King Donald is the ultimate finished product of industrial civilization’s paradigm and the consummate mirror of our personal and collective shadows. It may be that before he completes his first term, he will be impeached or removed by some other means. Catabolic collapse and the climate catastrophe that he is presently exacerbating will continue unabated. Other madmen or madwomen will succeed him. But more importantly, he isn’t just one politician who isn’t any worse than another.
The joy that comes of feeling one’s grief rather than suppressing it is but one instance of the dark gold to be mined from the shadow. Other forms of dark gold include increased self-acceptance, healthier personal relationships, greater control over one’s unwanted emotional reactions and access to previously untapped creative energies. Moreover, every gain that one makes in reclaiming his or her own shadow improves the overall state of the collective shadow, which in turn brings the Earth community closer to being healed. “Since the collective shadow is comprised of the projections of individuals,” writes Baker, “even minimal reclamation of our own projections facilitates harmonious communication and interaction within the human community and the planet at large.”
When an individual or a society will not confront its shadow, it invariably projects it onto the “other.” The shadow loves nothing more than the notion of exceptionalism. In fact, it thrives on it. Exceptionalism’s twin, of course, is entitlement. We are entitled because we are exceptional. We are entitled internationally to extend the tentacles of corporate capitalism to every inch of the planet, and we are entitled intra-nationally by “virtue” of race, class, and economic status, to deliriously consume everything in sight and oppress and dominate all whom we deem not exceptional.
Institutional racism is the elephant in the room that has never been sufficiently addressed by white America. While talking heads on cable news channels debate the use of body cameras by local police officers as the magic bullet (no pun intended) that will alleviate police brutality, and as white Americans attempt to convince themselves that yet again, technology is our savior, no one is seriously discussing institutional racism—the shadow of all make-nice appearances of racial harmony and healing since the glory days of the Civil Rights Movement.
If everything is free, you don’t need to struggle with your relationship with money, and I don’t need to struggle with mine.
As with the social changes that were necessary to end the African slave trade, a transformation of modern capitalism requires that we step outside of ourselves and examine our own roles within the system objectively. It’s easy to see capitalism as a system external to ourselves, but it’s much harder to acknowledge the stories we carry inside of ourselves that create and reinforce the values that sustain it.
“If we do not understand that the enemy is within, we will find a thousand ways of making someone ‘out there’ into the enemy, becoming leaders who oppress rather than liberate others,” writes Parker Palmer in Let Your Life Speak. What does it mean to confront our inner enemy, knowing we can never truly be rid of those shadows? In the article below, facilitator Rick Bommelje offers an illuminating story about embracing the both/and of our inner worlds.