Facilitate the power of love - confront the love of power

Wed, 28 Apr 2004

We insist on you being free.

You will be free, the US and its allies tell the Iraqis. But not from us. As June 30th approaches, an army of liberation, transformed into an army of occupation controlling everything of economic importance, will remain. Nor, reading between the lines of blogs coming out of Iraq, of which Baghdad Burning is a recommendable example, will Iraqis be free from Islamic fundamentalism.

One of the distinguishing features of a culture of domination is the insistence that you are either with us or against us. Following 9/11 the Bush administration's fundamentalism, its crusade (hush... don't call it that in public) against non-believers in free-range capitalism and the American Way has been persistently couched in these terms. I have first hand experience of Islamic gentleness and hospitality and in the past, of Christian generosity too. Despite this, it pains me to acknowledge that when Islam is dehydrated by peer pressure and imam pressure and the loss of face of humiliation, exploitation and occupation, its unreformed literalism—Islam's version of you are either with us or against us—becomes poisonous too. Jihad and Fatwa mirror Crusade and Inquisition.

And as I keep asking myself, why do present conflicts seem SO alarming? Not worse than the nuclear threat perhaps, but why have I felt such an urgent need to make some kind of public intervention, as with this blog, however marginal it and its associated pages may be?

I come this morning again to the realization, touched on elsewhere in recent pages here, that the actions of Israeli, US and its allied governments and the shifting, out of sight forces, that oppose them, seem so threatening because they are propagating worldwide trance states. I see every mention of 'terror', 'war on terror' and jihad as a form of trance-induction—hypnotic interventions that seek to short-circuit discrimination—that try to insist on 'Us' and 'Them', 'good' people, 'defenders of civilization', and 'evil-doers', 'terrorists'.

As Barbara Tuchman's outlines in her book “A Distant Mirror”, that I have mentioned here before, from the 14th Century on, European populations became increasingly terrified of supposedly demonic people and 'witchcraft'. But as the perspective of history and feminist critique has shown, witches were a fiction, a figment of (mostly male) imagination, an artifact of religious belief. It was the witchfinders who were spellbound, not their victims. and they who, through their dominant social status, were able to propagate the trance.

Earlier in the year I came upon this quotation from Jean Bodin (1530-1596) who, while not the most notorious of witchfinders, spelled out the entrancing power of the witch myth very clearly. I was intrigued to note how closely it echoed current preoccupations of both the US administration and Islamic counterparts such as Osama Bin Laden.

"Now, if there is any means to appease the wrath of God, to gain his blessing, to strike awe into some by the punishment of others, to preserve some from being infected by others, to diminish the number of evil-doers, to make secure the life of the well-disposed, and to punish the most detestable crimes of which the human mind can conceive, it is to punish with the utmost rigor the witches. . . . ”
“Those too who let the witches escape, or who do not punish them with the utmost rigor, may rest assured that they will be abandoned by God to the mercy of the witches. And the country which shall tolerate this will be scourged with pestilences, famines, and wars; and those which shall take vengeance on the witches will be blessed by him and will make his anger to cease. Therefore it is that one accused of being a witch ought never to be fully acquitted and set free unless the calumny of the accuser is clearer than the sun, inasmuch as the proof of such crimes is so obscure and so difficult that not one witch in a million would be accused or punished if the procedure were governed by the ordinary rules."

What comes out of this for me is further deepening of the proposition that cultures of dominance equate to trance states. So far as we buy into them, or fail to interrupt them in ourselves and the people around us, we too become spellbound.

And cultures of dominance with accompanying trances can take unexpected shapes. I'm not altogether changing the subject, last week my friend V.E. pointed me to this short report From the International Herald Tribune which points to the culture of domination that appears to entrance many, but not all, of the Japanese population. Several Japanese people, including a careworker and a freelance photojournalist who were taken hostage in Iraq and then released, had a shedload of shame dumped on them by everyone from the prime minister down when they got back to Japan.

The Herald Tribune's description of the returning Japanese hostages and why they were there, suggests that they were what I'd now call trance-breakers:
'They are Nahoko Takato, 34, who started her own organization to help Iraqi street children; Soichiro Koriyama, 32, a freelance photographer; and Noriaki Imai, 18, a freelance writer also interested in the issue of depleted uranium munitions. Two others kidnapped and released in a separate incident were... Junpei Yasuda, 30, a freelance journalist, and Nobutaka Watanabe, 36, a member of a peace group.”
'Yasuda, who was in the second group of hostages, quit his position as a staff reporter at a regional newspaper to report as a freelancer in Iraq. "We have to check ourselves what the Japanese government is doing in Iraq," he said in an interview. "This is the responsibility on the part of Japanese citizens, but it seems as if people are leaving everything up to the government." '

Their offense? To step out of line, to fail to be obedient. As the article outlines, there is even a Japansese name for this trance state, 'okami', literally respect for "what is higher", meaning respect for hierarchical power, demonstrating belief that its layers of authority and seniority are natural and inevitable.

Sat, 24 Apr 2004

Davids and Goliaths

Each day throws up some more or less in your face example of domination. Yesterday there were several. One was self-induced. For a year or more I had had a DVD of King Kong, a film I had seen a couple of times, but of which as it turned out I remembered very little, except the grotesque distortion of our ideas about gorillas. And second, out of the net appeared a picture (with news of more) that matched those from alJazeera of dead children in a day or two back, the interior of a plane bringing back US soldiers killed in Iraq. And there was this picture of Palestinian youths throwing stones at an Israeli bulldozer coupled with an article about the effects of the use of hugely disproportionate force. More on that later. And Falluja again, grief stricken relatives in an improvised cemetery.

Theme for today Damage. The damage that cultures of dominance generate and that dominant elites work to keep hidden, not least from themselves.

Damage comes in several varieties and flavors. There is the physical damage of loss of life and injuries. There is the damage of denial, the need for dominant elites to maintain and refuel the stories that rationalize their behavior as OK and even the epitomy of civilization; there is the damage of victimization, of being forced into subordination and subjection which generates its own stories and we might suppose includes the enervating need to maintain an essential form of denial, resistance, of refusing the dominant wish for compliance and obedience. There is another deep and pervasive layer of damage that rolls across generations, the traumatizing of the young, the very young, and the unborn.

Before I go on I want to acknowledge another closer to home form of damage that surfaces when the temptation to launch into a rant against the more obviously brutal and crass tyrannical exponents of full spectrum dominance arises, which I feel fairly often these days. Satisfying but not necessarily illuminating. Dangerous because it can support the false promise that we can somehow be outside all of this. And so we might deny the probability that, at some times, in some places, with some people, we are all highly likely to be acting as a dominant elite. And even if we become refuseniks, we will still be seen as such by some people. However in an inquiry such as this, awareness of our own heavy-handedness can a valuable lens through which to better see the damage that industrial strength dominance inflicts.

I'll return to King Kong but first Iraq. One of the components of the dominance trance inductions of the present US administration that evoke 'freedom', 'security', 'terrorist' and so on has been the suppression, since the Gulf War of media access to photos of the 'remains' of US soldiers killed in Iraq (I was going to say 'fallen' but that is one of the euphemisms that keep the denial of damage in place). The release this week of pictures that break that taboo brings into focus the denial/splitting that suppressing them was intended to support—that damage be kept out of sight, out of the national consciousness. Pictures of actual damage if they escape trance central control can be trance-breaking. Will the US media collude with the Pentagon, who realizing their error in releasing 300 pictures of the dead arriving at the dover Air force base tried to suppress them? As of this moment, apart from a single picture in the Seattle Times I haven't been able to find any of them. Though a little goes a long way, as you'll see if you open the image.

So—A guiding rule of dominant elites is that evidence of damage resulting from the pursuit of their interests that might be trance-breaking must be denied, hidden, or blamed on the victims. Self-censorship is one of the ways we do it, another is through the euphemistic naming that I referred to above. (and to which I will return another day). This process, even if we are persuaded that we are some kind of Top Gun, is itself damaging since we are denying to ourselves feeling the pain of others suffering. Such denial has its price in terms of depression and other symptoms of denied emotionality. As Daniel N. Nelson spells out, the price also commonly includes defeat:
'defeat comes through arrogance. Capacity-driven behaviors are preceded by an assumption that power is deserved, and that deserved power embodies one with a mission to use such capacities for a greater goal. Such a missionary vocation is irrevocably intertwined with hubris - the conceit of power. Yet such arrogance conceals fundamental weakness. Every utterance of arrogant power generates fear, alienation and, ultimately, the development of countervailing and often asymmetric force. With each deception or evidently cosmetic spin, the power of trust and the legitimacy of just force wither'.

And it perhaps goes without saying that to be the object of coercion, exploitation, and discrimination is damaging. The persistent denial of rights, of actual violence, or painful punishment if we don't comply with demands erodes self-esteem and builds the victim trance—which it occurs to me as I write, is the intention of much of a dominant elite's actions— submissive compliance i.e. don't even think those out-of-the-box thoughts.

Resistance and dissent
Just because enslaved populations submit to superior force doesn't mean that there are not many among them who are awake to the trance inductions that are literally targeted at them, and who see through them. This generates a dissenting position, where we may from time to time get caught up in either victim or dominance positions but aren't believers. The special form of damage that standing aside from the herd, from the collective trance entails is at least self-chosen, it takes the form of enlivened feelings. Feeling the tension between the stories that dominant elites tell and the facts on the ground. Feeling empathically the pain of other's oppression and not infrequently, feeling the pain of not being able to interrupt or influence much of what we find objectionable.

The illogic and irrationality of the use of overwhelming force in acts of retribution or revenge continues in both Iraq and Palestine. The Falluja siege continues as I write, with denial on the part of the US military that the hundreds of civilian dead could be due to their fire-power and evidence that the main hospital housed US snipers. Falluja feels like an archetypal version of Israeli-style confrontation that fights fire with fire. The Israeli suppression of Palestinian resistance at Beit Lahia on the Gaza-Israeli border and especially this image from yesterday's London Guardian of Palestinian youths stoning a huge bull-dozer also seems to me to carry the psychic quality of the dynamic of powerless and oppressor that the Israeli colonization of Palestine daily reinforces. A footnote to the events in Beit Lahia Ewen MacAskill's report mentions that:
'During the fighting, behind a screen of tanks and soldiers, Israeli bulldozers destroyed, apparently as a punitive action, a sewage works built for the Palestinians by the Swedish international development agency. An hour before leaving yesterday morning the Israeli army blew up a police training centre and a newly completed - but never used - school for disabled children'

Having visited places like Dachau and KD Mauthausen, near Linz in Austria, where so many Jews were tormented and murdered, I feel a deep sadness that, faced with threats to the viability of the Israeli state carved out by force by the colonization of Palestine, the Israelis can do no better than mimic in so many ways the methods of their former persecutors.

King Kong
King Kong might seem to sit uneasily with this real world pain and yet not so. While it would serve a PhD culture-miner very well, I wanted to check out its portrayal of 'gorilla' characteristics, horrible in several senses. I had seen this film a couple of times in the past but discovered that I had very little recall of it. What concerns us here is less the filmic values, which for the time, 1933, must have seemed astonishing, more the whole film as an unconscious celebration of dominance.

The plot
Carl Denham a filmmaker persuades a New York ship's captain to take him and his camera and a stock of gas bombs to a secret location for his new film. His notoriety prevents him from being able to hire a female star, so he picks up and hires Anne Darrow, a homeless starving woman on the streets of New York. The island turns out to be inhabited by 'savages' who, when the Denham and the ships crew show up, are preparing the sacrifice of a young women. The savages steal Denham's star instead and Darrow is carried off by Kong, a huge gorilla-like creature, that lives in the primeval forest behind an enormous wall across the island.

Kong disappears carrying the terrified Darrow with Denham and helpers in close pursuit of his joint assets. Throughout encounters with several prehistoric monsters, Kong cares gently for his captured sacrifice, but kills all the human pursuers except Carl Denham, and the ship's mate, John Driscol, who against all his macho inclinations, has become romantically attached to the female star. They find Kong and the unharmed Darrow resting on a mountain ledge. While Kong is distracted fighting a pterodactyl, Driscol rescues the girl and they head back to the ship. Kong chases them, breaking through the protective wall, and eventually reaching the beach, where Denham's gas bombs stun Kong.

The scene moves to New York where an audience of gliterati are gathered in a huge theater for the exhibition of Denhams 'Eight Wonder of the World'. The curtain rises on Kong, fastened like a laboratory animal in a huge frame. Carl Denham introduces his star and her husband-to-be rescuer to the audience but press photographers flash bulbs startle and enrage Kong. He frees himself, breaks out through the wall of the theater and climbs up a building in search of his lost beauty, eventually locating her in a room with her rescuer. Kong retrieves Darrow, and with her clasped in his hand, climbs up a high building which turns out to be New York's Empire State building. Panicking police authorities call for fighter aircraft to kill Kong, and after some exchanges they succeed. Having previously set down Darrow gently, Kong falls to the earth and the star is safely re-united with her husband to be.

I guess there have been many commentaries on this film. Psychologically it looks like a replay of the myth that our inner psychic worlds are dangerous territories featuring wall to wall savagery and thus very risky to enter. More important for the task of g.o.r.i.l.l.a. is a political perspective; what does King Kong reveal about power?

It's not hard to find, domination shapes every frame. Carl Denham manipulates and coerces the ship's captain into joining him in a risky exploit that requires gas bombs at a secret location. When theatrical agents refuse to supply a female star for the film Denham picks up a vulnerable woman who is stealing because she is hungry.

Carl Denham, and his 'crew', all men except for the female star, voyage to somewhere near Sumatra and descend in full colonial style with camera and guns on a remote island intent on capturing one of its spectacular assets on film. The film maker's talk is peppered with male bravado lines that betray their ignorance and insensitivity. The island wilderness and its 'savage' primitive society is treated as ripe for harvesting/exploitation. Nature, in the shape of Kong, a gorilla-like creature as big as a building, plus a selection of prehistoric animals, is seen as brutal, a series of fights to the death. The overwhelming physical strength of Kong is matched by the overwhelming technical strength of the 'gas bombs' that the filmmaker uses to subdue it. Kong is gassed and captured. Instead of his intended film, the filmmaker brings back to civilization a 'piece of nature' to entertain the dominant elite of New York, bejeweled, dinner-jacketed top-hatted city-dwellers. Impresario Denham introduces Kong with these words:
'He was a king and a god in a world he knew. Now he comes to civilization merely a captive, a show to gratify your curiosity'.
When Kong breaks out of his imprisonment, aircraft and machine guns, further examples of the reassuringly superior and overwhleming forces of civilization, are brought to bear and Kong falls to his death from New York's Empire State building. This in itself seems an ironic choice that underlines the unaware thread of imperial, colonial domination throughout the film.

For me King Kong echoes uncannily present-time events on the ground. It is a treatise, a primer on the internal dynamics of the myth of domination as natural and inevitable: that the use of overwhelming force, exploitation, coercion and imprisonment are OK because we possess the means to effect them; the notion that nature is a resource to be harvested; that civilization is outside nature; plus the damaging cultural lie of inflating the idea of 'gorilla', an immensely strong but gentle, vegetarian creature, into an iconic Enemy. An icon, it quickly becomes clear, that reflects only too well the crass, domineering masculinity of its colonial oppressors.

As if this needed underlining, since I wrote the previous paragraph I discovered that Merian C. Cooper and Ernet B. Shoedsack, the producer and director of King Kong, played the pilots who enthusiastically gun down and kill Kong. For people, not a few I guess, who felt some sympathy for Kong, Denham is given lines that let him (and the producers) side-step their guilt for Kong's capture and death. Standing next to the dead Kong's body at the foot of the Empire state building, Denham blames the feminine for this macho disaster, 'It was beauty killed the beast' he tells a policeman.

How sad to have to acknowledge that the spirit of King Kong's oppressors still lives on in too many of us and especially in the overwhelming and inappropriate use of force that the Israelis are using daily in its colonization of Palestine, and the US and it's allies in their colonization of Iraq.

Wed, 21 Apr 2004

Falluja Again

I still feel preoccupied with the siege of Falluja. OK it was a a favored town under Saddam Hussein and so likely to have a lot of people who prospered through mimicking his style of tyrannical domination. As in other times, and places, 'strong leaders' often insist that if you are not with us you are against us.

Partly what keeps Falluja in my mind is the random juxtaposition of the siege, still in place today as I write, with the pages I was reading last evening in Barbara Tuchman's book that I recommended earlier, about a siege of the town of Limoges in France. It might turn out to be a digression but I think not.

As Barbara Tuchman tells it. In 1370 Charles V of France was trying, through piecemeal negotiation to regain territories lost to the occupying English, then commanded by the Black Prince, son of Edward III. Charles succeeded in luring Limoges back in the French national fold despite the oath of fealty it had taken to the Black Prince. “Enraged by the “treason” and vowing to make the city pay dearly for it, the Black Prince determined “to make an example that would prevent further defections”. He led an elite force of knights to assault Limoges, tunneling under the city walls to make them collapse. “Plunging through the gaps, the men at arms blocked the cities exits and proceeded on order to the massacre of the inhabitants regardless of age or sex. Screaming with terror, people fell on their knees before the Prince's litter to beg for mercy but “he was so inflamed with ire that he took no heed of them” and they passed under the sword.”

Collective punishment
The UN's special adviser in Iraq, Lakhdar Brahimi, is today reported to have expressed his shock over US behaviour in Falluja. As Jonathan Steel puts it in the London Guardian, 'he condemned Washington's Israeli-style overkill in Falluja as a collective punishment, in effect a war crime'. The use of inappropriate force is a characteristic of people under the spell of domination and in Falluja there would appear to be a very clear split between the value of the four American mercenaries murdered in the city and the value of the 600 civilians as of today's estimates who have been killed in the siege. This is another characteristic of dominance, the split between highly valued Us, and little or no value, Them.

On a previous page of “A Distant Mirror” Tuchman tells of knights distraught at the loss of a charismatic leader, Sir John Chandos, they “wept piteously... wronge their handes and tare their heeres.” She notes that the knights who wept for Chandos were weeping for one of themselves, whereas the victims of Limoges were outside chivalry. Besides as she continues, “Life was not precious, for what was the body, after all but carrion and the sojourn on earth but a halt on the way to eternal life?”. Such religious beliefs, the soil in which dominance grows, are still very obviously alive today in the three religions that are shaping many people's approach to conflicts in the Middle East and elsewhere.

In a a further reflection, Barbara Tuchman points out that, as was the custom with such punishments, Limoges was sacked and burned but that, while it was probably successful for a time in suppressing other resistance, the reprisal fostered a hatred of the English that led eventually to the heroic resistance of Joan of Arc.

What is it in us that means we can kill on this scale? Or collude with killing on this scale? Buried somewhere at the back of my practitioner experience is a hypnosis training that I attended years ago. I never took it into practice because it seemed to give practitioners way too much power, but I came to appreciate that hypnosis is a very powerful and greatly undervalued human capacity. It works through narrowing the attention, so that elements of the brain that mediate discrimination are shut down or restricted. At this point what is 'suggested' takes precedence over experience and discrimination. I'm more and more inclined to see the belief in the naturalness and inevitability of domination as a trance (hypnotic) state.

How else can the designation of some people as having 'lives devoid of value' can appear reasonable? So that they become 'evil-doers', 'enemies of freedom'? I begin to see that it requires that we become entranced by leaders and peers, perhaps reinforced by the cultural values of capitalism, convinced of the absolute ultimate rightness of our belief that to dominate is natural and inevitable. Why else would we be prepared to bystand the huge numbers of civilian casualties, as in Falluja (as I write there are 470 dead and perhaps a 1000 injured) plus those of Jenin and Shatilla, and Gaza?

If we are spellbound by a belief that domination is natural and inevitable, doesn't this amounts to the militarization of daily life, of warfare as a deeply defining value, or as I'd prefer, 'the myth we live by'? Recalling what I heard from Joel Kovel some years back about military combat training, the installation of twin opposites—dominate the enemy, behave aggressively, be willing and able to kill (i.e. deny the value of the life of the Other) AND be obedient - do exactly as instructed—qualifies it as trance induction—literally brain-washing—the shaping of discrimination so as to fail to notice the context of what we are doing. As Joel Kovel pointed out, this is psychologically hugely stressful. To bear it requires dissociation, splitting, internally failing to notice what is being felt and externally failing to note the context of our actions. In other words spellbound, and I guess this is what unites the US forces in the Falluja siege, and the English knights at the Limoges massacre in the 14th century, and I suspect, the rest of us non-innocent bystanders.

Tue, 20 Apr 2004

The Law of Conquest

The sun was shining and I'd had enough of human misery for the moment. I picked up my camera, went out, and walked a couple of blocks to take this picture of a statue high up on a recently restored building on the corner of rue St. André that had caught my eye a couple of weeks back.

Since I began to see through the spell that says that domination (and thus subordination) are natural and inevitable—to be accepted as a form of political 'weather' that we must learn to tolerate—I have begun to see the Law of Conquest—'Might is Right', 'Winner takes all' being celebrated in innumerable public places. Very often it's a man on a horse like here in Venice. Elsewhere, surprisingly often, it is one man crushing, stabbing, or bludgeoning another, like these images from my recent CD-ROM. People met in committees or coffee house and had discussions and commissioned artists to make these monuments, paid money, lots of money, for them. That's to say, at a deep psychic level they were buying images of what they believed to be true.

But back to the statuary... I often follow intuition on these matters and apart from the bright new gilding on this statue I wasn't sure why I found it so interesting. Closer study shows that it is probably a depiction of St Michael patron saint of Brussels. I dug a little deeper and found St Michael described as follows:

“Michael is our sword and our shield against evil. He is heaven's defender... Slayer of Dragons.... he is said to have been a friend of Lucifer before the fall of the Angels but became the Christian war cry against the Christian enemies, including Satan. Michael... . was taken up as patron by many of the military orders that formed around the Crusades... In the book of Revelation it is Michael who leads his heavenly armies against the Dragon (Revelation 12:7). ...He is the patron Angel of Israel... he is usually pictured in armor, carrying a lance or sword, often with his foot on the neck of a dragon... Saint Michael the Archangel, as leader of the heavenly army, was viewed as the patron of every Christian knight. Men went to Michael for protection in battle.....”

Something about this takes me by surprise. I hadn't much associated angels with the celebration of force and yet there it is. I have to get used to thinking of St Michael as the patron saint of bullying—as a match, if you like—for Jesus as the patron of subordination.

Ah... it's only history you say... and its true, it is history but it matters because we all have our history with us. In the UK “St Michael” is one of the dominant brands, for Marks and Spencer, (As I write this I'm wearing a “St Michael” shirt). What else is history but these stories that we tell each other to justify and rationalize our power and privilege? Or the lack of it? And the St Michael story is a story about the inevitability of enemies that have to be crushed, of intrinsic evil that has to be vanquished. Much easier I fancy, to vanquish, than to be good.

This unexpected opening of a yet another doorway to spirituality as a vehicle for the use, or channeling of force, makes me inclined to explore some more of the hidden fundamentalisms that we inhabit and that inhabit us.

As elsewhere in g.o.r.i.l.l.a., I tend work from the visual through to the inferences, or meaning that images or intuitions carry. Put another way I often have a gut feeling, an intuitive zizz, that an event or an image carries more than it surface appearance suggests.

How does this sit with our theme of inquiring into the phenomenon of domination? When driven by distress, spiritual beliefs can cement in place the building blocks of a 'literal truth', that once out in the world has to be obeyed, has to be defended, has to be imposed on others (This is not a polemic against spirituality, quite the reverse, spirituality as ongoing open-ended inquiry into the sacred has great intrinsic value). Spirituality allied with a belief that force and coercion are legitimate for the propagation and defense of the faith have proved to be poisonous like few other mental substances. Not only that, at the present time such beliefs are close at hand, even in the driving seat in several of the governments that are insisting we join their new world order. In a timely way, when I opened today's copy of the London Guardian here was an article by George Monbiot "Their beliefs are bonkers, but they are at the heart of power - US Christian fundamentalists are driving Bush's Middle East policy".

So how do we open this up further? How do we feel our way to loosening the bonds that tie us to over-rigid commitment, say to biblical truth? And how do we do it without 'attacking'? As I write this, my mind settles on this image, the front page of a UK newspaper, the Daily Express for Thursday September13th 2001, two days after the attacks that demolished the World Trade Center in New York. Making the presumption that Christianity is universal, its headline, over a picture of the devastation says 'Let us Pray'. A curious request to make of a nation that pays only lip service to Christian beliefs i.e. something to be deployed when there is a baptism, a wedding, a funeral. And people did indeed pray including the UK Prime minister and his wife, Kofi Annan, and Bill and Hilary Clinton.

What makes this Daily Express front page such an entrancing masterpiece of domination is the permanent everyday feature of its mast head, a crusader complete with sword, chain mail, and a shield with a cross on it.

Its been there on the top of the Daily Express since I was a child, it's part of the landscape, the psychic wallpaper. But how do you think it might look to someone not entranced by the idea of crusades as a good thing i.e. people who have been the victim of crusades, or who have chosen, wisely or not, to carry the collective history of Western (i. e. Christian) oppression—for example Osama bin Laden?

The Twin Towers attack was an appalling atrocity, a moment in history like few others. The Daily Express and other responses to it at the time and later have brought to the surface and made visible like never before (at least to me) the stories that powerful elites tell each to justify and rationalize the use of violence to gain advantage and keep privilege. The notion of crusade, 'war of the cross', is an example. Before someone close shussed him, President Bush even talked of a 'crusade', for example here, talking to troops in Alaska . John Hanchette of the 'Niagara Falls Reporter' opens out the story very well

A search of, for 'Crusader' brings up 454000 pages, I even recall having an indemnity policy with a 'Crusader Insurance Company'. The notion of 'crusade' is a popular and potent story that we in the west tell ourselves when we want to evoke a sense of the collective orchestration of the forces of good against evil. Here is recent religious example . But as John Hanchette so eloquently reminds us, in a world where populations of believers are no longer so remote from each other, people who were, and are still being oppressed by the crusades of hostility to Islam, especially in the Middle East, have another take on the idea. They see it as an icon of domination evoking the collective memory of invasion and butchery by Christian armies seeking to impose western i. e. Christian values and notions of 'freedom', as here in these images of the crusades by Gustave Doré that were popular in the 19th century and continuing today in this currently available crusader computer 'game'. Scenes full of knights and advanced technology of all shapes and sizes, who like President Bush, insisted that 'our cause is just, our cause is noble and we will defeat the forces of terror' even if, as in both sectors of history, it involves killing large numbers of civilians.

If you want to see how the crusades live on in us look no further than the way they introduced a couple of psychosocial innovations that are still with us. The First Crusade appears to have been orchestrated by Pope Urban 11 as a way of setting up an external enemy on which to direct extremely destructive local enmities; as the limits of extreme warlordism were being reached in medieval Europe the crusades demonstrated the economic value, if not virtue, of colonizing far away places, (the Doge of Venice financed the Crusade against the Constantinople in exchange for half the booty); lastly by coupling the Chivalric tradition to military action, the crusades consolidated the dissociation commonplace in Europe at the time, and subsequently in later imperial conquests, of technocratic 'knights' who celebrated violence and who spent their lives fighting, plundering, raping and pillaging, while claiming the high moral purposes of Christianity.

For more detail I recommend the book about the period I have been reading for weeks past, Barbara Tuchman's “A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous 14th Century” and Dr. E. L. Skip Knox's History of the Crusades

Sun, 18 Apr 2004

g.o.r.i.l.l.a. revived and enhanced

g.o.r.i.l.l.a. began ten year ago as a focus for resisting the abuse of power in the work I do, psychotherapy. That is still a necessary task but it has been overshadowed by the need to confront the abuse of power on the wider political stage. OK, perhaps this is nothing new but events of the last 10 years have sharpened my perspective.

What do I see? Two key trends:
1. A more nurturing approach to parenting—coupled with a greater tolerance and capacity for emotionality. These seem to have led to an increasing awareness of the extent to which sexual and child abuse, domestic violence and bullying are a damaging facet of 'normality' in child-care.

2. The collapse of the USSR project and its client states, brought into sharper focus the abuses of power by the US and its client states that had previously been masked by the Cold War.

The first of these is close to home, part of the work I do. The second has seemed out of reach, out of my range and competence but no longer. The open assertion that 'full spectrum dominance' should shape US foreign policy has made politics everybody's business. The notion that links all these trends is Dominance—the belief that  'might is right', that bullying is natural, that the use of force and coercion are  inevitable and essential ingredients of human life—and that its shadow, subordination and victimization, is also natural and inescapable.

g.o.r.i.l.l.a. is devoted to unravelling and confronting these beliefs. They have seemed to be a 'given', a part of human existence. Might they not be self-serving social constructions that promote and support exploitation and generate damage? Might they not be obsolete? An old paradigm of relating that promises to end all relating?

Some hints and pointers:
People who inherit, gravitate to, are elected to, or seize, dominant roles, tell stories about reality that justify their tyrannies.

People who have been disinherited, side-lined, abused or exploited also tell stories that often justify or rationalize their victimhood.

The extent to which the media mirrors through which we know ourselves socially are in the hands of dominant corporate tyrants tends to mean that victimhood is seen as due to failure and weakness.

Since tyrannies tend to have the power to enforce compliance, and side-line or censor contradictions, their stories  can seem to be 'true'.

A key element of how dominance plays out is dissociation. Tyrannies hide from themselves the damage that arises out of dominance, or if it cannot be hidden, it is held to be due to the weakness and failure on the part of subordinates.

We can learn to recognize the cultures of domination that we inhabit and resist,  interrupt, and contradict them in ourselves and others.

And where does love feature in all this? So far as love is defined as the active mutual pursuit of flourishing with Others— it requires the absence of coercion and force.  In other words Love is the antithesis of Dominance. Learning to love, learning to live from love, thus requires that we also confront our inner tyrants, that we move to eliminate our use of force and coercion and work to build the skills and emotional competence that negotiation and cooperation require.

g.o.r.i.l.l.a. starts out from an existing collection of images, texts, animation, articles and links that will be extended through original contributions—in the form of writing, pictures and LINKS. So far as these seem haphazard and unbalanced that perhaps reflects the present state of g.o.r.i.l.l.a.'s inquiries.

If g.o.r.i.l.l.a.'s agenda or contents interest you and you would like to comment, or contribute, that would be very welcome.