Sunday, December 30, 2012

Stockholm syndrome

As most of you know, Stockholm syndrome is a psychological condition in which captives or abductees come to form emotional bonds with their captors. I believe it’s more common among women. Atheism is the theological version of Stockholm syndrome.

In the gulag of our fallen world, you have two types of prisoners. On the one hand, you have the assimilators and collaborators who’ve made peace with life in the death camp. They are content to stay in the death camp. To sicken, starve, age, and die in the death camp.

Having resigned themselves to their lot, they make a virtue of their self-imposed necessity. They come to love the death camp. Embrace the death camp. They come to love the commandant. They come to love the prison guards.

They festoon the razor wire with wildflowers. They take pride in painting their rat-infested barracks. They take pride in scrubbing the floors. They take joy in farming the sweltering malarial swamps. They compose patriotic work songs in honor of the commandant. As one of them put it:

We are going to die, and that makes us the lucky ones. Most people are never going to die because they are never going to be born. After sleeping through a hundred million centuries we have finally opened our eyes on a sumptuous gulag, fragrant with open sewers, bountiful with snakes, scorpions, and mosquitoes. Within decades we must close our eyes again. Isn’t it a noble, an enlightened way of spending our brief time in the sun, to work at understanding the gulag and how we have come to wake up in it? This is how I answer when I am asked–as I am surprisingly often–why I bother to get up in the mornings. To put it the other way round, isn’t it sad to go to your grave without ever wondering why you were born? Who, with such a thought, would not spring from bed, eager to resume discovering the death camp and rejoicing to be a part of it?

On the other hand, you have the malcontents and irreconcilables. They never feel at home in the death camp. They are constantly plotting how to escape. They are always on the lookout for chinks in the security system. They nurse the unquenchable hope for something greater beyond the barbed wire. As one of them put it:

These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. For those who say such things declare plainly that they seek a homeland. And truly if they had called to mind that country from which they had come out, they would have had opportunity to return. But now they desire a better, that is, a heavenly country.

They don’t simply want it for themselves. They try to befriend prison guards, so that some of the guards can also make a better life for themselves. Find happiness outside the death camp.

The captives who love the death camp don’t simply disagree with the captives who hate the death camp. They resent them. They can’t stand the fact that some prisoners don’t share their wistful view of the death camp. They try to shame them into loving the death camp.

When they discover an underground tunnel, they sabotage it. When they find a hole in the fence, they repair it. When they find out a prison guard is collaborating with the escapees, they rat him out to the commandant.

1 comment:

  1. Steve, very insightful post. I'd love to see how you would overlay this perspective on the story of Les Miserables. That would be a wonderful exercise, wouldn't it?