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.”