Daily Dose: North Korea, Trump, and Metaphor - How do we step back from the edge?

August 12, 2017

There is a lot of fiery rhetoric between the US and North Korea. While it is certainly alarming that both leaders seem committed to "standing their ground" like good authoritarians, one of the most disconcerting aspects of the situation to me is that both Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un draw from and evoke the same metaphors. The metaphors they evoke are terribly powerful, and speak to a largely unconscious part of our brain. They also have the power to change people's brains and perception of the world around them, just as the metaphors Trump used successfully in his campaign. 

 

Trump is the prime example of the authoritarian, and he has been consistently evoking the conservative frame/worldview of himself as the nation. Kim Jong Un uses the same metaphorical concepts in his propaganda. The authoritarian uses these ideas effectively so that his followers begin to perceive what ought to be metaphorical as reality. That is to say, their nation is the authoritarian leader, and their leader is the nation. One goes as the other goes - it is easy to see how terribly dangerous this acceptance of metaphor as reality can be - especially when coupled with extreme nationalism. 

 

All of Trump's fiery rhetoric fits this metaphor of him (authoritarian) as the nation. All the fury he will reign down on North Korea, how he will deliver a knockout punch, how he will punish the immoral and undisciplined Kim Jong Un, etc. One thing is true and certain - all of these "authoritarian leader as the nation" metaphors feed into both leaders' support bases - and have the effect of changing people's brains to accept this metaphor as reality. Even if you don't agree with it, your unconscious brain will accept and process the connection.

 

So what to do? How do we get beyond just resisting, and actually counter/negate and change the metaphor? 

 

We need to act and talk about the fact that this actually is a metaphor, not reality, and that it is a creation of Trump's self-promotion. Most importantly, we must consistently evoke ideas that show that the nation is its people, all of them. And that the nation's leaders have a moral responsibility to those people as a nation - to both protect AND empower their freedom and prosperity through the public. This means not putting the people who are the nation in danger because of an authoritarian delusion. We the people are the nation, not just one man (no matter how wealthy)!

 

Once people begin to think and act on the idea of all the people as the nation, it can be expanded to say that North Korea is also a nation of people - and that we can empathize with the North Korean people who are being used by the same type of authoritarian as we are. This creates connection through empathy, instead of disconnection through fear.

 

We the people are the nation - not one man, no matter how wealthy or delusional he may be. Our elected leaders have a moral responsibility to protect and empower we the people, not just their own power, ego, and wealth. And if we care about those ideas for our nation, we ought to care that every nation's leaders share those same values; or that nation's people are not free. Taking a step back means changing the metaphor - from authoritarian self-interest to empathy and community.

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