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  • Writer's pictureDeric Hollings

Are We the Baddies?

 

 

There’s a popular meme representing healthy introspection—the examination or observation of one’s own mental and emotional processes. Describing the meme, one source states:

 

Are We the Baddies is a line from a sketch by British comedy show That Mitchell and Webb Look in which two men play Nazis who realize they’re the “bad guys” of World War II. The line has been used as a reaction image to situations where a person who identifies with a cause or group realizes their aims may not be good.

 

The sketch illustrates one Nazi saying to the other that the skull imagery on their uniforms represents death, as the Russians they are fighting don’t use similar symbolism. I appreciate the meme, because it persuasively advocates questioning one’s motivations.

 

Forgive me a personal anecdote. I recall being assigned to the Marine Security Guard detachment in Rio de Janeiro, Brasil in 1999. There, I befriended a Brasilian interpreter who studied law at the time and later went on to become an attorney.

 

 

My friend was the individual who educated me about the Monroe Doctrine and how some Brasilians considered it an affront to their autonomy. Before meeting the interpreter, I didn’t even consider that Brasilians were actually Americans (North, Central, and South America).

 

It was also my friend who critically challenged my support of so-called “American exceptionalism”—the notion that the United States (U.S.) is somehow exemplary in comparison to other nations. Her guidance was eye-opening, because it was then that I began to wonder whether or not U.S. politicians were the baddies.

 

The seeds planted in my mind by the interpreter later bloomed and bore fruit related to personal responsibility and accountability versus collective ownership. For instance, personal responsibility relates to what I’m obligated to do.

 

Personal accountability addresses answerability for having done or not doing what I’m obligated to do. As an example, I’m personally responsible for wiping myself after pooping. If I fail to do so, I’m the only person accountable for the itchiness and irritation I experience when shirking my responsibility.

 

When using “ownership” herein, I’m combining responsibility and accountability into a single term. Addressing collective ownership isn’t as simple to describe as an if-then relationship (e.g., if I don’t wipe, then I’ll develop a rash).

 

This is because ownership across a group of people, especially regarding an entire nation, is much trickier to pinpoint. For instance, when serving in Rio I was a U.S. citizen.

 

The U.S Consulate General (“consulate”) I was tasked with protecting was staffed by various people from diverse background. Likewise, the consulate was considered to be U.S. soil, as each place in which a U.S. consulate or embassy is located is deemed to be sovereign soil of the U.S.

 

Nevertheless, I wasn’t personally responsible or accountable for the actions of my government. Therefore, when members of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) conducted covert operations from consulates and embassies, I had no ownership for their behavior.

 

Still, as expressed by my interpreter friend, many people throughout the world viewed the matter differently. Per her explanation, U.S. citizens—and certainly those of us who inadvertently served the interests of the CIA through diplomatic billets—were perceived as owning collective guilt for the actions of the Agency.

 

My friend’s allegation was astonishing to me, because her perspective allowed me to understand why Brasilians protested operations of the consulate. Prior to her influence, I naïvely believed that the U.S. was well-liked by most other nations.

 

In actuality, a significant number of people from other countries considered the U.S. to be the baddies—and still do. We are alleged to having overthrown democratic politicians, toppled foreign governments, placed burdensome sanctions on nation states, and essentially bullied other countries.

 

Are we the baddies? I suppose it all depends on who you ask. Personally, I don’t participate in the political process, as I remain politically neutral. Nonetheless, there are people abroad who would hold me collectively responsible and accountable for the actions of U.S. governing officials.

 

Although it may seem as though the current topic is an odd choice for a psychotherapy blog, I think it’s worthwhile for people to examine whether or not the group with which they’re affiliated serves the aims of one’s own values. This requires critical thinking.

 

It also involves pushing through the state of discomfort experienced when more than one mode of thought or belief contradicts another (cognitive dissonance). And yes, this process relates to challenging irrational beliefs you may have, even if you don’t like doing so.

 

While I hope I’m wrong, I think 2024 is going to be a turbulent year for those of us in the U.S. Therefore, it’s my hope that most of us can display the wisdom it takes to step back and ask ourselves, “Are we the baddies?” Perhaps the world would be better off if we did.

 

If you’re looking for a provider who works to help you understand how thinking impacts physical, mental, emotional, and behavioral elements of your life—helping you to sharpen your critical thinking skills, I invite you to reach out today by using the contact widget on my website.

 

As a psychotherapist, I’m pleased to help people with an assortment of issues ranging from anger (hostility, rage, and aggression) to relational issues, adjustment matters, trauma experience, justice involvement, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, anxiety and depression, and other mood or personality-related matters.

 

At Hollings Therapy, LLC, serving all of Texas, I aim to treat clients with dignity and respect while offering a multi-lensed approach to the practice of psychotherapy and life coaching. My mission includes: Prioritizing the cognitive and emotive needs of clients, an overall reduction in client suffering, and supporting sustainable growth for the clients I serve. Rather than simply helping you to feel better, I want to help you get better!

 

 

Deric Hollings, LPC, LCSW

 

 

References:

 

Adam. (2020). Are we the baddies? Know Your Meme. Retrieved from https://knowyourmeme.com/memes/are-we-the-baddies

CrystalRoseCreations. (2013, May 31). Mitchell and Webb: “Are we the baddies?” [Video]. YouTube. Retrieved from https://youtu.be/ToKcmnrE5oY?si=h88TdaSoHz-gNS3m

Hollings, D. (2022, March 15). Disclaimer. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/disclaimer

Hollings, D. (2023, September 8). Fair use. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/fair-use

Hollings, D. (2023, October 12). Get better. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/get-better

Hollings, D. (n.d.). Hollings Therapy, LLC [Official website]. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/

Hollings, D. (2023, May 18). Irrational beliefs. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/irrational-beliefs

Hollings, D. (2023, September 19). Life coaching. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/life-coaching

Hollings, D. (2022, November 7). Personal ownership. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/personal-ownership

Kaywithlove. (2020, January 5). Are we the baddies bad GIF [Image]. Tenor. Retrieved from https://tenor.com/view/are-we-the-baddies-bad-not-funny-police-gif-15976877

Wikipedia. (n.d.). Monroe Doctrine. Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monroe_Doctrine

Wikipedia. (n.d.). That Mitchell and Webb Look. Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/That_Mitchell_and_Webb_Look

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