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.