Demons of the mind
Life is a long, arduous struggle. We are called to engage in relentless combat. We are forever in war zones. We cannot escape them, try as we may. The great problem, however, for us is that although we experience the combative spirit and are constantly flexing our muscles and training ourselves for war, we often choose the wrong enemy. We tilt at windmills.
Development has brought us innumerable blessings, and there is much more to come than we envisage. There are great things in store for us. There is no way anyone can stop it. As former U.S. President Ronald Reagan would say, "You ain't seen nottin' yet!"
However, the material blessings which are bestowed upon us merely bring us more problems. They inspire lofty hopes and ideals. But at the same time, they bring out all that is corrupting and devilish in our lives to the detriment of ourselves, our families and our society. These creatures are very subtle and possess an uncanny ability to conceal their sting and their venom as they bore deep into our human nature, prone as we are to reject the good and embrace what is evil.
After World War II, well-meaning men confronted with the evil that was perpetrated by Adolf Hitler and his ministers, resolved to make a thorough examination of the lives of these men. They thought that a psychological analysis of their history would reveal a lack of mental balance, a pathological disposition to evil. Thus they hoped to explain the cause of one of the most cruel and devastating experiences in history.
To their astonishment, these experts discovered that Hitler's ministers were quite normal men. They had families to whom they were faithful; they had deep relationships of friendship; they were patrons of benevolent societies, for example, 'The Society For The Prevention Of Cruelty To Animals'. So, in many ways, they were gentlemen and respected by the nation. Yet, they perpetrated the greatest atrocities ever recorded in history.
To tell the truth, we ought not to despise these men. Rather, we ought to pity them. They tell us much about ourselves and our capabilities. They speak about the insidious forces at work in all of us, if we do not expose them to the light of day and endeavour to overcome them.
Well has it been said that contemporary society is a strange combination of enlightened sophistication and utter barbarism. The inhuman elements that were at work when our ancestors were cavemen still exist. The law of the jungle, which characterizes the savage beasts, often reveals itself in human relationships. In spite of our educational thrust, and our endeavour to give university education to as many as possible, we still display many of the characteristics of our illiterate and semi-literate forbears.
Many years ago, I learnt from an English textbook, which we studied with Mr. N.A. Jeffers at the Dominica Grammar School, this memorable statement:
The particular marks of semi-barbarous people are diffused distrust and indiscriminate suspicion.
Every nation can exist only if people trust one another and avoid unnecessary suspicion. A nation can be built only on the spirit of harmony. Unity is of the very fabric of a nation. A nation where there is no brotherhood is a contradiction in terms. Unfortunately, human relationships are very unpredictable and conditional. Forces, like greed, anger, hatred, sadistic vengeance, ingrained prejudice, bitter rivalry, self-glorification, can take on monstrous proportions which demonize a person, who, to some people, appears to be quite affable. We, Dominicans, have absolutely no human shield or protection against such deadly forces.
There are demons at work in our minds. They are very cunning and are not easily identified and overcome. They are powerful beings. They lead us to adopt attitudes and do things that are counterproductive. They distort the minds even of the best educated. The demons of our minds are continuously leading us away from truth and righteousness. Indeed, they are destroying the very fabric of society.
"One man, imbued with the spirit of truth and righteousness, tells us:
Never let any man bring you so low as to make you hate him".
The demons of our minds, on the other hand, lead us to believe that our security, our self-progression, our personal enhancement, demand that we hate our opponents, that we snub them and that we must not converse with them, even when justice and humanity make this demand of us. This unyielding rigidity in our relationships cannot contribute to nation-building. Surely, this must be wrong!