In the previous installment, I described one way in which the brokenness of the anarchic intersocietal system (described by “The Parable of the Tribes”) fostered brokenness in the human creatures living within the civilized societies evolving in a way directed by the ongoing selection for the ways of power. Unavoidable conflict created the necessity for societies to have power, to survive, and the need for power shaped the societies so that they made demands on people that were in many ways counter to human nature and human needs. The human creature, socialized in such societies, is set at war with himself.
That’s one source of human brokenness. Another, out of the same dynamic, is simply the nightmarish historic experience to which human beings have been subjected because of the “war of all against all” that has been the inevitable by-product of emerging out of the biological order and into that intersocietal anarchy.
One of my books, Out of Weakness: Healing the Wounds that Drive Us to War, traced how such a history, and such a social evolutionary process, wounded people in ways that made them still more ready channels of the destructive pattern of brokenness.
Let’s start with this quotation:
People go to war to defend many things. It is sane to defend our lives and homelands against those who would take them from us. But the engines of destruction in human affairs are often fueled by a defensive-
ness of a different kind.
Contrary to rationalist and materialist assumptions about human motivation, what we human beings seem most ferocious in defending are certain beliefs we hold—or want to hold—about ourselves. We are not weak, we insist, nor are we insignificant. We most emphatically are not evil. Nor, we declare, are we confused or bewildered. It is in defense of these beliefs that we have so often been ready to kill and to die. This helps explain why the warrior spirit has been tinged with madness. For these beliefs about ourselves we defend so zealously we inwardly sense to be false.
We feel our confusion, but we insist on denying it because it is frightening. Even less are we prepared to acknowledge the painful guilt from the sense of our own evil. And, outraged by our condition as mere specks at the mercy of forces beyond our control, we fight to uphold a grandiose sense of our importance and power. The human condition can be terrifying, and we fight to protect our flight from that reality. (O of W, p.8)
But this “Flight from the Human Condition” is not a flight from the natural and inevitable human condition, but especially from the human condition under the weight of the experience imposed by the reign of power and the war of all against all.
We’re # 1: Fighting to Deny Feelings of Weakness and Worthlessness by Proving Ourselves Winners
We would accept being weak in a safe world. But it is unacceptable to be weak in a world where the mighty rule by force. It would be tolerable to be a moral creature whom time will allow to ripen like fruit and let fall. But it is a crushing burden to live under the constant threat of annihilation. (O of W, p. 18)
Hence, the violence and wars of the world get fed by the narcissistic injuries from the world treating one badly.
Historical forces that disregard human needs push people toward defensive grandiosity. The inevitability of the rule of power makes it inevitable that people will worship power. A species caught up in a destructive spiral out of its control will place control inordinately high among its values. People will seek occasions where they can impose their will to compensate for the epidemic experience of impotence….
At the core of this narcissism is the feeling of having been wronged…. From bad treatment one absorbs the feeling that one is bad. However, mistreatment can also engender the insistence on the opposite, compensa-
tory image of oneself as superior. (O of W, 17, 18)
The engines of war are stoked by the very injuries that war inflicts. People who have been terrified by forces beyond their control will insist on control. People who have experienced the terrors of being weak will crave power. People who have been treated as if what they are is of little worth will fight to prove themselves special, winners, the Master Race.
False Certainty: Fighting Heresy to Deny Confusion
Likewise with the fueling of the war system by people who insist that they alone have God’s Truth. The need for certainty is fed by how frightening are the uncertainties of one’s existence.
We are frightened to peer out into the darkness not only because our limited knowledge cannot illuminate it but because we have reason to believe that dangers await us there. The more the landscape is strewn with traps, the greater our need for reliable maps. The sense of mystery that, in a more benign world, we might have apprehended with wonder and awe now creeps toward us with terror mounted upon its back.
By condemning civilized peoples to inescapable insecurity, civilization has therefore greatly intensified the temptation to cling to false certainties. The experiments of social psychologists show that the greater the stress, the less tolerance for ambiguity. Over thousands of years of civilization, the larger human experiment has demonstrated the same relationship. The more one senses that a false step may mean disaster, the more impelled one feels to know with certainty that one is walking c on the true path. Dogma is the child of anxiety. (O of W, p. 18)
Destroy the Evil Ones: Fighting to Deny the Internal War by Fighting Against External Scapegoats
Another way in which the brokenness created by the rule of power drives people to create still more brokenness grows out of the harshness of the moralities often imposed by power-maximizing societies.
For the demands of power are often opposed to the needs of the human organism. The more intense the struggle for power, therefore, the more fiercely will the demands of society make war upon the natural inclinations of the human animal. Internalizing these demands, which are the fruits of the war outside, thus exacerbates, if it does not entirely engender, the war within the human psyche.The greater the gap between the internalized social demands and human nature, the more painful will be the intrapsychic conflict. We are more likely to be taught to regard our natural desires as evil; the warring parts within us will be less reconcilable. To deliver ourselves from pain, to experience ourselves as more whole and harmonious within, we will be tempted to deny our evil. But since the sense of evil does not simply disappear, we will project our forbidden desires out into the world, and reconstrue the war inside us as a war out in the world. (O of W, p. 19)
The struggle for power “thrusts us into the insecure Hobbesean ‘state of nature’ that provides so ample a supply of “potential enemies, and it drives us to see in others what we cannot bear to acknowledge in ourselves.
War without fosters war within. And war within fosters war without.
Thus does anarchy in the world cycle conflict into and back out of the human organism.
Brokenness, from level to level, and back again.