War as Narcissistic Fantasy (with Trisha Goddard on TALKTV)

Uploaded 12/11/2023, approx. 10 minute read

This next issue absolutely will. I mean, I love it when we have this guest on because he absolutely makes me think.

He pushes the boundaries of where you want to go in safety.

You know, we always go for the lowest hanging fruit of ideas and Sam Vaknin absolutely stops. I think he stops that happening.

Now, if you've seen online and in newspapers those photographs of lines and lines of Palestinian men being huddled together naked, the UN has spoken out against this.

But the IDF, the Israeli Defense Forces have said, no, these are all Hamas fighters. That unraveled when somebody in the States found that his uncle, who was a baker and a 13 year old and a newspaper, saw one of their journalists.

Anyway, long story short, four of the people were already identified as having nothing to do with Hamas.

But what it does is dehumanize the others and there's lots of ways, all sides, all sides in war, dehumanize the other side to make it more quote unquote acceptable for politicians, for generals, for etc, etc.

We have to attack these people and they use terms that equating these people to these people to beasts and animals.

Sam Vaknin is fascinating on this subject and I'm delighted to say joins me now.

Sam, thank you so much.

Just reading, doing some research behind what you're talking about really made me think again.

Let's talk about some of the ways in war that one side seeks to dehumanize the other and why.

Always always happy to see you, Tricia.

Just for fairness sake, the Israeli Defense Force claims that they had to strip these men because they suspected them of possessing weapons or carrying weapons.

We leave it aside whether these men should have remained stripped and naked for hours and delve right into the topic that you have raised.

Now, war is a very interesting phenomenon because it brings out the best in us and it brings out the worst in us.

Where war has been identified for millennia with masculine positive values such as valor, heroism, courage, overcoming fear, selflessness, altruism, self-sacrifice for the greater good and protectiveness.

These are all absolutely positive values in an unmitigated, unadulterated way.

But in order to emphasize all these elements of humanity, this is what makes us human.

In order to emphasize them, we need to render the other side a bit demonic. And this is a defense mechanism, a psychological defense mechanism known as splitting.

Splitting or decontinuous thinking is when we cast the world in terms of good versus bad, evil versus good, black versus white.

We are all good, the enemy is all bad. So this is known as splitting in the enemy, dehumanized, objectified and demonized in a kind of morality play.

So the war becomes a kind of a theater production where there's the bad guy and the good guy, the all bad guy and the all good guy.

And of course, we are always the good guys. We are never ever the bad guys.

Now this is a kind of role play.

If you give me two additional minutes, I want to elucidate a few points. This is a kind of role play. It's adversarial, it's rule based, but it's a game.

You know, when you watch veterans on both sides meet after the war, they are very convivial, they're very cordial. They're like best buddies.

It's exactly the way athletes shake each other's hands after a contest or something. So there's a strong element of game or gaming or role play in war.

Still, war is about winning and it's about winning because winning validates you. It validates you as having been chosen. It validates you as having been blessed. Those of you who believe having been chosen or blessed by God.

And you know, it's very awkward to mention it in this context, but the Nazi SS had an inscription on its buckles and on its daggers. And the inscription was "Goth mens". God is with us. God is with us. God is with us.

So winning the war means that you have been chosen and blessed by God's grace. You've been elevated by God.

It's a bit of a Protestant thing because Protestants used to believe that if you were successful in business, if you were a moneymaker, that meant that you were chosen by God. You were blessed by God.

The same applies to war.

I was going to say it's well with politicians, though, in order for them to get the money for war, in order for them to validate their decision to go to war, to validate the actions that they take.

They need you not to see the other side as humans who bleed, who cry, what have you. They need their constituency to see the other side as either good or bad, subhuman.

And also equate the people with the terrorist organizations.

For instance, both sides have done it when we talk about what's happening between Gaza and Israel, that they all must be this.

You know, they, for instance, they said the settlers, all of these settlers, they're not really settlers, Israeli settlers. They were really IDF or all of those men we stripped. They're all Hamas.

And there's that equating ordinary everyday people with the bogeyman, the monster, which then makes it OK for destruction to take place.

I think it's great that you raise the issue of politics, because I think war is a collective cultural social activity. War is a great way to bond. It creates bonding. War is a great way to foster intimacy among large walls of the population. War gives rise to identity, which is often what we call in psychology, negative identity formation.

It means my identity is everything that you are not. I'm defining my identity in contradiction and in contradiction to who you are. We both are mutually exclusive.

And since I regard myself as human and all good and all the side of God and ethical and moral, you must be the opposite because my identity is the exact negation of yours.

So there's bonding, there's intimacy, there's cooperation, there's innovation. War is the greatest engine of innovation.

Literally all the technologies we use today have been invented during wartime or by military organization, and that includes the Internet.

So this is war.

And it's very important to understand that war leads to a new order.

War is very cathartic. It's a catharsis. It cleanses. It's kind of a cleansing operation, after which there is an opportunity to create something new.

For example, I think the current conflict between Israel and Hamas will finally give rise to a Palestinian state.

I think the... Oh, you do?

I do. I think the Yom Kippur War in 1973 was a prerequisite, was a precondition for the peace between Israel and Egypt, and later the peace between Israel and Jordan.

We need war as an engine of transformation.

Shulpeter, the famous economist, called it creative destruction. It's very politically incorrect to talk about war in these terms as a positive force.

Yes, that's kind of the same.

Now, I was going to say, but the language, the language as well that is used, let's talk about the language, because that's frequently used by newspapers to promote that otherness as well.

Calling the other side beasts or monsters.

I mean, just looking at the brief that you gave me and then I look at the newspapers and you can...

The scales fall from your eyes when you keep reading various reports from various different sources and the various words that are used to equate the other side with animals.

I mean, people... The remarks you hear will be like, oh, well, you know, the the garzons were just living in like animals, you know, in the desert. They weren't very... They weren't very developed.

There is that belief against that the more civilized in Western concepts, the more civilized the society, the more, I don't know, closer to God or they'd be doing the other person a favor.

Of course, I'm going to be very sensitive to that because Africa was taken over by people who saw everybody in Africa as savages and need to be educated. And we all know that God forbid, when the bomb goes off, we know who's going to go to the most civilized people will pass, will go first.

So let's talk about the language that is used to demonize the other side.

War and the language, the language of war has to do with a fantasy space.

War is a fantasy defense. In war, you as an individual become immaculate, become perfect.

I mentioned I opened my conversation with you by mentioning all the values associated with war, heroism, courage, protectiveness, senselessness, altruism, self sacrifice. These are positive values. None of them is negative, not the same one of them.

So there's a fantasy of who you are, which is what we call in psychology and narcissistic fantasy. And this is in this fantasy of the individual as a perfect being protected by God in effect.

Even the SS, the Nazis, believe themselves to be protected by God. So under the banner of God, you're a perfect being.

And obviously, a societal co-prize of perfect being also happens to be a perfect society, a city on the hill.

Now, you mentioned Gaza, for example, and this is an excellent example of how fantasy takes over reality and suppresses it.

Gazans have the highest literacy rate in all the Arab world. Gazans are much more literate and much more highly educated than the Egyptians or the Saudis. So Gaza is actually an enclave of learning and erudition in the Arab world. They're definitely not uneducated peasants. So they're exactly the opposite. They are urban, most of them are urban.

So here's an example of how we create in a fantastic space an image of the enemy that has nothing to do with reality that is counterfactual.

And then we continue to interact with that image, not with a real enemy.

When we kill members of the enemy, we are actually playing a video game in our minds. And in this video game, there's an internal representation of the enemy that is devalued to the maximum, to the extreme, dehumanized, demonized, etc.

And this is exactly what happens in the mind of a narcissist.

The narcissist converts people, converts external objects into internal objects. Then the narcissist either idealizes this object or devalues this object.

But in any case, the narcissist continues to interact with the object, not with the person that gave rise to the object.

So we could say that war is a narcissistic activity. Absolutely. It's about narcissism.

No wonder that war is very antisocial and there are many psychopathic behaviors in war.

Yes, absolutely. Sam, always brilliant talking with you.

Are you still I just wanted to check how you are. I wanted to say although it's a very troubled times. Happy Hanukkah. Thank you.

And are you have you been able to get back to Israel or you're still?

No, I haven't been there for too long. I intend to go back next year, hopefully when the fighting abates.

I did. I served in the Israeli army for three and a half years. I was in infantry and then in the air force. So I know war intimately, including urban warfare. I've been involved in urban warfare. I know war intimately.

There is no more hideous spectacle than war. All these values that are attributed to war, that's post facto nonsense.

War is dirty, ugly, dirty and ugly. Period. There's nothing else there.

Sam, thank you so much. Thank you so much for speaking with us today.

Always fascinating to talk with you and get another point of view and get people thinking.

Sam Vaknin in there.

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