The Chess Players

The painting on the wall?

Why, yes, of course, it is an original. Like all of the paintings displayed here.

Medium: Oil on wood

Dimensions: 11 3/4 x 16 3/4 in. (29.8 x 42.6 cm)

The depiction is a present-time whimsical revisitation by the artist of his famous earlier 1876 composition, and was gifted to The Wulfshead on March 2022.

The standing figure observing the chess game is Bill Kristol, who co-founded, in 1997, along with Robert Kagan, the Project for the New American Century, generally considered to be a mainly neoconservative think tank. The seated player studying the chess board is Joe Biden, the sitting President of the United States of America in 2022 at the time the painting was made. Emphasizing Kristol's status, the artist placed Kristol centrally, with the vanishing point behind Kristol's head.

Related Entry:



My Karma Ran Over Your Dogma


In an ambitious (yet, regrettably, somewhat limited and underdeveloped) study, first published a couple of years ago, researchers with an interest in Political Psychology, at the University of Cambridge, "invited 750 US citizens to complete multiple objective neuropsychological tests" designed to measure the test subjects' individual levels of cognitive rigidity and flexibility and "found that individuals who are extremely attached to the Democratic party or to the Republican party display greater mental rigidity on these cognitive tests relative to those who are only moderately or weakly attached."

Regardless of the direction and content of their political beliefs, extreme partisans had a similar cognitive profile.

While it is no earth-shattering news, by any means, to the field of Human Development and Applied Psychology (to wit, Keith E. Stanovitch's 2021 relatively recent book on the topic The Bias That Divides Us) that individuals who are cognitively rigid "tend to perceive objects and stimuli in black-and-white terms" and that "this makes it difficult for them to switch between modes of thinking or to adapt to changing environments," undeniably these results prompt many questions about the relationship between minds and politics:

Like, for instance:

- Which came first, the egg of indoctrination, or the dogmatic chicken?

That is, does exposure to a rigid dogmatic ideology lead to mental rigidity? Or does cognitive inflexibility foster a proclivity towards ideological dogmatism? The study doesn't say.

- Or, why does the dogmatic chicken cross the road?

- Or, more to the point, does partisan politics cause brain shrinkage?

That last question is the domain of Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience. (One day, perhaps, some neurological study shall confirm what everybody knows.)

More relevant to the current era of cancel culture and economic warfare, Social Psychology might be more pertinent.

The Milgram Shock Experiment, one of the most famous studies of obedience in psychology, comes to mind.

While Milgram's approach does not address the phenomenon of mob psychology per se, there are parallels to be drawn in the way citizens of a nation-state (e.g. the United States of America) are debriefed in a fashion that is intended to persuade the latter individuals that being willing to depress the equivalent of the experiment's toggle switches that those individuals believe will harm other people (like, in this instance, say, economic sanctions) is quite "normal" and that it is perfectly "normal" for the one conducting the experiment to permit this to happen and that it is perfectly "normal" for the organizational framework within which this all transpires to permit that kind of pathology to continue.

Milgram's approach, however, doesn't quite entirely provide a fully adequate explanation of the hate driven behavior such as the kind that one can see barely disguised in social medias and cancel culture mob driven practices, which are not by far the doing of paid political trolls alone.

Paraphrasing (mutatis mutandis) Theodor Adorno 's criticism of the belief in a spontaneity of the masses:
Just as little as people believe in the depth of their hearts that the Russians are the devil, do they completely believe in their leader's narrative. They do not really identify themselves with it but act this identification, perform their own enthusiasm, and thus participate in their leaders' narrative. ... It is probably the suspicion of this fictitiousness of their own "group psychology" which makes such crowds so merciless and unapproachable. If they would stop to reason for a second, the whole performance would go to pieces, and they would be left to panic.



Saints and Sinners

Neutral ground is so hard to come by.

The bartenders, here, put up with people and behaviour that wouldn't be tolerated for a moment anywhere else. The Good, the Bad and the Uncanny, and the In-between, are always welcome. It is to the credit of the management that it has always enforced—at times, viciously—a general truce that has made the Wulfshead one of the few real neutral grounds left around.

It has been said that truth is the first casualty of war, more so at a time when the censorship and ostracism of those whose viewpoints the dominant culture disagree with have become the norm.

Others' beliefs or frame of reference are "wrong" or, worse, just simply "meaningless."

And "if there's no meaning in it,"said the King, "that saves a world of trouble, you know, as we needn't try to find any."

An early example of such sentiment in Western culture is the Ancient Greek denigration of foreigners as "barbarians", the belief that the Greek people and culture were superior to all others, and the subsequent conclusion that all others were naturally meant to be subjugated.

Xenophobia can also be exhibited as an uncritical generalization of another culture which is ascribed an unreal, stereotypical and exotic quality.

It's true!

Many are those in the West who had not even heard of Transnistria until today.

And many are those who still do mistake Moldova for Mordavia: