Trump and Putin have one very noticeable behavioral trait in common. They both want what they want when they want it. Trump refused to accept the fact that he had lost the 2020 presidential election, so he has done everything that he could do since to overturn the results. Everything from pressuring election officials to the January 6th insurrection. He lives in a fantasy world where all the recounts that have been done are shunted to one side, and the big lie gets shouted out to the world repeatedly, not only by Trump but by all of his many followers.
Putin lives in his own fantasy world, a world where it is possible to restore the glory days of the Soviet Union. Many people feel that if he should succeed in his attempt to reconquer Ukraine, he will simply move to start conquering other countries in the region, primarily countries that were part of the old Soviet Union. However, the truth is he has a vision that simply doesn’t correspond to any feasible possibility in the real world. But he has convinced many Russian civilians as well as the Russian military leadership to follow him in his quixotic quest to rebuild the Russian empire.
To use Freudian terms, both of these men live in almost total denial of the reality principle. They want what they want when they want it. They want immediate gratification in every area of life. They live almost purely by the pleasure principle just like young children. As do their followers. None of them know the meaning of the word compromise. This attitude can also be seen among the Republicans in Congress. They see their principal purpose there as that of blocking practically everything the Democrats propose.
So why is so much juvenile behavior occurring now? I have spoken a lot throughout my column about how people need organic stimulation in order to feel fully alive at any given moment in time. But they also need organic stimulation cumulatively, particularly over the flowing blendable continual period of time that constitutes their youth, if they have any hope of maturing psychologically. Because if they are immersed too much in the sensory distortion of modern technological society and for too long of a period of time, their emotional growth is going to be stunted. And part of emotional growth is the development of social skills that allow people to live collaboratively with other people. Two-year-olds, in particular, take the attitude all the time of “my way or the highway”. They haven’t fully learned the fact that there are other people in the world who have their own needs and wants that may not always correspond to the needs of young children.
I look at Putin and his generals, at Trump and his followers, people who absolutely refuse to compromise on any of their demands, and I think to myself that these are people who are behaving just like stunted young children. Because of the relative lack of organic stimulation in their lives, particularly during their childhood, these people, on some level, were never able to truly grow out of their childhood.
So, given the fact that sensory distortion can be found in modern technological living environments all over the world, it is safe to say that there are many people everywhere today who are frozen in their childhoods. And this state of being is frequently associated with leading or following within some authoritarian populist political group. But what is it that separates those people who are frozen in time, and those people who have truly grown up and who are capable of mature social behavior? That is, why are some people in today’s world more affected by sensory distortion than others? Perhaps it is that some people were more immersed in screen reality during their childhood (movies, television, video games, computers, smartphones, tablets) than others. Perhaps it is that some people are born more naturally numb, that is have difficulties absorbing whatever organic stimulation is available for them. Perhaps there are some people who are born to parents who have become numb from their own immersion in their experiential vacuum and who then pass on their numbness to their children, because they are incapable of properly emotionally bonding with their children. And perhaps there are people whose cumulative numbness is caused by a combination of these different components.
At any rate, it is from the ranks of these people that are drawn the prime candidates for both the leaders and the followers of the authoritarian populist movements that have become so prevalent not only in the United States and Russia, but also in Hungary, China, Brazil, Mexico, Venezuela, Nicaragua, the Philippines, Poland, Britain, France and many other countries throughout the world. It is like an environmentally generated mental illness that stunts people’s emotional growth and creates instability not only inside people’s heads but also in the societies they’re a part of. And it is very dangerous in terms of the consequences that can result from it.