Facilitate the power of love - confront the love of power

Wed, 24 Nov 2004


I woke up early, my mind filled with Jason Burke's recent article about the Islamic fundamentalists' use of video as a very modern weapon in their war with modernity in general, and the US in particular.

Nothing particularly problematic in that, except in musing on his conclusions—that some of the more extreme violence on video coming out of Iraq was down to status games, competing for who could be the most extreme—I found myself thinking of what else they could do to be more extreme. In other words I'd joined them.

I take this as a signal that, however honorable it is to confront the love of power—so astonisingly, transparently in-your-face present in the US and its 'coalition of the coerced and the bribed' as Presidential candidate John Kerry called it, to be in touch with it, to feel it, to empathize with its victims (and for reasons of confidentiality there is much else that I can't speak about here)—it was time to interrupt (not end) this line of inquiry.

Why? I have learned over the last 15 years of trying to confronting the lovers of power in the UK psychotherapy community that there can come a point in which active resistance morphs into resembling, even reproducing, the object of resistance. In which making a good piece of resistance, a very honorable thing in my book, we can unconsciously join the oppressor, and in style if not in content, begin to reproduce the oppression. 

For example, some of the animal rights activists in the UK have moved across this boundary to a point where elements of their activism reproduce the violence that they are opposing. Employing domination in the task of rolling back of domination is a lose- lose strategy that undermines the rationality of arguments for ending the abuse of animals.

My waking images are a reminder too that the love of power drives out the power of love. Something being demonstrated daily in Iraq where, with that lack of innovative ingenuity that seems to be endemic in the military-minded down the ages, the US forces enacting the removal of a tyrant are only too visibly deploying the methods of the previous regime, extremes of state violence, torture and stalinist style news management.

And so in this inquiry, sofar as the love of power topic has driven out the power of love topic it is time to bring them more into balance.