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IN AN ACCURATE DESCRIPTION OF A PROBLEM LIES AN EMBEDDED SOLUTION
Seemingly war necessarily involves at least two people who may or may not be playing out the same role.
At least one of the people waging war has to be an aggressor intending to defeat his/her ‘enemy’. The other actor will play the role of defender and in so doing will either be passive (surrendering) or active (counter attacking). Irrespective of roles chosen to be played (aggressor or defender) both sides are likely to feel justified.
Once begun, a war – whether between two people or millions of people – has a life of its own and is very hard to contain until both sides have had enough pain and suffering. Further, the bitterness that ensues stirs understandable passions for revenge and justice leading to a predictable re-enactment of archetypal Romeo and Juliet scenarios punctuating the entire sweep of history.
The question is raised: is the noble idea of sustained world peace no more realistic than a child’s life long fantasy of a perfect family experience or the newly wed’s fantasy of a perfect love, or a heroin addicts’ fantasy of a life of no conflict – perfesion – perfect ease?
A non cynical realist might be excused from shouting are you crazy answering this question by evidencing headlines drawn from The New York Times on an almost daily basis over decades – no centuries – of recorded history.
Then what are genuinely peace loving people to do?
Clearly God – if there is such a transcendent all powerful entity – is either incapable of or simply doesn’t particularly care about, or is playing some sort of mysterious chess game – or some other position too inscrutable for me to comprehend- in the failure to either prevent or put an end to seemingly endless cycles of all out destruction.
So if world peace is to happen the answer to de-fanging it must be in the hands of human beings.
The world was shocked enough by WWII that it created the United Nations which seems to have come as close to any other institution in being able to incrementally and effectively intervene on some occasions to reduce the tensions leading to war. But even the UN is periodically impotent in rising to this occasion.
Note the horrors of total chaos in such places as Syria.
So what can we do?
Psychoanalysis demonstrates quite convincingly that there is an definitive solution to the seemingly impossible quest for sustained world peace. A person becomes a patient when they confront the fact that they are at war with themselves. In fact many incoming patients indicate they are overwhelmed experiencing themselves fighting both a revolution (anti parents, ideas, culture) and a civil war between competing selves (good versus bad; libertine versus people pleasing).
Psychoanalysts and patients who are successful in their quest for peace of mind) know that the answer lies in their continuing struggling with struggle to understand what makes them tick. The path to peace of mind begins with the realization that they have the Pogo Problem: ” I have met the enemy : it is me.”
In this view for world peace to be attained and sustained each person must face the fact that life is hard for everyone. That is difficult to come to terms with the reality that there is perpetual internal and external conflict in the form of ambivalence (love/hate) feelings at the core of each of us.
That Freud is right when he said (paraphrase: at core everyone one is a larval psychotic.) Pushed to the edge everyone is capable of doing the most monstrous acts imaginable both towards themselves and others.
Assuming I am accurate then what are the implications for a road map to attaining and sustaining world peace?
(1) Each person has to assume the adult responsibility of following Socrates’ prescription for attaining the good life: KNOW THYSELF.
(2) To know oneself requires a descent into inner space whereupon an individual identifies and expects the inevitable splits and divisions in his/her psyche – He becomes aware and accepts the fact of his unresolved problem coming to terms with his ambivalent feelings.
(3) Often in this undertaking there is the frightening knowledge that there is an insubstantial sense of self experienced as something at core missing, confused, empty, purposeless. A lack of an integrated self is a diagnosis that is reaching epidemic proportions and often is attributed to many who appear to be the movers and shakers in the world.
Apt examples of what I am referring to are lead characters in the TV drama House of Cards, or the movies: American Hustler, or The Wolf of Wall Street. These protagonists are all suffering from a lack of psychological infrastructure – in cohesive selves – experienced (when their guards are down) as holes in their souls.
(4) To reconcile these splits there must be an assumption of personal responsibility meaning that the buck has to stop here – that the final authority in a given person’s life is him or herself. That even if God is believed to be one’s final authority the truth of the matter is that a person cannot get away from the fact that it is he’or she who is attributing this self authority to some fantasized transcendent authority.
(5) If each person would assume the responsibility for reconciling the inevitable contradictions (splits) in themselves there would be no time and energy to force others to bend to their wills. World wide Peace would break out in 5 minutes if such a prescription were to actually be adopted.
(6) I am not naive to believe this will automatically happen but something like it has to be a part of mass consciousness for us to imagine that such a lofty goal would have even the slightest possibility to be attained and sustained.