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Deconstructing Systemic Victimization “Deconstructing the Victim-Perpetrator Paradigm: A Heuristic” [1] Prof. Theophus “Thee”Smith Emory University Initiative.

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Presentation on theme: "Deconstructing Systemic Victimization “Deconstructing the Victim-Perpetrator Paradigm: A Heuristic” [1] Prof. Theophus “Thee”Smith Emory University Initiative."— Presentation transcript:

1 Deconstructing Systemic Victimization “Deconstructing the Victim-Perpetrator Paradigm: A Heuristic” [1] Prof. Theophus “Thee”Smith Emory University Initiative on Religion, Conflict & Peacebuilding 4 July 2007 - Colloquium on Violence & Religion – COV&R Amsterdam

2 Heuristic A heuristic is a replicable method or approach for directing one's attention in learning, discovery, or problem-solving. It is originally derived from the Greek "heurisko" (ε ὑ ρίσκω), which means "I find".Greek (A form of the same verb is found in Archimedes' famous exclamation "eureka!" – "I have found [it]!") Archimedeseureka! Wikipedia

3 Invocation “The only resolution of this dilemma is found in experiencing... [myself] as victim behind my victimizing... recognizing ourselves as victimizing victims in our day-to-day living... whence we punish the other...” “Emphatically to get past the person who is victimizing one to the victim within is the essence of the Christ life, into which Gandhi [too] had much insight.” Sebastian Moore, “’Why Did God Kill Jesus?’”

4 Outline 1. Introduction: A Reconciliation Framework 1 2. Comedy as Insight 4 3. Regression both Social and Spiritual 9 4. Open Secret: The Forbidding Alternative to Regression 12 5. A New Paradigm: Victim-Exchange 15 omitted here: sections 3 & 4

5 Appendices A. Subtheme and Abstract of this Essay19 B. Conference Theme and Background Discussion21 C. Notes on Defining Tolerance24 D. Practicums & Applications24 E. A Scholar-Practitioner Profile 30

6 Dialectic: Lordship & Bondage --Hegel “The lord therefore paradoxically depends for his lordship on the bondsman’s self- consciousness… The truth of independent self-consciousness is therefore to be found rather in the bondsman’s self-consciousness than in the lord’s. Each is therefore the inverse of what it immediately and superficially is given as being.” Quoting J.N. Findlay’s commentary on Hegel’s sections 192-193 of the Phenomenology

7 Intolerable to human freedom and existential dig- nity are the arbitrary field dynamics in which each party simply discovers it is acting-out one of the roles without reasoning or the will to do so. That is the Great Intolerable of the human condi- tion in society; of the conditions of existence as constituted by un-freedom, necessity and compul- sion—by the bondage to force from which our en- tire development as a species aims to free us.

8 Comic Insight A joke is an epigram on the death of a feeling. --Friedrich Nietzsche, Mixed Opinions and Maxims (1879; no. 22) ● Parable of the Two, Too Good Samaritans ● 'Why Do They Eat Us?' ● Wounded Healer Man

9 Why Do They Eat /hate Us? “His name's Bradshaw. “He says he understands I came from a single-parent den with inadequate role models. “He senses that my dys- functional behavior is shame-based and co- dependent and he urges me to let my inner cub heal... “I say we eat him.”

10 Wounded Healer Man handouts &/or slide?

11 Analysis:  cf. Nietzsche—death of a positivism of liberal idealism  expose of liberal ideals as hollow, self-serving, patronizing and condescending; a secular superiority or even 'righteousness'  post-liberal condition as self-critical of ideological excesses

12 Crime & Punishment Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet Oftentimes have I heard you speak of one who commits a wrong as though he were not one of you, but a stranger unto you and an intruder upon your world. But I say that even as the holy and the righteous cannot rise beyond the highest which is in each one of you, So the wicked and the weak cannot fall lower than the lowest which is in you also. And as a single leaf turns not yellow but with the silent knowledge of the whole tree, So the wrong-doer cannot do wrong without the hidden will of you all.

13 René Girard on 'taking sides' from Job: The Victim of His People By taking sides, we inevitably ignore the true center of gravity of the process—the scapegoat mechanism, still religiously transfigured... The whole religious dimension of these events remains hidden by too exclusive an emphasis on the political aspects, real as they are.

14 Analysis: ● How do we deconstruct the real enemy of us all: the victim-perpetrator paradigm? Choosing the side of either victim or perpetrator displays ignorance of the paradigm itself, specifically its deep structure according to which, by hypothesis here, perpetrators are former victims. ● On this view ‘the enemy’ is not our perpetrator. The real enemy, rather, is the ‘victim-hold’ that the experience of victimization still exercises upon our perpetrators. ● Instead of one set of victims therefore we have 2 categories of victim to ‘take the side of,’ or advocate for, in any given conflict: the presenting victim on the one hand, and the former victim now-turned-perpetrator in that specific conflict.

15 Analysis: ● ‘Doing unto others what was done unto us’ is the defining feature of the victim-perpetrator paradigm. The paradigm consists in the cyclical process by which we-as-perpetrators compulsively act out our own unresolved victimization onto our stereotypes as classes of available victims. ● Targeting such victims constitutes our desperate but misguided and even magical attempt to render our victimization as though it had never occurred in the past. ● Our species attempts this chronically by re-creating ourselves in the present as the empowered victimizer rather than the disempowered victim in our past.

16 Analysis: ● To understand this pernicious paradigm is to gain immediately the possibility for intuiting its remedy. Existentially however (under the conditions of existence) the obvious remedy is so forbidding that simply to ‘think it’ becomes cognitively inaccessible. ● In this state of affairs all the insights and resources for deconstructing the victim-perpetrator paradigm are available to us in the contemporary period, and yet we persist in regressive forms of law and justice that maintain that paradigm. ● On this view deconstructing the victim-perpetrator paradigm consists in providing former victims with alternatives to the mimetic strategy by means of which we-as-perpetrators seek to counteract our victimization

17 Analysis: ● In place of role reversal it is preferable that victims have recourse to a more effective means to recover from the disempowerment and trauma of victimization. ● To be truly effective such an alternative would need to empower us with as much affective force as—but without the counter-victimizing force of—role reversal. ● The challenge is this: how to achieve the power without the ‘vice’ of imitative role reversal; how to re-empower victims, that is, without incurring their viciousness of ‘doing unto others what was done unto us.’

18 Sherrilyn Ifill: A'lynching TRC'would... ● be deliberately directed away from lynching perpetrators, and focused instead on individuals and local institutions that promoted, condoned or tolerated lynching... ● provide a means for ordinary people who actively or passively condoned lynching and those whose communities were terrorized by lynching to explore opportunities for healing and reparation... ● [ make] “truth-telling” about the complicity of state and local officials in lynching... an important step toward repairing communities torn apart by lynching. Cf. “significant evidence suggest[s] that many whites – particularly white children – have been seriously harmed by witnessing or participating in lynching spectacles.”

19 Analysis: Offenders themselves intrinsically understand that their crimes or misdeeds were passively and even actively supported and abetted by institutions and systems in the larger society. They rightly intuit that they are being targeted with a surplus of blame when the community singles them out exclusively for acts that in fact characterize antisocial practices prevailing elsewhere in society.

20 Analysis: A more thoroughgoing and effective measure would require reparations not only to victims but also, ironically, to those offenders about whom it could be reasonably demonstrated that they were systemically socialized to hate and fear. In any case the key concept of fairness signals a shift in focus from simply perpetrators to the community sponsors and the enabling networks for this kind of violence; that is, the rest of us.

21 Analysis: ● The preconditions for massive human rights vio- lations are, by hypothesis, systemic rather than attri- butable to the aberrant behavior of a few criminal personalities. If so, then we who perpetrate more subtle and sys- temic crimes, or who secretly enable the perpetrators, have been unawarely scapegoating them for their more overt violations. ● This perspective does not provide a rationale for exonerating them, of course. Rather it mandates rehabilitating them alongside ourselves, and no longer in isolation from ourselves.

22 Analysis: In this emerging paradigm shift new principles and practices of tolerance arise out of acknowledging ourselves in vul- nerability with our neighbors as victim- perpetrators. With increasing transparency we see- through the fields of conflict how our newly acknowledged vulnerability authorizes compensatory policies and practices that convert enemies to allies.

23 Analysis: Indeed our own admitted complicity in violence and abuse generates a reciprocity with our neighbors; no longer condescending and superior attitudes but genuine interdependence based on the authenticity of our human interrelatedness. Thus a comic (hilarious) versus tragic (hellacious) prospect becomes available to us in solidarity with those with whom we acknowledge a shared liability for the violence that impacts us all—a 'true' reciprocity.

24 Next steps... ● beyond 'truth commissions as heuristic' to... ● “no-fault reconciliation” (C. Eric Lincoln, Coming through the Fire, 1996) ● bipartisan reparations, and ● joint venture restitutions

25 Postscript: ● “Therefore an emancipatory practice of subjectivity must posit as its goal not the immediate realization of ‘the (given) self,’ but the emergence of a ‘self-in-solidarity.’ One measure of the effectiveness of such a practice would be the extent to which it assisted and enabled people to act in co-operation with each other in achieving the communal goals of liberation.” Erica Sherover-Marcuse, Emancipation and Consciousness (NY & Oxford, UK: Basil Blackwell, 1986), p. 142.

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