Welcome to TOTALITARIA! A wonderful world based on the highest ideals, most moral codes ever conceived by man!
Oooops! Do you really want to live in a Totalitarian society where your neighbors and creepy people spy on you and report you to the Morality Police overseen by the Minister of Interior, a guy responsible for the interior thoughts inside your mind?!
This blog explores Joost Meerlo’s chapter on the Totalitarian Mindset, which is a mindset that serves as a fundamental building block of totalitarian societies. This mindset does not just infect Totalitarian Rulers. It infects lots of people in a society who become susceptible to it for a variety of reasons
Totalitarianism is a form of government and a political system that prohibits all opposition parties, outlaws individual and group opposition to the state and its claims, and exercises an extremely high if not complete degree of control and regulation over public and private life. -- Totalitarianism -- Wikipedia
In fact, there are recognizable personality traits for forming and holding a Totalitarian Mindset.
These traits include conventionalism, authoritarian submission, authoritarian aggression, anti-intraception, superstition and stereotypy, power and "toughness", destructiveness and cynicism, projectivity, and exaggerated concerns over sex. -- The Authoritarian Personality -- Wikipedia
There is even such a thing as a totalitarian democracy, which is a state is said to maximize its control over the lives of its citizens by using the dual rationale of general will (i.e., “public good”) and majority rule.
Recap & Current Events
Previous blogs of this series explore why we need heroes, super heroes, and strong stories that activate and workout the body parts of our mind: Archetypes. Like the rest of the world, I am shocked and horrified by Hamas October 7 attack and anyone celebrating this attack. What were they thinking is beyond what a normal person can conceive. Only people who have broken their minds and eviscerated their hearts are capable of cutting the fingers off a little boy before executing him and cutting heads off of babies. Only people who have turned themselves into monsters spend 16 years and billions of dollars building underground tunnels while not dropping a dime to build a bomb shelter for the 2.2 million people of Gaza and then build their underground bunker headquarters underneath refugee facilities and hospitals.
The killing of any innocent person–baby, child, woman, or man–is wrong… be it by knifes and guns or bombs… and yet, here we the people of the world, stand again looking into the jaws of violence, which breeds violence, which breeds violence and revenge and more violence. The same killing is happening in Ukraine implemented by another crazy totalitarian monster who is cozying up to this favorite totalitarian dictators in Iran, North Korea, China, and now Hamas, Hezbollah, and any and all extremists, violent visionaries who want to rule the world.
I have been devastated by images of death and destruction in Israel and Gaza, but one picture caught my attention in a curious way. This is the picture of the captured soldier recused by the IDF from Gaza.
I cannot fix or change this torn and tattered world. I can only reflect and notice and try to understand what makes a person lean into a Totalitarian Mindset and Life that never ends up serving the good of all. It only ever seems to serve a few living like rats in tunnels or cockroachs in golden palaces.
So let’s dive into Joost Meerlo who was a Jewish psychiatrist who survive the Nazi holocaust and thought a lot about what makes such men do such monstrous things.
There actually exists such a thing as a technique of mass brainwashing. This technique can take root in a country if an inquisitor is strong and shrewd enough. He can make most of us his victims, albeit temporarily.
What in the structure of society has made man so vulnerable to these mass manipulations of the mind? This is a problem with tremendous implications, just as brainwashing is. In recent years we have grown more and more aware of human interdependence with all its difficulties and complications.
I am aware of the fact that investigation of the subject of mental coercion and thought control becomes less pleasant as time goes on. This is so because it may become more of a threat to us here and now, and our concern for China and Korea must yield to the more immediate needs at our own door. Can totalitarian tendencies take over here, and what social symptoms may lead to such phenomena? Stern reality confronts us with the universal mental battle between thought control (and its corollaries) and our standards of decency, personal strength, personal ideas, and a personal conscience with autonomy and dignity.
Future social scientists will be better able to describe the causes of the advent of totalitarian thinking and acting in man. We know that after wars and revolutions this mental deterioration more easily finds an opportunity to develop, helped by special psychopathic personalities who flourish on man’s misery and confusion. It is also true that the next generation spontaneously begins to correct the misdeeds of the previous one because the ruthless system has become too threatening to them.
My task, however, is to describe some symptoms of the totalitarian process (which implies deterioration of thinking and acting) as I have observed them in our own epoch, keeping in mind that the system is one of the most violent distortions of man’s consistent mental growth. No brainwashing is possible without totalitarian thinking. The tragic facts of political experiences in our age make it all too clear that applied psychological technique can brainwash entire nations and reduce their citizens to a kind of mindless robotism which becomes for them a normal way of living. Perhaps we can best understand how this frightening thing comes about by examining a mythical country, which, for the sake of convenience, we shall call Totalitaria.
While writing this blog, I heard this on NPR. If you are interested in Totalitarian Societies and Mindset and what can happen to ordinary people just trying to live their lives in such societies, you should listen to this episode that tells how things can go sideways really fast, especially with social media and modern technologies.
In this episode, you meet a man in Iraq and the new app called Snitch, a woman in the US who was giving birth at home and arrested because her baby was a still birth, and what has been happening in Iran for decades with its brutal Morality police. The very same Iran supplying Putin with drones and Hamas with rockets.
Click Here is a five-part special series telling true stories about the people making and breaking our digital world. Hosted by former NPR Investigations correspondent Dina Temple-Raston, Click Here uses deep reporting and investigative journalism to introduce listeners to the people behind today’s cybersecurity and intelligence headlines. You’ll meet not just the hackers, but the people who are chasing them – without all that insider jargon that makes tech shows hard to understand.
What happens when authorities use digital weapons to impose their vision of morality on the people they are supposed to serve? Across the globe, rulers have launched apps, tracked phones, and used personal data in increasingly hostile ways, and it has sparked some very creative responses. -- Listen to this and other episodes of the Click Here podcast at clickhereshow.com or wherever you get your podcasts.
Hoffer seeks to provide non partisan and non bias information from both sides to help people understand the different sides, perspectives, and history of the conflict in the Middle East. It is a big lift and hard to do, and it is hard for people to reach out and seek more information to understand more about the horrors taking place. It is the only way forward for every individual to do this work, to check one’s own biases and blind spots. It is hard work, thinking, but without this hard work… there is only one place the world is going to land… and it’s not a peaceful place.
Following the onset of the Israel-Hamas war, Harvard University junior Shira Hoffernoticed a lot of one-sided and polarizing narratives around the conflict.
In an effort to promote peaceful dialogue across differences, Hoffer launched the Hotline for Israel/Palestine, an educational texting hotline that seeks to provide users with nonpartisan information and resources.
The initiative already has two dozen volunteers, spanning across religions, ethnicities and countries.
Here & Now's Jane Clayson speaks with Hoffer for more details on this peace-forward effort.
In the preface of the book, The Philosophy of the I Ching written by Carol K. Anthony, she describes how the I Ching addresses the limitations of only relying on one’s intellect (and the powerful ability of thinking) by saying the I Ching cautions the beginner that:
“By limiting himself to his intellect, he will only see the surface and never experience the depths.”
The depths referred to is the fullness of one’s inner Self (or as The OA says, the invisible self). This includes those parts of Self that are accepted by one’s Self, and thus exist in the conscious mind of Self. It also includes the parts of Self that are not accepted by one’s Self, and thus exist in the unconscious mind.
The unacceptable parts are often taught to us as being unacceptable early in life by parents, peers, teachers, and society at large. They tend to be the savage and most selfish parts of Self that must be tempered and controlled in order to live in a civil society, otherwise very bad things would indeed happen.
But when these parts of Self disappear underneath the demarcation lineof consciousness and become unconscious, this is dangerous too. Indeed, this is the most dangerous thing that could happen to a conscious living being because we loose the ability to maintain balance and cannot navigate the challenges in life due to our inner lopsidedness.
Very often this occurs when we mistake the Mask of Self for who we really are. But it is not who we really are. It is only the most outer shell of who we really are. Essentially, it is the outer most crust of our Sphere of Consciousness–that mysterious thing that illuminates the world inside and out and gives us the feeling that We Know Who We Are.
This outermost crust is actually the smallest part of who we really are, and it is the most fragmented part of ourSelf. It is the part of ourSelf painstakingly assembled based on all the things we have been told to be or not to be by others. Most of these things are distortions of who we really are because the very same thing has happened to the people who are telling us to be this or that or the other thing.
This is the Story of Separation and Polarization. It begins inside one’s Self when the Mask of Self separates from the parts of Self that have been thrust deep into one’s unconsciousness. In the depths our unconsciousness, the lost and abandon parts of Self go to work making the rip between the Mask of Self and the Rest of Self into a rift that grows into divide that transforms into a chasm that mutates into a terrifying and endless abyss.
The more we insist on believing we are only the good parts of ourSelves, which essentially is the Mask of Self that we projected to others for the benefit of society, the more neurotic and unstable we become. This is because the bad parts (along with all the undiscovered parts) haven’t gone anywhere. They are still very much there in our psyche. They have simply been rendered invisible because they are forced to exist in another dimension–the unconscious mind. And they very much want a seat at the Table of Self, just like the good parts have (or more accurately, the accepted parts of Self that we have pounded into our Mask of Self that can include bad things we have been told by others that we are and we believe them).
If the unconscious parts of Self are denied a seat at the Table of Self, they get projected outside of the Self. Suddenly, the evil that one refuses to see inside of oneSelf surrounds the Self. But, this is only youfoolingyourSelf, as Alan Watts liked to say. And, Carl Jung called this man’s greatest evil, which is when man’s unconsciousness is projected onto others because he/she cannot bare to see all of who he/she really is.
The I Ching consoles the very same wisdom for this is a book about self-development and cultivating wisdom in one’s inner garden of consciousness. This can only be done by finding the hidden parts inside of ourSelves, especially the parts that have become buried in the unconscious mind. Of course, many good qualities of Self are buried there too. These are parts of ourSelf we have not found yet because we have not grown our inner light of consciousness bright enough and big enough to see them. And, so they remain unconscious too.
Time and time again, we find out eventually that both good and bad qualities are needed to feel successful, and even more important, they are needed to provide a sense of meaning and purpose in our lives. Without doing the inner work necessary to grow our individual field of consciousness, these treasures inside of oneSelf remain hidden and out of our grasp.
Summary of the Book: The Philosophy of the I Ching by Carol Anthony
Chapter 1: This book presents the cosmological background of the I Ching and its many concepts. It describes the Tao, the binary system of numbers that forms the 64 hexagrams of the I Ching, the Sage who speaks through it, the I Ching view of existence, and the hidden Cosmic order that underlies all apparent chaos. Thus rather than: 'In the beginning there was chaos,' one sees that 'In the beginning there was order.' Chapter 2: describes what in the I Ching is called the 'superior man' or 'noble Self' as the unconditioned true self; the 'inferior man' is seen as the socially constructed self-image, or ego. The 'superiors' or 'helpers' described by the I Ching are revealed as inherent character-traits, such as natural modesty, natural kindness, and the capacity for patience and perseverance. The 'inferiors' are discussed as aspects of the bodily self that speak, as when they say, 'I am hungry, I am tired.' Also discussed are the many references in the I Ching text to cultivating the true self and that imply self-development to be necessary if we are to learn how to harmonize ourselves with the way the Cosmos works.// Chapters 3 and 4: discuss the anonymous wise Sage who speaks through the I Ching, and the attitudes that are important on the part of the I Ching student if he is to gain the Sage's help.// Chapters 5, 6, and 7: describe the process of self-cultivation undertaken when we accept the Sage as our teacher. It describes how the Sage teaches us mostly in real-life learning situations, so that what is perceived in the head is transmitted to the heart as wisdom. It also describes many important I Ching principles, such as coming-to-meet-halfway, and working through the power of Inner Truth.// Chapters 8 and 9: describe the more technical aspects of the I Ching within the context of its historical development: the development of the lines, trigrams, and hexagrams. It also describes its traditional methods of use, but gives an entirely new method discovered by the author that enables the student to understand its messages very precisely.
-- Description on Amazon about Carol Anthony's book
Thoughts & Time: This Too Shall Pass
In Buddhism, the Master and the Student strive to maintain balance in every situation encountered in life. While some situations that occur appear to be beneficial to one’s Self and considered Good Luck, if not extremely advantageous to one’s wellbeing and fortunes, other situations in life can seem harmful, injurious, and hurtful to one’s best interests and wellbeing. These are perceived as Bad Luck, if not down right evil. All experiences, regardless of how we feel about them or perceive them, help us grow as conscious beings, if we allow them to penetrate into deeper levels of ourselves and darker realms of consciousness.
In every situation encountered in life, we are always free to choose our actions. We are also free to choose how we express our feelings and emotions about these situations. Our ability to navigate the turbulence of our inner and outer world of experiences grows throughout our life, especially when we tune into our inner world rather than just reacting to the outer world.
Constantly reacting and defending one’s Self against perceived threats, adversity, and maleficent dangers is exhausting. This is because if all one’s psychic energy is constantly being poured into building walls against outer reality in order to defend a fractured sense of who we are, then we have less energy to live in the present moment, to be happy, to be successful, and to treasure family, friends, and life. This is truly the greatest treasure one can cultivated in life. To cherish and nurture time with others who can share the beauty and splendor of this beautiful world and who will stand by you when your fortunes turn in life as they always do.
People who have chosen to pursue fame, money, or power are really the most impoverished people you will ever met in life. This is because they have to sacrifice their time and attention to being first, to having more than others, to controlling everything around them, which they can never do but their inferiors keep trying. The karma for this foolishness is alienation from other human beings, including friends and family. These individuals are truly alone in this world with no one to share the good times with and no one who will stand by them when their fortunes turn the other way.
To understand the tremendous fullness of reality, which we all must share, means empathizing with another’s person perspective. It also means using one’s powerful intellect to ask questions about one’s own beliefs, opinions, and perceptions. We must do this in order to see and understand why another person might perceive a situation differently. This is important because no one exists exclusively in a bubble. Everything in this world, indeed the universe, has arisen mutually. Because of this, to understand the whole of reality, every person’s perspective, experience, and view point must be included. Not only that, all of life must be included and given a voice at the Table of Being–this includes animals, plants, fungi, bacteria, and even rocks. This is not my wisdom. This has been known and understood for centuries by many peoples. And it is documented in the oldest book known to belong to humanity: The I Ching.
Perhaps this story may illuminate this ancient wisdom a little more concretely. It is a famous Zen-Buddhist story:
Thoughts & Character: The Importance of Self-Development
The I Ching was create to provide console to those who seek its wisdom and guidance during times of life experienced as times of elevation (e.g., elation, good times, good luck) as well as during time of life experienced as time of decline (e.g., misery, bad times, bad luck).
As one develops, one often comes to understand that we have no control over these cycles, although our ego (and what Carol Anthony says the I Ching refers to as our inferiors) will insist otherwise. They will kick, scream and have a melt down railing against fate, circumstances, reality. But all this will be for not because these cycles cannot be controlled by sheer concentrated of power of will or muscle force or any perceived power of the ego.
We can only find peace inside when we learn to put aside our feeling of frustration and fear that we will be destroyed by forces of evil or chaos perceived surrounding us. Most of the time, this is a false perception of reality cause by inner disharmony and separation.
But take comfort, for it is precisely when we feel like it is the darkest hour that the cycle of yin and yang swings the other way; when he vexing thing begins to fade away as a new cycle begins, a new reality gets underway.
Everything we experience in life is impermanent and transitory–it comes and goes like waves on a beach. Nothing stays the same. For if it does, it is undergoing a transformation of passing into something else (otherwise known as dying).
During times of decline, which is when one is likely to feel high degrees of fear, frustration, and extreme agitation, it is consoled by the I Ching to use this time on self-development(e.g., the I Chinghexagram 53 | Self-Development | Gradual process). This hexagram specifically refers to self-development, but all the hexagrams teach about developing one’s inner self and learning more about one’s inner world.
To learn more about one’s inner reality, the I Ching provides consoles through many hexagons of the importance of taking care of yourself, of practicing patience, of listening to others and their needs, and of listening to what is rising inside of you, especially from your inner Sage.
Most interestingly, it is precisely during times of decline(when things are not going our way) when we have the greatest opportunities to learn the most about ourSelf. This is because we have more time to explore hidden inner landscapes–that is, the parts of ourselves we have not yet discovered or uncovered.
During times of elevation, we often must focus our conscious attention in the outside world. Thus, we do not have as much time or energy to see inside, unless of course, we have previously completed the inner work needed to illuminate more of our inner world.
If we are able to change our inner attitude during times of decline from that of it being “a punishment” to an opportunity, then we unleash inner abilities such as forbearance, patience, and mildness that allow us to flow with adversity better.
Even the most horrible times come to an end.
Think of the hundreds and thousands of Afghan civilizations now trapped under the control of the brutal and barbaric Taliban. This is a trulyterrifying reality for hundreds, even thousands, of people now living under Taliban rule–many may well end up dead. It may seem in our modern Western world that we face the same adversity (e.g., mask mandates or vaccine mandates). But this is a distortion of reality.
When we do not use our abilities to flow with reality as it comes to us, and rather choose to fall back into our inner fortresses of beliefs, opinions, convictions, and credences, we force the flow of reality to bend around our inner ramparts constructed long ago to defend us from all the cruel evil perceived surrounding us. Most of the time, these attitudes, opinions, and belief have become very rigid and worn out due to over use. Reliance on such rigid inner structures quickly turns into a heavy, heavy weight that we end up carrying around with us for the simple reason that we refuse to let go of them and put them.
Rather than feeling sorry for ourselves because of our circumstances, think of other people who are undergoing even greater struggles. This might just open a secret door inside of yourSelf that allows your consciousness to illuminate parts of yourSelf remaining hidden from view. You need these parts of yourself to navigate the storms life inevitably throws your way. Such inner work not only grows empathy for others but for oneSelf.
And aren’t you worth it?!
Thoughts & Now: The Importance of Suspending the Constant Barrage of Thoughts from Time to Time
I make videos documenting just some of the beautiful moments in life happening all the time. Moments I forget to notice because I get stuck in the steady train of thoughts that constantly worry about this, think about that, consider the other thing I forgot to do yesterday or need to do tomorrow or did and made a fool of myself. This is a neurotic way of being in the world and we have been taught to do it since childhood. It is hard to give up and just be here / now.
I have found a few strategies that help me root my attention in the present moment. Photo journeys are one way that works for me to switch off my spot light consciousness and tune into my flood light consciousness, as Alan Watts talks about in so many of his seminars.
Ways of Connecting to Now Through Photojournalism
Music: Hard To Say Goodbye – Washed Out [as featured on iPhone — music that heals the soul!]Series: Have You Been Outside Today? and Doggie Tails & Trails: Hunting for Beauty Every Day
Music: Divide – Dualist Inquiry [as featured on Apple iPhone 7 — music that heals the soul!] Series: Have You Been Outside Today?
Music: Dreamer — Brian Reitzell [as featured on iPhone — music that heals the soul!] Series: Art Yoyages Photos/Videos: Me
Ways of Connection to Now through Blogging
Blogs related to nature, being alive, and cultivating one’s inner sphere of consciousness include:
Sometime last fall, while biking, the word Sisyphus popped into my mind. I did not know what it meant. I knew it was familiar, but I could not remember why. It’s a weird word. Not a word you hear on a daily basis, not even a word you hear on a decade basis, unless perhaps you are a scholar. But, it kept popping into my mind randomly at least a dozen times or more into the beginning of 2021.
I Was Just Looking for Something Good to Watch
I was looking for a new series to watch on Netflix. I’d finished a score of good series, and then hit a patch of bad ones. I wanted something good…something I could sink into and get lost inside. I was looking for something like the shows I had recently finished watching such as:
Outlander: I never read Diana Gabaldon‘s books, but once I started watching this series, I was hooked. I was trying to find a replacement for Masterpiece’s Poldarkseries based on Winston Graham’s books, which is absolutely amazing. And when I saw Ronald D. Moore was producing this series, I was intrigued because his last big hit series was the updated Battlestar Galacticaseries, a TV drama I loved immensely in the 70s, and Caprica(this tells the tale of how that fictional human civilization fell by showing how the Cylon androids took over their worlds, but then it got abruptly and cruelly canceled before the whole story could be told).
Outlander does not disappoint from the very first episode onward. Its characters are complexed, nuanced, and compelling. The series does not rush the story, reveals each character honestly and humanely, and tells the tale in a captivating, mysterious way. Each season builds upon the last one. The characters grow as the times change around them. The difficulties and battles feel real and vital. Each character has layers of complexities that influence their choices and actions, just like real people do, making the story relatable; indeed, a symbol that transforms the complexities encountered in novel and unexpected ways. And isn’t that what you are really hungry for when you sit down to watch a story?
His Dark Materials
His Dark Materials: I never read Pullman’s novels but I loved the Golden Compass, which was made for the big screen in 2007. However, due to the financial crisis of 2008/2009, the next parts of this series never materialized. Then in 2019, HBO teamed up with BBC to reimagine this fantastic tale for the smaller screen/TV. They did an amazing job translating a complicated story to the screen. I found it believable, compelling, and thrilling. The characters are complicated. You think you’ve pegged one as evil and then realize later critical nuances that force you to reconsider your views. They mystery of the story is revealed slowly and unevenly, so you have to guess or imagine for yourself why this or that happened. Each new character has something new to offer in understanding the whole story. The special effects add to the story rather than overly dominate it.
I love this scene where the researcher and scholar Mary talks to Dust, then she realizes the Dust itself are the Angels. (From His Dark Materials | Season 2, episode 4. The Tower of Angels).
She asks: “Angels are creatures made up of shadow matter of dust?”
The Mysterious Something answers: “Yes.”
Mary further inquires: “And shadow matter is what we call spirit?”
The Mysterious Something replies: “From what we are, spirit, from what we do, matter. Matter and spirit are one.”
Mary asks: “You’ve always been there?”
The Mysterious Something says: “Making, stimulating, guiding.”
Mary queries: “So does that mean angels have intervened in human evolution?”
The Mysterious Something answers: “Yes.”
Mary asks: “But why?”
The Mysterious Something says plainly: “Vengeance.”
Now, I wonder what that means? I didn’t find out in Season 2, so waiting for Season 3. But after that exchange, Mary starts working with the I Ching–which is our world’s equivalent to the Golden Compass from Lyra’s world. Because of Mary, I got the I Ching for my birthday and learned to read the yarrow straws. I supposed that now I too am talking to the angels.
I use good TV drama like a support system, especially during this year of COVID where social distancing has put so many of us into isolation to extremes. My own Indra’s Network was already partially destroyed and broken. The connections I still maintained with friends and family were sorely stretched by time and distance. They were incredibly nourishing when time and attention permitted, but these moments were punctuated by long bouts of silence and little to no meaningful interactions with people who care.
Good stories, powerful dramas are ways I have found that soothe and nourish my soul, especially during times when kindness and caring human contact is in short supply.
As I was working on this blog, Liz Cheney spoke before Congress on the eve before the impending vote tomorrow (5/12/21) to remove her from her leadership position as the 3rd most powerful Republican Leader in the House. Republicans are doing this to her because she took a stand not to support Trump’s Big Lie that the 2020 election was stolen from him. She named Trump as the chief sower of doubt in the hearts and minds of Americans.
The Dark Force
By the way, the I Ching says doubt is the Dark Force. Now, who is being a superhero here in the United States on this very day of May 12, 2021? Who is growing the fabric of time and space rather than ripping it to tiny shards of broken light?
The Tibetan Book of the Dead
The Tibetan Book of the Dead warns the soul of a dying individual not to follow the illusionary images and lights they have created inside of themselves and then projected into the world around them. They did this because they did not understood their true Self in life. They did not descend and understand their true identity as a space-time being. They did not understand the meaning and purpose of life. Death is a time thats unravels the net of confused pain each individual becomes entangled within throughout the course of their life on Earth. To not do so, condemns the eternal soul to return again and again and again–sometimes (perhaps often) as a lesser being in order to learn the lessons not mastered in the life before. This returning can occur again and again for the world of rock and buildings and money and power is like water–it continually flows, dissolving everything in time.
Those who use the power of the Dark Force may indeed achieve tremendous riches, success, and power on Earth. However, all this will turn to dust and scatter into nothingness at the time of death. Nothing here is permanent. At death, we lose everything. Nothing that we thought is real is real. If we don’t let go of everything we have clung to in life, the tiny light of consciousness every human being is born into at the beginning of their life will be born into another painful life, again and again and again.
Those who peddle in doubt and fear can live 10 billion, million lives, each one diminishing his/her original source of light until there is nothing left of that light.
Leonard Cohen narrated a beautiful documentary about the practices and wisdom contained and known within the Buddhist tradition. It is elegant knowledge, beautiful knowledge. It shows how we can grow as space-time beings, as we are suppose to grow, rather than collapsing into smaller and smaller living beings.
“People make hell realms out of their own anger. They make worlds out of passions, out of envy or complacency. We project our emotional states, and then believe it is the real world. But no matter what, everyone longs for compassion. Everyone wishes to be awake. So the best thing is to develop genuine compassion for all living beings and for ourselves too. And our compassion should extend beyond our friends and family and the people we like. It must extend to all people and to all living beings.” — From Documentary about The Tibetan Book of the Dead
This is how to wake up as a living conscious being.
The OA: This series is a mind-bending SyFy fantasy that often leaves viewers with more questions than answers. Word has it this is one of the reasons this show was cancelled after season 2 when 5 seasons were planned. Apparently the average viewer does not have the attention span or interests to dabble in complexity–perhaps this is the inevitable end to Carmel Marvel storytelling–everything has to be blunt, not complex, and nothing left to the imagination, much less to dabble with moral ambiguity. I loved this series. I guess I drank the Kool-aide and became part of its cult following late. And I agree with 110% with Brit Marling that storytelling in America has become not as good as it could or should be.
When the show was cancelled, one viewer went outside of Netflix’s headquarters and held an 8 day hunger strike. Refinery29 interviewed her and wrote a compelling article about why she did this.
“We are living in a time where it seems that things are going to go very badly,” explains Young in front of the Netflix building in Hollywood, where she has been protesting since August 15 and hunger striking since August 19. “The response to that has been ‘Okay, we’re going to make darker, grittier television.’ But in times of darkness, light is most important, and The OA is filled with light. We need something to let us know, ‘Yes, we can do something,’ because all the media around us is telling us that these are dark, grim times and there is nothing you can do about it.”
Created by Brit Marling and creative partner Zal Batmanglij, The OA tells the story of Prairie (Marling), a blind woman who returns after years in captivity with her sight restored. Season 1 of the series mostly exists within the narrative that Prairie tells a group of soon-to-be friends about her time in captivity and before it, in which she transcended time and space and found herself in alternate dimensions. Along the way, the show tackles themes of trauma, and of the importance of a human connection amongst it. Young isn’t wrong about The OA being different: There’s a hopefulness to The OA that is unmatched by more gritty prestige TV offerings like The Handmaid’s Tale, Westworld, even Game of Thrones.
Learning about this woman, Brit Marling and Zal Batmangli came and brought her water. Afterward, Brit posted this about her reaction to OA’s cancellation and how storytelling in America has become not as good as it could or should be.
This is no small thing that Emperial Young and Brit Marling are drawing our attention to in this protest and post, particularly this part: “… the role of storytelling and its fate inside late capitalism’s push toward consolidation and economies of scale.” This is a post about Sisyphus: Is Late Capitalism and its push towards consolidation and economies of scale perhaps not the rock Sisyphus not pushing up the mountain getting it to the top after great effort only to have it fall back down to the bottom again and again and again.
Invisible City (Brazil): This is a new Brazilian fantasy that is streaming on Netflik television series created by Carlos Saldanha that is based on a story co-developed by the screenwriters and best-selling authors Raphael Draccon and Carolina Munhóz. It is in Portuguese, so you have to read subtitles if you are only an English speaker. I was born in Brazil and once knew Portuguese, but have forgotten all of it. I loved listening to the characters speaking in Portuguese. It felt familiar and lovely. It is a musical language and the music in this series is alive and vibrant. I soon forgot I was reading subtitles and got lost in the rich and depth of storytelling unfolding through this complex, invigorating story. The characters are treated with dignity and respect. The puzzle of the drama unfolds in surprising reveals that add depth to the story and bring this mysterious world into vivid view.
Glitch (Australian): This is an older series that begins with a bang when a police officer and a doctor face an emotionally charged mystery as seven local residents inexplicably return from the dead. It is three seasons long, and the first two open up so many innovative ideas and possibilities, but season 3 falls flat on its face and destroys all the wonder and the miracle being explored, in my opinion. I am glad I watched it because I learned what I do not want to do as I write my tale.
I was so bothered by how they ended this series, I went on online to see if others were too and found this great blog: Old Ain’t Dead | Reviews of movies and TV focused on women … specifically Season 3 (so if you intend to watch Glitch, save this site for later because there are definitely spoilers, including my comment there).
Carmel Marvel Syndrome
When it comes to science fiction and fantasy, I have come to realize I am picky, and not all are the same. In fact in the United States, we are suffering from what I have come to term the Carmel Marvel Syndrome. It is a widespread a syndrome that is dumbing down how stories are being told in books and reimagined on screens. The good-bad divide in Carmel Marvel stories is stark, uncreative, and boring. Nothing is left in-between–you are either the good guy or girl or you’re the bad one. The bad ones almost always lose in the end, but you get there in terribly unimaginative, brutal, evil ways…as the good guy or gal finally finds a morsel of moral or spiritual strength and prevails. Romance is reduced to uninspiring sex scenes that clearly come from basal fantasies of pale males.
What bothers me most is Carmel Marvel storytelling is that they are not honest to the characters. They tend to stripe away their complexity and humanity and force them to do things against their character’s moral underpinnings. Yes, imagined characters have moral underpinnings, they are real and must strive for meaning, purpose and dignity too. I am not going to explain this now, but Carmel Marvel stories like to put their characters into highly contrived situations that they would never do unless forced to by their bored and uninspired creators. They are put into these situations purely for entertainment reasons, which really translates to money. Because Carmel Marvel producers and creators hope for billions and billions of viewers–and they think only highly fantasized modern gladiators well do this. After watching such a sickly story, nothing sticks or stays in the psyche or soul from the story. That is because there is nothing real there. There is nothing nearing the human experience of meaning, truth, reality, or wonder. Everyone knows these types of stories are junk food for the soul. They are cheap imitation of images meant to trick, deceive, and fill you up with a whole lot of nothing, just like if you ate only Carmel candy for all your daily nutrient requirements.
So let’s get back to that word Sisyphus that kept popping into my mind.
After being disappointed by another Carmel Marvel HBO series, I switched back to Netflix to hunt for a new series to watch. That’s when a 2021 Netflix out of South Korea caught my eye. It was called Sisyphus! Normally, I would have put it on my To Watch Later list since it required reading subtitles again. But because of the synchronicity, I thought what the heck, go for it!
I loved it! And I discovered that I love the Korean way of telling stories!!!!
The fabric of this story is rich woven with little bits of gold and silver throughout the 16 episodes. Each one takes the viewer on a journey, revealing a little bit more in surprising ways that adds depth to each character, even the evil ones. The villains have backstories that are as complex as the heroes. Villains and heroes alike are treated honestly and no high tech short cuts are used to substitute good storytelling. Throughout the 16 episodes, the viewer enters a journey (a world) that grows more and more complex as you go: you grow as the characters grow.
Sisyphus masters the art of subtle storytelling. This is a subject I briefly touched upon early in my blogging efforts in a blog questioning if Collective Transformation Possible. In it I talk about the Black Magician and the White Magician and their roles in our human psyche. I drew them while listening to a Chinese business-financial scholar talk about Trump’s power play back in 2018 with China on trade. (It’s didn’t end well by the way… this power play Trump tried… for Americans or for Trump who placed the livelihood of hundreds of small soybean and other farmers in jeopardy.)
Dr. Peter Chen pointed out Western ideas of negotiation are quite different from Eastern ideas. He said in Chinese, the most similar word they have to negotiation is tánpàn, which means talking and judging. For the Chinese, it is considered the dark side of economics with the East preferring to focus on conversation when working out deals. However, there are huge differences in how conversation is conducted by a Western diplomat versus an Eastern diplomat. By Eastern standards, Westerners are considered low-context communicators (i.e., direct and forceful, which can be considered very rude by Eastern standards). Eastern culture dictates a much more high-context style of communication, which is reserved, relies more on body language, and is based on relationships.
This why I loved Sisyphus. They tell this story using a much more high-context style of storytelling. I also love listening to the actors speak Korean. Every word they utter is full of meaning, purpose, and emotion. The tone and way a word is said is more important than the word itself. You understand a song by how the singer sings it, so too with Eastern languages. They are full of images, meaning, context, and emotion. And isn’t that what we are really craving in watching or reading a story? Deep meaning and purpose? Sure, lots of people will say they just want to escape into something entertaining… but if you discover something about yourself and others while doing so, isn’t that a whole lot better. Stuff that stick to you and makes you a better individual… helps you grow as a conscious living being?!
Even though we deny how powerful and essential good storytelling is in Western culture, we are starving for good, wholesome, spirituous stories that fed our souls as well as our fractured, confused minds. Stories that awaken sleeping spirits needed to defeat doubt: the force that splinters our psyche and traps us in endless delusions and illusions that only make us smaller, meaner, and contribute to the demise of all life on Earth.
A new friend I’ve made during runs with Pumper (another mom of dogs and kids) recommended another Korean Netflix show called Crash Landing on You. I didn’t think I would like it better than Sisyphus, but I love it even more. The depth of each character grows and spills out in unexpected ways in each episode. And don’t miss the little peaks at the very end after you think the episode has concluded. Not always, but often, they show you something not shown earlier. It is often something that fills in a gap and fills out the depth of the character–how they are thinking, perceiving, and acting in the world. How they are transforming through time and space.
My friend Fabian Navin has just posted something very insightful about why I loved this show. The Facebook embedding is not working, so I am copying below what Fabian has posted (go to his site above to see more of his posts):
*Warriorhood in Marriage and Relationship* Conscious fighting is a great help in relationships between men and women. Jung said, “American marriages are the saddest in the whole world, because the man does all his fighting at the office.”
When a man and a woman are standing toe-to-toe arguing, what is it that the man wants? Often he does not know. He wants the conflict to end because he is afraid, because he doesn’t know how to fight, because he “doesn’t believe in fighting,” because he never saw his mother and father fight in a fruitful way, because his boundaries are so poorly maintained that every sword thrust penetrates to the very center of his chest, which is tender and fearful. When shouts of rage come out of the man, it means that his warriors have not been able to protect his chest; the lances have already entered, and it is too late.
Michael Meade has suggested that both marital partners begin by identifying the weapons that have come down through their family lines. Perhaps the woman has inherited the short dagger, used unexpectedly, and the spiked mace, which she swings down late in the argument onto the foot soldier’s head. The husband may have inherited a broad sword, which he swings when frightened in large indiscriminate circles; it says “never” and “always.” “You always talk like your mother.” He might add the slender witticism spear to that.
Some people also use the “doorway lance.” When the argument is over, and the woman, let’s say, is about to go to work, the man says: “By the way,” and the lance pins her to the doorframe.
Man and wife might say which weapons he or she plans to use in the particular fight coming up. During such preliminary conversations the man’s warrior and woman’s warrior are welcomed in the house and honored. A good fight gets things clear, and I think women long to fight and be with men who know how to fight well.
When both use their weapons unconsciously or without naming them, both man and woman stumble into the battle, and when it is over the two interior children can be badly wounded. The adult warrior inside both men and women, when trained, can receive a blow without sulking or collapsing, knows how to fight for limited goals, keeps the rules of combat in mind, and in general is able to keep the fighting clean and to establish limits.
Marie-Louise von Franz once told a story about a woman friend. “This woman had gone through several marriages. Each marriage would go well until an argument came. Then she would throw a fit, and say damaging things. The terrible quarrels would continue, and finally the man would leave. One day we heard she had found a new husband, and we said, ‘Oh-oh, here it goes again.’ But something else happened. A few weeks after the honeymoon, the same old quarrel arrived and she brought out her poison and said terrible things. The husband turned pale, but to her surprise, said nothing, and left the room. She found him upstairs packing his bags. ‘What are you doing?’ she said. I know,’ he said, ‘that I am supposed to act like a man now and shout and hit you, but I am not that sort of man. I will not allow anyone to talk to me in the way you have, and I am leaving.’ She was astounded. She asked him not to leave, and he didn’t. The marriage is still going on.”
This story is not perfect. If a woman has a fair argument, it is not right for the man to leave; he should stay and fight. But von Franz’s use of the word fit implies that her friend had a habit of going over the line into possession. Her fits belonged metaphorically to Kali’s realm, rather than to the human realm. Men cross that line often as well. The inner warrior can tell a person when the partner is on this side of the human line, and when on the other side.
Marion Woodman remarks in The Ravaged Bridegroom, “Anger comes from the personal level, rage from an archetypal core. . . . The rage in both sexes comes out of centuries of abuse.
If it is taken into relationships, it destroys. Attacking each other in a state of possession has nothing to do with liberation.” The interior warrior in both men and women can help them to fight on the human plane. If men and women have only soldiers or shamed children inside, they will have to settle for damaging battles constantly. ~Robert Bly, Iron John: A Book About Men
I am totally hooked now on the Korean way of telling stories!!
The stories we tell can liberate us or chain us to the rock we must push up the mountain of life only to watch it fall back down, again and again and again, like poor old Sisyphus. Who do you want to be in life? How are you going to become the best version of yourself, a better person than you have been so far? How will you grow you fragile light of consciousness and help others do the same?
On a recent Saturday afternoon, I was working on my story while listening to NPR, as is my habit. I remember perking up and paying attention when This American Life introduced the subject of this episode: Bloody Feelings — Stories about the Power of Blood. The stories were not at all what I was expecting from the title.
Act 1 was about Adele who she described herself as “the worst phlebotomist in the whole hospital.” She was a physical therapist until the Coronavirus gripped the country. With all her physical therapy sessions cancelled, she was not needed there. But what the hospital really needed was more people to do blood draws. I loved her story.
Act 2is about the discovery of 30 century-old postcards written in old Yiddish by a distant family member challenges David Kestenbaum’s ideas about the unimportance of blood ties.
Act 3 is about a Shakespeare theater production that involved a lot of blood that was a little too real for the audience and what befell everyone.
Act 5is about a broken heart… no, not a love sick broken heart… a heart that required open heart surgery.
Walk In The Woods
While I enjoyed these stories, I wasn’t bowled over by them as other stories I’ve heard, although the color red stuck in my mind. I finished what I was doing and got my pup ready to go for a trot. This is our pandemic routine. Pumper loves our trots, especially when we see other dogs! I am pretty sure that she thinks all dogs exist on Earth to play with her. She plays well with all dogs no matter their size or temperament, adapting herself to whoever she mets for an instant playdate.
So, when we caught sight of big dog ahead of us, it was Pumper’s mission to catch up with them. They were walking fast, but Pumper was pulling me faster. Eventually, we caught up and found out the big dog was a Great Pyrenees–-Poodle mix– a Pyrepoo! It was the first one we’d ever met, and it was only 7 months old but already twice as big as Pumpernickel (now 15 months). I was admiring all the similarities between the two dogs who got along splendidly together. The owner of the Pyrepoo just told me how the Great Pyrenees were guard dogs of a flock not herders. And I just told her my dog was a Pyrepitt (she’s actually many more dogs mixed in but the Great Pyreness and Pitt Bull are the most dominate) when a Pitt Bull came upon us.
The guy walking the Pitt looked a bit anxious, but neither I nor the owner of the Pyrepoo took alarm. As he passed us with the Pitt on a super short leash, the Pyrepoo pup went over to say hello. This is common doggie custom to greet all new incoming dogs with a sniff. But no sooner had the pup approached the Pitt to sniff when he yelped in pain. The Pitt had bite him and would not let go. Both owners tried desperately to pry the Pitt’s jaws open. Pumper and I stood stunned and helpless watching what was happening before us.
Finally, the Pitt released its grip and Pyrepoo pulled back to a safe distance. I was relieved to see his nose was not the part bitten, but blood dripped from his lower lip. There was also blood in the Pitt’s mouth, and blood on the hands of both owners. It turned out the man was helping his sister with her dog and apparently didn’t know the Pitt’s temperament. The whole thing was terrible. I helped flag down a Kleenex for the owner of the Pyrepoo, then they were off to the vet get stitches. I felt so bad because had we not stopped them to say hello, they would have missed the Pitt Bull.
The synchronicity of the moment was duly noted. I have learned to pay attention to such moments when I recognize them. There is usually more going on that needs to be understood, but I had no idea what. Ruminating on blood was something I did not do, really at all… perhaps due to cultural programming.
Brooklyn Center — Then & Now
The next day, another terrible synchronicity occurred when Daunte Wright was fatally shot in Brooklyn Center, MN during a ‘routine’ traffic stop. The shooting occurred hardly more than 10 miles from where George Floyd was killed by Derek Chauvin in Minneapolis. And it happened right in the middle of the trial of Chauvin, which had just completed its second week of heart wrenching testimony about George Floyd’s final moments, his life, and lost potential and presence in the lives of all who loved him. It was painful to absorb. And then, another young black man lost his life at the hands of a police officer in Minnesota.
These deaths hit close to home because I grew up in North Minneapolis. I know where George Floyd died and where Daunte Wright was shot. I could walk to Brooklyn Center from where I lived. I often went to the old Brookdale Mall in Brooklyn Center because that’s where you went with your friends in high school (well, maybe that’s where the nerdy kids went). It was a place we could go to feel young and free.
I remember meeting my girlfriends at Rocky Rococos, then walking around the Brookdale Mall. We mostly just walked and talked, dreaming about our futures. None of us had much money to spend, but every once in a while, one of us would buy something special there. I remember hunting for prom dresses there with my friends and buying one even though I didn’t have a date and did not go to my high school prom. But I wanted a picture in a prom dress…lol. Looking back at these moments, they were times we were pretending to be all grown up, and the Brookdale Mall was the perfect backdrop to step into our fantasy lives.
Back in its day, the Brookdale Mall was part of cutting edge suburban social architecture being one of 5 malls opening around downtown Minneapolis to provide the perfect place to go for suburban housewives and families who needed ordinary household supplies, furniture, school supplies and clothes–whatever was needed for a suburban household. They were knows as the Dales and included Brookdale (Brooklyn Center), Rosedale (Roseville), Ridgedale (Minnetonka), and Southdale (Edina). Brookdale first opened in 1962 and grew in stages. A lovely blog called Abandoned Retail recounts the rise and fall of the Dales surrounding Minneapolis, specifically the Brookdale Mall.
When I was growing up, I never considered the privilege my white skin afforded me as I walked around places like the Brookdale Mall or drove to it myself after getting my driver’s license. I never thought about how the dreams I entertained or how the gallivants with my friends at the mall were carefully packaged in specific ways designed to make us believe we each had a chance to become Cinderella and to find our Prince Charming.
It would take decades before I realized how fatal the childhood fairytale fantasies I reveled in were. How they obscured brutal realities embedded throughout American society, inherited from its long history of slavery and institutionalized racism. Places like the old Brookdale Mall sold the white suburban fantasy to white Americans, but it was an artificial, super sugary coating trying to cover up the cruel realities faced by black and brown people every single day.
I have never feared for my life being pulled over for a traffic violation. I never felt watched by workers at stores who worried I might steal something. I know now my friends and I got get out of jail free cards simply for being white. This was not so for my friends and classmates who were brown and black who were losing their lives for making the very same mistakes I had made.
Policing & Justice in the United States of America
Description of this episode: Last summer, millions across the country took to the streets to protest police violence. Now, against the backdrop of the trial of Derek Chauvin, criticism of the criminal justice system in America is once again under scrutiny. Recent shootings of Black men by police officers in the suburbs, including in Kenosha, Wisconsin and Brooklyn Center, Minnesota, have attracted new attention to the changing demographics of the suburbs and the tactics police use there.
We recommend this thread from researcher Will Stancil, who is one of our guests for this conversation:
And conditions are often different for people in wealthy, white suburbs. From a piece called “The Case For Defunding Police Is In Our Affluent White Suburbs” in Mel Magazine:
Homicides, robberies, rapes and other violent crimes happendisproportionately in poor minority communities. Crime rates have been falling across the country for the last 30 years — it’s statistically the safest era to be an American. But Black and brown people, especially those in inner-city communities, are victimized by crime that’s practically unseen in whiter, more affluent suburbs.
Those suburbs aren’t safe and clean and orderly because they’re white and wealthy. White, wealthy suburbs are safe because they benefit from two world-shifting factors: 1) the police harass less and solve more serious crimes; and 2) there’s significant funding for municipal and social services, whether that’s schools or health-care facilities or simply park space.
How are police and local officials responding to changing demographics in the suburbs? Have police been able to answer calls for justice from local residents?
We’re talking about how policing works in the suburbs.
Black Americans being victimized and killed by the police is an epidemic. As the trial of Derek Chauvin plays out, it's a truth and a trauma many people in the US and around the world are again witnessing first hand. But this tension between African American communities and the police has existed for centuries. This week, the origins of policing in the United States and how those origins put violent control of Black Americans at the heart of the system.
Description: Black girls are suspended six to seven times more than white girls in schools across the U.S. Now, Rep. Ayanna Pressley is reintroducing a bill that aims to disrupt the school-to-confinement pipeline.
Here & Now’s Tonya Mosley speaks with Rep. Pressley, Democrat of Massachusetts, about the bill to address the disproportionate punishment of girls of color in schools.
Description: Recently, The Takeaway convened five of those voices, across law enforcement, advocacy, and academia, and asked them to come together to talk about the way forward. What is the future of policing in America? In our ongoing coverage, we tackle what’s broken in today’s system and what it would take to fix it.
April 20, 2021 — Today Was A Monumental Day, But We Are Not Done
Wow — I did not expect this verdict today. What a relief. It is one step in the right direction towards justice, but there is still a long ways to go and a lot of work to do to transform as a people, a society, a nation that values the lives of all its people–black, white, Asian, indigenous, immigrant, religious, non-religious–whoever you are, you belong in a society that treats everyone with dignity and respect and justice.
We Are a Nation of Beautiful People and Each & Every One Is Precious, If We Could Just Learn to See
The United States of America is at another inflection point; a time of reckoning of cultural precepts obscured and hidden through false politeness and talk of freedom for all, but with harden attitudes and deep brutality and injustices baked into our systems, our stories, and our brains. To change deeply ingrained attitudes, actions, and behavior, they need to be made visible. Even when they are made visible, they need to be reckoned with honestly by each individual in which they exist.
Perhaps that is why my attention got drawn to blood and its brutalities just before another police officer killed another precious soul in my hometown. Just the word blood conjures up violent, brutal images. But it also heralds new life (though any mother will tell you labor is hard and painful work). To do the work necessary to transform collective reality requires lots of individuals doing the hard work of self-development. A good place to begin is how we are programmed by our culture. For a modern man or woman, this gets complicated fast because modern society frequently requires belonging to lots of groups with each possessing its own unique culture that exerts an influence an individual’s mind space. This is important because it is here in this invisible space of mind where our values, beliefs, and attitudes are formed. These then inform our actions in the world, which create our collective reality.
Shankar Vedantam explored recently how culture and the cultural narratives we carry around inside of us influences our individual attitudes and actions in a podcast called Made of Honor. He introduces this episode saying, “Stories help us make sense of the world, and can even help us to heal from trauma. They also shape our cultural narratives, for better and for worse.” His guest speaker, Ryan Brown, begins with a story from his childhood where he finds himself along with his boyhood friends flying down a dark country road with no headlights on, no seatbelts, no helmets. The car was driven by a friend but appeal to him to go slower only goaded him to go faster. It was a moment Ryan believed he and his friends would die. It was also a moment that led Ryan to become a psychologist at Rice University in Texas.
Ryan Brown now understands why his fried refused to slow down nor apologize later for his reckless behavior. His friend was following a cultural script based on honor culture. “Honor cultures are societies that put the defensive reputation [of the group] at the center of social life and make that defense one of the highest priorities people have.” It is a culture that encourage excessive risk-taking behavior to show how brave and tough a person is, especially males in the culture. Doing so is a way to build and solidify one’s reputation in the society. In an Honor Culture, if your honor is threatened, you never back down, especially as a man, then you can only double-down and never show an ounce of weakness.
Ryan tells how his ancestry traces back to Southern Scotland that is steeped in the values and beliefs of Honor Culture. Residue of Honor Culture have been brought over from Scotland, England, the Netherlands, Germany, Sweden, and many other immigrant groups that had these beliefs. These attitudes and values took root and grew strong in the Southern colonies, even when the United States had not been born yet. And they continued to flourish when the Southern colonies transformed into the Southern states, and then they pushed West.
Ryan says (12:39): “And so if you think about westerns, if you think about Western movies or Western history, there are always rough and tumble guys with names that sounded kind of Scottish, a McTavish McDonald, McDougal, Graham, et cetera. And that’s not an accident. So even today, even though most people in the us in the South, I don’t think of themselves as byproducts of Scottish history. You can still see this cultural residue in some fairly powerful patterns of, of social life, that social scientists, many others, including myself, have documented over the last 20 years.”
Over the past 20 years, Ryan and his colleagues have documented a strong connection between Honor Culture and Military Valor. This is a positive trait of this culture but there is a dark side too because honor cultures can get trapped in endless cycle of violence where retribution for dishonor is followed by retribution upon retribution of escalating violence. Honor cultures are found all over the world in Latin America, Asia, Africa, and also found in black and brown communities in the U.S. Honor culture is particularly prevalent in states like Alabama, Oklahoma, and Texas. The names of towns and businesses even reflect honor culture such as a little country town in Texas called Cut and Shoot. But, naming places is only one small example of how honor culture shapes the lives of millions of people.
Honor cultures tend to take the stance: “That’s not my people. That’s not my family. That’s not my community.” Such a mental stances discourages individuals to reflect on situations that arise that end in conflict, even violence, and these cultures do not cultivate empathy, kindness, and compassion. These qualities are considered signs of weakness. If you lose your honor in an Honor Culture, you lose your value, your standing, your reputation and never get it back. Honor cultures tend to have a veneer of extreme politeness, but violence bubbles below and can break out at the slightest perceived slight. For instance, a simple insult in an honor culture can rapidly escalate into a violence.
Gender roles tend to be highly rigid as well in Honor Cultures with Ryan saying (29:59), “If you’re a real man in an honor culture, then that means you’ve built a reputation as someone who’s strong, tough, brave, loyal, and utterly intolerant of disrespect. If you’re a woman in an honor culture and your considered a good woman and honorable woman, that means that you’ve lived up to the social standards that say you should be loyal to family, especially loyal to your husband and sexually pure.“
In a complicated country such as the US, honor cultures have effects on how politics play out (47:55) “And what to spend a few minutes talking about the role of honor culture in politics. You’re a list of States where there is a strong honor. Culture include South Carolina, Alabama, Arkansas, Mississippi, and Tennessee and States that don’t include Massachusetts, New York, Connecticut, Hawaii, and Minnesota. It’s hard not to see a division there between, you know, a prototypical red States and prototypical blue States, Republican States and democratic States, right?“
AprilSometimesBrings More Than Showers
Honor Culture explains a lot, but it’s not the only influence shaping individual attitudes, beliefs, and behavior. There are many factors shaping who we are as individuals. Circumstances such as social status, economic status, rural or urban dweller, religious community all exert tremendous influences on individuals. To be a modern human living in a highly technological society requires belonging to many systems and groups that all have unique cultures all exerting expectations and limitations on individuals. In short, modern humans live in very complicated worlds, made so by us. Although living in groups has proven to be an undeniably successful strategy to survive, there is a price and there is a dark side. The eruption of violence seems to be a deadly cost of living in huge groups.
As I did research for this blog, I came across an article about how April 14 to April 20 is historically a Bad Week for violent or disastrous events to occur. I will not speculate why bad things seem to cycle in patterns or occur in series, but here is a partial accounting of this week through time:
April 19, 1995: Timothy McVeigh blew up a federal building in downtown Oklahoma City on
April 19, 1993: a 51-day siege of the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, TX ended in a devastating fire that killed more than 50 people, including children
April 20, 1999: the Columbine shooting occurred that left 12 students dead and 21 injured happened
April 16, 2007: the Virginia Tech shooting killed 32 people and wounded 17 others
April 14, 1912: the Titanic sank
April 18, 1906: the most deadly earthquake in U.S, history hit San Francisco.
Regardless of whether violence is because of honor culture, racism, or the growing disease gripping the United States of America of mass shooting, it leaves a on survivors too. One group, impacted more than most, is hardly ever heard. Millions of children around the country are affected by gun violence every year. Whether it’s sitting through safety and violence prevention programs in school, losing a friend or loved one, or being a victim themselves, this brand of cruelty has an effect on the young.
1A talks with author John Woodrow Cox who shares powerful stories from young victims–and looks at what their experience can tell us about preventing further harm, both physical and mental.
Here & Now talked to racial trauma therapist Resmaa Menakem in this interview. He brought up something terribly important in the wake of the guilty verdict of Derek Chauvin in George Floyd’s death almost one year ago. Menakem says what Chauvin did was not only traumatic but meant to inflict terror in the community as well. He says (which has been said by many others as well in the past 24 hours) that “— guilty of second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter — is not justice, but rather accountability. It took uninterrupted, uncut video evidence to prove what people of color have been saying for decades about the police.” He said, “This particular video, compared to other taped incidents of police violence against Black Americans, represented white body supremacy so clearly that people could not dismiss it anymore. [But] still, there are significant swaths of people who don’t believe there are innocent Black and Brown people who are profiled and unfairly targeted by police.“
I know such people. I know what Menakem says is true about white people in particular.
Menakem further states that “there’s pain in not being believed, and also trauma from racialized gaslighting — a form of psychological manipulation that white bodies in the U.S. have done to Black, Brown and Indigenous people for centuries.“
I’ve experienced gaslighting, and I know people who still suffer from the pain and trauma of being gaslighted by people they depended on who gaslighted them instead of took care of and nurtured them. Mencken is right to point this out. It is tremendously painful and highly effective at tearing apart the fabric that sustains us all. A gaslighter is a person who makes other people feel like they are the one who is going crazy. They are insidious, crafty, deceitful people.
“If a white body says something and then a body of culture says something else, what ends up happening is that the white body is always given the benefit of the doubt,” Menakem says. “So throughout the trial and verdict, people of color held onto hope for accountability on one hand while on the other hand, knew “white bodies will never admit that this system is feral.”
It is feral. The United States of America has a completely lopsided, feral system. And because of all the sugar coated, fluffy fantasies white kids get fed in their youth combined with being instilled with you’ve got to be somebody, white people are left with very little inner resources to see and deal with the truth. It is much easier to pretend not to see how brutal, how feral, how sick our culture really is.
Healing is possible, Menakem assures. He ends saying we need to start by turning towards each other and seeing other other rather than away from each other. This is powerful advice.
Lots of Human Beings, Lots of Disasters
Human beings seem particularly prone to creating circumstances that end in disaster:
You get the idea. Now, how do we get out of cycles of violence and disaster (mostly human made)? How do we recover and get to a place where something better can take root and grow?
Something else flows alongside the red blood cells in our bodies. It is not something that is visible, but it can be felt. This invisible substance (or perhaps force) is essential to sustain our inner spaces and to maintain a healthy state of mind. Each and every human being is born with this invisible force flowing through them just like blood flows through them. Because we are human, we are aware of this force and this awareness allows us to channel it and to alter instinctual responses and urges before acting on them. Human beings can suppress instinctual responses. They can amplify them, and they can transform them into something else entirely. Carl Jung called this ability consciousness, or perhaps it is spirit blood.
It is through our choices and how we alter instinctual responses before acting on them that our collective reality is created. Eastern traditions, religions, and philosophies call this power Karma, which is simply the recognition that every action creates a reaction, a consequence.
This all ascends quickly into the realm of spiritual and metaphysic concerns, which is a realm most often regulated to religions to grapple with the nebulous inner spaces where thoughts, attitudes, and bias materialize into action.
I was raised Lutheran, but during the time of my father’s death, I found my childhood religion negated the realities of powerful synchronicities that occurred and inner experiences my father and I experienced during the 10 days he lived beyond the moment he should have died. I have written about his previously, so will not do so again here.
Instead, I would like to highlight something that my friend Ali Raza Saleem posted, which caught my eye during the time my attention was focused on blood. My friend is a neuroscientist and scholar of Jung and posted the following:
Qalb (Faculty of Heart) and Lataif e Sitta
The faculty of heart (Qalb) is the faculty of the Spirit, not the biological pumping heart when we refer Qalb in terms of spirituality. The nerves associated with heart are primarily concerned with pumping of the heart, conveying signals to muscles, as well as sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system to control the pace of heart beat.
Faculty of Heart, spiritually speaking, isn’t tied strictly to ’emotional aspects’. Brain has designated centers for emotional perception and the affects are mediated through signals to the body including changing contraction and pace of the heart, bodily sensations, fight or flight mechanisms etc.
Faculty of Heart is the faculty of immaterial Rooh (Spirit) that along with other faculties (lataif) ‘feels’ Love, Suffering of the other Soul, Compassion, Benevolence, Bliss, Tranquility (itmenaan), Gratitude, Spiritual longing and Joy of Union with Beloved, Divine Beauty and Majesty etc, and blocked by Greed, Anger, Arrogance, Bukhl (stinginess), Hasad (Jealousy), Bughaz (spitefulness), malice, malevolence etc stemming from unpurified Lower Nafs (Ego). The emotions resulting from gratification or failure of gratification of lower Nafs (Ego) are also more of bodily/’brainy’ in nature. But in a loose sense, speaking poetically, heart can be said as preceptor of emotions in general as their ‘Affect’ is ‘felt’ at the heart.
The immaterial lataif including Qalb (heart) have specific locations on the body (metaphysically superimposed on various organs like heart as in the case of Qalb) as described in Lataif e Sitta, where the virtues associated with them are experienced spiritually.
He further sent me this graphic.
And he explained:
For a Sufi his body is in service (submission) to Divine Will helping him fullfil the tasks for nourishment of the Spirit/Soul.
The terms in this diagram maybe used in different meanings compared to the ones used in Psychology like the term Self here have meanings different to what we use in Psychology. This article further explains the model and the meaning of terms used in this diagram.
I know so little about Muslim teachings and wisdom, but I find everything Ali Raza Saleem shared extremely helpful in understanding the workings of the Invisible Self. These are the parts not visible to others unless we share them through words or actions. I have also been reading The Philosophy of the I Ching by Carol Anthony and have found her writing also very illuminating about the Invisible Self. Beginning on page 35, she writes:
“People who can hear within are called psychic, but, in truth, we all have this ability; it is simply suppressed in most of us. Through inner listening we can also become aware of other people’s conscious thoughts. Our superior self listens and looks, but does not speak. What we receive from the inner world that we perceive and know as intuition comes from inside and apart from ourselves, just as what we see of the outer world is outside and apart from ourselves. What we hear within comes from the teacher, the same Sage who speaks through the I Ching. It knows the way and comes to help. We can only hear it when we maintain emptiness, innocence, and receptivity. When we jump to conclusions because of fear and impatience, we can’t hear the quiet suggestions of the Sage within.“
“When we say a thing ‘comes totally out of the blue,’ this is an intuitive ways of saying that we are helped by the Sage. We say ‘out of the blue,’ because our words have the clarity of the sky and come from nowhere. What we say is what needs to be said and is perfectly appropriate. Innocence and emptiness make it possible; we are noticeably free of emotional attachment and our words come in the vernacular of the moment; everyone understands and agrees. when this happens we are always a bit surprised. The fact is, we are not in possession of such moments, although we make them happen through being in a complementary relationship with the Creative Power. This we can do only through cultivating our superior man within.“
This makes me thinks how each of us is a livingwork of art constantly in progress and transformation. As living works of art, we are both artist and the art. We choose the colors, patterns, subject, and background–and by so doing, we live them, we feel them, we see them, we know them. The canvas is our mind. And we develop our art of being by listening and learning how to regain our innocence and inner emptiness that allows us to be open and receptive to every moment we met. This is how we can transform ourselves, and by doing so, transform the world.