When most of us are so used to seeing ghosts, we should begin to suspect as did a certain prince in a kingdom long, long ago that something is rotten in Denmark. We can’t create a functional community in America let alone hope to help our neighbors create them abroad when we are all freaked out by specters under our beds. This deeply “imbedded” anxiety is universal in the global village; a common component of the human worldview. Do these chain-rattling shufflers emitting low guttural moans actually have anything to do with human behavior? Well, let’s take a look.
The torment occasioned by Hamlet imagining his father’s ghost had him create havoc within the walls of Elsinore castle. Imagine how we would all react to flesh and blood “ghosts” threatening us. In truth, we don’t have to imagine; we are all living within our own version of an Elizabethan tragedy. The ghosts in question are of course the other and they are strictly a figment of our imagination; they don’t in fact exist, they are projections of our own neuroses and worldview content.
These ghosts have been around as long as we have so they have a history. Let’s start there. We are all ghosts to someone. To some people we are in some way “different” so we are the other to them just as they are the other to us. We all have someone we are afraid of and there are those who are afraid of us. Why? People fear us because we are perceived to be not-like-them; skin color, religion, ethnicity, sexual preference, dress, language, mannerisms, etc. It doesn’t take much to be perceived as a ghostly other. All of these anxiety-producing differences, sadly, are superficial, they have no substance; “they” are not really “there.” The differences are specter-like visual and auditory sensations.
The imagined existence of the other is doubly sad because as long as we continue to imagine the presence of these phantasmagoria, truly compassionate human interactions will be impossible. In spending so much of our energy in destroying that which doesn’t exist, we will destroy ourselves and create a massive amount of suffering in the process. The record of this self-destruction is clear to those who have the courage to look at it.
One curious thing about the link between the ghosts of the past and today’s ghosts is that they are often the same. Ghosts have a particular resilience. Unlike us, they don’t seem to die. Why is that? It has to do with the origin of our ghosts. Ghosts emerge from the sensation or what is often called the affection/esteem energy center of the false-self survival strategy. What a mouthful! In short, our false self is looking for a way to feel good about itself and also for someone else on whom to project (unload) those unconscious traits it does not like. So we have the crazy human dynamic of working hard to keep our ghosts alive so they can travel through history with us as convenient carriers (scape ghosts) of our self-loathing. I know, I know, that sounds like a lot of hooey but keep reading and see if the following examples don’t make sense.
Native Americans as the Other
In the late 1700s the Rev. Junipero Serra established a chain of church missions along the coast of California. His goal was to bring Christianity to the American Indians. The result was an assault upon the other living on the frontier of colonial Spain in the New World. “The Indians were forced to shed their language, dress, religion, food, and marriage customs. Thousands died from exposure to European diseases to which they had no immunity. Of the approximately 310,000 Indians in 1769 in what is now California, only one-sixth remained a hundred years later, according to a University of California historian.”
Pope Francis plans to canonize Father Serra (2015) putting him closer to sainthood. Catholics might believe the myth that thousands of Indians were Christianized and civilized by the kindness and compassion of the missionaries. History betrays the myopia of the false self where in the retelling of the story of the missions, the other disappears. Robert M. Senkewicz co-author of California, Indians and the Transformation of a Missionary reveals American history to be a P-B narrative. “The way contemporary missions are presented, the Indians are absent.” Their ghosts, however, still wander the halls of our history whispering the true motives of the Church’s pursuit of God, Glory and Gold.
The scapegoats of the Church’s very dark shadow remain devastated by its projection over 200 years later. “American Indians are victims of violent crime at a rate more than double that of the rest of the population, according to the first  nationwide survey the federal government has done on the subject.”
The history of the other in the U.S. is often about being used in the pursuit of plenty, pleasure and power. Three men saw a band of Cheyenne and Arapaho Indians camped on Big Sandy Creek not far from Denver. They saw it as an opportunity to further their respective goals. The encampment contained mostly women, children and elderly men.
Colonel John Chivington and his troops arrived at the camp on November 29, 1864 and saw Chief Black Kettle raise an American flag and a small white flag as he had been told to do to indicate that his was a friendly encampment. “Women and children were scalped, fingers cut off to get the rings on them, a Lt. Col. cut off ears of all he came across. A squaw ripped open and a child taken from her. Little children shot while begging for their lives and all the indignities shown their bodies that was heard of.” This was the eyewitness description of Army Lt. Joe A. Cramer in a letter found in 2000, which stated that the “officer in command should be hung.”
Chivington later boasted in an appearance before Congress that his men had killed 500 or 600 Indians and lied saying “I saw no dead children.” Treatment of the other is not an image easy to look at it but if we turn away from the truth we will never find it.
The false-self’s behaviors are well-known to us and are revealed by its ambitions. The territorial governor, John Evans, wanted the Indians removed so the Union Pacific Railroad would come to Denver, encouraging commerce and driving up land values. William Byers knew the story would sell copies of his Rocky Mountain News. Colonel Chivington was running for Congress. The moans of the ghosts of elderly men, of the women and children, can still be heard above the slow, steady trickle of Big Sandy Creek.
Beginning under President Andrew Jackson, Indians of the Five Civilized Tribes living in the Southeastern U.S. were forcibly marched to the Indian Territory in what is now Oklahoma. The family of Mary Basquez was given forty acres which now has six oil wells on it. She is entitled to royalties from the wells but remember, she is the other.
She lives in a little house in which she can’t look out the window to see her land. “The windows are boarded up because she is unable to afford basic home improvements … ‘It makes me so mad. I see all the oil they’re taking away, but then I get a statement for $5 or less.’”
Again, notice how the false self finds a way to exploit the Native American other. The trust which issues Mary’s $5 check dates from the 1887 General Allotment Act when reservations in Oklahoma were broken up and Native Americans were given 80 to 160 acres each. How did the “whites” get their hands on these assets? First, declare that the American Indians are incapable of managing their own land and make the government a trustee for many of the land owners.
Secondly, lease the American Indian parcels to oil, gas, timber, grazing and mining interests. Thirdly, the payoff or end result intended all along: “Rather than making Indians prosperous, by most accounts, the allotment system destroyed tribal wealth and led to Indians losing two-thirds of the land.” One day Mary’s ghost will furiously shuffle across her dusty 40 acres continuing to curse the Bureau of Indian Affairs.
African Americans as the Other
History evolves, less because new facts are discovered than because the false self has changing needs to use history to justify its delusional identity. Nothing illustrates this better than the curious behavior of Southerners who are still fighting the Civil War 150 years after Appomattox. It works both ways in that pro-Northern sympathizers are also always “discovering” new facts to bolster their biased view of history.
We begin with the ever-controversial “Sherman’s march to the sea.” A recently placed historical marker in Atlanta says that 62,000 soldiers under Sherman’s command devastated “Atlanta’s industrial and business districts” and relates how “contrary to popular myth, Sherman’s troops primarily destroyed only property used for waging war—railroads, train depots factories, cotton gins and warehouses.” Stephen Davis, author of What the Yankees Did to Us: Sherman’s Bombardment and Wrecking of Atlanta said of the marker: “They’re bending over backward to give Sherman a whitewash that he does not deserve.”
Longtime leader of the Sons of Confederate Veterans Chapter in Georgia, revealing his long-simmering resentment, tries to keep a long-dead scapegoat alive. “How they can justify saying anything other than that he’s Billy the Torch, I don’t know.” Notice the present-tense reaction.
The false self does not find it easy or even possible to let old, sometimes very old wounds heal, when it feels it’s “self-esteem” has been disrespected. James C. Cobb, a professor at the University of Georgia and former president of the Southern Historical Association gives his explanation of why old grievances are so passionately nursed and kept alive. “The old stereotype is a long way from disappearing. There’s this sort of instinctive sense of Sherman embodying the whole Yankee cause and the presumed vindictiveness and unrelenting harshness that the white South was subjected to.”
Sherman biographer John F. Marszalek sees the old soldier as perhaps more sophisticated in his wartime strategy than he really was. “His whole concept was psychological warfare. He did such a good job getting into people’s minds, he’s still there in many ways.” Grieving Southerners have ghosts in their minds alright but it isn’t that of William Tecumseh Sherman.
But, of course, it wasn’t only northern generals that received most of the projections of the white southern false self. White southerners had two favorite scapegoats, Sherman and their own neighbors. Jason Sokol chronicled the story of white southerners coping with the civil rights era imagining grievances kept alive today.
The African American is targeted everywhere in the U.S. historically and today. For example, despite his status in the world of baseball, Jackie Robinson and his family were unwelcome as homeowners in the suburbs of Northeastern cities. Sokol, in his new book All Eyes Are Upon Us: Race Politics From Boston to Brooklyn writes, “They saw a hero in one black ballplayer but ruin in a thousand black migrants.” Fear of chaos joins shame and regret as underlying sources of energy that drive the reactive behavior of the false self.
Jill Leovy is one of those people who today has the courage to look at the truth and she does so in her book GHETTOSIDE: A True Story of Murder in America. “African-American males are, as she puts it, ‘just 6 percent of the country’s population but nearly 40 percent of those murdered.’” As in the case of the tragedy of the Native Americans, this catastrophic injustice is something most of us never see and quickly put out of mind if we happen to read about it. Denial is a basic behavioral trait for almost everyone in P-B, otherwise, how would we sleep at night.
In a ghetto like Watts in Los Angeles with a high homicide rate among the other, one can literally “get away with murder.” In a 13-year period 2,672 black males where murdered and a suspect was arrested in only 38 percent of those cases. Among the casualties of denial is truth, and in the Simple Reality Project truth is important, it has a high priority. Let us have more truth—less denial, more response—less reaction, more compassion and in turn less fear. If we don’t we will continue to have places like Watts. Leovy writes “Where the criminal justice system fails to respond vigorously to violent injury and death homicide becomes endemic … [the] system’s failure to catch killers effectively made black lives cheap.” No! It’s seeing African Americans as the other that makes black lives cheap and expendable.
Jews as the Other
It is critically important that we give the elimination of the illusion of the other the highest priority because it’s potential for catastrophe is so great. For example, mass murders have already happened many times throughout history with collective projections onto collective others. The collective shadow when manipulated into paranoia is easily mesmerized and is then capable of unimaginable and horrific behavior; but we don’t have to imagine, history shows recent examples of this mass hysteria.
These horrors are hard to imagine for most of us. All the more reason we must try to understand them. “The crucial elements are the political leaders’ decision to commit genocide, the willing participation of a large population of perpetrators, the sympathy of an even broader civilian population—in the case of the Holocaust, principally ordinary Germans, but also many other Europeans—and, above all, the ideology that motivates them all to believe that annihilating the targeted people is necessary and right.”
Sometimes the leaders of mass projections which become mass exterminations are so abhorrent that the leaders have to conceal what is happening from the very people who support it and enable them to pretend it isn’t happening or to at least engage in the charade of denial. “The Nazi leadership created death factories not for expeditious reasons, but to distance the killers from their victims.” Nevertheless, most of us, because we have a false self, are capable of aiding and abetting these insidious schemes with rationalizations that work for us.
The worst thing we can do vis-à-vis the other is to deny reality with unwarranted optimism because then we stop looking for causes and solutions. Milan Salomonovic, 81, spent several weeks in Auschwitz as a child and knows first-hand the experience of the other. “‘When the war was over, everybody was convinced it would be the end of the war and of anti-Semitism. People simply have not learned the lesson of Auschwitz,’ he said.” The lesson we all need to learn is much more profound than the delusions surrounding the Holocaust. That lesson is about the other and our bogus identities determined by our P-B narrative.
We tend to delude ourselves and think we believe in ideals that are only given lip service. Daniel Jonah Goldhagen the author of Hitler’s Willing Executioners: Ordinary Germans and the Holocaust and The Devil That Never Dies: The Rise and Threat of Global Anti-Semitism believes that the Nazis “sought to overturn the fundamentals of Western civilization, including its core notion of a common humanity.” There is no notion of a common humanity (Oneness) in the global village and NEVER HAS BEEN in any civilization in the West or the East. History gives the lie to that ideal which amounts to a dangerous self-deception.
In Rwanda in 1994, the Hutu seeing the Tutsis as the hated other slaughtered 800,000 of them using mainly machetes, knives and clubs. No modern technology was needed to exceed the daily rate achieved by the Germans in exterminating Jews. The basic psychological motivation for extermination, ethnic cleansing or racial purification is the same despite these different labels. We each create and carry a ghost within which has been traveling with us throughout our history and we are the only one who can exorcize that ghost.
References and notes are available for this essay.
Find a much more in-depth discussion in the Simple Reality books:
Where Am I? Story – The First Great Question
Who Am I? Identity – The Second Great Question
Why Am I Here? Behavior – The Third Great Question
Science & Philosophy: The Failure of Reason in the Human Community