Putin vs Unicrons
She stepped towards our dark blue car and peered at her reflection, so I said, “Ha, a pink unicorn, can I stroke it?” And she leaned forwards to allow my finger to stroke her forehead as I cooed on about the superb creature which had landed beside our car.
“We’re having a ball as she’s sleeping over and we can play all the games we can’t when her brother is here,” the grandmother smiled. “It is bliss.”
I couldn’t help my mind flying from this idyllic moment to the far side of Europe and to an international group of ex-special service soldiers who are rescuing Ukrainian orphans. “Their carers were shot dead, even though their white vehicle had large red crosses painted on each side and the roof,” one of the men growled.
“Russian soldiers are devils. Their military culture enables them to purposefully kill the innocent with impunity.”
It was this which made me cry when Syrians suffered the same cruelty. It was this which made me weep when I was last in a hospital bed. How, I keep asking myself, can any sane person kill a unicorn?
Because we let them. In Chechnya, where we Caucasians originated; in Syria, where writing first evolved; in Crimea, where Ukrainians lived in peace until, without protest, we let Russia invade seven years ago. That’s the problem with bullies, if they are allowed to intimidate, they assume it is their right and soon they are blinded and kill unicorns.
You, me, those we know, all have this trait. Think of those moments where you/they have let anger swell and swell and of course it keep swelling, and if condoned it gets its way and so the next time it’s pathway easier. We are, after all, animals and an animal filled with rage will do anything to get at its perceived adversary, even if it is a pink unicorn.
Research repeated again and again has shown that if you allow powerful emotions to rise, they imprint their scar on the brain and soon the groove they have created is set in steel, mind-steel, that is. Soon these traits are so engrained that they are part of our character and wee assumed they are justifiable, hence we bomb the innocent without thought.
The noble Kenyan tribe I grew up alongside and worshipped, had this tendency and it bothered me. When my very best friend, a gentle, wise teenager, grew up and became a warrior, I failed to understand how he could go out on raids and kill Maasai warriors. “It is our Olympics,” K said. And later I learned that centuries before, his civilised tribe had had to develop this ‘sport’ to defend itself against its fierce, aggressive enemy’s constant attacks. So engrained was this culture of warfare that K told me, “They are only warriors, it is fair game. I could never kill a weaker tribesman. We chose the ferocious Maasai to instil fear in them and others.”
I know well this ability to strike hard. It will surprise my friends who know me as a pacifist that, even when encumbered by poor health, I have frequently attacked muggers to save their victims. I have, in a strict Muslim town, even used my frail body to shield a man they were about to stone to death. At such moments I am overtaken by an inner-beast who, though acutely aware of the dangers, though fear is swirling, acts.
All my life I have known this beast. Those childhood years of intimately play-fighting with the Nandi as they prepared themselves for warrior-hood, encouraged him to devolve. I have noticed him wake and rise when I have allowed negative emotion to well within (remember me wanting to ‘nuke’ that driver with my crutch two weeks ago?) Thankfully, as you saw, the pacifistic side of me is always aware of this inner genie and quickly steps aside from it if it is not required; let’s hope this trait continues as I enter dementia and that my inner-Putin is silenced.
We can enable the better sides of ourselves to dominate, for empathy to be our default. It is a choice. We, as my wife proves daily, need not be bound by our inner-Putin imperative. We, in our daily activities, can chose to enable our secret unicorns to flourish and enable those in the people around us to thrive.