On The Turning Away


On the Turning Away is a track from the 1987 Pink Floyd album Momentary Lapse of Reason. The above video was chosen for it's lack of images to let the lyrics speak for themselves. It was chosen from a large collection of others, most of which have images. It wasn't that the imagery in the other videos I saw didn't fit with the message, they did, presenting as they did images of poverty, homelessness, child prostitution, war, and the other things that too many people have a tendency to turn away from. I chose a video with minimal imagery because I wanted people to reflect on the song's lyrics meaning to them free from association with images which too many people find easy to turn away from anyway.

Twenty-three years after Pink Floyd saw the need to get the message out, images like starving children or people sleeping rough on city streets are sadly still plentiful, as is the response of turning away. By turning away I don't mean the act of averting the eyes, I mean the wholesale putting out or keeping out of mind the facts of the suffering of others. In this world of increased information and knowledge about other's suffering, we continue to accept it or deny it or ignore it. The tendency is so widespread that it must be considered that denial, turning away, may be the norm, and that compassion or acting out of conscience is the rare glitch in the collective psyche.

Author Stanley Cohen describes the phenomena in States of Denial: Knowing About Atrocities and Suffering as 'the effortless and regular avoidance of anything that has once been distressing… It is a familiar fact that much of this avoidance of what is distressing - this ostrich policy - is still to be seen in the normal mental life of adults.'"

Blocking out, turning a blind eye, shutting off, not wanting to know, wearing blinkers, seeing what we want to see ... these are all expressions of 'denial'. Alcoholics who refuse to recognize their condition, people who brush aside suspicions of their partner's infidelity, the wife who doesn't notice that her husband is abusing their daughter - are supposedly 'in denial'. Governments deny their responsibility for atrocities, and plan them to achieve 'maximum deniability'. Truth Commissions try to overcome the suppression and denial of past horrors. Bystander nations deny their responsibility to intervene.

Do these phenomena have anything in common? When we deny, are we aware of what we are doing or is this an unconscious defence mechanism to protect us from unwelcome truths? Can there be cultures of denial?

States of Denial is the first comprehensive study of both the personal and political ways in which uncomfortable realities are avoided and evaded. It ranges from clinical studies of depression, to media images of suffering, to explanations of the 'passive bystander' and 'compassion fatigue'. The book shows how organized atrocities - the WWII Holocaust and other genocides, torture, and political massacres - are denied by perpetrators and by bystanders, those who stand by and do nothing.

As well as discussing denial in all its forms, Cohen questions whether there could be a more honest way of living, a possibility of "living outside the lie". This isn’t easy to achieve, he concedes, but that shouldn’t stop you from trying.

Try we should. I believe, along with other notable thinkers in the fields of science and human potential, that the next phase of human development will be in areas currently labelled ‘non-physical’. Scientists are in agreement now that everything is connected. Experiments (covered elsewhere on this site) are being conducted around the world by leading edge scientists that demonstrate the potential in consciously interacting with the energy matrix that comprises this universe. I believe that opening to compassion and empathy facilitates and speeds the development of other ‘extra sensory’ abilities, (why I believe this is the topic for another time.)

Given the world-changing potential in the individual and collective exploration of the interconnectedness of things and the, to my mind, inevitable development of those ‘extra sensory” abilities, any dimming of compassion, any decreased concern about distant others, would be just what the individual spirit of the global market would want encouraged.

Don't accept that what's happening is just a case of others suffering, or you'll find that you're joining in the turning away.