Thursday, July 28, 2005

Reality is the Ultimate Rorschach Test

Rand Simburg at Transterrestrial Musings mentions a well-known psychological test that can still provide useful information and uses it for understanding current issues: "A Political Rorschach Test"
There's an old diagnostic tool in psychology--the ink-blot test, named the Rorschach test for the man who invented it. In it, the test subject is asked to look at a series of randomly produced ink splotches (usually made on a folded paper for symmetry) and describe what he or she sees--a mother cradling a baby, a man stabbing a woman, or perhaps nothing at all. The answer tells us nothing, of course, of the actual nature of the ink blot (the same could be done with clouds), but does provide some insight into what's going on in the person's mind.
Similarly, many seemingly seek to look into the mind of a terrorist and his actions, and see what they want to see: anger at Israel, anger at the apparent impotence of the Arab world against the west, frustration at the inability to raise your children as properly Islamic in a secular West, even the desire for the reestablishment of the Caliphate.
Sadly, I agree that all of the above are motivating the bombers, and many of the people who agree with them. But if these are the grievances, they cannot be assuaged, they cannot be appeased. They are what we call in American divorce courts, "irreconcilable differences."

Some look at the Rorschach of the terrorists and see a people struggling for justice. I look at it and see one struggling for injustice, with a desire to spread it throughout the world, and to return us to a medievel dreamworld of their imagination that is centuries old.

The Rorschach is an example of what is called a "projective test" (there are a number of them I have used over the years--Sentence Completion Test; the Thematic Aperception Test etc.), where the examinee "projects" his own thoughts or feelings or conflicts/issues onto a neutral image.

It is one thing to do this in a testing situation, where one is being asked to do it deliberately so that the examiner might get some idea of the preoccupying thoughts, conflicts etc. It is another thing to routinely do it when facing reality.

In the latter case, the behavior is an example of the psychological defense mechanism we call "Projection"--a primitive form of paranoia; where one's own unacceptable thoughts, feelings, conflicts etc. are externalized onto another individual or group in the real world. As a way of coping with the world, Projection is an abysmal defense, which is why after childhood, most psyche's give it up in the main and only resort to it in extremis if there are really serious conflicts that the individual cannot resolve.

To a certain extent, we all project our selves and our personal issues and conflicts onto reality. But that does not make reality an amorphous ink blot. Reality exists independently of any of our thoughts, feelings, issues and/or conflicts. To the extent that we can see and appreciate what is real without the distortion of the unresolved emotional baggage we all carry around--then we are psychologically healthy. The more we project onto reality--instead of seeing it for what it really is-- the more we become immersed in a fantasyland that is made up of our internal desires and wishes; and the more we distance ourselves from the real world.

For example. I really want things to work out in Iraq. I am pleased to find many instances of really good things happening there and real progress against the terrorists who reject freedom and democracy. But I am also cognisant of many of the challenges and roadblocks that Iraqis face in embracing democracy; and that we face in helping them. I cannot fail to notice the continued deaths of innocent Iraqis, and hope that a solution or strategy will be implemented to diminish them.

Dymphna suggests that we should back off on our demands that the Iraqis hurry up with their constitution and that it should be perfect in every way:

It would be salutary to remember at this point that our constitution was a very long process. From the surrender of Cornwallis at Yorktown in 1781 to the ratification of the United States Constitution in 1788 was a long and winding road. In the process, the question of slavery got shelved just so we could be done with it and get on to making a country. Thus our hurry and our fear led us to a bloody and ruinous Civil War seventy three years later. We are still feeling the effects of that “hurry-up” back in the years from the Declaration of Independence to the final states’ ratification. We left out Negroes because we were afraid and we are still paying for our cowardice.

We had 7 years to write our constitution, and we made a BIG mistake and didn't end slavery until 73+ years later. Just as in our country in the 1780's there were factions with mutually exclusive non-negotiable demands; so in Iraq are there competing visions of what their country should look like. Let's let them sort it out and they can both learn from our mistakes and then from their own. And isn't that what having freedom is all about?

So, when I contemplate the situation in Iraq, I try to put things in perspective. Things will happen that are bad; and things might happen more slowly than we would like; but overall, I observe that we have started in the direction of freedom and democracy in Iraq. Undoubtedly there will be setbacks. But for good or ill, it is in their hands now, and all we can do is protect the nacent process that has begun there.

Contrast this perspective with that of people who demand instaneous democracy in Iraq or "all is lost!" Or those who maintain that the "insurgency is growing stronger!" despite the lack of support from Iraqi citizens and considerable evidence to the contrary. Or those who look at terrorist bombings and lay the blame on BushBlairHoward and/or the victims (e.g. "little eichmans") instead of the terrorists; or those that blame America for all the terrorist activity, then in the same breath maintain that terrorism is an illusiion. Or those that say Islam is a religion of peace, as its imams refer to Jews a pigs and women of the west as whores. Or those who liken the deliberate targeting of civilians as an act of war to the attempts to minimize such targeting during a war. Or those who constantly shout "BUT THERE WERE NO WMD'S" or "SADDAM HAD NOTHING TO DO WITH 9/11"; Or those who are outraged about someone's lack of support for Gay marriage, but are silent when homosexuals are slaughtered because they committed a sin against Allah. And so on, ad nauseum.

What do all these people have in common? They refuse to actually look directly at REALITY and instead, project their hatred of Bush and Republicans and their desire for them to "fail" in Iraq; More than that, they are letting that hatred and the need for Bush to be wrong completely distort what is going on in the world.

All this internal mishmash of anger, rage, hatred is unacceptable to them, so they purify themselves and identify with the aggressor terrorist (who would kill them if they could, just as easily as they would be willing to kill anyone); they use the actions of a Timothy McVeigh--as one of the commenters on this blog did--who was most certainly a delusional murderer given the ultimate punishment for his crimes, to point out the deficiencies in the American system; falsely reasoning that that we can't possibly take the moral high ground and that we are as bad as the terrorists.

Or they bring up the fact that Christianity 1000 years ago crusaded against the "infidel" Muslims to prove... what? That the terrorists are no better or worse than we are? Just because Christianity was infected with an evil virus 1000 years ago and brought death and destruction, does not mean I cannot condemn Islam now, since it is the religion doing it today. If Christianity were doing today what it did centuries ago, then I would be condemning Christianity. If McVeigh were alive and part of Al Qaeda, I'd be condemning Al Qaeda (just as I judged McVeigh when he committed his vile act).

The refusal to look at what is happening now; the evasions and distortions is part and parcel of a pattern of projection and denial.

Who is saying that American society is perfect? No one that I know. We make lots of mistakes. But we ARE moral. We ARE compassionate. We have the rule of law. We can change our leadership if we don't care for the policies. And may I gently remind many of the naysayers, that we just had that opportunity less than a year ago to change course and that THEIR CANDIDATE LOST? Too bad. So sorry. But that is the reality.

The point is that we ARE better than those barbarian, murdering thugs that have declared jihad and use their religion as a justification for indiscriminant murder and mayhem.

What we are seeing when we witness the constant and repetitive talking points, distortions, and evasions of the Left/Democrats/enablers of terrorism--no matter what evidence is presented to them, is their inability to come to terms with their own unacceptable feelings or rage and hatred so they attribute those feelings to Bush et al. We are witnessing the Left's own inability to come to terms with their intense fear that their ideology is dead and --even worse--doesn't, and has never worked.

The same emotion that motivates the battered woman to defend or minimize the actions her batterer; or any victim to identify and enable his tormentor is at work here.

Ask yourself what emotions, conflicts and issues these people are using to filter the reality of the Islamic Jihadists-- who would indiscriminantly and joyfully kill a million people in this country if they could?

Reality is the ultimate Rorschach Test, isn't it?

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