Today sees the rise of nationalism, the return of totalitarian parties in Europe to electoral success, and the rise of the alt-right and white supremacists in the US. Thus, there is urgency for psychoanalysts, with their understanding of cruelty, sadomasochism, perversion, and other mental mechanisms, to speak out. Jonathan Sklar has risen to the challenge with this timely, thought-provoking, and, at times, upsetting work. Dark Times starts with a look at European history in terms of monuments and mourning, before moving into storytelling and the elision of thought and history at this current time, including harrowing detail of the brutalities inflicted by ISIS on the Yazidi, and concludes with a meditation on the relationship between cruelty in the early environment and hatred of the other within society, with particular focus on racism in the US.
Sklar goes against the grain of brief sound bites, which are an aid to quickly pass over painful knowledge. Instead, he goes into detail to give extremely dark, horrid occurrences, and the human beings on the receiving end, respect and understanding, which enables the reader greater access to allowing unconscious things to be made more conscious, highlighting the quality of humanity in human beings. Also, listening to these stories enables us to become more aware, not only of what is going on over there, but also what is happening here, because in our increasingly joined-up world, here is always implicated and affected too. By ridding ourselves of the illusions of our political times, we can find greater freedom to think, develop, challenge, and create hope, for the future of our children and our grandchildren, as well as for ourselves.