Monday, January 16, 2017

Musings: On Archetypes

Flipping on the radio, I heard the unmistakeable voice of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., delivering his famous “I've been to the mountaintop” speech just a day before he was gunned down.

What struck me in particular were these words:

We mean business now, and we are determined to gain our rightful place in God's world.

And that's all this whole thing is about. We aren't engaged in any negative protest and in any negative arguments with anybody. We are saying that we are determined to be men. We are determined to be people.

His words about people just seeking to be — not tear down or destroy others, but simply be — stand in such sharp contrast to the polarization that now grips our nation. Though King's movement, and the era it dominated, fostered the tolerance that made desegregation, women's rights, gay marriage, environmental protection and animal welfare possible, it seems the pendulum is swinging back again, to a place where we won't let others be — unless we 100 percent agree.

It made me think of a retreat I attended last weekend, where a woman who has long been a student of Buddhism spoke of the need for “radical inclusivity.” She then went on to tell of how she felt sick to her stomach after the election because she'd never realized how many racists and misongynists live in this country.

So what happened to the radical inclusivity, which would necessarily include those whose views and values differ greatly from our own? What made anyone think that racism and misogony had somehow disappeared from our society, even as so many signs point otherwise? And does anyone truly believe that everyone who voted for Trump is a racist misogynist?

All the pronouncements and judgments we see on both side of the political spectrum are couched in sanctimony, self-righteous smugness, complete disdain for the other, who in actuality isn't all that different than the we.

King then told the story of a priest and a Levite who failed to render aid to a man on the road between Jerusalem and Jericho:

And finally a man of another race came by. He got down from his beast, decided not to be compassionate by proxy. But he got down with him, administered first aid, and helped the man in need. Jesus ended up saying, this was the good man, this was the great man, because he had the capacity to project the "I" into the "thou," and to be concerned about his brother.

Seems to me like we're all – myself included — far too wrapped up in the “I” at the expense of our compassion for the “thou.”

King went on to say:

We don't have to argue with anybody. We don't have to curse and go around acting bad with our words. We don't need any bricks and bottles. We don't need any Molotov cocktails. We just need to go around to these stores, and to these massive industries in our country, and say,

"God sent us by here, to say to you that you're not treating his children right. And we've come by here to ask you to make the first item on your agenda fair treatment, where God's children are concerned.”

Though his words were offered in the context of applying economic pressure, his core message was about fairness.

And that's the crux of our deep polarization now. People on both ends of the political spectrum believe they've been treated, or are about to be treated, unfairly. They're digging in, and they ain't gonna budge an inch. 

It's so much easier to think about what's unfair, than what is fair. The former focuses on the “I” while the latter addresses the “thou.”

So we're stuck — until both sides set off in pursuit of common ground.

Although my parents were fond of saying, in response to my railings about this or that, “Who ever told you life was fair?” their words didn't deter me. I've been driven all my life by the need to find what's fair.

It's what motivated me to speak out against the anti-GMO movement, even though it put me on the side of multinational agrichemical companies whose practices I don't fully embrace. I'm not a pesticide lover. I don't get paid to espouse pro-seed company views. I don't think biotechnology is flawless, or that every GMO is good.

I just hate lies and fear-mongering, because they're the antithesis of fairness. And yes, I know the agrochemical companies do it, too. But they weren't deliberately using those tactics to tear apart my community.

It may s‬eem odd for me to preach the “come together” message. I readily admit that I've engaged in ruthless, intentional polarization aimed at marginalizing the anti-GMO movement, exposing it as the loud-mouthed, ignorant, intolerant fringe that it is, its leaders motivated at worst by financial self-interest and at best by a lack of introspection, as characterized so well by this recent Facebook post directed at Trump, but also true of the poster, if she'd just hold up a mirror:

Karen Chun   while you’re busy picking his lies apart, he’ll spit out another mountain of bullshit and you’ll be buried under it.
Like · Reply

But I'll be the first to acknowledge that not every person concerned about GMOs fits the above description — just as not every person who supports Trump is a racist. And that's what happens when we generalize: we lie. Which also means, we're unfair.

At the workshop I mentioned earlier, we walked around a mandala that had images depicting four common archetypes: teacher, healer, creator, warrior. Like most people, I've got aspects of them all. But for a number of years now, I've been assuming most often the role of warrior. And as I stood there and looked at the images, I felt the pain inherent in that ancient archetype.

Sometimes we need warriors. But that role requires one to pick sides, identify an other to oppose. There has to be someone or something to fight, which pretty much ensures polarization, guarantees that the conflict will never be over.

As a species, we've been dominated by that particular archetype for quite a long time now.

What sort of world might we build if we allow teacher, creator, healer, to shine? 

The choice, as always, is ours.


Anonymous said...

Thank-you Joan for the tears in my eyes.

Anonymous said...

Great column, Joan. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

"And does anyone truly believe that everyone who voted for Trump is a racist misogynist?" No, the ones who aren't "truly" racist or misogynist merely turn a blind eye to racism and misogyny.

Anonymous said...

Dr King has inspired me and that's why I want to destroy the dirty syndicate pigs. No one really knows what the dirty syndicate pigs have done and what they continue to do, not even their slaves. All they are told is that they are helping get the bad person but in all reality, they're committing criminal acts to help and aid the multinational criminal organizations last grasp to hold onto their power. They are being used as double edge swords and don't know it. The dirty pigs set them up for failure and hide their mischiefs with lies and rewards. The greatest reward was achieving what Dr King has accomplished: change and attention to our societal oppression and regressive human traits. I continue on my journey and when my mission is complete, I too will enjoy the fruits of my labor as a great accomplishment will be heard around the world. #iAmTheChosenOne

Anonymous said...

I really liked that.

Anonymous said...

OMG, hip hip hooray, banzai---- what a relief----a corner has been turned, lights have been turned on and the heart is open, hoping that the conscious road be taken more often by all!

Happy new year---we need all the help we can get to go high when others go low!!!

Unknown said...

Great reflections on this important day, Joan.

Anonymous said...

Another beautiful post, Joan. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Just commenting on this:
"Although my parents were fond of saying, in response to my railings about this or that, “Who ever told you life was fair?” their words didn't deter me. I've been driven all my life by the need to find what's fair."

My parents were the opposite. Although they certainly didn't experience a lot of fairness in their lives, they had a strict work ethic and hope. They led me to believe that life is fair. What a shock it was at 17 to leave my sheltered family life and learn the truth.

So although I'm also driven by the need to find what's fair (and try to make life more fair), I was adamant that my kids not be overwhelmed with despair as they became adults, as I was -- I reminded them at every opportunity that life is not fair. Have low expectations, but high aspirations to make it more fair for everyone.
I hope they do.

Anonymous said...

Bravo, ms. joan

Unknown said...

You're a good teacher too Joan....

Anonymous said...

Good. Ms Joan, you always are spot on.

Anonymous said...

The downside of "fair" is the I vs. the you. Too many people choose to make "fair" focused on the II first and they you becomes the target. This is their justification for demeaning accusations and taking from those they deem to have more than is "fair" according their own interpretation. This is the basis of the Left's definition of "fair share": You have more than I do, no matter that you have worked hard for it, so give me what you have so we are equal. That's "fair" and we'll make government enforce this taking. Hence the cry for "free stuff"!

Anonymous said...

Only the Right cries Free Stuff in regards to what they suppose the Left is saying.
The Left is busy trying to make Life livable for those outside the money stream, while the Right cries Mine! Mine! like spoiled 2 year olds.

Anonymous said...

9:36 AM
The left pushes their lies from sycophants like you all the time.

Your heroes on the left are as corrupt and spew as many lies as anyone on the right.

You are just too blind by partisanship to see it.

Anonymous said...

Yes 9:36 to you it is "free stuff" or money taken from someone who earned it because you're a looser and can't make it through life without others helping you. How embarrassing...sad really. Trash actually. I remember that videographer who proudly stated online that she couldn't afford health insurance because, while educated, she chose to follow what she wanted to do rather and carrying her own weight which she was entirely capable of doing. So she bums off of other people's earnings (Obamacare) so she can follow her pitiful little dream. A Leftist, of course!

Anonymous said...

Left, right, what does it matter? We have the former head of the KGB coming to the aid of our soon to be President! "We're all in this together", as the kids would say.

Anonymous said...


Well written article, however I suggest you read it a few times and reflect. It's ok if you take a "do as I do" approach, not "do as I say", but clearly you are the furthest being on Kauai to speak on behalf of the beautiful man that was Martin Luther King. You seem racist, mean spirited and carefree in who you demonize to bully your point across. Take an earlier blog. If you really do not approve of someone, why attempt to degrade and humiliate by posting pictures of their baby...I mean really...a baby. What person of minimal decency would do that? Children are sacred and OFF LIMITS. Why do you need to show her breast-feeding or photos of her bare back and tattoo. My point is that MLK spoke to his cause from a place of peace and harmony. He didn't have to desecrate others to share his message. While it is nobel to preach for the betterment of others, your message often gets lost in your hateful diatribes. I hope 2017 is the year Joan gets recognized for a change of heart and pursues her passions from a place of kindness. I for one would take a greater interest.

FYI - I do not know that woman nor have a position on the issues in that article.


Joan Conrow said...

Dear "Jewel,"

Perhaps you should take a moment and reflect on the hateful diatribe YOU just delivered here, in defense of "kindness" no less, as well as your erroneous judgment of me.

That woman was widely sharing that picture of her breastfeeding her baby at the podium as a sort of political act. She apparently did not think her own child was sacred or off-limits. Same is true for the woman showing off her bare back and tattoos.

What puzzles me is why you visit my blog if you find it so repugnant. There are plenty of other blogs out there to peruse. Find something that suits your own style, rather try to condemn me and remake how I write. That's the epitome of intolerance.