This statement is my version or evolution of an original quote by Robert Bly. His original quote reads “Our parents rejected who we were before we could talk.” The quote is made in reference to the “shadow” aspect of our divided soul/psyche. A short quote from A Little Book on the Human Shadow (1988) reads:
The drama is this. We came as infants “trailing clouds of glory,” arriving from the farthest reaches of the universe, bringing with us appetites well preserved from our mammal inheritance, spontaneities wonderfully preserved from our 150,000 years of tree life, angers well preserved from our 5,000 years of tribal life—in short, with our 360-degree radiance—and we offered this gift to our parents. They didn’t want it. They wanted a “nice girl or a nice boy.” That’s the first act of the drama.
In a crude, boyish way, he had begun to get the hang of this money-business. At an earlier age than most people he grasped that all modern commerce is a swindle. Curiously enough, it was the advertisements in the Underground stations that first brought it home to him. He little knew, as the biographers say, that he himself would one day have a job in an advertising firm. But there was more to it than the mere fact that business is a swindle. What he realized, and more clearly as time went on, was that money-worship has been elevated into a religion. Perhaps it is the only real religion—the only really felt religion—that is left to us. Money is what God used to be. Good and evil have no meaning any longer except failure and success. Hence the profoundly significant phrase, to make good. The decalogue has been reduced to two commandments. One for the employers—the elect, the money-priest-hood as it were—”Thou shalt make money”; the other for the employed—the slaves and underlings—”Thou shalt not lose thy job.” It was about this time that he came across The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists and read about the starving carpenter who pawns everything but sticks to his aspidistra. The aspidistra became a sort of symbol for Gordon after that. The aspidistra, flower of England! It ought to be on our coat of arms instead of the lion and the unicorn. There will be no revolution in England while there are aspidistras in the windows.
It bears repeating that we are not attributing any particular nobility or, for that matter, ignobility to foragers. Some behaviors that seem normal to contemporary people would quickly destroy many small-scale foraging societies, rendering them dysfunctional. Unrestrained self-interest in particular, whether expressed as food-hoarding or excessive sexual possessiveness, is a direct threat to group cohesion and is therefore considered shameful and ridiculous.
Is there any doubt that societies can reshape such impulses?
Right now, girl’s necks are being elongated ring by brass ring in parts of Thailand and Burma to make them more appealing to men. Clitorises are being cut away and labia sewn together in villages all over North Africa to dampen female desire, while in glamorous California, reduction labioplasty and other cosmetic vaginal surgeries have recently become a booming business. Elsewhere, the penises of boys are being circumcised or split open in ritualistic subincision. You get the point.
From savoring saliva beer or cow blood milkshakes to wearing socks with sandals, there is little doubt that people are willing to think, feel, wear, do, and believe pretty much anything if their society assures them it’s normal.
Social forces that convince people to stretch their necks beyond the breaking point, schmush the heads of their infants, or sell their daughters into sacred prostitution are quite capable of reshaping or neutralizing sexual jealousy by rendering it silly and ridiculous. By rendering it abnormal.
What replaces the sense of natural community in The Crucible, as perhaps in Nazi Germany and, on a different scale, 1950’s America, is a sense of participating in a ritual, of conformity to a ruling orthodoxy and hence a hostility to those who threaten it.The purity of one’s religious principles is confirmed by collaborating, at least by proxy, in the punishment of those who reject them. Racial identity is reinforced by eliminating those who might “contaminate” it, as one’s Americanness is underscored by identifying those who could be said to be un-American. In the film version of his play, Miller, free now to expand and deepen the social context of the drama, chose to emphasize the illusory sense of community: “The CROWD’s urging rises to angry crescendo. HANGMAN pulls a crude lever and the trap drops and the two fall. THE CROWD is delirious with joyful, gratifying unity.”
Alexis de Tocqueville identified the pressure toward conformity even in the early years of the Republic. It was a pressure acknowledged equally by Hawthorne, Melville, Emerson, and Thoreau. When Sinclair Lewis’s Babbitt abandons his momentary rebellion to return to his conformist society, he is described as being “almost tearful with joy.” Miller’s alarm, then is not his alone, nor is his sense of the potentially tyrannical power of shared myths that appear to offer absolution to those who accept them. If his faith in individual conscience as a corrective is also not unique, it is, perhaps, harder to sustain in the second half of a century that has seen collective myths exercising a coercive power, in America and Europe.