I've taken the opportunity of a holiday space to rethink and refurbish
this Action Research enquiry into facilitating the power of love and
confronting the love of power.
To more clearly underline the aims and intentions of the enquiry, I've
changed the title from g.o.r.i.l.l.a. to livingfromlove
This may also help me manage the incoming tide of powerfreakery that
here, as in the rest of life, tends to swamp the living from love.
To make the unfolding of the enquiry more easily accessible I've
created a separate CONTENTS
the material as it emerged... from earliest to latest.
In honour of the antecedents of this phase of the enquiry, I'll quote a
few paragraphs from its opening statement
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
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
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
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 Dominance is
the antithesis of Love. 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.
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Reaping the whirlwind
- the London bombings
The London 7/7 bombings
and the 21/7 failure, lend impetus to this enquiry into the
naturalness or otherwise of
domination. I was touched by the number of people who called to check
that I was OK and surprised at the less than visceral shock
evoked in me by the
images and reporting of these close at hand events. Was this perhaps
because I had taken care to try to keep in touch with the parallel
atrocities in Iraq and occupied Palestine? Maybe... I certainly felt
kind of blowback from the Iraq and Afghanistan attacks was
inevitable. Not a dissident view this, since police chiefs have been
up the possibility of a UK attack for some months.
What surprised me more was that, in the media I see—excepting Robin
Cook in the Guardian
Benn, BBC Newsnight—there was barely
a voice that asked the obvious question about 7/7, why would
anyone want to end their life in this way, as a suicide 'smart bomb'?
Was this a question that, out of undue respect for the victims and
their families was unaskable? Was the UK going to repeat the
denial of culpability that was prevalent in the US ?
Since a) I wasn't finding answers to this line of questioning and b)
blatantly dominationist writing in a couple of the publications I have
access to, I started to look for myself.
On Tuesday July 26th Mark Steyn begins a piece in the Daily
According to his cousins back in Pakistan, Yorkshire lad Shehzad
Tanweer decided to become a "holy warrior" because of "US abuse of
Muslim prisoners in Guantanamo Bay".
There is, of course, no "US abuse of Muslim prisoners in
Guantanamo Bay". Newsweek's story about Korans being flushed down the
toilet turned out to be a crock; minor examples of possible disrespect
of the holy book are outweighed by multiple desecrations of their
Korans by the detainees. One man was exposed to Christina Aguilera CDs
played very loud in an attempt to break him, which I can't say I'd care
for. Another had large chunks of Harry Potter read to him, but don't
worry, it wasn't the new one.
None the less, to avenge the brutal torture of having Harry
Potter read to you by a woman, Shehzad Tanweer self-detonated on the
Underground and killed seven people. Ted Kennedy, Newsweek and the
British press might like to ponder that before they puff up the next
shameful torture technique (insufficient selection of entrées?)
into front page news.
Steyn ignores, or hasn't seen the Jane Mayer's article, New Yorker
July 11-18, which details the torture and ill treatment of Guantanamo
prisoners (and the role of psychological and medical professionals in
devising it). As she tells it, even FBI agents complained to their
superiors about Guantanamo interrogations:
"On a couple of occasions I entered an interview room to find a
chained hand and foot in a fetal position to the floor,with no chair,
food or water,' he wrote. Most times they had urinated or defecated on
themselves and had been left there for 18 to 24 hours or more." The
agent related that he had also visited an " almost unconscious"
prisoner in a room where the temperature was "probably well above 100
degrees, "There was a "pile of hair next to him." (He seemed to have
pulled out his own hair.)
How do you suppose, coupled with the Abu Ghraib images, Steyn's blatant
denial of the torture of prisoners in Guantanamo reads
to an adherent of
Islam in the UK or the rest of the world?
The Steyn article led me to another article, in the Spectator,
The myth of moderate Islam
Patrick Sookhdeo pilloried a Pakistani writer Abid Ullah Jan for
having apparently applauded the
London bombings. 'The gist of the article', Sookhdeo claimed:
... is that Muslims should strive to gain political
and military power over non-Muslims, that warfare is obligatory for all
Muslims, and that the Islamic state, Islam and Sharia (Islamic law)
should be established throughout the world. All is supported with
from the Koran.
goes on to argue that:
...the Koran is like a
pick-and-mix selection. If you want peace, you can find peaceable
verses. If you want war, you can find bellicose
verses. You can find verses which permit only defensive jihad, or you
can find verses to justify offensive jihad.
Moving off Ullah Jan's text, Sookhdeo says that in the Qur'an:
You can even find texts which specifically command terrorism, the
classic one being Q8:59-60, which urges Muslims to prepare themselves to fight non-Muslims, ‘Against them make ready your strength to the utmost of your power, including steeds of war, to strike terror into (the hearts of) the enemies’ (A. Yusuf Ali’s translation). Pakistani Brigadier S.K. Malik’s book The Quranic Concept of War is widely used by the military of various Muslim countries. Malik explains Koranic teaching on strategy: ‘In war our main objective is the opponent’s heart or soul, our main weapon of offence against this objective is the strength of our own souls, and to launch such an attack, we have to keep terror away from our own hearts.... Terror struck into the hearts of the enemies is not only a means, it is the end itself. Once a condition of terror into the opponent’s heart is obtained, hardly anything is left to be achieved. It is the point where the means and the end meet and merge. Terror is not a means of imposing decision on the enemy; it is the decision we wish to impose on him.’(my emphasis)
Sookhdeo argues that the notion that 'Islam is peace' doesn't stand up
to close inspection of the Qur'an, an often quoted verse does say that
‘If you kill one soul it is as
if you have killed all mankind.’
but he goes on, the full
and unexpurgated version
of Q5:32 states:
‘If anyone slew a person —
unless it be for murder or
for spreading mischief in the land — it would be as if he slew the
whole people.’ The very next verse lists a selection of
savage punishments for those who fight the Muslims and create
‘mischief’ (or in some English translations ‘corruption’) in the land,
punishments which include execution, crucifixion or
Hmm. All the Muslims I have met have been notably gentle, kind and
caring, so what is it that has got up the noses of those who see their
destiny as suicide bombers?
That something is up the nose and more, of Abbid Ullah Jan, is easily
apparent from even a casual dip into some of the writing helpfully
Rage is what first comes to mind, the rage of a lightning conductor,
someone who is trying to channel the huge emotional charge of oppressed
subordination so that it reaches the ears of dominant ruling
classes. A tough role, Al Jazeera is another example, and one likely to
damage those who hold it.
In the first piece I came to, The
"Death Cult" or Superfascism
Ullah Jan answers my question of why
anyone would want to end their lives as a suicide bomber. It's nothing
to do with Islam.
What made the young Muslims,
raised in this society, do this?
...Bush, Blair and their fellow war lords have a pre-conceived answer
for this question: Muslims are “in the grip of a dangerous cult” of the
“poisonous misinterpretation of Islam.”
We are told: “No, Islam is a great religion. They act like
...Is it that blowing themselves [up] irrationally, and killing women
and children and all innocent people for no reason at all is dear to
Allah and He will reward Muslim with
70 virgin in heaven after their successfully blowing themselves from
limb to limb?
Ullah Jan dismisses any suggestion that there is a message within
Islam, misinterpreted or
not, that requires this martyrdom. He goes on:
An impartial analysis reveals
that it is not some kind of inspiration due to
misinterpretation of Islam, but depression and desperation as
a result of the lies and double standards of those who
exploited freedom and democracy to the extent of
turning it into something
worse than a death cult. Cult leaders die with the rest
members. They don’t kill those who are not part of the
cult. But the
super-fascists of the our age live peacefully while
putting the future of humanity at
Unlike the cult phenomenon, the super-fascists prefer to live and rule the
world. For realizing their totalitarian designs, they don’t
mind lying, cheating and killing their own people at
home as well as through sending them abroad for
invasions and occupation. Killing
hundreds of thousands of aliens, who do not share their
culture totalitarian ideologies, is not even as much as
a pinprick for
their dead conscience.
Since Islam doesn’t approve killing of innocent civilians and no sane person
can ever leave all his own loved ones behind and go on a mission
to kill innocent loved ones of others, it must be
something far more serious than the myth that these
individuals are suffering from
“a poverty of dignity and wealth or rage.”
The perpetrators could be Muslims. But they are definitely not inspired
by religion or its misinterpretation. They are the
product of a
reaction to the super-fascism of their age.
And so I was returned to my theme of domination. Ullah Jan
in this article between jihad and jihadism:
Jihad is always for
self-actualisation, eradication of mischief and eliminating oppression
with a focus on spiritual aspect at all levels.
He sees jihadism
as a label:
that the US uses as a bogyman to
criminalise resistance to its illegitimate occupations and to justify
the policy of total domination through its “war on terrorism.”
In support of this he points to evidence suggesting that the Russians
were seduced into invading Afghanistan by the CIA's promotion of jihad
and the information that the generation of jihadis that Bin Laden
orchestrates were nourished by vast amounts of US produced educational
The Washington Post's Joe
Stephens and David B. Ottaway report
about this process
of spreading, what the US now
labels as “Jihadism”:
"In the twilight of the Cold War, the United States
spent millions of dollars to supply Afghan schoolchildren with
textbooks filled with violent images and militant Islamic teachings,
part of covert attempts to spur resistance to the Soviet occupation.
The "Primers", which were filled with talk of jihad and featured
drawings of guns, bullets, soldiers and mines, have served since then
as the Afghan school system's core curriculum. Even the Taliban used
the American-produced books..." 
Unlike the ongoing efforts to eliminate the Islamic concept of Jihad
from school curriculum around the Muslim world, Stephens and Ottaway
identify how the US governmental and educational organizations were
involved in actually developing Jihad-focused textbooks. They write:
"Published in the dominant Afghan languages of Dari and Pashtu, the
textbooks were developed in the early 1980s under an AID [Agency for International
Development] grant to the University of Nebraska-Omaha and its Center
for Afghanistan Studies. The agency spent $51 million on the
university's education programs in Afghanistan from 1984 to 1994."
Under this Jihadism project, the images and talk of resistance to
occupation were craftily intermingled with regular education: "Children
were taught to count with illustrations showing tanks, missiles and
land mines, agency officials said.
"One page from the texts of that period shows a resistance
fighter with a bandolier and a Kalashnikov slung from his shoulder. The
soldier's head is missing. Above the soldier is a verse from the Koran.
Below is a Pashtu tribute to the mujaheddin [sic], who are described as
obedient to Allah. Such men will sacrifice their wealth and life itself
to impose Islamic law on the government, the text says."
The United States’ Jihadism successfully transformed Afghan children
into true freedom fighters. None of the present analyst, obsessed with
using the word Jihadism and Jihadists, wrote a single word to condemn
the US ways to promoting violence. Many of the presently labeled
“Jihadists” live on from that period to join or morally support the resistance
against new occupations.
Now that the US comes to reap the whirlwind, many Americans
consider attacks on US occupation forces a shocking and
I begin to feel hooked by two narratives here. One story says that the
'terrorism' in London, Madrid, Bali, Sharm al Sheik and Israel is due
an insane distortion of Islam which seeks by these means to bring a
sharia law caliphate to the presently non-Muslim world.
The other story tells us that the extremity of self-immolation of
suicide bombers can only be accounted for as the coming to focus of a
reservoir of rage due to 80+ years of imperial and colonial oppression
of Muslim peoples by western governments through military force and the
privileged promotion of corporate
highly recommendable notion of dominant and
subordinate political narratives that are often unable to hear each
alone empathize with the other story, this sounds promisingly like
such a pairing.
The dominant narrative can't/won't hear the subordinate narrative,
partly because it is perceived as coming from a 'barbaric', or
'primitive' culture but
mostly because to accept it all would fatally undermine the politics of
the dominant story. (if hostage takers empathize with their captives,
are much less likely to be able to kill them)
The subordinate narrative, with neither the assets nor the power to
negotiate with the narrators of the dominant story, tells its tale
through welding whatever
spiritual imperatives that are to hand to the indigenous ingenuity of
the suicide bomb.
Through doing this, the oppressed of the worldwide muslim communities,
finding a smart weapon that upstages the smart
weaponry of the
dominant, reproduce in the streets of Baghdad and
London and Bali and Madrid, the domination of the oppressor. Non
violent direct action doesn't (yet) seem an option.
Paradoxically, this matching of resources compromises the subordinate
storytellers' cause, since it enables a
curious perversion of blaming and media collusion in the re-telling of
the dominant story. Prime Minister Blair labels the
violence and damage of the London bomber's actions as 'evil', or
shutting down consideration of the oppressed muslim world's bombings
as a subordinate voice, with something to tell us that we need to
listen to. In
doing so he
endorses the US in its denial of culpability and joins the 'war
on terrorism', the transparent subtext of which is the licencing of
And so I get back to my beginning question, how come so few people seem
to ask why the London and other bombers would do something so extreme?
I'm inclined to
conclude that we don't ask this question because we inhabit cultures
of domination where the stories we are told, and that we are licenced
to tell ourselves, are sharply
restricted to those that don't unduly disturb the narrators of the
dominant story i.e. ourselves.
The answer we would find, as I seem to have found, is that for hundreds
thousands of people in the middle east this,
is the subordinate story they presently
inhabit. Such stories of pain, hurt, grief and suffering are hard to
bear, and if we can avoid them, we do.
After all, who except suicide bombers, would want to be a lightning
conductor carrying the
emotional charge of a 100 years of oppression, betrayal and
exploitation of the Middle East?
Abbid Ullah Jan is a regular contributor to media-monitors
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