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"That is not who we are" - Input Junkie
November 9th, 2016
12:52 pm


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"That is not who we are"
Every now and then I hear "That is not who we are".

It gets on my nerves because of a process which started when I first heard about My Lai. My initial reaction was "An American wouldn't", followed almost immediately by "An American did".

Now, it's fair to say that wasn't typical American behavior, and that it was eventually treated as a crime. Much later, the soldiers who protected villagers were treated as heroes rather than traitors.

Individuals are complicated. Societies are more complicated.

My best understanding is that "That is not who we are" is aspirational. It's a hope that we will live up to our best dreams, which is to say the dreams the person speaking holds. It's an effort to get psychological leverage, and I don't think it works terribly well.

What I believe is true is that we are making ourselves all the time.

The important thing is what people want and what they're working on.

I recently discovered the Reith lectures, and they looks like a good source for high qualtity thought. I'm linking to one by Kwame Appiah about how values are promoted by people who care about them-- it's not tied to race, culture, or geography. I don't think the transcript is up yet.

This entry was posted at http://nancylebov.dreamwidth.org/1086195.html. Comments are welcome here or there. comment count unavailable comments so far on that entry.

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Date:November 10th, 2016 12:43 am (UTC)
One of the central concepts of Carl Jung's work is the idea of the "shadow," of the parts of our self that we deny, that we cast out as being 'not who we are.' Examples might be that we tell ourselves that we aren't violent, that we aren't racist, that we aren't intolerant, etc. Jung believed that the more we cast something into our shadow and denied even its possibility, the more power it had over us...that we all have all the potentials of humanity within each of us, good as well as bad, and recognizing that was a step in not allowing our shadow to have control over us.

I think that much of the time when we dismiss the Other as just bad or evil people, it says a lot more about what's going on inside us than it does about the person or group that we're casting judgment on. Its just human nature.

P.S. I found your blog because I had a very old copy of the '87 version of the Dilly Dilly Calligraphic button catalog that I've kept over the years, and on a whim decided to see if you were still around and had an Internet presence. Yes and yes, I'm happy to find out! :)
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