There’s another theme in The Lives of Others, the great German movie about life in the GDR, and that is the police state where citizens are being watched routinely and thrown in jail with no or only a theatrical trial, for political or personal reasons, like a minister being sexually attracted to one’s girlfriend.
It’s also something I’m very interested in, because from my point of view, we have voluntarily given up so much of our freedom and privacy since 9/11 that we might as well have fought an outright war and lost it.
It got me thinking about the problem with a police state. The problem is that a society in which rules can never be broken is inhumane to live in. Yes, the law says only cross the street at a green light and only at the zebra crossing. But we break that law all the time. Imagine literally being thrown in jail over that kind of offense. But, ah, only if you got caught. But you never know who saw you and might snitch on you. And not if you have friends in high places. But if you fall out of favor with those people in high places, then you’re out of luck.
And here’s the thing: We all have a shadow self. The part of ourselves that we’d rather wasn’t there. Our dirty sexual fantasies and desires, our bitterness, our gayness, our happiness and joy, our insecurity, our addictive behavior, or need to get stoned or drunk, whatever it is – it can be a large grab bag of stuff.
Those things that are in the collective shadow, or in the shadow of the powerful leaders, are the ones that will be outlawed. But the shadow is still there. The desire to do those things are still there. And the more we repress them, the more they’re going to bounce up and hit us in the face, like a beach ball we desperately try to hold under water. But, aha, in a police state, the leaders can get away with it, but the rest of us can’t.
This view that you can make things go away by making rules about them is absurd. Look at the prohibition, look at the idiotic war on drugs, look at corruption. It’s human nature, you can’t just outlaw it without treating the underlying cause. Human desires and needs are very very powerful forces to go up against. And there’s a lot of them … people … and desires.