Wednesday, April 9, 2014

The Monster In Us

by Daddy X

When we hear of monsters we think of the alien, the otherworldly, the strange and unexpected. When we explore a notch deeper, we imagine those archetypal fears common to all of us on a survival level: the fear of the dark; of the dead; fear of the unknown; fear of being eaten; fear of the Other.

Last week Giselle mentioned her suspicion of the black/white absolutes: Good and Evil.  She questions whether or not these poles actually exist. Perhaps they do exist, but not as opposing poles. Instead, they’re lying side-by-side within us.

The Christian fundamentalist feels he’s doing a righteous and holy act when he shoots an abortion doctor or blows up a clinic. His supporters label him a hero, a preserver of lives. How hypocritical in our terms, but he, and the world he associates with, believe he’s doing the right thing. They can recite biblical passages to render useless any self-examination of their own actions.

So too with the uneducated Islamic militant who gives his life in a suicide bombing. His primary basis of knowledge consists of hand-selected quotes from a single ancient document. But in this man’s own conscience, he’s doing his part in making the world a better place. As a martyr, maybe he’s thinking of heaven for himself. In his perception, he’s not only making the ultimate sacrifice; he’s doing a favor for mankind in the process.

Religious dogma is not the only guilty party. Atheist conventions of thought produced the communist doctrine that caused such havoc in 20th century Eurasia. For that matter, the far right Hitler thought he was making the world a better place. He’s a monster, just as Stalin was. Together, these monsters conceived, propagated and exacted disaster after disaster in the name of righteousness. The evil was there, cuddled up right next to the altruism.

Of course, I’m noting extremes here, and perhaps that’s the point. It’s the system of values that embrace the absolute acceptance of extreme behavior that leads us to those horrors.

Dogma requires an uncompromising confidence in certitudes.  As a world, we’ve been in a nonstop forward intellectual thrust since the Renaissance. Lately, our understanding of the physical world has accelerated at an unprecedented pace, with the results benefitting mostly those in the upper end of the economic spectrum.

Now, the capitalist “Market” has acquired the authority of a god. “Remove all regulation, and the ‘Market’ will take care of itself,” they tell us. “Just have faith,” they say.

What happens if this disparity in knowledge and understanding becomes even greater? Those people in the lower income societies will receive even less of an education.  Power will continue to concentrate in the upper echelons.

Those relegated to ignorance, become ever more vulnerable. As always, power will use that ignorance to preserve its own dogma. A likely scenario could be the dawning of a new dark age. Whether it’s Christ, Allah, or an economic idealism run amok, in the eyes of the believer, it’s all exacted in an air of absolute certitude in the path, as well as unwavering faith in a common goal.

So perhaps the monster is not so otherworldly after all. Maybe the idealistic human spirit, operating without the benefit of critical approach, could be the culprit.







7 comments:

  1. My late father used to warn me to beware of zealots. Anyone who believes in anything enough to want to die for it, sure as hell doesn't feel bad about killing others to go along with him/her.

    You're so right about true believers accepting both parts of their beliefs...not only are they right, but anyone who is a disbeliever MUST be forced to accept their truths. I think the very presence of unbelievers threatens their absolute belief, and that can't be allowed. They don't want to accept that others can have happy lives without their beliefs, or they begin to doubt themselves. A dead unbeliever can't put forth convincing arguments against your own faith.

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    1. In some ways those who push their faith on you out of genuine concern for you and your soul are even more annoying. As Daddy X points out, people acting on the certainty of doing good are the most dangerous.

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  2. Ah, Daddy, you're making me reveal my politics again.

    You wrote: Now, the capitalist “Market” has acquired the authority of a god. “Remove all regulation, and the ‘Market’ will take care of itself,” they tell us. “Just have faith,” they say.

    I've been nervous for quite some time about this exact thing. Partly because that "just have faith" talk makes me queasy no matter which way it's directed, and partly because I don't see ethics and compassion built into the market.

    I like that you got so philosophical with the Monsters topic.

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  3. Amen.

    Have you read Garce's Muslim terrorist story? I don't remember the exact title - something like "How Paradise Comes to the Blind".

    It's a fascinating look into the mind of this kind of fundamentalist, and shows how when those beliefs unravel, the individual is left with nothing at all.

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    1. No, haven't seen Garce's story. Where could I find it? Garce?????

      Any faith based on a foundation of fairy tales *should* crumble, once facts are considered. What they don't get is that the texts they swear are facts are simple metaphor, not gospel. They never learn that part. The faithful remain open to manipulation that way.

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  4. Hi, DX,

    Excellent post and the title really is the summation, as well. Some people are already close to the edge and it doesn't take much enabling to push them over into the abyss. The monstrous leaders, such as Hitler and Stalin, and so many others, had a good number of more-than-just-a-little willing acolytes and a cascade effect ensued. People can learn to do monstrous things when they have a monstrous example to follow and the fear of consequences of doing those things is removed.

    The "Twilight Zone" episode, "The Monsters Are Due On Maple Street" (written by Rod Serling) is a fine literary and literate example of that "monsters in us" scenario.

    It's so easy to point at the "big" stars of the monster show, such as Hitler and Stalin, but the news every single day has little stories tucked away (for the most part unnoticed, by the mainstream media, except for the immediate locales in which the stories occur) about the monstrous things that "unknowns" do. These are monstrous people, who, often enough, were created by other monstrous people, who in turn themselves were created by monstrous people. They perpetrate their monstrous "little crimes" upon their immediate family members, and that is how their own offspring learn to behave. How many of us have a "monster" inside us, which, given half a chance, will break out and take over, if we are not vigilant about our own behaviour and take steps to avoid allowing the monster free rein. Easy enough to point out the monstrous tyrants in the history books and on film, but those guys all started somewhere and were babies, toddlers, children... once. Whether they were the result of nature, or nurture, or a combination of the two, they were enabled, in achieving their monstrous goals, by many.

    And that's why it isn't a really good idea to "remove all regulation, and let the ‘Market’ take care of itself,” because the people who are running the show have already been enabled plenty, which is how they got to where they are... by not caring how much havoc their freed monsters have wreaked. It's the same reason it's a good idea to teach your dog to walk on a leash, even if you do let it run free around the house.

    Thanks for an insightful post, DX.

    Rose

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