When a people begin to believe they have been defeated they have entered a bottomless pit. They continue and continue and continue to live in defeat. It is a cycle that can cripple a people not for a year, not for a century, but for a millennium.
Thus we look at so many communities across the globe. These communities celebrate a distant, idyllic past, a past fueled with great heroes and accomplishments. They celebrate a past without which — they claim — today would not be today. And, these claims of the greatness of the past are to somehow bring these people on the same level as the conquerors of today.
Not to be.
That celebration of the past is fuel. It is fuel for the vicious circle of defeatism. It perpetuates a longing for something that never existed as a hope for a future that is not there or theirs. It is also an excuse, an excuse to continue this life of grief.
And, worse, their acknowledgment of today’s defeat is indeed this search for yesterday’s victory, yet they acknowledge the defeat to you, but not to themselves. What they hope then, from the conqueror is an acknowledgment of the greatness of their ancestors, and thus they are satiated, back into their quicksand of defeatism.
It is denial.
And as such, this denial continues this downward cycle to further layers, where you wonder, “can it get any worse?” And it does. And it will continue to do so, for the denial has not been cured, for it seeps through the generations. Each generation in this path will experience “a new low” not reached by any of its predecessors.
In this psychology of defeatism, the only way to liberation is to imitate the conquerors. Parents raise their children according to the categories or molds available before them: conqueror or conquered. To be a conqueror might seem to be a route of liberation, yet it is nothing, but the search for more acknowledgment from the conqueror himself that “I am you.” This pseudo-leveling might come from material accomplishments, costume (including precision in dialect), or certification. To be the conquered, however, is to give in and give up. T0 be the conquered is to accept that life is one of unhappy struggle, with a dim hope for a promised land in the great beyond. Both offer one simple outlook: self hate.
When the conquered looks in the mirror s/he defines the self according to the images etched in the mind of beauty and health: the image of the conqueror. The conquered sees what s/he is, and the conquered also sees what s/he is not, relative to the conqueror.
Often in a deep-set frustration, the conquered cannot help but to destroy the self. S/He hates him/herself enough to destroy not only his/herself, but also his/her child. If the child cannot or does not conform to this rigid model of either mimicking the conqueror or satiating the self as conquered, the child is ostracized. And the cycle continues for another generation.
The conquered have lost their own sense of dignity. Thus, their behavior often falls into a spectrum between two poles. At one pole is the hyper-sensitive soul who interprets every non-positive comment as an attack on his/her (already lost) dignity, perpetuating his/her sense of deep victimhood. At the other pole is the humble servant who submits quickly and quietly whenever the pressure seems to build.
The disease reaches the lowest depths of the conquered’s heart. No longer does s/he believe in free-will. No longer does s/he believe that s/he can chart his/her own destiny. The consideration does not even come to mind. He believes in fate and predestination. The belief in fate is the hallmark of the conquered. Rather, the belief in a defeated fate is the hallmark. He has no hope but to be carried by the hands of fate. And, those brittle hands carry him not to the light of the sun, but instead to the deeper waters of the abyss of defeat. If the conqueror believes in fate, s/he believes in manifest destiny, that allows him/her to steamroll over the delicate destinies of those in the way.
The power hungry conqueror knows to perpetuate this trap, and does so by feeding the mythology of nobles and savages and heroes and villains. The savage cannot help but to be savage, s/he needs to be made noble. The villain’s misconduct necessitates the heroes brutal butchery. Thus, when the young child grows, surrounded by this mythology, this mythology that lacks heroes, the cycle continues.
As the cycle continues, those who choose to liberate themselves often develop a few categories for their path of liberation: reject the conqueror, react to the conqueror or mimic the conqueror. In every case, s/he is defining the self as a response to the conquerer. Even when s/he mimics his/her own heroes of the past, s/he is doing so as a response to the conqueror. The cancer spreads in every single direction.
Where then is the hope? Is the only true path of liberation for the conquered to butcher the conquerers as they themselves were butchered? Such is so often the case with revolutions, is it not? Revolutions do not overturn the old guard; rather, they replace the old guard with a new guard that is only marginally different.
Where then is the hope? The hope is in self-definition. And that self-definition requires heroes, as well as a whole cadre of people reconstructing the minds and hearts of the defeated souls.
And Allah knows best.