I should probably preface this entry by saying that I realize that I really am rather negative. I think of myself as optimistic, but nearly every time I feel the desire to write something here it is because of something less than joyful. Actually, I think I am optimistic and more happy-go-lucky than the average person. Perhaps it is the nature of writing. I use it to work out my shadow stuff. (I do like the word "stuff" -- sorry fellow English teachers).
Today, I heard about a "village council" in India that ordered the gang rape of a woman because she planned to marry a man from outside of her village. Here is a link to the article: NY Times. Sadly, it is not a surprising or unusual news story in our time. When I was a child, I believed that barbarism was firmly set in the middle ages. I didn't realize that racism, sexism, and other isms were happening in my time. Somehow, I had the idea that we as a human race had gotten past all of that. I thought every other human being reflected my own natural, liberal beliefs.
In my community, my children live a relatively sheltered life of abundance, a liberal exchange of thoughts and ideas, some exposure to the various religious beliefs, and adults with generally higher levels of education. None of us have witnessed misogyny or racism in any overt way. (I won't mention the covert ones today). There are no "honor killings" in our neighborhood (that I know of).
When I listen to public radio (I know, I know) and hear the news from around the world, then it gets me thinking. Human beings... hmmm. Well, there are a range of nasty human beings. There are people who murder and rape and believe they are justified. There are wars in which people fight over power, land, "God," treasure, and anything else they can think of to excuse their thirst for blood. We are so used to war, that people don't even really think about what it actually is. Just think, for a moment, about what war actually is! It is people destroying and doing damage to other people - throughout history and today -- inflicting the same torture over and over again. Learning nothing. Pure insanity is what it is, and yet it is such a way of life for us that we don't consider it so.
After Adam Lanza murdered twenty-six innocent people, one of our local priests said that these events will always happen because of "original sin." Really? If that is true, and we as human beings are forever destined to be perpetrators and victims, then... then what? God is eventually going to come back down and fix everything? God is going to come down and wipe us all out?
Then (being the weirdo that I am), I start thinking about the witch hunts. I'm just positive that I would have come to no good end if I was hanging about then. I would have known enough to avoid mixing up herbal concoctions, but try as I might I'm sure I would have been accused by somebody in the town.
Then I start thinking about Nazis. When I learned about the Nazis in junior high school, I learned that human beings could be brainwashed. Brainwashed into thinking that certain types of people were not actually human, and that the world would be a better one if those types of people were extinguished. Had the Nazis themselves been quickly extinguished, then it seems world would have been better, now wouldn't it? But it is that whole Nazi propaganda thing that gets to me when I start looking at other people. I am disturbed by the idea that I -- as a human being -- might be brainwashed into hating someone -- some group of some sort. I like to believe that I would not have been a Nazi because it is not in my nature to join groups of any kind. Sometimes I like the idea of a group -- I actually joined the "MOMS Club" after I had children -- but I just couldn't stick with it. I felt socially awkward. It was just too -- groupie. So, that supports my belief that I would have avoided the whole Nazi thing, or the Wave, or Amway.
I wonder, sometimes, if I were living in Germany in the forties with my friends, relatives, and neighbors which ones would have been on the wrong side? And of course, I wonder about my own attitudes. I wonder if I would be brave like Miep Geis. I do have guesses about who I know that would be more likely to be vulnerable to propaganda and brain washing. And when I think about the amount of people who would be likely to lose their moral compass with the rest of the Nazis, then I think that being phobic about our fellow human beings makes a lot of sense.
I don't mean to be glib about social anxiety disorder. I do believe it is rooted in a very real and logical instinct for survival. Do you ever feel waves of hostility coming at you from strangers and wonder why? At the grocery store? At the gym? (There are other types of waves too -- attraction, friendliness -- those, I understand. It's the hostility that seems baseless and primitive). On my first day of Kindergarten, I was sitting on the floor as instructed and the girl sitting next to me kicked me. I was appalled. I cried every day of Kindergarten for nearly six months. It wasn't just the kicking experience that caused my fears; it was the terrifying unpredictability of each moment. If someone could kick me for no reason, then what other horror might come my way? The other children terrified me. Of course, they weren't so terrible. That same girl became my best friend for a time in fifth grade. Other people can be our best friends and our worst enemies. We cannot control them or predict what they will do. Kindness towards others is not a guarantee that others will be kind to us. All of that is frightening. So social anxiety disorder makes sense to me. And the treatment of social anxiety disorder should not deny the plain fact that there are good and logical reasons to be nervous about other people.