12th June 2014
The recent D-Day remembrances together with ANZAC and the publicity anticipating next years events at ANZAC Cove have produced some side focus on a deep and dark aspect of human fragility and anguish. Humiliation.
Old soldiers generally are loathe to speak about their war experiences especially if they were prisoners or spent long periods in combat . Most times we accept this reluctance as ‘he cant talk about it now', just too awful to recount. The horrors of it all are just too much to freshen with recall and retelling. I have often wondered about this reluctance going back to my boyhood, listening to an intimate conversation between my uncle who was wounded at the Somme and my father.
Curiously I was absorbed with the description of the wounding but never really got to the point of what happened except a jocular "I was running like hell". It wasn't until State school experiences of a sadisticly abusive teacher who picked on disadvantaged boys and then later the physical rigours of boarding school that I began to perceive touches of the psychology of the reluctance to "talk about these things".
Eva Slonim 82, a Jew , survived Auschwitz. Only now is she writing its horrors. Her parents had both passed away without breaking their silence. "No one spoke a word". Eva then throws the torch beam on it. "This inability to talk about the Holocaust is something that afflicts survivors. Maybe the fact that we were humiliated affects us, she says. Our tongues were bound in a shameful silence. Around this circled other deep fears. It was unutterable. To speak was to confirm that it was over-and perhaps it wasn't." How much of this resonates with other sufferers of violence? Women in domestic violence, grown men now remembering their boyhood in institutions, are still scarred senior citizens.
Humiliation. The inability to protect ones being. Frozen fear. Secret horrors sometimes projecting onto parts of our bodies with attendant shame. Powerlessness- the cold steel of humiliation thrust deep into the soul of ones dignity and ego can be horrific. Do men find these circumstances harder than women?
So its not just the theatre of war. This humiliation pains in other authority structures-staff relations in corporations, hospitals, schools, and yes, prisons. Any place where ego's are carelessly bumped and bruised. Families sometimes. How healing is true gentleness here! Yet oh how rare.
Sure our old Adamic ego needs to be severely jarred, as Tozer put it. Yet that can be the beginning of the poverty of spirit which as the first Beatitude, lays the foundation of a Redeemer- treated ego which in time is restored with godly resilience to be so healed as to rejoice in the suffering and ego bashing to be borne with standing for truth. This is all beyond modern medicine. What is required here is rich and strong pastoral cure with patience, Psalmic insight, and yes, deep gentleness.