Wednesday, 31 May 2017

The shadow of Manchester and your choices

I have a question for parents.

What did you tell your kids after the Manchester bombing? What did you tell your boys?

If the conversation went something like this: "it's never ok to attack eight-year-olds. Why didn't they stop this?" you are pretending that the question “who can fix this” is more important than realising “I helped cause this.” No, that's not backwards, it's the only way out of this mess.

Do you really have no clue why this society is worth defending? Sure, some parts of Western history are pretty nasty, but there's a lot to be proud about. You think you're raising better kids, but you're only succeeding in being a better parent. If you don't see how those are different, your kids do.

To have a meaningful life requires having faith that every one of your actions really matters. Responsibility is a gift because freedom comes in two varieties: positive and negative. Freedom from and freedom to. Remember that next time some pretend adult yells about oppression. I'm paraphrasing a bit, but Nietzsche once wrote about this saying, "give me a why and I can endure any how." He knew meaning is proportional to responsibility. Your kids need to know this, more than anything else.

I was going to write about how terrorism in a democracy isn't a bug, it's a feature. Politics will always mirror demographics because violence and politics are on a continuum. I think it explains what's going on. But I realised it'd be using Islam as a hate symbol when the real target is democracy itself. The question is not how do we "get over" our prejudice of Islam, but what purpose does hating it serve in the first place, why is Islam the preferred expression of hate of this time?

Then I saw how every desperate explanation was only a deflection to get parents off the hook.

Forget about teaching kids what to love about Western culture, freedom of speech and blah, blah, blah. Why aren't children taught how to respect this culture? The barrier is only yourself. None of this is done because if the problem is Islam -- They's fault, external -- then parents can shrug and say "those damn radicals are at it again," and get back to drinking whisky at the gentleman's club while the nanny picks Alex up from soccer practice.

I get it. It's difficult/impossible to raise a child to be part of the system, yet also to teach him to fight against that system "sometimes." The only way to make kids understand there are legitimate times when they must operate outside the prevailing system is by teaching them that there are even higher systems. I don't specifically mean religion, but some kind of higher ethical duty. For lack of a better term, I'll call it a strong superego, which says, without needing to explicitly define every case, "there's a right and a wrong, and you know what it is." Don't worry, someone you would never choose in a million years will explain this to your kids. Or do you think the bomber in Manchester discovered the idea of shredding eight-year-olds on his own?

"Yeah, well, we just have to get used to terrorism now." Stop it. Listen to yourself. How much do you have to hate your kids to say something like that? The one job a government has is to protect its people. If it fails in this, Rousseau's social contract is broken and we're back to red in tooth and claw. Yet every civil servant will look on those mangled bodies and nod that they are doing good and insist their actions are beyond reproach. Madness.

Actually, not quite madness. But it's damn close. What killed those kids is the failure for each of us to understand just how insane and evil we really are. I can sense you pulling back from this, but every person has a shadow side, bubbling with negativity. "Everyone carries a shadow," Carl Jung wrote, "and the less it is embodied in the individual's conscious life, the blacker and denser it is." A person cannot have existential power over their psyche without its assimilation.

"I'm a good person, I am just making bad choices." Wrong. You're not a good person until you make good choices. Until then you are chaos. It's the easiest thing in the world to tell someone they're good. But it never seems to take. Something feels weak or missing. The thing about doing good is there should always be a doubt. There's no such thing as an unmitigated good action. No action is beyond reproach, regardless of how many people say it is.

Don't shake your head in wonderment at how a bomber can click the detonator in a crowded concert hall. Bow your head in reverence because it is a mirror. It can be you. It is you. Now embrace that understanding and set it down on one end of the spectrum outlining all possible human actions on this earth and never go there. Ever. Let that side gather dust. This is your only job in life.

Jung's point is simple: without embracing your shadow, how can you know your actions aren't close to that evil end of the spectrum? After all, no action is too horrific if Utopia is near. Anyone who doesn't agree is part of the problem and must be exterminated. All it takes for a person to justify terrible actions in a world where God is not dead, but enslaved, is a single instance of someone else saying "I don't condone what he/she did. But I understand." Without the embrace of your shadow, all actions are good and righteous, regardless of consequences. There is no reference point. No map pointing to where you are. To you, evil is something others do.

Your righteousness leads to desiring perverse absolution for a perceived history of civilisational crimes, an idea drawn from a Christian logic in which all people are equal and brothers.

So you open the borders wider.

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