You are hereBlogs / Robert J. Burrowes's blog
Robert J. Burrowes's blog
Guest post: Anita McKone
Have you ever been provoked by someone into fear, anger or pain, and then blamed, punished or humiliated for feeling and expressing these feelings? This is a form of psychological torture which has very serious consequences. Here are three stories that demonstrate how commonly this form of torture occurs in human society.
If we want to take appropriate action to fix something that is not working properly, then it is necessary to understand, precisely, the nature of the problem. Obviously, if our diagnosis is inaccurate, then the solution applied is unlikely to work. This principle of needing to understand a problem accurately before we can devise and implement an appropriate solution applies in all fields of human endeavour, whether it be a mechanical, scientific, health or environmental problem, or a conflict at any level of human relationships.
In a recent report titled ‘Working for the Few: Political capture and economic inequality’ Oxfam informs us that ‘Almost half of the world’s wealth is now owned by just one percent of the population’. Their report goes on to recommend that the World Economic Forum, an elite gathering held annually in Davos, Switzerland, take economic and political measures to ensure a more equitable distribution of wealth.
Are you a soldier or veteran who is supposed to have a ‘mental health’ issue such as anxiety, depression, schizophrenia or PTSD? If you are, then I have some suggestions for you to consider.
Fundamentalism is a widespread problem. It often manifests in a religious context - making it highly visible - but there are plenty of secular fundamentalists too. If we are to understand fundamentalism we should not view it as a religious problem: It is a psychological one.
What is a fundamentalist? A fundamentalist is usually considered to be a person who adheres strictly to a doctrine, viewpoint or set of principles that are considered original and ‘pure’; this doctrine might be theological in nature. For the fundamentalist, many of their beliefs and the behaviours that arise from them will, at least in theory, be derivative of their fundamental doctrine. For the fundamentalist, there is no room to consider views that are at variance with their accepted doctrine and contrary views will usually either be dismissed out-of-hand or resisted with considerable vigour and, often, violence.
Critiques of the mainstream (allopathic) medical industry have long drawn attention to its death-dealing: See, for example, ‘Medical Nemesis: The Expropriation of Health’ and 'When Doctors Strike, Fewer People Die'. In fact, according to one heavily-researched report, ‘It is evident that the American medical system is the leading cause of death and injury in the United States’, far surpassing heart disease, cancer and shootings: ‘Death by Medicine’.
As we evaluate the outcomes of the recent UN climate negotiations in Warsaw, one lesson that we are invited to learn, again, relates to our strategy for getting effective action taken on the ongoing climate catastrophe and other critical environmental problems. Is lobbying elites to change their behaviour an effective strategy for change?
My experience, reinforced by decades of casual observation, is that lobbying elites is a complete waste of time and that a strategy that focuses on inviting ordinary individuals and groups to take action in the desired direction is far more effective. Why do I say this?
The pre-eminent problem confronting humankind is human violence. It is our own violence, in its various guises, including the ongoing possibility of nuclear war and the ongoing devastation of the natural environment, that threaten to consign us to the fossil record within decades, if not sooner. And yet we devote virtually no effort to trying to understand human violence and to developing strategies to end it. Why?
Every day, human adults kill 35,000 of our children. We kill them in wars. We kill them with drones. We kill them in our homes. We also kill children in vast numbers by starving them to death in Africa, Asia and Central/South America because we use military violence to maintain an ‘economic’ system that allocates resources for military weapons, as well as corporate profits for the wealthy, instead of resources for living.
What is the measure of a human being? Is it their wealth? Their wisdom? Their spirituality? Is it something that can be measured from the outside? What if it is something else altogether?
Each human being is genetically programmed with a drive to seek and find meaning in life and it will endeavour to do this throughout its life if it is allowed to do so. What constitutes ‘meaning in life’ varies from one individual to the next and is dependent on many factors (including the genetic endowment, social context and the natural environment) but the ultimate outcome would be what is sometimes described as consciousness or Self-realization in a form that would be unique for each individual.
Violence is the most pervasive and destructive human problem of them all. It has been present for as long as history records. We are mired in it, all over the world, every day of our lives. It now threatens to obliterate us from the historical record within decades, if not sooner.
What is violence? Let me define this phenomenon more precisely so that we might tackle it more effectively.
Violence is social interference in the genetically programmed feelings, thoughts, sensing and/or behavior of another organism. It might be inflicted by an individual or an institution.
As we approach the International Day of Nonviolence on 2 October, which recognizes Mahatma Gandhi’s birthday, one challenge we face is to celebrate his life in a way that Gandhi himself would have found meaningful. Gandhi was not a man of token gestures. His life was dedicated to his search for the Truth and guided by his passionate belief that nonviolence was the means to reach it. He was a visionary who was profoundly aware of the damage human violence is doing to ourselves, each other and the Earth.
Despite his example, most of us are familiar with those horror lists that reveal the extent of our ongoing violence. Here is a sample just to refresh your memory.
While the history of the involvement of psychiatrists and psychologists in torture programs for political purposes is, tragically, extensive (see, for example, ‘Political Abuse of Psychiatry: An Historical Overview’ and ‘Psychiatry during the Nazi era: ethical lessons for the modern professional’), the tragedy, with more variations, continues worldwide as you read this article.
The common phrase is ‘law and order’ but does the legal system deal with dysfunctional social behavior in ways that keep us safe?
As our world continues to unravel in response to the impact of our uneconomic activities on ecological systems, it is obviously worth asking searching questions about the nature of modern society. By doing this we can make intelligent decisions about the direction in which we should move as we thoughtfully respond to the interrelated crises we face.
For many people, the central question is this: Will tinkering with human society be enough to get us out of this mess? Many people think not and I am one of them. For the moment, however, rather than focus on the nature of the economy, political systems or other aspects of modern societies, I would like to discuss the issue of education.