Healing the Hurts of Nations
And building a world fit for humans
Part Two: What's Underneath
Deeper sources of the world problem
This section proposes that humanity has unconsciously been striving toward some sort of globalisation for a very long time.
It looks into civilisation and its discontents, and an array of wounds and scars humanity has picked up throughout history, obstructing our progress today.
Then there's the collective psyche and the way national and global interests and priorities conflict. A crucial issue here is leaderships - and those who are led and pushed around by their agendas.
Then comes the awkward bit: the stuff we don't want to look at. Trouble is, this stuff creates and sustains the global problems of today.
This second section examines the impact of unconscious collective behaviour on the unfolding of events and trends today.
What are the hidden forces within the world psyche that make for conflict, superpower dominance, unsustainable economic growth, unfair trade, oppression of minorities and rape of the Earth?
What does humanity fear? Why does it want to cover up major truths and realities? Of what are we ashamed?
6. Silk Roads and Ocean Winds
The troublesome birth of globalism
Globalisation is historically inevitable. What we see today is not the only way it could have happened. Perhaps it took place this way because humanity rejected other options.
The potential, inclination or disposition to planetarise has been there for millennia. It is mainly a matter of how our haphazard, near-sighted way of reacting our way into the future interacts with our unconscious secret urges or potentials to grow, extend and interact.
Humanity customarily walks into the future facing backwards, yet this does not exclude the possibility that, deep down, it secretly knows or responds to something more than it sees. Several attempts at globalisation have happened in history, listed on the right.
We haven't got there yet. But we've come further than we think.
Attempts at globalisation
- Alexander the Great, 334-323 BCE
- Rome, Han China & the Silk Roads, 100-200 CE
- The Muslim ascendancy, 630-720
- Crusaders and Emirs, 1100s
- The Mongols, 1200s
- Chinese world voyages, 1420s
- European explorers, colonialists and missionaries, 1500s-1700s
- Industrial trade empires, 1800s
- Superpower hegemony, 1900s
The 1800s and 1900s laid down the infrastructure of globalisation. European domination reached its zenith by 1900. It laid the foundations for superpower dominance by USA and USSR, in which USA prevailed.
It looked as if USA reigned supreme by 2000, yet it had already started slipping in the 1970s, losing initiative and creativity.
In the 1970s Japan out-manufactured the West, then became an innovator. Then in the 1990s the Asian 'tigers', China and parts of Latin America grew too in cultural, political and economic influence.
By 1990 moral pressure on the West came from the 'Confucian sphere'. By 2001 it came from the Muslim sphere. This expressed shifting world values, realigning ideas in the context of a growing sense of global community. This is now one of the big themes of the 21st Century.
The former subjects of domination by Europe and America have partially adopted the ways of the dominators, with their own twist, and are moving it forward from there.
The developed world is driven mainly by an urge to maintain its position and comfort. The developing world is driven more by need. This leads to innovation and improvisation.
Over the coming decades developing countries will gain the initiative, redefining the world game and being redefined by it.
The 21st Century brings us to planetary civilisation. How we got here recedes into the past. Many new problems face us. Some arise from the past and some are recent or new.
Like it or not, by fair means or foul, it's a planetary world from now on. Question is, what kind of world, with what rules - and who decides?
We are in a century of reassessment: everything is up for review.
We must not confuse how we got here with what happens next. This concerns global civilisation. Re-civilisation.
7. Civilisation and its Discontents
Staterooms and border patrols
Civilisation has many virtues and brings manifold advantages. Some inventions of the last two centuries have made life much easier and changed things fundamentally.
Civilisation also charges its price. We're used and addicted to gizmos and systems. We fail to see their full merits and demerits. Are we are using them or are they using us?
To evaluate civilisation's benefits we need to find out what life would be like without them.
Civilisation is a mixed bag. When we think of 'civilisation', we visualise edifices, laws, inventions and comforts, forgetting the flip side - dreary, unsightly, sterile and stressful conditions, hardly fit for human life.
We no longer draw water from the well. And we have lost the community relationships conducted at the well-head.
The world has become a worrying place and, at moments of acute public awareness, a disturbing thought snakes through the collective mind: where is all this going and what is it all for?
Civilisation is a process of substitution. Substitution of the costs and benefits of a simpler life for those of an elaborate, sophisticated life. Labour-saving technologies make life bearable, yet little labour is saved - it is actually redistributed to a complex range of activities, mainly via the agency of money.
Some civilised activities are distinctly burdensome, no matter how we rationalise them - tax, pollution and war. We are addicted to civilised self-punishment. Even many of our pleasures involve self-abuse.
This doesn't mean nothing can be done.
Civilisation has not been fully thought through. Our civilisation benefits some and harms others. Our technologies, social structures and mindsets are not the best available. There could be greater happiness.
A high price is being paid. During the 21st Century, we get the bill.
Keeping the show on the road
To maintain a civilisation like ours demands a sectioned-up psychology, with large buried and dormant parts and lots of underactive linkages.
To tolerate having so little time, joy, love and fellowship, we shut those parts of ourselves that wish we had them, or we engage in substitute activities - stroking the cat, making money or shedding tears over soppy movies. We have become psychological mutants.
This creates complications. The shut-down parts don't just go to sleep: they engage in subversive psychological strategies to force the issue and bring things to our attention. In response, we fight harder to keep our full selves down. Result: unhappiness, depression, alcohol, drugs, pills, isolation, workaholism, violence...
Our lives and societies are hopelessly inefficient and under-fulfilled. Ever more energy and investment go into offsetting the situation, trying to make civilisation appear to work.
We stand today in a historic transition-time, discovering what being civilised really means.
We must look at the roots of our problems as well as their branches. This is difficult because everything is interrelated, we've left it all very late and we fear an avalanche of consequences. Problems get shifted around rather than being properly resolved.
In the 21st C, civilisation needs to find a shape and texture that fits well with nature and human nature. For individuals, communities, society and the world. It involves a re-proportioning of human life, a change in the landscape, a transformation of towns and cities...
We all know the situation. Current events draw our attention to the key issues. They press our collective buttons, awakening strong feelings, sometimes crowd-actions.
Civilisation is not as advanced as we believe. Our technologies are clunky. We're caught in a vortex of complexification and diminishing returns. Things can change by choice or by force of circumstance. But the change needed is fundamental.
Starting with a shift in our minds, hearts and spirits. This is the main story of our time.
It is necessary to embark on a process of intense transition. Economic, environmental and social pressures point this way. Strangely, many formerly idealistic visions are now becoming pragmatic answers.
We could have started a big re-evaluation in the 1960s, when major global, human and ecological issues first came to light.
We might have devoted the 1970s to research, experimentation and tackling urgent issues. In the 1980s we might have invested in clean-up, technological change and reconstruction.
In the 1990s we might have started redesigning infrastructure and organisational systems, starting to address larger social, cultural, environmental, climatic and economic issues. In the early 2000s we might have been reaping rewards from earlier projects that needed development time.
By now we would be starting a second phase of longterm correction, getting down toward the root-causes.
This transition might conceivably have continued to the 2050s. The extent of the damage is so deep that much more emerges to be dealt with than first is understood. It would take time before the world could be regarded as truly safe.
We have not followed this timetable. We've delayed a long time. We haven't accepted the extent of our problem.
This implies that we could hit a crisis, launching into 'fast-track' change. Change through emergency and crisis-management. Perhaps like a war effort, hopefully without the shooting.
We have the skills, ingenuity and wherewithal to start the change process. But the world-view informing us today doesn't help. We want change as long as nothing really changes. We're stuck.
We have a dilemma, deep down inside. It causes frustration, overconsumption, addiction, pollution, war, indifference - all of these are diversionary tactics. Something holds us back...
8. The Wounds and Scars of Nations
How we got hurt, way back when
All peoples without exception are affected by painful, malignant and distorting scars derived from experiences taking place years, generations, centuries or millennia ago. Past sagas and the footprints they've left influence collective judgement and life today.
Past events are often invoked to justify current actions. When this isn't done, the past still surreptitiously informs experience and decisions.
Events arise which revive past associations, fears, triumphs and tragedies. Events are thus amplified or flavoured by past impulses.
These hidden influences are usually unconscious and unrecognised, hardly taken into account for their effect on society and international relations.
In recent decades there have been many inter-ethnic and civil wars, born from unresolved issues from the past. Even when ethnic groups and nations are technically at peace, their quiet resentments or anxieties can easily be stirred up. Reactions then become disproportionate to the situation.
It's as if we're all fighting for a place in the global scheme of things, staking out our niches. The incremental meeting-up of peoples and nations of recent generations has involved a multilateral squaring-up of global relationships. Such changes stir up an insecurity rooted in collective self-doubt.
What's complicating things is that the global game is changing from one of dominance-submission to one of community-cooperation. It's no longer clear what the rules are.
Here we examine the ways the psyches of nations have been damaged.
Starting with war.
Palestinians refer back to the Naqba, or catastrophe, of 1948. Israelis refer back to the Holocaust of WW2. Their past grievances intermingle with current ones, repeatedly re-justifying conflict.
Germans and British are sensitive about war - both having been aggressors and victims. Japanese are hesitant. Americans are assertive, yet harbouring hidden doubts. Vietnamese and Lebanese want to put it behind them. The shadow of war influences feelings for a long time.
Every country has lost its men, seen villages destroyed, rape, pillage and trauma, ruined people and localities, torn up land, bombed cities.
The shadow of war affects human groupings differently. As conflicts heat up, there is always choice between war or stepping back and resolution. Only sometimes is choice exercised.
Setting communities, neighbours and family members against each other, civil wars leave insidious hurt and damage. They deeply erode social trust-levels and consensus, feeding longterm grievance and resentment.
The 1860s American Civil War still affects presidential elections in USA.
Civil war stimulates individualism by splintering communities and families. It increases inbuilt social alienation. It sets precedents, making further conflicts easier to start.
Conversely, a conflict sufficiently resolved or forgiven empowers and binds a people, establishing an innate collective negotiability and attitudinal immunity to social division.
Stalinism, the Maoist Cultural Revolution and the Nazi Final Solution have been extreme cases. Every nation has had times of repression, cruel and grinding, costing its social fabric dearly.
Valuable people are lost through execution, gulag or exile. Alternatives are discouraged and lost. Social mores are weakened, issues suppressed, people divided and cowed. Crime and corruption take over.
If rulers turn against people, the logic of society turns upside down, warping social relations and setting negative precedents. Some people become accomplices and collaborators, adding a layer of betrayal.
This can set people back for generations (Cambodia). Or saying 'never again', a new consensus is forged that helps regenerate society (South Africa).
Outrages & cleansings
Sometimes nations or their leaderships go mad. People are rounded up, tortured, disappeared, massacred.
It is a social betrayal based on projection and the urge to eliminate blamed influences - an attempt to wipe out history, faiths, lifestyles or truths.
It hits certain types of people harder than others, yet it damages all relationships. Militancy ruins perpetrators and complicity ruins collaborators. Ultimately no one gains, and society is riddled with shadows.
Such nightmares have their origins in earlier times, and here the choice lies. To prevent social nightmares, their pre-conditions should not be laid down. Starting now.
Long, grinding, debilitating, hardship: resources and initiative become so depleted that revival seems impossible. It affects Chechnya, Laos, Albania, North Korea, Somalia, Haiti today - but many countries have known it.
Poverty, AIDS, corruption, pollution, land-mines, conflict, disasters - when compounded or drawn out, they push people into collective depression.
Social atomisation, mutual obstruction, chaos: overwhelming factors stunt revival - social self-sabotage.
Breakthroughs can arise from this - popular movements, good leaders, improved fortunes. Collective resolve can turn tragedies around, but people must trust and cooperate, building a new social spirit. Tricky to bring about.
All nations experience antipathy. Blanket judgements are made and myths are constructed about us or them.
The Cold War and War on Terror have arguably been over-reactions to geopolitical reality, ideologically exaggerated and deeply destructive.
Former oppressors should stop being a problem and de-mythologise their superiority. Conversely, feeling aggrieved doesn't greatly help former victims - life is in their own hands.
Deconstructing mythologies demands a truth process. Past pain deserves recognition, and present ills must be dealt with. Nothing heals more than justice and relief. The rest is a choice. The future requires a new realism.
This deflects attention from key issues, often driven by hidden motivations. It blocks change and progressive forces, hardening social empathy.
Outrageous or illegal behaviour are justified or covered up by blaming others. 'National security' justifies removal of social freedoms. Cultural barriers are reinforced. Violence and insecurity increase. Polarisation serves mainly the interests of the few.
When social preoccupations shift from what matters, all of society is harmed by narrowing possibilities, isolating people and propagating untruths.
Harmful ways and beliefs are now being exposed in every nation. This is threatening to some, and they fight to retain divisiveness, at the cost of the majority.
Nations can become self-immolating or suicidal. The world is today in an unprecedentedly self-destructive phase.
From pollution to corruption to terrorism, public self-destruction arises from old societal pain and despair. Ruling élites can be instigators but, if no one cares or feels able to change, it can be endemic too.
After tough times, hardship becomes an unconscious habit. Standards sink or fail to improve, and things get complex. Repression ends but crime flourishes. Racism dies, yet AIDS creeps in.
If a nation has steadying factors, nightmares can be overcome. Three major helping forces are women, social solidarity and moral leadership.
When things have been difficult, they can deteriorate further, because someone foments it, or a nation is tired and depleted, or because no one feels they can stop it.
Decolonialisation thus led to corruption and civil war across Africa. The passing of Mao led to extreme materialism and wealth disparity in China. The Soviet invasion in the 1980s moved on to civil war and then totalitarian rule in the 1990s in Afghanistan, making it a seedbed for global-scale terrorism.
Compound factors cause degeneration, but central is a collapse of standards and morals, normalising inhuman acts. This arises from ingrained social pain, which feeds powerlessness, cruelty and madnesses.
This creates submission or rebellion amongst the dominated, and remoteness and imposition by the dominators.
In India, the Aryan incursion on the Dravidians created a rigid caste system lasting 3,500 years. In the Middle East, nations created by the British and French in the 1920s have been stricken by strife and misgovernment ever since. Western oil-money and political influence have perpetuated this.
Dominators often start by being kicked around themselves - ancient Rome, the Mongols and the British. USA was populated by refugees and émigrés.
The dominated weakened themselves by in-fighting - then they are overwhelmed using 'divide-and-rule'.
Individuals have impacted heavily on humanity, through war, invasion, exploitation, persuasion or the simple making of big mistakes.
They have also brought healing, relief and reform, but what happens later on or after they're gone can lead to degeneration, collapse or horror.
Many people lost their lives when Alexander the Great, Genghiz Khan, Akbar, Suleiman the Great, Queen Victoria and Hitler were around. War in the names of Jesus and Muhammad has marked history.
So much rests on the power given by the people to leaders, who need helpers, followers and mass acquiescence. Once they gain power, a relentless train of events unfolds, causing longterm emotional damage to a people.
Insecure nations think short term: care for nature, the landscape and resources is forgotten. Love of nature decreases. Then come deforestation, over-fishing, soil depletion or outright destruction, especially in war and city-growth.
This depletion affects social moods, nourishment, traditions, innovation and economics. Those who live by subsistence are hardest hit, often flooding to cities. City-growth changes attitudes toward nature, and cities extend their reach ever wider in search of resources.
Environmental and social-political developments are connected, and we stand today in a position where an historic pattern of environmental degradation must change.
A fundamental healing process is needed. Treaties, fair trade, peace processes and nation-building have their place, but they do not replace healing.
Healing through creating economic growth and democratic institutions, without attending to social feelings creates fuel for future crises.
We need a deeper process of public communication, communion and reconciliation which talks to hearts in their own language of empathy and feeling.
Victims need to recognise that oppressors are themselves hurt and defensive. Oppressors need to realise that victims have genuine grievances and their own future.
Pain-inflicting activities ultimately help no one: they are internalised injuries externalising themselves.
Cycles of tyranny can go on forever. Until negative tendencies are turned around, their repercussions pass to generations uninvolved in the initial wrongs, often unaware of them.
Whatever justification is given for conflict, it is now critically obsolete. It obstructs the process of getting to grips with global issues.
So we must directly address collective and international hurts.
And we need to stop creating new pain for the future.
In the National Interest
The collective psyche of nations
'National interest' is usually handed down to us, as if agreed. It is usually defined by specific interests. Yet national interest is a bigger and wider question.
A nation is a gaggle of characters, voices, interests, groups. They don't act as a whole - each plays its own drama. A nation has a conscious ego (government), a subconscious (civil society) and an unconscious (the people).
Government, institutions, official culture and top-level power-holders, however they got there, embody the controlling ego - 'mission control'. They coordinate and summate all the interests and viewpoints of a nation, in the nation's best interests - theoretically.
But they tend to form a self-defining culture living in its own universe ('Westminster', 'inside the Beltway', 'the Kremlin', 'the G8'). At defining moments, the majority's universe scrapes and collides with it.
Institutions, organisations, media, civil society and local power-networks represent the subconscious, operating locally and in sectors, each with their viewpoint. The public, popular feelings and movements, nature and 'chance events' represent the collective unconscious.
All of us have conditioned areas of our personal psyches that subscribe variously to the beliefs and strictures of 'central command', the subconscious and the unconscious - we are behaviourally inconsistent.
The national pile usually functions in an orderly fashion but sometimes things shift beyond the framework managed by mission control. During the 20th C there have been mighty attempts by mission control to contain and channel the collective unconscious along prescribed lines, according to its logic.
But ultimately the controlling ego exists by the grace of the subconscious, civil society, which itself operates by the grace of the unconscious, the people and their feelings.
All the world's a stage
Today, consumers, voters and 'the street' have ways of seeing things and asserting sentiments they have not articulated or understood before.
In the collective movie, characters and situations come on the screen to embody issues and imagery in the collective psyche - stars, figureheads, floods of refugees, heroes, troublemakers, advocates, victims - whose appearance might be short-lived, but they catalyse processes by which the collective psyche evolves and distils its position.
Add to this events and 'acts of God' - storms, earthquakes, climatic extremes, plane crashes - which at times have an uncanny, apposite timeliness and apt symbolism.
These phenomena happen not just 'by chance'. They stir up ideas, feelings and processes that are the stuff of real change and real life.
People and events bring out a nation's highest and noblest qualities and its seediest, lowest and most destructive elements.
All the world's a stage, and all the men and women merely players. They have their exits and their entrances, and one man in his time plays many parts...
As walking involves cooperation of limbs, organs and brain-function, so the various bits of a nation have to work together to produce net movement. When this is dysfunctional, turbulence breaks out, and a fermentation follows.
In the national drama different elements shout for attention - some attempt to dominate the agenda. Outcomes depend greatly on truth-levels in a society.
Each nation plays a part in a larger global chess-game. Some really like hogging the podium. The chess-game has its own agenda and story-line, enveloping those of nations. Global stage dramas are different from what goes on backstage or at home.
Travel, education, media, telecoms and population growth have brought a shift in the chess-game: since the 1960s the world's population has incrementally become aware of itself as a wholeness.
The psychic internet
The psyche of a nation is a buzzing interactive network of attention, ideas, feelings and preoccupations, with a certain commonality of psychology and interests.
It encompasses the nation's imprinted history, remembered and lost, and its self-image, icons, angels, devils and future possibilities.
A 'morphic field' of psychic data-bits, it contains stored memories, dreams, hopes, fears, hang-ups, tendencies, impressions, viewpoints, experiences, sub-personalities and tonalities.
Public figures, institutions, representative groups and organisations, as well as symbols and images, cultural output and events, become its agents, lightning-rods and channels.
The life-story and mythology of a nation is contained within the imprinted saga of all that has brought it to the present time. Public consciousness draws on this pool of subjective experience as it faces different situations, and often in unpredictable ways.
Nations are reality-bubbles, each with a way of seeing life unique to them.
National psyches rumble strongly when momentous or symbolic events take place - wars, tragedies, shocks or high or proud moments. This rumbling invokes deep forces beyond people's full comprehension, at times causing eruptions and reactions disproportionate to the situation at hand.
The boundaries of collective psyches are unclear. Transnational groupings cross spatial boundaries yet they have a psychic territory - and when they meet up, their own little world is reactivated in that meeting.
Nationalist feelings derive from a feeling of ethnic lostness. They represent a grasping for identificational symbols and protective stockades, often because people have lost track of the true heart and pulse of the nation.
Rubbing up, rubbing along
In the 21st C, an enormous global forgiveness and reconciliation process is needed to help redeem enduring negative effects of the past while helping to integrate the positive effects of globalisation.
There's no inherent problem in racial, ethnic or class differences unless problems are made out of them, or unless those differences become exceptionally unjust or irreconcilable.
There comes a point where focusing on differences becomes counter-productive. We're all people, co-inhabitants of Earth.
Yet our differences pose real questions which cannot be swept aside - they inevitably rise up again if denied or underrated.
Basic common global values are gradually being thrashed out in our time. No one cultural bloc will prevail. This is the weaving of a tapestry where all threads create the pattern.
Socio-diversity enriches the world, and inter-cultural respect is now vital. Respect doesn't demand agreement, only recognition of the part cultures and nations play in the world matrix.
We fail to see our ethnic and national strengths and weaknesses as others see them.
We become what we most seek to control, suppress or exclude. Intolerance betrays the hidden agendas of those practising it.
No conflict is resolved unless all parties acknowledge themselves as others see them. No understanding is achieved unless we own in ourselves what we most dislike in others.
No statement of national interest carries true weight unless the whole of a nation's psyche - with its fear, guilt, shame and regret - is built in.
Nations act out their self-images, dramas and shadows while reciting lines from an official script. International politics is riddled with this - a divergence between the official line and real life unfolding on the ground.
Nations see only what they choose to see of themselves. Within each nation there is variation of perceptions. The sumtotal of all perceptions is the true national psyche. Therefore the priorities of limited interests are not the national interest.
The tip and the iceberg
The official, publicly-accepted story, is but the tip of an iceberg. At times hidden stuff makes the big difference in international relations.
A nation's psyche has many rooms, halls and corridors. The main hall into which guests are invited is the national ego - its sanitised attractions, official culture and assets. Looking down the back-streets at its squalor, corruption or poverty is taboo. A nation can get irritable if its cover-ups are exposed. All countries have this under-the-carpet stuff.
A wise country acknowledges all parts of itself, owning up and taking responsibility for all it is and does. This is in a nation's overall best interest.
An unwise nation hides and excludes those parts it doesn't want to 'own' and be accountable for. Unacknowledged traits will come back to haunt it, even centuries later.
What a nation believes about itself conflicts with what it is. A nation's ego makes the defining decisions about money supply, policy, law and a big chunk of the national agenda, exercising a tone-setting and enforcing influence even when the country is against it. Those in office live very different lives from people 'on the ground'.
A nation's core institutions should reflect rather than control the nation. This is what democracy aims for. Political systems work longterm only if the nation's centre responds to the periphery, the people, the provinces and real life.
The collective unconscious moves in strange ways and, if central command over-controls the national flow, funny things start going bump in the night, and control ebbs away.
In national decisions, someone will always lose out, but a just and fair balance of loss and gain has to be found. Without this, something fundamental is lost in the national spirit and a tidal pressure for change builds up, eventually to burst. Sooner or later. By whatever means.
If a nation fails to acknowledge the full extent of its problem, the new order takes on many characteristics of the old order, sometimes making things much worse.
The shadow is the back-end, what a nation doesn't want itself or the world to see - or smell.
The shadow is a nation's down-and-outs, losers, exiles and rejects, its garbage-dumps, prisons, pimps, seedy, sordid and corrupt aspects, and its 'black' or 'grey' economies, bombs, failed harvests or violence.
Some societies get seriously stuck in a shadow-loop: high levels of social badness and mutual deception grip the population, and the rot cannot be stopped.
Stepping out of such a loop involves a cultural revolution wherein wholesome human trust, honesty and mutuality are restored.
All nations need to examine themselves, reviewing their truths and untruths, setting in motion a process of reintegration and self-healing.
This process reconciles conflicting influences in a nation. Without it, conflict always comes up, since concealed truths turn differences into conflicts.
Here narrower definitions of national interest don't work. The whole national interest needs to be clearly perceived, with no concealments - or the nation and the world both pay a price.
Governments conceal their true agendas - and the public usually goes along with this. Worse, the public goes along with the official line even when it doesn't believe it. Such complacency is not in the national interest.
It is in the national interest to strengthen and enliven human life and civic fabric. It means fostering good, warm and genuine community and international relationships. A police presence is no substitute for a friendly society. Advanced healthcare is no substitute for wholesome food and a healthy environment. Armed forces are no substitute for good relations with other countries.
Defining national interest is not as simple as is usually made out. Narrow national interest charges a high price in wider implications and longer term. Future generations are left to handle the results.
Take me to your Leader
Power and legitimacy
When political leaders take office, they embody a nation and channel issues and influences far beyond their personal ambit. They become channels or victims of larger dynamics. Only those who have sat in hot seats really understand this.
Becoming public property, they must often go against their instincts or preferences to do what is required, even lying or harming people when they might not want to. What they are appreciated or condemned for has only some relationship with what they do.
They must be a hard nut to handle the battering of public life. This discourages many sensitive and principled people, particularly women, from standing for office.
There's another problem too: no one becomes a successful political leader without doing a deal with background power interests - more about this later.
Stuck in offices, meetings and public roles, politicians are nearly prisoners. They see the view from their official eyries only, losing track of realities on the ground.
People are nowadays pretty jaded with leaders. In some cases this is justified and in others it makes the job of a sincere leader very hard. At times prospective leaders raise great hopes but disappointment follows.
Reformers or peacemakers get assassinated, or they are disabled by opposing lobbies or outside intervention, by events or their own actions. Liberal reformers get squeezed between radicals and conservatives. There have been success stories, or questionable leaders with redeeming qualities, and some autocrats further back were heavyweight warriors and reformers combined.
Good leadership is unusual, medium-good leadership comes as a mixed blessing and bad leadership is too common. Today disappointment, scepticism and anti-authoritarian attitudes are common - one symptom is low voter turnouts.
Electoral democracy has major problems: electorates feel unrepresented, electoral quirks enable unwanted politicians to gain power, coalition-building gives extremist parties disproportionate power, election outcomes often reflect campaign spending and marketing more than truth and benefit, and there can be electoral corruption, jerrymandering and glitches in the election system which distort results.
Democracy honours two key requirements: 1. when the public feels strongly, it needs the power to express its preferences; and, 2. when it wishes to get rid of a government or assert a constraining or enforcing influence, it needs to be able to do so.
The public doesn't want to be involved in every single question but it does wish to be involved in things it considers critical. It is incumbent on the public to express its preferences intelligently and maturely. Churchill once said "The best argument against democracy is a five minute conversation with the average voter".
Electoral democracy, as practised, thrives on disagreement and the failure of dialogue and consensus. Majorities (usually) win while minorities are disempowered. It relies on opinionatedness, allegiances and competitiveness, contributing only sometimes to the synergy and unity of a society. Opinions and standpoints are but the beginning of dialogue and negotiation, and the trouble is, electoral democracy stops there.
Democracy avoids the alchemical fermentation of focused group process. Group process obliges participants to step beyond their starting positions to establish consensus and unanimity through listening and hearing. New light is cast on individuals' positions, helping them find their contribution and place, and to value others' contributions and positions. It reveals the position of the population as a whole.
Across the democratic world a malaise has crept in. Everyone quietly knows that the biggest decisions are made behind closed doors by business and other power lobbies.
No simple laws govern the legitimacy of leaders. The 'hand of God' and the 'mandate of heaven' work in strange ways.
The people, with their diffuse, varied and manipulable opinions, often take time to formulate their ideas. Leaderships act faster, more assertively and one-pointedly, at times gaining an advantage over the public.
But at other times the varied interests of masses of people are brought together by shared circumstance and sentiment. Electoral landslides, waves of opinion, acts of solidarity, agitation or revolution follow such a wave of feeling or knowing. If momentum gathers and the times are right, the collective unconscious asserts a determining influence on 'central command'.
At times the ruling élite seems to have a charmed life. Some élites hang on a long time, appearing to have won the argument. But no regime or empire is everlasting, and no one is completely right.
History is larger than anyone. We humans have our plans and agendas, but the deeper collective psyche has plans too, at times very different.
In the background awareness of nations, a deep composting and fermentation process is going on. The searchlight of public attention is running through different aspects and details of one big, connected picture.
Undercurrents can lurk around for some time, awaiting prompts from events or from deeper down. New issues burst into the public arena quite spontaneously, sparking social movements out of nowhere.
Changes usually start with a thought in the mind of an individual or the thoughts of a number of people simultaneously. Or events can catalyse a shared response in crowds of people, bringing together communities who previously had no relationship.
Such change-bringing ideas or urges break previous norms, creating a new angle on reality which previously was unseen. It quickly wrongfoots the established order and turns the tide of society. The collective unconscious strikes again.
Power in a society concerns active, conscious participation. It is the duty of all members of a society to be alert to what goes on in its midst. If this fails, social power devolves to those who will deal with society's shared issues - leaders. Society sets permission levels to which leaders and ruling élites must conform.
Too often, societies accept their lot, but today collective consciousness is changing. Thresholds of power and principle are shifting quickly, in historic ways. Today we are part of a mass awareness-training process, in which events and popular sensitivities are interacting ever more intensely. Three key public issues being learned are vigilance, consistency and willingness to change.
The Mandate of Heaven
The legitimacy of leaderships and power-structures must increasingly be earned, not assumed.
The people's skill in asserting their leadership, in making intelligent choices and supporting and restraining leaders, is becoming critical.
Forgiveness of the past is crucial. Forgiveness means holding responsible people accountable, while releasing ill-feeling and blame since, ultimately, everyone is responsible.
The big issues of our day require great public attentiveness, clear consideration and soundness of judgement. Without these, the public sacrifices its power.
People-power is driven from below, but it too must be earned: legitimacy and the 'mandate of heaven' applies to the public as well as to its leaders, in the ruthlessly impartial view of the collective unconscious.
Without legitimacy, the corrective magic of change and reform cannot come about.
Controlling interests have sophisticated ways of running the agenda. Often society is negligent too - for which hidden, lurking guilt can remain for generations. The public undermines itself in supine, helpless, easily-diverted and chronically indifferent ways. It needs now to step out of this self-sabotage cycle.
The cycle is reinforced by the oscillation between conservatism followed by outbreaks of change. To some extent this is an organic oscillatory tendency, yet it also reflects popular fickleness and inconsistency. Revolutionaries have faced this problem: how to create 'permanent revolution', balancing change and stability.
Worldwide, we live in a schizoid situation: while addicted to conformity and regularity, much of Earth's population is also thinking in new ways, forming new conclusions. Truth thus bursts out in rushes, signifying uncertain commitment to truth and change.
Humanity is yet to decide fundamentally to change. Until such commitment arises, these fitful outbreaks will continue, as if we are trying semi-consciously to trick ourselves into awareness and change, without having to decide.
Balance of power
The collective unconscious clarifies its views instinctively and intuitively. It encounters defining situations in which sharp choices, new information and changed perspectives come up. In these moments it sets the rules and parameters for the next phase.
The power of definitive events depends not on the magnitude of events but on their poignancy, their stirring, inspiring and upsetting effect.
Whether by consumer, voter or political pressure, by withdrawal of support, by protest or revolution, the people (the collective unconscious) have ways of influencing their leaders. This should be exercised. Wisely.
This points to a new kind of leadership in the 21st C: facilitative, consultative and to some extent therapeutic, clearly motivated by a sense of service.
The primary role of government leaders is to oversee the overall health of the social process. Society looks after its own health. It is the quality of the social process that yields 'rightness' - this needs facilitating.
Good therapists elicit, encourage and assist social process, with minimum intervention or steering. Sometimes they take initiatives to raise the heat or cool it. Largely they bring forward the potential and insight of the people and the situation, to find the best overall outcome.
When leadership has integrity, the people usually give trust and power. The reciprocity, synergy and productivity of the relationship grows. This transforms hollow electoral democracy into a para-constitutional interaction more closely resembling the democratic ideal.
If the public holds the onus to define those things it wishes to define, leaderships then can focus on what the public doesn't define, making proposals and soliciting feedback. If there is none, they solicit permission to act on the public's behalf.
Critical to this process is collective social commitment. Society must hold the final power. This needs public awareness and participation.
This means staying with the process and seeing it through, whatever it involves. The process, the question, is complete, when everyone has come to peace over it, whether by agreement or acceptance.
It means being willing to commit to the outcome that is achieved, and to follow it through. If society gets things wrong, it will learn, but the learning process needs to be accommodated and planned for too.
In group process, there will always be disagreement. When a decision is made, detractors should be heard one more time, to check whether the conclusion truly is correct, and to draw detractors into the process.
If a decision cannot be made, it's often a matter of laying it to rest until it can be made, or entrusting the decision to someone who can make it, and taking responsibility for that.
While this process is not necessarily easy, history as we have known it has also never been easy. Change is needed, and this is the way things are going.
Humanity is challenged to mature, to take responsibility for social and international process, to get involved and be committed.
Within the collective psyche, this means the collaboration and integration of the ego, the social subconscious and collective unconscious. This is an emotional issue, a choice to cultivate trust, mutual appreciation and support.
Ordinary people must take greater control of their lives and choose their leaders carefully. Leaders must commit to serving the greatest good. This involves a systems change, the cultivation of a supportive, intelligent society. It involves coming to terms with the pain of the past, and generating willingness to look at things we'd prefer not to look at.
We have to talk frankly about things we daren't usually talk about. Satyagraha (Gandhi's term): the force of truth, realism and inevitability. Truth doesn't start with them, it starts with us. The human race is beginning to become human.
Where lies the Power?
Behind business and government
There is one crucial matter that is often quietly shoved to the side. It concerns the highest levels of power. Here we enter a complex world of unclear ownerships, big numbers, remote characters and smoke and mirrors, where little is verifiable.
Yet if we wish to see change, this matter must be raised. A small number of people hold a disproportionate capacity to block, slow, obfuscate, steer, nudge or, indeed, promote world change, without most of us knowing.
Power is intricately and broadly distributed, mainly through the agency of money. There are millions of stakeholders, yet the highest levels of power are concentrated in very few hands. No one fully understands or controls this multiplex global system, though sufficient is known to make it work well in many instances. Deceptions and illusions are involved.
This said, the tweaking and skewing doesn't always work and, by quirk or by decision, undercurrents, waves of change or reforms come about to counterbalance this tendency. Power structures can also become victim to their own illusions.
Instruments exist to influence political and market conditions and crucially affect the whole system, especially when big players act in consort. Such concerted pressures have been applied in many areas: wars have been fomented, inventions bought out and suppressed, inventors and dissidents ruined, funding withheld and ideas smothered, to further big-power interests.
The influence exercised by major players raises a problem of power, politics and accountability. Global structures are flexible and capable of adaptation, so we're not talking about destroying the existing system but shifting the way it is run and applied. Its rules and parameters are slanted in ways that create fundamental ecological, cultural and human problems.
The problem is that, in the modern world, markets are supposed to be free and responsive to supply and demand, and governments are supposed to be democratic and accountable. But the biggest players can dominate and rig the system, get rid of inconvenient public figures and steer things in their way.
This happens through networks of friends and common interests, and by powerful organisations and people - ultimately about 400 people worldwide. Whether or not Freemasons are involved, they operate in a well-evolved masonic style and pattern.
That is, members of power elites are nominated and chosen or vetted and approved. Things are sorted out behind closed doors according to a logic which has evolved over several centuries. The more that democracies and 'open societies' have developed, the more background and invisible these networks have become.
This isn't a single 'big brother' source, though there are key players - it's more of a power-system with well-established aims to introduce world government of a certain kind, to deflate the power of religions and popular movements and to promote secular values in which ordinary people are co-opted into becoming vested interests and reinforcers of this system. This power is transnational and outlasts generations, and the ability to get to the top is open only to those who are chosen or approved.
Power at the top is wielded by a very small number of people. They know each other. Only some are publicly well-known. They often work through protégés, front-organisations, via quiet personal chats, select meetings or specific pressures applied in specific directions.
Such background sources of power define the main parameters and agendas and, when necessary, decide what really happens. The ability to pull strings and control is not infinite or infallible, but these people constitute a more powerful force than any other grouping.
Here lies our problem. Left to itself, the world would generate a greater momentum for change than we have seen. But the world is not left to itself, and the international system is not responsive to public opinion and genuine human or ecological need - it responds mainly to dominant interests.
There are exceptions, things aren't and cannot be totally steered. But the ability of this system to absorb and co-opt new initiatives, influences and trends is one of its survival mechanisms.
Ultimately, the world is steered by about 300-500 people. Thousands more exercise contributory inputs - billionaires, key position-holders and high-ranking voices in the system. Background power structures plug into and depend on this overall layer of more publicly-visible power.
The paper value of assets controlled by the world's three richest people is equivalent to the annual GNP of the whole developed world. Out of all world investment in 1999, 76% went to the developed world and 24% to developing countries. Developing countries constitute 90% of the world's population. Enormous wealth is created on the back of enormous global poverty and dysfunctionality.
They have sufficient clout and resources to shape national and global trends, policy and de facto reality. They can pull strings of governments and bend ears in global institutions. Do things our way and you get promotion and success. Don't, and you pay a price. They know the right people and can usually tilt things one way or another.
Absolute hands-on control is not necessary, since the world economic system, geared to self-interest, sees to that. But on critical issues, they get their way. The world public doesn't usually stop it, and the media, education systems, incentives and pressures make sure the public doesn't feel a need to do so.
In recent times, this system has changed from one of force to one of incentive. The threat of loss of comfort, position and security are sufficient to keep people in place
Mechanisms and instruments
This isn't one formalised organisation, more an organism, a caucus of shared interests. Any system will always have a small number acting as its main brains, but the big question is how they are motivated and how much they are in touch with the realities most people experience.
Many of the world's top players show up in conferences, think-tanks and organisations such as the Davos and Bilderberg conferences, the Council for Foreign Affairs, OPEC, OECD and others. But even here, the basic policies and drift of these organisations are agreed quietly behind closed doors. This operates through private contacts or the confluence of ideas and intents shared by people with interlocking interests.
Different interest groups, schools of thought and generations are united by a common interest in controlling power and resources and stopping other things happening. This is elastic: people, ideas and dynasties rise and fall. Things shift and change, but not fundamentally.
This isn't necessarily a unified conspiracy: it is a network of common interests. In any society, this happens - those with experience, seniority, information and influence get together to collaborate, talk things through, engineer things, consult trusted friends, build coalitions, do each other favours, pull off wheezes, promote ideas, pull strings and, when necessary, sabotage, discredit, exclude or clamp down on whatever threatens them.
Some participants represent old money (such as the Rothschilds) or newer money (Bill Gates); there are key resource-holders (de Beers and oil-sheikhs) and corporate interests (Rockefellers, Fords, the Carlyle Groupl); royal dynasties (Windsors and ibn Sauds); key organisations (CIA, EU and OPEC); groups of interests (military-industrial, finance, energy, pharmaceuticals); statespeople and office-holders, key advisors, professors, diplomats and executives; central banks, big investors, market leaders and strategic business consultants. There are organised-crime (Mafia, Colombians) and covert-ops members (NSA, MI6) and an assortment of oddbods (such as arms traders and offshore fixers). Wealth, influence, placing and acceptability determine participation, and there is no formal admissions procedure. But you don't succeed unless permitted.
There are conspiracies: cabals, lobbies and secret schemes that promote shady, narrow aims, some of which are highly questionable. But top nobs can have large-scale effects on humanity and nature, prioritising the interests of the few over the many, without actually constituting an intentional conspiracy.
Absolute control is unnecessary since the system as a whole, with its rules, norms, managers and enforcers, handles the majority of issues. Instead strategic interventions are made to influence longterm trends by nudging specific ideas or initiatives into action.
Yet top-down control suffers from organisational clunkiness, poor intelligence, insulation from reality, internal argument, the law of unintended outcomes, competing vested interests, near-sightedness, rogue operators, conflicting issues and force majeure - so this business is not easy.
Glitches in the system
The system is not entirely foolproof, and here lies a crucial point. Its priority is to perpetuate the overall status quo of power and to promote its agenda. Society is awash with change and innovations, yet somehow the wider and deeper agenda remains the same.
Yet this system, though powerful, is not all-knowing: it sees what it can see, and is limited to its own viewpoint.
Something else is going on too: a new agenda surfaced in the 1960s, suitably constrained in the 1970s-80s but nevertheless growing as an historic undercurrent. New factors have appeared on the world stage: the environmental and climatic crisis, soaring demographics, the rising impetus of the former Third World, changing public values and humanity's maturing psycho-spiritual condition.
The impact of these factors is not fully seen by the world's controlling interests because they live in a world of their own. As long as the world's population is disunited and kept busy scrabbling for crusts, all is well, but when larger forces take over, power comes into question.
There is conscience and foresight amongst people at the top, and some are deeply concerned for the future. Anti-capitalist demonstrations jolted them and exposed a rift. The rift is not clear-cut, but American neo-conservative actions since 9/11 have driven a wedge into the cracks.
The rift resolves into two main camps.
One camp inclines toward humane, forward-thinking, liberalising values incorporating ecological, humanitarian and planetary issues - at least inasmuch as money-making and continued power rely on thinking ahead and thinking big. It tends toward soft power (business and culture) and internationalism.
The other camp is reactive, promoting a narrower, harder-hearted conservatism and self-preservation instinct, tending to deny change and stop it happening, except when it is in its own interests. It tends toward hard (military) power and American superpower dominance.
This global power setup has largely been centred in USA and Europe, with Europe tilting toward the first camp and America toward the second. And it is not simple and clear-cut, because there are various agendas at stake, and power-mongers, while interdependent, are individualists.
That old thorny question. Both conspiracy-deniers and conspiracy-promoters are very emphatic about their positions, distorting the question. There are shades of conspiracy.
There are secret projects and black ops which intentionally pursue a master-plan - some of them longterm.
There are background manoeuvrings to promote certain big ideas - such as scientific, pharmaceutical and ideological interests - or simply the accruing of wealth.
There are groupings who share interests and thus act as a powerful bloc, both public, discreet and hidden. With significant influence or wealth, an assertive group can swing markets, pull off political stunts or influence public opinion or governments sufficiently to control or skew things considerably.
There are groupings who implicitly act together without intentionally cooperating - they have shared or converging interests and therefore make similar decisions or act along similar lines.
There are conspiracies that appear to be so, but they don't exist, or they're not really as they are described.
There is also fantasy injected into the arena. And there's truth in it too.
The public pays a high price by failing to identify society's true controllers. It makes people more susceptible to manipulation, coercion and exploitation.
It is naive to believe they can be got rid of - history has shown that revolutions and sudden regime changes can bring back the same problems in different clothing. Because the key issue is that people as a whole permit society to be hijacked and hoodwinked and, until this pattern ends, such problems will continue.
In our time, the key question is the motivation, intentions, competence and wisdom of power-holders. Because while they can be a key part of the problem, they have the wherewithal to be a key part of the solution.
But it's not quite that easy. Moral preferences, human rights, the natural world, poverty and peace are not the highest of priorities when questions of money and power are at stake.
There are and have been conspiracies based not just on self-interest, but on a big idea, and some are relatively benign in intent, even if the outcomes are very mixed - the Masonic writers of the American constitution, the Socialist International of 100 years ago and the recent environmental movement are examples.
And there are those whose big idea is to oppose timely and appropriate developments and block change, even at the cost of many lives and whole landscapes.
How we judge these complex matters depends very much on our own position and attitudes.
Abuse of power
The world is in a precarious state, and this makes the operations of background power-holders critically harmful to humanity. At present there is a strong coincidence of a collective psychology of fear of change interlocking with the manoeuvrings of background vested interests, whose main agenda is to promote and maintain a state of war, division and excessive resource exploitation across the planet.
War is a key method for diverting humanity from addressing its primary questions. It creates not only mayhem and destruction, but also damaged individuals and societies living in a skewed emotional field.
One historical example is Israelis who, with the founding of Israel in 1948, switched from being Jews persecuted by Europeans to oppressors of Arabs. Emotionally, their justification is defence from further threat - understandable, but arguably in excess to need and creating the very threat they fear.
Their sense of proportion has been skewed by painful historical experience, to the extent that they feel their own security overrides that of anyone else. The price it charges Palestinians and the rest of the world is clearly excessive.
Many Israelis will experience this as a harsh or anti-Semitic sentiment. This is part of the fight-back psychology programmed into the vortex of collective pain arising from the Holocaust. It is part of the defence, as are Israel's military prowess, security walls and strategic volatility.
It makes Israelis permit military interests to dominate their society. Since Israel is a settler nation founded on an idealistic basis, this is tragic. The whole nation is geared to a war footing, psychologically, socially and economically.
Israelis are not unique in this - they provide but a clear-cut example. Pakistan is another. Britain is another. Up to the 1980s, many South American countries were in thrall to military dictators, and today every country worldwide except Costa Rica feels driven to possess armed forces and to invest heavily in war preparedness. This is ludicrous.
It is driven by the interlocking of a psychology of fear and vested interests with sufficient power to infect society with military-acquiescent values and, at times, to set wars in motion.
Sometimes this can be a very small number of people, a lobby, who set out intentionally to promote war. The Nazis started out small.
The New American Century
During the Bush presidency, we saw a classic example of the public exposure of a form of conspiracy, the Project for the New American Century. PNAC was intended to ensure US dominance in the 21st C. Its effect was actually the opposite, hastening America's downfall.
PNAC was a bundle of ideas developed since the 1970s by interests believing in American superiority and seeking to maintain the primacy of the oil, weapons and high-tech industries of the 20th C. On the benign side, it perceived the international community incapable of organising international relations, except in a context of superpower geometry.
It represented a mindset whose day was ending, and incompetent execution of missions like the Iraq war hastened the process. This demonstrates that, while serious conspiracies do happen, seeking to jolt human history one way or another, their omnipotence, foresight and understanding of the world situation and the drift of history are not god-like or foolproof. In fact, their methods, and the complex situations they tamper with, can make their activities seriously flawed.
But still, they cause a lot of damage and suffering, and the emotional psychology of recipient societies can be damaged for generations.
How can this be ended? To some extent this pattern is integral to humanity - though background lobbies and conspiracies could nevertheless be more benign in effect. But what permits it is humanity as a whole, and its tendency to acquiesce in the arrogation of power by elites and vested interests.
As the philosopher Burke said in the 1700s: For the triumph of evil it is necessary only that good people do nothing. But ultimately, the only antidote to conspiracy is a rebuilding of the 'ring of power' in humanity and its nations and communities.
This involves a depth-psychological transformation of enormous proportions. But in the shorter term, two things can help: an increase in public vigilance and intuition, and a willingness to follow through on it.
This is serious, wide and deep. It is fundamental to human progress. If we had no background vested interests manoeuvring things, the world would probably not be facing an environmental crisis today, and many, many things would be different.
Ghosts and Ghouls of Nations
Issues that nations avoid facing
Fear, guilt and shame: these are common hidden factors in geopolitics.
Fear is an aversion to being revisited by past horrors, actual or imagined - an anticipation of danger or loss of control making a situation into a threat. Healthy fear alerts us to danger, readying us for action. Unhealthy fear comes from painful memories, preventing or skewing action.
Guilt is a tainted feeling of culpability for actions believed to be wrong or harmful. We fear being singled out and held responsible. Sometimes it is incorrect, exaggerated or misplaced. It is relieved by taking responsibility and correcting things. Then there is projected guilt - false or inaccurate accusation.
Shame is a feeling of having failed oneself or others - one could have done better. Mere association or complicity feeds shame - and enormous compensations are made to avoid it.
These feelings undermine the self-respect of peoples and nations, distorting their sense of reality. They cause irrational behaviour and elaborate avoidance tactics. They lead to great expense, complexity and loss of vitality, standing and integrity.
Situations reactivating such feelings are often rewritten, re-edited or forgotten, to make them more livable with, yet they nevertheless affect people's and nations' feelings and actions from underneath. However much re-editing of memory goes on, unconscious memory remains active and does not delete what has happened. So unconscious behaviour follows, exposing the true agenda through public errors, slips of the tongue, body language, tone of voice and over-reaction to charged situations. Or accidents, disjuncts, crises, weather extremes, tragedies, riots or social shocks.
Guilt and shame hover near the surface when nations and people approach sensitive thresholds such as independence, peace after war or the joining of an international organisation. Hidden history generates nervousness over national weaknesses or past crimes being exposed.
Quirks of forgiveness
Guilt drapes itself around the smallest of things. Australians love thrashing England at cricket - it's a get-back at age-old Pommie imperialist arrogance. The English no longer excel in sports they once invented. This exposes British pride - more paintwork than substance.
Relief and release can be feared most of all. In conflict-ridden places a violent minority can dedicatedly maintain a climate of fear to stop peace. Peace gives space for shame, guilt and accountability to emerge - fearsome not just for perpetrators but also for victims who don't want to feel their pain. Continued hardship seems better.
Social truth can involve a cooling down of the social heat that created conflict or hardship and a warming up of the social coldness that permitted polarisation and atrocity to break out. It involves re-knitting society to bring social extremes in from the margins. This works fine if there is reciprocal movement by all parties, but badly when some parties seek resolution while others don't.
Regret or reparation are less important than clear signs that behaviour is now acknowledged and ended. Past error can add to future benefit, but only when error is seen and genuine justice restored. 'Owning up'.
Everyone must re-enter the present and drop the past. To do so, we must own up to our actions in the past.
Troublemakers express bottled-up energies for the collective unconscious. Like leaders they are a lightning-rod for hidden issues, otherwise unarticulated. It takes a hurt person to be a terrorist, publicly expressing feelings a society dare not think privately to itself. Terrorism lives in every one of us. Officially we want peace - unconsciously we create terror. To free the world of terrorism, we must own up to our part in it.
We create unconsciously whatever we most fear. For Israelis, the fear of exile is so strong that they can overreact, seeking to annihilate those who threaten them. This has created Palestinian suicide bombers in retaliation. This high-stakes purgative path is not advisable.
Yet, to make things better, things sometimes have to get worse. The unconscious dynamics of this conflict are enormous, as if both sides are trying to make things so bad that something deep is burned out on both sides.
Fear and horror as medicinal healers
Every year, a new horror breaks out somewhere. Standards of negativity are getting worse. Nuclear war is less feared now than 30 years ago, yet eight nations still have 20,000 nuclear warheads between them.
We cannot vainly expect nukes and arms to go away. There are as many automatic weapons in the world as agricultural implements. This is a disgrace to us all.
World violence has escalated to a point where the world's people, fed by the media, personally witness every kind of ugly action humans can possibly concoct.
Human sensitivity has increased too - in the 1950s-70s horror and violence in films and TV were more accepted than today. Our growing sensitivity vies with 'compassion fatigue' and image-saturation, but each few years it shifts forward another notch.
During the genocidal killings in Rwanda in 1994, we witnessed horror of an ultimate, primeval kind. Stung by events like this, the feelings and sympathies of millions are stirred up and churned at a deep level.
As in butter-making, churning consolidates something new. Indifference is slowly transforming through shared pain into a healing balm of conscience and empathy. Horrors like these remind us of our own darkest feelings.
Guilt creates lurking stains on history. There are unpaid national and social debts that élites and the public prefer to forget: it's easier to rewrite history, divert attention and cover the tracks. These avoidance strategies get very intricate. Sooner or later they blow.
Compound guilt has led the world into moral compromise. Nations and vested interests scratch each other's backs in silent complicity, avoiding upsetting an international balance of untruth.
As a result, environmental degradation, corruption, debt, the arms trade, AIDS and corporate proliferation are permitted to continue. The price of disturbing the status quo is seen to be higher than the price of maintaining it. How disastrously wrong this is.
A nation is in a sorry state when it resorts to dishonesty to progress its cause.
The psyches of most nations have authenticity problems. The world needs a psychological shake-down, a cleansing of hidden agendas. This will allow things to progress.
Hidden agendas are usually fought out through conflict and manipulation of power, but this cannot continue.
Avoidance of truth and cooperation will, as the years roll on, charge an ever-increasing price: geopolitical games are becoming increasingly transparent.
If a nation mistreats other nations, or its own people, it dishonours and shames itself. It becomes unbelieved and disrespected, ultimately risking making itself a pariah state.
Shame and guilt are unconsciously felt by every nation. This can be internally debilitating. It festers within collective memory, awaiting circumstances in which to rise up and haunt the nation again.
Unconscious feelings are articulated by poets, comedians, freethinkers or priests, enacted by activists, protesters, philanthropists and social deviants, or expressed by women, underdogs or minority groups.
These commentators raise questions, struggle with the issues and implicitly suggest answers. This points to the redeeming grace concealed within guilt: it promotes conscience.
Following WW2, a burst of conscience motivated the UN Charter of Human Rights, an historic landmark. Guilt precipitated the NATO intervention in Bosnia in 1995, three years late. Better late than never.
When a nation or the world can no longer square with its guilt, times of truth inevitably follow. Full reconciliation of profound issues can take generations, but it starts when a nation acknowledges its errors and its shame.
Collective realisation quickly re-draws a nation's reality-map. The benefits of truth are suddenly seen to outweigh the costs.
It took USSR thirty years, until the late 1980s, to face the full buckling cost of Soviet centralism and realise it could not maintain its superpower status. Centralism proved a blessing too: if the man at the top makes a decision, it happens.
Meanwhile, the West, which could also benefit from perestroika (restructuring) and glasnost (transparency), failed to own up and reciprocate USSR's truth-process.
The West will face the full buckling cost of capitalism, militarism and consumerism when its economies stop generating sufficient wealth to avoid the question, delegating those costs to others. It is constrained by having no central decision-maker at the top - double trouble looms.
Since 1945 Germany has regularly been reminded of its former crimes. Time has now passed. Germany has since been an aid donor, a refugee haven, a diplomatic conciliator and an economic engine benefiting other nations.
Britain and USA rationalised their war excesses as necessary measures to end WW2. This is arguable but not flawless. All sides in a war partake of responsibility. A full catalogue of UK and US errors would be immense - full admission would clear the air. They cannot rightly deliver moral lectures unless their own history is cleaner.
Reparation. The value of compensation is debatable and varies from case to case. Recognition of past errors is meaningful emotionally and historically, but is reparation a solution? The main issue is restoration of justice in the present. This means social and cultural change.
There's more truth beneath this. Many cases of oppression, invasion, enslavement or victimisation arise because the victim nation was already divided and susceptible, by dint of its own errors.
Usually there are layers of truth in any situation. Blame often covers these over.
Things have changed
It doesn't heal anything to be backward-facing. What shall we do about the future? What is genuinely needed by victims and the underprivileged to help them to move forward into the future?
And do treaties and 'final settlements', democracy and economic growth relieve the ache left by history and solve all the problems? Or is it deeper down?
We must invest in re-balancing and redeeming the future. Concealed, unspoken truths need to come up and out. We must have done with them. They are lessons learned for future benefit. Otherwise, as Gandhi said, "An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind".
To reduce the drag-effect of history we need to adopt forward-facing strategies. We live where we live, and what has been done has been done. Things have changed. We start from here.
Every nation has irrational fears, connected to reality, yet crucially exaggerated, inflated with imagery, stuffed with associations and extrapolated to dreadful proportions - when, that is, we let them out to take a look.
Fear anticipates humiliation, terror, exile, powerlessness and annihilation. It feeds on a feeling that we don't have what it takes to handle and resolve things. This is not an objective, factual truth. It's a complex.
Yet it dominates geopolitical relations: axis of evil, terrorism, infidels, epidemics.
Releasing collective fear, guilt and shame is not easy. It requires a buildup of Gandhi's satyagraha - truth force.
Resistance to hidden truth is so habitual and tenacious that it takes unexpected, uncontrollable events to dislodge it. A nation has to be clamped in a vice, unable to wriggle out.
The paradox of shedding a burden of untruth is that life becomes easier. People forgive someone who owns up and genuinely changes. Compensatory, diversionary actions are no longer needed. Things are straighter and simpler.
Welcome to the 21st Century. Eventually, things will get easier for this reason.
Truth in our times
When things have been tough, the public usually wants just to forget the nightmare. This is initially helpful, since the first aim is to stop the horror and restore some normality.
But amnesia is not helpful longterm: it doesn't heal history's pain. It sets it aside, using palliatives such as economic growth, domestic security and good governance. These help, but they're substitutes.
If hardships return later, ghosts and ghouls can rise up again. Small situations and events can be blown out of proportion, the flames fed by buried feelings.
So the amnesia needs to include or be followed by a time of truth. In the 21st Century we must face this.
To create peace and mutually-assured security worldwide, everyone, reciprocally, must choose to trust. Yet painful truths need to emerge. Paradoxically, painful truths do help the restoration of trust.
Social and geopolitical healing are tricky. They take time.
In South Africa, racial reconciliation has proceeded well, except that improvement in economic justice has been slow. Buried pain is complex and goes back a long way. The collective unconscious, unable to express its pain, ventilated itself instead through street crime and AIDS.
Release of pain is something governments cannot easily direct. It requires a social movement, a new shared norm of openness and redemption. Though tragic, secondary social ills such as AIDS force up deep issues. For South Africa it is keeping the transformation process going. If only this could happen otherwise.
The whole world suffers post-traumatic stress disorder. Americans might look comfortable and satiated, but most of them are descended from exiles, refugees, bitter migrants and slaves.
During the 21st C we must somehow put all this behind us. There's too much to get on with. Yet this challenge might help us - we need our arms twisting.
Collective truth processes are now a high priority. It looks scary. It involves working out ways of doing it successfully.
Without truth processes, the future cannot properly begin - the past will always be dragged along behind. Problems will take time, generations to resolve, but the world needs soon to cross a critical threshold.
Its population needs to feel that progress is being made. A sense of shared progress changes the atmosphere, shifting our orientation back to the future.
No amount of persuasion, declarations, voting, legislation, aid or investment will do it. The big question of current history is emotional.
In the last fifty years the world has changed immensely, yet the structures and terms of operation of the world have not fundamentally changed.
The full advantages of globalisation will not be gained until the heart of humanity itself changes. Humanity's heart needs to be central in the world process. The next step in globalisation lies in the human and cultural realms. This will allow progress in environmental, political, religious and other matters.
To get to the bottom of this human stuff, we must be willing to dig up our ghosts and ghouls, turning them into something better.
Fear transforms into opportunity. Guilt transforms into clarity. Shame transforms into empowerment.
The pain involved in pursuing this process will be smaller than the pain of not pursuing it. This pain is of a very different quality: it is the pain of giving birth.
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