Collective Shadows

I continue being interested in the Muhammad cartoon meltdown, maybe because it is an example of the butterfly effect, or the straw that broke the camel’s back.

There are obviously many things behind this situation.

One is the traditional uneasy (at best) relationship between Christianity and Islam, especially back when both were strongly – and often unhealthily – blue in Spiral Dynamics terms.

Another is the current striving by Western countries for economic, cultural and military dominance of the world, including – and maybe in particular – Islamic regions, exemplified most recently by the US led invasion and occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq. Overall, it is possibly the most serious and comprehensive form of imperialism we have seen in human history, and this naturally leads to a great deal of resentment among people in these regions.

There is also the lack of maturity displayed at both sides. Among those publishing the cartoons knowing full well it is a serious provocation and offense in the Islamic worldview. And among those reacting against it with untamed violence.


And yet another is shadow projections, which seem to often play a significant role in any conflict – global, regional and interpersonal – and intrapersonal as well.

It is quite easy to detect shadow projections. They come up whenever I see something in others which I don’t recognize or admit to in myself, and view it as undesirable. This involves a certain blindness which leads to an I-other split, which in turn leads to dehumanization of the “other” and all that brings with it – including physical violence.

In this case, some in the West project characteristics such as fundamentalism, intolerance, hotheadednesses and volatility onto Muslims. And they don’t see their own fundamentalism when they promote free speech without responsibility or discernment, their own intolerance towards others heartfelt beliefs, their own hotheadednesses in supporting the publishing of the cartoons and condemning the reactions, and their own volatility in engaging in actions which are sure to gravely provoke others.

And some Muslims project characteristics onto Westerners such as disrespect, blasphemy, arrogance and imperialism. They don’t see their own disrespect when they act with violence, their own blasphemy in physically hurting human beings for the sake of their beliefs, their own arrogance in not accepting the views and ways of others, and their own brand of imperialism in applying Islamic law to non-Muslims.

These projections seem to be common among many on each side, in various forms and to various degrees, so they appear as collective shadows. And collective shadows, when played out, can lead to serious collective problems – as we are seeing right now.

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