Pain and Scars – Marc MacYoung

Let’s talk about pain and scars.

(This was in response to someone who threw “It’s funnier when you haven’t suffered a genocide” at me.)
The avowed intent of the study of history is to accurately represent what happened in the past. To see different sides and and to — hopefully — learn from what occurred in the past. (And again hopefully recognize how it influences us today).

The purposes of a narrative are much, much more complex. Included in this complexity is spindoctoring and where does an agenda take history and segue it into narrative? Specifically when does selective historic interpretation serve as junk science to shore up the narrative?
The easy way to spot the difference is history is complex with many factors and opposing viewpoints. Narratives are simplistic (often attributed to mono-causal forces) and have a very strict orthodoxy — and gawds help you if you question that ‘version.’
While narratives play a key point in group/cultural identity, they can also be very much the source of self-inflicted victimhood. For example when something is presented — and accepted — as a ‘scar on the psyche’ of a people.
But is it really?

Scars from personal experience with violence are visible. (I have some I could show you). Psychic scars, those not so much… but they do manifest commonly in some very identifiable and specific behaviors. Here’s the funny thing many of these behaviors are present pretty much in everyday life. (For example, people familiar with violence have a higher amount of eye movement as the environment is unconsciously scanned.)

Oddly enough, a great deal of narrative pain based behavior only shows up given specific stimuli. (I have an interesting story about an American black woman’s complete change of behavior and attitude in the Paris Airport when she heard my accent.)
Yet we are told to accept the idea of psychic scar on an entire people’s awareness. But let’s look at the idea that specific event can be wired into a people’s consciousness. I gotta say that there too I have problems. A swallow doesn’t need to be taught how to build a nest. A fish doesn’t need to learn how to swim. A squirrel from a northern environment will still horde food for winter, even if it’s transported to Florida. That’s hard wiring.

However, if a narrative is fed to a baby with his/hers mother’s milk. That is very much going to influence that child’s consciousness. It is part of being indoctrinated into the beliefs, myths (narrative) and identity of the family and tribe.
So let’s play with the idea of a psychic scar that one receives from personal experience is going to be different than one that you’re conditioned to accept. In fact, one might even compare narrative ‘scars’ as tribal tattoos that the parents have that the child is raised to aspire to.

Now mind you the pain from getting a tattoo is no less real than the pain of getting — what will become — scars. Pain is pain. But once we acknowledge that, we also have to ask: How much of that pain comes from accepting the narrative and living according to it?
“I’m a _____(fill in the blank). This is a scar on our psyche”

More than that how much does the narrative keep people from moving beyond a narrative?
“I’m a _____(fill in the blank). We don’t do that.”

This brings up a morality question of ‘Is this good or bad” that I’m not going to address. But know that the next question along that line is “Why is it wrong for other tribes to indoctrinate their children into that hated other myth, but okay when we do it?” I ask especially when it comes to accepting pains from times past.

What I will ask is that you recognize the difference between pain from personal experience and pain arising from accepting a narrative. I think it is an important distinction that we’ve lost sight of.

So when you talk about the scars of genocide on a people’s consciousness, that’s a little different than you talking about the scars from that time when you “were in the hills with Geronimo.”

Because face it, I don’t think you’re that old. So you’re not talking from personal experience.

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