I was very affected by this piece by poet/performance artist Ron Stock when he read it at a La Manzanilla reading earlier this year. Today he sent me the video of the piece, in which he rails against those who make use of religion as an excuse for genocide and prejudice. I want to stress again that I have no issue with those who maintain the true tenets of religion: peace, love, charity and attendance to making things better for others in this world., but in light of the recent attack of the synagogue near San Diego, the suicide bombings against churches in Sri Lanka, and the man who, on his way to church, drove his car into a crowd in Sunnyvale, CA, because he thought he saw people who looked like Muslims, I have to support Ron in railing against those who and have instituted and supported the rash of Holy Wars around our planet.
Teaching Our Kids to Be Violent
I’m in a very busy outside restaurant on the plaza in La Manzanilla, Mexico. To the front and side of me are two long tables filled with 13 adults, children and teens who seem to be members of the same family. When I first entered, the littlest girl in the family was sitting on the lap of her auntie or her mom, mugging for “sorta selfies” taken by her mom/auntie who was using some app to horribly distort the photos. All were laughing uproarously at the monstrous images.
Then the child moved to the end of the table, where someone had removed the long cellophane-plumed toothpicks that had held their sandwiches together. Grabbing two of the toothpicks, she proceeded to jab the pointed end of one of them into the arm of one of the young women at the table.
Waiting for chastisement, I was sorely disappointed, as what I imagine to be an auntie giggled and then grabbed the other toothpick and jabbed her back. Back and forth they went, all of the adults at the table smiling and laughing as though it was the most adorable little performance in the world. In time, the child went down the table, jabbing with more enthusiasm each time, moving to the other table where eventually she jabbed so violently that the adult slapped her. She slapped the adult back and a slapping match ensued. Everyone watched, smiling, giggling. Such an adorable child!
She moved away from the slapping match and sneaked up on a more elderly member of the party, approaching her from behind to take a hard jab with the point of the toothpick into the flesh of the woman’s upper arm. The woman jerked away in surprise, slapping at the arm as though she believed it to be a wasp or bee sting. This brought great peals of laughter from the other table and the child returned to it to take her bows.
At no point in this crazy string of behavior did any adult ever censure the child or display any emotion other than enjoyment and approbation. I, on the other hand, was totally horrified. What they were teaching the child was fairly obvious. They were well-dressed and sophisticated-looking, modernly dressed—like city folk come to the beach who didn’t actually want to get sand between their toes. The voices of the seeming other half of their party at the nearby table were louder than theirs—very loud, in fact, to the point that even some Mexican customers accustomed to the general noise of Mexico were glancing over in surprise. But the table where the child sat seemed more refined–in the level of their voices if not in their surprising acceptance of the increasing violence of the formerly angelic-looking little girl.
Was she the heir to a vast cartel empire? Was this part of her education in ruthlessness? Was their glee at her monstrous appearance on the smart phone just a hint of the monster child they would raise to carry on the family business? As most scenarios begun in restaurants and other public places, this is a story whose ending I will never know. I leave it to your imagination to come up with an ending for yourself.
But I could not help seeing it as a small metaphor for the violence in films and games and sports entertainment that our kids are submerged in every day. It seems as though movies and TV are resorting to ever more violent and extreme cruelties to keep our interest. War and murder are not enough. Sadistic twists and torture are called upon to keep the audiences and thereby swell the coffers of production companies and advertisers.
Years ago when violence first reared its ugly head on TV, we were told that it was a fantasy that would have no effect on children, but if we look at the world around us, I think this is an assertion that has been proven to be false. As some in our society grow ever more affluent, we grow increasing more dependent on entertainment to distract us from the reality around us, and part of that reality seems, sadly, to be that we are teaching our kids to be more violent.
Someone on a social site I post on once stated that he couldn’t understand the contradiction between my statement that I was an agnostic and the fact that a number of my retablos made use of images of the Virgin of Guadalupe.
I answered that for me, she was a symbol of that gentle, loving, peaceful, motherly, female side of Mexico that balanced the macho, warlike, violent male side. He didn’t understand this and actually ended our correspondence—a perfect example of that force I sought to counterbalance. Some years ago I completed another retablo entitled “Macho” that demonstrates the male side of the dichotomy.
Since first reading Jung 37 years ago, I have been almost constantly engaged in examining that force which seems to drive the world—that shifting between anima and animus that the I Ching might call yin and yang and that religion might classify as good and evil. Not that either the anima or animus is purely good or evil, as they signify the unconscious male impulse in a woman and the unconscious female impulse in a male. The anima is the feminine part of a man’s personality and the animus is the male part of a woman’s personality, so each sex contains elements of both. The struggle in the world is partially a matter of trying to balance the two, and in our present society, there is certainly good evidence that we are out of balance.. This is a simplistic statement of a very complex matter, but one I often deal with in my work.
Images and copy from a post I made 5 years ago are used in this posting.The prompt today is constant.
An Antidote to Violence
One thing that has increasingly contributed to my depression over the past few years is my fear that the world population is becoming addicted to violence. Movies, TV and video games become more and more barbaric in their depiction of cruelty. It is as though mere shootings and stabbings are no longer enough. Writers think up unspeakable types of torture and infuse our favorite movies and TV shows with them. I don’t dare describe the cruelties, the memories of which literally keep me up at night. I can mention some of the shows, though, and if you’ve seen them, you will know the scenes of which I speak.
Homeland, The Bridge, Scandal, Revenge, The Blacklist–all of these are programs that, as excellent as they are, I had to stop watching. The horrors just escalated and escalated to a point where it was torture even hearing the sound effects. (I have always had to close my eyes during scenes of violence. Now I have to plug my ears and hum as well.) Yet there must be many who watch, eyes wide, and wait to see how much more horrible the next torture will be. If this were not true, they wouldn’t be some of the most popular shows on television. And, like their parents, our children have become voyeurs of violence. No wonder they bully and bring guns to school to mow down their own friends.
Recently I saw a training film shown to military personnel who were sent to Japan following WWII. Written by the man whose real name you would not recognize but whom everyone knows as Dr. Seuss (yes, that Dr. Seuss) it showed how the Japanese were schooled and brainwashed in the years leading up to the war to train them to accept violence as a patriotic (and religious) duty. How often has religion been used in this way? The Crusades, the Spanish Inquisition, the Salem (and many other) witch trials and now ISIS are examples that trip easily from my memory, but I’m sure each person reading this could provide more examples.
If hate can be taught, why can we not devise an antidote to it? Art, writing, dance, volunteer activities, choir, music and some sports are all activities that fill minds and hopefully push out the fascination with (and time for) violence. (Unfortunately, wildly popular sports such as football and boxing contribute to the world’s obsession with violence.)
Kids need to be afforded a substitute for what now fills their minds. Is this being furnished? Is anyone creating non-violent video games that can engage young minds as completely as the violent ones do? Are books being written that are as alluring as series of books about werewolves and vampires and zombies where love and sex and romance are bonded to death and violence?
And kids are not the only ones. The 50 Shades of Gray series? What was it about those books (Oh my!) that appealed so universally that they outsold every other book in the history of the written language in Great Britain and are second only to a Harry Potter book world-wide? Is violence so much a part of every one of us that we cannot help but devour these books? What element of them other than the sadism and masochism created the draw?
Jung acquainted us with the different archetypes within us all and world-class villains such as Hitler, General Tojo, Idi Amin, Saddam Hussein and Pol Pot certainly brought out the dark sides of their legions of followers, but after all of these horrific periods of history, balance was restored. Whether this will be possible now that the weapons have become more cataclysmic in scope, it remains to be seen.
A few years ago, I was astonished to see one of the questions used to measure and define the personalities of members of the social introduction site OkCupid was, “In one respect, wouldn’t a nuclear war be kind of exciting?”. I don’t know the numbers of answerers who answered anything other than “No,” but I guess the very fact that the question was accepted (members were allowed and encouraged to submit their own questions) indicates that there are people in the world who would answer “Yes,” and brings up a further possibility that makes me shudder—that there is a possibility that such a person might someday (if not already) be in possession of the means by which to start such a war.
Impossible? How possible was it that a good portion of a nation would follow Hitler or Pol Pot or General Tojo? Idi Amin? Saddam Hussein? The fact is that fear drives us to do much that might be against our natural instincts—or at least the natural instincts we choose to follow.
The fact is that we are human, and as humans we do have a complicated goulash of emotions, needs, impulses, compulsions, fears, dreads and instincts. Events and necessity trigger these contrasting sides of us and one very strong instinct in the masses is mob mentality. It may be hard for most who have read this far in this post to believe that they would ever be so led, and it may be true that they would not; but history shows that time and time again, it has happened. The acts of a charismatic leader, supported by henchmen in sufficient numbers, backed up by fear, fueled by prejudices efficiently stirred up, have stained most societies on earth at some time or other.
All of the villains I have named share many common traits, including one you might have noticed. None of them are American! If someone from another country (or a Native American) were to make up a similar list, who from America might be included? Would it be Joseph McCarthy? J. Edgar Hoover? Charles Manson? Custer? Some high mucky muck of the K.K.K? It is harder to see one’s own mob instinct and in the U.S., the examples might be more limited in numbers or occult in practice, but it may be that in our blood lust for vampires, zombies, werewolves and violent computer games–added to our insistence that the right to own any kind of gun from a purse pistol to an assault rifle is a patriotic right if not an obligation—are all components of our own mob instinct.
How is it that ISIS can reach out and recruit followers from our midst? Could it possibly be because we have prepared a path for them? Schooled our young people so thoroughly in the appeal and glamour and blood lust of violence that we have made them easy targets for those who might appeal to such stirred-up instincts?
It is easy to blame every other country in the world for harboring violence, but when will we start to take responsibility for our own? How many countries are viewing the movies and TV shows we produce that spew out violence? How many buy our computer games and books and comic books that all send the same message? Have we, perhaps not knowingly and with no clear-cut agenda, somehow become the world’s instructors in war games and violence? And even if we have the niggling sense that this could perhaps have some gram of truth in it, would we have the bravery to admit it, let alone the intelligence to somehow stem the tide?
In the past few weeks, I have felt such a huge change in mood. I feel energized, excited about planned activities and more rounded out. It think it came about in a larger part from working with kids and young adults in Camp Estrella. That excitement in seeing their enthusiasm and growth has not waned. I am enthusiastic about ongoing and upcoming plans–the dance classes and sugar skull decorating coming up–but I think, also, that people I’ve met in the blogging world have given me such reassurance that there are good people everywhere who want to do right and want positive things for everyone–not just those of their own country or race or religion or sex. The hope for the world lies within people such as you who take the responsibility to foster in your own children and the children of others interests that will lead them away from the violence that is coming at them from so many directions.
The Prompt: Brain Power–Let’s assume we do, in fact, use only 10% of our brain. If you could unlock the remaining 90%, what would you do with it?
My working thoughts live in a mansion, restrained to just ten rooms.
When the unused rooms grow cobwebs, they must sweep them out with brooms.
They cannot see their pleasures, for they enter with eyes shut.
Sealed chambers filled with many things, but we do not know what.
It is exhausting just maintaining all these extra spaces.
No wonder that I lose my keys and forget most new faces.
No telling when we’ll let our thoughts roam free in other rooms.
For all these years they’ve been sealed up like dark and unused tombs.
Perhaps we’ll find they’re portals to other times and places.
Perhaps they lead to other worlds in intergalactic spaces.
They might allow a journey into the minds of others.
Would extrasensory perception make us enemies or brothers?
I’m sure the reason that we use small portions of our brain
is because if we knew of them, we’d use them all in vain.
We’d journey through the cosmos to plunder other spheres.
React to them like enemies, guided by our fears.
If there is any entity guiding how things go,
perhaps they recognize that earth’s evolving sort of slow.
Our energies put into things instead of who we are.
Instead of love? Investments. Instead of aid? A car.
If perhaps we aren’t allowed the full use of our brains,
it is because we have not learned to use them for our gains.
How we look’s important. How much it costs the point.
We’re ruining our planet by cluttering up the joint.
Our brains we use for warfare. Weapons we can’t control.
They wind up in a child’s hands or on a grassy knoll.
They’re used for entertainment on a computer screen
in games that build agression. We win by being mean.
Shows they call reality prefabricate each role.
The lowest denominator seems to be their goal.
True, other things are in our mind: poems, music, art,
dance and social functions, a few of them with heart.
So we stage elaborate galas to raise the money for
children who are hungry, adults chewed to the core.
And yet some of us still balk at giving medicine to the ill.
If they are not wealthy, they must chew the bitter pill.
No doctors and no dental care. No succor for the poor.
If they would work, they’d have health care. Complaints are such a bore!
These things we fill our minds with. There’s no need for more brain space.
In the ten percent of brain we use,new thoughts we cannot face.
This E.S.P. is hogwash, and U.F.O’s are fiction.
Even the thought of universal health care causes friction.
For every room within the mind that’s used, there are nine more
filled with mysteries we won’t know until we try the door.
Some enter and return to tell of wonders they have spied.
Yet unenquiring minds respond by saying they have lied.
We’ll never leave these sealed up rooms unless we learn to dream.
Let creative thoughts flow out in an uncensored stream.
To seep beneath closed doors into our mind’s more spacious realms.
Be adventurous voyagers standing at the helms
of ships of mind that sail the wilder seas of consciousness
regardless of the ones who try to censor and to hush.
Turn off the TV sets and games of war and violence.
Let Honey Boo Boo slip back into former innocence.
Lay Kim Kardashian to rest, pull out your skeleton key
that just might let you in to all the rest that you can be.