The Danger of “Purity”

Several days ago I blogged about the TV series “Breaking Bad” and segued into human culture and its tendency to not allow this kind of self-criticism, which is especially so with hyper-conservative cultures. One reader posed the question about my particular culture (the United States), “How could purity be such an issue in a land of such conspicuous free speech?”

The answer lies in the human heart and its deep-seated and dark need to isolate in a particular mindset, to “know” the truth, to be ensconced in an autistic shell; and when anyone “knows” the truth in this way, then he/she must convince others of this same truth, even at the point of the sword! And that is the reason that in a land of free press an individual or group of individuals will not be content with his/her little universe that American freedom has granted him/her. The poison of his/her interiority is so pervasive, so rigorous, so lethal that it cannot be stopped and it must proselytize. It must spread like cancer.

Of course, this “knowledge” does not employ honest use of human reason. It is a fragile heart that has grasped at the Kierkegaardian “flotsam and jetsam” when overwhelmed by the vortex of meaninglessness….or, to be more precise, when unconsciously threatened by that vortex. This mindset never knows (consciously) the vortex and seeks to destroy any inkling of its existence, not just in its own heart but in the hearts of others also. Thus the demand for “purity”, “the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.”

Some of my readers are from other cultures and may not follow American politics. But if you happen to do so, you know that this “purity” motif is really pronounced right now in the right-wing base of the conservative Republican party. This movement has coalesced in what is known as the “Tea Party” movement within the Republican Party and it is really posing a threat to that party and also to our government. Though it is relatively small, this party screams loudly and have managed to cower the leadership of the Republican party and to influence a broad spectrum of that party.

Related to the “purity” issue is the fear of having been “penetrated.” This fear of violation was most clearly articulated last year when Michelle Bachman (who I like to describe as “Michelle ‘Deep Penetration’ Bachman) raised the hackles even of her Republican party by arguing that Islamist extremist had “penetrated deeply” into our government. In this purity obsessed mindset, always rife with paranoia, any incursion of “difference” is seen as a threat, a threat that must be deterred and even obliterated. For if their purity is violated, it will shatter…in their estimation…like a fragile vase. I argue, on the other hand, that mature purity can withstand threats and survive with the ensuing ambivalence, not giving in to the temptations of impurity

This purity obsession is compensatory. It is a defense mechanism designed to block the ravaging impurity which lurks in the human heart and is feared by these extremists to be seeping out and threatening to overwhelm them. Karl Jung said, on the other hand, such impurity (which he called the shadow) is to be acknowledged, embraced even, and thus deprived of its power. And “embracing” this dark energy does not mean succumbing to it. Those who are most likely to succumb to it are those who resist it the most. As Jung put it, “What we resist, persists.”

 

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7 thoughts on “The Danger of “Purity”

  1. wizardseed

    I’m into linguisitics and epistomology. I like to sudy how and why people get smarter. I’ve understood that there is no right or wrong ideas, but agreement and disagreement are important to human behavior. The thing where you focus on the austistic shell is the most important part of becoming intellectual. All brains with the same features can understand each other in the same ways given the same vocabulary; however, the world only so big and we are only large enough to see a small portion of it at a time. Because knowlege is awareness of thoughts relevant to symbols, Going deeper and smaller allows for the possibility that we uncover more of our brains with much less searching. The fine line between insanity and intelligence is the ability to let go and bounce ideas off of other people. Even if they’re wrong, there is knowlege that allows them to believe they are right. They just may not be willing to come up to the insignificant cloud of communication and share their ideas in words that signify almost nothing. This is called flirting, and it is one of the keys to happiness. I think you have your mind set on finding and understanding fear. I’d like to help. When we’re done, you’ll realize that if you focused only on joy, fear would be illusory. Still, theres merit in trying to grab the mirrage.

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  2. Sandeep Bhalla

    It appears that they are the people with their head in a jar of marmalade. All they can see is marmalade. I learned this example in some different context but it appears that the ‘Purists’ exist in different reality.

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  3. И℮üґ☼И☮☂℮ṧ via Victoria

    Looking at MRIs of a large sample of adults, researchers discovered that greater conservatism was associated with increased gray matter volume of the right amygdala (negative emotions, fear, aggression). Add death anxiety (religion) and dopamine addition (power, domination, religion, etc.) to the mix, and you come up with a brew that’s toxic to society, Unfortunately, we keep spinning our wheels because the root causes are rarely addressed.

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    1. literary lew Post author

      Thanks so much for your thoughtful response and also for the u-tube clip. That was so insightful. Along the same vein, you might want to check out Jonathan Haidt re the conservative mind. He has some “stuff” on Ted Talks and You Tube. Thanks again.

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    2. literary lew Post author

      Watched this again and will shortly show it to my wife. And I’m going to further explore your blog. You are doing good work. I think you are from England. If so, I love your country. If not, I love it anyway! Lived there for 9 months 11 years ago in city of Cambridge.

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      1. И℮üґ☼И☮☂℮ṧ via Victoria

        I’m from the US. I spent most of my childhood in California. I’m currently living in the South and have for most of my adult life. As you are aware, the South is very conservative so it has mainly been through online communities that I’ve been able to meet like-minded people.

        Last I recall, you were living in Costa Rica. Have you moved back to the States? I’ve never been to the UK but I would love to visit. I have dear friends from that region; one lives just outside of London, and the other lives in a seaside town in Wales.

        I’ve read many of your writings along with the insightful links you post. I appreciate your candor as well as your concern for humanity. Many thanks for your kind words, and for sharing my video. It’s simple and short but to the point.

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