Helping Nonprofit Leaders Transform Conflict

Leadership Coach and Mediator

Repulsed. Shocked. Disturbed. Terrified.

the act of killingI watched the trailer to the documentary “The Act of Killing”. It starts with one of the killings Anwar Congo and his death squad committed during the Suharto extermination of alleged communists in the sixties. You see and hear the terror of those who are about to be burned alive. I felt no less repulsed and horrified when I realized that these are not actual killings, but enactments in a studio with actors who survive, staged by the killers.

I felt most shocked that the killers seem quite satisfied and pleased with themselves and their acts. No shred of remorse, guilt, or shame. They don’t see themselves as war criminals. “That term is defined by the winners. And we won,” as one of the killers says.

I feel appalled. How is it possible that these killers walk around happily and at peace after killing thousands of men, women, children and elderly? How don’t they have a troubled conscience? They cannot be human, they must be psychopaths without feelings, and we have nothing in common.

When Joshua Oppenheimer, the director, started filming he pledged to approach his subjects without judgments, even though he judged their killings. He was committed to approach the killers with kindness, and an openness to connect. It was a challenge for him. Many times he had to retreat from the project to self-connect and self-care, before he was able to engage them with at least some kind of basic kindness. He had many moments where he wanted reassurance he isn’t like them.

Till he realizes the difference is only relative, not absolute. That he -fortunately- had never been in a situation where he would find out that he could commit the same horrendous acts. That he always had enough support and creativity to meet his needs in more wholesome ways.

What if Oppenheimer is right? That I have -deep down- the same seeds that could bring me to commit the most sadistic acts, maybe even with joy and delight? Seeds that haven’t been watered yet, that are still held in a container of mindfulness and compassion, that lay dormant in my subconscious, and yet… the same seeds that triggered the killers to commit those crimes?

I pray it isn’t true.

And I know it is.

If I want to contribute to a world with respect for life, I need to look into both the wholesome and unwholesome seeds in my subconscious. So that I can take good care of the unwholesome ones, transform them into wholesome ones, and hopefully never act with sadism.

You want to embrace your unwholesome seeds with mindfulness and compassion? Contact me 512-589-0482 for a free discovery session to see how I can help.

This is the second blog around “us-versus-them”. Next week I intend to write about protective use of force.

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