Denial is the refusal to acknowledge an unacceptable truth or emotion or to admit it into consciousness. We use it to defend ourselves from knowing what we do not want to know. If pushed, we may respond with anger, until reality forces us to pay attention. Even then, some refuse. Years ago I watched as an alcoholic patient in a V.A. hospital watched a video of himself being admitted for treatment. He was so drunk he couldn’t say anything but gibberish. When one of the psychiatrists asked him who he was watching, he said he had no idea, because he’d never seen the guy before. Truth was, he didn’t want to admit that the drunk on the video was him. Pushed, he became irate. “You’re a goddamn liar!” he roared.
Why denial when the evidence against it is undeniably clear? The truth hurts too much to let it in. If I own up to the idea that the guy in the video is me . . . what do I do then? I might have to change. So I clamp down and refuse to listen until reality rears its ugly head and I have no alternative. Even then, some of us refuse, because knowing is too painful. The world, as I have chosen to understand it, is as I see it . . . and when an alternative view is presented, I will attack it, even when scientific and historical evidence is shown to me that I am wrong, and maintaining my denial could prove disastrous to me and the people and cause that I support.
“Never underestimate the power of denial,” journalist Sharif Nashashibi said a recent article on Aljazeera. “It is always easier and quicker to deny wrongdoing than to admit culpability or explain oneself. It stifles legitimate scrutiny in favour of a simplistic “yes / no” argument that is designed to confuse and deceive. This is what makes denial so appealing, and hence so prevalent in cases of injustice.” If denial doesn’t work? Justify your behavior.
A few days ago, I watched as US Senator Charles Schumer of New York berated the supporters of the BDS (boycott, divestment and sanctions movement against Israel. “They have a double standard,” he declared, “one that the Jewish people have faced throughout the centuries. They choose to boycott Israel; then when faced with surrounding countries with far less human rights, far less rights for women and LGTP people, they don’t boycott at all! If they’d boycott all these other countries, then . . .” Deny, deflect, attack the opposition, and accuse them of picking on Israel (on Jewish people) while excusing everyone else in the neighborhood who are far worse. If asked why he denies what is going on in Israel, Senator Schumer would say he’s not denying at all, he’s telling the truth.
The danger with denial is reality. A man notices a lump in his right breast, tells his wife about it, then shrugs it off when she urges him to have it examined. “Men don’t get breast cancer, Sweetheart, women do.” Twelve months later he notices it has grown and sees his doctor. An examination shows that he has breast cancer, and that it requires immediate surgery. Surgery reveals it has spread. A year later, the man is dead. He is 35 years old.
Yet, knowing this, people persist in denying what scientists and people on the ground know beyond any shadow of doubt is true. Global warming is happening, humans do contribute to it, and doing nothing will have catastrophic results. If Israel continues to persecute its Palestinian citizens and the Palestinian residents of the occupied West Bank, East Jerusalem, the Golan Heights and Gaza, the results will be a racist, totalitarian society that many will compare to Hitler’s Germany — in short, an insult to the memory of those killed in the Holocaust. Denial does things like that. In an article published in Haaretz on April 9th, journalist Gideon Levy writes “no one is dealing with the fundamental question: Is the two-state solution still attainable and if not, what is the alternative and what do the parties intend to do to achieve it?
“This is also a natural and direct continuation of the daily denial and repression – as if, if we do not speak about the occupation and its crimes, it won’t exist. As if, if we don’t speak about the Palestinians and their fate – they won’t exist. The word “peace” was taken off the agenda a long time ago and together with it, the hope of achieving it. In such a state, it is hard to point out the differences between most of the parties when it comes to diplomacy, since none of them have a clear programme or an established platform”
(Elections about nothing in a nation in denial) http://www.middleeasteye.net/columns/elections-about-nothing-1449913223
Sad to say, the same can be said about the United States and a myriad of other nations around the world where denial of reality is used on a daily basis in order to avoid “having to deal with it”, then discovering, like the fellow with breast cancer, it is too late. Speaking about the United States “denial disease” is epidemic on many levels about many things. We’ll have a look at that in another post. Our future may depend on it.