a progressive Canadian lens on contemporary issues
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Monday, August 1, 2016
"I trust that you will never hurt me"...a recipe for enhancing threats?
What Do Fish Have to Do With Anything?
“I took a deep breath. 'For you I've got something better than love.' What's that?' I...trust you.' Why?' You'll never hurt me.' Thank you.' But...' But, what?' I said, 'That means I'll hurt you.' Why?' 'Cause, like I said, you'll never hurt me back.” ― Avi, What Do Fish Have to Do With Anything? (brainyquotes)
There is a deep resource here if the passage is looked at closely.
The trust that "You will never hurt me" is one that every normal person seeks. It offers a place of safety; if offers a place very opposite to the place offered by the world of strangers.
In fact, if one is able to utter those words, then one is immediately putting oneself in a superior position, one in which the conscious awareness of safety means that should the other offend, even in the most insignificant manner, then revenge, pay-back, character assassination, libel, (whatever attack seems appropriate) will not be answered. So the belief itself, offers a level of safety and security that makes retaliation not only feasible, but perhaps even desireable and required.
The world of diplomacy, including the world of geopolitics, operates on the very opposite principle: that should you show me offence, you can trust that there will be consequences. Similarly, the legal world of criminal law also says that, if and when you commit an offence against another person, then the state will exact punishment, hopefully commensurate with the original offence.
In the parenting experience of many of our homes, if a child steals from his/mother or father, there is likely to be a punishment. Otherwise, so goes the conventional wisdom, how will the child learn that such an act is unacceptable, and if our child does not learn such basics of life, we will be embarrassed and have even larger problems for having failed out family and our child in the original instance.
Of course we all know parents who are so insecure that they seek to be a "buddy" to the child, and consistently rationalize the misdeeds of the child as the consequence of someone else's offensive behaviour.
And immediately, they likely find the child, knowing there will be excuses offered by such a parent, is free to behave in a most objectionable way.
In the adult world, if one fully believes that another will never hurt me, no matter what I do or say about them, the playing field appears empty of danger, empty of threat insofar as that person is concerned. The reputation of the person trusted as never going to hurt me, also, is inevitably categorized as a fool, naive, innocent and immature. Weakness, as depicted in the perception that 's/he will never hurt me, is also a sign of a benchmark so rare and so ideal that one is clearly cautious of fully believing its import and impact.
If a child lives with one parent who operates on the principle of his/her own pride of reputation and punishes the most insignificant act of misbehaviour, and another who operates on the principle that s/he will never punish the child, that child lives in a dichotomous world, a world divided between the world view of the insecurity of the threatening and punishing parent, and the world view of the parent who will never hurt him/her.
And such a division of world views, even if and when mitigated by the occasional deviance from the principle, (the threatening parent shows compassion, and the other parent demonstrates disappointment), the child swims in waters that, while appearing calm, nevertheless can and likely will unexpectedly erupt in a strong current that sucks him under.
Danger, even as an anticipation, seems to have a strong magnetic pull, when compared with empathy and safety, especially when the water cooler conversations, the television programs, the movies and especially the daily diet of news all beat a torrent of narratives of danger, punishment, revenge, and fear. Threats of retaliation accompany every statement, every offence, and every threat of enmity. In fact, there are those, some of them in positions of potential political power, like Trump, whose world view is dominated by a fundamental perception of danger, threat and offence. In order to incarnate such a belief and a perception, Trump is compelled to act in a manner that confronts the ubiquitous and persistent series of threats as he fully believes the world to present, first of all by painting pictures of more and more dangers, and then to offer himself as the protector against any and all dangers, threats and insecurities. He is painting a picture reinforced by his never-ending stories of dangers and threats, that is simply the sine qua non of his need to be the superman, super powerful superhero. And it is his chosen identity as superhero that forms the root of his world view, and not the reality of the threats, and the dangers. Every statement out of his mouth is merely an echo of his original "I alone can fix it!" statement.
Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, is more measured with her pictures of the dangers: she acknowledges there are many, and she also speaks of specific steps she would envision taking should she become president to meet them. After all, national security has risen to the top of the totem pole of political issues for all countries in a world dominated by terror, economic and environmental insecurities and inequalities, She does not, however, see a threat under every headline, nor every hacking story, and occasionally even where there is evidence of danger in her own interpretation of the email drama she tries to minimize the political danger. This is especially evident in her attempt to 'spin' the evidence of the Director of the FBI that she "lied" about whether or not there were classified emails on her private server. She is so wrapped up in her political campaign of presenting a "sunny" picture of America, when compared with the dark and threatening picture offered by her opponent, that she has lost sight of the line she is crossing to win a political contest, the contest of her lifetime, in her deeply held belief that she is essential to the rising curve of female potential and power in the larger curve of history.
Ms Clinton does, however, depend on her own presentation of her willingness to use force if and when necessary to round out her portfolio as a reasonable, responsible and credible candidate for the White House. She has to promise to use force, punishment, in a world of geopolitics encompassed by stories of Putin's impending threats, even to invade the cyber space of Clinton and Democratic emails to benefit Trump, and ISIS, Al Shaabab, Al Nusra, and all other terrorist organizations. Occasionally, of course, she also has to deploy punishment in order to be perceived as fully engaged in the fight for the White House, in order for her supporters to believe in continuing to support the effort.
On a personal level, as one whose life is marked by some pivotal incidents in which punishment, hurt, insult even infamy have occurred whether or not those incursions were warranted, (some were, some were not), I believe that, having been the target of mis-applied punishment, and exaggerated and unwarranted punches, both by peer thugs and by adult neurotics, I have, for decades, withdrawn from behaviour that engages in revenge, retaliation, and hurt, in situations in which such withdrawal left me vulnerable to attack especially by those from whom such attacks were least expected. Since they were able to trust that "I would not hurt back" they were more free to inflict whatever 'hurt' they wished. And, whether they knew it or not, I was an active participant in the conscious and the unconscious drama that ensued.
I alone am responsible for leaving my reputation as a social "peacenik" (to use a word reminiscent of the cold war) in social and political situations, and for withdrawing from a fight, when to have engaged in those fights would have grown the muscle necessary to be able to better discern when real danger required my warrior, and when those with whom I worked, could have benefited from my warrior, as could and would I have also benefited. Once, at a dinner at a neighbour's home, I was pushed by a question about whether or not I would resort to military force, if I were in a position of power and responsibility, in an overt attempt to illustrate my "peacenik" naivety. I reluctantly and hesitatingly responded that, if pushed to the extreme, I would have to resort to military power. In another situation, in a grade ten class of "tech" boys, I was asked by one of the students if I would go to VietNam to fight against the communist enemy. I answered then, as I would today, "I would go, if required, only if I were permitted to teach!"
And there is a real danger to such a position, a position that assures those around that I would not openly, covertly, willingly and consciously hurt another. (Of course, I have hurt others, even when making choices that I believed were in pursuit of a life with oxygen and acceptance.) Even the scent of such resistance to punishment, to violence, to hurting another makes one vulnerable to others who see such "naivety" and innocence and immaturity and "purity" as projected especially by those whose world view, and whose personal backgrounds make them required to impose hurt, punishment revenge, and retaliation.
Striving for a safe space for oneself, a space that rejects retaliation, revenge, hurt, punishment is not a strategy or a tactic that endears one to others, especially when such a strategy is so open to attack. Striving for a safe space is also a strategy that requires withdrawal when the "masculine" thing (as conventionally depicted by our culture) is to never let a bully away with his bullying. Some would even say that returning the blow of the bully is the most mature response, in a world in which all of us have to learn to "defend" ourselves and in a world in which we will have to face bullies on a daily basis.
Does the pursuit of a safe place exacerbate the rise of bullies?
Does the pursuit of a safe place reduce or eliminate the seeker's potential to fit in to a culture of retaliation, revenge, recrimination and hurt?
Does the rejection of revenge, retaliation and hurt make the world more vulnerable to the terrorists and the Putin's and the Kim Jung Un's?
Does the rejection of revenge and retaliation render one irrelevant to the public discourse?