A few years ago my daughter took a university course on Genocide in undergraduate school. The Psychology of Genocide by Steven K Baum was required reading. I had no interest in focusing on this horrific and tragic subject. My thinking at the time was that genocide is a perverse and terrifying phenomenon happening in some other worldly place and time. Frightened by what human beings can do to each other I felt only revulsion and terror. So my thinking goes…as I am helpless to change the past, I simply do not want to dwell on feeling into a horrific story that I have no power to change or influence.
While skimming the book the words authentic self and Core Integrity caught my eye. Baum clarifies that an individual’s core integration can be classified as levels of perpetrator, bystander, and rescuer. Curious I took a deeper peek and eventually re-evaluated my early life as it plays out in self-identification and motivation to see where I scored on my potential participation. Little did I know that I would one day directly have to face participating in genocide by the policies and actions of my home government living here within the United States.
In this moment I am aware that I do indeed have a global psoas, a social body, and a cultural story that informs my choices. As part of a species I am always participating even if it is to simply stand by witnessing the atrocities of others. I am not only kickingly and screamingly part of a cultural body – my core informs and thus affects all other living beings. I can no longer be helpless or innocent. I am a participant.
“Core” is defined as a clear inner personal identity where I have attained a solid sense of self from other. However, “average” people Baum suggests from psychological studies have little sense of core, so although they may seem “well adjusted,” they actually have “only fair levels of emotional stability and poor resilience against stress.” This puts the “average” person on the chart as a potential “temporary perpetrator”.
Just my ability to think that I am capable of standing apart from the cultural body reflects a dissociative frozen belief that can be uncovered and understood as part of my personal, cultural, and historical story. There is no way to simply bow out of life and not participate. I can’t stand my ground and ignore or refuse to participate. Feeling into my own core, a gut wrenching lack of will is embarrassingly perpetuating this cultural story. My childhood conditioning and ancestral insanity awakens nightmares that still live deep in my bones. To evaluate my core integrity in the context of a cultural body is to intimately face the sticky truth that I, perhaps unintentionally, aid in atrocities right under my cultural body’s nose.
My only real power and hope is with growing an integral Core. I am a being in a fluid process of core development with an intention and hopefully a growing awareness of what Fromm referred to as becoming fully born before I die. Developing this integral core is indeed within my power and with it comes a responsibility and the capacity to defy what does not sit right in my being, to think independently from those who identify with any particular ideology, and to stand up for human dignity and International human rights.