Discover more from Chloé’s Newsletter
For The People of Israel and Palestine
If a person is made to believe that they do not matter, they will act accordingly. This basic, yet profound, fact about the human condition has nothing to do with how much a person has in their bank account. It is the folly of our late-stage consumerist capitalist era to confuse access to money with psychological safety. There are plenty of people with money who are addicts to that same pile of money and act accordingly. There are plenty of people with material power, who are addicts to that power and who act accordingly. So, it should not be assumed that just because you have money and power, you are not experiencing scarcity. You may not be experiencing material scarcity, but as Jesus pointed out, Man does not live by bread alone.
This is why I find the language of "privilege" as it is currently used in our political discourse to label so-called "white men in power" to be both irresponsible and corrosive. At the end of the day, the men in The Wolf of Wall Street were dickheads. They did terrible things and screwed over many people. They were also fundamentally addicts and addiction ≠ real power, or at least not real, meaningful or lasting power.
Psychological safety is knowing that you are loved, that you belong, that you matter and that in spite of the suffering that life will inevitably bring, it is still worth living.
If you don't live in an environment that cultivates an awareness of this truth, (and so many of our societies fail to cultivate this because of a whole host of reasons) the neuropathways in your brain will cause you to perceive the world as an us vs them hellscape, a war of all against all that you must wage battle in, in order to "protect your own". The only way to interrupt this is to experience something that disrupts the story you have been led to believe was true all your life. The only way to sustain this interruption and utilize your newly developed neuropathways is to build, and be part of a community of people who are also engaged in self-work via an ecology of practices capable of sustaining it.
For example, I know of a gentleman who was caught in white supremacy ideology for the longest time until he started to meet black people who treated him with kindness. It was that simple. Now he lives his life interrupting extremist organizations and doing some incredible healing work for men who have been caught up in that old system of thinking. This worked not because black people possess some magical leprechaun powers but because when you treat bigots with kindness, you interrupt the neural pathways in the brain that tell them that the world hates them, which causes cognitive dissonance and influences the brain to change itself. (Brilliant book btw: The Brain that Changes itself by Norman Doidge; fun fact: the most complex system in the known universe is your brain.)
I cannot stress this enough. Bigotry is a defensive mechanism that all human beings deploy when they feel unsafe. The bigot hates because on a fundamental level he believes that others hate him. Making bigots feel unsafe, as a way to change their behavior, only goes so far until it starts to undo itself. (There are many messy societal implications to that last statement but the science is the science.)
Now, let's complexify this further by talking not only of a single person but of an entire group. When a people feel like they are under attack, when they feel like they do not matter, when they feel like no one loves them, they will gravitate toward whatever group of people show
s them love or acceptance -- even if this love is warped or fucked up. It is important to note here that the people who show them affection are, in most cases, ALSO wounded, have not healed and will do the best that they can do even though the best that they can show is a kind of distorted type of affection that is at it’s best a
This is where hyper-tribalistic, extremist ideologies come from. For the sake of this post, you should hear the word "extremist" in a destigmatized fashion. It is simply a word meant to refer to those whose states of mind are impacted by psychological scarcity and who thus perceive the world in extreme black-or-white thinking. I fall into this way of thinking many times and I'm sure you do too. It is very human to do so. Another word for this in psychology is "splitting" which refers to our tendency as human beings to see others as all good or all bad instead of seeing others as containing both. Again, this type of worldview when scaled up and acted upon produces violence, hatred, and suffering AND it is also a defensive mechanism deployed by people who deep deep deep deep deep down do not feel loved.
Are you with me still? Did you read through all that lol?
Now you understand the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Jewish Israelis have always felt like their existence has been under attack. That they are unloved by the rest of society. That when push comes to shove, the nations of the world will murder them if given the chance. See 1939 to 1945, the Spanish inquisition, Russia and the Soviet Union for just a few recent examples.
That Jews in Israel now have sovereignty (aka power) DOES NOT MEAN THAT THEIR TRAUMA HAS BEEN HEALED. The impact of that trauma cannot be overstated. Seeing the world through a lens informed by the Holocaust (and how can it not be) would naturally create the need for defensive measures to protect the community from annihilation. Those defensive measures are both necessary and equally as susceptible to going too far. When they do go too far those measures produce extremism. And so it is that within the Israeli population there are Jewish extremist groups who believe that they must absolutely destroy their Palestinian neighbors as a matter of defending themselves from annihilation. You need to understand that this destructive urge has emerged as a function of trauma.This is born
e of deep and painful wounds. These wounds will take decades to heal. Merely having power in the form of a Jewish state may create the capacity for that healing to take place but it is not the same as the healing itself. One must follow the other. Jews in Israel cannot heal unless they are in a safe space that is conducive for this healing to take place. Whenever global leaders around the world call for boycotting Israel, and whenever Palestinian leaders call for wiping Israel off the face of the earth, this trauma is reinforced, and the scarcity mentality is activated. Whenever a Palestinian stabs and kills an Israeli civilian, this trauma is reinforced. When I hear liberal progressive Jewish leaders speak of holding Israel to a higher standard, and ending the occupation of the West Bank, I agree in principle with the spirit of what's being called for, but I see nothing mentioned about the real cognitive-psychological trauma that gives rise to the occupation and the rise of extremist groups in the first place. This will take generations to heal.
Still with me?
Palestinians experience this same trauma. They are constantly told by Israelis, especially extreme right-wing Israelis, that their existence is a fabrication, that their culture and origin story is a sham, and that they effectively, should be wiped off the face of the earth. They are also constantly told that they are not to be trusted, that their entire existence as a matter of justice ought to arouse suspicion. This is the corrosive nature and impact of the occupation. (And no by occupation I don't mean Israelis have no "right" to the West Bank. I mean that any imposition of a surveillance state which seeks to control every single movement of a people will by definition corrode and degrade that people. This is simply a fact and if Israelis were forced to endure something similar, I assure you they would feel the same way. This is the human condition.) The signal that Palestinians receive when subjected to this is the same, "I don't matter, I'm unloved, I'm not wanted.", feeling I described earlier. The constant experience of surveillance imposed by the Israeli government in the name of protecting its people produces the feeling of a lack of protection and invasiveness within the Palestinian population. Naturally this leads to the development of extremist groups within Palestinian society reinforcing those same belief systems which then is used to justify their existence.
This past winter I was at a checkpoint for nearly two hours crossing over from Bethlehem into Israel proper. The checkpoint as seen from the Palestinian perspective was arbitrary, draconian, and simply passed for the purpose of making the population feel the might of the Israeli government. Imagine you're a pregnant woman on your way to the hospital and you find yourself in this predicament. Imagine you're on your way to work. The constant disruption will affect the way you experience both yourself and your community. And it will likely make you hate Israelis, or at the very least reinforce a sense of separation. Us vs them. Me vs you.
None of this is a justification or an excuse for the violence that Israelis and Palestinians wage against each other, but it sure makes it understandable. I hope this enables you to see the tragedy of it all. What is playing out is in many ways totally to be expected since it is what has played out between humans since the dawn of time. I do not know the answer to this dilemma but those Israelis and Palestinians who end up bringing peace to their land will be those who can see their own stories and traumas reflected in the eyes of each other; It will be those same Israelis and Palestinians who can feel all their sorrow and rage, WHILE also being able to hold the sorrows and rage of the other. Empathy is the way. Both the Palestinian and the Israeli community is holding on to their own narrative to defend themselves from the threat of annihilation, but paradoxically, you’ve got to let go if you want to be free.
Letting go is a profound skill set and it may take us centuries to learn how to do it. Still, I have great faith in the Israeli and Palestinian people. In their ingenuity, bravery and courage. Perhaps at the end of the day it will be they who lead the way for the rest of us humans. After all, they are cousins. Family. And perhaps this family can teach us through their pains and their profound suffering, how we might all become a human family once more, by learning, finally, how to love, and be loved in return.
This post is for the people of Israel and Palestine.
Hi Friends, I’d be so grateful if you’d consider becoming a patron of this substack. The more it grows, the more high - production (and higher, hehe) musings I can create on topics like Life and Death, Religion vs Spirituality, The Wisdom in Pop Culture, and more. My ultimate goal is to help seed communities of practitioners committed to living the examined life. I really believe this is what we need at this time, especially considering the levels of depression, stress, polarization and mental health epidemics we as a society find ourselves in. I aim for this substack and all content production to be an investment in that goal and, eventually, a library that communities of practice can leaf through. If this project moves you, please consider becoming a monthly supporter!