Colonel: Marine, what is that button on your body armor? Joker: A peace symbol, sir. Colonel: Where’d you get it? Joker: I don’t remember, sir. Colonel: What is that you’ve got written on your helmet? Joker: “Born to kill”, sir. Colonel: You write “born to kill” on your helmet, and you wear a peace button. What’s that supposed to be, some kind of sick joke? Joker: No, sir. Colonel: What is it supposed to mean? Joker: I don’t know, sir. Colonel: You don’t know very much, do you? Joker: No, sir. Colonel: You better get your head and your ass wired together, or I will take a giant shit on you! Joker: Yes, sir. Colonel: Now answer my question or you’ll be standing tall before the man! Joker: I think I was trying to suggest something about the duality of man, sir. Colonel: The what? Joker: The duality of man. The Jungian thing, sir. Colonel: Whose side are you on, son? Joker: Our side, sir. Colonel: Don’t you love your country? Joker: Yes, sir. Colonel: Then how ’bout getting with the program? Why don’t you jump on the team and come on in for the big win? Joker: Yes, sir. Colonel: Son, all I’ve ever asked of my Marines is for them to obey my orders as they would the word of God. We are here to help the Vietnamese, because inside every gook there is an American trying to get out. It’s a hard-ball world, son. We’ve gotta try to keep our heads until this peace craze blows over! Joker: [salutes] Aye-aye, sir. — Full Metal Jacket, Stanley Kubrick
We are all dualities, and madness is always closer than we think it is. Brains are chemical soup, and the recipe has to be just right for us to blend into the tribe and play our part correctly. Jung, the Swiss psychiatrist who came up with the concept of the ‘duality of man’ was himself beset by mental illness. The duality concept is simple, unless you don’t want it to be, and lots of you who read this won’t. But simple needs complex so I understand if you want duality to be the other side of the coin. I’m going to argue for the simple side.
Good needs evil. In this reality if I do something good, someone else somewhere else has to do something equally evil to keep the universe in balance. We are individuals, but we are also all part of this duality. I am not all good, or all bad. I am not all man, and you, if you happen to identify as female, are not all woman. Each of us, whether we like it or not, has some characteristics of both sexes. There is no purely asexual or androgynous human being.
This is a yin.yang thing. Making people think about the idea that they aren’t all one way makes them uncomfortable. In the movie, Joker is a pacifist with a gun. He’s not all killer, but some of him is. Another part of him wants to be peaceful. He is at war in Vietnam, but he is also at war within himself. When I was in the Marine Corps, many years ago, I watched Full Metal Jacket over and over and thought about duality. I was raised by pacifists, so I need to join the Corps. I did the same job as Joker. I was a combat correspondent. The movie was release in 1987 and I joined the Corps in 1991. We are creatures of our time and place, and we are more than one thing.
It’s how a loving mother can also be a wanton slut, how a priest can also be a pedophile. Murderers can be kind. Dictators can be benevolent. The world is full of people who are more than one thing and also people who are in different moments, opposite things. I understand how that can be confusing when we are constantly being asked to make quick judgment calls, when people demand that we label others and wear the labels they have given us.
My advice to you is to quietly let them know you refuse to wear that which they want you to wear. Tell them you are a duality. Tell them you are just trying to wrap your mind around that fact and are therefore much too busy to be bothered at the moment. Tell them it is hard enough balancing out what you are without all their white noise. If that’s not enough, thank them for teaching you what sort of person you don’t want to become. It’s OK to make mistakes, and you get to choose the balance you want for yourself. Unless you’re so off kilter the rest of us decide you need to be kept in a cage for our safety and yours. We’re all evolving at the same time. At different rates. You are fortunate enough to have been born into a time and place where the sum of all that is known is growing exponentially. This leads to opportunities for massive empathy. And also endless cynicism. It’s your choice to make.
You’ll be remembered as a saint or sinner, but most likely you’ll be somewhere in between the two extremes. Remember duality as you walk the paths life shows you.