Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Whither wishful thinking and origins of violence?

With a nod to St. Sigmund, and recognition of the need for St. Augustine...

In a reflection on the revolutions shaking North Africa, I cited Shakespeare's 'wish is father to the thought' motif over at RITN. In the compass of a few brief lines, the entry moved from wishing for Al Qaeda's marginalization to supporting a military intervention to lay Qaddafi low. Much is at stake in Libya, and violence is inescapable. Ignoring the Colonel's attacks on his own people is not viable, but it is worth pondering the origin of violent wishes and actions.

The reference to Henry IV points to parricidal rage, to deliberate ego/counter-ego (mis)representations, which simultaneously claim moral high ground and do the dirty work of history. Induced by desire for kingly glory, Hal wishes for the death of his father, but then turns against Falstaff ('I know thee not, old man'), the symbol of fulfilling desires, after his desires have been realized.

Moral polyvalence prevails in in the work of nations (witness the long-term US support of Mubarak and warming up to Qaddafi as a point against terrorists, and then also our turn against them when democratic 'values' required it) every bit as much as it does in the psyche. At least in part,Violence is an act against our own representations of the other and a not very veiled act of violence against our self in its ma/paternal origins.

Does violence spring from the sinews of our selves? If not, whence arises this wish to destroy? Augustine and Freud, taken together, only begin to answer these questions....

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