You are currently browsing the tag archive for the ‘History’ tag.

Why do people commit evil?  How does one get from being an ordinary citizen to someone who oversees the genocide of their neighbours?   What are the psychological states that premeditate acts of violence on the personal and societal level?  Noga Arikha is a historian who has looked into the research on how we foment and propagate evil institutions and evil acts.

 

“This is what the neurosurgeon Itzhak Fried at the University of California, Los Angeles did with his article ‘Syndrome E’ (1997) in The Lancet. A syndrome is a group of biological symptoms that together constitute a clinical picture. And E stands for evil. With Syndrome E, Fried identified a cluster of 10 neuropsychological symptoms that are often present when evil acts are committed – when, as he puts it, ‘groups of previously nonviolent individuals’ turn ‘into repetitive killers of defenceless members of society’. The 10 neuropsychological symptoms are:

1. Repetition: the aggression is repeated compulsively.
2. Obsessive ideation: the perpetrators are obsessed with ideas that justify their aggression and underlie missions of ethnic cleansing, for instance that all Westerners, or all Muslims, or all Jews, or all Tutsis are evil.
3. Perseveration: circumstances have no impact on the perpetrator’s behaviour, who perseveres even if the action is self-destructive.
4. Diminished affective reactivity: the perpetrator has no emotional affect.
5. Hyperarousal: the elation experienced by the perpetrator is a high induced by repetition, and a function of the number of victims.
6. Intact language, memory and problem-solving skills: the syndrome has no impact on higher cognitive abilities.
7. Rapid habituation: the perpetrator becomes desensitised to the violence.
8. Compartmentalisation: the violence can take place in parallel to an ordinary, affectionate family life.
9. Environmental dependency: the context, especially identification with a group and obedience to an authority, determines what actions are possible.
10. Group contagion: belonging to the group enables the action, each member mapping his behaviour on the other. Fried’s assumption was that all these ways of behaving had underlying neurophysiological causes that were worth investigating.Note that the syndrome applies to those previously normal individuals who become able to kill. It excludes the wartime, sanctioned killing by and of military recruits that leads many soldiers to return home (if they ever do) with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD); recognised psychopathologies such as sociopathic personality disorder that can lead someone to shoot schoolchildren; and crimes of passion or the sadistic pleasure in inflicting pain. When Hannah Arendt coined her expression ‘the banality of evil’ in Eichmann in Jerusalem (1963), she meant that the people responsible for actions that led to mass murder can be ordinary, obeying orders for banal reasons, such as not losing their jobs. The very notion of ordinariness was tested by social psychologists. In 1971, the prison experiment by the psychologist Philip Zimbardo at Stanford University played with this notion that ‘ordinary students’ could turn into abusive mock ‘prison guards’ – though it was largely unfounded, given evidence of flaws in the never-replicated experiment. Still, those afflicted with Syndrome E are indeed ordinary insofar as that they are not affected by any evident psychopathology. The historian Christopher Browning wrote of equally ‘ordinary men’ in the 1992 book of that name (referenced by Fried) who became Nazi soldiers. The soldier who killed my grandfather was very probably an ordinary man too.

Today, biology is a powerful explanatory force for much human behaviour, though it alone cannot account for horror. Much as the neurosciences are an exciting new tool for human self-understanding, they will not explain away our brutishness. Causal accounts of the destruction that humans inflict on each other are best provided by political history – not science, nor metaphysics. The past century alone is heavy with atrocities of unfathomable scale, albeit fathomable political genesis.”

I pondered the conclusions of this essay and am reminded of the work “Ordinary Men” by (also referenced in the essay) by Christopher R. Browning that describes the psychological and sociological contagions that bring out the evil that exists in all of us.  I’m struck by, even as I write, the tendency to pathologize evil as if it were disease that somehow takes root and manifests itself on ‘good people’.  This socially sanctioned frame, looking at the literature, is shockingly incorrect as the data points to the fact that we all possess the capacity to commit heinous acts of violence, even genocide, if the conditions are right.

Arikha states that “empathy is rarely universal” and that “Family belonging and social belonging are separate. When they meet, as happened in Bosnia and Rwanda when families turned on each other, the group identity prevails”.   Chilling statements such as these implode the ideas we carry around about common human decency and common human morality and empathy.  The story we tell ourselves, about ourselves, is bullshite and these bullshit assumptions are what we run ‘civilized’ society on.  I think this false narrative allows people to be repeated shocked and horrified when tales of wanton bloodshed and genocide hit the news – it is seen as a huge deviation from the norm.  Yet, if we look at humans, it isn’t a particular large leap from our observable behaviours.

We – ‘the good guys’ – ran a government sanctioned torture program.  Oh, certainly we had our legal pretzelese to mask and make torture palatable for the general public. Never the less, dodgy legal justifications do not nullify the social and psychological ramifications of one’s nation endorsing the institutional infliction of pain on others.  I think we are still seeing the negative effects of the torture revelations running through our western societies .

Essay’s like Arikha’s make me contemplate how much projection we engage in as a society to protect ourselves from the rather brutish reality of our societal and geo-poltical existence.

(*edited for early morning writing)

 

We’re playing with nuclear fire.  Hell, we’re doing a fire dance with twirling batons ablaze in a fireworks factory.  This all started after the US nuked Japan in 1945.  Since then, we’ve just been piling more fireworks around the fire dancers and giving the dancers bigger batons to twirl.  There is no logic to this death dance we inflict on ourselves and the world.

Noam Chomsky takes a historical look at the post 1945 nuclear world.

“That conclusion [USSR could not compete with the US] was underscored repeatedly in the years that followed. When Nikita Khrushchev took control in Russia in 1953 after Stalin’s death, he recognized that the USSR could not compete militarily with the U.S., the richest and most powerful country in history, with incomparable advantages. If it ever hoped to escape its economic backwardness and the devastating effect of the last world war, it would need to reverse the arms race.

Accordingly, Khrushchev proposed sharp mutual reductions in offensive weapons. The incoming Kennedy administration considered the offer and rejected it, instead turning to rapid military expansion, even though it was already far in the lead. The late Kenneth Waltz, supported by other strategic analysts with close connections to U.S. intelligence, wrote then that the Kennedy administration “undertook the largest strategic and conventional peace-time military build-up the world has yet seen… even as Khrushchev was trying at once to carry through a major reduction in the conventional forces and to follow a strategy of minimum deterrence, and we did so even though the balance of strategic weapons greatly favored the United States.” Again, harming national security while enhancing state power.

U.S. intelligence verified that huge cuts had indeed been made in active Soviet military forces, both in terms of aircraft and manpower. In 1963, Khrushchev again called for new reductions. As a gesture, he withdrew troops from East Germany and called on Washington to reciprocate. That call, too, was rejected. William Kaufmann, a former top Pentagon aide and leading analyst of security issues, described the U.S. failure to respond to Khrushchev’s initiatives as, in career terms, “the one regret I have.”

The Soviet reaction to the U.S. build-up of those years was to place nuclear missiles in Cuba in October 1962 to try to redress the balance at least slightly. The move was also motivated in part by Kennedy’s terrorist campaign against Fidel Castro’s Cuba, which was scheduled to lead to invasion that very month, as Russia and Cuba may have known. The ensuing “missile crisis” was “the most dangerous moment in history,” in the words of historian Arthur Schlesinger, Kennedy’s adviser and confidant.

As the crisis peaked in late October, Kennedy received a secret letter from Khrushchev offering to end it by simultaneous public withdrawal of Russian missiles from Cuba and U.S. Jupiter missiles from Turkey. The latter were obsolete missiles, already ordered withdrawn by the Kennedy administration because they were being replaced by far more lethal Polaris submarines to be stationed in the Mediterranean.

Kennedy’s subjective estimate at that moment was that if he refused the Soviet premier’s offer, there was a 33% to 50% probability of nuclear war — a war that, as President Eisenhower had warned, would have destroyed the northern hemisphere. Kennedy nonetheless refused Khrushchev’s proposal for public withdrawal of the missiles from Cuba and Turkey; only the withdrawal from Cuba could be public, so as to protect the U.S. right to place missiles on Russia’s borders or anywhere else it chose.

It is hard to think of a more horrendous decision in history — and for this, he is still highly praised for his cool courage and statesmanship.”

I’d hate to see what incensed, insane leadership looks like…

 

Why is Russia so involved in the conflict in Syria?  Robert Fisk looks into some possibilities.

“There are, however, other small Chechen ghosts floating over Syria. A large number of Chechen Islamists, fleeing the forests of Chechnya after Russia’s victory, arrived in Syria to attack the regime.

One of the Syrian army’s most devastating setbacks occurred on a mountain top south of the Turkish border, when a Chechen jihadi suicide-bombed a military base by driving a captured armoured car into the compound. He killed every one of the Syrian defenders. The explosion was so vast that an eyewitness on a neighbouring hilltop told me he saw fire reaching into the clouds – and then continuing above the clouds into the empty sky.

The Russians know exactly who they are fighting in Syria, which is why Russian pilot Roman Filipov blew himself up with his own grenade rather than be captured by Islamists. For Putin, those Chechens who resisted his firepower inside Russia are merely continuing their struggle inside a Russian ally further to the south.

Eliminate them, Putin believes, and then make peace with your erstwhile enemies later. It’s been a policy maintained, up to a point, by Damascus. The earlier siege of Deraya on the edge of Damascus was ended in a series of “reconciliation” committees and mutual ceasefire promises.

The distance between Grozny and Damascus is less than 900 miles. From the Kremlin walls, the minarets of Damascus are not in the “Middle East”; they are due south. Russian power doesn’t end at its own frontiers – nor did it in Stalin’s day. His Red Army did not halt at the Soviet frontier in 1945. It pursued the “fascist beast” to its lair in Berlin. And Chechnya remains very much in Putin’s mind today.”

Fascinating points, and of course never once mentioned in the mainstream news…

The Armenian genocide of 1915 happened.  Where you happen to live in the world determines if you would argue against the truth of this statement.  Robert Fisk, as usual, takes our past grim accounts and makes us see our blood stained history.

“The Nazis told their Jewish victims that they were going to be “resettled” in the east rather than gassed. They also tried to cover the traces of the gas chambers of Treblinka before the Red Army arrived. But the “double” instructions sent by Talat Pasha and his 1915 genociders demonstrate that the pretence of humanitarian resettlement was conceived even before the organised genocide began. Some of the young German officers who witnessed the killings of 1915 turned up 26 years later in the Soviet Union, overseeing the slaughter of Jews.

And here is one very short account (courtesy of the Turkish historian Akcam) of an Armenian witness to his people’s destruction, which could – if the identities and locations were changed to the Ukraine or Belarus – have been written during the Second World War: “In order to eliminate the last remaining Armenian deportees…between Aleppo and Deyr-i Zor [sic] who had managed to survive…Hakki Bey…evicted all the deportees along the Euphrates, starting from Aleppo… Close to 300 young men and boys…surviving in the camp Hamam were sent to the South in a special convoy… Solid reports about them arrived that they had been killed in Rakka [sic]… Elsewhere, we learned in no uncertain terms that in the area around Samiye, 300 children were thrown into a cave opening, gas was poured in and they were burned alive.”

So here’s the real hypocrisy of this story. The Israeli government, so outraged by Poland’s Jewish Holocaust denialism, refuses to recognise the Armenian Holocaust. Shimon Peres himself said that “we reject attempts to create a similarity between the [Jewish] Holocaust and the Armenian allegations. Nothing similar to the Holocaust occurred. What the Armenians went through is a tragedy, but not genocide.”

The Americans, I should add – Trump included, of course – have been equally pathetic in their failure to acknowledge the Armenian truth. But oddly, not Poland.

For 13 years ago, the Polish parliament passed a bill which specifically referred to the “Armenian genocide”. The speaker of the Polish parliament, Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz, said at the time that the Armenian genocide did indeed take place, that responsibility fell on the Turks, and that Turkish documents – though not yet those which Akcam has just revealed – “confirm” this.

So there you have it. Poland punishes anyone who speaks of Polish participation in the Jewish Holocaust, but accepts the Armenian Holocaust. Israel insists that all must acknowledge the Jewish Holocaust – and Poland’s peripheral guilt – but will not acknowledge the Armenian Holocaust.

Mercifully, Israeli scholars like Israel Charny do so. And mercifully, Turks like Taner Akcam agree. But how many times must the dead die all over again for nations to accept the facts of history?”

In case you were unfamiliar. :)

    Some historical context By Tom Englehardt showing the lead up to the bright and cheery future we now inhabit.

 

“In the end, those seeds, first planted in Afghan and Pakistani soil in 1979, led to the attacks of September 11, 2001.  That day was the very definition of chaos brought to the imperial heartland, and spurred the emergence of a new, post-Constitutional governing structure, through the expansion of the national security state to monumental proportions and a staggering version of imperial overreach.  On the basis of the supposed need to keep Americans safe from terrorism (and essentially nothing else), the national security state would balloon into a dominant — and dominantly funded — set of institutions at the heart of American political life (without which, rest assured, FBI Director James Comey’s public interventions in an American election would have been inconceivable).  In these years, that state-within-a-state became the unofficial fourth branch of government, at a moment when two of the others — Congress and the courts, or at least the Supreme Court — were faltering.

The 9/11 attacks also unleashed the Bush administration’s stunningly ambitious, ultimately disastrous Global War on Terror, and over-the-top fantasies about establishing a military-enforced Pax Americana, first in the Middle East and then perhaps globally.  They also unleashed its wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the U.S. drone assassination program across significant parts of the planet, the building of an unprecedented global surveillance state, the spread of a kind of secrecy so all-encompassing that much of government activity became unknowable to “the People,” and a kind of imperial overreach that sent literally trillions of dollars (often via warrior corporations) tumbling into the abyss.  All of these were chaos-creating factors.

At the same time, the basic needs of many Americans went increasingly unattended, of those at least who weren’t part of a Gilded Age 1% sucking up American wealth in an extraordinary fashion.  The one-percenters then repurposed some of those trickle-up funds for the buying and selling of politicians, again in an atmosphere of remarkable secrecy.  (It was often impossible to know who had given money to whom for what.)  In turn, that stream of Supreme Court-approved funds changed the nature of, and perhaps the very idea of, what an election was.

Meanwhile, parts of the heartland were being hollowed out, while — even as the military continued to produce trillion-dollar boondoggle weapons systems — the country’s inadequately funded infrastructure began to crumble in a way that once would have been inconceivable.  Similarly, the non-security-state part of the government — Congress in particular — began to falter and wither.  Meanwhile, one of the country’s two great political parties launched a scorched-earth campaign against governing representatives of the other and against the very idea of governing in a reasonably democratic fashion or getting much of anything done at all.  At the same time, that party shattered into disorderly, competing factions that grew ever more extreme and produced what is likely to become a unique celebrity presidency of chaos.  

The United States with all its wealth and power is, of course, hardly an Afghanistan or a Libya or a Yemen or a Somalia.  It still remains a genuinely great power, and one with remarkable resources to wield and fall back on.  Nonetheless, the recent election offered striking evidence that the empire of chaos had indeed made the trip homeward.  It’s now with us big time, all the time.  Get used to it.”

Something something reaping…and sowing et cetera.  :/

This quote is from Howard Zinn’s article called the Force of Nonviolence which appeared in The Nation in the 1960’s.  Identifying one of the precursors to violent action is information useful in arming oneself in a myriad of situations – the process of rationalizing the unjust treatment of ‘those people’ happens in all of us, almost unconsciously most of the time.  Hopefully we can arm ourselves against our violent tendencies toward others or at least be aware of the process and move to intercede before we act.

  “The human ability to abstract, to create symbols standing for reality, has enabled man to compound his material possessions, to split the atom and orbit the earth.  It also enables him to compound his hatreds, and expands his capacity for violence.  But while there is no incentive to distort in the scientific process which changes reality to symbol for purposes of manipulation, and back to reality for purposes of realization, there is incentive, in social relations, for distorting the symbols of communication.   With man’s use of symbols, the potentiality for hatred and therefore violence is enormously, logarithmically, magnified.  And with word-symbols the possibility for distortion is infinite.  In fact, distortion is inherent here, for while particles of light are sufficiently similar so we can express the speed of all of them in a useful mathematical equation, human beings are so complex and particular, and their relationships so varied, that no generalized world can do justice to reality.  

   War is symbolic violence, with all people who happen to reside within the geographical boundaries of a nation-state constituting “the enemy”.  Race persecution is symbolic violence directed against all individuals, regardless of their specific characteristics, who can be identified with an abstracted physical type.  In the execution chamber, the state puts to death anyone, regardless of individual circumstance, who fits the legal symbol: murderer.  The law forcibly deprives of freedom everyone who falls within the symbolic definition of a criminal; sentences are sometimes meted out to individuals, but mostly to dehumanized lawbreakers whose acts match an abstract list of punishments. “

-Howard Zinn.  Howard Zinn on War p.14-15.

This Blog best viewed with Ad-Block and Firefox!

What is ad block? It is an application that, at your discretion blocks out advertising so you can browse the internet for content as opposed to ads. If you do not have it, get it here so you can enjoy my blog without the insidious advertising.

Like Privacy?

Change your Browser to Duck Duck Go.

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 376 other followers

Progressive Bloggers

Categories

August 2018
M T W T F S S
« Jul    
 12345
6789101112
13141516171819
20212223242526
2728293031  

Archives

Blogs I Follow

The DWR Community

The Feminist Kitanu

Spreading the dangerous disease of radical feminism

trionascully.com

Author. Humourist. Entertaining Dinner Guest.

Double Plus Good

The Evolution Will Not BeTelevised

la scapigliata

writer, doctor, wearer of many hats

Mars Caulton

Teaching Artist/ Progressive Educator

liberated558

Still she persisted

Old Wives' Tales

feminism, motherhood, writing

Female Personhood

Identifying as female since the dawn of time.

Not The News in Briefs

A blog by Helen Saxby

SOLIDARITY WITH HELEN STEEL

A blog in support of Helen Steel

thenationalsentinel.wordpress.com/

Where media credibility made a comeback.

BigBooButch

Memoirs of a Butch Lesbian

RadFemSpiraling

Radical Feminism Discourse

a sledge and crowbar

deconstructing identity and culture

The Radical Pen

Fighting For Female Liberation from Patriarchy

Emma

Politics, things that make you think, and recreational breaks

Nordic Model Now!

Movement for the Abolition of Prostitution

The WordPress C(h)ronicle

These are the best links shared by people working with WordPress

HANDS ACROSS THE AISLE

Biology, Not Bigotry

fmnst

Peak Trans and other feminist topics

There Are So Many Things Wrong With This

if you don't like the news, make some of your own

Gentle Curiosity

Musing over important things. More questions than answers.

ANTHRO FEMINISM

A place for thoughtful, truly intersectional Feminist discussion.

violetwisp

short commentaries, pretty pictures and strong opinions

Revive the Second Wave

gender-critical sex-negative intersectional radical feminism

Trans Animal Farm

The Trans Trend is Orwellian

Princess Henry of Wales

Priestess Belisama

miss guts.

just a girl on a journey

writing by renee

Trigger warning: feminism, women's rights

RANCOM!

Happily Retired

twanzphobic since forever

• • • • it's mocktacular! • • • •

freer lives

A socialist critique of gender ideology

Centering Women

A radical feminist page made for women only

radicalkitten

radical Elemental feminism

yumicpcake

A fine WordPress.com site

Feminist Twitches

Gender, Culture, Food, and Travel

RANCOM!

Happily Retired

A Radical TransFeminist

when I said "fuck the patriarchy", I didn't mean it literally

%d bloggers like this: