08 May 2010
Depiction of the Different Levels of Interactive Intelligence in Children through Their Reaction on Traumatic news
It is my duty to voice the suffering of men, the never-ending suffering heaped mountain-high.
In her “Lament” Kollwitz analyses the double nature of compassionate grief as a strong emotional reaction. Compassionate grief is, at first, reaction of the soul (unconscious) and, secondly, our consciousness (of the mind). Grief triggered by compassion is identification with human beings who are suffering or dying. There is only one way to avoid these tormenting feelings – to become indifferent, thick skinned, and not to care. Some on this indifference make careers and profits. But for those who cannot, don’t want and think they don’t have the right to forget how many people are going through deprivations, violent death and suffering – the only way to reparation is to unite the reactions of our soul and our mind – to think where we feel, to try to understand what is happening with people and the world. This is what Kollwitz depicts in “Lament”.
Her soul says: I cannot see this degree of suffering, to even see it, it is, as if, to accept it, to be an accomplice in making people suffer; and I cannot even scream it out because to see and to scream is too easy in comparison with the reality (Kollwitz’s eyes are closed and lips are tight). But our mind echoes our soul by saying: I don’t want continue to see and don’t want to howl, I will keep it in me forever (her hands cover her eye and mouth). Kollwitz’s eyes and lips are shut two times, first, involuntarily and then by conscious decision. She transforms herself into a mental graveyard, into eternal lament, a death that returns to life – resurrected in her, Kathe Kollwitz’s, grief.
It looks like that we, Americans of the 21st century live in the beginning of an epoch of chain-wars because the conservative decision makers’ strategic planning demands military “solutions” to “global economic problems”. The enlargement of military operations always brings extra-money – Military-Industrial Complex gets taxpayers’ money by the price of mounting human casualties.
It will not be a frivolous stretch of imagination to predict that the right wing enthusiasts of military operations are only waiting for the return of the Republicans to executive power to go ahead with their planned new wars. In this context it seems especially relevant to pay attention to the existential and artistic experience of a person like Kathe Kollwitz who since WW1 and into WW2 was mourning the murder of the German soldiers by the German decision-makers.
In Kollwitz’ “Killed in Action” we can observe wife and children’s reaction to the murder of a man, who was her husband and their father. With both hands the mother, in vain, tries to protect herself from even hearing the news of what’s happened to her husband, from even seeing the world in which his death took place. The eldest daughter (who is already helping her mother by nurturing her tiny brother or sister) is also struck by the news – she understands what it means that her father is killed (she identifies with mother’s horror while having grasped what has happened). The son, younger, cannot emotionally grasp the content of the news – he can just identify with mother’s torment, and mother’s agony is too much for him. He lost her face, the abode of love and encouragement, and instinctively tries to take away, to open her hands that cover it with such a power. The younger daughter is traumatized not by the news (she cannot relay to it at all) and not by mother’s torment either (she cannot even identify with it) but by the fact that grief makes mother to abandon her, that the mother is “self-absorbed” in her grief and “forgot” about her.
How does Kollwitz achieve these effects? By making the elder girl’s eyes tiny and pointy (by transforming eyes into pupils) Kollwitz makes accent on the penetrating – mental effect of the girl’s gaze, on the understanding aspect over the perception. Another situation with the son – Kollwitz made his eyes enlarged by fear and as if out of focus (while his face is distorted by the horror of identification with the horror of the mother). It is as if mother’s horror (which she is covering up with her arms and hands from being recognized and from doubling its power through this recognition) is reflected on the face of her son (opened for us to see), like storm can be reflected in large waves. We recognize the intensity and maturity of mother’s suffering exactly in being hidden to prevent her children from the power of human emotion trying to cope with and to contain (be stronger than) the destructive power of war. The younger daughter‘s face is not shown at all, what frightens her is that her mother is not picking her up – cannot console her with the usual maternal gestures. Finally, the baby’s (held by the elder sister) interactional emotions can be expressed only on an elemental level – at this age the emotional contact with the external world is not developed enough to allow baby’s psyche to decipher and identify with the full scope of adult emotions, a kind of natural protection against exposure to a precocious suffering.
*This piece I dedicate to the children and the widows of our soldiers murdered in Iraq and Afghanistan wars that were invented by Bushmerican conservative decision–makers.