I grew up listening to my parents talk about ‘the communists’. I wasn’t sure exactly who they were. Yet I was certain they were evil. That they were to be guarded against at all costs. In my childish world the communists were the Russians. Bad Russians. Americans on the other hand were the good guys. They were leading a war against the evil forces. To be honest I wasn’t exactly sure why it had to be a ‘Cold War’ or what that meant. The most important thing was that we were on the right side. The good side.
By the time I was an adult the focus had changed. A few times. Like when Saddam Hussein and Iraq were acting badly. Something needed to be done. And we all know how that’s turning out. Now there’s the war against terrorism.
Here’s my problem. It’s with this enemy thing. It seems that as soon as you get rid of one enemy another turns up. There’s a constant need for this war. A battle of the good against evil.
The battle ground has changed. The enemy morphs. The rhetoric stays the same.
This past week things changed radically. A really bad wolf got out of his gilded cage. They call him Trump. He’s been running about on a big fat greedy binge. No doubt about it. He embodies racist, sexist, and fascist impulses. He is boastful and entitled and sits atop the world in a gold encrusted cave. There is a general tone of moral and psychological poverty about the man.
He is so blatantly ‘bad’ that it’s really easy be outraged. To feel like a good guy. Virtuous even. Hell in comparison to him we are all saints.
(Watch this now)
But here’s that thing. That problem. What if we actually had a part in the making of him. What if this is more enemy-making. Only closer to home. On home turf so to speak. What if with all this practise we’ve had over the time we are actually getting really good at the enemy making thing.
I will admit it’d be a whole lot more comfortable if this enemy didn’t get the top job at the White House. That when we have a psychopath elected president of a powerful country things have taken a really bad turn. Gotten right out of hand.
How did it happen? Now the Internet is flooded with all sorts of answers. Those of us who see ourselves as decent politically progressive people arguing about this and that. We all have versions of an answer.
Forgetting that all along the answer is 42. Of course this makes no sense unless you work out what the question actually is. And have read ‘Hitchhikers Guide to the Universe.
Perhaps all those people who voted for Trump were asking good questions even if they didn’t articulate it as a university educated progressive from the east would. Even if we think they got the answer is wrong. We need to be talking to them.
Were we focusing on a known answer. That is always likely to lead to a narrow range of possibilities. Did we forget the question. Or that there was a question in the first place. When you know 1+1=2 you neglect all the other ways to get to 2.
This is what being an artist teaches you. Anyone can point a camera at a vase of flowers and take a photo Get an answer. I took multiple shots till I found this answer. It was a painful process where I had to struggle. Learn to go back to what my question was. It was the difference that made the image a bit more ‘art’ and less a simple snapshot.
Trump is a masterclass. The one we have all been avoiding. Because we have wanted change without having to change ourselves.
OK I’ve seen the protesters on TV. I hear your protests. Yet as much as I love Micheal Moores work I no longer believe that tossing Trump out and putting Hillary in is a solution. That was an answer that would have resulted in the status quo for a bit more.
It’s true that we feminists hoped it’d be the breaking of the great big glass ceiling. But what’s the point if in reality most woman remain undervalued, underpaid and dissatisfied. And exhausted. If one in four of us are on antidepressant or anti-anxiety medication to cope. Because that’s the reality.
The truth for many many a woman is that her financial security and lifestyle is still pretty much determined by how good a marriage she makes. Even if she’s educated. Relatively successful. And she still needs to ‘look hot’. If she’s lucky enough to be a professional buts wants a child she relies heavily on either her mother or the services of a group of other women who she pays much less than she is willing to get out of bed for to back her up. She can work as long as she is also a good mother and keeps a pretty house. That inside her home she is still at risk of emotional, physical and sexual abuse. As are the children.
And that’s if she’s not coloured or different or disabled or old or suffering a mental illness. And her chances of retiring in poverty are high unless she’s manages to hang onto that good marriage.
We shouldn’t settle for some veneer. Time to find the will to bring about a deeper level of change. Radical social change. Time to ask better questions. Hard to admit. But bear with me here.
There is a Jungian concept that we all carry an unconscious shadow self. This is where we hide all the horrible stuff. All of our unwanted traits and impulses. We disown, neglect, bury these unwanted parts of ourselves. Which might seem like a good thing. Except these things have energy. Push for expression.
We manage the discomfort of this energy by projection. Putting these traits, impulses, and distasteful thoughts and actions into others. Hence that old wisdom that when someone really pushes our buttons it is at least as likely to be about our own inner demons as it is about that actual person.
Human evil in this model is conceptualised as the collective shadow of all of us. We are able to keep our selves distracted watching and discussing our corrupt politicians, the fanatical terrorist, the white collar criminals and big business as they act out a whole spectrum of unwanted impulses.
These days we can make endless comment usually to a ‘tribe’ of others who share our views. Because it’s a whole lot easier to be hanging about with our friends with world views we agree on. More juicy to be enemy constructing on Twitter or Facebook then it is to turn off the screen and do what we should do.
Now Trump has shown up. It’s reality. So we need to show up. For real. To give up historical amnesia. No matter who you are or where you live. I’m not even American and its shaken me up. Got me back to my writing and art. Because that’s the right place to put this energy. It’s where I have to ask questions not settle for answers.
So fellow hitchhikers here is a question for the Masterclass. What would it look like if we gave up the long held rhetoric of a war of good against evil. Because it isn’t working is it? How do you deconstruct the enemy. How many of us are willing to give back our sainthoods. And being on the right side.
So like the deer in the video who only radically changed their behaviour because the wolves were reintroduced we can bring about genuine ecological and social change that benefits the many. Not just the elite few.
Oh my wouldn’t that be the ultimate trump card!