Wednesday, June 21, 2017
Psycho-Political Immaturity: Trump on Cuba
In prior posts, I have emulated Plato by threading together ideas from psychoanalysis and politics. I weave again, this time exploring Trump’s recent proclamation on US-Cuba relations.
If you want more background on the relationship between psychoanalysis and politics, see the following post. It also explains Kant’s ideas on how to create “perpetual peace.”
In brief, Kant believed world peace could be achieved if states actively engaged with one another, traded freely, and practiced democracy.
Last Friday, Trump violated all three of Kant’s suggestions with his series of policy changes regarding Cuba.
Starting with Kant’s recommendation for active engagement, Trump cut the ability of American citizens to travel on their own in the country. Such travel facilitates “one to one” encounters. It allows tourists to decide where they wish to visit. It promotes authentic cultural experiences. It facilitates developing personal friendships.
When the new regulations take effect in 30 days or so, you will be required to travel with a “government-sponsored” tour. Ironically, Trump proposed the new regulations because the tourist industry is allegedly sponsored by Cuban military or intelligence services. Now, since you can only visit Cuba as part of an organized, sponsored group, you can rest assured that Cuba’s military government henceforth gets direct access to tourist dollars.
Had he lived to write a novel about it, Kafka himself could not have created more absurdity.
Of course these new restrictions also severely limit the capability of Cubans and Americans to engage in free trade. Trump undid the new agriculture and telecommunications equipment trading agreements established by Obama in 2014. These Obama rules would certainly have led to further trade; Trump’s policies will lead to less of it.
Lastly, democracy. Cuban’s experiment with communism has already ended. The government allows considerable free enterprise. In all likelihood, more will spring up. I think we might some day see a return of democracy to China. Kant was unbelievably wise. Open engagement and free trade continue to facilitate democratic movements in China and elsewhere around the world.
Some day, democracy could also emerge from Cuba’s governmental system. However, it cannot be forced. The foolish intervention in Iraq painfully demonstrated that point. Given Trump’s regressive Cuba decision, any evolution towards a democratic government in Cuba has stalled.
Tying these political events in to the psychoanalytic, I rely upon the early Freudian mental constructs — mostly because you all know them. Trump’s new policies towards Cuba exemplify the idea of dissociation. It is considered an immature form of ego defense.
Actually, dissociation offers a simple way to understand all ego defense mechanisms which, like the immune system in the human organism, serves a protective function for the psyche. Anna Freud identified several “healthy” defense mechanisms, like humor, anticipation, suppression, sublimation. Notice how these serve a kind of separation function:
You’re afraid of a surgery, so you laugh at it. You talk to your doctor about it, helping you to anticipate for it. You suppress your fear, or channel it into some productive activity.
As you travel down the continuum into immaturity–what some would call mental illness–you find more primitive forms of dissociation. One is called psychotic denial. An example would be the alcoholic who drinks a liter of Scotch at night. He or she denies the problem, saying something like “but I only have one drink at a time.”
I have literally heard this level of psychotic denial, uttered by otherwise normal-appearing patients over the years.
Such primitive dissociation always fails. In the alcoholic, for example, the inability to see and to feel the self-destructive effects of alcoholism ultimately leads to death. Anyone seriously disconnected from a self-destructive pattern — bulimia, drug abuse, compulsive overeating, gambling, and others — is destined for trouble.
Returning to the political, Trump’s dissociation regarding Cuba harms efforts to heal political and psychological injuries. A tremendous rift developed between the two countries in the early 1960s. Many were hurt.
Sadly, Trump’s psycho-political dissociation will only make matters worse for US-Cuba relations.
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