*Disclaimer: The views expressed in the following post are representative of ann, and possibly also chris, although he hasn’t signed off on them. So since he hasn’t read this, he cannot be held accountable for them. Do comment, but if you’re angry about what I’ve written, direct it at me. Ta!
This morning, procrastinating as per my usual on getting my day fully into gear, I landed upon an article about the recent surge in support for Greece’s far right party, Golden Dawn. Depressing isn’t the word. Seems like the far right is getting stronger all over the place – not least of all right here in France. Many of you have probably heard about our recent elections, in which third place – actually quite an important win for the underdog because of the additional political power allotted that group – was won by none other than Marine Le Pen. Yes, Marine Le Pen, now-president of the Front National, and daughter of her predecessor in that role: the infamously racist slime Jean-Marie, took 20 stinking % of the French vote, which, incidentally, brought out an impressive 80% of the population.
Let me be clear about a few things, particularly for the sake of my U.S. American readers.
First of all, the French “Left” is considered conservative, while the “Right” is liberal. This is because the French notion of liberal refers to a loose governmental influence in business, rather like the U.S. capitalist notion of laissez-faire (hands-off) that we all learned about in 8th Grade. This, therefore, corresponds to what is called conservative in the U.S. Ergo, French liberals are right-wing (like U.S. American Republicans), while French conservatives are left-wing (what U.S. Americans might also refer to as “progressive”). Confusing stuff to be sure.
Also, I should be clear about this: I lean left-of-left. Yup. Pinko-commie through and through. Why? Because I know capitalism isn’t working. It never worked. It was a rotten idea from the outset. But that’s not what this post is about.
No, today I want to rant about a human tendency – or, rather, a theory about a human tendency to which I happen to subscribe – that just tears me up from the inside out: displaced aggression. I’m not putting any link there because there is so much about this online, and I don’t want to limit your search in any way. I strongly encourage you to look into it. It exists (insofar as any sociological concept exists…it is a soft science, after all), and it sucks.
Here’s my long and short (more “long,” in this case) of it:
We have energy – both good and bad. That energy quite a lot of the time has to go somewhere. A positive twist on this is the idea of “random acts of kindness,” or the whole “pay it forward” movement, both of which function largely from the karma-based notions that if enough people start doing enough good things, it will spread enough warm fuzzies around and eventually the good vibes will spread of their own accord. The same way we want to share good news: when we feel good, we often let it shine. But when it’s not so good, the same is true. Yes, there are the saints and martyrs who have withstood great personal suffering and maintained a state of holiness in spite of it all, and of course, the good ol’ American way of interpreting that is, “If Mother Teresa / Mohandas Gandhi / Martin Luther King could do it, why can’t you?” Thing is, as much as I wish I was, I’m no Gandhi. Pretty sure I speak for the vast majority of the world when I say few of us are.
So, many victims or survivors or even just witnesses of great suffering or oppression or exploitation or abuse or whatever – they just have to do something with it. A small (but ever increasing) portion take out that anger / fear / lack of control upon themselves by way of self-harm and self-injury. Others turn their anger into community action, art, or proving their worth by endeavoring – and sometimes succeeding – to rise above it all. What we’re not honest about in my country of origin is how pathetically seldom it is that somebody’s well and truly able to do that.
What happens more often – the bit that tears me up, that at once makes me question how we think we’re better than animals and also if we even have a fraction of the logic Mother Nature afforded moles and roaches and salamanders – is that, in light of our inability to address the real source of our suffering (the bigwigs, 1%, bosses, abusive partners or parents, etc. ad infinitum), in light of our inability to come to terms with the fact that the people and powers we trusted have anything in mind but our own best interests, in light of all of these things, we choose to hurt somebody else weaker than ourselves, because the hate has to go somewhere The anger doesn’t just disappear.
As I say, I realize this is just a soft science theory, and leave it to a pinko-commie-liberal to stand by the rhetoric of Sociology, right? But you do the math. If it didn’t work, the vultures that are the truly racist, self-righteous, self-entitled energy-sucking demons of the world – the Hitlers and Le Pens of the world (I don’t compare them lightly – her father was a Holocaust denier) – they wouldn’t have a dream of winning elections. Because the average human being – who I insist is a decent creature, driven most often by a relatively reasonable mixture of the need to survive, compassion, and ego – would take a step back. They would see that greedy corporations and banks, as well as lazy and corrupt government officials are to blame for the fact that so many people are out of work. They would know that it wasn’t the fault of refugees and asylum-seekers, who are themselves risking their lives to flee countries overridden with violence and poverty due in large part to the ancestral greed of the country in which they seek shelter.
Some additional examples:
- Drug addicts are not responsible for the drug trade.
- Prostitutes are not responsible for sex trafficking.
- The unemployed are (most often) not responsible for their inability to find work.
- Could go on, but I won’t.
The truth of the matter is that we live in an extraordinarily confusing time – a time in which we’ve got enough written history, twisted and otherwise, to take us twenty lifetimes to make any kind of sense out of. And yet, even if the task seems impossible, it’s the only way. Because pointing the finger at Mexicans crossing the border to find work – and increasingly to seek asylum – in the U.S. for their plight is not just cruel, it’s downright illogical! Rather than spitting upon the addict, why don’t we examine a system that profits so extensively off of keeping drugs illegal that it’s never considered what might happen if we legalized and regulated? Rather than spitting on the sex worker, why don’t we look at the johns? Better yet, why don’t we look at a society that has placed a monetary value upon women’s physicality for so long, it can’t remember how not to? Why don’t we ask what we must do to nurture those parts of society that don’t promote the hatred of women?
Here’s the thing about soft science: it’s called that because it’s not fixed. Whereas E will always = mc2, displaced aggression is not a physical law – it’s just a sociological phenomenon. Human sacrifice was practiced in enough civilizations that I think it would be fair to call it a sociological phenomenon as well, but that seems to have moved along, right? Chances are, this is the way we as a society have reacted in response to being constantly overwhelmed by too much stimulation and not enough, too much consumerism and too few resources, too much secrecy and too much information, in short, too much. We are indeed suffocating from too much and not enough more or less all the time. But pumping us full of reality television and Prozac will only work for so long, and there are plenty of examples of heroism, innovation and the like, taking the world by storm and proving that we are capable of so much more.
I wonder this: if we taught our most vulnerable, socio-economically disadvantaged children about displaced aggression…if we told them about it and how it worked, might they think twice before they lashed out at the wrong person? Might they begin to think creatively about their dilemmas and how to actively and effectively address them? I learned about the Holocaust throughout my academic career, but Hitler was a sickening disgrace to the world by then. How do we teach our children that the police too often arrest the victims and turn a blind eye to the real culprits? How do we explain that the banks that keep their parents’ money might in fact be the biggest thieves around? How do we explain that the host countries of the “illegal” immigrants allegedly stealing jobs are so often in the messes they’re in because of the politicians for whom their own grandparents voted, because of the corporations for whom their own parents work?
How do we tell them that there are still Hitlers in the world – there may always be – and they are only as powerful as their followers allow them to become?