Health professionals must fight a Trump administration expansion of torture

It was profoundly distressing to hear Donald Trump on the campaign trail vowing a return to abusing prisoners with “a hell of a lot worse than waterboarding.” Those thoughts threaten to reverse the work that I and others have done over the last decade to end torture as an official US government policy and to prevent health professionals’ participation in detainee abuse.

This piece originally appeared at Stat News on January 25, 2017.
It is re-published here with the author’s permission. 

As a psychologist, I know the extreme damage that torture — the systematic infliction of severe pain and degradation — does to its victims and to its perpetrators. My colleagues and I helped transform the American Psychological Association’s policies, establishing a firm barrier between psychological practice and national security interrogations and forbidding psychologist involvement in detainee care at detention sites, like the Guantánamo Bay detention camp in Cuba, which violates international law. As a result, a year ago the New York Times reported that Gen. John Kelly had ordered the removal of psychologists from all involvement with detainees at Guantánamo.

Since Trump’s election, signals on torture have been mixed. His national security advisor, Mike Flynn, has at times endorsed the used of torturous “enhanced interrogation” techniques. His new CIA director, Mike Pompeo, has not ruled out changing US laws to allow waterboarding and other torture.

Despite President Obama’s efforts to close Guantánamo, it remains open. The new administration is even considering expanding its population of detainees. And it is conceivable that additional detention sites may be opened to hold detainees in harsh conditions for extended and indefinite periods without trial.

During the George W. Bush administration, the US adopted interrogation techniques that our State Department had traditionally denounced as torture when used by others. The most famous of these was waterboarding, in which drowning is induced and then interrupted, inducing panic and terror. While waterboarding got the most attention, many of the other techniques, including excruciating stress positions, exposure to extreme hot and cold, and prolonged sleep deprivation in painful positions for up to 180 hours, were also deemed torture and had been denounced by the State Department.

Torture is so repugnant that virtually every country, even those that surreptitiously practice it, feel a need to disclaim it. The United Nations’s Convention Against Torture has been signed by 160 countries. For hundreds of years, opposition to the use of torture has been an important measure of a country’s evolution toward civilized values. The return to torture in the Bush administration set back that progress, not only in our country but also around the world, as other nations took it as a green light for barbarous practices.

While ISIS would no doubt engage in barbarities regardless of US torture policy, it is no accident that the prisoners they execute in gruesome videos are cloaked in orange jumpsuits.

The US is again in danger of becoming a country where torturous barbarity is publicly endorsed as official policy. To prevent this, it is vital that every institution of civil society speak out.

Among these institutions, the health professions have great leverage. They must use it, and their constituencies must demand they use it. Wherever there is systematic torture, there are often health professionals, vetting prisoners for further abuse and treating them afterward to keep them alive, at least until the torturers are done with them.

In the Bush era torture program, psychologists played special roles. In the CIA program, psychologists devised and administered the abuses, apparently even being present during waterboarding. At Guantánamo, which is run by the military, interrogators consulted with psychologists, reportedly using information in prisoners’ medical files to identify vulnerabilities that could be used to “break” them.

This involvement of psychologists and other health professionals was intentional. In the Bush administration’s “torture memos,” the presence of health professionals during torture served as a legal “get out of jail free card” for the abusers. If a health professional assured interrogators that their techniques would not cause severe long-lasting harm — the Bush administration’s defining characteristic of torture — the interrogator was protected from legal responsibility for any harm that occurred.

The Trump administration will also likely need health professionals as participants and as legal cover for any return to torture. We must deny them that protection.

Over the last decade, professional organizations representing physicians, psychologists, and nurses have issued formal statements opposing their members’ participation in torture. Physicians and psychologists have gone further, stating that any participation by their members in national security interrogations violates the professions’ central ethical injunction to “do no harm.” However, despite credible complaints against specific health professionals, no professional associations or state licensing boards have launched investigations, much less taken disciplinary action.

Given the threat that the new administration may expand Guantánamo and return to torture, health professional and behavioral science organizations should reiterate their ethical opposition and maintain the bright line separating their professionals from national security interrogations. Other professions should follow psychologists in forbidding their members from involvement in detention facilities that violate international law.

But they must also go further. Professional organizations need to make it crystal clear that any credible complaint that a member has participated in detainee abuses or at detention sites deemed illegal under international law will be thoroughly investigated, and that discipline will be imposed if the complaint is substantiated. Not to act in the current climate would constitute a failure of the health professions carrying out their compact with society to protect and improve the health and welfare of all individuals, regardless of their legal status.

At this dangerous time, society needs the voices of health professionals, and our actions, to halt the use of torture.

Stephen Soldz, a clinical psychologist, is professor of psychology at the Boston Graduate School of Psychoanalysis and director of its Social Justice and Human Rights Program. He is a former president of Psychologists for Social Responsibility, a cofounder of the Coalition for an Ethical Psychology, and an anti-torture advisor to Physicians for Human Rights.

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Simplistic thinking on the causes of human misery

Psychologists from Britain challenge simplistic thinking on the causes of human misery

Update 16 Dec., Another letter from UK psychologists appears in The Independent – scroll down the letters here. A more detailed consideration and critique of the Layard et al. study has been provided by Psychologists Against Austerity

A recent article in the British newspaper The Guardian drew attention to a report by the economist, Richard Layard, which claimed that “Eliminating depression and anxiety would reduce misery by 20% compared to just 5% if policymakers focused on eliminating poverty”. It is a rather circular reasoning to say that misery is caused by depression and anxiety when these are labels for the same thing. The psychologists, in a response published in the Guardian, make it clear that reducing poverty and ensuring good mental health services are not alternatives, but both are needed. Poverty and underfunded health care are both consequences of current government austerity policies. In taking this initiative they are playing an important part in de-ideologising the nature and causes of human distress. The Guardian also published another article that also argued for the interdependence of poverty and mental health problems.

Dear Editor,
Richard Layard is promoting the idea that better provision of mental health services is more important than reducing social inequalities in promoting human happiness (Happiness depends on health and  friends, not money, says new study, Guardian, Monday 12th December). This is a false dichotomy. Evidence suggests that austerity damages our collective health. Deepening economic and social divides, bullying, abuse, misogyny, racism, dehumanisation and consequent insecurity, trauma, social exclusion, neglect and despair underpin the current tsunami of desolation in the UK and beyond, specially in our children. These are largely economic and political matters, requiring cultural, social and political solutions.  Psychological therapies, humanely delivered to those who want them, have a part to play in ameliorating human suffering, and we do need more flexible, kind and supportive services. But we must not pathologise those who are damaged by the injustices they experience. Degradation by the benefits system is now devastating many with long term illnesses in the UK. To imagine  that therapy, rather than social transformation, can address or prevent the conditions that lead to despair is to be wilfully blind.

Yours

Annie Mitchell Clinical and community psychologist, Helen Beckwith Clinical psychologist, Jan Bostock Clinical and community psychologist, Anna Daiches Clinical psychologist, Suzanne Elliot Clinical psychologist, Danielle Gaynor Clinical psychologist, Carl Harris Clinical and community psychologist, Jennifer Marris Psychologist, James Randall-James Clinical psychologist in training, Eleanor Schoultz Clinical psychologist, Sarah Wolf Clinical psychologist in training, Sally Zlotovitz Community psychologist

Since the letter was sent off to the paper, a lot more psychologists have added their names, endorsing it. The full list (still being added to), including the original signatories, follows.

Annie Mitchell, Clinical and Community Psychologist

Jacqui Akhurst, Counselling and Community Psychologist

Tarick Ali, Clinical psychologist.

Thomas Allan, Service Manager

Cathy Amor, Clinical Psychologist

Kara Bagnall, Clinical Psychologist

Helen Beckwith, Clinical Psychologist

Jan Bostock, Clinical and Community Psychologist

Nina Browne, Clinical Psychologist

Mark Burton, Community and Clinical Psychologist

Tamsin Curno, Drama Therapist

Anna Daiches, Clinical Psychologist

Suzanne Elliot, Clinical Psychologist

Romana Farooq Community Psychologist

Gabrielle Farron, Clinical Psychologist

Colm Gallagher, Psychologist

Danielle Gaynor, Clinical Psychologist

Shreena Ghelani, Clinical Psychologist

Carl Harris, Clinical and Community Psychologist

Lealah Hewitt, Clinical Psychologist

Helen Johnson, Senior Lecturer in Psychology

Greg Madison, Applied Psychologist.

Jennifer Marris, Psychologist

Paul Moloney, Counselling Psychologist

Lucie Nalletamby, Clinical Psychologist

Steve Melluish, Clinical Psychologist

Ian Parker, Honorary Professorial Research Fellow

Cristian Pena, Clinical Psychologist

Gillian Proctor, Clinical Psychologist

James Randall- James, Clinical Psychologist in Training

Lana Renny, Clinical Psychologist

Eleanor Schoultz, Clinical Psychologist

Melanie Smith, Clinical Psychologist

Daniel Taggart, Clinical Psychologist

Lisa Thorne Clinical & Community Psychologist

Leslie Valon-Szots, Psychologist

Carl Walker, Community Psychologist

Jay Watts, Clinical Psychologist

Ste Weatherhead, Clinical Psychologist

Sarah Wolf, Clinical Psychologist in Training

Sally Zlotovitz, Community Psychologist

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USA indigenous psychologists criticise APA refusal to consider support on Standing Rock

The Society of Indian (i.e. First Nations/indigenous) Psychologists in the USA has issued a strong statement on the blocking of a call for the APA to support the Standing Rock protestors against State violence.  The APA decision was made behind closed doors and would seem to reveal a staggering degree of institutional racism.

The statement begins:

We are writing to express deep concern with the way that certain senior APA staff took it upon themselves to quash our efforts to entreat the APA for support in addressing the current circumstances of conflict and state-sanctioned violence against the Water Protectors at the Standing Rock Indian Reservation.

The senior staff in question elected to eschew making any kind of statement or to take any responsive action, to include further consultation with any of APA’s American Indian experts citing that: 1) it was a State, not a federal, issue (which of course Standing Rock sovereignty elevates such concerns to a federal level); and 2) that the issues raised by the situation at Standing Rock (environmental racism, community violence against an American Indians, health disparities, and historical re-traumatization) were not in line with APA direction and priorities.
Read the full Statement (pdf file)

 

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NACCHO #Aps2016 Australian Psychological Society issues a formal apology to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People | NACCHO Aboriginal Health News Alerts

  “Apology to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People from the Australian Psychological Society. Disparities between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians and other Australians on a range of different factors are well documented. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people experience much higher rates of psychological distress, chronic disease, and incarceration than other Australians.

“They manage many more stressors on a daily basis and, although suicide did not exist in their cultures prior to colonisation it is now a tragically inflated statistic.

The fact that these disparities exist and are long standing in a first world nation is deplorable and unacceptable.”

“We, as psychologists, have not always listened carefully enough to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. We have not always respected their skills, expertise, world views, and unique wisdom developed over thousands of years. Building on a concept initiated by Professor Alan Rosen, we sincerely and formally apologise to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians for:

  • Our use of diagnostic systems that do not honour cultural belief systems and world views;
  • The inappropriate use of assessment techniques and procedures that have conveyed misleading and inaccurate messages about the abilities and capacities of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people;
  • Conducting research that has benefitted the careers of researchers rather than improved the lives of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander participants;
  • Developing and applying treatments that have ignored Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander approaches to healing and that have, both implicitly and explicitly, dismissed the importance of culture in understanding and promoting social and emotional wellbeing; and,
  • Our silence and lack of advocacy on important policy matters such as the policy of forced removal which resulted in the Stolen Generations.

“To demonstrate our genuine commitment to this apology, we intend to pursue a different way of working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people that will be characterised by diligently:

  • Listening more and talking less;
  • Following more and steering less;
  • Advocating more and complying less;
  • Including more and ignoring less; and,
  • Collaborating more and commanding less.

“Through our efforts, in concert and consultation with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, we envisage a different future.

“This will be a future where Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people control what is important to them rather than having this controlled by others.

“It will be a future in which there are greater numbers of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander psychologists and more positions of decision making and responsibility held by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Ultimately, through our combined efforts, this will be a future where Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people enjoy the same social and emotional wellbeing as other Australians.”

Read the full article at this source: NACCHO #Aps2016 Australian Psychological Society issues a formal apology to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People | NACCHO Aboriginal Health News Alerts

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Former Dictator of Guatemala Is Guilty of Genocide Against Mayan Group

Former Leader of Guatemala Is Guilty of Genocide Against Mayan Group

Here is the link to the NYT article.  We previously reported on this case – he was previously found guilty but that judgement then overturned.  It is good to see justice at last.  Note the involvement of psychologists in testifying for the prosecution case.

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/11/world/americas/gen-efrain-rios-montt-of-guatemala-guilty-of-genocide.html?smprod=nytcore-ipad&smid=nytcore-ipad-share&_r=0

‘Adama Dieng, the United Nations special adviser on the prevention of genocide, said last month that the case was the first in which a former head of state had been indicted by a national tribunal on charges of genocide.

‘The “historical precedent,” and especially a guilty verdict, he said, could serve as an example to other countries “that have failed to hold accountable those individuals responsible for serious and massive human rights violations.”’

 

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Stop the persecution of Academics for Peace in Turkey

Three academics were placed in pretrial detention on 16th March, Muzaffer Kaya, Esra Mungan, and Kıvanç Ersoy. Ersoy teaches in the mathematics department at Mimar Sinan University and Mungan in the psychology department at Boğaziçi University. Kaya was recently dismissed from the social work department at Nişantaşı University for signing the petition. They were detained and then jailed by a court a day after President Erdoğan called for the crime of terrorism to be widened to include expression which he judges “serves the aims of terrorists,” and which would target professions such as journalists, politicians, and activists. His remarks came after the March 13 bombing which killed 37 people in Ankara’s city center.

From http://change.org

Petition link: https://www.change.org/p/international-community-and-elected-representatives-stop-the-persecution-of-academics-for-peace-in-turkey

The Turkish government and the President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan continue to oppress political dissent violently and illegally in Turkey. On January 11, President Erdoğan accused 1128 academics of treason for signing  a call for peace in Turkey. In the call, the signatories stated that they would not be party either to the massacre against the Kurds or to Turkish’s state’s ongoing violation of its own laws and international treaties. Following Erdoğan’s speech, hundreds of academics who signed the petition were subject to disciplinary and criminal investigations, detentions and suspensions.

In response to this witch-hunt, we had signed a letter in support of academic freedom in Turkey and asked for ending the prosecution of Academics for Peace. The letter was submitted to MPs and MEPs in Europe and published in the media in January.

Yet the Turkish government did not heed the call for academic freedom and had intensified the witch-hunt against the Academics for Peace. As of 10 March 2016, the toll was as follows:
Public Universities       Private Universities
Disciplinary investigations                 464                                43
Criminal investigations                      153
Detentions                                          33
Suspensions                                       27
Contract termination                           9                                   21
Forced resignations                            5                                    1
Furthermore, on 15 March 2016 three academics were incarcerated for signing the original call of Academics for Peace and announcing that they will start an ‘Academic Vigil’. The arrested academics are:  Esra Mungan of Boğaziçi University, Kıvanç Ersoy of Mimar Sinan Fine Arts University, and Muzaffer Kaya, formerly of Nişantaşı University.

A fourth academic and a UK citizen, Chris Stephenson of Bilgi University, was detained for holding a vigil outside the court in support of the three academics and for carrying a Newroz (Kurdish New Year) invitation from a parliamentary party – the People’s Democratic Party (HDP). On 16 March 2016, the case of Chris Stephenson, who has been resident in Turkey since 1991, was transferred to another court with the demand of being deported, and he had to leave the country.

We ask the international community and elected representatives to call on the Turkish government to stop the witch hunt against Academics for Peace, respect academic freedoms, free the arrested academics, and re-instate all the academics suspended or expelled during the persecution campaign with compensation.

Petition link: https://www.change.org/p/international-community-and-elected-representatives-stop-the-persecution-of-academics-for-peace-in-turkey

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New digital collection of Martín Baró’s works

Now available, a digital collection of Ignacio Martín Baró’s writings.  While these will of course mostly be in Spanish, it will be a valuable resource since much of his work is not well known, even in Spanish speaking countries.  This is an initiative of students at his University, The Universidad Centroamericana in San Salvador.  Here is the link to the collection: http://www.uca.edu.sv/coleccion-digital-IMB/

Thanks to Christian Chacón for this information.

 

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Call for articles: Ethics, Psychology and War

Ethics, Psychology and War

Special issue

Journal of Community & Applied Social Psychology

Abstract submission deadline: December 1st 2015

Full paper submission deadline: March 1st 2016

Edited by

Paul S. Duckett

Serdar M. Değirmencioğlu

Victoria University, Australia

Doğuş University, Turkey

Focus of the special issue

The purpose of this special issue is to respond to the recently published Hoffman Report and invite contributions to the Journal of Community and Applied Social Psychology on the topics of war and peace that discuss the past, present and future relationship of Community Psychology to the industrial-military complex. This special issue is open to literature review articles, articles on new empirical and social action projects and theoretical writings and position papers.

Background

Psychology has a long history of working closely with government agencies to help with ‘military problems’. Aptitude and intelligence testing of soldiers, the development of facial recognition software, studies on attitude formation, and motivation studies are just a few of the areas of psychology that have been directly applied, often directly commissioned, by the military. Psychological operations, methods to promote soldier resilience and the development of torture techniques are among the most recent areas where the relationship between psychology and the military continues.

This relationship has now become foregrounded in academic and public debate following the Hoffman Report, which was commissioned by the American Psychological Association (APA), the most powerful professional association in psychology. The report portrays the relationship between the military establishment in the US and APA as follows:

In some ways, DoD [Department of Defense] is like a rich, powerful uncle to APA, helping it in important ways throughout APA’s life. Acting independently of a benefactor like this is difficult. (p.72)

The close ties between psychology and the military-industrial establishment in the US and elsewhere so evident for an independent team of lawyers were hardly ever questioned in mainstream psychology.

While mainstream psychology has had a lot to do with war and much of it has been in regard to its promotion, psychology has also had voices committed to the prevention of war. In response to the nuclear brinksmanship engaged in by the US President Regan during the 1980s, a number of groups of psychologists developed to promote peace.

Curiously, Community Psychology appears to have paid rather sparse attention to the topics of war and peace. One might have expected Community Psychology – with its focus on communities, social change, well-being and its value-driven approach – to be well suited to address the impact of war and to take a political and ethical position towards war. However, Community Psychology appears to have been somewhat silent on the subject – at least in its major publishing outputs and in conferences in Australasia, North America and Europe (Değirmencioğlu, 2010; Duckett 2005). War appears to have remained a rather subsidiary topic in Community Psychology and there has been little, if any, political or ethical analysis of the subject (Değirmencioğlu & Duckett, forthcoming). One might conclude that it is difficult to know what the ethical stance of a community psychologist might be to the topic of war. This Special Issues will address this apparent deficit.

Submission process and deadlines

For this special issue we warmly welcome contributions from community and applied social psychology. We invite detailed abstracts (max. 500 words or 2 pages) indicating the potential contribution. The most relevant and promising abstracts will be selected for further development into full manuscripts (7000 words).

All manuscripts will be blind peer-reviewed. Abstracts and manuscripts should be submitted via the JCASP online system (http://mc.manuscriptcentral.com/casp), with a cover letter identifying that they are for the special issue on ethics, psychology and war. Normal JCASP guidelines for authors apply.

Further information on this special issue can be obtained from paul.ducket(AT)vu.edu.au.

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Racialized State Terrorism in Ferguson Missouri USA: A Prime Target for Liberation Studies and Action

Make the Police Shoot Themselves: Require they wear body cameras


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

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Letter from Mexico: disappearance of the student teachers and our responsibilities.

Protest in Mexico about the disappearance of the 43 student teachers in Guerrero State.

Protest in Mexico about the disappearance of the 43 student teachers in Guerrero State. From LAB. Click for the news article on the LAB site.

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

Community Psychologist

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Spanish original:

AMIGxS, COMPAÑERxS, HERMANxS:
 
Los acontecimientos de Iguala-Ayotzinapa, acá en México, nos llenan de dolor, rabia y estupor. 
Impactos que han trascendido las fronteras de tierras mexicas. 
Latinoamérica y el mundo mira con desconcierto y alarma esta barbarie con rango de política de Estado.
 
El crimen sistemático y la impunidad consuetudinaria se propone el  disciplinamiento, control y sometimiento mediante la violencia, el miedo y el terror. La paralización e inmovilidad se dibuja también como su horizonte táctico-estratégico.
 
Hoy en el periódico La Jornada (http://www.jornada.unam.mx/ultimas) aparece un interesante artículo del periodista Carlos Fazio, que creo vale la pena leer: “El propósito era paralizar a 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.” 
Este texto, y todos los tristes acontecimientos del último tiempo, me hacen resonar en la responsabilidad individual-singular y social-comunitaria que todxs tenemos: Cada unx dónde esté, cómo pueda, cómo quiera, con pequeñas-grandes acciones, para denunciar, para expresar, para seguir proponiendo y porfiadamente construyendo caminos de dignidad, respeto y vida.
Los asesinados y los 43 normalistas desaparecidos de Ayotzinapa son una afrenta para México, para toda América Latina y para el mundo. Una afrenta personal y colectiva.
Una amiga chilena me preguntaba ayer por correo “¿cómo nos podemos solidarizar desde acá?”, y en lo personal se me ocurre pensar que todas las iniciativas de denuncia son válidas y necesarias, y que entonces la creatividad y el coraje siguen siendo parte fundamental de nuestros recursos y capacidades: desde estar informadxs, pegar una cartulina a la entrada de la universidad, conversar el tema en colectivo, un plantón relámpago, usar las redes ciber, escribir a las embajadas mexicanas, mensajes a las organizaciones estudiantiles mexicanas… y así un etcétera sin cotos…
Y con la “mirada larga” sigo sentipensando que la atomización, el individualismo, la soledad, el miedo, la inmovilidad, están trazados como objetivos estratégicos y se erigen como síntomas de un modelo político-económico decadente y deshumanizante. Muertes parciales de una cultura de la muerte que alcanza su paroxismo en estos brutales asesinatos masivos: hoy Ayotzinapa, antes Acteal, Trelew, Pando, Ranquil, La Moneda…
Y se me antoja continuar pensando en nuestras responsabilidades y tareas presentes-futuras: Habitar las grupalidades; Latir en-con-desde las comunidades; Seguir avanzando en los diálogos sociales sustentados en la diferencia y multiplicidad; Que sea realidad real el respeto a la dignidad humana como Derecho de todxs y para todxs y no sólo para algunxs privilegiadxs; Que como latinoamericanxs tenemos el deber ético-moral de descolonizarnos de una Modernidad como paradigma monocultural excluyente, negador y dominador…
Ante una cultura de la muerte, una CULTURA DE LA VIDA.
Ya no sólo resistir, sino proponer y construir.
Mario Flores Lara
Psicólogo Comunitario
www.metodologiascomunitariasemancipadoras.blogspot.com
www.multilogocomunitario.blogspot.com
www.youtube.com/user/MarioFloresLara
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