Two Sides Of The Same Destructive Coin

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I am sitting here with an article and with an editorial column from the issue of the Chicago Tribune dated February 25, 2023.  The article is titled “Chicago hate crimes nearly double in ‘22”, and as the title suggests, deals with the dramatic growth of hate crimes in Chicago during the last year.  It also touches upon the “National Day of Hate” that was sponsored by some neo-Nazi hate group from Iowa.  Fortunately, no major hate activities appeared as a result of this sponsorship. 

 The editorial column is titled “The kids are not OK”.  It deals with the growing amount of young people and particularly girls who are suffering from mental illness in the United States.  These young people feel hopeless and worthless.

Two major trends in American society that deal with very destructive behavior.  And the reason that I bring them up together is that they are basically two sides of the same coin.  As the world becomes more frictionless and mediated from modern technology and people become more and more numb as a result, different kinds of symptoms present themselves as parts of strategies by people to pull themselves out of the numbness, out of the experiential vacuum.

One kind of strategy deals with pulling oneself out of numbness through generating abrasive stimulation inside of oneself.  Young people generate painful responses to numbness through the many different forms of emotional illness that they develop within themselves and then present to the world.  These responses are self-destructive and yet, at the same time, it is precisely this self-destruction that helps to pull these people out of the experiential vacuum in which they find themselves.  As paradoxical as it may sound, they are trying desperately hard to feel fully alive through self-destruction.  And, of course, the ultimate in self-destruction is suicide.  And, unfortunately, suicide is becoming an all-too-common response to the feelings of numbness that young people are experiencing.  One may ask how does suicide pull people out of numbness, when, on one level, it seems to drive people into death, which can be considered the ultimate degree of numbness.  The answer is that the explosive surge of feelings of being alive occurs just before the suicidal action itself takes place.  In other words, for some people, it is worth it to ultimately die, in order to have a few moments of hyperconscious bliss that is generated by an incredibly abrasive stimulus.

The other side of the coin is the external world hatred of selected ethnic groups, racial groups and minority groups related to sexual preference. The hatred for all these different external world groups has shot up in recent years and this has led to a growth in acts of violence including murder.  One group that has particularly experienced a marked growth in such actions is the Jews.  Ever since Donald Trump turned on the spigot of white nationalism, Jews have experienced a remarkable growth in anti-Semitic actions.  And it is not only the large anti-Semitic actions like that which happened at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh or the Poway Synagogue in Poway, California, a city just twenty miles north of San Diego.  It is also the smaller actions like the two individual shootings that happened in front of synagogues in California.  Two men were shot on two consecutive days at congregations in the Pico-Robertson neighborhood, a neighborhood in Los Angeles with a large Jewish population.  The two men were shot by the same man.  The man was of Asian descent ironically, a man who was part of a minority that has also recently experienced an upswing in group hatred.

It is scary to think that a country that has provided a certain security against the kinds of sustained hateful actions that plagued the lives of Jews in the past – actions like Inquisitions and pogroms and final solutions – is now succumbing to its own brand of hostility towards Jews.  Lone wolves who are breaking off from larger hate groups in order to carry out the essence of the larger group’s ideology.  This is not to say that at some point the anti-Semitism embodied in the larger group’s beliefs will not conceivably present itself in group activities such as American-style pogroms.  That has not happened yet and hopefully it never will.

But American Jews and concerned American gentiles are fighting a potentially losing battle against anti-Semitism, if modern technology continues to expand its influence on everyday American life.  What better way to pull out of an experiential vacuum and feel a burst of aliveness than to find a scapegoat and hammer away at it with vindictive rhetoric on social media and with physical violence.  What better way indeed.  Hurting the Jews becomes a vehicle by which many non-Jews can feel alive in today’s modern technological society.

2023 Laurence Mesirow


Acerca de Laurence Mesirow

Durante mi estadía en la Ciudad de México en los años setenta, me di cuenta que esta enorme ciudad contenía en sus colonias distintos "medio ambientes vivenciales", que iban desde muy antiguas a muy recientes; desde muy primitivas a muy modernas.Observé que había diferencias sutiles en la conducta de la gente y en sus interacciones en las diferentes colonias. Esta observación fue fundamental en la fundación de mis teorías con respecto a los efectos de la tecnología moderna sobre los medio ambientes vivenciales y sobre la conducta humana.En México, publiqué mi libro "Paisaje Sin Terreno" (Editorial Pax-México), y luego di conferencias para la U.N.A.M. y la Universidad Anahuac. También, presenté un ensayo para un Congreso de Psicología.Ahora que mis hijas son adultas, tengo el tiempo de explorar mis ideas de vuelta. Le agradezco mucho a y en especial al Sr. Daniel Ajzen por la oportunidad de presentar mis ideas.

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