The Order Of Failure
Freedom and rights do not originate or function in a vacuum. Like art, our understanding and perceptions of what freedom means, change. The American Founding Fathers understood that truth and crafted a constitution that has stood the test of time.
In fact, freedom and rights are the most visible of the necessary ingredients of the complex recipe that comprise a functioning and productive society. They are the visible part of the iceberg that draws our attention. What lies beneath the surface is of greater consequence. As with any complex expression, it is the interchange and interaction of necessary ingredients that produce the desired result.
Alongside those visible basic freedoms and rights, there must also be an exchange. In exchange for those rights and freedoms, there must also exist law and order, social and cultural norms for all and not just the privileged few. Most importantly, there must be be a sense of obligation, commitment and duty to society. If any of those things are lacking, and the emphasis remains focused on the 'self' and individual 'rights,' that society will self destruct.
The evolution of free societies is a natural state of affairs, not unlike the evolution of mankind. Once there are established societal and cultural 'Laws of Nature,' that enshrine freedom, political evolution is inevitable. The freedom of the individual to make choices remains sacred. Still, no matter the direction that evolution takes, we retain certain characteristics and qualities of our origin that was there at the beginning of our political consciousness and before.
The original hardwiring within each of us that served as the basis of free societies had less to do with the self and a lot to do with the society and community. Man did not succeed because of singular or selfish expressions. man succeeded because when he created a community with others, he created an environment where survival and progress were interdependent.
What causes societies and communities to be be founded and succeed, is the abiding focus on the welfare of that society and community, as a whole. It is true that great emphasis in free societies is placed on the individual, but in the end, that focus is really about the place the individual has within society. Every individual is accorded certain rights and privileges and in exchange, certain contributions and obligations are expected. Drivers must be licensed and insurance must be had, for example. Those contributions and obligations to society as whole take precedence, as they must, if functioning societies are to succeed. A free society places those demands on it's members. Those who do not wish to comply, are free to live in their cherished freedom- in isolation and as hermits.
Both Dr Sanity and The Anchoress address the issues pertaining to our obligations to society, in two very different posts. The Anchoress discusses the constant attacks on the communities of faith. Dr Sanity discusses various psychological mechanisms that are used to obviate appropriate behavior and and
In It's all Ugly And That's Easy. Let Us Pray, The Anchoress notes,
I find it interesting that - in my world - these people are entitled to their thoughts and opinions, and even to full respect for them, while in their worlds I am entitled to no thought or opinion that dissents from theirs, and I should not be allowed to speak - hell, I’m barely human to them. And they think they’re the liberals, eh? Not by any definition I ever learned.
There is a name for people who hold such views, but liberal is not it.
Newsflash, people, when you are making bigoted sweeping generalizations about Christians, when you’re incapable of moving beyond sneering snark and name-calling and you’re writing lines like “you…[conservatives and Christians] are not human to me,” well…you’re not a liberal. You’re very, very far away from liberal thinking. And you should be afraid of where you’re permitting yourself to go, because it’s a bad, restricting, joyless and stagnant sort of place that has absolutely no connection to liberty or individuality. I wish better for you.
Of course, The Anchoress addresses a bigger issue. There are those for whom the self and their beliefs trample over the beliefs of others. Believe what we believe they say, or be ostracized by the community, expelled even.
Now, to be clear, we are not talking about the right to dissent or challenge. We are talking about 'ultimatum politics,' that new genre of expression that is the equivalent of playing 'chicken' on a highway. That of course is derived from 'ultimatum agendas,' the 'in for a penny, in for a pound' idea that you must accept a particular agenda in it's entirety, or you are the enemy.
It is ironic that such kind of rigid dogma is found more in the anti religious establishment than in the faith based communities.
Secular extremists pontificate about religion and spirituality as a disease that will forever damage the human race unless it is completely eradicated. God and science, they insist, cannot exist in the same space. They would have you believe that science has rejected God. That of course, is absurd. There are many world class scientists that are believers. Albert Einstein was one of them. Was he less of a scientist because he believed?
The Anchoress also noted that
Art and religion have the capacity to expand narrow hearts and minds…
Art and religion are both community activities that endeavor to bring man closer to his fellow man. Religion does not exist solely for the purpose of focusing our attention to the heavens. The purpose of religion is to keep our attentions focused on the kinds of behaviors that make us better citizens and thus, create better societies.
The exact same thing is true of art. Man's creative expression does not exist to draw attention to the artist. Art's greatest expression is how we are touched and inspired by art.
We left a comment and noted
Those two things [art and religion] are indeed similar- and for good reason.
They are each a manifestation of our ability to create ‘ex nihilo’ [creating something from nothing] and to appreciate Creation. As we having been created ‘In His image,’ to create art and beauty that inspires and challenges is incumbent upon us.
Each of us have within us a consciousness and imagination that allows us to imagine beauty and ugliness, truth and fiction and the ability to contemplate the past, present and future.
No other creations have this kind of interactive and free will consciousness, this ‘connection’ to our creator.
We have been endowed with great gifts. The least we can do is use those gifts in the way they were intended to be used and in ways that elevate us as individuals and as a society.
That is our singular obligation to Him, our only responsibility- to be good to ourselves and each other and to elevate ourselves.
Imagine, a God that wants us to exceed and excel and has given us the unique abilities to do just that.
Faith is never restraining or restrictive. Real faith is liberating.
Our post, Mundane Sanctity has more on man's relationship with God.
What happens when God and art are used to enslave, rather than liberate?
Dr Sanity's Psychological Symptom Or Mature Adaptation, is an outstanding effort in cogently explaining the mechanisms and consequences of how communities implode.
She sets the stage:
The purpose of all psychological defenses, whether mature or not-- is to assist the individual in coping with sudden changes; or severe internal or external conflicts that threaten to overwhelm the sense of self. Such changes or conflicts may relate to the people in our lives; to factors or behavior which challenge our values or our emotional capabilities; or to changes in reality that shake the foundations of our view of the world.
All such defenses-- to a greater or lesser extent-- distort reality. The less mature distort reality greatly; while the most mature allow for the expression of the inner conflict in socially appropriate--i.e., civilized-- and psychologically healthy ways that at least conform to reality, even if they don't necessarily acknowledge it.
The key to understanding psychological defenses is to realize that all of them--no matter how infantile or immature--are attempts to adapt to a difficult situation. What matters is not that an immature defense is being used, but how long the individual uses it before it becomes maladaptive, dysfunctional, pathological and/or potentially dangerous and life-threatening to the individual and/or group using it.
Conflict with others- or ourselves- is inevitable. It is how we choose to manage, or not manage conflict that comes closest to defining our relationship with our community. It is also true while the definition of conflict may change, managing conflict appropriately remains unchanged.
For example, Americans were aghast and outraged at Richard Nixon's 'department of dirty tricks.' Nevertheless, his political sins pales in comparison to those of Hillary Clinton, for example. She oversaw private detectives prying into the lives of Clinton critics. She kept an 'enemies list' and had almost a thousand FBI files in her possession. If we choose not to hold her accountable, does anyone believe she will abandon that kind of behavior? In fact, there is so reason she should abandon that kind of behavior. Clearly, it has paid off handsomely. What does it say about us that she is a front runner presidential candidate?
Of course, Dr Sanity is right when she say that
it is not at all healthy for either an individual or a group of individuals (i.e., a culture) to distort reality for very long..
As the repairman says, "You can pay me now or you can pay me later."
Dr Sanity asks us to look into the mirror, as jumping off point for a look into our relationship with our community:
Thus we come to our fundamental question. How does one assess if someone is using a maladaptive defense that is a symptom of an underlying pathology? Even more importantly, how can you tell when YOU YOURSELF are using maladaptive defenses to disguise your own biases and unacceptable feelings?
The answers (and they are inter related) are nuanced. First of all, your feelings don't count.
Even with all the training; and even with self-awareness and a keen insight into one's own motivations and interpersonal dynamics, when it comes to implicitly trusting one's feelings above and beyond all other data; one has to be very cautious. All too often, mistakes are made; feelings can simply be wishes that have nothing whatsoever to do with the reality. If we are lucky, we discover this before too much damage is done.
The key to gaining control over behavior that is motivated by maladaptive, unconscious defenses is to make them conscious. This requires that a person be able to reflect on his or her behavior or feelings and on the contents of one's mind; and with honesty and forthrightness develop some insight into why one feels, thinks, or acts a certain way. This is particularly important if the way one is thinking, feeling or acting is causing serious problems to one's self or to others.
Pay attention here. Just because you belong to a certain group or are affiliated with a certain community and you want to stay connected, does not give you the right to substitute your feelings for critical analysis. If you do that, you ought not be surprised if you are looked at as less than credible. The choices you make as an individual impact society as a whole- and you will be held accountable for your behavior.
Dr Sanity notes,
In response to a few innocuous cartoons published in a Danish newspaper a while back, we have international riots and violence. Leaders of Islam announce fatwas and put bounties on the lives of hapless cartoonists. Iran announces an ingenious "contest" to encourage the publication of "holocaust" cartoons, which they imagine equals the outrage they feel has been perpetrated on them; and which they consider an expression of their "free speech" (which in some ways it certainly is, but I am more interested in the psychopathology that underlies such "speech")...
Now, I ask you to compare and contrast using the criteria I outlined above. Consider the affect/emotion and how it is presented--positively or negatively? Are unpleasant truths or shameful feelings are being confronted or avoided? Is the response a "key" or "sledgehammer"? Is the amount of affect generated appropriate to the circumstances?
Which cartoons are truly offensive and clearly demonstrate an intense hatred toward the subject depicted by all objective criteria?
Clearly, there is no case that can be made for an agenda or ideology that is designed to destroy a community and replace values that elevate man with values that are evil and values that enslave entire peoples.
Just as clearly, there is no way to legitimately defend the perpetrators of that and similar evils. (To be clear as to what they are defending, see this- h/t Fausta). There may be those who do just that- and they are of course, free to do so, but in the end, they are advocating the destruction of our society. They are no different than smokers in a closed room. They are impacting the lives of those around them- and they know it. Nevertheless, they choose to smoke. What does that say about those kind of people?
Individuals fail, communities fail and societies fail, in that order.
Parts of this post have been previously published.