This week, Robert and Dave explore the lessons of the TV series Homeland to illuminate one key aspect of what is challenging our world. All the shows talked about in this set of podcasts can deeply support us to break free from what we were taught when growing up in American culture and encourage us to contemplate this crucial distortion individually. We have our American perspective of being “the good country,” while the Middle East is marginal at best, maybe even evil. Through its story, Homeland reveals the dangers of black-and-white thinking. Robert is advocating love for America while also pointing out how as Americans our view has been distorted in the way we have been conditioned. In Homeland, there is a Bin Laden-type character. The audience is shown how his son is killed in an unwitting attack also killing 20 children. This news was not advertised in the west and so the western world is completely unaware of his hurt and anger. This is one example, or many, of how we often do not realize a two-way street exists. There is a pure element that we Americans are not shown. Homeland reveals the decency that exists in the stories that happen to people that are in this version of the Middle East.
The show is profound because it elucidates some of the deep flaws in democracy and deep flaws in Middle Eastern religion and corrupt political enterprises, which exist on both sides. Both sides are guilty and there is also innocence. Homeland demonstrates the sane elements that exist in both societies. We are shown a very moving love affair and protection of both a dedication to country and a love of children from the Middle East side. This allows us to learn another level of the same lesson, that love exists deeply in both societies.
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The Missing Conversation, Episode 69.
Robert Strock: (00:03)
Homeland showed the decency that existed in many of the people and the stories that were heartbreaking that happened to people that were in this version of the Middle East, and how you could identify with even Abu Nazir, even a Bin Laden character when they lost their own son in an attack and then it wasn’t even owned, it was denied.
In this podcast, we will propose critical new strategies to address world issues, including homelessness, immigration, amongst several others, and making a connection to how our individual psychology contributes and can help transform the dangers that we face. We will break from traditional thinking. As we look at our challenges from a freer and more independent point of view, your host Robert Strock has had 45 years of experience as a psychotherapist author and humanitarian, and has developed a unique approach to communication, contemplation and inquiry born from working on his own challenges.
Robert Strock: (01:11)
Thanks again so much for joining us on The Missing Conversation where we do very, very diligent work on addressing the most pressing issues that the world is facing today, and where we look for the most practical, inspiring programs, innovative ideas and people to support survival on our planet. Now, when I say survival on our planet, maybe that just sounds like an intellectual line to you. So I’m asking you to realize that if you’re only hearing that on an intellectual level, I am really requesting that you look to see, oh my God, our planet is actually in danger and it matters. And am I really adapting my lifestyle or my life or my thoughts or my little actions or anything to really realize that I’m in the 21st century and we have so many dangers. So today we’re going to continue to explore the lessons that various series that are on TV have really demonstrated for us artistically, that in some way it isn’t as easy to take it in intellectually as it is to watch an art, to listen to music, you know, to see art.
Robert Strock: (02:39)
And so, we’re gonna really use Homeland as a series and see the depth themes that are screaming out for the world to really look at and contrast that with what’s happening in our world and to learn the wisdom that it has to teach. All the shows that we’re going to be talking about, in this set of podcasts, can deeply support us to break free from what we are taught when we are quote “growing up,” and encourage us to individually contemplate. So before I start, I’d like to introduce Dave, who I’m sure most of you know by now. If you, this isn’t your first podcast, my closest friend for 50 years and my partner at the Global Bridge Foundation. Thanks so much, Dave, for joining us.
Thank you. And I, I truly appreciate using every available means, uh, including entertainment to illuminate what is challenging in our world. And I, I certainly think what I know is going to be the topic of today is right on point.
Robert Strock: (03:57)
And it’s very subtle because Homeland was such a enjoyable show to watch that probably for most of us, we didn’t really dwell on what’s really something that we can learn from this. What is it actually revealing in the depth of characters in the difference of countries, of where they came from? What do we really have to learn from this as Americans, or for that matter, any nationality homeland really shows. We have our American perspective of being the quote good country while the Middle East is marginal at best, maybe even evil, maybe marginal, maybe someone that we, we definitely don’t trust as much as Americans. No way. And it reveals the dangers of black and white thinking. And when I say black and white thinking, I mean starting with something like all of our presidents say, God Bless America. Now I do want God to Bless America,
Robert Strock: (05:14)
I really do, but does anybody that has any kind of a universal awareness really believe God is going to primarily bless America and leave the other countries out? Is that really the concept we have? And that’s just one of 10,000 ways we’re educated, you know, the ways that we idealize certain people: our movie stars, our democracy, even though to some extent of course that’s being challenged today a bit. But being an American, for most Americans, is really thought to be in a very extreme way, a superior country to the other world, the other parts of the world. And that’s not to say that we may not very well be the best powerful country–maybe that’s ever even existed. We may very well be. I love America. I feel like America through its history has done much more good than evil or bad things.
Robert Strock: (06:27)
And if we look at the history of powerful countries, that’s unusual. Usually, decadents and greed is very dominating where the power has really centralized. And that’s not to say that it hasn’t happened in America, it is to say that. But when we look at it relatively, I would say it’s important that you hear that America is lovable. I am advocating love for America, but I’m also advocating that we’re utterly distorted in the way we’re conditioned into America in what we were taught. So in Homeland, there was a particularly illuminating conversation that happened between two of the central characters and it showed how each character represented their own country. And it had both the representatives of the Middle East and it had representatives of America. And it shows how the main conversation that happened, or central really key conversation was the lead character in Homeland talking about how amazingly spoiled America is in its attachment to money and greed and wealth and luxury and a lack of commitment to courage, to purpose, and going beyond ordinary pleasures.
Robert Strock: (08:03)
There was a character, Abu Nazir, in Homeland, who represented a Bin Laden like character, and he was the leader of the equivalent to the Middle East. And we were shown how his son was killed in an unwitting attack and it killed 20 children. Of course, it was not advertised in the West, we didn’t get word of it and how angry he was because of that. And of course we can see the equivalence of 9/11 or of anytime there have been any kind of attacks, how we immediately go black and white and we don’t realize the many ways in which it’s a two-way street. And in that conversation, Abu Nazir was talking to Carrie, who was one of the leaders of our CIA, and she was saying how the Middle East was really hostile, angry, violent, and was really showing the weaknesses of what the Americans see.
Robert Strock: (09:12)
And Abu Nazir was saying, America is so spoiled, they’re not gonna give up their country clubs and spoiled pleasures. They’re committed to that, and we’re committed to basic ideals of God and religion, and we will give our lives for our faith. Now, that was utterly mind-blowing when I realized. Now I had heard about praying five times a day and that being a central part of the lifestyle and non-materialism and that being so, but that was because of having a little bit of extra exploration. But what we were given in our education was no real understanding of the sameness, or in some ways the areas where the Middle East had a commitment beyond the self into religion, into their own sense of God. Now, I’m not gonna get very far into how much I believe their own sense of God is being misrepresented by a lot of the extremist groups like Abu Nazir did himself and like Bin Laden did.
Robert Strock: (10:30)
But there’s no question that there are many, many, many millions of people in the Middle East that have a more balanced life as it relates to simple ideals of caring for the community of not being driven towards success, not being driven toward money and actually having much more of a sense of godliness in their life. There is a pure element that we as Americans are not shown. And Homeland showed the decency that existed in many of the people and the stories that were heartbreaking that happened to people that were in this version of the Middle East and how you could identify with even Abu Nazir, even a Bin Laden character when they lost their own son in an attack and then it wasn’t even owned, it was denied. So we hear from Carrie, the central American hero or one of the two central American heroes, and how outraged she is at the denial and cruelty of how women were treated and the denial of how much women deserve the rights to be cared for and the incredible reactive religious zealots in the Middle East.
Robert Strock: (12:01)
And the show really reveals the immense benefits of freedom in America and how many, how much individual opportunity and how much good there is in the freedom. But also, how morally bankrupt we are in terms of having a deep collective sense of responsibility for the world and really for taking God in and applying it in our lifestyle. And so what became evident, if you looked at the deeper realm of homeland, was that there were many people that had brought God into their life as a lifestyle; that the collective meant more to them than the individual. And of course, the horrible treatment toward women was abysmal. So there were two sides to the story. This is what our history books, our psychology needs to understand. Our psychology needs to point out that to have individual freedom and not to have a collective responsibility and a sense of otherness, a sense of interconnectedness with the world, with a godly element or God, whichever way you might believe, or integrity and having that be a central part of our life, we can see how easy it is to have this kind of split that a show like this reveals it is so profound to see one side show the benefits of individual freedom and how healthy that is to bring out the potential of individuals.
Robert Strock: (13:53)
And yet how crippling it is to see the spoiled element of relationship to wealth, relationship to country clubs, relationship to self-importance, treating our kids like they’re gods, and instead of realizing that something beyond ourself, something beyond our individual family is really what matters. Now, it’s entirely possible you missed that element in the show, but it was screaming out for it to be heard.
I just wanna ask you to reflect a little bit more deeply on one thing and this relates to America in one sense, and uh if you want to call it the Middle East, in the other sense. My experience is that the selection of people that make their children gods or are going to country clubs is, uh, a relatively small sliver of the overall American population. Significant, obviously the people that control media, the people that broadcast the message about what America represents. But I think it’s an over-representation in my travels around our country. And so I’d like to, I’d like to reflect on that a second. And similarly, the understanding of what it is and what it means to live in a country where there is such limitations put on women. At the same time, the benefits of the collective, the benefits of a view of mortality that is more of a group thought, is more of a sense of we’re in this together ultimately, that we don’t have here.
Robert Strock: (15:46)
I agree that to analogize our children as gods is a bit over the top of my part. What I’m really trying to say is they are the most important thing in the world, flat out. The world doesn’t matter very much, but they are the most important thing in the world. And I do not think that is rare. I think that is the norm. I don’t think people treat their kids like they’re gods, but they do treat their kids like they’re the ones that are gonna inherit whatever wealth anybody has, they’re the ones that are gonna get all the best attention that anybody has. They are the center of the vast majority of Americans’ way of living. And so that is really powerful. I see very, I see a very small percentage of people that actually care as much about the world as they do about their children. And I think that really needs to be screamed out.
I also find it hard to disagree with that point. But at the same time, where I see it somewhat differently is I think that most Americans are struggling for survival, not necessarily that they don’t value their children as number one, that they don’t see their children as a future, but without time or energy to, to spoil them. Spoiling is not a factor in my view for the majority. Uh, and so I have a a slightly different take on that part, but certainly seeing beyond it and fitting their children into the bigger picture of, is our world gonna survive, is terrorism going to, uh, basically cannibalize our world on top of climate change and some of the other issues in our missing conversations? Yeah, I agree. They don’t, that is not, that is not viewed.
Robert Strock: (17:41)
Thank you for making me be more precise in a second way. In addition to God versus the most important thing. I am in no way including people in poverty. I am in no way including people in the lower middle class because they are in a struggle for survival. And there is much more innocence, much more sanity, much more dignity in that struggle. What I’m talking about is people in America that have some wealth, that have some power, but I have the deepest respect for people that are really in poverty and are doing their very best to take care of their family. And to me that is very noble. So when I’m speaking and being more precise, I’m speaking about the 60% I don’t think most people are in poverty like you said, but I think there’s a pretty good hunk that that are, you know, maybe 30, 40% that are in poverty.
Robert Strock: (18:43)
And I’m not speaking to those people at all. So thank you for helping me clarify that. So I do believe the people that are wealthy or have wealth, even I wish I prefer to just say have wealth, they do make their children the center of the universe to a very large extent. It’s in the nineties, they would give more than 90% of their wealth to their kids. They’ll give more than 90% of their energy to their kids. And so I believe that there needs to be an adjustment and Homeland shows us a vision of two halves of a coin if we don’t get extreme and we just keep it simple. One is a central purpose that really is not materialistic. It really is oriented, at least in theory, toward the common good and is anti-materialistic because it sees it as being a trap.
Robert Strock: (19:39)
It sees it as being an addiction. Now I’m not in any way condoning, as a matter of fact, I’m harshly criticizing the treatment of women. I’m harshly criticizing the Middle East leaders, most of them, not all of them. So, I’m not disagreeing that the powerful in the Middle East have also largely been corrupted into violence, and in a certain way in extremism, big extremism relative to religion, and in some ways even more destructive than the extremism of religion in America. So I definitely wanna make that point. Uh, the really major point I’m making is not so much the people that are in political leadership, but the people that are in wealth leadership or people that are really the common people. And so if we took the best in golf, we would call it the best ball, the best side of both. I would love to instill the common sense of responsibility, not the fanaticism, and certainly nothing to do with the relationship with women, with American families.
Robert Strock: (20:49)
And I would love to instill the individual freedom, the respect for women as absolute equals and maybe slight superiors to men. And really see, and that’s why the show is so profound, because it really does elucidate some of the deep flaws in democracy and deep flaws in the Middle Eastern religion and very corrupt political enterprises which really exist in in both situations. You know, we certainly have had our own share of corruption with Vietnam, with putting in a public government in Iran and all kinds of other invasions that really were either rooted in paranoia, control, greed. So we have our share of guilt and so does the Middle East. But what we need to focus on is exactly that we’re both guilty as hell and this innocence in both elements. The problem is there isn’t a model for including the best sides of both. And the more we can see the two sides, which again, Homeland really demonstrates the sanity elements that exist in both societies. And my hope of retention as you who are listening to this, is not to try to hear what I’m saying as being pro Middle East and anti-America. Hear the nuance, please do not hear what I’m saying and take anything out of context and hear the subtle grays of the benefits of having a life that goes beyond the self and having a life that values itself, having a life that goes beyond the family and having a life that values the family. And this show did an extraordinary job of really doing that.
My recollection of Homeland, and part of what’s coming to me as you speak, is really the similarity of corruption at the top levels, and the levers of communication and the levers of what we see about other societies being controlled by the most corrupt in general. So that we don’t get to see or know and therefore what is instilled and what was, to me portrayed is a mutual fear and misunderstanding, and lack of view into the vast number of people that are the innocents that are just getting along in their life the way they get along in their life. And that’s not seen; they don’t see it in us, we don’t see it in them, our corrupt leaders—and again, I don’t want to be black and white there, there are some good ones. But by and large what we’re informed, and I’m not a conspiracy theorist, but there’s some evidence—we don’t see it and we’re not shown it—and neither are they. And I think that’s what Homeland does a good job of showing us.
Robert Strock: (24:05)
And I think your emphasis on highlighting the political leadership as being the people is a very, very important highlight. And I think a other highlight is to really focus on the people. And that’s why it was so important to be able to see the human element of Abu Nazir and his son dying and, and the devastation that went through him like it would for any of us. And if I was to really look and try to oversimplify and please hear this as an oversimplification, so it’s a little bit extreme. We idealize freedom and that freedom has often led to an addiction to wealth and an addiction to superiority. And they have idealized God, and therefore been even more extreme than our extremes as to the value of God as being a superior God that really has justification to make us really black and white as evil.
Robert Strock: (25:09)
And that’s the presentation that occurs there and the ability to glorify violence as being, uh, a holy war. That those, those extremes need badly to be seen as the myths in each country. And in a certain way, if we look at it simply, we could say that just looking at the freedom wealth aspect of America as being the dominant element and drive, and if we look at the God superior goodness and more violence, that we will see that it’s not very different than a cult. It’s not very different than all of us in our countries are brainwashed and Homeland helps us see some of the brainwashing. And it doesn’t mean that I feel like the Middle Eastern leaders when they meet with the American leaders, are going to be as open as we would be to peace. I will admit that I believe that their commitment to war and their commitment to us being evil and their commitment against women does seem more extreme.
Robert Strock: (26:22)
But I have to doubt myself a little bit in my own mind as to being an American and maybe slanted, but that is my perception I do believe that we are relatively a bit more innocent, but we see ourselves as really as almost like black and white creatures. And so the, the emphasis here is, let’s admit our limitations. Let’s do everything we can to have Middle Easterners represent their limitations, their superiorities, their violence, our superiorities, our freedom, our wealth as being an addiction, and let’s do what we can to say we’re all flawed. So where can we unite so we can have a common purpose so we can have at least a beginning level of trust where we can deescalate the dangers that are facing the world. So in closing, it’s so important that psychology teaches us the tendency to think in black and white thinking, to also report on the second element that’s really glaringly obvious that needs to change, that our educational system needs to include not only the facts of some of the flaws that we’ve had.
Robert Strock: (27:42)
For example, there was a movie that came out called The Report that showed that we tortured Guantanamo prisoners. And those are the kinds of revelations. If we had five of those and they had five of those, and we had it as a starting point, that we don’t trust each other, but at least we miss that we’ve done five things that are reprehensible. That would be a starting point. And again, my leaning is to think that America is a bit more ready to do that, but I believe actually we would have political factions that would fight against that, that make it very difficult. However, I still go to the starting point, is to look at Homeland, see the best parts, see the worst parts, see that it’s a shared human failing. And that by sharing our failings, we had a chance to find our sameness and to utilize a show like Homeland to become more of a universal citizen than just an American. So I thank you for your attention to this. I know it’s a very controversial subject, but it requires a very nuanced view in not taking words out of context or not going into black and white, thinking about the way things are even being presented in this show.
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