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Paris: the shortest distance between two points is not always a straight line!

Jan 12

First, allow me to introduce myself, I am Dr. Mike Webster, R. Psych.  I am the moderator of the guest blog Resergeance.net.   I wish to enter into an explanation of our “attachments “, in relation to the recent tragedy that has occurred in Paris.  I will tell you, at the outset of this humble offering,  that I was sorely disappointed with the display put on by politicians in Paris on 121\11 and 12, and as leaders of the people, should have known better.  It seemed to me to turn into a photo opportunity, rather than a genuine display of sorrow for all involved on both sides of the issue.   I will begin with some introductory comments about “anger “.  Let me say at the outset, of this little piece, that I am not attempting to change your mind, dear reader; but…….. if  you hold the popular opinion, plastered all over the evening news, and capitalized on by ( mostly retired ) so called “ security professionals “, I wish  only to present another perspective.

A few introductory comments regarding the emotion of anger:  I don’t think it controversial that anger for anger’s sake, or to assist us in “blowing off steam “ is not a productive exercise.  It is my impression that anger was certainly one of the main emotional motivators ( of course along with fear and pride ) behind the largest public gathering in French history ( i.e. “ Je suis Charlie “ ).  What I am attempting to say here is, anger is not a bad thing if it arises out of “compassion “.  I don’t know your experience, but I didn’t hear much compassion for anyone but the dead, the threat to French Society, and the threatening of the freedom of speech?  I heard very little mention of what it must be like for the followers of Islam, even the moderate ones, to live in the world’s largest Muslim slum.  (I can almost hear your response to what you have just read.  Please be patient and allow me to present my position).  I will attempt to define the anger as mis-directed , and  indifferent to the horror.   What I am suggesting is that there is nothing wrong with anger as long as it arises out of compassion.  This breed of anger is directed, rational, and useful.   An anger that is built on a foundation of compassion (in the present case to correct a social injustice ) and is not bent on revenge is an anger worth having.  Are you familiar with Acala?  He is the Buddha with the fierce, angry, open mouthed appearance.  His scary expression however, is not cobbled out of hatred, anger, or a desire to harm us, but out of a desire to help us; to help us recognize and correct our misperceptions.  At the risk of overstating the point, I will emphasize, anger is not to be avoided for it brings renewed energy\passion\and determination that feeds our desire to correct an injustice.  The underlying drive is compassion, but the accelerant that ignites it is anger.  If we respond to an injustice from an inner fire fueled by hatred, that response will create an anger that is destined to lead to violence, destruction, and separation; at a time when what we actually need is rebuilding, and a rapproachment.

Anger levelled at an individual has an increased chance of creating defense in the target; even reinforcing the defensive posture.  In the case of anger fueled by a social injustice ( now think for a moment, could both parties in this case, French Society and the Islamists, not make a reasonable case for social injustice being perpetrated upon each of them? ) it will likely continue to persist, until both parties’ needs are met.  From this perspective, an anger founded on compassion is as necessary to stop social injustice as petrol is to drive an automobile.

Several paragraphs ago I introduced the concept of “attachment “ and suggested that it could be “good“ or “bad“.  In my work as a psychological consultant to law enforcement in hostage takings and crisis situations, I have come across a common misperception related to attachment;  it seems to be almost universally regarded as bad ( or unwanted ).  In reality however,  we almost all have many attachments, both good and bad;  but we are blissfully ignorant of the fact that good attachments are worth keeping and bad ones are worthy of the “ dust bin “.  To maintain course, I would suggest that the majority of those one million demonstrators in Paris claiming “Je suis Charlie“ were being driven by a “ mixed-attachment “ ( one good, one not so much ).  The good attachment, lying beneath and driving a healthy anger, seemed to be an attachment to social justice.  However, and I wish to assert that this is only my humble perspective, not an attempt to sway you, only to present a different view than is presently saturating the media (except it seems for Rex Murphy at the CBC ), it seemed to me to be a somewhat overstated and poisonous attachment to nationalism, driven by a misdirected anger, pointed at what may, or may not, be a larger threat to French Society.

Do you know who Lassana Bathily is?  Did you see a concerted effort to include any members of, even the “moderate“ Muslim community in the march?  Are you aware of the historical roots of Radical Islam?  Do you think if you were a young Muslim living in Paris’ huge South Asian ghetto, you could handle your feelings of disenfranchisement differently?   Have you ever heard of Relative Deprivation Theory?  Do you have a modicum of knowledge of the conditions in which Muslim people live in this slum?  Do you know what a banlieue is?  Do you think that it is even possible for a non-violent effort to bring about social change in a situation that has been historically reticent?

Lassana  Bathily is the 24 year old Muslim delicatessen worker who hid his customers (most of them Jewish? ) in the freezer while he went to get help for them.  I was unable to locate him, or any other prominent Muslim dignitaries among the predominately white Christian politicians, falling all over each other to get in the obligatory “photo op”, that may, according to pictures, not even have been associated with the march as it was portrayed to have been.  I don’t know about you ( who are likely younger than I ) with better eye sight than mine, but I was unable to see much of an effort to be inclusive ( to even moderate elements of the Muslim Community ).  The ‘’ radical ‘’ roots of Islam lay in the formation of the State of Israel.  Despite its’ historical advocacy of peace and non-violence, modern day Israel spends approximately 30-35% of  its’ gross national product on its’ military and has been involved in 4 wars (1948; 1956; 1967; and 1974).  In addition, it has made several military incursions into Lebanon, during its’ brief existence.  Are you aware of this fact (and I bring it to your attention, only to provide  balance ):  in what was considered a “ small conventional war “ against its’ Arab opponents in 1967 there were 21,000 battle related deaths;  many more per day than during the Korean War.  For nonviolent   “ wars “ to be successful, the “ soldiers “ must be highly motivated, have a great deal of self-respect, and also be  respectful “ of their opponents.  Are you of the era that would remember the popular phrase “power to the people?  “  A long time proponent of non-violence would understand that the people are most powerful when they have sufficient moral courage to not only immunize themselves, against the threat of violence directed toward them, but also against their own inclination to use it on the other.  The Buddhist concept here involves “selflessness “;  but in fear of losing you, I won’t go there.  Instead, you may tolerate a teaching story that goes like this; Mahatma Gandhi was well known for not being partial to the idea of “ an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth “, suggesting that if we all behaved like this, it wouldn’t be long before we were all blind and toothless!  What he was getting at was that if the victim responds with non-violence, this not only breaks the chain of anger and hatred, but it puts the aggressor in unfamiliar territory.  To paraphrase the great man, if you are able to blunt the aggressor’s sword, not by striking back with a mightier blow, but by dashing his expectations and throwing him off balance.  He has not only had his energy re-directed but may be completely out of his element (a kind of “moral judo “ )!   I caution you : don’t write this off as unsophisticated psychological “ mumbo-jumbo “, it worked like a charm for Gandhi in his interaction with the legendary General Jan Smuts of South Africa.  Gandhi advised Smuts that he  (the former ) was going to fight against the latter’s Government; and he was going to win!  Smuts laughed and questioned “ how “?  Gandhi answered, “with your help“.  Years later Smuts spoke of this meeting and confirmed that Gandhi was correct in his prediction.  The concept is referred to in other circles as “Satyagraha” and refers to “ soul force “ rather than “ physical force “.  The goal of Satyagraha is to get the oppressor to reflect on his unity with the other, and to change within himself.  Consider this analogy:  an iceberg will melt in warm waters (of course, first below the water line) until it reaches a point of unbalance, when it suddenly flips over.  In this way sudden changes can occur in who appears to be an enemy.  Frederick the Great is credited with saying that if his soldiers had the opportunity to think too much, they would never enter into battle!

With regard to Relative Deprivation Theory ( RDT ), it supports the belief that, “ feelings of deprivation and frustration underlie decisions to engage in collective action “.  So it seems according to an empirically supported theory, that when a group’s expectations are met by chronic suppression or second class status, the group may respond with political violence.  The collective motive for adopting what appears to be a rigid and violent approach is based upon the group’s perception of being relatively deprived in relation to other groups  ( in this case, the Israelis ) and thrust into an unfair social order.

Finally, are the methods adopted by al Qaeda, or ISIS even effective?  The answer to the question, based upon evidence, is “ yes, I guess so, in some manner, to some people “ .  It’s difficult to be more precise as these types of groups have a tendency to use unconventional factors as measures of their effectiveness.  I’ll list some of the various criteria that have been used to claim victory:

– the media and political attention
– making an impact on (e.g. horrifying ) an audience.
– forcing of concessions from the enemy (e.g. a kidnap ransom).
– the disruption of a city’s normal routines.
– provoking state over-reaction.

Based upon the fact that humans do not behave in vacuums, I think it within reason to suggest we have more power to influence radical groups than we think we do.  Human behaviour is reciprocal in nature more than it is intra-psychic.  In lieu of launching into an overly wordy closing summary, I will leave you with this pithy little aphorism to consider:

“Be the changes, you look for in the world. ”

Dr. Mike Webster R. Psych.

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2 Comments
  1. Calvin Lawrence permalink

    “The first causalities of “Organized Religion” are women.
    “Organized Religion” is man made not God made.
    Where ever we find “Organized Religion”; we find our most violence.
    “Organized Religion” gives us the answers before we ask the questions. Spirituality is a way of accepting the fact that there is a spiritual force in the universe larger than all of mankind. But someone had to come along and invent a word called “God”. Then some had to serve another “God” and say, “mine is better than yours”, and then some had to create faith, and then someone said I have the true faith.”
    The boxer Mohammed Ali was once asked by a reporter after an attack in the USA; “How do you feel about radicals abusing your religion”? He responded to the reporter. “How do you feel about Hitler abusing yours”?

  2. Very Well Said; Calvin; Ali changed his name to Mohammed Ali because the USA jailed him for refusing to go to war. He was apparently against killing someone so he chose to go to jail instead, that my dear friend is what is the difference between a Good person and a Bad one and it has nothing to do with religion. Cane killed his brother Able because of Jealousy…. I wonder how many today make those two choices daily in our police departments in and out of uniform.

    In 2010, I dropped in to see the RCMP on MacBeath St in Moncton to enquire if there was an update, (no one else seems to care about it), to this horrible case of mine in Shediac as it was so well put. My mom had terminal cancer and wanted an update before she died so I caved in and went looking for some answers at Codiac, they suggested I go see Chief Belliveau in Riverview but he wouldn’t see me so finally I went to MacBeath Street to have a chat but they were all clueless that someone was brutally shot in 1981 in Shediac.

    I was surprised but not shocked when I meet the boss there on the back steps and he told me he knew nothing about the case of a cop being shot in Shediac but he did asked for my number and called back. However sometime later he called me back and said he was ready to discuss the case with me indicating a friendly chat but when I got there it certainly felt different when he said they were going to video tape the interview. Didn’t ask if it was okay but what else is new.

    The last time I went to visit a Detachment of the RCMP was in Shediac when RCMP member P. Donelle suggested I go speak to chief Berjevan and was searched by J-M Leblanc and thrown out. All I was there for was to ask Chief B. Berjevan if it was true that he told Donelle he met the Assailant escaping the morning I was shot? I sure got a slap from Mama…

    Seems three police cruisers met that guy escaping and didn’t do a thing about it. There were lots of things that happen that morning that shouldn’t have taken place but it’s not for here.

    I didn’t know what to say as I was shocked until one of investigators said what have you found out that we should have done that we didn’t do and the flood gate opened. They didn’t like what I was saying so they kept interrupting me and trying to mix me up, I guess it certainly felt that way and nothing like the invitation suggested on the phone when he called….. shish! So I wrote to Bathurst and shared with them what I know.

    I wonder what he’s say if he got shot 5 times, the whole matter was covered up, he was pushed out of his job, had to leave his province and his dying Mother wanted an update…. what would he do?

    Friends lets face it the RCMP are not all they say they are and they only get away with it because of all the help they get, not so for the rest of us out here, and they are not the only ones facing issues in Canada. If the RCMP in Regina has trained you to keep their image up and your mouth shut and you do it don’t complain later at the end of your careers, it’s really your own faults.

    If you have ever had an experience with the Mounties and came out of it trusting them it wasn’t really an experience.

    You talked about Hitler let me add some history here, he modeled his uniforms on the RCMP uniform because he felt it put fear into people.

    Clarence Bourque
    The Untold Story of a
    Former Shediac Town Police Officer
    http://shediac1981.wordpress.com

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