An elder Cherokee was teaching his grandchildren about life. He said to them, “A fight is going on inside me. It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One wolf represents fear, anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, and ego. The other stands for joy, peace, love, hope, sharing, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, friendship, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith.” “This same fight is going on inside you, and inside every other person, too,” he added. The grandchildren thought about it for a minute and then one child asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?” The old Cherokee simply replied: "The one you feed."
For the word "projection," a dictionary could offer no better illustration of the meaning of this psychological trait than to quote a few neocons. The practice of attributing to others one’s own "dark side" (e.g., the fear that one might be capable of engaging in some moral or illegal wrong) is essential to the health of all political systems. We tend to be uncomfortable with the presence of our "dark side" voices reminding us that, if adequately provoked, we could resort to violence, or acts of dishonesty, or other behavior we consciously reject. To alleviate such distress, most of us are only too happy to have the state encourage us to project our ill-motivated characteristics onto a "scapegoat."
Thus the neocons — alarmed at the growing success Ron Paul is having in focusing widespread popular opposition to the war machine that is synonymous with neoconservatism — have resorted to projecting onto Paul’s supporters attributes of their own. One American Enterprise Institute hatchet man declared that Paul’s admirers "celebrate the violent overthrow of established government." The explanation for this charge? That November 5th — the anniversary of Guy Fawkes Day, as celebrated in the film ‘V’ for Vendetta — was used as the date upon which some $4.2 million was raised for Paul’s campaign!
The cable television babbler, Glenn Beck, was not to shirk his neocon duty to castigate Paul’s supporters. Yapping over a printed message that read "there are enemies among us," Beck used the Vendetta film as an opportunity to suggest that Ron Paul might be appealing to people who want to use violence to overthrow the government! Beck — more "knave than fool," to quote Cervantes — trotted out the chameleonic David Horowitz to echo the neocon party-line.
Let us put aside the fact that the neocons are apparently unable to distinguish the metaphorical nature of a motion picture from reality. I suspect that, had Orwell’s Animal Farm been used in such a figurative way, Beck would have berated the Paul supporters for believing that farm livestock could run a political system. I find the morally self-righteous to be a humorless lot; for humor — like the use of metaphor — challenges the rigidity of boundary lines upon which sanctimonious thinking depends.
Let us focus, instead, upon the charge that Paul supporters "celebrate the violent overthrow of established government." Is there anyone of such dull wit as not to see the psychological projection inherent in such statements? What has the neocon-driven war machine been if not a rapidly metastasizing campaign to promote "the violent overthrow of established government," whether in Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, or any other targeted country?
What nation-state is more thoroughly committed to the "violent overthrow" of other regimes than the neocon-dominated United States of America? What government is more dedicated to the use of terror — such as its "shock and awe" bombing of innocent Iraqis, and the succeeding indiscriminate killing of Iraqi men, women, and children — than that headquartered in Washington?
At a recent Republican "debate" on "values," Ron Paul was booed by neocon parrots for saying that Jesus was known as the "Prince of Peace." What psychotic "values" are embedded within the psyches of those who can condemn a man for embracing "peace," and loudly cheer candidates whose "dark sides" and their own run amok in a synchronized dance of death?
Is there any way out of our collective madness than for each of us to return to that point of departure at which so many of us allowed our "dark side" to become mobilized by ambitious men and women? If we are to save ourselves, our children, and our grandchildren from being devoured by the destructive forces that we feed, we must look at what we most fear to see and to accept: the "dark side" of our humanity. Only by withdrawing our energies from such mobilized forces can we rediscover the "values" that the power-brokers want booed off the stage: the central role that peace and liberty play in the better sense of what it means to be human.
Butler Shaffer [send him e-mail] teaches at the Southwestern University School of Law. He is the author of Calculated Chaos: Institutional Threats to Peace and Human Survival.