What have they got to hide? On the discontentment and tragedy of not knowing one’s connection with humanity.
Recently, I read in the Guardian that “Top Republicans rub shoulders with extremists in secretive rightwing group, leak reveals.”
“A leaked document has revealed the membership list of the secretive Council for National Policy (CNP), showing how it provides opportunities for elite Republicans, wealthy entrepreneurs, media proprietors and pillars of the US conservative movement to rub shoulders with anti-abortion and anti-Islamic extremists. The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), which monitors rightwing hate groups, describes the CNP as “a shadowy and intensely secretive group which has operated behind the scenes” in its efforts to “build the conservative movement”… The CNP is so secretive, according to reports, that its members are instructed not to reveal their affiliation or even name the group.”
No surprise, really, but the details of the reporting stuck in my head. Then a question came to mind: Why are some right-wing extremist groups so secretive? What have they got to hide?
Listen or watch this article on the Think Queerly Podcast:
A Simple Truth of Human Nature.
The only reason these kinds of groups are secretive is not that they are ashamed. These organizations are secretive because they know they are morally wrong. They know they are wrong because their beliefs and actions will harm, hurt, subjugate, control, abuse, indoctrinate, manipulate, and kill people. They know they are being inhuman — they are acting inhumanely — albeit mostly unconsciously, since the majority have been so deeply brainwashed, they don’t know how to think critically for themselves.
I believe this is also the reason many of the people involved in these organizations are so angry. They are displaying an emotion that is the result of the inner conflict they experience. They believe so strongly in this unnatural and inhumane moral justification for their secretive actions that they have no other means of expressing how they feel but through anger.
The hellfire and damnation that they claim are going to rain down upon LGBTQ people, Blacks, and Muslims is simply a reflection of what is going on deep inside themselves. They are experiencing an unconscious despair at the disconnection from the harmony of all that is — they are disconnected from humanity and the oneness of the natural order. They do not know how to belong to humanity because they see themselves as superior.
Your Identity Is Not a Lifestyle
Who you are is who you are. If someone cannot agree with who you are, or they label your skin colour, sexual or gender identity as a “truth” they want to control, they do not love themselves.
Please — read that again!
The only way you can disrespect or hate someone else for their identity or appearance is because you lack unconditional self-love. This, I believe, is a kind of emotional illness caused by rigid and fundamentalist ideologies, most of which are religious-based and preach salvation. And most of which are taught to children who grow up with a very limited view of freedom.
If you can’t respect the basic existential dignity of another human being — which doesn’t mean you have to agree with them — you do not respect yourself.
Each and every person is of nature. None of us are apart from nature, rather, we are all very much part of nature. No one person or group has the moral grounding to label another person undeserving of basic human rights. No one person is better than another, as we all originate from the same source. Yuval Noah Harari and other historians have made this exceptionally clear. “Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind” is a great place to start reading.
Disrespect that is grounded in hate is a lack of self-compassion, which is a lack of self-love.
There Is No Morality of Nature or the Natural Order.
There is no right or wrong, good or bad, within the natural order of things. This is one of the core teachings of the Tao Te Ching. The universe has never made a mistake — in the sense that a mistake is an artificial construct (a polarity/judgement of right/wrong) of the human mind.
All that is, simply, is what it is.
Human beings have come up with these concepts, these dualities, or polarities so that we can communicate and get along. At the extreme, right/wrong is used as moral justification to control and enforce. For betterment, right/wrong can be used to teach how we can get along.
“There is no greater tragedy than discontentment… When you truly understand what it means to live peacefully, satisfaction will begin to replace your desire for more.”
“Change Your Thoughts, Change Your Life: Living the Wisdom of the Tao.” Wayne Dyer
When we are content, living a consciously contented life, we are in harmony with ourselves and with nature. This means that we are also in harmony with other human beings — who at least experience a similar amount of contentment.
Contentment requires self-awareness, personal responsibility, and self-mastery. It also means recognizing and honouring one’s ego, but being mindful not to let the ego take over. It is the ego that loves contention, takes one out of contentment, and leads towards contrivance — that is living a life of artificial needs and desires. This results in the need for external validation in the form of possessions, recognition, or power.
“He who is contented with contentment is always contented.”
Verse 46, “The Way of Lao Tzu: Tao Te Ching.” Trans, Wing-Tsit Chan
Discontentment and artificiality are what lead to unhappy people — because they lack self-awareness.
Those whom we might identify as religious fanatics, fascists, extreme capitalists, or oligarchs, do not live with contentment. They are falsely searching for the means to control the world that lives outside themselves. It is a never-ending pursuit which can never be satisfied. Once you have reached more, there still appears to be more to attain.
We can only ever “manage” what is going on inside ourselves. And the less self-aware someone is of what’s happening inside “who they are,” the more of a danger they are to others.
The danger is that the more you can acquire — be that possessions, power, or recognition — only results in wanting more. There is no endgame because there will always be a brighter, shinier object that appears to be the solution to your pain and desire. Be that a luxury car, a private villa, control of a company or a political party, or the ability to impose laws restricting the freedoms of other people as a vicious, sociopathic dictator.
No wrong is greater than the desirable,no calamity is greater than discontent,no blame is greater than on desire to gain.Therefore the sufficiency of contentment is always enough.
Verse 46, “Tao Te Ching: Zen Teachings on the Taoist Classic. Lao-Tzu and Takuan Soho.” Trans, Thomas Cleary
Power, Corruption, and Lies.
These three things are intertwined. You can get more by lying. Corruption requires deception. Corruption is an unrealistic desire for power and a misuse of that power. An excess of power may lead to lies in an attempt to hold on to that power and withhold it from others.
What can we do to help such individuals out of their misery? I don’t have definitive answers, but here are some observations.
Secretive extremist groups actually crave attention.
At the individual level, the extremist craves acceptance. However, the kind of acceptance they are getting is based on hatred for others and blindly following an ideology about what human beings are deserving of rights or existence. That is a false, unnatural form of acceptance.
True acceptance is based on care and connection; which we can call love. If we can agree, at least for this article, that love is a form of open-heartedness and acceptance for the dignity of another person without conditions or judgment, then you will agree that ‘acceptance’ within an extremist group comes with extreme conditions. In other words, the proper term should be ‘ideological adherence.’
Fight Ideology, Not People
If you fight and argue with people in extremist groups, or try to “de-platform” them, you only feed their need for more power and control. You empower them to feel even more entrenched in their uncritically held beliefs.
Understanding others is often the hardest work we have to do in life. In the Tao Te Ching, humility is one of the core principles for living life with integrity. Humility essentially means that you put yourself below or behind another person to support them. This does not mean you are subservient to them. It means that you humbly put yourself in service of that person because you have the capacity to do so. You are not giving away your power or your sovereignty. In other words, you can stand under that person to support them. This offers an interesting reframing for the definition of understanding.
The more that we can openly discuss ideas that are uncomfortable, the easier it becomes to discuss those ideas.
Extremist groups are secretive because they don’t want to risk engaging in open conversation. That might lead to an understanding and respect for groups of people they label as ‘other’ or ‘undesirable.’ Thus, they work in secret to align with people who have power over others to give them a sense of safety, prediction and response.
We must remain collectively committed to working with those who have a public platform for the common good. With the help of journalists, politicians, and social justice or human rights organizations, we can teach and share how to improve individual rights, freedoms, inclusion, and equity. The more we demonstrate and lead from acceptance, connection, and care for others — even those individuals whose ideas we disagree with — the more of an impact we will have on hearts and minds.
We need compassionate, humble voices of reasoned self-awareness that connect humanity instead of dividing people.
In other words, share a message of human liberation and love. Demonstrate the benefits of living a life of contentment, happiness, and freedom. In so doing, you demonstrate respect for all humanity without the need for negative or contentious statements or arguments.
“Curb you tongue and senseAnd you are beyond trouble,Let them looseAnd you are beyond help.”
Verse 52, “The Way of Life According to Laotzu.” Trans, Witter Bynner
Stop fighting a losing battle against people who cannot be reasoned with.
They are like huge rocks in the middle of a stream. Go with the flow around them. Otherwise, you will be waiting beyond your potential lifetime to wear down their rigid beliefs.
“The flexible overcome the adamant,the yielding overcome the forceful.”
Verse 36, “Tao Te Ching: Zen Teachings on the Taoist Classic. Lao-Tzu and Takuan Soho.” Trans, Thomas Cleary
Secretive extremist groups need to lose their desire for power before they come to question what they’ve been doing and why they feel so angry.
I believe they need to experience unbiased acceptance in the form of open-heartedness and understanding to realize and feel that they are going about their lives in opposition to humanity — and in opposition to their very human nature. They can only go so far before they have to come back to the centre; so high before they fall. Not living at the extremes is the Way of integrity and human-heartedness.
“Being and nonbeing give birth to each other,Difficult and easy complete each other,Long and short form each other,High and low fulfill each other,Tone and voice harmonize with each other,Front and back follow each other — it is ever thus.
Verse 2, “Tao Te Ching: The Classic Book of Integrity and the Way.” Trans, Victor H. Mair