalysis as a practice is moribund, Freudian ideas continue to exert considerable influence over the culture. Witness Camille Paglia.

Now, to the serendipitous part. This morning I came across a column by Tunku Varadarajan on The Daily Beast site. In it he argued that Obama's election was based on his ability to seduce multitudes, and that now having lost his sex appeal, he is at a serious loss. Link here.

After all, when your wife abandons you on your birthday to travel to another continent, it does not make  you look like the manliest of men.

According to Varadarajan, Obama lost his sex appeal when he seemed to be impotent to do anything to stop the BP oil gusher in the Gulf of Mexico. I am highly sympathetic to this view, though I did not read it as a sexual allegory. I wrote that Obama lost what the Chinese call the Mandate of Heaven. Link here.

In truth, I think that it is a lot easier to regain your potency than to recover the Mandate of Heaven, though Varadarajan approaches my version when he says that Obama is at a point where even Viagra will not help.

More broadly, Varadarajan argues that America's youth was seduced by Barack Obama, not in the Pied Piper sense, but in the erotic sense. Young people were inspired, perhaps because sexual energy is something that they have in larger quantities than do older people. Thus, they understand its use as currency. Better yet, numerous woman journalists revealed that they had cast Obama in a starring role in their sexual fantasies.

It felt like a chapter out of a book by Camille Paglia. Obama was going to be America's savior, because he was going to cure our sexual malaise by liberating us from the endless travail imposed by the Protestant work ethic and bourgeois propriety.

As a demiurge risen from the depths, Obama would lead us to a brave new world where we could all revel in the full expression of our human vitality. Miraculously, this would solve the financial crisis too.

This sexual allegory was saying that nothing was wrong with America that could not be cured by a good screw. Or better, by enough of the right kind of stimulation... or stimulus.

But, people who believe that a good screw will cure all ills usually end up getting screwed.

Most of us picked up on the salvationist rhetoric coming down from camp Obama. Many of us were slower to pick up the sexual allegory that seemed to be behind it.

Varadarajan divides American presidents into two categories: I would call them the ladies' man and the man's man.

Along with John Kennedy and Bill Clinton, Obama falls within the first category. In the second are Truman, Eisenhower, Johnson, Reagan, Bush, and Bush.

Needless to say, when a ladies' man turns up impotent, when his claims to sexual prowess prove to be illusory, he has nothing left to fall back on.

In Varadarajan's words: "Twenty months into office, Obama stands exposed as a floundering Man, not a panacea-laden Superman. Even his relationship with his wife has hurt his sex appeal. Uxorious men are never sexy for long."

(Perhaps Bill Clinton's survival skills were based on the fact that he was anything but uxorious.)

So, when people voted for Obama they were voting for a mirage, for what the assumed him to be, for the role that they wanted to cast him in. Blinded by their hatred for Bush, they made him the avatar of a grand Pagliaesque idea.

A man's man does not rely on seduction. He never puts on the mask that would allow him to play the eroticism card. He is who he is, and never pretends to be anyone else. Thus, he has more latitude to fail.

Referring to Obama, Varadarajan writes: "And failure is not sexy. He has given speech after speech to a restless, increasingly irritated nation, like a man trying to 'talk' about the relationship when a girl wants to be ravaged; he has been a preachy, professorial windbag-- in a word charmless. This hasn't merely diminished his sex appeal. It has killed it stone dead."

What strikes me here is how this sexual allegory resonates with our current debate about the economy. How many people believed that size really does matter, and that by injecting funds from a giant stimulus into the economy, we would produce more new jobs?

But when the stimulus did not produce an orgasmic jump start to the economy, and when no new jobs (that is, children) were produced, what did its proponents offer.

Why... more stimulus, greater stimulation, more spending. Keep in mind that in Victorian pornography "spend" was the term used for orgasm.

So says Nobel laureate Paul Krugman. When Krugman rails against the premature removal of economic stimulus, it is not too difficult to find a couple of sexual experiences that would be analogous to what he fears.

But, if the economy has not responded to the giant stimulus she has already received, then perhaps she is no longer in love with the stimulator and is merely waiting for him to get it all over with so she can get on with her life.

Men who persist in the face of manifest female sexual disinterest are not great lovers.

And since we know that there is a difference between being sexually responsive and conceiving a child, we must also mention that the one does not necessarily entail the other. After all, what if the stimulus is shooting blanks? What if it is stimulating with the wrong kind of currency, with borrowed money, money that is not its own.

Of course, no one should be making fiscal policy decisions based on sexual allegories. And yet, couching one's arguments in terms that invoke sexual imagery is a tried and true way to advertise them, to render them cogent and believable to masses of people.

The world is not a sexual allegory. It is not a fiction where copulation is the meaning of life.

In the end the American people bought an illusion, an illusion of competence and eptitude. They were wrong, and thus, they are getting screwed.

[Welcome to those of you who have gotten to this post via Instapundit or Dr. Helen. My thanks to Prof. Glenn Reynolds and Dr. Helen Smith.]

47 comments:

David Foster said...

In his book "Archetypes," the Jungian psychologist Anthony Stevens categorizes men on two dimensions: father/son and wise-man/hero. Your lady's man/man's man dichotomy pretty much overlays the first Stevens category.

sss said...

Freudian psycho-analysis has always been relegated to an elite minority until Woody Allen brought it's exposure to a wider mainstream audience via his films like Manhattan, Annie Hall, etc.

I wonder how much of a cutback he got?

Paglia, I remember reading her in my youth and thinking "what a nut!"

She's an out and open lesbian who basically prescribes that American women should return to traditional gender roles.

Why doesn't she - first by getting married to a MAN, like most lesbians had to do back in the days BEFORE they were socially accepted and living together and even marrying each other was an option?

It's not the place of homosexual women to comment on what heterosexual women should or should not be doing in the context of relationships or gender roles.

To propose as much is just chutzpuh of the highest degree.

I'm not familiar with her latest works and her latest prescriptions for society - fill me in?

Anonymous said...

A woman's sexual attraction for a man is a function not only of his absolute status but of the RATE OF CHANGE of his status//a man who suffers a significant fall in status will typically find his wife or girlfriend losing sexual interest in him, even if his absolute status is still higher than 99.9% of all men.

Maybe this is part of what is now happening to Obama.

--Jeff

Stuart Schneiderman said...

Thank you, Jeff. I think that you offer a very important distinction, one that is surely relevant to many contemporary situations.

TMink said...

Hey guys, I believe that Paglia is bisexual. Or she says she is, and that is enough for me.

And, she is really entertaining to read. While I usually disagree with her, she is capable of some cogent thinking.

But she is dead wrong about the Protestant work ethic. That is what built our country. Well, that and the Catholic work ethic!

And Freud, for all his failures, had it right about a few things. One is that a sign of a healthy person is their ability to work.

Trey

Stuart Schneiderman said...

I certainly agree that Paglia is great fun to read.

And, of course, Trey is correct to say that Freud did valorize work.

And it is fair to say that Freud was a very hard worker. He was not spending his time indulging in Dionysian revelry.

The strange thing is, if you read post Freudians like Norman O. Brown, especially "Life Against Death" you find a very different, though apparently rather Freudian, attitude toward work.

Kool Aid said...

TMink, this country was built on FORCED SLAVE LABOR, not any sort of "ethic".

If there was any "ethic" behind it, they would have HIRED workers instead of STEALING AND BUYING SLAVES.

The modern version of this is the CORPORATE WORLD, who, due to slavery being illegal, does the next best thing - OUTSOURCING to countries with few labor laws and rights, where they can get CHEAP LABOR in place of the FREE LABOR they really want.

Do you think they'd pay any of those people unless they absolutely had to?

Hells to the no!

"Work Ethic" is an oxymoron for these types. What they really want is slaves. In absence of that they try their hand at cheap labor and brainwashing people into thinking working for them has anything to do with "ethics".

Anonymous said...

I enjoyed the post about declining political power and sex appeal, but am reminded that what goes down can also go up.

As for the comment about 'work ethic' and slavery, this is highly amusing. The virtue of work extends far beyond the greco-roman, or protestant traditions. Confucian values are deeply conservative and make work and devotion to family and traditions a virtue.

The snippy attitude towards Paglia's sexuality reeks of homophobia. I tried to read one of her books, once. She's a dunce.

Evan M said...

Kool Aid said...

Um, dude... stop drinking yourself.

vulgar moralist said...

Freudian theories and therapy have always been more popular with artists and intellectuals who believe morality is hypocrisy, than with scientists simply trying to understand the twists and turns of human nature.

See "Confessions of a failed Freudian," at

http://vulgarmorality.wordpress.com/2010/09/08/confessions-of-a-fallen-freudian/

Anonymous said...

"This was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal."

Rep. Marion Berry: “[the White House] just kept telling us how good it was going to be. The president himself, when [the '94 Dem wipeout] was brought up in one group, said, ‘Well, the big difference here and in ’94 was you’ve got me.’"

Yep. We've got Obama. All is well...

Kate said...

There's the ladies' man, the man's man... and then there's the woman's man.

Imagine yourself a fair maiden.

The barbarians are coming over the wall.

Who would you choose to stand between them and you - Barack Obama or Vladmir Putin?

Yeah, me too.

sss said...

"homophobic"?

Blah, blah, blah.

More Kool Aid.

As a heterosexual woman I call bullshit when a homosexual woman tries to tell me to return to "traditional gender norms".

More like Paglia is "hetero-female-phobic".

Sorry Paglia, you may like your women docile and in the kitchen but you ain't my spouse!

Anonymous said...

sss: only an ignorant man-child would claim that Woody Allen, of all people, brought Freud into the fore-front intellectually. Freud's ideas were au courant during much of the 30's, 40's and 50's.

Google Freud and Freudian and you will get tens of millions of hits -- from a search engine that appeared thirty years after Freud's maximum influence.

Elite minority? : Middlebrow mags such as Life, Colliers and the Saturday Evening Post ran articles on him and his many disciples.

Elite minority?: The movie "Forbidden Planet" dealt with a force having an insatiable id. Googl "freudian movies" and you can find a lot, lot more.

Face it: The only reason audiences at Woody Allen films "got" the Freudian references and ideas was because they were main-stream, not arcane. Apparently you don't remember Allen being chased by a gigantic breast? Where did that come from, you local dairy??

Anonymous said...

So Krugman is saying that there was a lot of stimulation but it has ended too soon, and the US has a horrendous case of economic blue balls?

Anonymous said...

>In the end the American people bought an illusion, an illusion of competence and eptitude. They were wrong,


Some of us warned 'em not to buy it

Sally said...

It wasn't just that people found Obama sexy, they thought he could deliver multi-orgasmic experiences, night after night, greater and greater heights of sexual ecstasy.

Only to find out that he can't get it up all that often and when he does it's a grunt and a groan and he's done and already asleep while you fumble around in the nightstand for your vibrator.

And that kind of disappointment is just wrong. Really wrong.

PacRim Jim said...

What else is to be expected of the graduates of the American educational system? Destroy those--and they used to be first rate--and you will have a compliant electorate easily duped by any politician with a smile and a shiny coin.

Anonymous said...

I blame the media more than the people who voted for this luser.

The media flat failed to vet him and as we know from journolist actively worked to keep the people from knowing.

I said at the time that if the media had put 1/100th the effort into vetting luser boy that they spent on Palin and Joe The Plumber, it would never have been elected.

I just hope the folks that are having buyers remorse understand now that the LSM is useless for information to stay well informed.

Thank God we have the net and can bypass the LSM and find the real story - yes, it is a lot of work and requires some digging rather than sitting on one's arse with a beer in hand for the 6PM commercial news.

M. Simon said...

TMink,

Don't forget the Jewish work ethic. And the Indian (India) work ethic. And how about them Chinese?

Protestants/Catholics (Christians in general) don't have a monopoly.

M. Simon said...

The American work ethic:

Work hard. Party hard.

A balanced life.

As we Jews like to toast: "l'chaim". In fact we are commanded to enjoy all lawful pleasures to avoid the aridity of the ascetic. Especially sex.

Anonymous said...

Hey Schneiderman,

Those female journalists may have been having one too many wet dreams about Obama (yuck), but you've been having one too many wet dreams about Freud (double-yuck).

Anonymous said...

Stuart, this is an interesting take on Obama. But I have to wonder just how accurate it is.

Look at the record. Obama rams Obamacare through Congress, running roughshod over both Republicans and the moderates in his own part. He ravages the economy to set up the trillion-dollar slush fund that he calls his "stimulus package". He calls bankers and industrialists in on the carpet, and bullies them into supporting along with his schemes.

Obama's image may be suffering, thanks to gaffs like the "rain in Spain" vacation, but he is a man who exercises power ruthlessly - more so than any other president in my lifetime (and I was born during the Truman administration). He's the alpha male in politics, business, and the media.

If the evolutionary biologists are correct, Obama should be attracting females in droves; yet it's not working, somehow. Is this an example of image displacing substance? Or is something else at work? I wish I knew the answer.

David Foster said...

anon said..."I blame the media more than the people who voted for this loser"

Yeah, this was to some extent an arranged marriage, given that the "bridge" didn't really know the groom personally. But her mom said he'd been really successful and a good provider, and all her friends were swooning about how sexy he was & how great they bet he was in bed.

And if she wants to relieve her frustration with the vibrator, she'd better do it quick, before Obama's energy policies knock out the electricity and some environmental policy bans the batteries...

David Foster said...

meant to say 'the "BRIDE" didn't know the groom personally"

Chuck Pelto said...

TO: Dr. Schneiderman
RE: But

They were wrong, and thus, they are getting screwed. -- Dr. Schneiderman

Isn't that another form of 'stimulus'?

Regards,

Chuck(le)
[There is nothing more stimulating than a case where everything goes against you. -- Sherlock Holmes]

To paraphrase you, good doctor....

Had enough stimulus?

Chuck Pelto said...

TO: Anonymous, et al.
RE: Not Really 'Alpha'

He's the alpha male in politics, business, and the media. -- Anonymous

More like the 'Soprano'.

Regards,

Chuck(le)
[Crime doesn't pay....as well as politics.]

David Foster said...

Kate says..."Who would you choose to stand between (the barbarians) and you - Barack Obama or Vladmir Putin?"

Problem with the Putin selection is that you know some day he will turn on YOU, being himself a barbarian. He's basically a wolf who may temporarily act as a sheepdog, until his true wolf nature demands release.

Not sure what sort of animal best represents Obama...I think maybe a sheep trying to impersonate a sheepdog.

Bonfire of the Idiocies said...

Maybe I'm naive or maybe I'm just a literalist, but I never saw Obama as being about sex, I just saw him as an empty suit. However, your concept DOES explain quite a bit of what I saw as plain irrationality during 2008 (like male journalists feeling "leg tingles.") If you're right, people are a lot stupider than I gave them credit for being. And as you say, all of us now get to reap the "reward" for that fecklessness.

Stuart Schneiderman said...

Thanks all, for the great comments.

Thanks, especially to Chuck Pelto for "Had Enough Stimulus?"

One anonymous commenter makes a point I wanted to elaborate on. His or her comment suggests that Obama was great at foreplay (campaigning) but, once he became president, the charm vanished and he started, as you say, to ram things through.

But isn't that the problem, and doesn't that problem feel to you like a husband who believes that as long as the woman married him he has the right to give her whatever stimulus he sees fit to give her, whether she wants it or not. And if the stimulus does not jump start her, then more stimulus is needed.

(When I was first thinking of this allegory I was reminded of a rather raunchy short story, by Harold Brodkey, called "Innocence." It is about applying more and more stimulus, though, actually, it is targeted stimulus.

(It's in his book, "Stories in an Almost Classical Mode" and, I would emphasize, it is indeed very raunchy.)

Whether we are taking about Obama imposing stimulus on an economy that did not want it or him ramming through legislation that the people do not want, we still have a decidedly ugly picture of human behavior, and also a picture of someone who believes that once the contract is signed the other party to the contract has given up her freedom, because, she does not really know what is good for her, and because she does not really know what she wants.

That people are sorely offended by the fact that Obama seems to feel that he can impose his will on them, as though they were now his possessions, and thereby deprive them of their freedom, is not surprising.

FACT said...

Obama will go down in history as the President who gave the American people a comprehensive healthcare syste. Something that people have been wanting for generations. You always hear, "The US is the only developed Western country without a healthcare system". I grew up hearing that complaint. Obama is changing that.

His particular plan may not be the best, but at least it's something and it will be tweaked and ironed out over the next decade.

At some point America WILL have it's healthcare together in an efficient way.

Obama planted the seed for that and for that alone he will go down in history as having done a great thing.

And no, I did not vote for him.

I don't vote.

Stuart Schneiderman said...

Obama forced America into a health insurance reform system that it did not and still does not want.

America does have a health care system which does need some reform, but it is also one of the only countries without a nationalized health care system... for good reason, because mostly they do not work very well at providing health care.

Let's keep in mind that Michael Moore made a film touting the greatness of the Cuban health care system, at around the time when the world discovered that Cuban hospitals had neither the qualified surgeon nor the equipment to perform surgery on Fidel himself.

And now, as of yesterday, Fidel announced that the Cuban socialist system does not work.

Glad to hear from you, FACT, but do get your facts right.

Chuck Pelto said...

TO: All
RE: FACT's Stated

His particular plan may not be the best, but at least it's something and it will be tweaked and ironed out over the next decade. -- FACT

And in the process, a LOT of people are going to be killed off as being 'inconvenient' truths.

And if FACT develops diabetes, that cannot be managed with exercise and diet....three guesses as to how he/she/it will be 'tweaked'.

Regards,

Chuck(le)
[I would rather be exposed to the inconveniences attending too much liberty than to those attending too small a degree of it. -- Thomas Jefferson]

P.S. I have to wonder what the FIRST—and likely the BEST—Democrat president would think of Obamacare. Let alone Obama himself....

AST said...

If the people don't pay attention and look past pretty pictures painted by the media, that's what happens. You can't blame a liar when you were so gullible as to believe his transparent fantasies.

He promised to spin gold out of straw, and the people bought it. Now we're stuck with a whole lot of straw and no gold.

That's what a republic is: government by the people, if they can keep it.

David Foster said...

FACT..."the only developed Western country without a healthcare system"

In almost exactly the same sense, the US does not have a food production and distribution system, or a computer design and production system, or for that matter an Internet system. Should it?

There are ways in which things get done other than the heavy-handed top-down approach.

FACT said...

I stand by what I say. He will go down in history for this. In a good way. It needs to be tweaked and refined, which it will be over the coming years. It's the seed to a great fruit, one which we all will be partaking of in our old age when we'll need it the most.
Perhaps then we'll be grateful.

Martin said...

I was struck by your throwaway line explaining that people were smitten by Obama in reacting to their "hatred of Bush."

Likely true for many, but this really begs the question of WHY they HATED Bush.

Disagree with his policies and actions, sure.

Find his smirky grin and Texas accent irritating, I can see that.

Resent the outcome of the 2000 election; OK, it's human nature to be a sore loser esp. when the deal goes down like that one did.

But HATE?

Clearly many people did... comparing him to Hitler, a chimp, assassination fantasies and whatnot.

But, sorry, there never was anything intrinsically HATEFUL about the man.

And of course many who hated Bush had no problem with Mugabe or Kim Jong Il or Castro, or recent historical figures like Mao or Lenin or Stalin.

So I'm with you as far as you go, but there is something deeper here.

Chuck Pelto said...

TO: Martin
RE: Hating Bush....

So I'm with you as far as you go, but there is something deeper here. -- Martin

...but loving Castro....and Lenin and Kim and Chavez and Mao.

I blame the vaunted American public education system, which teaches young minds WHAT to think instead of HOW.

Regards,

Chuck(le)
[Used to be that education replaced an empty mind with an open one. Today, its a closed one.]

Stuart Schneiderman said...

Thanks, Martin and Chuck. The amount of hatred that has been directed against GW Bush is so clearly irrational, in precisely the sense that you note: agree or disagree, there was nothing hateful about the man, about his behavior, about his family, etc.

And yet, the media and the educational establishment decided that he had to be hated, and that if you did not hate him there was something wrong with you.

It was a truly appalling manipulation of emotion. I'm glad to see you raising the issue.

Enlarge Penis said...

I enjoyed the post about declining political power and sex appeal, but am reminded that what goes down can also go up. As for the comment about 'work ethic' and slavery, this is highly amusing. The virtue of work extends far beyond the greco-roman, or protestant traditions. Confucian values are deeply conservative and make work and devotion to family and traditions a virtue.

Stuart Schneiderman said...

You make an important point about Confucian values. I have been trying to post some about it over these past months.

Yesterday, Tom Friedman wrote in his column in the NY Times that America is not going to be able to compete against nations that value work and civic virtue.

WAGE/SALARY SLAVE said...

Previous to Confucian values there was the varna and ashram system of South Asia which still stands today, the concept of Karma Yoga as deleneated in the Bhagavad Gita, etc.

I was not the one saying Protestants came up with the concept of "work ethic" - far from it.

I'm saying that this terminology is thrown around today as a means to get people to work below what they should be paid, so that CEOs and upper management can take home the dough.

Those CEOs are relunctantly paying their proles. If they could legally get them to work for free, like they did back in the day, they'd still be doing that.

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