Our perception of reality is often a subjective phenomenon. It is important to look at this phenomenon to understand our difficulty in communicating with each other. Read my thought on how this relates to racism in America here.
My latest article on non-violence and the Black Lives Matter movement, featured in truthout, can be found here.
The following was originally published in 2006
President Bush consistently states that his decision to go into Afghanistan and Iraq has made the United States safer and points out that there has not been an attack in the US since 9/11. Although many of our allies have questioned our right to go into Iraq, no one has questioned our right to go into Afghanistan. Therefore, we have given Bush more and more power to ‘keep us safe’.
The psychologist Carl Jung coined the phrase, ‘the collective unconscious’, which in simple terms means that what ever happens to anyone has an impact on everyone; and cultures near and far share common customs, rituals, hopes and dreams whether or not there is physical contact between the cultures. For most of us death brings sadness, despair and fear. These energies and emotions often unconsciously affect our moods, attitudes and behaviors. With newspapers, radio, television and the internet, news of death has a far wider audience than in Dr. Jung’s time. In the past, information that was filtered through the ‘collective unconscious’ took time and cultures had time to process and assimilate the information. But with our high speed communications, information is not filtered at all but is sent blasting into our conscious minds instantaneously and we are psychologically unable to process all the events and emotions, so we shut down, deny and act out.
As a psychotherapist, I have counseled many clients after a family member has died. Death is a powerful thing. Death has a ripple effect on every one connected to the person, this of course would include family, friends and the community. Death caused by natural causes has a profound effect on us. What effect does a death in a war have on us? Our troops are going to a shooting gallery and they are the sitting ducks. When a son or daughter goes to Iraq, the type of sitting, worrying and waiting is devastating. And when one of the troops is killed and the body is sent home, the sadness, despair, anger and a need for righteous justification and revenge spins out of control.
As a martial arts teacher, I tell my students to act courteously and in a non-provoking way, but if they are attacked they have a right to defend themselves. So it would seem that initially we had a right to go into Afghanistan because that is where the perpetrators of 9/11 were housed. But as a martial arts teacher, I also tell my students that they don’t have a right to then go beat up their attacker’s friends and associates. Like many of our allies, I would then question our right to go into Iraq.
I try to understand human behavior and why people hurt each other. When I look at gang violence in this country I find that a lot of it is revenge driven and at a certain point the gangs don’t remember what got all the violence started in the first place. Many people who are the victims of gang violence are not even members of an opposing gang; they are often relatives or friends of gang members or just innocent bystanders. Iraq was at one time an ally to the US. In fact Saddam would not have been in power with out the help of the US. His invasion into Kuwait led to the Gulf War and he became less than an ally, but certainly not a participant in 9/11. Were we acting like a gang and just meting revenge on Iraq and ‘finishing’ the Gulf War? So when we are told that we have been attacked because of our democracy and our Judeo-Christian beliefs, I feel compelled to think that there is a deeper reason for people to wage guerilla warfare against us.
Nine-eleven was not the first time America was attacked. Pearl Harbor comes to mind but the Euro-American expansion from the east coast to the west coast was an expansion where millions of people were killed. There were decades of war against the so called savage Indians to gain control of what is now called the United States. The Euro/Americans created a philosophy and called it Manifest Destiny, a doctrine that stated that the Euro/Americans had a right to spread their people, culture and beliefs from coast to coast and to take over and control all of what is now known as the United States. In the name of Manifest Destiny, millions of Native Americans were killed and many still live on reservations. But it wasn’t easy for the Euro/Americans because many of the Native Americans fought against this invasion and genocide valiantly. Like wise there have been many rebellions by blacks in this country fighting for freedom and justice that shed much bloodshed. Much of the history of black rebellions and the savage punishment blacks received for fighting against their enslavement is not found in most history books.
I suggest to my American brothers and sisters that we are being attacked not because we believe in democracy and freedom. We are being attacked because, in the spirit of Manifest Destiny, we are trying to spread our way of life, values and economic control in places throughout the world where people feel that we have no right to do so, and like the Native Americans, they are willing to fight and die to stop us.
There have been over 4,000 troops killed since 9/11, perhaps 30,000 seriously wounded and an incalculable number that have been psychologically wounded. How can Bush say we are safer since 9/11. About 3,000 people were killed in 9/11 and the whole country was in shock, fear and mourning. Between the killed and wounded, at least 34,000 families and communities in this country have been directly traumatized since 9/11.
There have been tens of thousands of Iraqis killed since 9/11 who were not even friends of the perpetrators of 9/11. When we watch the innocent people killed in the Sudan we call it genocide and understand how it hurts every one. But when we ‘shock and awe’ the Iraqis we say it is to keep America safe. The continuation of Manifest Destiny continues its history of destruction and death. If not genocide then certainly crimes against humanity, certainly war crimes. The gang mentality says, ‘might makes right’. The Nazis were put on trial only because they lost. But Bush and his gang go on.
The Collective Unconscious means that we can not escape from our actions. Men who have been disempowered and damaged are killing their wives and children. Mothers are killing their children. Our troops come home and many are committing suicide. Our children learn from their parents and leaders and create gangs of death and violence. They get involved in using and selling drugs and create mini drug cartels. In their sense of abandonment and despair they bond with other lost souls and commit murder and suicide. Our children are becoming suicide bombers.
And so I ask the people of the United States, do you feel safer since 9/11? When our sons and daughters come home with limbs lost, minds gone, and in body bags, do you feel safer? When you read about all the seemingly random violence that goes on day in and day out in this country, do you feel safer? The answer is no. We don’t feel safer. We feel unsafe, powerless, scared and confused. The way out of this confusion and powerlessness is to see clearly, and act in a way that understands the power and effect of Dr Jung’s paradigm. Remember Dr. Jung’s ‘collective unconscious’; what happens to one person has an impact on everyone, whether the deed is good or bad, there will be a ripple effect for every one. We must understand this on the interpersonal level as well as the social political level and act accordingly because no matter how we act, the ‘collective unconscious’ will continue to ‘manifest’.