Terrorism and War: Unconscious Dynamics of Political Violence

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Following the attacks of September 11th 2001, one of the resounding questions asked was "What would make anyone do such a thing?" The psychological mentality of the suicidal terrorist left a gaping hole in people's understanding. This essential volume represents a much-needed effort to collate and examine some of the material already at our disposal as an encouragement to serious thought on this question and other related questions.'If terrorism is not new, what is it about the recent attacks that gives us a sense that something has changed? Is it the scale of the destruction, or the anxiety that we are facing some altogether new uncertainty? Are we in some sense facing a new enemy? ...In reflecting on these and other related questions we may be facing a similar watershed of understanding to that faced by Freud at the end of the Great War...In the absence of progress in our thinking today, political leaders and public opinion will likely turn to previous political and religious ideas, investing in them with a fundamentalist certainty that spells disaster. This book is a serious effort to marshal some of the material already at our disposal as an encouragement to serious thought on the subject of Terrorism and War.'- Lord Alderdice, from his Introduction

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CHAPTER ONE: Thoughts and photographs, World Trade Centre: 11th September 2001

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Justin Bed

Here is the first thing I wrote after my experience of the morning of September 11th:

I got up around 8:30, earlier than usual, because I was going to talk to Rafi and I wanted to have a cup of coffee and look over my portfolio first. I put all the relevant work in my portfolio and put it, along with some dirty clothes (for airbmshing) and my cell phone in my bag. Because of the huge HVAC unit across the street, almost no outside noise came into our apartment. I took a shower around 8:45 and when I got out Annie was sitting by the window smoking a cigarette. Annie didn‘t have a job yet, and that made her nervous so she was usually up as soon as anyone else got up. She was sitting on one of the benches we had made together in the spring looking out the window and she said there was a lot of smoke in the air or something and I remember responding, as I pulled my shoes on, “maybe the world trade centre is on fire?” Annie said she was going up to the roof to see what was going on. I grabbed my camera as I walked out the door because I thought the smoke might create an effect similar to the one in the fog photographs I had taken in August from the street below our apartment. I thought Gina had already gone to work, but she had actually gotten into the shower while I was getting dressed and somehow we hadn‘t seen each other. Brennan and Andrew were already up and out of the apartment. It was now 8:55. I walked out onto the street and immediately took the first photograph as I walked up Greenwich. The sky was full of m by 11 sheets of paper floating to the ground like snow. There was an aspect of magical realism to it all … I was discovering that the largest office building in the world had exploded and the only visible evidence is copier paper. The thousands of papers in the sky kept me from looking at the carnage underfoot. They floated to the ground like confetti … all the heavy stuff fell instantly, but the paper drifted in the sky for a long time afterwards. I remember stopping in front of the fire station at the corner of Liberty (where I had taken my fog photographs). From that corner the view was particularly powerful because the perspective was so extreme and the height of the building always evoked that classic feeling of sky-scraper vertigo. For weeks later, I would have nightmares about standing below tall buildings and looking up at them … a fear of heights from the ground. A truck came out of the station behind my right shoulder as I was taking photographs. I walked by that fire station every day … I remember Heather talking before she left for Barcelona about how hot the firemen were. I was not sure what was going on, but I was taking photographs with my right hand and trying to call Annie with my left … the network was already swamped, so nobody‘s cell phones worked. The street was crowded with commuters, but no-one seemed to know what was going on. From where I was standing, it looked like there was a fire on the far side of the south tower (my view of the north tower was obstructed by the south tower, so I could not see the extent of the damage).

 

CHAPTER TWO: The eleventh of September massacre

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Ron Britton

“The storm of airplanes will not stop, and there are thousands of young people who look forward to death like the Americans look forward to living”

Osama bin Laden

Having read several excellent accounts on the religious, political and social background to the 11th September A massacre, when asked to contribute something I asked myself what as a psychoanalyst can I usefully add. I wrote a paper on ‘Fundamentalism‘ some years ago (1992) but I do not want to repeat that. So as I was already writing a paper on ‘Sex, death and psycho analysis’, I thought I might offer a few thoughts on the suicidal act as a means of gaining divine approval and self-glorification.

A love affair with death

Those who died in the god’s service, undergoing a violent death either by battle or by sacrifice, had entry into his realm … the hero will be welcomed with feasting and hospitality because he died fearlessly. [Ellis Davidson, 1964, p. 149]

This is from the myths of the ninth century Norsemen of Europe, not from the creed of al-Qaeda. But Osama bin Laden in his fatwa of 1996 used almost the same words, describing how his ‘young men’ knew they would go directly to Paradise after sacrificing themselves in destroying the enemy.

 

CHAPTER THREE: Thoughts on September 11th, 2001

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Philip A. Ringstrom

As none of us will forget, on September 11th, 2001 the unimaginable occurred when Muslim Extremist terrorists turned passenger airplanes into human-guided missiles targeting the Twin Trade Towers of New York City, the Pentagon, and an uncertain other failed target, perhaps the Capitol Building or White House. Shortly after this event, I took my ten-year-old daughter to our favourite Japanese restaurant. I asked her what she was learning in school about the events surrounding the September 11th attack. She was unclear, but wondered why on earth some people would do such a thing; what could they have against America, and what had we done to incur their hatred? As best I could, I tried to describe how we were witnessing a terrible clash of cultures. Islamic Fundamentalism was finding itself threatened by our culture, which embodies elements of modernity that we in the West take for granted. To elaborate in terms she could understand I spoke of the treatment of girls and of women in an extremist Fundamentalist culture such as Taliban society. They are prohibited from engaging in all the things she expects to be able to do; to be educated, to choose a life of her own, a career and to have a family, to move about as she pleases, to dress as she sees fit and to live with

 

CHAPTER FOUR: Beyond bombs and sanctions

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Aleksander Vucho

I consider nationalism in terms of a malignant form of national identity based on the hate of those who do not belong to one’s own nationality. Since identity is established on similarities and differences, the chances for intolerance of members of other nationalities are great. Few are those that have never felt hostility towards someone just because he/she belongs to another group. The form of this hostility may be benign as, for example, when we return from a trip abroad and do not exactly ascribe the best characteristics to the members of that nation. We see them through stereotypes, or broadly generalize the positive or negative traits of individuals to the entire nation. Sporting competitions between two nations usually lead to passionate reactions which are, generally, spent in front of television, but sometimes may become malevolent in the field. We may be suspicious or distant to members of other nations or, in multi-ethnic environments, we may vote for a member of our own nation just because s/he is a member, not seeing his/her aggression and willingness to provoke inter-ethnic conflict. There fore we meet with an omnipresent phenomenon, existing in each of us and hence, as a group phenomenon, it represents a phenomenon requiring careful treatment. In order to flourish in its full and tragic force, nationalism requires a mass (Freud, 1921). Once the spirit of nationalism is released it is impossible to control it and return to the individual where it can be handled more easily.

 

CHAPTER FIVE: From containment to leakage, from the collective to the unique: therapist and patient in shared national trauma

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Dvora Miller-Fbrsheim

“I wasn’t one of the six million who died in the Shoah, I wasn’t even among the survivors. And I wasn’t one of the six hundred thousand who went out of Egypt. I came to the Promised Land by sea. No, I was not in that number, though I still have the fire and the smoke within me, pillars of fire and pillars of smoke that guide me by night and by day. I still have inside me the mad search for emergency exit, for soft places, for the nakedness of the land, for the escape into weakness and hope … Afterwards, silence. No questions, no answers. Jewish history and world history grind me between them like two grindstones, sometimes to a powder … Sometimes I fall into the gap between to hide, or sink the way down”

Yehuda Amichai, 2000

Introduction

The first version of this article was written in March 1996, following the upheaval caused by the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin—architect of the peace process—and the wave of terrorist attacks that came in its wake. It was originally presented as a paper in New York, where American psychoanalysts made an effort to connect what was presented to their own world and cited examples, mainly of victims of personal trauma: robbery and rape.

 

CHAPTER SIX: The psychodynamic dimension of terrorism

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Salman Akhtar

Like a psychosocial smallpox, eruptions of terrorism are scattered all over the skin of today’s world. These range from the chronic violent strife between Catholics and Protestants in Ireland to the sudden shock of the World Trade Centre bombing in New York City; from the continuing Israeli-Arab bloodshed in the Middle East to the horror of the explosion at Oklahoma’s Murrah Federal Building, and from the religiously sanctified suicide bombings by the Lebanese Hezbollah to the violent tactics of the Basque liberation organisation, Euzkadi Ta Azkatasura. The complexities underlying these phenomena are profound. Understanding them would necessitate a multidisciplin-ary approach with contributions from the perspectives of history, political science, economics, religion, social anthropology, and psychology. Although it is acknowledged that multilayered socio economic factors contribute to the emergence of terrorism, this article focuses on the psychological dimension of terrorism.

 

CHAPTER SEVEN: Reflections on the making of a terrorist

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Stuart W. Twemlow and Frank C. Sacco

“Listen children, your father is dead. From his old coats I will make you little jackets. I’ll make you little trousers from his old pants. There’ll be in his pockets, things he used to put there. Keys and pennies covered with tobacco. Dan shall have the pennies to save in his bank. Ann shall have the keys to make a pretty noise with. Life must go on and the dead be forgotten. Life must go on, though good men die. Ann eat your breakfast, Dan take your medicine. Life must go on. I forgot just why.”

“Lament”, by Edna St. Vincent Millay

Introduction

Keeping life going on somehow preoccupies the minds of virtually every American since September 11th, when more people died in a single incident than in any other non-wartime period in U.S. history and still countless others continue to lament the loss of loved ones. In this paper, we will outline an approach to an evolving understanding of social activism, fanaticism, and its potential progression to martyrdom and terrorism. In the necessary painful self-examination that is being undertaken by Americans, we offer some thoughts on social context as a crucible for the making of a terrorist.

 

CHAPTER EIGHT: On hatred: with comments on the revolutionary, the saint, and the terrorist

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K. R. Eissler

It is common to base an assessment of psychological health on an individual’s ability to love. However, the ability to hate is no less important a manifestation of the healthy personality. The author investigates the psychology of hatred and the possible effects of psychoanalytic treatment on the development of the capacity to hate and, by extension, to engage in revolutionary political activity.

In ruminating about history, politics and psychoanalysis, a controversial topic comes to mind that is of psychoanalytic relevance. It would be interesting to know the political opinions, convictions, or tendencies of patients before and after analysis and the political opinions of their analysts. What propor tion of patients change their political colours? If changes occur, what is their direction: from progressive to conservative, or the reverse? And what is the correlation with the analyst’s political convictions? Do patients convert to their analyst’s convictions without noticing it? If such a correlation exists, I would doubt that it is due to the direct influence of the analyst. But under what circumstances does the analyst intentionally try to change his patient’s political opinions? Do political subjects come up in the course of treatment with some frequency? Are political opinions subjected to interpretations? Many other questions are attached to the group of problems I raise. They do not need to be spelled out. Is the equation here similar to that applicable to training candidates, most of whom as analysts pursue that brand of psychoanalysis in which their training analysts believe, as Glover (1955, pp. 262-64) maintained?

 

CHAPTER NINE: The role of hatred in the ego

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Ping-Nie Pao

In the treatment of hospitalised and severely disturbed patients, I have had the opportunity to observe the rise and fall of intense feelings of hatred. Sometimes I was the target of these feelings; at other times I was accused of hating the patient. This exposure to the feeling of hatred led me to consider that it is so complex a human phenomenon that it cannot be encompassed by such common expressions as anger, rage, aggression, hostility, or destructiveness though these expressions often are used inter changeably with hatred.

Hatred and rage

Spitz (1953, 1963) noted that rage in the form of screaming can be observed in infants of two to three months. It is an ego-organised expression of frustration of instinctual needs. And as the mother repeatedly responds to the infant’s rage by modifying his frustra tion, he learns that his rage has an intimidating effect on her. In this sense rage is an ego response to the conflict between the ego and the object.

With the acquisition of new ego functions, rage gradually undergoes a metamorphosis (Fenichel, 1954; Jacobson, 1953), and eventually transforms into hatred which involves the participation of all three psychic structures: id, ego, and super-ego. In hatred the ego is not only in conflict with objects in the external world, as in the case of rage, but with internalised objects as well.

 

CHAPTER TEN: Fundamentalism and idolatry

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Ronald Britton

In this paper I am using religious terms for psychoanalytic purposes because I think we try to deal in psychological terms with, what had been before the “Enlightenment” the subject matter of theology; just as the writers of the Romantic movement did in philosophical or poetic terms.

As M. H. Abrams wrote in Natural Supernaturalism

much of what distinguishes writers I call Romantic derives from the fact that they undertook whatever their religious creed or lack of creed to save traditional concepts, schemes and values which had been based on the relation of the Creator to his creature and creation, but to reformulate them within the prevailing two-term system of subject and object, ego and non-ego, the human mind … and its transactions with nature.

Freud had a good deal to say about religion. Mythology was a favourite study of his and produced traffic in both directions. The implication was that study of one should provide material for the other. He wrote:

I believe that a great part of the mythological view of the world, which reaches far into most modern religions is nothing other than psychological processes projected into the outer world. The obscure apprehending of the psychical factors and relationships of the unconscious is mirrored … in the construction of a supersensible reality, which science has to re-translate into the psychology of the unconscious. One could venture in this manner to resolve the myths of Paradise, the Fall of Man, of God, of Good and Evil, of Immortality, and so on thus transforming Meta-physics into Metapsychology. [Freud, 1904]

 

CHAPTER ELEVEN: The benign and malignant other

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Coline Covington

A n essential, ever present dynamic within any conflict is the /\ juxtaposition of “us” and “them”. When this happens, the J. \. “other” turns from being a relatively benign or even familiar object into a malignant or “other” object. Similarly, the familiar and benign “other” that enables us to form an identity and to differentiate ourselves from others, individually and collectively (and most fundamentally, sexually) can be transformed, or perverted, into a malignant “other” that also serves to establish and consolidate identity. The difference between what I call benign and malignant “others” is perhaps best described in terms of the different motivations that underlie the two. In the case of the benign other, there is a desire to relate to the object and to grow from that relationship. In the case of the malignant other, the desire is primarily to defend against the object (seen as hostile) and it is not in the service of growth or development.

In thinking about the ways in which we relate to the “other”, I would like to focus on one aspect of “otherness” in particular and this is its companion, narcissism, for I do not think it is possible to consider one idea without the other. It also means thinking of “otherness” from a developmental point of view—as a state of awareness that comes about through separation, that can lead either to differentiation and individuation or, conversely, to the erection of rigid defence structures that deny reality and difference. And this brings us to Freud’s “narcissism of minor differences”. I would like to explore this idea and specifically the relationship between narcissism and tolerance of difference and how the perception of otherness evolves and develops in the mind.

 

CHAPTER TWELVE: Freud/Einstein correspondence

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[Original in English] 23 September 1949

To Dorothy Thompson

Dear Mrs Thompson,

It is a pleasure to receive the letter of a normally intelligent person in contrast to the evil flood of idiotic and malevolent insinuations I seemed to have released in the USA.1

Well, you know I am just as deeply concerned with the extraordinary as well as uncanny situation of the world as you are yourself. (By the way, I have read quite a number of your political comments and admired their practical intelligence and common sense!)

I could say quite a lot about the actual dilemma of the world from my psychological point of view. But I am afraid it would lead too far afield into realms of psychological intricacies which would demand a great amount of explanation.

I will try to be simple. A political situation is the manifestation of a parallel psychological problem in millions of individuals. This problem is largely unconscious (which makes it a particularly dangerous one!). It consists of a conflict between a conscious (ethical, religious, philosophical, social, political, and psychological) standpoint and an unconscious one which is characterised by the same aspects but represented in a ‘lower’, i.e., more archaic form. Instead of ‘high’ Christian ethics, the laws of the herd, suppression of individual responsibility and submission to the tribal chief (totalitarian ethics). Instead of religion, superstitious belief in an ad hoc doctrine or truth; instead of philosophy, a low-grade doctrinary system which ‘rationalises’ the appetites of the herd; instead of a differentiated social organisation, a meaningless chaotic agglomera tion of uprooted individuals kept under by sheer force and terror and blindfolded by appropriate lies; instead of a constructive use of political power with the aim of attaining an equilibrium of freely developing forces, a destructive tendency to extend suppression over the whole world through attaining mere superiority of power; instead of psychology, use of psychological means to extinguish the individual spark and to inhibit the development of consciousness and intelligence.

 

CHAPTER THIRTEEN: Jung correspondence: letter to Dorothy Thompson

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Donald M. Kaplan

I want to begin by congratulating the members of the Programme Committee of The New York Freudian Society not only for conceiving of this particular programme but also for surviving the understandable apprehensions of their colleagues in the Society over a proposal to convene a meeting before so large a community on a subject with which the Society has had no experience. Psychoanalysts are also, of course, ordinary citizens and therefore no less beleaguered witnesses to the agitations of international affairs and the awesome spectre of nuclear diplomacy that has long since complicated the very difficult idea that even ordinarily we all live on borrowed time.

Each of us owes Nature one death, Freud was given to say, and this being so, one’s only heroism in this matter can be to pay the debt as fully on one’s own terms as possible. In conveying a sense of a total communalisation of sudden death, the present nuclear situation threatens the very possibility of this fundamental heroism Freud perceived in the death of every human being. However, such a line of thought is rather faint and brief. For it is merely an existential consideration in a vast turbulence of political, historical and technological problems, among which it is not readily apparent how psychoanalysis itself might figure, if at all, in a view the analyst takes of the plight he shares with every other citizen at this most fraught moment in the history of civilisation. To suppose that the urgency alone of an issue, regardless of its source or nature, is sufficient to arouse a relevant psychoanalytic commentary is to expect that psychoanalytic discourse can endure any dislocation from the contexts in which its technical meaning is furnished. There is a difference between speaking psychoanalytically and psycho analysis in a manner of speaking. While the difference is always worth bearing in mind, not all subjects compel us to retain the difference to the same extent. However, to address the problems that have brought us together on this occasion in simply a manner of speaking would amount to irreverence.

 

CHAPTER FOURTEEN: Thoughts for the times on war and death: a psychoanalytic address on an interdisciplinary problem

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Diana Birkett

The earliest and some of the most creative developments in psychoanalysis took place in Europe at a time when the continent was devastated by two of the most destructive wars in history. Further, many of the most gifted practitioners and theorists in this field were, by virtue of their race or nationality, more than averagely affected by the splitting of families and the deaths of members resulting from fighting, persecution, invasion and separation.

One would think that any science which sought to explain human behaviour would be drawn to these issues. Yet they are addressed, in the psychoanalytic literature, almost exclusively in terms of the inner life of the individual. Psychoanalysis has curiously little to say about world events; in another context, that of political persecution in Argentina, Janine Puget (1980) comments: “the theoretical instrument does not allow for the formulation of theories about external reality”, though she does qualify this in relation to group analysis. Indeed, it was in the field of groups that Freud took a leap in applying the insights of psychoanalysis to an understanding of society. This represented a one-way process, however, and there was little attempt to study the effects of society on the psyche.

 

CHAPTER FIFTEEN: Psychoanalysis and war Psychoanalysis and war—response to Diana Birkett

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Isobel Hunter-Brown

Ms Birkett is to be congratulated on bringing to our attention important issues regarding Psychoanalysis -L V J- and war [British Journal of Psychotherapy, 8(3)]. My own feeling like hers is that it would be good to see more psychoanalytic contributions on the effects of militarism (and of the lessening of humanitarianism in our present day society too). There are, however, a number of aspects of her article which require response.

She begins with two criticisms of psychoanalysis: (1) that, generally, it should have had more to say on the effects of social changes on the individual psyche; and (2) that it has an addiction to infantile fantasy and ignores the impact of current realities. In particular she mentions the realities of persecution, war, migration, and the concentration camp and holocaust.

She conveys the impression that psychoanalysts have only recently begun to realize the damage wrought by these disasters but, though there may be a relative paucity of literature, psycho analysts have been writing about them for many years. Contributions are too numerous to mention but in 1968 a series of papers for a conference on the effects of social disaster was included in the International Journal of Psychoanalysis. On the nuclear threat, a six-page bibliography was published in the International Review of Psycho analysis (1987) which included psychoanalytic papers dating back to 1946.

 

CHAPTER SIXTEEN: Psychological defence and nuclear war

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Robert D. Hinshelwood

Society is influenced by the unconscious aspects of the minds of the member individuals. This paper describes a psycho analytic approach to some aspects of the social processes that give rise to the attitudes in Western society towards nuclear war and the nuclear threat. It is concluded that there are profound hidden factors that work against changing the current views on war and nuclear war, and that some peace groups are inadvertently recruited into maintaining the status quo.

People have a genuine fear of enemies, especially enemies powerful enough to annihilate us. Such fears may not simply subside in the absence of enemies. Human beings suffer particularly from such nightmares, and are prone to live them out in the actual world.

In this paper I take a psychoanalytic view of the social processes in which nuclear threat are embedded, and explore the possibility of the social system being structured as a psychological defence (Jaques, 1955). These unconscious psychodynamics of the social structures are important and, as I hope to show, make the position of some peace groups in the West highly problematic in a way that is not generally realised.

 

CHAPTER SEVENTEEN: Silence is the real crime

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Hanna Segal

When we look soberly, however hard it is to do so at the moment, at the political situation and the threat of V V nuclear warfare, we observe a phenomenon that is more like a surrealist scenario, an unbearable nightmare or a psychosis, than a sane world. The Hiroshima bomb killed at one go 140,000 people and that does not include the many thousands who died from the after effects or the zombie-like existence of the survivors so vividly described by R. J. Lifton in his studies (1982). “But today, on average, each major city in the northern hemisphere is targeted by the equivalent of 2,000 Hiroshima bombs” (Barnaby, 1983).

The nuclear arsenal of either Russia or America is enough to blow up the world many times over. And still they both continue to develop and stockpile nuclear weapons and contend that this is needed for security. The foreseeable effects of what is genteelly known as nuclear exchange between Russia and America are well studied and documented by scientists. The medical evidence is that there will be no meaningful survival. There is growing scientific evidence that the exploding of only part of that arsenal will bring about a nuclear winter which will engulf all the northern hemi sphere, if not the whole planet. These facts are constantly put before the public. Nevertheless the urgency of the threat to human survival does not seem to have led to a concerted effort to stop what is happening. Indeed, the way things are going, it seems likely that a nuclear war may be an inevitable consequence.

 

CHAPTER EIGHTEEN: Destructiveness, atrocities and healing: epistemological and clinical reflections

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Renos K. Papadopoulos

Destructiveness, in its various forms and variations, has occupied a central place in both psychoanalysis and analytical psychology. In the main, psycho-analysis seems to have approached destructiveness through the notion of ‘aggres sive impulses’, drives or instincts, whereas analytical psychology seems to have placed its emphasis on the notions of ‘shadow’ and ‘the problem of evil’ in its treatment of the same subject. Both schools have accepted that destructiveness is one of the most fundamental issues in considering human nature.

However, any consideration of destructiveness and violence is inevitably influenced (consciously or unconsciously) by a host of other factors, from philosophical views, cultural and theological positions as well as moral and ethical values, to the pragmatics of the socio-economic, political and historical realities; that is why, in its totality, destructiveness is a multi-faceted and multi-dimensional phenomenon which cannot and should not be limited to the realm of any single discipline. Yet, because it is such an emotive issue, it tends to cloud even further its complexity. Therefore, it is imperative that we focus our attention on the very way we approach destructiveness before we embark on any further elaboration. In other words, I would argue that it is essential that we reflect on the epistemology which we imperceptibly employ in approaching the subject of destructiveness.

 

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