Sunday, December 05, 2010

Cave Paintings

Speaking of debates, today is Civil War day in Oregon and the clerk of our Quaker meeting, himself an accomplished journalist, has been wondering about the appropriateness of this metaphor. Doesn't this nomenclature tend to trivialize, while at the same time lending an air of innocence and fun to something intrinsically awful? Oregon's so-called Civil War is this annual football game between two of its major universities, the University of Oregon (Beavers) and Oregon State (Ducks).

The debate has to do with language and imagery. Some Quakers oppose violent language whereas others think the imagination, including science fiction, the Bible, comics, film, television, are appropriate media for channeling demented, disturbing and violent memes. Art absorbs these transmissions, not to amplify them in the physical world, but to render them less likely to erupt in mob behavior. If we're not violent on paper, we'll be violent for real, because of the real voltage pressures beneath the surface, the teleological vulcanism of the zeitgeist itself.

As is obvious from my rhetoric, I place myself in this second camp, likely because I started reading Freud in 8th grade. I was schooled in the view that an id or unconscious needs some approved way to express itself, and that a strong superego is less repressive than a fragile one. Tapping into the deeper recesses of the mind requires encounters with the archetypes. Fairy tales are full of violence. However, if the violence remains within the metaphysical vista, then those fairy tales have done their job. Those who insist on a completely sanitized psyche, all sweetness and light, are actually feeding the maw, serving as shills for the underworld, by adding to the imbalance.

Judging from its imagery, Tantric Buddhism would seem more well rounded than a lot of the more sugar coated stuff.

My many postings on Alternatives to Violence (AVP) therefore have a somewhat dark aspect. I link them to my Jungian Society talks. When watching football (or playing chess), I might sometimes imagine the horrors of war. Or I'll play videogames with violent content -- not because I wish for more violence in the world, but because I think potentially horrific content needs to be wisely channeled.

This analysis goes for debate world as well, the world of diplomacy. The contestants often invoke images of all the death and destruction that will likely result, if their opponents' views are more widely adopted. Disptopian outcomes are unfurled on screen, in movies such as Punishment Park, or Clockwork Orange.

There's a tendency to exaggerate, to engage in hyperbole, to invest in caricature. Again, these are ways to express stresses and tensions that are even more dangerous and likely to get out of hand if not allowed to express themselves. One needs to spy on the id ("id" for "idiot"?), get a sense of its thinking, if wanting any semblance of a rational, well-crafted civilization. This is difficult work, and requires spelunking deeply into oneself.

That's supposedly something Quakers are good at, or so some would contend.

The Ducks won this year.