Can the liberal arts cure jihadists?
His penetrating, comprehensive article quotes from a Family Medicine curriculum designer at McMaster University who attempts to balance the technical aspects of medicine with the teaching of empathy. He also refers to the graduate doctor from McGill who, as a former contestant on Canadian Idol, is awaiting trial on terrorism charges in a Canadian jail. Mohammed Atta, the 9-11 leader, graduated from engineering in Germany but was unsuccessful in securing work in his field in his homeland of Egypt.
The idea of "putting oneself in the shoes of another character" while reading both literature and history is run-up-the-flap-pole in speculation that such intellectual activity might provoke and enhance empathy in its students. And certainly there is some greater liklihood that such readings could conceivably imprint the mind-and-heart of the student differently than the pursuit of technical expertise and skills, especially in a culture that has reduced the definition of success to the most hollow of models: the acquisition of material goods, possessions, and status of both acquired possessions and the "glow" that comes from that acquisition.
However, Allemang also points out how empty and conflicted and reductionistic that "dream" actually is, by its objectifiying of its pursuer.
While all the recent spate of pieces eulogizing the humanities and the liberal arts are commendable and worthy of our reflection, there is a depth of investigation, and self-awareness and self-disclosure that comes from the writings of the novels, poetry and dramas of every culture. It is the disclosure that we find in the new biographies of both Gzowski (a secret son) and Trudeau (a near-marriage to Streisand and a brutality as a husband combined with deep affection for his sons) that takes us beyond the extrinsic, the social and political, and into the psyche, or as Jung has it, the Shadow, that is truly revealing.
And to think that jihadists are the only creatures "with a Shadow" is like thinking "only males are violent".
It is, in a word, ridiculous!
And all societies, it would seem, have a deep-seated fear of the disclosure of our Shadow, whether that is individually or collectively. And the deeper the fear (and the accompanying denial) of the Shadow, the more power and influence it will have on the individual, the family, and community and the culture.
And any religion that espouses the denial of the Shadow, (as John Sanford so eloquently reminds us in Evil: The Shadow side of Reality) will find itself enmeshed, impaled and eventually destroyed by the consequences of that denial.
So let's listen to the spiritual leaders who "want their coffers and their pews filled" by only those clerics who can be considered "successful" in the eyes of those leaders and, as Sister Mary Jo Leddy writes in her spiritual autobiography, "Say to the Darkness, we beg to differ." But in order to be in a position to differ, we have to acknowledge the existence of and the specificity of that "darkness" of our Shadow.
- We are a culture that denies the gift of death.
- We are a culture that worships at the altar of the perfect public image.
- We are a culture that prides itself on its liberal democracy, as compared with the various nefarious forms of tyranny, oligarchy, plutocracy and oppression.
- We are a culture that permits its politicians, and its university research scholars to be funded by corporate interests whose cash carries the rope of mendacity and loyalty to the corporate "beliefs" and the corporate protection of that belief, that is the harvest of the sales that made those research dollars available.
- We are, as a result, the victims of the skewed nature of the publication of those many research projects, while we honour the protagonists of those many hours of dedication in their laboratories, the new monasteries.Yet the difference is that those early monasteries were virtually unfunded, in their relative purity, and their relative simplicity and their relative integrity. Such is not the case with either today's politicians or today's academic scholars, especially in the scientific fields.
- We are also a culture that places a very high premium on the appearance of material success, so high in fact that we have binged on purchasing to the degree that 75% of our economies depend on consumer purchasing, while our individual and collective debt far outstrips our incomes.
- We are also a culture that champions the advances of women in academia and in the professions and in the arts, while stategically placing their nude or semi-clad bodies on every advertisement for virtually every product we seek to sell, knowing intimately that such images will magnetize the eyes and thereby the dollars of all viewers.
- We are a culture that champions, in our words, the achievement of peace, while spending more on the design and purchase of miltiary weapons than all other cultures in the world, and all other cultures in history.
- We are, in short, a culture of accomplices to the denial of our own hypocrisy....and such denial can and will be seen and exposed by our enemies.
And we also have to wonder if those enemies are free from their own self-deceit.
We would have to start from the position that the answer to the last question is "No!" because there is no reason to suspect their superiority and their immunity to their own unconsciousness as compared with us.
And any religion that seeks "world domination" is drunk on its own self-deceit of narcissism.
Only if and when all humans, in every culture and every religion in every corner of the globe can and do come to the place where such "mask" (Persona) is removed and we are all exposed by our own enantiodromia (when the mask and the ego are fused) will the potential of full equality and full vulnerability render us as ONE.
And then, perhaps, the pursuit of peace, and of justice and of fairness will be at least visible, if not immediately attainable. And that will likely mean that we have endured at least a century of radical shifts in our school curricula and our family "truth-telling" eclipsing our worship of our own iconic images our own form of narcissism.