Russians love their children too

Russians love their children too

05 April 2022 | 5 mins

As Jung and many others throughout human history observed, there is a shocking discrepancy between reality and perception, a fact that inevitably results in a less-than-optimal understanding of our world.
Just as we tend to assume that the world is as we see it, we naively suppose that people are as we imagine them the be. In this latter case, unfortunately, there is no scientific test that would prove the discrepancy between perception and reality.1
This statement written in 1916 still holds true today. Modern science hasn’t helped much in bridging the gap, nor does it seem it will be able to in the near future. 

Perhaps the arts can be of some assistance. In 1985, amidst the Cold War, Sting released ‘Russians’ as part of his debut solo album ‘The Dream of the Blue Turtles.’ What about the Russians? Given the release date, you would assume the song is all about the Russians as the hated and feared Other on the other side of the Iron Curtain. But Sting had a different take: Russians are just like us, since they too love their children. 

"In Europe and America", begins Sting’s poetic reverie 
"There’s a growing feeling of hysteria
Conditioned to respond to all the threats 
In the rhetorical speeches of the Soviets." 
Sting stretched his sensitive feelers and responded to the collective “hysteria” by warning his Cold War audience that 
"There is no monopoly of common sense
On either side of the political fence."
 Amidst the war in Ukraine, on the 25th of March, 2022, Sting released a new version of the song (albeit deeper, more mature, and less ornamented) since it’s once again relevant.  

‘Russians’ is a song that states our only source of comfort and, simultaneously, a source of profound despair: We are all humans. We are one race, artificially divided. Only if we recognize how not unique we are in our humanity can we see beyond ethnicity and delusional feelings of exclusivity: 
"We share the same biology regardless of ideology 
But what might save us, me and you
Is if the Russians love their children too."
For better and/or worse, we are all ruled by the same inner structure, and psychological mechanisms. 

Carl Jung dealt extensively with the same concept: He mapped out the structure of the psyche that holds true for all ‘modern’ humans. He also wrote about ‘the primitive’ as opposed to the current version of humanity. The sad news is that even though there are differences between ‘primitive’ vs ‘modern’ humans, there isn’t much progress as far as our suffering is concerned: it doesn’t seem to diminish and it’s largely self-inflicted. 

Yet, we are all humans who love our children, and we would like to keep them alive, so they, in turn, can have more children, and thus ensure the future of humanity. This is an axiomatic mechanism for all forms of life on earth. Alas, we humans are unique but in no way superior, since instead of recognizing our sameness we create “a series of more or less imaginary relationships based essentially on projections”2 . Instead of recognizing ourselves in what is projected outwards, “we criticize and condemn the other, we even want to improve and educate the other.”3  

The World Stage is an easier place to see this interplay, which intensifies during conflicts: “All human relationships swarm with these projections; anyone who cannot see this in his personal life need only have his attention drawn to the psychology of the press in wartime.” It’s far easier to see how I am projecting as a Cypriot upon ‘the Other’ my “unavowed mistakes” have this be upon a Greek, a Turk, an American, than how I am projecting as an individual upon my sister, my friend, my lover. 

Yet, ironically, it is far easier to reach a sufficient level of self-awareness as an individual than as a collective (be it as a team, a country, a group of neighboring countries etc.), just as it’s more common to observe lack of awareness in a group. As Nietzsche put it in ‘Beyond Good and Evil’, madness in individuals is the exception, in groups and nations it is the rule. It’s a numbers game of sorts, and thus, regression-to-the-mean par excellence. Alas, a sufficient level of self-awareness won’t do. We would need “an unusual degree of self-awareness” to cut through our projections, or else we “must always succumb to them” because this is the natural inclination of our species. We are bound to project upon our environment. So much for development…

The good news? We are all in this together: “Every normal person of our time, who is not reflective beyond the average, is bound to his environment by a whole system of projections.”4  And if you think you do not belong to the average, you are most likely mistaken; it’s statistically significant that you do. 

We might as well start with the basics: The Russians love their children too. And so do the Chinese; and so does your ex, and your worst enemy. And those who don’t have kids, if they were to have them, they too would love them; at least the normal ones would – i.e. those belonging to the norm, the average. That instinctual love-for-one’s-child kicks in, because we are all humans made of the same substance (science did help in proving that fact). 

Now, if we could only wrap our heads around this, we could perhaps deal more effectively with the human practice of waging deadly wars for the sake of protecting our beloved children via sending them to fight, and possibly die while they are at it, against those we project upon our inner realities.  Either we face our deadly habits as a species, or Sting will be right about yet another musing: History will teach us nothing.5  

 “There’s no monopoly of common sense.” I think Sting is being overly optimistic and/or poetic, in assuming either sides of any conflict actually possess any level of common sense. We could take this statement at face value: Indeed, there is a certain kind of ‘sense’ that characterizes the ‘common’ human/group, that is the average, i.e. the most representative sample. It’s the kind of thinking commonly found among us. Potentially, an equally large number of ‘us’ could overthrow it, and bring about the change required for a transformation of human consciousness. All we need is an unusual degree of self-awareness at a collective level to reach the tipping point of believing that, indeed, “There's no such thing as a winnable war.”

[1] Jung, The Structure and Dynamics of the Psyche, CW8, 1916/1948, par 507
[2] Jung, The Structure and Dynamics of the Psyche, CW8, 1916/1948, par 507
[3] Ibid. par 516
[4] Ibid. par 507
[5] Sting, 1987, History Will Teach Us Nothing. Album: Nothing Like the Sun