Lately, even the ever so rational and logical Glenn Greenwald has been addressing current events in terms of myths (as in, "The power of myth and propaganda are well documented.") Today he points out self-satirizing reactions of religious hypocrites, and links to a Digby post that explains their behavior as "empathic myopia." Where does it come from?
I went over this in one of the early installments in this series: Deconstructing Myths of America: there’s no “thing” to fear, and no “one” to fear it.
The fear that powers empathic myopia, is symptomatic of what ails us. We’re at perpetual war with the other side of our own borders. In the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, the first thoughts of a self-aware consciousness are explored. When consciousness first thought, "I am," it next thought, "I fear what I am not."
The mystical response goes like this: since the cosmos is a pouring forth, from out of itself back into itself, there is no ‘I,’ neither the first person singular pronoun nor the numeral; the cosmos is fundamentally kenotic, self-emptying, not exclusively kinetic. We are not apart from, nor other than, our own source.
Metaphorically speaking, we’re beings of snow out swimming in the ocean, until there’s no one left but this oceanic awareness. Metaphysiologically speaking, we’re one drop in the hydrologic cycle: we arise, condense, rain, collect, and so on.
And yet here in the West. in the absolute dualism of sectarian and secular monotheists alike, we have enshrined an absolute division between our selves and our source at the center of our conception of being in the world. If there really were such a division, how could we breathe, or hear, or even exist as organisms?
I dare say, most of us believe that, somewhere between "you" and everything else in the cosmos, there’s some boundary, border, divide. OK then, put your finger on it. Point it out to me, right now. Upon closest inspection, we find there is no such line.
This is the progenitor of every self/other division, from pejorative stereotypes to porous border walls. Note that the self/other divide is necessarily a semi-permeable membrane.
Thus, the root cause of human suffering is this: we cellf-imprison our selves in cellves of our own mistaken making. That’s right, astute ones: our misconceptions turn us into cosmic pinheads.
For example, when we look up into the night sky, we’ve been taught mistakenly to implode our own psyches into quantum singularities of egocentric pain.
This mythology falsely places fear of our own Shadow at the center of being human.
Here’s a simple illustration to demonstrate this primeval principle.
What is this?
Is that an absolute boundary? Or a series of segments arising in a field? Are we many things, or one?
In fundamentalist absolute monotheism, and that goes for absolute market fundamentalists, too, there can be only One. Your access to the Promised Land, therefore, rests entirely on your relationship to the proper authority. We take one position in a field (The Terrorists are coming! Regulation is evil! Obama always means well! or what have you), and define it as the center of the universe, judging others by their relative stances.
The opposite mythology rests on experiencing the insight that I and the Other are non-dual, we are arising from the self-same source. Here, the goal is to experience identity with divinity. In the former, aggressive competition in defense of the illusion of the separately existing ego, is the central idol, making it ultimately self-defeating; in the latter, empathic compassion clearly is the proper motive for all human action, making progressive humanism only natural.
Totem, tribal, racial, and aggressively missionizing cults represent only partial solutions of the psychological problem of subduing hate by love; they only partially initiate. Ego is not annihilated in them; rather, it is enlarged; instead of thinking only of himself, the individual becomes dedicated to the whole of his society. The rest of the world meanwhile (that is to say, by far the greater portion of mankind) is left outside the sphere of his sympathy and protection because outside the sphere of the protection of his god. And there takes place, then, that dramatic divorce of the two principles of love and hate which the pages of history so bountifully illustrate. Instead of clearing his own heart the zealot tries to clear the world. The laws of the City of God are applied only to his in-group (tribe, church, nation, class, or what not) while the fire of a perpetual holy war is hurled (with good conscience, and indeed a sense of pious service) against whatever uncircumcised, barbarian, heathen, "native," or alien people happens to occupy the position of neighbor.106
The world is full of the resultant mutually contending bands; totem-, flag-, and party-worshipers. Even the so-called Christian nations–which are supposed to be following a "World" Redeemer–are better known to history for their colonial and internecine strife than for any practical display of that unconditioned love, synonymous with the effective conquest of ego’s world, and ego’s tribal god, which was taught by their professed supreme Lord: ….
Once we have broken free of the prejudices of our own provincially limited ecclesiastical, tribal, or national rendition of the world archetypes, it becomes possible to understand that the supreme initiation is not that of the local motherly fathers, who then project aggression onto the neighbors for their own defense. …
The understanding of the final–and critical–implications of the world-redemptive words and symbols of the tradition of Christendom has been so disarranged, during the tumultuous centuries that have elapsed since St. Augustine’s declaration of the holy war of the Civitas Dei against the Civitas Diaboli, that the modern thinker wishing to know the meaning of a world religion (i.e., of a doctrine of universal love) must turn his mind to the other great (and much older) universal communion: that of the Buddha, where the primary word still is peace–peace to all beings.112 [Italics original, bold added. Campbell, J. (1968). The Hero with a Thousand Faces p. 155. Princeton Univ. Press: Princeton, NJ.
Get that? Life-as-holy-war is a direct expression of misperceiving one’s own shadow as an absolute Other, pure anti-matter that must never be admitted to the circle of one’s concerns. And in what mythos does Obama place his whole-hearted faith? Life-as-holy-war. Remember his gimmicky "spending freeze" that excluded war, even though we’re spending money on war-making like drunken pharaohs outfitting pyramids for the afterlife? That’s the power of myth-making from the Bully Pulpit.
Until we drop the pretense of the impermeable, absolute, sacrosanct self/other divide, and with it the conceit of American Exceptionalism, we can expect the beatings to continue whether morale improves or not.