James Hillman died last fall at the age of 86. Even though I only met him twice at lectures, I’ve read his books for decades, and he is one of only a few people who deeply shaped and changed the way I see the world. Hillman was an influential post-Jungian thinker. As I said in my “About” page, from Hillman I learned to search for the fantasy in our “realities,” and the reality in our “fantasies.”
Hillman considered literalism one of the great diseases of our time, but one area where I have trouble “seeing through” the illusion of “fact” is election year politics.
On Sunday I got a clue about why so much of the rhetoric sounds like bad dialog in a B grade movie – to a great extent, it is! A guest on Sunday’s edition of Moyers and Company was Neal Gabler, a film historian, cultural critic, and author of Life the Movie: How Entertainment Conquered Reality (2000). Gabler says our politicians are trying to play movie heroes. We-the-people demand it, but it makes us cynical because we know it’s a sham: “we’re…in a campaign season where what we’re really watching is not so much political debate, though it’s called that, as we are watching a movie in which candidates are contending to be our protagonist-in-chief.”
“There’s a kind of American schizophrenia about our politics. On the one hand we love to sit back and see these people be compelled to seduce us because elections are basically about seduction…But that also gives way to an incredible cynicism about the process…And one of the reasons we’re cynical is because we get it. We get how it works.”
Gabler says now that we have an Occupy Wall Street movement, we need an Occupy Media movement. We need people fed up enough to say, “I want a real debate on issues.” Otherwise, “if we don’t start asking those questions we can’t move this forward at all. All we’re going to get is punditry and analysis of who’s winning and who’s losing and a movie. We’ll get nothing but the movie. But the problem is movies don’t answer the pressing questions of America. Policy answers the pressing questions of America and we have to demand to know what these guys are going to do and what choices they’re going to make.”
I personally don’t have much hope that it’s going to happen in this election cycle. Meanwhile, Gabler’s image of the candidates-as-would-be-actors, trying to be Clint Eastwood or John Wayne, makes their actions intelligible. There is Hillman’s “fantasy in the reality.”
If this sounds as interesting to you as it is to me, you can watch the 20 minute interview or read the transcript here: http://billmoyers.com/segment/neil-gabler-on-how-pop-culture-influences-political-culture/
The good news is, Moyers promised to have him back on the show as the election year continues.