On 6 February 1998, Season 4, Episode 3, (Hearts and Minds), of the TV show The Outer Limits, was broadcast.
“In order to survive, a soldier must fight many battles, physical as well as mental.
But in the heat of the struggle, reality can sometimes fade, like memory, until only one thing remains certain…the first casualty of war is truth.”
A squad of soldiers is sent on a search and destroy mission against alien raiders to safeguard a vital source of profit for the North American Federation.
All soldiers of the team have drug injectors to protect them against an “alien virus”.
After a drug injector malfunction, the soldiers slowly realize that the drug is actually designed to cause hallucinations of disgusting looking aliens.
The “aliens” are actually humans as well, but from another federation.
The team tries to make contact with the “alien team” to explain the situation and ask for peace.
But their drug injectors work properly and they kill everyone from the team, believing that they are the aliens.
The final scene shows all the soldiers dead on the floor.
“Humans kill for love, for revenge, for survival, and even for ideas.
Perhaps the capacity to kill then is a very true part of our nature.
But within this behavior, defined by fear, must we also be taught to hate?”
I am reminded of this episode lately when I consider my relationship with a work colleague.
The colleague is….difficult.
She has a tendency to “speak her mind” regardless of the destruction her words cause.
Her entry into a room is akin to releasing a fox into a henhouse: feathers will be all a-flutter and a-flyin’.
She seems to thrive on scandal and dissension.
She seems happiest making others unhappy.
She is proud and arrogant, boastful and confrontational, opinionated and judgemental.
But recently she has been raised, aka the Peter Principle, from the level of the common worker to a position of undiscovered and untested responsibility over some of us at certain times.
Seeing the changes this newfound authority are having upon her is interesting to observe.
Though many of her negative traits still appear to torment her coworkers, her mask of superiority occasionally slips….
Clearly she wishes to impress upon others her worthiness of the new position.
She is very prompt in decision-making and action-taking.
She suddenly seems aware of the importance of each cog in the whole machinery and has become more appreciative of the individual parts.
The position is slowly, very slowly, causing necessary changes in her character and behaviour towards her fellow wage-slaves.
Working with her lately, I cannot deny that, at least with me, she is fulfilling the criteria of her new position.
For example, supplies needed to do the job are ready in abundance, often before a shortage can be noticed.
Her requests for services to be rendered by us for her are relayed politely and sensitively with awareness that she is only as effective as those she is delegating assignments to.
In her own way, despite the abrasive nature of some of her character traits, she craves acceptance and respect.
She is fragile beneath her cleverly carved veneer.
I know masks.
I myself wear the mask of a clown to hide the dark depression that seeps under the surface.
Both our disguises are damn near perfect and almost impervious to detection.
Maybe it is my age…I am the oldest staff member there, so perhaps age and experience help me see below the surface of the ice.
Maybe it is my perspective…I work there only part-time so this may give me an outsider’s viewpoint unavailable to those ever swimming in everyday waters.
I doubt I will ever embrace this woman, for I do see those aspects of character that still keep me distant from her, but…
I have seen peeks beneath the mask.
She is very human and vulnerable.
It is hard to hate someone once you begin to understand them.