“Things fall apart…Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world, The blood-dimmed tide is loosed… “ W.B. Yeats.
“How many deaths does it take ‘til you know that too many people have died?” Bob Dylan
From my psychoanalytic work – childhood and adulthood
A ten year old child demanded that I say the “S” word – she said it was “sorry”. From a maturational point of view, the psychological state of adulthood means the ability to bear usable guilt, to acknowledge wrongdoing and to fix it.
Another ten year old child on 9/11, 2001, was very somber and thoughtful in her session. She imagined what it would be like for a child whose parent was killed, and then wondered what had led the perpetrators to do such a thing. In her next session, her mood was entirely different when she excitedly said that her school had organized a pizza party for the class that raised the most money to donate to the victims’s families.
G. Bush pretending to look for WMD under furniture, and G.W. Bush dressing up as commander-in-chief to announce mission accomplished.
Today Ukraine accused Russia of bombing a children’s hospital and maternity ward in the besieged port city of Mariupol. This is on Putin’s watch. This is on Biden’s watch: withholding money from Afghanistan, predicted to cause up to 1 million child deaths. Arms sales to Saudi Arabia and Yemen: predicting million child deaths. The UN Iraq sanctions caused ½ million child deaths. Israel kills Palestinian children every week and in its attacks on Gaza, disproportionately kills children, bombs schools and medical facilities and personnel.
The poet Dylan Thomas: “The majesty and burning of the child’s death…After the first death, there is no other.”
From psychoanalytic work I’ve learned to think about multiple causes and determinants and about the importance of history.
On Putin’s violence. The US, as is its wont with identified enemies, has perfected the art of arrogant and sadistic humiliation and emasculation – through its personal taunts, its modes of degrading torture (sodomy, scalping, castration). James Gilligan was the psychiatric director of the Massachusetts prison system and worked psychoanalytically with the most violent criminals. He found that the moments of loss of control leading to perpetration of the most grisly murders came when the murderer, a person vulnerable to being violent and to feeling humiliated and disrespected, was suddenly and predictably triggered when feeling deeply humiliated and disrespected. Gilligan reformed the prison system and eliminated all violence by demanding that the prison staff treat criminals with respect. Freud described in Totem and Taboo how some cultures actually apologize and express respect to their enemies.
Anna Politkovskaya hated Putin but did not blame him for everything. She was a Russian journalist, assassinated. She wrote about Putin’s Russia, particularly the out-of-control thuggery and power of the Russian military officers, their sadism and exploitation of young soldiers as slaves, and of the class of Russian mothers who sacrificed all to protect their sons.
The power of the Russian oligarchs wasn’t just due to Putin. Russia’s social safety net collapsed in the 1990s with the application of ‘shock therapy’, the neo-liberal privatization and selling off at bargain-basement prices of the public infrastructure and the dismantling of regulatory structures that were emerging under Gorbachev.
With the collapse of the USSR, the US began to expand NATO, surrounding Russia’s land and sea borders with military bases and with nuclear weapons on hair-trigger alert. GW Bush abrogated the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) treaty and Obama invested over $1tn in modernizing nuclear weapons.
The new NATO strategy presumed that nuclear war was winnable because the missile defense system could wipe out an enemy’s missiles and allow for a successful first strike without retaliation.
Nuclear history: There is a historical pattern of U.S. action, prompting USSR reaction. The first U.S. nuclear chain reaction was in 1942; the USSR followed suit in 1946. The U.S. detonated the first atomic bomb in 1945, the USSR in 1949. The first ballistic-missile-launching submarine was launched in 1960 by the U.S., then in 1968 by the USSR. Penetration aids were placed on U.S. missiles in 1964; none were ever done on Soviet missiles before 1982. The accelerated buildup of strategic missiles by the U.S. in 1961 was followed by the USSR in 1966. Multiple warheads on missiles (MIRVs) were first introduced by the U.S. in 1964; by the USSR in 1973. Computerized guidance on U.S. missiles came into existence in 1970; in 1975 on Soviet missiles.
The US is historically imperialistic and expansionist, from the 1812 Indian wars under Andrew Jackson, the Monroe Doctrine, Manifest Destiny, the 1898 Spanish American war, the Cold War, the post-Cold War Plan for a New American Century and full-spectrum dominance, to the permanent Global War Against Terror. US multinational corporations structure economic hegemony in IMF, WB, WTO, and in the Trips agreement. The United States withdrew from the Open Skies Treaty in November 2020, and Russia withdrew in December 2021 – a pathway to dominating space (the universe?).