On the heels of my last post, (Strauss-Kahn, IMF, Justice – Lessons for Humanity), the same day in fact, comes news of a ‘smaller’ event which also highlights “who we are” – if we’re honest and real enough to ‘look at humanity’ and our individual versions of it.
We’re having none of it. We don’t care.
We’d rather live with our own suppressed disturbed feelings about Hitler than listen to this man. We abhor the least hint that ordinary humans, including ourselves, might have a ‘shadow side’ corruptibility. Our abhorrence is not particularly with the man van Trier, but with his words. Our internal response to his saying he “sort of understands Hitler” is that IF we ‘listen’, we will appear to ‘agree’ or will appear to ‘have tolerance for’ Hitler’s atrocities. Our real concern is with ourselves, including how we will be perceived by the ‘crowd’ around us. We create a logical set of equalities: listening = agreement at some level = ‘who we are/how we are perceived’.
Even when we know ‘all humanity has a shadow/dark side’ is true, (see this article, and also my note below my signature), we’d just as soon ‘stay as far from it as possible’. We’re even willing to banish and shun – to create physical separation between ourselves and anyone who might, by action or word, ‘energize’ our ‘fear of the human monstrous’. (I’ve not read much Stephen King, it’s not my usual choice of fiction. But years ago I read “The Shining” and it ‘blew me away’ as ‘on-point’ metaphor/allegory exploration of ‘dark side’.)
We crave confirmation of our ‘goodness’, which makes acknowledging our small seed of potential to be ‘not good’, uncomfortable. Hitler’s cruelly disturbed view of humanity, is, for many of us, the single-most uncomfortable evidence of human potential for ‘not good’. To consider the potential as ‘commonly shared in human psychology, is beyond the range of ‘accepting lack of perfection’. Lars von Trier made the socially fatal mistake of publicly saying what was on his mind, worse yet – he disclosed a kind of empathy for ‘Hitler the human’.
What I’ve heard from von Trier, (in BBC radio clips of him speaking – see link above to text article), is one person trying to explain himself with a level of honesty that the society, the culture, who heard him cannot tolerate.
Rejection, banishment, of van Trier does not bode well for our prospects in resolving any fundamental corruptions within ourselves, our societies. The banishment is a strong demonstration of our strategy to push away, to exclude, uncomfortable understanding of humanity (ourselves). An inclusive thought, might have been for at least a few people to respond differently. For example, someone might have said: “Tell me more, let me think about this in deeper human terms‘”, and “Let me deeply consider if I can ‘touch base’ with what you (van Trier) are talking about.” To ask questions, to learn more, is time-consuming. It distracts from easier, (more “convenient” and socially comfortable), goals. It’s true, it would have been wiser for von Trier to speak his thoughts privately, but that he spoke publicly is a matter of social judgement, and certainly not a crime!
My Best! –MaggieAnn
Re: Our ‘dark’ or ‘shadow’ side: My interest with this post is is in how individual concern with ‘dark-side’ influences larger group and social behavior. My browser search for a good, informative, relatively quick-to-read link, did not bring a ‘good fit’ for ‘group behavior’ when faced with dark side of human beingness. I found many ‘hits’ on dark or shadow side of human psychology – but each addresses a presumed individual wanting to better individually understand ‘grappling with’ awareness of ‘dark side. Sites I checked fell into 3 categories of modeling or understanding: religious (the individual can learn to accept/manage and/or release influence of ‘dark side’); self-help/spiritual with ‘new age’ components, (the individual can learn to embrace ‘dark side’ to avoid subconscious ‘fighting’ with it, and even to honor and allow ‘positive’ influences’); and ‘straight up’ psychology, (explanation and counsel to the individual on understanding experience with dark-side). Although none focused on ‘group’ behavior when confronted with ‘dark side’ aspects of our shared psychology, all 3 categories agree with my premise on this point: the more deeply we understand our humanity, the more willing we are to ‘face’ our ‘dark side’, the more fully we can experience ‘enriched lives’ as ‘good people’. I contend that in the Von Trier case, the group, a collection of individuals, all carrying unacknowledged fear, turned on the speaker. In the end, I chose one article (linked above) to offer for reader consideration of our ‘dark side’, because the writer, Riley Harrison, quotes Carl Rogers, and because he also offers a string of ‘imagined but very common’ lines of thought we use to avoid learning to comfortably acknowledge our dark side. -MA