Saturday, December 30, 2006

the in-between

I, like most people, attempt to make sense of the world through forms of "splitting." We like black and white thinking, gray is uncomfortable. Often, children use splitting as a defense mechanism: "When a two year old looks at the world, they see things as going entirely their way, or as a disaster. Mom is here, and feeding me, so she must be good. Mom is in the other room, she therefore doesn't exist (object constancy) so she has abandoned me, and is bad."*
This kinetic dualism we juggle justifies our realities- if I want to feel good about one decision, I have to make all other options bad. If my religion is right, all others are wrong. If my country's form of government is the best, all others are unacceptable. Essentially, splitting is the inability to stay in the "in-between" without an anxiety that paralyzes us.
Good Bye Lenin! is a film that doesn't let you split- I'll try not to spoil the plot. For me, the message of the film was that every victory contains a loss. Life behind the "Iron Curtain" wasn't ALL-bad and the "freedom" to "westernize" wasn't ALL-good. Wherever people end up living, they always create beauty and meaning. When the structure for that lifestyle changes, often much of the circumstantial beauty and meaning disappears. The passing of that regime was filled with ambivalence: it's nice to be able to travel and eat Burger King, but the nostalgia for life as it was is also present.
All of this made me wonder how much psychological splitting our nation had to do feel justified in our decision to launch a "pre-emptive strike" against a "potential threat." It's difficult to harm another when we are fully conscious of their dignity and depravity. It's easy when they are ALL-bad. Further, what routines, lifestyles, habits of being and traditions are no longer for some people. How much beauty and meaning had been created behind that "Iron Curtain" that is now lost forever?
But I guess it doesn't matter, we've given them "democracy"...

6 comments:

Peter said...

thanks for the recommendation, phil. I'll check it out.

It's interesting that we can be so certain about the corruption of systems that are different from the ones in which we live. It's also interesting how we can so easily become nostalgic for times that exist mostly in our memories.

Lian said...

Yeah, Goodbye Lenin is a great movie about the ambivelance of things. I agree with everything you're saying Phil - dichotomization is one of our great daily mistakes. However, I also realize that it is an essential part of our nature. To organize things into "digital" categories is the only way in which we as humans are able to interact with the world. Look at music or art even. What is music except an organization and structuralization of sound. What is a painting except a dichotomy, however complex, of colour and texture - separating one from the other - adding form to what is seen. Language, the framework for perception, is just an organization of sound and concept into defined structures. The danger lies, I think in overly simple dichotomies.

With the Iraq war for example there is such a strong temptation to say that it is a great good or an inexcusable evil. It is neither. It is, perhaps a good evil or an evil good. It is perfectly legitimate and totally unacceptable.
See, even in trying to describe the ambiguous nature of it I have to place it in a series of defined boxes.

bryan said...

nice find, friend. i look forward to checking this out! miss you guys!

elnellis said...

chad, good point bringing the necessity of separation into the conversation. it reminds me of the genesis creation account- God separated the waters from the heavens and began to distinguish this from that. even adam's call to name the creatures is a form of compartmentalization- but it seems that differentiation in that sense is for the purpose of encounter. when i split (use all or nothing thinking) it is usually more about me feeling safe or justified than it is about curiosity in the encounter.

elnellis said...

hey bryan! look fwd to seeing you next week, hope you are well.

Jaime said...

No sabia que te gustaran las películas extranjeras, hace años vi esa película y me latió un buen, esta bien chida. Me gustan las películas alemanas. Ahí luego te recomiendo algunas.
me gustó tu tono irónico, creo que la democracia es para los poderosos, a la clase trabajadora sólo se nos permite morir por ella, pero nunca disfrutar de ella. La democracia es una mentira más de los neoliberales.