by Jennie S. Bev
Indonesia is renowned for its kind, smiling and warm-hearted people, beautiful culture, strong values, high morality, and for being very religious.
By the same token, Indonesia is also enigmatic, mind-boggling and paradoxical.
Minorities have been persecuted. “Heretical” Islamic sects have been condemned, destructed and banned. Churches have been burnt, closed and destroyed. Genocide has occurred in Papua causing tens of thousands of deaths.
Porn has been banned and ministers have been judging morality based on people’s wardrobes. All kinds of corruption have remained rampant beyond belief.
President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono is a soft-spoken, cultured and highly educated individual with a PhD in Agriculture. During his election campaign he vowed to eradicate corruption from its roots.
Judging from his background and calm disposition, he could have been my kind of president.
SBY condemned Terry Jones’ Koran-burning plan, but did not stop the destruction of churches in his own country. He did not follow up with his anticorruption vow, allowing corrupt officials to run free unpunished or punished minimally. Interestingly, he has preferred to sing and write songs, smiling like an Indonesian Idol contestant.
It is perplexing. How come an individual or group of individuals be so great and yet do so many inconceivably bad things? Why do they allow injustices and unfairness to continue? What can we do about it?
I did not have the answers to all these questions, but I do have a part of the answer. After all, we need to understand the hidden truths and to acknowledge the bitter realities so we can use them as a “diagnosis” to find the “cure.”
Carl Jung, the founder of the Jungian branch of psychology, posited that “One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious.” Using the Depth Psychology technique, Jung shed light on individuals and groups that were inherently good but had done bad things.
Jungian theory is based upon the notion that hidden subconscious meanings are projected through ego consciousness.
Historic programming is known to be cultivated in the unconscious mind, which can result in hubris and strong preconceived notions such as prejudices and stereotyping behaviors.
According to Jung, fundamentalism in all forms is compounded of both. In a society, collective contagion creates group madness, which is folie à deux.
With seductive ideologies, group ecstasy brings hidden devilish qualities to the surface.
Throughout history, many incidents have shown how good people have been at doing bad things.
Prior to 1537 when Pope Paul III declared that Indians had human souls, they were considered beasts, thus it was legitimate to hunt them. Experiments by Stanley Milgram at Yale in 1960s showed that more than 60 percent of respondents did not blink an eye when they were asked to torture a subject, under the belief that it was done for the greater good in the name of scientific research.
This experiment explained why Nazi soldiers, who had the capacity to fall in love, did what they did in the Holocaust.
It also explained why people under the influence of seductive ideology or other forms of seduction (like those carrying out corrupt acts) can ignore the well-being of others and disregard their own “good-natured” disposition.
It may also explain why a certain president condemns violations in a faraway country but “approves” (by silence) the persecution and genocide against his own people.
On religious fundamentalism, it is interesting to note that this phenomenon largely occurs in monotheistic religions. Using the same theoretical framework, such occurrences are believed to have stemmed from the rigid structure of salvation, which is manicheistic (dualistic) in nature: either heaven or earth, either saved for eternity or face eternal damnation.
Eastern religions, such as Hinduism and Buddhism, are more “flexible” due to less dogmatic approach, recognizing the “second chances” in reincarnation.
The formation of monotheistic fundamentalism is brought about by the repression of worries and anxieties. In individuals, one’s denials and “bad” behaviors are also the result of repressed thoughts and imprinted historic programming.
Ego always attempts to cloak the repressed unconscious mind, which from time to time emerges as things that are in direct opposition to an individual’s or group’s conscious beliefs.
Repressed elements are the culprit of “bad” beliefs, actions and behaviors.
Understanding the root causes of why good people do bad things is crucial to acknowledging the existence of problems.
Only through acknowledging can the healing process begin, assuming peaceful non-violent and nonkilling acts follow in peace-building efforts.
The role of “doubt” is the key. Healthy skepticism allows consciousness to materialize. James Hollis PhD in Why Good People Do Bad Things: Understanding Our Darker Selves reminds us that hubris and historic programming can bring down an individual and a group of people.
We must learn to be aware of where our acts come from and start acting out mindfully based on principles of compassion, non-violence and nonkilling.
This is a hard task, but it must be done or Indonesia will become a country run by egoistical individuals who fantasize about nobility but are actually smothered in blood and tears.
The Jakarta Post, September 23, 2010