Saturday, November 8, 2014

the informer

It was once illegal for East Germans (left) to cross the minefield and climb or burrow under the wall that separated East and West Germany in Berlin. Those attempting it could be shot. Informers of the day made the shootings easier. Today, there is a self-congratulation about the wall's demise, but the fact is that division is ever so much easier and financially rewarding. Take "terrorism" for example.
Marking the 25th anniversary of the destruction of the wall that once divided East and West Germany, there is also a recollection of the secret police (Stasi) files that reveal the informers who worked for that police force. These were insiders who informed on their friends who might be planning to escape the communist regime of the east and flee to the west. Friend informed on friends.

How hard it is to go against the established norms, whatever they are. Twenty-twenty hindsight suggests that informing was a despicable activity and yet when has it been otherwise? The social pressure to conform is never to be dismissed out of hand: Who does not love the warmth and applause of some group? Who wants to be alone and lonely and unloved?

And worse than creating an exterior social challenge to the status quo, how about the challenge that can arise within -- to slowly but surely turn against all that has been so comforting and settled ... the ideas and beliefs and judgments that have made me who I am?

Isn't spiritual life like this -- taking tentative steps that will upset a sturdy applecart? To rethink and rebel has far-reaching and discomforting consequences. Not only literal friends are called into question, but friendly assumptions likewise lose their purchase and are threatened.

And the worst of it, perhaps, is that the only thing worse than rethinking and rebellion is the lack of rethinking and rebellion. Slowly, the flaws and insecurity of what was unflawed and secure creeps in like an oil spill off the ocean... thicker and thicker, more and more toxic, killing more and more flourishing species of thought and emotion and lifestyle.

This is scary shit ... except where it is brushed aside with intellectual posturing.

Socially, conformists seek out comfort and reassurance. And who is not a conformist? The conformist within does much the same. Socially, the informer-mind -- the one that twists events into comforting and laudable activities -- begs implicitly for peace and security and certainty. "There's gotta be something to rely on!" Socially, informers enrage me ... but I have been too harsh. Informing on our dearest friends, our most deeply-held convictions and judgments, is just what anyone is capable of. If it enrages me, I cannot change anyone else. The best I can do is to try to steer clear of what I abominate.

And within, the confrontation is simply personal: Which is more confounding? To rebel or not to rebel?

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