Why would a story that portrays the murder of children as a triumph over evil resonate with someone? Answer that question, and you've taken serious steps to understand the Boston Marathon bombing, not to mention the American drone war.
It's not to say those two examples are identical, as one overtly targets children and the other rationalizes them as "collateral damage." But these two share more than the effect of child corpses. They also share a cause: the attempt to defeat evil by locating it in others and destroying them.
In my last post, I said that it's our job to write better stories than this. We need to figure out how to spin out yarns for ourselves that are 1.) aware of our fear but 2.) allow us to become the heroes we know we are.
In order to do that, we first need to consider the possibility that our own issues with mortality are propelling a less-than-conscious hero narrative, one that puts us at many disadvantages but which we are unwilling to change because it forms the locus of our self-esteem.
Phew. No easy stuff.
To help with that, the Ernest Becker Foundation strives to share Becker's message and ideas, and the work of Becker lives on in Terror Management Theory.
Really interesting experiments are being done that add data to these ideas. For example, did you know that subtly reminding someone of their own mortality can make them more aggressive, less forgiving and more reliant on cultural symbols? It's a fact.
|Just ask Reapy.|
I hope you'll read on, and write better.