Friday, August 8, 2014

Denial is not a river in Egypt but a defense mechanism that does not serve us well at this point in evolutionary history

Mary Pipher in the second chapter of her book, The Green Boat, named "Denial" uses as an epigraph a quote of Arthur Schopenhauer, "All truth goes through three steps. First, it is ridiculed, then it is violently opposed, and finally it is accepted as self evident." p.29

Pipher then goes on to discuss what she calls the "fog of climate collapse" making a reference to former defense secretary, Robert McNamara's comment about U.S. policy regarding the Vietnam war as the "fog of war."

Pipher points out that people do much better with problems that are immediate and concrete compared to problems which are more distant and abstract. Americans have been terrorized by their politicians since the end of the second world war, and the development of the military/industrial complex, with the idea of an external bogey man whether it be "duck and cover" as defense against nuclear attack with the development of bomb shelters during the cold war to the yellow, orange, and red terror alert color scheme developed by Homeland Security under Tom Ridge in the early 2000s after 9/11.

All people, but Americans especially, seem easily bamboozled by politicians and large weapon manufacturing corporations to believe that there is a terrorist, communist, hater of democracy around every curve and behind every tree waiting to attack and kill us. Hermann Goering, Hitler's right hand man, said at the Nuremberg trials after World War II:

"Why of course the people don't want war. Why should some poor slob on
a farm want to risk his life in a war when the best he can get out of
it is to come back to his farm in one piece? Naturally the common people
don't want war neither in Russia, nor in England, nor for that matter in
Germany. That is understood. But, after all, it is the leaders of the
country who determine the policy and it is always a simple matter to
drag the people along, whether it is a democracy, or a fascist
dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no
voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders.
That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked,
and denounce the peacemakers for lack of patriotism and exposing the
country to danger. It works the same in any country."

It is apparent in our contemporary world that the people can no longer rely on politicians or corporations for the truth because their primary concern is not the common good but self interest. To whom are the people to turn for consultation, moral direction, ethical guidance? It is to educational institutions of higher learning and religion. What does Unitarian Universalism have to say about the human tendency to utilize the defense mechanism of denial? It says in its fourth principle that we covenant together to affirm and promote the free and responsible search for truth and meaning. We support each other in affirming and promoting the other 6 UU principles which make us less vulnerable to anxiety and fears and less likely to be manipulated in dysfunctional ways by people looking out for their own interests eschewing the common good.

Denial at this point in our evolutionary history about climate change does not serve us well and endangers not only our species but the species of all other living things on the planet. We need to emerge from our fog so we can see our future clearly and make informed choices.

My Kind Of Church Music - I Can See Clearly Now, Jimmy Cliff


  1. Wonderful article on a difficult topic. Your articles just keep getting better and better. This is a wonderful blog. I am very grateful for all the work you do to keep pumping out the information. The way you put it together is what makes the difference. I have never quite heard this kind of faith expressed in an UU church I have ever attended. All the ministers seem to be polite, professional, measured, but there is a passion here which is real if you know what I mean. Maybe they should invite you as a speaker. Do you think?

  2. Goering is right and it is borne out by the fact that the United States has easily gone to war in Viet Nam, Persian Gulf, Iraq, and Afghanistan without there being any declaration of war by the senate but simply by executive orders against the wishes of many Americans and religious leaders. The Viet Nam situation was quite different because of the draft and so couldn't be so easily ignored by the Americans because of the protests of young people who didn't want to fight in an immoral, ill conceived war. In Iraq and Afghanistan there was no draft but a volunteer and mercenary force of contractors which U.S. citizens could much more easily close their eyes to and use denial to cope than previously. Congressman John Conyers suggested that the easiest way to end the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq would be to bring back the draft.

    Americans apparently are much more willing to support immoral wars though their tax dollars as long as they don't have to get their hands dirty and get involved in the actual dying and killing. We leave that to the new fangled gladiators, the "home town heroes" who we shower with purple ribbons and "atta boys" and "atta girls", support the troops blather just like the tributes in the Hunger Games.

    The whole scenario is actually very sick and dysfunctional and embarrassing to the better idea of who we are as Americans.