Let’s start here: abuse is bad. Bad, however, is never a useful word in forming dialogues since it is entirely subjective and generally communicates no information. Instead let’s go with this:
Abuse is harmful to the individual self. Acceptance of abuse is harmful to the larger society. Denial of abuse is is harmful to basic functioning of the mind. To quote a favorite mental health affirmation of mine: “The pain I might feel by remembering can’t be any worse than the pain I feel by knowing and not remembering.”
It needs repeating:
THE PAIN I MIGHT FEEL BY REMEMBERING CAN’T BE ANY WORSE THAN THE PAIN I FEEL BY KNOWING AND NOT REMEMBERING.
In case you missed it: awhile ago Chris Brown punched in Rihanna’s face the night before the Grammy’s. There was enough evidence to convict him in a court of law. The photos are not pleasant. I like this blog post by Sasha Pasulka at HelloGiggles.com about it if you want more background. Warning: contains opinions.
There are a number of issues with this, most of them well discussed in the linked article. The part that concerns me the most is the denial, the forgetting, and the victim blaming. To put it simply: everyone, even apparently Rihanna, wants to forget this ever happened and get on with their lives and get back to making money.
I don’t blame Rihanna. She did what a “good victim” should do. She went to the hospital, she went to the police, then she went on with her life. The everyone else who lambasted her for doing such a thing, the Grammy’s spokespeople who are quoted as saying “they are the victim,” the people who turn around and forget about Chris Brown’s role in punching in her face and call him a sweetheart- these people have a problem.
Not a vague, iffy problem. Their problem is actually something wider, more systemic, and was suggested way back when in George Orwell’s book 1984 when he discusses the ability of people to accept mutually contradictory ideas in their brain when pressured by society, the government, and their peers.
This problem isn’t a minor one, it represents a real and present danger to their long term functionality and cognitive skills.
One of the key aspects of Orwell’s 1984 is the damage to citizen’s ability to think critically due to the double-think they are forced to do on a daily basis just to swallow the misinformation they are constantly faced with. The society periodically replaces the headlines of yesterday to fit an altered history that fits what the society wants to do today.
Think if we replaced the word “Nazi” with the word “Italian” and everyone just kind of accepted it and went about their business. This sort of thing damages the ability of the individual to think critically. The brain is exerting energy just to hold on to conflicting beliefs that don’t really fit at all together.
Case in point: looking at the photos of Rihanna, remembering that Chris Brown PLEAD GUILTY, and following that up by saying Rihanna shouldn’t have made it public. The evidence in the form of news reports, photographs, and court records support that she did not “make it public.”
But increasingly, our memory as a culture is getting foggier. Even at the time, with so much information in front of us, many people somehow came to the conclusion that Rihanna was faking.
In the political arena we allow those convicted of tax evasion to work in the treasury, we allow politicians to change their platforms based on whose votes they are trying to get that day, and, most importantly, we twist the truth in our own minds to fit how we want to see the situations.
In Modern America ™, we accept that any facts will somehow support our existing worldview and if something needs to be altered to fit our mindset, we do it automatically. Unlike in the Orwell book, we don’t need a Ministry of Truth altering newspaper headlines to fit the more convenient truthiness we desire. We’ll do it ourselves- by not remembering, by remembering but forgetting, by remembering but not acting.
We’ll ignore the photographs of the victim, the newspaper we read, the pain we suffered and move on with our lives content that we are in touch with reality. But we’re not, we’re in denial. If you applauded Chris Brown for getting over his past and managing a come back to performing at the Grammy’s you’re buying in. If you’re applauding the “victory” over SOPA but ignoring Obama signing NDAA, you’re doing the same.
This goes beyond liberal, conservative, political party, victim, guilty party or whatever lines you want to divide us up into nicely labelled containers. We’re all suffering from a massive case of amnesia with a chaser of denial, one that in the long run will keep us far from the change we need to survive, prosper, and be healthy.
NOTE: This article is not intended as a condemnation of any of the mentioned individuals. They are used as examples of our increasing ability to forget what matters in modern times and reinforce our ability to deny what is right in front of our faces.
NOTE 2: If I’m writing something, chances are this kind of denial is the primary theme of whatever it is. My current work is a musical novel podcast, The Horde, at http://www.thehordewilleat.us. I’m seriously convicted about plugging this in a post about abuse and denial, but since it’s the primary thematic topic of my work, I went ahead. Please forgive me.