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Stephen Mo Hanan Headshot

Where There's a Will There's a Won't

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In the podiatrist's waiting room the other day I came across a Newsweek column by George F. Will (F for Fuddy-duddy, I've always supposed). An unexpected glimpse of the woe haunting his heart made me understand the ethos of right-wing diehards in a new light.

He was blasting the rhetoric of UN ambassador Susan Rice with regard to Iran's place in "the international community":

Rice really thinks there is a community out there. To believe that is to believe, as liberals do, that harmony is humanity's natural condition, so discord is a remediable defect in arrangements.

If harmony isn't humanity's "natural condition," I wonder what Will the Discordant thinks it is. I wonder what, if anything, he knows of harmony. Between individuals and, more importantly, within himself.

Personally, I have long believed that Harmony, and its alliterative twin Happiness, is home plate. When did anybody ever consult a shrink with the complaint, "What's wrong with me, I feel happy all the time?" When did viewing the world with a sense of wonder at its marvels and goodwill toward its occupants ever feel unnatural? It's the most natural state on earth.

Not that such blissful harmony is always manifest in ourselves or our encounters. Though available, it can be lost, and for long periods. But to dismiss it as unnatural is to forbid it, drive it even further underground, and enchain the world as the perpetually dangerous place that George F. Will and his "realistic" reactionary cohorts suppose it to be.

The world is wounded, no doubt. The evolutionary drive that launched life on this planet has stumbled wildly in its meanderings toward the emergence of a fully conscious living being. It's true that all of recorded history seethes with havoc, cruelty and selfishness, and we are its inheritors. But it's equally true that wise teachers, gifted spirits, and paradigm shifts have time and again pointed our way toward an alternative, freely available to all. At least to all who are willing to confront the discord and violence and fear within themselves and push beyond.

The foremost psychological tragedy of our time is that the people most in need of therapy are the least likely to volunteer. Bill O'Reilly on the couch, ouch! Limbaugh squatting on the Zen cushion? Why bother to learn how projection mechanisms work when it's so much easier to demonize this season's target of choice? The cheerleaders of the Right (gloomleaders is more like it) are possibly unaware of the deep, cynical, heartbroken pessimism that informs their fundamental outlook. It predates political affiliation. There's a failure of love in there, somewhere, that has never been acknowledged, except in scorn for the thought that harmony might indeed be our natural condition. Scorn for the very idea of community.

Valorizing conflict plays very nicely, of course, into the hands that already hold the weapons. It's strangely ironic that our coercive form of social Darwinism has evolved, as it were, from the Biblical doctrine that "we are all sinners." In either case, received authority takes the place of intuitive spontaneity. The fundamentalist is saved from error by subscribing to a pre-approved belief system: theological for the Religious, ideological for the Right. Praise the Lord and pass the teabag. All else is heresy.

There's this problem, though. A belief in the inherent goodness of human beings, and of life itself, keeps breaking through. A need for relatedness, if we are to survive on the planet, keeps being recognized. Methods of securing it keep getting pondered. No matter how much derision is aimed at it -- accusations of being Utopian, naïve, infidel, socialist even, barbs from well-paid ranting bullies -- the vision of transformative possibility is awake enough right now to have changed the face of government.

The condescending contempt George F. and his ilk display for the idea that a "defect in arrangements" can be remedied is pure projection. The operative defect lies in the inward mental "arrangements" they accept as inevitable and seek to perpetuate, rather than recognizing them as the tragic consequences of conditioning, reversible through determined effort and mutual assistance. But that calls for humility and self-examination, anathema to the Right in both the personal and political spheres.

"A fool who persists in his folly will soon become wise," the saying goes. There's a wakeup call ringing from every corner of the planet. The triumph of folly or wisdom will depend on whether we keep listening to frightened authoritarians who bring out the worst in us and call it realism, or whether we incline to the voice within that reveals the world our fears have obscured. A world where harmony is only natural.