Klee’s Creative Intuition May Help us in 2010 to Imagine the Next American Conservative President

The growing in violence and extremism right wing political propaganda and more and more destructive behavior of the corporate rich (for example, catastrophic oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico) makes not so difficult to predict how the next conservative President will look like when (if) Republicans return to power in 2012 or 2016. It will be someone ready for a couple or more new refreshing wars, who will look imposing and be very impressive, exactly as we see in Paul Klee’s painting.

Paul Klee - Chief-general of the Barbains
Paul Klee, “Le General En Chef Des Barbares”, 1932

We see that the presidential general in Klee’s painting is protected, invulnerable, strong, fit and stiff but at the same time appealing and attractive in his shining scales of hard mosaic plates. What embellishes the general’s appearance also functions as his armor and combat gear. Aesthetics in conservative politics is simultaneously irradiating power and is a vehicle of pop-appeal. This combination of power, being ordinary and being appealing (extraordinary in his ordinariness) is typical for an American President of the Bushmerican type who appeals to the electorate by being like everybody while at the same time looking stronger than everybody else, who asks for support not because he needs it but exactly because he doesn’t need any help. The implication here is that it is American people who need his support, that a politician can be elected by sincere popular enthusiasm not for being democratically sensible, acutely intelligent with a developed personality and, therefore, different from the crowd but, conversely, for being common, authoritarian and powerful the way people like to be.

The aura of absolute strength and tough courage to (radically) apply your power to life makes you a desirable object for mass identification – masses, as it is well known, melt in front of power like a traditional woman in front of masculinity. So, the most desirable male for a conservative electorate is the one who is not interested in juices of justice, in humanistic (liberal) education/lubrication, in lures of pluralism of life styles and other perverse democratic/damnocratic peculiarities, but who can demonstrate the ability to crush, kill and blast the animals-enemies outside and inside his country.

The mosaic-like protective scales of the general‘s armor have become a part of his body – so natural and healthy they look on him. His face is square, and his body consists of geometrical shapes and figures. Something in him is immobile and anti-dynamic (rigidly conservative) – something from Egyptian pharaohs. And his stereotypical environment has something lifeless, eternal, something of sand (mixed with blood). But look at the flag-like plumage on his hat! What we see there is a black anchor turned bottom up – the general is anchored in the sky, not down to earth – he has a direct rapport with God’s heavenly office (not only Bushmerican president but the Soviet political marshals were directly connected with super-human wisdom – in their case, with the super-knowledge of the course of human history).

The painting represents two interconnected features of the totalitarian psychological environment around the presidential general. First, the color and texture of the protective layer of his body are the same as what covers the territory that surrounds him – a totalitarian milieu is unified (organized by a total standard). For totalitarian creatures to live is to defend themselves and to attack others. The second feature is the presence of the mini-generals in the background (generals-privates and generals-private citizens) – the top leader’s clones. Totalitarian system produces endless mini-replicas of the leader and one supreme way of thinking about the world. The more people correspond to one pattern (one belief, one collective passion) the happier they feel.

The more reduced the facial features of a leader (the less individuality you can feel behind his appearance) – the more cartoon-like are the features of the regular people. The general still has a torso, while the legs of the little versions of him start where the neck normally is. They have no digestion, no gender. Their business is to work hard when work is given, to keep quiet when work is absent and be ready at any moment to go off to war when general-in chief decides that the time has come for them to kill and die.

The eyes of the chief general of the barbarians are separated from his face – they’re function in itself – a sharpened alertness which is photographing the space, but the totalitarian citizens don’t need eyes and facial features at all. But they obsessively imitate again and again his peculiar feature – to march even while standing (probably, Klee’s parody on endless military drills, this omnipresent pantomime of a totalitarian life).

The basic color of totalitarian milieu, according to Paul Klee, is a mixture of human flesh, sun (aggrandizement), blood (cruelty) and dirt (of mixing all that). Can totalitarianism (according to Klee’ description in “General-in Chief of barbarians”) really become the future of the United States?

"General of the Barbarians" in Melancholic Coloration