(Albany: SUNY Press, 1998) with a Foreward by the Dalai Lama
This book builds from the proposition that
until now most encounters have been organized so that the point
of them is to overcome the other. This is true for the most part
of relations between men and women, parents and children, whites
and non-whites, leaders and publics, rich and poor, labor and
management, athletic teams, business firms, advanced societies
and developing societies, straight and gay, tall and short, well
and ill, and so on.
I call this assumption that one
must strive to overcome or submit to being overcome, the basis
of the adversary paradigm. It also applies to humans’
relations to nature which, like people, has been constructed
as an enemy to be overcome.
The ultimate expression of the adversary
tendency is murder, and that collectively is war. War has usually
been fought with the maximum technology available. The use of
atomic bombs in 1945 suddenly and drastically cast adversarialism
in a new light. For the first time in the history of warfare,
it became possible, indeed likely, that in using maximum technology
in all-out confrontation, overcoming the other would necessarily
also mean overcoming the self; i.e., homicide became inextricable
The threat of massive destruction by nuclear
devices was complemented by another form of technological assault,
the industrial degradation of the environment to the point of
numerous deaths and severely damaged systems of land, water,
and air needed for survival. The human tendency toward adversarialism
has become incarnated in objective processes which neither created
nor defined adversarialism but rather came to represent it in
stark, terrifying ways.
Historically, alongside the adversary paradigm
and in secondary relation to it is the mutuality paradigm,
based on the mutuality assumption that the other can be
a friend, a colleague, an ally. Religious notions of community
and love flow from this paradigm, even if they are ordinarily
undercut by the adversary organization and practices of organized
religion. Political systems idealize mutuality in official documents
like constitutions and in politicians’ rhetoric but contradict
it in their behavior. The same is true in most if not all other
institutions such as education and the family.
My claim is that in order to survive adversarial
forms of onslaught, including the ethnic and religious strife
which appears to be replacing the one over-arching conflict of
the Cold War, mutuality will need to become the primary governing
paradigm in human affairs and in humans’ relations with the environment,
inverting the historic and continuing condition where adversarialism
is primary and mutuality, secondary.
My analysis attempts to provide a useful
vocabulary for what I see as fundamental crises, indeed survival
issues, on our planet today. It is a contemporary version of
the timeless contrast between competition and cooperation. I
find that in the speaking and teaching I do on this topic, people
pick up the words and concepts I use and employ them immediately,
and most effectively.
The central innovation of my presentation
is my analysis of adversarialism and mutuality as coming in both
normative and compulsive or pathological forms. By the adversary
compulsion, I mean something beyond ordinary competition
in sport, business, or any other social context. I mean an addiction,
a drivenness that subordinates other considerations to a passion,
indeed an obsession, with “winning.” It is this compulsion
that, for example, defines the destructiveness of political systems
that forsake the political possibility of resolving real societal
problems, in favor of destroying the other candidate, the other
party, the other program, no matter what it may be.
I also identify a mutuality compulsion.
Including in mutuality the ideas of empathy, recognition of the
full humanness of the other, caring, nurturing, support, and
love, I see mutuality that denies adversary inclinations as compulsive,
just as I see adversarialism that denies mutuality inclinations
as compulsive. Based on denial of essential parts of the self,
each form of compulsion works against the possible reconciliation
of humans and nature to each other in ways that can enhance human
survival and well-being.
The book goes on to deconstruct both compulsions.
I claim that people tend to project upon others qualities they
have been taught they can not and must not face in themselves.
Hence the other becomes the repository of the selfish, dirty,
violent, lustful, failed, immoral parts of oneself that one denies,
and as well, the nobler, communal, loving, caring parts of the
self that extend beyond immediate friend and family relations
and which most people feel are beyond their capacity to realize.
In both cases one assumes that one ought not or can not achieve
what is implied in one’s desires.
Survival requires what I call reappropriation
of the full range of qualities that the self is. In a chapter
called “Reappropriation of the Self,” I offer an analysis
of the extent and nature of what can be reappropriated.
I also claim that a more fully mutualistic
society is already at hand, but in minor form that is difficult
to recognize until it is identified. Most people are familiar
with mutuality in some contexts but so far fail to see their
proliferation, their connections, and the possibility of a freer
organization of society based on mutuality as its premise rather
than adversarialism. In three chapters on “Seeds of Mutuality,”
I examine old seeds in old institutions, new seeds in old institutions,
and new seeds in new institutions.
The book nears its end with an analysis
of what I see as the major alternative to the destructiveness
of the endless adversary relations with which we are currently
saddled: globalism — recognition of the globe as the
primary unit of loyalty. I see a global culture already emerging
in outline form in political values, language, economy, music,
religion, and more. My goal is to analyze and to move beyond
analysis in offering hope in the form of visions of mutuality
and actions to help bring it about.
Believing that films speak to and reveal
major concerns and phenomenological definitions of character,
issues, and tendencies in a society, I illustrate many major
points by way of interpretations of major motion pictures including
High Noon, The Godfather, Close Encounters of the Third Kind,
ET, Rambo, Silence of the Lambs, and Strangers in Good
Company. This use of films is in the tradition of Erik Erikson’s
work on the films Wild Strawberries and The Childhood
of Maxim Gorky and is an alternative to the more conventional
analysis of literature in such contexts. Some popular music lyrics
are used to illustrate points about adversarialism and mutuality
in popular culture beyond film. Numerous contemporary issues
and events, such as reproductive rights, criminal justice, and
the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, also are examine closely to
elucidate and extend the analysis.
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