The Strongman says “My way or no way” to the Different One. He demands conformity to his way “or else”. He sees and understands only in absolutes. Black or white. All or nothing. Total Good or Total Evil.
The Strongman always sees harmful characteristics in the Different One and refuses to acknowledge them in himself. The Strongman declares himself to be highly intelligent and rational. Whoever disagrees with him is obviously wrong. He projects his extremism onto the Different One who is thus framed as the threat to society that must be contained, converted, excluded or eliminated.
When anyone dares to challenge the virtues of his Empire, the Strongman wastes no time in attacking whoever has blasphemed in any way. The flag must be stood for and the anthem must be sung. No dissent is acceptable.
The Strongman thrives on the fear he cultivates in his followers as he presents himself as fearless in the face of the looming danger. He is the Only One who can stand up to the Approaching Evil and defeat it.
The Strongman craves uniformity that fits his vision of reality while at the same time he desperately needs someone to oppose him so that he has someone to fight with. He has no idea what to do if he has no one to attack.
The euphemism of the “strongman” has been around for a long time. It has been a way to refer to the leaders of nations who operate as ruthless dictators. It’s a code word for despot or tyrant.
It may be tempting to imagine that the individual Strongman is the only problem and that his elimination solves everything. If only it were so easy! The real problem is that the Strongman is only the most visible representative of an evil system. It is this system that supports his power. The reality of this system is more dangerous and more powerful precisely because of its comparative invisibility. We tend to see people not social systems yet social systems have the quality of magnifying whatever people put into them. They also tend to organize people into their framework.
The Strongman System poses a very real danger to many. There is not much real debate about whether or not to oppose it. This system and its figurehead must be opposed because of the extreme dehumanization it imposes on everyone, including its proponents. The Strongman System is inherently exploitative and sees human beings as well as the rest of the Natural World as mere resources to be taken and used for its own purposes. This is the system that strives to crush one’s spirit. It is anti-Love.
The real question is how to oppose the Strongman System.
One option is to “fight fire with fire” which amounts to being empowered by our own fear and hatred and attempt to use this energy against the Strongman System. This is a dangerous option because it defines the framework of opposition in terms that are extremely familiar to and comfortable for the Strongman System. It knows very well how to fight within this context. It has an enormous “home field advantage” and in all likelihood is eager to have the fight on these terms and on its “home turf.” Even if this approach “succeeds” it is dangerous because of the toxic levels of hatred and fear that those engaged in such an opposition group would be exposed to in the process. The real danger is in the replacement of the original Strongman System with a newer version of the same thing. We risk becoming the evil we are trying to overcome.
Love is the radical alternative to the dubious approach described above. Love is the means to the desired end that is not contradictory. We don’t get to a loving place by hating. We get there by loving. When we adhere to the principles of Love and act accordingly we are no longer on the opponent’s “home field” but instead we have determined the framework of the conflict. We force him to meet us on our turf and on our terms. He will not be comfortable. The Strongman System will bring its materialistic power to bear against the followers of Love. Those who follow Love will bring their spiritual power to bear against the Strongman System.
What does it really mean to love one’s oppressor?
Arguably the most difficult of all commandments to follow is the one where we are directed to Love Our Enemy. This is very counter-intuitive for most of us. We may find ourselves pleading “Oh God! Do I really have to?” hoping that we will receive some sort of divine dispensation. This directive offers no such loophole.
Perhaps first we should be clear about what this kind of love does not mean. It does not mean that you have to like the oppressor or condone his behavior. It is not affectionate love. It also does not mean that we must comply with the oppressive system that the strongman manages. It is not submissive.
So what does it mean?
I believe that this kind of love contains a crucial understanding of the deeper nature of who we are as well as the real identity of the Strongman. This love recognizes that the Strongman is, in fact, profoundly ill and spiritually lost. It is through this kind of love that we comprehend that the Strongman is trapped in a form of deep suffering. Love sees that the cruel oppression of the Strongman is the projection of his suffering onto those around him. This is his futile attempt at escaping his agony. This agony is likely compounded by a very deep sense of shame that prevents him from acknowledging to anyone how much internal pain he is experiencing. In understanding this, those who are oppressed can act from a sense of deep and powerful compassion. This loving compassion allows one to see how sick and lost the Strongman actually is and then to act accordingly toward him. This compassion is possible because of our recognition of him as one of us. He is our lost and suffering brother.
What might this type of action look like?
I think it looks a lot like the way a good doctor interacts with a sick patient. The doctor’s first goal is to “do no harm” which means not to cause any new damage or in any way to worsen the patient’s condition. That translates into nonviolent noncooperation with the dictates of any oppressive system. We don’t enable someone who is caught in the cycle of a destructive addictive process. At the same time, we take great care not to shame or humiliate the patient who is already suffering. If laws are unjust and dehumanizing then submission to these laws becomes a form of enabling the suffering addict-Strongman. Enabling is a violation of “do no harm.”
This kind of radical love seeks to very actively promote healing in the one who is sick and suffering. This healing process flows out of the awareness and acceptance of who we really are as beings.
There is an established view that we humans are an incredibly complex arrangement of sub-atomic particles that fit together in just the right way such that we live, learn and have awareness of ourselves and the world around us. In this paradigm we mysteriously transcend the inanimate and non-conscious nature of our sub-atomic particles to reach a state of animated life and consciousness.
There is an alternative perspective that states that our fundamental reality is consciousness itself and that energy and matter are secondary to that consciousness. This brings us into the realm of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin’s assertion that: “We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience.” If this is in fact true, it has staggering implications for all of us. It says something crucial about who we really are. It points us all to our sacred identity as manifestations of the Source of Ultimate Love. It would mean that each of us is part of a vast spiritual family within which there can be no strangers. It would also mean that differences of culture, religion and nationality are largely superficial and insignificant and can no longer serve as excuses for conflicts.
In the language of traditional religion: Each of us, without any exceptions, is a Holy Child of God.
This is the basis and rationale for loving the Strongman. He is a Holy Child of God just like the rest of us. He is no exception. He has become trapped in his sickness because he has so detoured away from who he really is that he has become lost. We have a family responsibility to help him rediscover his true identity because we are his brothers and sisters. Giving him hatred will not help. Giving him punishment will not help. What will help him is this Radical Love. This Love says “We know who you are behind that mask. You can take it off now. It’s time to come home.”