Sunday, March 16, 2008

The Blindness of Guilt

"Don't whack off there, sonny boy, or you'll go blind."

It may have been just a movie, but I saw a piece of true psychology at work in Sergio Leone's remake of Kurosawa's "Yojimbo", "A Fistful of Dollars". The introduction to arch bad guy Ramon is shown with Ramon behind a Gatling gun ruthlessly mowing down a troop of soldiers. In this he takes great relish. When the killing is complete - and no soldier remains alive - Ramon is satisfied in an almost sexual manner.

Later in the film Ramon is told of two soldiers who escaped and are hiding in a nearby cemetery. Immediately upon hearing this Ramon and his men set out into the night to eliminate the soldiers. The previous massacre had been staged to look as if two rival armies had clashed and if the truth got out to the Mexican government, Ramon and his band were dead men. It was in this scene I noticed Ramon's fatal flaw.

In reality, the two soldiers were a ruse set up by the Eastwood character. He took two dead uniformed bodies and propped them up against a headstone as if they were in conversation. The two "soldiers" are encircled and eventually toppled over from the gunshots of Ramon and his men. The ambushed soldiers do not, however, cry out, run away or fire back as would live soldiers. Ramon is an extremely clever and shrewd man. Yet he takes no notice of the ease of the kill or the unnatural behavior of his victims. He just has to believe he is right and cannot stand the thought of anything else.

Earlier I did a posting on the
False Parsing of History about when historians play the "What if..." game without realizing the greater forces in play. And in this case they would speak of Ramon's glaring stupidity to not realize something had been wrong in the cemetery shootout. Why not verify the soldiers were truly dead to prevent another fiasco such as this? Why didn't he notice the lack of movement on the soldiers' part? The answer to these and other questions is the same: guilt.

The guilt of the massacre blinded Ramon. Confident and cocky as long as he believed the truth would never will out, he was then equally terrified and trembling at the thought of the truth being revealed. You can read the fear in his face as he shoots. His immortal soul was in danger and that overpowering terror blinded him from his normally clear-eyed view on reality. A true historian would realize there was actually no way Ramon could have known he was being set up in the cemetery - it was in his blind spot.

Countless crimes are successfully committed each day. But in the aftermath of guilt, the perpetrators often get hung up through their own desire for discovery. Decision making is impeded by the vortex of the perpetual cover-up. People often look back at bad decisions in history not realizing those decisions were inevitable. And this is why I now call America 'The Land of the Fucked'.

On my
Alpha Centauri blog I did a posting entitled "Does God believe our propaganda?" From the way we act here, the answer seems to be a resounding "Yes!" We spin our invasion of Iraq as something other that what it was: an act of pure evil. And like Ramon, we will be blind until we admit the truth. America will continue to make foolish and self-destructive decisions. Future historians will not understand our need to destroy ourselves and the necessity we feel to wreck our society as long as we call ourselves only good. They will only see our stupity - and we will live it.

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