Friday, October 21, 2011

The Adolph Syndrome, Oct. 20, 2011

    My father, as I knew him while growing up, was angry and depressed but basically he was a good man who also happened to hate Jews, as I learned by his responses to radio transmissions during dinner while WWII was ravaging Europe. He even grew a moustache to imitate the “Fuehrer.”
    It took some thirty-five plus years for me to understand that I was my father's daughter, but not just that I was his daughter, but that I shared his feelings of “revenge” towards a “perceived” injustice as all people and all animals endowed with a memory do!
    I first noticed this behavior many years ago at the Jenkintown Train Station while passing the time waiting for the next train. A pack of sparrows pecking at doughnut remnants left by the customers started attacking a particular sparrow that appeared to have a bad leg. It hopped slowly and obviously missed most of his due meal!  They kept at it with a sort of adamant intent, well knowing that the animal did not present a threat. Therefore I wondered why did they bother at all since there was enough food for everyone on the station floor.
     The answer to my quest came as I remembered my own actions in regards to a cat that I had well known a long time before.
     It was during my exile in Rome. I was younger, inexperienced, needy and grateful for anything my Mother did for me, and at the same time I resented her for her need to deprive me of personal power.  To some degree I was aware of her need to exert power since she also had been deprived of it in her own youth and in her own marriage.  She had felt powerless for years, sucking up resentment, which eventually some twenty years later erupted in hideous revenge against her in-laws. I happened to be on the scene, impotent, to witness it.
      Would I ever behave like that? Of course not. I considered myself a good person, as did my Mother, as did my Father, as did Adolph Hitler.
      Our basic need for self esteem required by our need to survive, do not necessarily drive us into self-analysis. Self-analysis is almost certainly not part of a bird's survival behavior, but attacking and exterminating the weak ones in the tribe certainly is. Or so Darwin would have maintained.
      This appears now not to be the case with very intelligent primates whose vengeful instincts have been documented by hidden cameras, neither is it the case with us.
      My father related how Jews in the school he went to, near the Roman Ghetto treated him badly. There are cases today in The Philadelphia Inquirer Newspaper in which very nasty torture is being inflicted by bullies upon weaker children and how it goes often unreported.
    It is happening all over the world, pain inflicted by those who have power as arms, bombs, sex, against those who are consider weaker and therefore in most, but not all cases, decide not to fight back; for fear of retaliation.
    Why do I call this the Adolph Syndrome?  Because Hitler is a classic example of a man who was poor, brutalized by his father, knew his intelligence and superiority, had humiliating experiences while being very poor, and he may have projected his anger upon Vienna Jews; Jews of his time because they were a powerful economic and intellectual elite in  Austria . They had what he did not, but what was due to him, and while in jail he had plenty of time to figure out his retribution.
     Jails can come in various guises. Some have invisible walls.
      Mine, at one time in Rome, Italy was invisible to myself.  But yes, I felt resentment. I felt the injustice to which I was kindly and knowingly submitting, but I also felt my powerlessness and felt my own inability to escape from the jail and be on my own. It was a combination of more elements I care to list, except that on one day similar to many other days I happened to chase after a very loving and sweet cat with the intent of picking him up putting him in the yard.  The animal must have sensed my tenacity, and being by nature like the one legged sparrow, quickly took refuge under the kitchen sink, which had a deep space where the cat could cover.
       I knelt down and tried to reach it with my hand but could not. I poked at it with a broom stick, but it didn't even grovel as it  refused to move, probably transfixed by fear. At that point I grew angry at its “cowardice” and at its stupid capacity to endure insult.
      Somehow I suddenly realized that a part of me was insulting the animal JUST because I perceived it as weak and cowardly . We know that in some of his writings Hitler felt exactly this way about the Jews: weak people who were incapable of fighting back. Because of their inborn weakness they needed to be exterminated before they could further contaminate the German blood.
     My unconscious must have sent me a long forgotten message of when my Mother abused me for no fault of my own, also telling me that  I was a coward because I did not do the terrible things she did as a child.
      I stopped and walked away from the kitchen.
      Years later, as I recounted to my close friend Yolanda how I had only once really enjoyed being malicious. I shared with her my own experience with that sweet defenseless cat.
      Under different circumstances it might not have been a cat, but I happen to love cats and therefore became very quickly aware of my own impulses.  I am and have impulses as all of us living beings do.  Self-awareness and self-knowledge, about which Socrates taught a long time ago, is the only saving grace capable to remind us  that we do have a choices  and that by destroying others we destroy ourselves, as Hitler finally did.