Mind Matters — Reflecting on SocIety

As I was driving last week, I caught the news on the radio that there had been a bombing in Oslo, Norway of a government building … next, the reporter presumes, with no evidence, that the perpetrator of this crime must indeed be a Muslim jihadist-terrorist. I immediately, as I am wont to do, yelled back at my dashboard, “No! This sounds like a white, right-wing extremist to me.” This same man, Anders Behring Breivik, soon after the explosion, massacred children and families at a summer camp.

Once the murderer was identified, no one called him a terrorist, but a lone madman. He may have acted alone, but his profoundly disturbed thinking arises from a milieu of fear and hatred that spews forth from many a media personality as well as from a certain “genre” (that nomenclature is undeserved) of writers—some of whom even purport to be Christian.

Steig Larsson, the author of the Swedish trilogy (Girl with the Dragon Tattoo being the first and whose Swedish title was Men Who Hate Women), was an investigative reporter who knew full well the dangers of the fascist far right. In uncovering the schemes of the right wing white supremacists and neo-Nazis in Scandinavia, his life was threatened many times.

Some may ask why am I writing about this in a column devoted to psychology? Well, I think that these events are exactly what need to be faced psychologically. We delude ourselves if we think what happens on a societal level here or elsewhere doesn’t matter. The irony is that we are, time and again, fed bread and circus moments that may, at first, appear to be attending to the bigger picture: Casey Anthony, case in point—a tragic story, yes; but one that reeked of the “quality” of gossip and deflected many of us from more pressing matters. Or maybe the media deflects us to Octomoms and Casey Anthonys for the very same reason that Breivik killed so many.

Whoa, you say, how dare I make such a leap! There appears to me to be an insidious disdain for women who don’t fit the mold. I am not proclaiming Casey Anthony’s guilt or innocence. But why did her case make national news? Why did Octomom hit the headlines? When women get out of line there is the lunge for the lynching. I just began reading Cleopatra: A Life by Stacy Schiff. This author notes how Cleopatra has been vilified by men for centuries as a seditious, seductive slut. In fact, she was a brilliant and complex leader. There is a patriarchal undertow to how women have been treated for thousands of years.

Note that Breivik castigated women: in his 1500 page manifesto, he decried the feminist movement for leading us into the multiculturalism that would be the downfall of the white male. Fortunately, not every man (white, or otherwise) who longs for the continuance of the patriarchy’s stronghold is prone to violence.

However, when we wish to keep others down or persist in thinking that any “race” (a bogus genetic issue anyway: there is more genetic difference within a given “race” that there is between “races”) is better than any other, or that men are of a superior gender, we do engender violence.

And so, in the long run, it is not about male or female, color or colorless! Every man carries the female hormone, estrogen; every woman, the male hormone testosterone. That biological fact correlates with the great psychiatrist Carl Jung’s view that within every man lies a feminine aspect of soul, and within every woman, lies a masculine aspect of soul. When an individual is balanced, the contra-sexual aspects are acknowledged.

Across the globe, women must be respected, of course. But even beyond that, the feminine principle that balances patriarchal dominance and aggression must find its rightful place. The “feminine” principle refers to care, compassion, collaboration, common good. Wouldn’t those qualities have helped Congress? Wouldn’t those qualities have removed the gun from Breivik’s hand?