Lambs of God
(for my professor Ignacio Martín-Baró, written by Eugenia Castro)
The silence of the night
was broken in pieces
by the engines of the Cherokees.
The ground was trembling
with horror and grief
at malign and evil steps
The grass tried to stop them!
and impotent flowers screamed
calling help from heaven…
Angered boots squashed them
and a scarf of silence
covered the petals on the ground.
A cry of sorrow came from the trees
saying as a chorus:
You do not belong to us,
bloody thief, you robbed
my colors, colors of life.
They did not stop;
blind and deaf by the flag
dumb and brutalized by the march,
drugged by warrior words,
legacy from Malinche and Ladino past.
The door was raped.
without defence let them pass
the nightmare begun:
Question answered ever since,
question answered by Arnulfo
to the wing – from East to West.
Answer known by all.
Answer given by the 7 lambs.
The other chorus:
The master plan was in time.
-American watches are exact-
you know how famous these watches are.
You know time is money,
and money is never enough.
Who are you on my road?!
A repeated story, started again:
The Antithesis against Lambs.
Darkness against light and brightness.
Aliens against kind Masters.
Violence against non-violence.
A repeated story ended again,
again, again, again… and again.
The day was over…
new Martyrs from the Calvary
as splinters in our hearts.
We are with you loved Lambs
God’s people, Lambs of God.
Con una rafaga de tiros ellos silenciaron tus labios Padre Nacho,
mas nosotros siguimos contigo cantando y gritando
“Tu sabes que esto no es justo”
Padre Nacho, with a spray of bullets they silenced your lips
but we continue with you; singing and screaming:
“You know this is not right”.
Ana Eugenia Castro is a psychologist from EL Salvador, who lives and works in Australia. Her approach is within the social psychology of liberation and integrates different therapies, including existential, systemic, and creative arts-based approaches.
Roderick J. Watts
City University of New York
Mark asked me to write something about the recent Mother Jones Magazine article on police violence against people of African descent (http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2014/08/police-shootings-michael-brown-ferguson-black-men). The article is well worth reading especially if you have the research skills to propose a methodology that would help us better monitor efforts to stop the racist carnage. Where I am going with Mark’s invitation has taken me far afield of the article, an it is longer than I planned! Call it therapy for the negative emotions stirred up by these ongoing police killings. That said, I tend to be pragmatic. I will address the question of what we can do curtail this and other forms of social oppression.
Like some many of my friends and students, I was very angry, saddened and disillusioned by this latest high-profile tragedy in Ferguson Missouri where 18 year old Michael Brown was gunned down by police. This act, or more damningly the charade of a prosecution that took place and ended without an indictment is part of what see as racialized state terrorism. Although this term in typically reserved for state actions on a mass scale in places outside of the G20, the aims are essentially the same:
State terrorism is a systematic governmental policy in which massive violence is practiced against a given population group with the goal of eliminating any behavior that promotes political struggle or resistance by member of that group. Any state that engages in terrorism is not a protector of citizens; rather, it violates civil and human rights…”[i]
Ferguson is a place where the policing and judicial systems regularly terrorize Black and Brown communities that are already under attack from within and without. As is the case in many other places around the country, Black teenagers go to jail for nickel bags, while White adult police officers kill Black adults with the implied consent of judicial institutions that are supposed to make killers accountable. It doesn’t take a psychologist to figure out how this can terrorize, traumatize and demoralize communities of color everywhere in the system’s orbit.
Although policing in the USA can take the form of institutionalized racial terrorism, it was once a popular “sport” for amateurs during the era of lynching that peaked in the late 1800s. Ralph Ginzburg’s documentation of thousands of these murders began only just before the peak period in the starkly titled book 100 Years of Lynchings. He filled his book with photocopies of newspaper articles of the day that offer a glimpse of this populist terrorism. His is a simple, yet powerful act of social research. For the record, as Wikipedia notes “Lynchings were also very common in the Old West, where victims were primarily men of Mexican and Chinese minorities, although whites were also lynched.” This tells me that the dehumanization of Africans was so well accepted that it was difficult for people to see how once accepted, dehumanization spreads to new targets that were once seen as human. Dehumanization is at the heart of oppression. It may start with people who look like me, and others further in the margins such as transgendered Black women—but it will work its way up to others if we allow it to. Don’t we ever learn, that any one of us can be next?
The point of this historical reference is that US terrorism continues in the present moment through professionalized lynching in police departments and “stand your ground” legislation that shields amateurs from prosecution. But even this is not at the root of the social ills in Missouri and around the nation. Khalil Gibran Muhammad’s book The Condemnation of Blackness: Race, Crime, and the Making of Modern Urban America (2011) traces the centuries-long history of the dehumanization of Black men, aided by the pseudo-scholarly work of many in the academy. His thesis tracks with the book Slavery by Another Name: The Re-Enslavement of Black Americans from the Civil War to World War II in 2009 (D. Blackmon) and also The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander in 2012. Today, the school to jail track that criminalizes youth of color figures prominently is the modern legacy of racial oppression. Carter Woodson’s book the Miseducation of the Negro from the 1930s shows how important caste is to White supremacy in major institutions like education. Violence comes in many forms. This history shows how the USA got to where it is today.
Scholars have always played ball on both sides of the divide of humanism and de-humanism, but let’s face it: the settings most of us spend our time in do not encourage us to be major players in the struggle for liberation. We are up against power players with the resources to manufacture and disseminate the narratives and consent needed to
further their interests. So what are liberation psychologists to do?
I claim no brilliant or original insights on this question, but I’d like to contribute to our on-going dialog and reflection on positioning ourselves in against oppression. First, psychology is not nearly enough—ours is a field of liberation studies and action (LiSA)–but you know that. Second, many of us pursuing LiSA have positioned ourselves in careers that give us a measure of autonomy. In my view, the challenge is to determine what our personal gifts are then commit to long-term alliances with social movements. Only a few of us have what it takes to excel at the vanguard of such movements or inspire the masses from behind a bullhorn. Racialized terrorism whether state-sponsored or through vigilantism needs “best practices” for personal and collective resistance. At the micro-level we can we engage with individuals and small groups. Members of marginalized populations and communities contend with an on-going pattern of traumatic experiences—wrongful deaths, discrimination, and the micro aggressions of daily live they encounter in public institutions . These traumas were vividly evident in the local response to the grand jury’s decision not to indict officer Darren Wilson. We need LiSA professionals who can apply the healing arts and sciences through critical consciousness rather than from the perspective of the pathology-centered industry that dominates US mental health. See the book Advancing Social Justice Through Clinical Practice (Edited by Aldarondo), for examples on how it can be done.
At the organization level, those of us in the geopolitical North are reminded of Seymour Sarason’s work on the creation of settings. In particular, sustainable, social-change settings. I can think of two examples where LiSA can play a role. In the schools we can partner with teachers who do social justice education. Working collaboratively with young people we can help prepare them for roles in community organizing and ultimately movement politics. For example, I am working with my colleagues in planning the Free Minds, Free People conference convened by the Education for Liberation Network (www.edliberation.org) and co-sponsored by its wide variety of allies. The Network brings together teachers, high school and college students, researchers, parents and community-based activists-educators from across the country to build a movement to develop and promote education as a tool for liberation. Second, many of us would like to see is a school to movement pipeline that connects school children, their parents and the surrounding neighborhoods so that the community capacity needed to push back on racialized terrorism and other forms of injustice can occur.
Healing+ Well-being, social movement capacity, institution building, and participatory research are all areas where so-called best practices from LiSA and play a role. Two last examples for the LiSA researchers reading this: My colleague Ben Kirshner and I are conducting a 4+ year, international study of youth community organizing in the US, Ireland and South Africa. We often hear leaders in the organizations tell us that they need brief position papers from scholars to bolster credibility with certain audiences. Better yet, they say, have these scholars who will stick their necks out as well and take a public positions on contentious issues.
Lastly, there is the challenging role of working with the police! Go to this story about a seemingly rigorous study that shows significant reductions in police violence for departments that began using body cameras to monitor their actions on the street (http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/nov/04/california-police-body-cameras-cuts-violence-complaints-rialto). Don’t sneer—having conscious people working in the belly of the beast as others engage in frontal assaults of same pack twice the punch.
Thanks for reading. I am posting this here first, because I value thoughts on these matters. I am also I am considering another version of this for the Community Psychologist. I would love to have some feedback and to hear about the niches others have found a meaningful place for their LiSA skills.
[i] Jalata, A. (2005). State Terrorism and Globalization: The case of Ethiopia and Sudan. International Journal of Comparative Sociology 46(1-2):79-102
1) On our videos page, we have added an audio recording of an interview with Martín-Baró from 1988. In it he speaks of the circumstances under which he was working, including a wider political analysis of the Salvadorean conflict, the impact of torture and repression, and his survival of terrorist attacks on the University. Thanks to Brinton Lykes for making this available.
2) Brinton is also the co-founder of the Martín-Baró Fund, which makes funding available to “grassroots groups throughout the world who are challenging institutional repression and confronting the mental health consequences of violence and injustice in their communities.” Their current newsletter “The Just Word” has several articles (including a rare piece in English byElizabeth Lira from Chile) about Nacho and his impact, you can download it here.
3) Bruce Levine, another network member has also published an article to mark the 25th anniversary of Martín-Baró’s murder. He reflects on the collusion of the American (sic) Psychological Association with the torture programme in occupied Guantánamo, (depicted in this film) noting that
“Liberation psychology – which Martin-Baró helped popularize – challenges adjustment to an unjust societal status quo and energizes oppressed people to resist injustices.”
You can read Bruce’s piece in “Truth Out” here.
4) Finally, about 12 years ago, when, with some difficulty, I got my copies of the two volumes of Martín-Baró’s “Psicología desde Centroamérica”, I translated the prologues and summaries for my own use. A revised version of my translation of the Prologue to volume 1, “Acción e Ideología” is available on request. This prologue gives a very clear account of his project to reconstruct social psychology, from the perspective of the peoples of Central America. Please treat these notes for what they are, an initial translation without any review or other checks. It is a great shame that more of Nacho’s work has not been translated into other languages to give a wider audience access to the breadth and depth of his work. The translation is available, HERE, for personal use.
IMAGINING IGNACIO MARTIN-BARO AND STEVE BANTU BIKO IN CONVERSATION ABOUT IMAGINATION – Mohamed Seedat
Today, 16 November marks the 25th anniversary of the killing of Ignacio Martín-Baró, the founder of Liberation Psychology in Latin America, along with 5 other priest-academics and two women workers by the Salvadorean army at their residence on the campus of the Unversidad de Centroamérica, San Salvador. It is fitting that today we bring you a typically beautifully written piece by Mohamed Seedat, in which he draws parallels between the work of Martín-Baró and Steve Biko, prominent leader in the Black Consciousness movement in the struggle against apartheid in South Africa.
Mohamed himself wrote a landmark piece (1) in which he independently set out the principles of a liberation psychology in the context of his region. Although I had known of his work for some years, it seems harshly appropriate that I should have met him for the first time last year in occupied Palestine, where all the practices of racist domination, and resistance, are there to witness. The tools that Nacho and Steve left us are there to use in the many regions, countries, towns, villages and micro-spaces where oppression is the daily reality, and resistance is everyday praxis. He particularly focusses on the reproduction of the daily practices of exclusion of the ‘other’, by those in positions of relative power in post-colonial societies like South Africa, noting the emotional labour required of the oppressed to do simple things like make use of public services – although I was reminded of the way class oppression operates in many of my own country’s public service systems.
As Mohamed notes,
“For Martín-Baró and Biko social transformation and liberation were about confronting exclusionary social structures and dehumanizing policies as well as internalized oppressive scripts, structured by dominant ideologies and discourses of superiority…..
“I return to imagining Biko and Martín-Baró in deep conversation to help us make sense of the raging anger, the burnings and the crass markers of success entrenched and perpetuated by the ruling and economic elites in post-colonial societies? They ponder: what are our people really burning? What is the psychology of the post-colonial elite that reproduces dominance with the support of the ruling and avaricious classes in Washington, London, Paris, Moscow and Beijing? What should people struggling for freedom in all its forms really burn and what is worth igniting, preserving and growing? “
You can read the full piece HERE
Mohamed Seedat holds several positions at the University of South Africa, Pretoria (details in the article’s footnote). He and his colleagues will be hosting the 6th International Congress of Community Psychology in 2016.
(1) Seedat, M. (1997). The quest for liberatory psychology. South African Journal of Psychology, 27(4), 261–270. doi:10.1177/008124639702700410
Mark Burton, 16 November, 2014 (file updated with corrections, 19/11/14)
Ignacio Martín-Baró on State terrorism in El Salvador.
A rare video of Martín-Baró speaking in English. He covers State terrorism in El Salvador in the 1980s and before. He focusses on the role of the disappearances, murders and massacres in the pacification of the population, taking a social psychological perspective that is firmly located in both a humanistic and a socio-political outlook. He makes the important point that this political terrorism has an impact, not just on the victims, but also on the wider population. Many thanks to Adrianne Aron (who introduces the talk) for making the video available. The recording is rather quiet, but very clear: try headphones if it is too quiet on your machine.
Due to technical limitations it appears in three parts. Also see our videos page.
Part 3 (corrected link)
Here is the third in our series to mark the quarter century since Ignacio Martín-Baró’s murder.
In “Nacho’s Legacy in the San Francisco Bay Area” Félix Salvador Kury remembers Martín-Baró’s visit to San Francisco in 1988 and talks about his work in El Salvador in the context of a bitter struggle before going on to tell us about the Clínica Martín-Baró, a free service for Latina and Latino migrants, which as Felix says is a lasting legacy of Nacho’s visit and his relationship with North American solidaritarian colleagues.
“I knew of Ignacio Martín-Baró’s work long before I invited him to a conference on Central American refugees in the spring of 1988. It was his first visit to the San Francisco Bay Area. Having “Nacho” for a week in my house was a very special and transformative experience. Three of my cousins of were among his students of Psychology at UCA. One of them was brutally murdered when she was seven months pregnant.
“Ignacio Martín-Baró was “Nacho” to many of us who knew him, who love him and miss him. At at the time of his assassination, he was the vice rector Central American University “Jose Simeon Cañas” (UCA, in Spanish). The University of Central America played a leading role in the effort to resolve El Salvador’s decades-long civil war. Jesuit faculty members, who often spoke out against human rights abuses, were accused by the government and the military of providing intellectual support for the FMLN rebel uprising.
“Ignacio Martín-Baró, a Spanish-born Salvadoran citizen, at age 50 was best known as an analyst of national and regional affairs and as the founder and director of the Public Opinion Institute, a highly respected polling organization. He was also a writer, teacher, and a pastor. He was killed along with five other Jesuit priests and two women on November 16, 1989. He was killed by a military battalion that had just returned form military training at the School Of the Americas in Fort Benning, Georgia. It was not the first assassination of church leaders: 18 Catholic priests, including Father Rutilio Grande and Archbishop Oscar Romero, and four North American churchwomen, had been killed in El Salvador since the late 1970s – more than any other nation in the world. …. read the rest of the short piece HERE.
Felix is the Program Director & Faculty Advisor for the Clínica Martín-Baró, San Francisco, California, USA. Their website and blog is here (material in Spanish and English.
Here is a gallery of photos illustrating the work that Felix has kindly made available.
I received this from Mario Flores Lara, a Community Psychologist from Cuba who has also worked in Ecuador and who is currently in Mexico. See his blog HERE. I have translated it for the website with his permission. It is a fairly loose translation: the angry poetic prose does not always translate direct. Others with better Spanish might be able to suggest improvements.
Mario refers to an article in La Jornada that makes the connection between terrorist acts against civilian populations and the suppression of dissent. This was seen in the Central American conflicts, in the US war on the Vietnamese people, and in the occupation of Iraq. We see it in Palestine today.
Mario discusses what community psychologists can do in the face of such outrages. Your contributions, thoughts, reactions and suggestions would be very welcome.
“10 November, 2014
“Friends, Comrades, Sisters and Brothers,
The events in Iguala-Ayotzinapa, here in Mexico paralyse us with pain and rage.
Impacts that go beyond the borders of Mexico.
Latin America and the world looks at this governmental barbarism with unease and alarm.
Murder by the system together with the usual impunity imply a process of discipline, control and submission through violence, fear and terror. The paralysis and immobilisation can also be seen in terms of this tactical and strategic objective.
Today (10 November, 2014) in the Mexican newspaper La Jornada, there is an interesting article from the journalist Carlos Fazio, which I think is well worth reading.
“The aim is to paralyse the population through terror. The disappearances are one method, the principal pobjective was to break up any form of resistance and maintain the population in a state of harsh uncertainty…. The ultimate aim of the terrorist State is the discipline of the body politic.”
This text, and all the sad events of recent times, make me resonate with responsibility, both individual and community-social, that we all have. Each of us, wherever we are, can, however we may, with small yet great actions, denounce, express, while stubbornly continuing to build roads to dignity, respect and life.
The murder of the 43 trainee teachers, disappeared in Ayotzinapa, is an affront to all of Mexico, for all of Latin America and all the world: an affront that is both personal and collective.
A Chilean friend asked me, by email, “how can we offer solidarity from here?”, and it occurred to me personally to think that all initiatives of witness and denunciation are valid and necessary, and so creativity and courage continue to be a fundamental part of our resources and abilities: from being informed, putting up a poster at the entrance of the university, talking about the theme together, torchlight processions, writing to Mexican embassies, messages to Mexican student organisations …. and many others.
And taking the long view, I keep on thinking that social atomisation, individualism, loneliness, fear, immobilisation, can be seen as strategic objectives, established symptoms of a decadent and dehumanising economic and political model. Partial deaths of a culture of death that reaches its climax with these brutal murders: today Ayotzinapa, before Acteal [Chiapas, Mexico: massacre of 45 indigenous Tzotzil Zapatista supporters in 1997], Trelew [Argentina: collective execution of leftist and Peronist activists by the military government, 1972], Pando [ambush leading to death of at least 19 Bolivian peasants, likely part of a right wing coup attempt against the MAS government of Evo Morales after its 2008 victory], Ranquil [Chile, 1934: massacre of around 500 forestry workers and Mapuche residents, protesting against labour and colonisation practices], La Moneda [bombing of the Chilean Presidential Palace, and murder of Salvador Allende, 11 Sept, 1973].
And I continue thinking about our responsibilities and tasks, now and in the future: dwelling in conviviality, going with and from the heartbeat of communities, continue advancing social dialogues that draw upon difference and multiplicity, so that respect for human dignity becomes a real reality, as the right of all and for all, and not just for the privileged few; that as Latin Americans the ethical-moral duty of de-colonising ourselves from a modernity seen as a excluding, negating and dominating mono-cultural paradigm.
In the face of a culture of death, a culture for life.
And not just resisting, but coming up with alternatives and constructing them.”
Mario Flores Lara
paralizara la población mediante el
terror. Los desaparecidos eran un medio; el objetivo principal era desarticular cualquier forma de resistencia y mantener a la población en una incertidumbre duradera.” “La finalidad del Estado terrorista es el disciplinamiento del cuerpo social.”
Here is the second in our series of pieces to commemorate the murder of Ignacio Martín Baró in November, 1989. It is by Taiwo Afuape who is a clinical psychologist and systemic therapist working in mental health services for children and for adults where she lives, in London. She reflects on what Martín Baró and Liberation Psychology means for her, linking this to contemporary social, political and economic struggles in the UK where despite being a rich country we have extreme and increasing inequality, exploitation and oppression while helping inflict these things on other regions. Taiwo makes particular reference to her Nigerian heritage and her family, reminding us that the personal is politics, just as the psychological is also political, while the political is both personal and psychological too.
Read Taiwo’s piece HERE
This month also sees the appearance of an article by Wayne Dykstra Liberation psychology – a history for the future. Wayne, who comes from the United States, but is researching Liberation Psychology’s diffusion in Dublin, particularly focusses on the solidarity extended to Martín Baró and the Salvadorian struggle by a number of North American psychologists, including Adrianne Aron who provided the first piece in libpsy.org’s 25 years on series. At our request the piece has been made open access.
Also in that issue is a very interesting set of articles on Turkish social psychologist Muzafer Sherif, and his collaborator Carolyn Sherif. Like Martín Baró, Sherif sought to construct a non-individualistic social psychology, relating human action not to some internal ‘human nature’ but to the social context, itself constructed historically. The articles, also openly accessible, give some important background information on Sherif and his work, in the context of struggles against fascism and rampant capitalism. See: Camps, conflict and collectivism; The unknown Muzafer Sherif and The view from the boys. Retrieving Sherif’s seminal work is very relevant to today’s development of a truly social psychology – one that liberates and is itself liberated.
Here is the first contribution to mark the twenty fifth anniversary of Ignacio Martín Baró’s murder on 16 November, 1989.
It is fitting that it comes from Adrianne Aron, who with Shawn Corne, edited Writings for a Liberation Psychology (1996) the only English language collection of Martín Baró’s writings. She practices psychology in the San Francisco Bay Area of California, USA and more recently her Introduction to PEDRO AND THE CAPTAIN (Cadmus, 2009) describes work with torture survivors as approached by liberation psychology. PEDRO is an English translation of Mario Benedetti’s play, PEDRO Y EL CAPITAN, a dramatic dialogue between a torturer and his victim.
In her piece Adrianne reflects on the role of music in Martín Baró’s life and perspective, a reminder of the importance of cultural endeavour in both life and liberation. I did not have the fortune to meet and know him, but I have heard about his singing from others who did, and at the Universidad Centroamericana “José Simeón Cañas” in San Salvador, where he lived and was killed I was interested to see this picture in a colleague’s office, which appears above with one of Woody Guthrie whose songs have been a great influence for Adrianne.
Others have promised pieces to mark this sad event, both to remember and to look ahead, and they will appear here.