Antidotes to bombardment

 

Playing with hands. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license. Author: Ibex73.

by Kathie MM

The corporate media assaults us with one awful story after another.

Hate crimes, racist incidents, violence against women, attacks on immigrants, loss of health care, chaotic governments, threats of fascism and terrorism.

Sometimes it’s hard not to feel frightened, stressed out, depressed.

But there are other messages in the media, perhaps more worthy of your attention.

Here’s one from Steven Singer.

He tells us that as a critic of charter and voucher schools, he is often asked, ‘Why should I care about other people’s children?’”

In his thoughtful essay, he explains:

“Children…. haven’t done anything to earn the hate or enmity of the world.… Many of them haven’t even learned the prejudices and ignorance of their parents. And even where they have, it is so new it can be changed.

“[Helping someone else’s child] wouldn’t hurt my child. In fact, it would show her how a decent person acts towards others. It would teach her empathy, kindness, caring. It would demonstrate the values I try to instill in her – that we’re all in this together and we owe certain things to the other beings with which we share this world.”

“I proudly send my daughter to public school…I want her to experience a wide variety of humanity. I want her to know people unlike her, and to realize that they aren’t as different as they might first appear. I want her to know the full range of what it means to be human. I want her to be exposed to different cultures, religions, nationalities, world views, thoughts and ideas….

I want us both to live in a society that treats people fairly, and where people of all types can come together and talk and reason and enjoy each other’s company.”

For me, this essay reverberates far beyond the issue of charter schools. It represents a set of goals for humanity sought by millions of people around the world for hundreds of years.  Let their voices, our voices, be heard.

Posted in Democracy, Media, Nonviolence, Perspective-taking, politics, Protest, racism, resistance, social justice | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Power of Tyranny, the Tyranny of Power

Police in riot gear at Ferguson, MO, protest. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license. Author: Jamelle Bouie.

By Kathie MM and Anthony J. Marsella

To begin our new series on Torture, Tyranny, and Terrorizing, Dr. Anthony Marsella shared his perspectives on torture , highlighting the many forms that torture can take, ranging from child abuse through slavery to waterboarding, and murder.

Today we turn our attention to tyranny, defined as the “arbitrary or unrestrained exercise of power; despotic abuse of authority.” Power, like torture, is a many-edged sword that can wreak terror and injustice in the hands of a tyrant.

As described by Professor Marsella in Transcend magazine:

  1. “Politics is about the “distribution” of power;
  2. Power is the capacity to effect “change” through control and domination of power sources and distribution;
  3. “Asymmetric” distributions of power risk abuses of individual, group, and nation rights, privilege, and choice;
  4. “Governance” constitutes a structure, organization, and process for monitoring, distributing, and sustaining power;
  5. Vertical “governance” structures and processes are subject to abuse via hierarchical concentrations of power;
  6. Societal population sectors with disproportionate wealth, privilege, and position can establish power “hegemony” (i.e., excessive self-serving influences);
  7. “Hegemonic” power sanctions use of “force” both to maintain control, dominance, and influence, and to preserve the status quo favoring power bases;
  8. “Force” options used by those in power include violence, war, “total” war, assassination, false flags, propaganda, deceit, character defamation, and assassination;
  9. “Absolute” power may be invested in a dictator, secret government, established government-military-corporate-media-educational complex, and/or cabals of undemocratic sources;
  10. “Absolute” power corrupts “absolutely;”
  11. All forms of power corruption result in asymmetric distribution of rights, privileges, and opportunities;
  12. Power corruption is evident in cronyism, bribery, favoritism, secrecy, advantage, force, nepotism, tribalism, and excessive wealth accumulation;
  13. “Absolute” power does not yield readily to public criticism, disapproval, or condemnation;
  14. Legal, ethical, constitutional, and moral codes of power distribution are often “biased” in favor of those in power, resulting in “injustice;”
  15. Power “injustice” abuses result in reactive and compensatory uses of “force” by victims of “injustice,” including protests, rebellion, violence, and “allegations” and “accusations” of “terrorism.”

BUT, resistance to power injustices does not always take the form of reactive force.  In our next post, we will consider the range of options—and forms of power—available to individuals and groups dedicated to resisting abuses of power.

 


Anthony J. Marsella, Ph.D., a member of the TRANSCEND Network for Peace, Development and Environment, is a past president of Psychologists for Social Responsibility, Emeritus Professor of psychology at the University of Hawaii’s Manoa Campus in Honolulu, Hawaii, and past director of the World Health Organization Psychiatric Research Center in Honolulu.  He is known internationally as a pioneer figure in the study of culture and psychopathology who challenged the ethnocentrism and racial biases of many assumptions, theories, and practices in psychology and psychiatry. In more recent years, he has been writing and lecturing on peace and social justice. He has published 21 books and more than 300 articles, tech reports, and popular commentaries. He can be reached at marsella@hawaii.edu.

The complete Transcend article can be found here.

Posted in Armed conflict, Human rights, Media, Military-industrial complex, police violence, politics, Protest, resistance, slavery, social justice, Terrorism, Understanding violence | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Reflections on Torture

A group of slaves in front of the US Capitol. Author unknown. Published prior to January 1, 1923. In the public domain.*

By Guest Author, Anthony J. Marsella

My study of the history of torture led me to conclude that our understanding of the nature, meaning, and consequences of “torture” may best be advanced by construing “torture,” not solely as a separate and distinct act of brutality and violence, but as part of a broader spectrum of behaviors, events, and forces that justify, promote, and legalize atrocities and brutalities within many contexts and circumstances.

These contexts and circumstances include all forms of asymmetric power relations including those promoted and sustained by political, military, economic, educational, domestic, and religious institutions and powers.

In this respect, acts of torture must be seen as ultimately related to the spectrum of extreme and lesser forms of violence and abuse including genocides, massacres, war crimes, human sacrifices, domestic abuses of women & children  that are driven, promoted, and sometimes sanctioned by biological, psychological, societal,  cultural, and situational variables.

Separating torture from other brutalities may be useful for legal reasons (i.e., criminal prosecution).  But ultimately, our understanding of acts of torture will best be considered within the broader spectrum of forces, events, and situations that have occurred.

The “Genus” (i.e., a class of objects or acts) of atrocities, brutalities and extreme acts of  violence that constitute forms of torture include”: Genocides, Massacres, Human and Animal Sacrifices, War, Battle Brutalities and Atrocities, Ethnic Cleansing, Sadistic Entertainment, Serial Murders, Hate Crimes, Lynchings, Witch Hunts, Death Marches, Capital Punishments, Assassinations, Terrorism/Counter Terrorism, Bullying, Forced Prostitution, Rapes, Acts of Torture.

To these I must add the institutions of  Slavery, Colonization, Imperialism, Economic Exploitation  and Abuses, and Various Entertainment and Recreational Sports and Games. All are or include forms of torture.

All have in common the explicit motivations of control and domination, and a willingness to inflict pain, suffering, fear, trauma humiliation, powerlessness, and death to achieve certain ends.

Behavior.  Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications


Anthony J. Marsella, Ph.D., a member of the TRANSCEND Network for Peace, Development and Environment, is a past president of Psychologists for Social Responsibility, Emeritus Professor of psychology at the University of Hawaii’s Manoa Campus in Honolulu, Hawaii, and past director of the World Health Organization Psychiatric Research Center in Honolulu.  He is known internationally as a pioneer figure in the study of culture and psychopathology who challenged the ethnocentrism and racial biases of many assumptions, theories, and practices in psychology and psychiatry. In more recent years, he has been writing and lecturing on peace and social justice. He has published 21 books and more than 300 articles, tech reports, and popular commentaries. He can be reached at marsella@hawaii.edu.

Posted in colonialism, Death penalty, Genocide, imperialism, racism, slavery, Terrorism, Torture, Understanding violence | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Pain’s pathways

“Drunk Father.” Lithograph by George Bellows (1845-1922). In the public domain.

 

By Kathie MM

I bit my tongue yesterday.  Really, not metaphorically.  It hurt like the devil.

Why do I tell you this trivial story?

Because every time I bite my tongue, which I do more often as I age, I find myself agonizing about torture.

I think how infinitesimal my pain is compared to the pain that all too many people deliberately inflict on others while proclaiming their own superiority and the justifiability of their acts.

Almost everyone knows how hurtful, how uncomfortable, how agonizing, how disrupting, how destructive life’s ordinary injuries–bad toothache, broken bone, burned hand–can be. Yet right now, around the world, there are countless people torturing other living beings in a variety of ways.

You have to ask why.

I know there are lots of reasons why some people behave cruelly towards others, particularly others who are not just different but also weaker, more defenseless than they.  I also know that a penchant to hurt, punish, maim, harm others often stems from the experience of childhood maltreatment and the observation of domestic violence.

International, national, and state laws against domestic violence and child abuse have been promulgated and efforts undertaken to address these issues. Why has the United States government failed to ratify the International Convention on the Rights of the Child ?  Why has there been such resistance to legislation protecting women from violence ? And for how long will international conventions against torture and cruel and inhuman treatment be flouted by U.S. government agencies ?

The record of the U.S. government in regard to torture is a sorry one indeed, as indicated in the Senate Intelligence Committee Report on CIA torture. In my view, torture–like terrorism–is a tool of tyranny and the anathema of democracy.

Please stay tuned for my upcoming series on Tyranny, Torture, and Terrorizing.

 

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