Saturday, 10 July 2010

The Heart of Darkness?

The novella, The Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad describes a trip into the heart of Africa, typically, Congo. This trip in fact describes, rather symbolically, a journey into the depths of one’s own psyche.  What emerges is that the protagonist realises that the depth of Darkness exists not without, but rather within the inner self. It is only that the journey into the depths of Congo to build a railway line brings out the worst in the explorers and the people supervising the laying down of the railway tracks. The Journey into the Heart of Darkness exposes the depravity that exists beneath a thin veneer of civility in human beings!

Sigmund Freud’s  description of the human psyche as consisting of the id, the ego and the super ego comes to mind! The Id consists of the baser instincts in Humans, namely: sex, hunger, violence, and the urge to dominate over others. The Ego, on the other hand is the conscious component of the psyche which tries to maintain a balance between our baser instincts, and our conscience which keeps restraining us from breaking moral and social rules or values. The Super Ego on the other hand, is the voice of reason, the voice of conscience, or the guiding voice that exists in our psyche.

Circumstances, and the problems faced by the pioneers in Conrad’s, The Heart of Darkness exposes the id that hides beneath the veneer of civility. Unfortunately, the voice of the super-ego becomes overwhelmed by circumstances and the Id reigns supreme. So, then it becomes clear that an ideal human being is one who has a psyche which is perfectly balanced between the Id and the Super Ego. It therefore  means that  a person with an excessively strong Super Ego would be rather too shy, guilty, constantly washing his hands.  This man would be an introvert, and would have a demeanour that suggests excess subservience, and passiveness. On the other hand the person with an excessively strong id would be a person with a very strong extrovert, he would be aggressive , violent, gregarious and sexually active. However extremes of both would result in and excessively abnormal character.

In today’s times, few remember Freud’s concept of Psycho-Analysis, but fortunately it is still portrayed in numerous films in the form of Hypnosis. Stream of Consciousness is also used as a style of narration in movies and serials.  Free association of Thoughts another Psychoanalytical tool has been popularised by various genres of films and books such as Horror Films and Psycho-Thrillers. Some of the noteworthy films are:” Silence of the Lambs”,”Stigmata”, the Hindi film: “Kartik calling Kartik”, the English T.V. serial: “Seagull Island”,…etc. The Novel, “Skin and Bones”, written by Tom Bale describes an early morning massacre of the residents of a small town by a one man killing machine ( a deranged man with poor self esteem and a poor I.Q.!). The real culprit turns out to be the wife’s nephew of a realtor who wants to turn the town into a modern township by buying out the local residents, and trying to force them to shift out. After the deranged man has almost cleaned out the whole town, the nephew comes to meet him, they greet each other and, the nephew without warning, shoots the deranged man!

Schools today have begun experiencing a sudden spurt in incidents of violence. The U.S. schools have reported incidents involving extreme violence which lead to the death and injury of a large number of students. These were incidents in which a disgruntled student brought  a gun to school and shot indiscriminately at his classmates and teachers. A prestigious school in Gurgaon was in the news when a student got hold of his father’s revolver and shot at the boy who used to bully him! Schools in Delhi too have witnessed their share of violence.

So, then, does this suggest that today, though we are more educated and technologically advanced than the gladiators of Rome, we have not advanced mentally? Is this propensity for violence ingrained within our Psyche? Perhaps it is that, deep within, we are still animals with the animals’ instinct for violence? This civilisation, this culture are all thin veneers which hide a beast called the Id, who is ready to unleash the worst kind of violence on the society! An increase in the number of incidents labelled as Honour Killings, Rapes, kidnappings, Road Rage deaths, rampages, all bear testimony to the fact that deep within us resides this beast ready to unleash destruction everywhere!

Well then, where does this leave us? It is very clear that in order to keep the beast within us shackled and subdued, we need to have a stronger voice of reason. We need to instil Moral, Social, and Spiritual Values in our students. School syllabi should include lessons based on the values mentioned above. These values can be included in the lessons found in the textbooks of English and Hindi, or any other language. The Curriculum framers should ensure that the syllabus exposes students to Moral, Social, Spiritual and  Cultural values.

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