WHO ARE WE KIDDING?
I’ve drawn some fire from my last post, “Spoiled Rotten Brat Syndrome.” The article apparently offended some, who called me “arrogant,” “superior,” and asserted that I must think “my way” is the right one. It’s not the first time I’ve been accused of this. In fact, people love to tell me I’m wrong and always have. I don’t claim to have “the way,” although I keep looking. I know a lot about what doesn’t work. Since other people rarely tell or show me a better way, I have to figure they don’t know, either.
It is said that fanatics are frustrated idealists. I’m a frustrated idealist, but no fanatic. I usually can’t live up to my own ideals, so can’t reasonably expect others to do it. However, one of my ideals is to live in a civil society, but for that, civility has to be a value others share. The ideal civil society, according to me, is one in which tolerance is the norm, with each person cooperating by choice rather than coercion or manipulation.
When I wrote about “projection,” and “projective identification,” I wanted to describe how the process works, from an analytic point of view. It is common for people to assume they know more than they know. It is especially common for mainstream and social media to distort facts, information, and opinion to suit specific agendas. A valuable precept in group therapy is to check out your assumptions, but this is only possible when conversation flows both ways.
To characterize Americans as “spoiled” is merely my opinion. I also believe Americans can be quite open-hearted and generous, especially on an individual level.
But I believe the tone of any organization is set at the top and by its history. Since before the US began, the European settlers laid claim to more and more land, and its resources, committing virtual genocide on the 10 million residents whose greatest error was in not having guns. The US was built on guns and warfare, and its expansionist practices and policies continue to create mayhem around the world. Currently, we are bombing at least six foreign countries, and we have military bases in 77 of them. We have been taught to believe this is acceptable, because “might makes right.” Manifest destiny, and all that.
Only trouble is, it’s not working, not even for us. We’re supposedly wealthy, educated, with “high living standards,” and we’re busy spreading “democracy” by hook or crook to every nation that has resources or labor we want to exploit. The “economy” is doing great. Just look at the stock market.
Considering all this, we should be happy, shouldn’t we? So, where are the happy people? We’re all on drugs, and not only legal and illegal mind-altering drugs. We’re on drugs to compensate for our over-consumptive, stressed out lives. Blood pressure medicine, statins, weight-loss drugs, drugs for diabetes, allergies, and arthritis, to name a few. We’re escaping into television, movies, and video games.
The recent Las Vegas shooting, shocking as it was, is to me a symbol of American values turned upside down. I’ve read that Stephen Paddock was a “lone wolf” and a wealthy gambling addict. No one foresaw his obviously planned shooting spree. We will never know what motivated him to go on such a rampage, and he maybe didn’t know himself.
Addicts share some personality traits that provide clues in Paddock’s case. Addicts swing from being rigidly controlled to out-of-control. A “dry drunk,” as one addiction specialist has described it, tends to be a stickler for rules, intolerant of others, and controlling. After this shooting, ever louder voices are calling for more gun control legislation.
I don’t like guns, but dislike legislation even more. A nation built on guns and apparent addiction to violence, we have saddled ourselves with rules to control every aspect of our lives, yet each piece of legislation restricts more freedoms. We swing from overly controlled to out of control. That’s the US trajectory so far. If I call Americans spoiled rotten brats, it is the voice of a frustrated idealist who knows we have the potential to be better than that.
How can we condemn an individual act of violence with guns, when guns have made us what we are today? “I’m proud to be an American,” the saying goes. Stand for the national anthem, which celebrates a victory won with guns? Hold your hand over your heart and pledge allegiance to the flag, a symbol of more war, with the red stripes representing bloodshed?
Do we have enough controls yet? I have claimed we are stuck in the anal-phase of psycho-sexual development, the “terrible twos,” in which the toddler learns the power of “no,” including withholding feces. Successful negotiation of this potty-training phase is crucial to prevent destructive power struggles with authority and false authority later on. Mature adults recognize they are their own best authority and can undermine false authority without resorting to manipulation, force, or violence.
I don’t feel “superior,” despite others’ accusations. I feel like an alien from outer space, abandoned on a planet full of beings I don’t understand. Why the fussing and fighting, the moaning and groaning, the loss of humor, especially about ourselves? Is humorlessness a sign of intelligence? Rather than feeling superior or arrogant, I feel disconnected, as though I don’t speak the language, and this makes me lonely. The more I know, the less I understand.