(Image: black & white still photograph, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde)
The only thing that trickles down in America is convenience: a suitably value neutral noun for a nation still struggling with Jefferson’s pursuit of happiness. Easy; proceeding without difficulty; advantaged—whether the subject is Wall Street, Madison Avenue, or Pennsylvania Avenue, the “flow” behind attainment is universally customized for ease. As a proposition ease sells better than happiness, the latter being too un-Christian or simply precarious as an appeal to voters for how would a coal miner become happy? He’d like a decent house, medical care, maybe a bass fishing boat. No commonsensical politician would ever promise these things but convenience allows for advantaged or leveraged inconvenience—“you wanted that job, but they had to give it to a minority applicant instead…” (Hats off to the ghost of Jessie Helms…)
Money never trickles down in America but suspicion and ill will are spreadable currencies. After all, if a man or woman isn’t happy, then he or she must by the laws of convenience envy someone who’s in good spirits. Envy is the gold standard of human psychology, not your first poopie as Freud would have it. Carl Jung’s theory of the “shadow” is more useful when thinking about the politics of convenience. As Stephen Diamond writes at Psychology Today:
‘‘The shadow,’’ wrote Jung (1963), is ‘‘that hidden, repressed, for the most part inferior and guilt-laden personality whose ultimate ramifications reach back into the realm of our animal ancestors and so comprise the whole historical aspect of the unconscious’’ (cited in Diamond, p. 96). The shadow is a primordial part of our human inheritance, which, try as we might, can never be eluded. The pervasive Freudian defense mechanism known as projection is how most people deny their shadow, unconsciously casting it onto others so as to avoid confronting it in oneself. Such projection of the shadow is engaged in not only by individuals but groups, cults, religions, and entire countries, and commonly occurs during wars and other contentious conflicts in which the outsider, enemy or adversary is made a scapegoat, dehumanized, and demonized. Two World Wars and the current escalation of violence testify to the terrible truth of this collective phenomenon. Since the turn of the twenty-first century we are witnessing a menacing resurgence of epidemic demonization or collective psychosis in the seemingly inevitable violent global collision between radical Islam and Judeo-Christian or secular western culture, each side projecting its collective shadow and perceiving the other as evil incarnate.
Shadow projection is easy—even a kindergartner does it. As a disabled child I learned this first hand. I was a movie screen for shadow projections. In grade school I received many lessons:
- Sighted children shared nothing.
- No one played fair.
- Hitting people was easy and the blind kid was a perfect target.
- Hiding things from the blind child was sport.
- Disarranging the blind kid’s possessions was also rather fun.
- See above.
- Sorry is absurd.
- Steal soap from the blind kid.
- Push him in the toilet whenever you have a chance.
- Always take the blind kid’s lunch.
Shadow projection is automatic. It’s the foundation of convenience. Once a person has been scapegoated then the utility of the projection becomes a conscious narrative. “He’s such a dweeb,” says the kid who’s pushed the disabled child into a wall. “He’s retarded.”
The Laws of Convenience are opposed to happiness. If we picture the LOC as an engine in the manner of DeLeuze, then it’s appropriate to say it runs on loss—whether it’s your mother’s breast or your neighbor’s kidney shaped swimming pool, the psyche doesn’t own it, cannot own it—so deprivation is its gasoline.
When the able bodied project their shadows on the disabled they’re saying in the unspoken lingo of the LOC, “you people are deprived and I will never be you…unless…”
And so, you betcha, another of the LOC is the “unless principle” (for so I shall call it) which is essentially Jungian. It’s the loathing one feels at perceiving the immanence of the shadow. This perception means knowledge but it’s incomplete—I don’t like you. I don’t know precisely why, but it’s convenient to say “I’ll never be you” and then the concomitant shiver…”unless”…which all rational beings must feel if they’re to have a self. I am me. I am not you. I am not my mother’s breast. The language most often used for this fragmentary consideration is represented in the phrase: “there but for the grace of God go I”.
The LOC employs God as the keystone of “unless”—which, is of course, one of the reasons fundamentalist types frequently approach the disabled in public spaces and insist on praying for them. Their shadows say, “I might be you, but with the will of God I will forever not be you, in acknowledgment of my faith, amen.”
This leads us to the next LOC which is the enforcement of sublimation by projection. The disabled must necessarily remain in their place if I’m to remain elect.
(You may substitute jews, muslims, women, people of color, queers, and your poorer neighbors, for another aspect of enforcement by sublimation is it’s protean queasiness. The Shadow is always thinking about—nay, sometimes planning on throwing up.)
Fundamentalism, whether Christian, Muslim, Judaic, Hindu, Buddhist, or Atheistic, is always predicated on convenience. There’s always a neck that deserves to be stepped on.
The disabled neck gets its comeuppance whenever shadow-convenience is in operation.
Donald Trump, the putative Republican nominee-to-be for President in 2016 famously mocked the physical disability of Serge Kovaleski, a reporter for the New York Times.
Katrina Pierson, Donald Trump’s campaign spokesperson, a former Tea Party volunteer for Ted Cruz, once referred to David Dewhurst, a disabled veteran running against Cruz as “deformed”.
Convenience, the state of being able to proceed with something with little or no difficulty has a shadow problem with those who must proceed with considerable strain.
One may consider this to be the final Law of Convenience. We don’t currently have a word for it, so I’m going to offer a neologism:
Slick plus bigotry equals “slickotry”—always glib on the outside. And on the inside, where things matter, it’s marked by thousands of tiny bat-like shadows.