‘Be careful not to choke on your aspirations’

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The fear of loss of power and selfhood breeds inclination towards ethnocentrism, which we can see in particular groups today, observes Cheah Wui Jia.

Darth Vader booms the above line as he employs his good, old-fashioned Force choke on the throat of Director Imperial Orson Krennic. The irony is this – Darth Vader squeezes Krennic’s throat to intimidate him, while telling Krennic off for extreme “aspirations” for power.

In the human world, where there are no wookies or Jedis, earthlings too are forced (pun intended) to give way to and worship the opinions of oppressive leaders, especially when they make ground-breaking headlines like, “Furry animals are awesome” and proceed to flood the social media feed with pictures of fluffy furballs that garner 1,100 shares, 20,000 reactions and 3,500 comments.

Lord Vader (pseudonym for he who shall not be named) has gained formidable recognition for various generous deeds that include the uninhibited flow of cash. He has championed the cause of a persecuted people, who were running away from a certain country like how the Jedis were purged by the Galactic Empire in Star Wars.

Meanwhile, a well-known, local artist who drew a bunch of spicy drawings making fun of the pet-loving Tarkin has been detained.

There are Lord Vaders who are allergic to spicy opposition, from leaders who throw Wasabi-loving dissidents into prison to teachers who staple the ears of naughty school children, or universities who hamper the freedom of strong-headed students because they participated in some ethically questionable, business-stealing rallies. Bosses yelling flowery words at employees in a public office space are not uncommon.

Cultivating an abusive culture of punishment and obedience comes in tandem with weeding out opponents, and most of us are aware of such intense, ‘cleansing’ sessions by now. It is a matter well known that the colour of bananas became a terribly offensive colour that incited the highest wrath in some individuals, who decided to smear the colour … with some red, tomato sauce.

“We all need some Sos…MA!”

But what causes people to do extraordinary, evil things, like force-choking those who go against them? In his essay “Anxiety Disorder’s Need for Imperial Control: Was Darth Vader Evil or Scared?” Kaskill’s argument is that controlling people are in fact, anxious people who feel powerless and overcompensate by exerting control over other people and their environment.

In Star Wars: The Revenge of the Sith, the sweet Anakin Skywalker, whose mother dies in his arms, ends up becoming Darth Vader as his anxiety goes unchecked due to his inability to save his mother. His fear of losing the woman he loves leads him to turn against his own beloved mentor Obiwan Kenobi, whom Anakin now perceives as being a threat to the emperor.

The act of placing loyalty to state above loyalty to one’s friendship bears an uncanny resemblance to a scene in a tale we as Malaysians know too well. In Hikayat Hang Tuah, perhaps the anxiety to please Tuah’s ruler is what drove Tuah’s murder of a friend whose rebellion against the state was done out of his love for Tuah.

Burying one’s sense of conscience or justice is needed for this killing of his own brother-warrior, and his acting unquestioningly according to orders is what most of us remember of this man who has been made into a symbol of nationalism.

Perhaps, Yoda is right. Fear really does lead to anger, and anger to hate.

Understanding the behavior of what motivates people to do evil things is paramount to knowing what shapes their decision to take a destructive path. Whipping up the anxiety of a particular race was what a national political figure set out to do when he was in power. His life currently orbits around the Malaysian premier and he fiercely guards the earth of Malaysia like a Datuk Kong despite his old age.

This famous celebrity has argued, in his naughty book he wrote in 1970, that the insurmountable weaknesses of his race, which shall be referred to as the Hipsters, might lead to their eventual loss of their rights in their own land.

Datuk K made it clear that the lain-lain races must be thankful to the Hipsters for being given their place in the wonderful land of Malaysia. Two years ago, Datuk K made headlines again for describing his own race as weak, lazy and inferior, compared to other races, like those whose names rhyme with Ching Chong Chang.

Any Hipster who internalises such a polarising ideology that pits “us” against “others” would understandably view the self as a persecuted victim, powerless and lacking control over circumstances.

The fear of loss of power and selfhood breeds inclination towards ethnocentrism, which we can see in particular groups today, one of which is outstanding in its love of the colour of tomatoes and its perception of the colour of bananas as anti-Hipster and pro-Ching Chong Chang.

Anxiety plays a role in shaping actions that have concrete consequences. But we are humans, and the human brain is known for its neuroplasticity, where it has the capacity to change. Neural connections can be weakened and cut off completely, and new ones forged and strengthened. In Star Wars speak, we can unlearn what we’ve learnt.

It is human nature that everyone wants to consciously or unconsciously assert our influence in the world. We want to shape what happens to us and to others. Sometimes we become overly anxious and even start controlling the actions of other less desirables.

Leaders appeal to the masses when they become, in the words of Henry Murray “the incarnation of the crowd’s unspoken needs and cravings”. (Henry Murray did a psychological study of Hitler during the war, where he found that Hitler had severe anxiety and a physically abusive childhood that led to Hitler’s compensatory need for superiority and aggression).

Trump was said to appeal to a less educated, White population who are are said to be more inclined to support far-right, anti-immigrant politicians. (Lower levels of education were found to correlate with Trump supporters, not lower levels of income, as found in this study.)

The personal is political, as we make personal choices in accordance with what we believe or want, to either support or oppose the political status quo, according to Paula C Rust, a feminist scholar.

Let’s enter the New Year with a sense of courage instead of anxiety.
 

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Hann Min
Hann Min
9 Jan 2017 4.07pm

The Force is strong with this write up.