I’ve been meaning to write a blog for a few days now, but I keep starting and then stopping. There seems so much to say, about many things: the US election, my ‘magical uterus’, hurricanes, what constitutes rape, gun ownership and now this — the mob of Israeli Jewish teenagers who beat an Arab teenager unconscious this month while hundreds watched and did nothing to help. That one left me speechless, especially when I read one of the young men, when arrested, told reporters outside court, “For my part he can die; he’s an Arab.”
All of these makes me feel as though there is so much to say that in effect, what is the point of saying anything? Everyone yells, but nobody’s listening.
I wonder, as others have before me, whether Huxley or Orwell was right. In his book, 1984, George Orwell imagined that the government maintained its control by keeping the citizenry under constant surveillance, by bullying and fear. On the other hand, Aldous Huxley in Brave New World, imagined a world in which citizens were kept so happy and distracted by a constant buzz of useless entertainment and not-really-information that they never put up a fight.
I wonder if the truth might not lie in a combination of the two.
Regardless of the methodology, however, the effect is the same: we are divided, we are stuck in polarization. Somehow, our species’ ability to integrate is stalled. We see ourselves only in terms of ‘us vs them.’
This is the theme of my latest novel, OUR DAILY BREAD, and of course, as so often happens when we write about something, we then see it everywhere. It’s sort of like looking for mushrooms out in the backyard. At first I can’t see any of them, but once someone points one out I can hardly see anything but.
In OUR DAILY BREAD the lines are drawn between those who live on the mountain, and those who live on the town below. Both groups nurse grievances. Both feel justified in their resentments. Both can easily name and number the hypocrisies and sins of the other. And it does no one any good whatsoever.
On a slightly related note, I’m reading “The Destiny of the Republic” by Candice Millard right now, about U.S. President James A. Garfield. So far, two things have struck me.
1) He did NOT want the nomination for Presidential candidate when it was thrust upon him at the RNC. He had never agreed to having his name put forward and was horrified when the Republicans insisted. I can’t help thinking how perhaps the people who want to be president the most are the ones we should refuse to elect.
2) How about this for an electioneering attitude: “Traveling from town to town and asking for votes was considered undignified for a presidential candidate. Abraham Lincoln had not given a single speech on his own behalf during either of his campaigns, and Rutherford B. Hayes advised Garfield to do the same.” Garfield agreed wholeheartedly. He tilled his fields, built an irrigation system, harvested his crops and generally ignored all the bad political behavior. In October a singing group from the all-black university in Nashville “came to Garfield’s modest farmhouse and sang for him.” It was apparently a most moving performance, especially for Garfield who had been since earliest childhood a vehement Abolitionist. When the singers finished he said, “I tell you now, in the closing days of this campaign, that I would rather be with you and defeated than against you and victorious.” I wonder who would dare say that today?
Of course, sadly, Garfield was shot shortly after taking office and served only six months as President. The shortest term of all. A great pity.
I think of what Carl Jung said:
“Insofar as society is itself composed of de-individualized human beings, it is completely at the mercy of ruthless individualists. Let it band together into groups and organizations as much as it likes – it is just this banding together and the resultant extinction of the individual personality that makes it succumb so readily to a dictator. A million zeros joined together do not, unfortunately, add up to one.
Ultimately everything depends on the quality of the individual, but our fatally shortsighted age things only in terms of large numbers and mass organizations, though one would think that the world had seen more than enough of what a well disciplined mob can do in the hands of a single madman… People go on blithely organizing and believing in the sovereign remedy of mass action, without the least consciousness of the fact that the most powerful organizations in the world can be maintained only by the greatest ruthlessness of their leaders and the cheapest of slogans.” – The Undiscovered Self.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again — unless we see “The Other” as a mirror of ourselves, as less we see in ourselves the possibility and potential for all that we hate in “The Other” we are forever doomed to be haunted, hunted and harrowed by it.