America: Land of Denial

In these relevant and poignant words Robert Bly lifts up literature, art, and poetry as our best cultural weapons against the toxic denial that’s eating at the soul of our nation.  Sadly, the humanities have taken a beating within our nation’s colleges and universities. This only magnifies the need for a sense of urgency among our most creative individual and thinkers.

“It’s possible that the United States has achieved the first consistent culture of denial in the modern world. Denial can be the considered as an extension- into all levels of society – of the näive person’s inability to face the harsh facts of life…

We have establish with awesome verve, the animal denial as the guiding beast of the nation’s life. The inner city collapses, and we build bad housing projects rather than face the bad education, lack of jobs, and persistent anger at black people. When the homeless increase, we build dangerous shelters rather than face the continuing decline in actual wages…

Earnest Becker says that denial begins with the refusal to admit that we will die…Death is intolerable. To eat, shit, and rot is unthinkable for those of us brought up with our own bedrooms. We want special treatment, eternal life on other planets, toilets that will take away our shit and its smell…This mechanism of denial, once established by the longing not to see death. . .becomes rooted in our whole way of being. We specialize in not seeing what the deficit and rapid use of oil will do to our grandchildren…

…In this situation, art and literature are more important than ever before. Essays, poetry, fiction, still relatively cheap to print, are the best hope in making headway against denial. The corporate deniers own television. We can forget about that. There’s no hope in commercial television at all. The schools teach denial by not teaching, and the students’ language is so poor that they can’t do anything but deny. School boards forbid teachers in high school to teach conflict, questioning authority, picking apart arguments, mockery of news, and corporate lies.

…Great art and literature are the only models we have left to help us stop lying. The greater the art the less the denial. We don’t need avant-garde art now, but great art…Eating bitter means to turn and face life. If we deny our animalness, our shit, and death, if we refuse to see the cruelties and abuse by [corporate] executives, presidents, and sexual abusers, it means we have turned our backs on life. If we turn our backs on life don’t be surprised if we kill the poor, the homeless, ourselves, and the earth. Getting rid of denial, then means getting used to the flavor of “bitter,” getting used to having that flavor of bitter truth in the mouth.”  

From The Rag and Bone Shop of the Heart, by Robert Bly.



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