Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Victims generate dysfunction and perhaps dystopia

One wonders if the major decisions by the respective voting publics taken in and around 2016 on both sides of the Atlantic are going to haunt both Europe and America for decades. Was this a nightmare, dystopia that hangs over the planet?

The depth of animus, contempt and outright racism, all of it based on fear, insecurity, neurosis and even psychosis, has driven vote expressions favouring Brexit, trump, border walls, exclusion, nationalism, and narcissism, and nihilism (especially around science, global warming and climate change. A narrow, blinkered, expression of fear, denial and insouciance seems to  have gripped loud voices, deep pockets, and crass opportunists into a overwhelming tide of resentment and victimhood, with all of the negative repercussions and implications that such an archetype inevitably breeds.

Victims, in all human groups, organizations and even families display an inordinate degree of influence on whatever situation presents itself. And it really does not matter whether the victim holds a position of leadership or a factory worker, union shop steward or CEO. Victims exhibit a predictable, seemingly inevitable and negative influence on the world. And their animus, and the energy that accompanies fear is at the bottom of most psychological, motivational and archeological and anthropological “digs”.

The smallest kid on the playground, often a target of the bully, is cast as the public victim, thereby distracting public attention from the insecurity of the bully. The bruises, black eyes, broken bones and ruptured spleens from school-yard fights. The public demand for ‘justice’ focuses on the “damage caused” to the little victim, without even attempting to discern the deep and profound insecurity of the one who inflicted those wounds. In the world of public fixation on surface, superficial evidence, and immediate restoration of order, the bully is too often expelled, suspended, transferred to another school and possibly even charged and convicted in a court room before a magistrate.

The “forces” of the law, those designed to “protect” us from such acts of abuse do their job; they establish the facts of what happened and decide the appropriate punishment. And the anger in the already established victimhood of the bully is only exacerbated by the experience. S/he is unconscious of his or her own insecurity, fear, feelings of unworthiness, perception of inadequacy, and his/her need to demonstrate either or both to him/herself and the world (especially an adult who shares the perception of inadequacy too often projected onto the child) that s/he is NOT weak.

Proving oneself, especially to a highly successful and demanding parent, or to a reverse-psychology critique from a teacher, or an insult from a workplace supervisor, especially through measures inappropriate to the situation, is a pervasive social and cultural meme. Very often, such “proving oneself” is really exaggerated evidence of insecurity, a human trait too often classified as “competitive, or “strong” or “stubborn” or at least positive. Very often, too, it is the inferiority of the adult in the room, previously seeded and nurtured by a church, or a previous family that gets passed down through the generations.

It is not an accident that the church, at least the Christian church, with its theology of the depraved sinner, as the starting point of its definition of the human species, is the greenhouse of this “evil” that has so twisted our shared realities. Whether the period of history under the microscope is tribal, warring, agricultural, industrial or digital/informational, the potential disapproval of the gods (God) and the consequences of that disowning is and has been, and continues to be, so frightful as to constitute paralysis of the spirit for millions. Humans have endured this “extrinsic” burden (making it an integral part of their consciousness of their deep and profound character) for centuries. And the manner by which this single depiction is “worn” or ingested, or adopted or infiltrated into the psyche, (for some more comfortable, for others like a burr in the heart, for others a inescapable identity) many of their (our) expressions, (verbal, physical, intellectual emotional and devotional) can be traced back to their view of their own vulnerability, weakness, insecurity and neurosis.

Even the church institution itself, fearing the loss of control of its early adherents, has adopted both a theology and a psychology of dominance that reduced millions of adherents to a state of infantilism. First only the clergy, who could read, were permitted to explain the mysteries of scripture. Then, following the printing press, reading spread and the reformation(s) ensued, as absolute authority eroded into a more private perception of one’s relationship to deity, and the universe. As social, cultural, industrial systems evolved, so too did the more obvious “manufacture of evil”* emerge. And as those machines evolved into more and more complex and more programmable sons and daughters, with ever more precise and micro-managed specifications, including the motherboards of today, the perception of evil has exploded into whatever each human perceives to be the most egregious offense to his/her person. And with the capacity to distribute “our own victimhood” and project it onto our latest “offender” we have effectively democratized the spread of the manure of evil through each and every cell phone and tablet onto each and every other person on the planet.

Each of us has, then, become our own law enforcement officer, investigating officer, crown/state prosecutor and judge, without giving so much as a nod to the reality that we are none of those things. We have also forgotten, denied, ignored or avoided the basic fact that judgement inflicted, rightly or wrongly, also brings more contempt into the world, and this time because it is private and secret, that contempt, erupting from our insecurity, carries almost complete impunity.

So, rather than starting from a definitional “focal point” in the pictures we conjure in our minds and imaginations, we begin with a cynical perspective, that chases the concept of the human species “to the bottom”….to the lowest common denominator, the most evil….and thereby the easiest to be “equal to”…

And one of the most insidious and heinous, and completely out of touch with reality public policies that has rolled out of the darkest caves of human fear is the “ZERO TOLERANCE” approach to anything. And it has ben invoked as another of the many attempts to portray humans as embracing the “sacred”….as if God knows, expects and demands perfection from everyone is every situation, and as if, by adopting such a policy, we become more worthy of the approval, respect and  the love of God. Ignoring the paradox of God’s unbridled and unmitigated love for even the most desperate of us homo sapiens, we nevertheless, obsess about our fear of our own evil and its repercussions. We are the embodiment of the eternal sinner, (having been so “conditioned” by the Christian church) as the prime trait of our person, and thereby of every other person on the planet. This starting point in our own identity, and in the perceptions of the identities of others sustains and enhances our cynicism and our fear of being “out-manoeuvred” and out-witted by even more sinister opponents.

Actuarial data tells insurance companies that auto accidents result from one or both of two principal human emotions: anger and depression. And, one might ask, where do these two pulsating, relentless and often over-whelming emotions come from if not from a frustration/disappointment at being thwarted, abused, put down, ignored, passed over, defeated, defamed, bullied, misrepresented or some other perceived injustice? 

And where do our definitions of injustice, and abuse come from if not from our history, our traditions, our “lessons” in school, church, workplace and athletic or artistic participation? Rules, designed and applied to many situations are supposed to protect us from others, or others from us, if and when we cross some line. And so, the culture is in a perpetual state of chasing those who commit misdeeds, thereby robbing itself of the application of a very different energy to “reward’ and to enhance and to teach and to inculcate a different set of values and perceptions of both ourselves and others.

And if we are not crossing lines that negatively impact the lives of others, (thereby achieving the wrong kind of attention) we are “medicating” the pain that we feel, from one or more of our multiple wounds, wounds that most consider to have been transgressions by others, if we could name them, or by some force of nature that landed on our heads “when we were in the wrong place at the wrong time” as the proverbial description holds.

This is not an argument that has been sloshing around the corridors and classrooms in many American schools for the last decade-plus, whereby each student is bombarded with the message that s/he can do anything, everything that s/he might dream of doing. Inflation of self-esteem is just as noxious and self-sabotaging as a deficit of self-esteem. And esteem that comes from an outside source, out of context and out of touch with the recipient’s reality, is like that old slug, “putting lipstick on a pig”. It just will not “take”.

Scarcity, in personal terms, takes so many different and prevalent forms. And the basic scarcity is that we are “no good”….not only that we have no special skills or talents, but that we are morally and ethically depraved. And that fulcrum is at the core of the church’s teaching, in the light of any comparison with an “impotent, omniscient, omnipresent” deity….whose capacity to divide the “good guys” from the “bad guys” and “send each to an afterlife of a “heaven for the former and a hell for the latter. That kind of early teaching to very young children, like the prayer “If I die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take!” is so brutally abusive, in the name of God, church, faith and the paradoxical essence of faith, hope. And like an indelible ink, that kind of early message embeds itself in the blotters of our psyches.

Multiple instances of spending time with men and women,  still fully conscious shortly before their death, indicate that many are still struggling with their own inadequacy to “meet their Lord” and their emotional pain often exceeds their physical discomfort, most of which can be managed at least marginally by prescription. Dreams of extensive physical effort to “fill” a vessel of some kind, without ever achieving the filling of that vessel, whether it was a hay loft, or a painting project in which walls are never fully covered, or an exam that is never finished, or a ………whatever that escapes completion are frequent.

Similarly, engagements with school students in both elementary and secondary, illustrate a remarkable, yet anecdotal, positive correlation between one’s “home life” and personal state of mind and the marks achieved on tests and examinations. Those who expect to do poorly, usually do; and those whose confidence foreshadows a healthy often find what they expected. Much of this can be documented in much more precise and rigorous research. However, the encounters with students who have crossed some social, political, cultural or even criminal line through destructive, or greedy, or deceptive or violent behaviour will quite frequently disclose deep and lasting psychic pain, wounding and a deficit of healthy supportive remediation. Often these students, too, are virtually empty of both support systems and a mind-set that includes alternative options to those they have chosen, that us currently impaling them in “trouble”.

Small-time criminal and quasi-criminal behaviour also accompanies a biography sprinkled with instability, poverty, abuse and either or both too high or absent expectations  manifestations of scarcity and exaggerated demands respectively). And yet, being a culture fixated on the symptoms of any situation, and not on the roots of the “problem” we spend inordinate amounts of time, money and human capital on “treating” (read punishing, abusing, incarcerating, fining, crippling by withdrawing social and political “rights”/prvilieges, without paying attention to the histories at the root of the problem, thereby compounding the likelihood that the same individual will repeat, offend, resist treatment and frequently resort to illicit medications like alcohol (in excess) or street drugs or sometimes both.

And while there is some evidence that this approach is keeping “crime” at tolerable levels, with obvious notable exceptions like Chicago Illinois, where the murder rate is out of control, according to many reports.

Muslim terrorists take advantage of our “fixation” on their violence, perpetrated through increasingly deceptive, apparently benign and easily accessible and cheap devices like weaponized vans, trucks, and transports. The proliferation of personal handguns, too, especially in the United States, is another example of “victims” (or potential victims) arming themselves, to avoid being killed. And the very fact that the U.S. produces, markets, sells and distributes arms around the world as the prime manufacturer, demonstrates the profound “need” for these products, at the personal, and at the national levels.

Putin considers the collapse of the Soviet Union the greatest tragedy of the twentieth century,  another indication of the roots of his determination to restore Russia to “greatness”, apeing, or imitating the “make America great again”  slogan of the trump presidential campaign, (or was trump apeing or imitating Putin?)…both playing to the victim archetype in both nations, and given the current available evidence, both are having some resonance in their respective political theatres.

However, let’s not be so na├»ve as to think that along with this “poor me” persona that both trump and putin wear in their public histrionics, they are both deceptively and seductively enhancing their arms inventory, both hard power and cyber-power…although evidence suggests that putin’s approach is more balanced than trump’s which leans dramatically in favour of the traditional missiles, bombs, and torpedoes.
Indeed, it is the degree to which both leaders are successful in convincing their many respective “publics” of their own fears that “national security” budgets become bloated. Once again, the collective “victim” is at the root of these tactics.

Similarly, with respect to immigration, the streams of refugees and asylum-seekers escaping the violence and deplorable conditions of war in the formal sense (based on some version of insecurity) gangs wars (also erupting when insecurity/weakness/vulnerability overcomes the leaders who obsess over their own tenure and capacity to control their members), fear of job losses, cultural intra-marriage, loss of cultural identity, invasion of interlopers who do not “deserve” the traditional social and political rights and benefits that have developed over the previous decades. And the borders are barb-wired, electric-wired, walled, armed, patrolled and electronically monitored, to “protect” the nation(s) under threat, as perceived by the most frightened and most opportunistic political operatives to leap into the breach they have announced after they created them in their minds and imaginations.

And with respect to global warming and climate change, the deniers, and the political leaders who refuse to join reasonable, sensible and pro-active preventive measures fear losses in their capital investments, their potential profits, and their previously high social and political status as wealthy capitalists….It is a very short-term, and also highly neurotic perspective that points to temperature rises of more than two degrees Celsius, ocean levels rising, coastal cities becoming obliterated and generations yet unborn who will have to cope with temperatures and implications still unable to be accurately predicted or anticipated.

Personal, corporate, regional, cultural, religious and even national fear and insecurities of various kinds, shapes, faces and auras abound. And we walk blindly as if into the dark night, when, before our eyes the light of a different source and power (from within) wants to light and to lighten our shared path.

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