Monday, March 12, 2018

A Plea to Kuan Yin, Goddess of Mercy, for compassion for Women Subject to Violence.

Kuan Yin :

She who harkens to the cries of the world 
and restores equilibrium.
Wise in using skilful means
In every corner of the world
She manifests her countless forms

A Plea to Kuan Yin, Goddess of Mercy, for compassion for Women Subject to Violence.

8 March, the International Day of Women is an appropriate time to focus on the destructive impact of violence on women. Violence against women is a year-round occurrence and continues to an alarming degree. Violence against women is an attack upon their bodily integrity and their dignity. We need to place an emphasis on the universality of violence against women, the multiplicity of its forms, and the ways in which violence, discrimination against women, and the broader system of domination based on subordination and inequality are inter-related.

The UN Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women, adopted by governments in the General Assembly of 1993, gives a broad definition of violence as “ any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life.”The Declaration highlights violence within the family, violence within the broader community, and violence perpetrated or condoned by the State. We will deal briefly with these three areas of violence against women.

The Family: Although the family should be a safe haven with relations among its members guided by respect and love, it is often within the family where the most psychologically devastating forms of violence take place — devastating because such violence goes against the expectations of a safe and harmonious haven. We see battering, sexual abuse of female children in the household, dowry-related violence, marital rape, female genital mutilation and other traditional practices harmful to women and violence related to exploitation carried out by family members and intimate partners.

Within this family setting, we also need to look at the conditions of domestic workers, often working under totally unregulated conditions. Live-in maids can be subjected to slave-like treatment at the hands of the members of the family employing them. They can encounter humiliation, work and sexual exploitation and violence, often with no access to justice.

The Wider Community: As the preamble to the Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women states clearly “Violence against women is a manifestation of the historically unequal power relations between men and women, which have led to domination over and to discrimination against women by men and to the prevention of women’s full advancement, and that violence against women is one of the crucial social mechanisms by which women are forced into a subordinate position compared with men.” This universal phenomenon is embedded in a patriarchal structure which justifies mechanisms of enforcing and sustaining the system of domination.

As Adrienne Rich wrote in Of Women Born “Patriarchy is the power of the fathers; a familial-social ideological, political system in which men — by force, direct pressure, or through ritual, tradition, law and language, customs, etiquette, education, and the division of labour, determine what part women shall or shall not play, and in which the female is everywhere subsumed under the male. It does not necessarily imply that no woman has power or that all women in a given culture may not have certain powers… The power of the fathers has been difficult to grasp because it permeates everything, even the language in which we try to describe it. It is diffuse and concrete; symbolic and literal; universal, and expressed with local variations which obscure its universality.”

Many of the tenets of patriarchal gender order concerns male power to control women’s sexuality and reproductive capacity. The honour and prestige of a man, in many instances, are intrinsically associated with the conduct of a women related to sexuality, leading in some cases to ‘crimes committed in the name of honour’.

Within the wider community, we also see physical, sexual and psychological violence, including rape, sexual abuse, sexual harassment, and intimidation at work and in educational institutions, trafficking in women and forced prostitution.

Education, psychological care and sociological change are important to combat violence within the family and the community.

The State and Armed Insurgencies: There is physical, sexual and psychological violence perpetrated or condoned by the State. The State has a clear duty to control the behaviour of its police, prison, and other agents of justice. Victims of violence by the agents of the State should have clearly set out mechanisms by which they can appeal to the State for redress and compensation. Violence against women in custodial and prison conditions is still a widespread phenomenon which requires a review of national legislation but especially a real investigation of national practice. In many ways ‘law and order’ can be a ‘war on the poor’ and the misfits or a ‘war of segregation’ which can translate into arrests of members of specific social, ethnic or religious groups.

We see violence against women used as a systematic weapon in many armed conflicts by both governmental forces and the armed insurgencies. Women, children and the elderly are the most vulnerable in war-torn societies.

There are also real but less visible psychological and personality disorders left by a conflict. Therefore the role and needs of women in post-war reconstruction and reconciliation require immediate special attention.

Thus, the Association of World Citizens stresses that we need to look carefully at the causes of violence against women and to develop further the policies and institutions leading to human dignity and respect.

*Rene Wadlow, President and Representative to the UN, Geneva, Association of World Citizens

Saturday, March 10, 2018

HEROES vs ‘heroes’

Friends & Colleagues
This is the second of two essays on the political implications of our celebrity culture.
Michael Brenner

                                    HEROES  vs  ‘heroes’

The famous, celebrities, heroes – we tend to use the terms interchangeably these days.   That is the cause of much mischief. For the way that they have become synonyms in our minds reveals just how confused American culture is about what it values - and why.  A revealing example was the flap a few years back over Rolling Stone magazine’s banishment from CVS, Walgreen’s and other vendors because it placed a picture of Boston bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev on the cover shortly after the atrocity. No such reaction was provoked when in the past villains like Osama bin-Laden, Saddam Hussein, Stalin or Hitler glared at us from popular journals like Time, Life and Newsweek. So what’s going on?
 Well, we used to think that anyone who was famous and newsworthy should be publicized. Publicized – not promoted. In other words, it was important to know who they were and how they affected our lives because they had become prominent for some obvious reason. The main criterion was not a favorable judgment – just a recognition that they counted. The same could be said for Tsarnaev or Mateen or Cruz. Except that a transformation has occurred in the meaning we attach to publicity. Publicity today is taken to be a valuable commodity in itself. We seem to have assimilated the old Hollywood maxim that “there is no such thing as good publicity or bad publicity; there is just publicity.”
 Publicity for its own sake is what celebrity is all about.  Achieving the status of a celebrity – by being on a magazine cover, for example – is what most people aspire to. From Hollywood stardom to just a fleeting appearance on the local 10 o’clock news, the dynamic of vanity and gratification is pretty much the same. We stand out, we are exceptional, we are paid attention to, i.e. we have escaped the drab and dreary and humdrum. We envy those who have made it – for whatever reason they have gotten into the spotlight. Gazing longingly at their exalted selves, wallowing in their doings, bedazzled by the glitz – we momentarily stop contemplating our own navel in order to concentrate on somebody else’s navel – a celebrity navel.
 So at some level many go so far as to envy the villain. She may be a neurotic wreck hanging onto reality by his gnawed fingernails while considering a sex change. But damn it she’s on the cover ofRolling Stone, or staring at us from the National Enquirer at a million checkout lines –and I’m not! Like the Kardashians.  Like Tonya Harding who is being reinvented as a ‘coming-of-age’ proletarian heroine decades after the ‘unfortunate incident’ when a hit man was hired to cripple her skating arch rival Nancy Kerrigan. “I, Tonya” is the modest title pf the film Americans are breathlessly awaiting. What next – “I, Charles Manson”?
 Envy is at the essence of the celebrity cultureFame used to be the deserved reward of those who did something special and praiseworthy. They succeeded beyond the norm – in politics, in the arts, in sports, in war, even at times in learning. The famous earned the praise and attention they received. In the past, a contemporary celebrity like Kim Kardashian would not be famous; she would beinfamous –with all the heavy negative connotations that the term carried.  That is to say, she had done nothing commendatory. Indeed, she had behaved in a gross if not immoral manner. These days, the words famous and infamous are conflated into the term celebrity.
The fading of any measure or common standard by which to judge conduct at once encourages anti-social behavior, eliminates a sense of shame, and makes the public unnaturally indiscriminant in its reaction. One example: hedge fund titans who extract billions from gaming the system gain widespread respect – even though their ethics are at the same level as the guy who deals three-card monte on the sidewalk outside Bloomingdale’s on Lexington Avenue. And the damage they inflict on persons and the country is infinitely greater. A Presidential candidate who boasts that he physically assaulted 23 women, often in public,  easily transmutes notoriety into popularity to win 50% of the vote from an electorate who are bedazzled by his celebrity. The same for his tax evasion.
The Pentagon sends 17 bemedalled commanders to Afghanistan to follow each other in abject failure, punctuated by strings of lies, yet every one of the generals, as well as those uniformed and civilian superiors who lauded them, has received the acclaim accorded a triumphant warrior.  As he is crowned with laurels (another row of ribbons and a promotion), the celebrity General declares that “we have turned the corner.” In truth, that means we have gone around the block 4 times to arrive at the exact spot we started: dealing 3-card monte at Dupont Circle up the street from the Brookings Institution. By the way, Brookings’ new president is Marine General John R. Allen – one of the “Kabul 16” alumni association.
 The universe of celebrity has its own compulsions, its own vocabulary, its own venues for disseminating news. Indeed, its own definition of news: what celebrities are up to. Somehow, this is considered more genuine, more real (as in reality show), more people oriented, more democratic than how we imagined and treated the famous in bygone times. Even our highest officials and leaders are infected by the celebrity bug. Magnified and caricatured by the Orangutan.
 The celebrity ethos has left its mark even on our sane leaders. Barack Obama relished being a celebrity – as he does today in a jet-setting retirement.  At the banal level, his preferred and habitual way of addressing the American people was via talk shows – be it Oprah,The ViewBetween the Palmssome ethnic themed radio station in Atlantic, or a jazz bash in Chicago. He avoided the televised Oval Office address to the country as somehow less authentic than the popular trendy media. As one staffer explained: “the Oval Office speech is so 1980s.”  This despite the simple fact that any one of Obama’s forays into the entertainment realm meant speaking to only a tiny fraction of the audience that tunes in to a retro White House performance – and an attentive one at that. By the end of his tenure, few listened to what Obama was saying – or cared. Yet, the celebrity motif never was questioned.
The point, though, is not to communicate directly to the American people in soberly identifying an issue, explaining its significance and making the case for a particular course of action. Rather, it’s about affirming oneself – about being recognized as communicating per se which, in a way, is taken to be almost more important than the substance of what he is saying. The fact that the President was on The View would be broadcast ad nauseum for the next 48 hours – accompanied by the one or two talking points that White House spun to get reported.  That is celebrity communication and that is the effect that the President of the United States, as the nation’s chief celebrity, wants to have. It’s impressions that register, not thoughts or convictions.
 We were shown how this phenomenon unfolds when Obama spoke impromptu at the White House of his reaction to the verdict in the notorious Zimmerman trial. That hurriedly organized meeting with the press was a last resort. The President had spent the previous two days giving interviews to a series of Hispanic radio stations – expecting, we are told, that he would get a question about the trial offering an opportunity to say a few well-chosen words. The question was never popped. So a frustrated President had to speak more or less formally from the White House – albeit avoiding that so-1980s format.  That is the bizarre world of celebrity governance we inhabit.
 Obama demonstrated that penchant for celebrity gab-communication once again on the graver matter of NSA’s comprehensive electronic spying on American citizens. When the scandal broke, the White House pledged a “conversation” with Americans on the constitutional and ethical issues raised. After six weeks of silence, Obama chose the Leno Show for making a few disjointed remarks . These were little more than the by then stale talking points that the administration had been pushing. His strongest assertion was that the government never looks at the content of emails and related communications. It was a lie – as proven two days later by The New York Times in quoting verbatim NSA documents  that it in fact it did examine emails for any reference to terrorist related activities or groups. By blatantly lying, Obama implicitly disparaged the issues’ importance while failing to show a decent respect for the opinions and legitimate concerns of his fellow citizens. Insult was added to injury by his choosing for this fabrication the perch normally reserved for self-promoting hams - hardly the proper location from which to explain why he had chosen to repeal unilaterally the Fourth Amendment.
This same mentality that finds the most authentic truth in its portrayal by the image-makers was on display after the killing of Osama bin-Laden. Within days of the event, the White House was in touch with Hollywood figures offering a deal whereby privileged access would be accorded in exchange for a glorified rendering of the decade long drama on the silver screen. The eventual account delivered a congratulatory adulation of implacable American heroes and heroines who brought honor and a just conclusion to the 9/11 saga. It took the liberty of shamelessly embellishing the already airbrushed story that was the official version. The main point is not virtual truth vs actual truth; rather, it is the unquestioned belief that the only reality that ultimately counts is that etched on the national consciousness by those who script our celebrations for us.
Indeed, Obama’s entire career can be viewed as an audacious exercise in scripted production – including his best-selling book, “Dreams From My Father,” which first vaulted him into the celebrity realm. A book largely written by friend Bill Ayres who took a very rough draft and turned into a literate, coherent work.
 Celebrity status provides its own legitimation. Once you have been recognized as a public personality, how you got there is forgotten.  Thus, the aforementioned Kim Kardashian. Thus, the authors and executors of the disastrous intervention in Iraq sold by deceit and lies circulate freely everywhere – from TV talk shows, to expert witnesses before Congress, to Council on Foreign Relations panels, to prestigious positions at Ivy League universities, to corporate boards, to now back at the highest levels of government. Thus, the bizarre phenomenon of self-declared aspirants for the White House whose disqualifications are glossed over once they manage to inveigle their way onto a few of those interminable pseudo-events we call “debates.”
Thus, the tinsel town mogul David Geffen who uses his mega-yacht to lure the famous into his web – Barack Obama in Tahiti preceded by Javanka who warmed the berth for him in Croatia a few months earlier. Common ground on the star struck celebrity seas. Celebrity itself forges bonds that transcend all else; it makes one feel part of an exclusive elite caste.
 Celebrity is an immutable status. There is nothing too moronic, there is no display of ignorance too mind boggling, there is no addled comment too outrageous, there is no lapse of elementary logic that seemingly can jeopardize that standing.  Trump is proving that daily.
Tawdry actions simply add to the celebrity – that includes ones of minor criminality. They open a whole new subject for self-observation and voyeurism. Celebrity is a sort of popularly granted mark of nobility that carries a set of irrevocable privileges.  And if you don’t have it, all the gravity, depth of thought, articulateness and humanity in the world won’t help you break into the charmed circle.

Our leaders no longer aspire to be viewed as heroes.* A hero is exalted by his fellow citizens because he has accomplished something remarkable requiring exceptional traits of character or competence. A hero surpasses the famous by dint of extraordinary effort and extraordinary achievement. Heroes have something inside them that, under certain conditions, leads them to transcend the normal and the expected. Are our times conducive to the emergence of a hero? Yes – dealing with the grave dangers posed by predatory finance requires a hero, to cite one example. Talking squarely with the American people about how
the country has betrayed its principles and jeopardized its well-being since 9/11 requires a hero. However, those who are habituated to life on the celebrity circuit cannot and never will be heroes. Indeed, they may even have lost the instinct to distinguish between fame and heroism.
Barack Obama’s case is uniquely instructive on this point. Seemingly, he had the makings of a hero. In form, he was dignified, articulate, and cool. His words were high-minded. In terms of opportunity, he entered the White House at the very moment when the nation was shaken to its economic foundation by the great financial crisis. It was a crisis that exposed the Wall Street’s rapaciousness, ruthlessness and utter contempt for the public welfare. In so doing, it exposed as well the bankruptcy of market fundamentalist thinking that denounced regulation in the public interest and exalted private greed. Here was an historic opportunity for a man with the making of a hero to rise to the occasion.
Barack Obama did the exact opposite. He rode to Wall Street’s rescue, gave the malefactors blanket immunity, subordinated the interests of citizens to the corporate elite, and perpetuated the myths that had opened the way to their abuses. It is said that Franklin Roosevelt saved American capitalism. Barack Obama, by comparison, saved American predatory capitalism. Moreover, he failed totally to raise the national consciousness about the proper and necessary role of government to secure the general welfare, to restrain the influence of nefarious special interests, and to guard against the assault on the great social accomplishments of the past century. Today’s Trump-led plutocracy is his bequest to the nation.
Obama had a weakness for the celebrity life-style when he entered office. He saw his priority as making the country feel good about itself, to do so by building comity without regard to its foundations. As he said a few weeks ago, his greatest disappointment was his inability to create a bipartisan consensus. Not to defeat the forces of regression and racism and xenophobia – but bipartisanship for its own sake. The self-indulgent notion that Americans craved displays of unity above all, be it on whatever – even eroding Social Security and MEDICARE, as Obama proposed in 2011 - was the path of least resistance for someone without convictions but with aspiration to be celebrated. Something to talk about  before the audiences that pay him $400,000 a pop to inspire them, before the TV audience for late night shows, before a select audience of hedge fund pirateers, before Hollywood stars and Silicon Valley billionaires on mega-yachts and private islands in the South Seas.
A cynic might say that Obama first sought celebrity as a stepping stone to the Presidency, and then the White House as a stepping stone to a lifetime of celebrity.
That is not the stuff heroes are made from. They do not imagine the pinnacle of achievement is sitting in a circle against a backdrop of American flags, holding hands with sworn enemies, and singing Kumbaya.

*David Petraeus.  At his retirement ceremony from the Army before assuming the Directorship of the CIA, he was inducted by Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Admiral Mike Mullen into the hallowed ranks of George Washington, Ulysses S. Grant, Dwight Eisenhower and Douglas MacArthur. That was rarified company for an officer who never saw combat, never won a war, was outsmarted in negotiations with Iraq’s Nouri al-Maliki who sent him and his fellow Americans packing, abandoned his own strategy in Afghanistan in order to register short-term virtual successes measured in body counts, and concluded his career by having an unsavory affair with a Major (reserve, married) in Army Intelligence. Soon after, he was invited to teach a couple of courses at Columbia and the City University of New York that was ready to shell out $200,000 to have a celebrity star on its roster. The very model of the post-modern celebrity-hero. Two years later, Petraeus’ “model” Iraqi Army threw down their arms and ran from the ISIS before Mosul.


International Women's Day

8 March 2018 International Women's Day
The Balance of Yin and Yang

By Dr. René Wadlow
President, Association of World Citizens

It is only when women start to organize in large numbers that women become a political force, and begin to move towards the possibility of a truly democratic society in which every human being can be brave, responsible, thinking and diligent in the struggle to live at once freely and unselfishly.

8 March is the International Day of Women and thus a time to highlight the specific role of women in local, national and world society. International Women's Day was first proposed by Clara Zetlin (1857-1933) at the Second International Conference of Socialist Women in Copenhagen in 1911. Later, she served as a socialist-communist member of the German Parliament during the Wiemar Republic which existed from 1920 to 1933 when Hitler came to power. Zetlin went into exile in the Soviet Union shortly after Hitler came to power. She died several months later in 1933.

Zetkin had lived some years in Paris and was active in women's movements there. The women were building on the 1889 International Congress for Feminine Works and Institutions held in Paris under the leadership of Ana de Walska. De Walska was part of the circle of young Russian and Polish intellectuals in Paris around Gerard Encausse (1865-1916), a spiritual writer who wrote under the pen name of Papus and edited a journal L'Initiation.(1) Papus stressed the need for world peace and was particularly active on the human rights of Armenians.

This turn-of-the-century spiritual milieu was influenced by Indian and Chinese thought. Translations of fundamental Asian philosophical texts were increasingly known in an educated public. 'Feminine' and 'masculine' were related to the Chinese terms of Yin and Yang − not opposed but in a harmonic balance. Men and women alike have within themselves the Yin and Yang psychological characteristics. 'Feminine' characteristics or values include intuitive, nurturing, caring, sensitive and relational traits. 'Masculine' traits are rational, assertive and analytical.

As individual persons, men and women alike can achieve a state of wholeness, of balance between the Yin and Yang. However, in practice, 'masculine' refers to men and 'feminine' to women. Thus, some feminists identify the male psyche as the prime cause of the subordination of women around the world. Men are seen as having nearly a genetic coding that leads them to 'seize' power, to institutionalize that power through patriarchal societal structures and to buttress that power with masculine values and culture.

Thus Clara Zetkin saw the need to call attention in a forceful way to the role that women as women play in society and the many blocks which men place in their way. She made her proposal in 1911 and today 8 March is widely observed.

Women, individually and in groups, have played a critical role in the struggle for justice and peace in all societies. However, when real negotiations start to pull a community out from a cycle of violence, women are often relegated to the sidelines. There is a need to organize so that women are at the negotiating table to present their ingenuity, patience and determination.

The emerging world society has been slow to address the problem of injustice to women, because it has lacked a consensus on sex-based inequality as an urgent issue of political justice. The outrages suffered every day by millions of women − domestic violence, child sexual abuse, child marriage, inequality before the law, poverty and lack of dignity − are not uniformly regarded as ignominious and seen as human rights abuses.

Solidarity and organization are crucial elements to create sustainable ways of living in which all categories of people are encouraged to contribute. 8 March 2018 is a reminder of the positive steps taken but also the distance yet to be covered.

  1. See the biography by Marie-Sophie André and Christophe Beaufils Papus (Paris: Berg International, 1995, 354pp.)

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Thursday, March 1, 2018

Lowering the Practice of Female Sexual Mutilation

Lowering the Practice of Female Sexual MutilationLowering the Practice of Female Sexual Mutilation
by Rene Wadlow

6 February had been designated in 2004 by the United Nations General Assembly  as the "International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation."  I have difficulties in setting overly high ambitions.  "The elimination of poverty" is often set out in U.N. resolutions as an aim.  The reduction of poverty and steps toward meeting the basic  needs of all, I believe, is a program which can be undertaken.  Likewise, lowering the practice of female genital mutilation through education, research, and public discussion, is a realistic aim and builds on work already undertaken while "zero tolerance" is not an aim on which a program can be drawn.

Research and studies on sexual beliefs and practices has been a sensitive topic - even a taboo - in most countries.  The controversies over the 1948 publication of the  Kinsey Reportand its 1953 follow up on female sexuality in the USA is a good indication, despite the fact that discussion of sexuality in the USA was probably more advanced than in any other country.


The United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) first raised the issue of genital mutilation under the code name of "traditional or customary practices" in a request to the World Heath Organization (WHO) in 1959.  The WHO refused to consider the request on the grounds that the "ritual operation in question are based on social and cultural backgrounds, the study of which is outside the competence of the WHO"

It was only in 1975 - the first International Year of Women - that the issue started being raised again by a few non-governmental organizations (NGOs).  In 1977, the Inter-African Committee on Traditional Practices Affecting the Health of Women and Children was created in Geneva.. The President, Mrs Berhane Ras-Work, had been one of my students in a course I gave on African women and social development at the Graduate Institute of Development Studies in Geneva  for the 1975 Women's Year.  Thus I have followed efforts on the issue since then and voiced support in the UN Commission on Human Rights (now the Human Rights Council). It was at a WHO seminar in Khartoum, Sudan, in 1979 that the unambiguous term of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) was first coined and is largely used since.

Given the difficulties of research on the issue, we have only overall estimates and studies in limited geographic areas, mostly in West Africa. It is estimated by WHO that over three million female children and girls in over 32 countries are mutilated each year.  The WHO estimates that some 200 million girls and women in Africa have undergone some form of female genital mutilation.  Studies showing the practice as wide spread in Yemen have been carried out but very few in the wider Middle East except for some studies carried out by NGOs in Iraqi Kurdistan.  In much of the Middle East, discussions of sexuality and personal relations is kept in the private sphere.  The culture of psychoanalysis which has led in the West to in depth discussions of sexual drives has not developed in the Middle East. (1)

Given the lack of in depth discussion, especially with people living at the village level, it is difficult to know what are the social-psychological motivations of the practice - which on the physical level has only negative consequences.  In the rare interviews on the topic, women give different and multiple reasons for genital mutilations.  For some women, it is a rite of passage to adulthood.  For some it is considered aesthetically pleasing.  For others it is related to morality and finding a suitable husband for their daughter.   One of the main factors behind the persistence of FGM is its social significance for women.  In most areas where it is practiced, a woman achieves recognition mainly through marriage and childbearing.  It is thought that many men would refuse to marry a woman who has not undergone FGM.
As most of the countries where genital mutilation is practiced are Muslim-majority countries, Islamic religious justifications are given.  In practice, Islamic scholars disagree on the issue.  Some say there is no obligation while others refer to the mention of female circumcision (as it is often called) in the Hadith (the collections of sayings and actions of the Prophet Muhammed).  There is agreement among scholars that there is no obligation of a ban on the practice.

Nevertheless, Muslim-majority States have voted in favor of U.N. General Assembly resolutions calling upon all States " to intensify efforts to raise awareness of and to mobilize international and national public opinion concerning the harmful effects of traditional or customary practices affecting the health of women and girls, including female genital mutilation."

Such resolutions provide the policy legitimacy for dealing with the issue, but there is a need for local leaders and communities to lead in putting an end to these harmful practices.  Thus, there is a need for education and local initiatives of awareness raising programs among both women and men.  It is especially in the rural areas where the practice is most tenacious and is considered as vital to identity and family life.  There is especially a need for education to counter the deep-set fears of female sexuality on the part of men. This fear maintains an atmosphere conducive to FGM which is thought to lessen the female desire for sex.

There is a need to help develop new self-images and visions of the aim of life - not an easy task.  However only deep transformations of the images and drives of the Self will lessen negative practices and open the door to a healthy growth of the Self.

1) See A joint WHO/UNICEF/UNFPA statement Female genital mutilation
     (Geneva: World Health Organization, 1997)

   Rene Wadlow, President, Association of World Citizens

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Thursday, December 7, 2017

Violence Against Women: Why the UN Secretary-General Got it Wrong

Violence Against Women: 
Why the UN Secretary-General Got it Wrong
Dr.Robert J. Burrowes

In his remarks on the recent International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women – see ‘Violence Against Women is Fundamentally About Power’ – United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres inadvertantly demonstrated why well-meaning efforts being undertaken globally to reduce violence against women fail to make any progress in addressing this pervasive crisis.

Hence, while the UN might be ‘committed to addressing violence against women in all its forms’ as he claimed, and the UN might have launched a range of initiatives over the past twenty years, including awarding $129 million to 463 civil society initiatives in 139 countries and territories through the UN Trust Fund to End Violence against women, his own article acknowledges that ‘Attacks on women are common to developed and developing countries. Despite attempts to cover them up, they are a daily reality for many women and girls around the world.’

And, without realizing it, the Secretary-General effectively nominated (by omission) why so little progress has been made on this vital issue: ‘As Prime Minister of Portugal, one of my most difficult battles was to win recognition that family violence and especially against women was a serious issue’. The omission here is appalling and yet few reading the line will be able to identify it.

While I want to acknowledge the commitment of those within and outside the UN who work on this critical issue, it is simply the case that if we do not understand the cause of violence against women then any ‘strategy’ to address the problem must fail, as the record in recent decades (since the issue gained a significant profile in response to feminist agitation) demonstrates.

In fact, of course, if we do not understand the fundamental cause of violence, then attempts to address it in any context must either fail outright or meet with only limited success.

So what is the cause of violence, including violence against women?

Perpetrators of violence learn their craft in childhood. If you inflict violence on a child, they learn to inflict violence on others. The terrorist suffered violence as a child. The political leader who wages war suffered violence as a child. The man who inflicts violence on women suffered violence as a child. The corporate executive who exploits working class people and/or those who live in Africa, Asia or Central/South America suffered violence as a child. The racist or religious bigot suffered violence as a child. The individual who perpetrates violence in the home, in the schoolyard or on the street suffered violence as a child.

If we want to end violence against women then we must finally end our longest and greatest war: the adult war on children. And here is an additional incentive: if we do not tackle the fundamental cause of violence, then our combined and unrelenting efforts to tackle all of its other symptoms must ultimately fail. And extinction at our own hand is inevitable.

How can I claim that violence against children is the fundamental cause of all other violence? Consider this. There is universal acceptance that behaviour is shaped by childhood experience. If it was not, we would not put such effort into education and other efforts to socialize children to fit into society. And this is why many psychologists have argued that exposure to war toys and violent video games shapes attitudes and behaviours in relation to violence.

But it is far more complex than this and, strange though it may seem, it is not just the ‘visible’ violence (such as hitting, screaming at and sexually abusing) that we normally label ‘violence’ that causes the main damage, although this is extremely damaging. The largest component of damage arises from the ‘invisible’ and ‘utterly invisible’ violence that we adults unconsciously inflict on children during the ordinary course of the day. Tragically, the bulk of this violence occurs in the family home and at school. See ‘Why Violence?’ and ‘Fearless Psychology and Fearful Psychology: Principles and Practice’.

So what is ‘invisible’ violence? It is the ‘little things’ we do every day, partly because we are just ‘too busy’. For example, when we do not allow time to listen to, and value, a child’s thoughts and feelings, the child learns to not listen to themSelf thus destroying their internal communication system. When we do not let a child say what they want (or ignore them when they do), the child develops communication and behavioral dysfunctionalities as they keep trying to meet their own needs (which, as a basic survival strategy, they are genetically programmed to do).

When we blame, condemn, insult, mock, embarrass, shame, humiliate, taunt, goad, guilt-trip, deceive, lie to, bribe, blackmail, moralize with and/or judge a child, we both undermine their sense of Self-worth and teach them to blame, condemn, insult, mock, embarrass, shame, humiliate, taunt, goad, guilt-trip, deceive, lie, bribe, blackmail, moralize and/or judge.

The fundamental outcome of being bombarded throughout their childhood by this ‘invisible’ violence is that the child is utterly overwhelmed by feelings of fear, pain, anger and sadness (among many others). However, mothers, fathers, teachers and other adults also actively interfere with the expression of these feelings and the behavioral responses that are naturally generated by them and it is this ‘utterly invisible’ violence that explains why the dysfunctional behavioral outcomes actually occur.

For example, by ignoring a child when they express their feelings, by comforting, reassuring or distracting a child when they express their feelings, by laughing at or ridiculing their feelings, by terrorizing a child into not expressing their feelings (e.g. by screaming at them when they cry or get angry), and/or by violently controlling a behavior that is generated by their feelings (e.g. by hitting them, restraining them or locking them into a room), the child has no choice but to unconsciously suppress their awareness of these feelings.

However, once a child has been terrorized into suppressing their awareness of their feelings (rather than being allowed to have their feelings and to act on them) the child has also unconsciously suppressed their awareness of the reality that caused these feelings. This has many outcomes that are disastrous for the individual, for society and for nature because the individual will now easily suppress their awareness of the feelings that would tell them how to act most functionally in any given circumstance and they will progressively acquire a phenomenal variety of dysfunctional behaviors, including some that are violent towards them-self, others and/or the Earth.

From the above, it should also now be apparent that punishment should never be used. ‘Punishment’, of course, is one of the words we use to obscure our awareness of the fact that we are using violence. Violence, even when we label it ‘punishment’, scares children and adults alike and cannot elicit a functional behavioural response. See ‘Punishment is Violent and Counterproductive’.

If someone behaves dysfunctionally, they need to be listened to, deeply, so that they can start to become consciously aware of the feelings (which will always include fear and, often, terror) that drove the dysfunctional behaviour in the first place. They then need to feel and express these feelings (including any anger) in a safe way. Only then will behavioural change in the direction of functionality be possible. See ‘Nisteling: The Art of Deep Listening’.

‘But these adult behaviors you have described don’t seem that bad. Can the outcome be as disastrous as you claim?’ you might ask. The problem is that there are hundreds of these ‘ordinary’, everyday behaviors that destroy the Selfhood of the child. It is ‘death by a thousand cuts’ and most children simply do not survive as Self-aware individuals. And why do we do this? We do it so that each child will fit into our model of ‘the perfect citizen’: that is, obedient and hardworking student, reliable and pliant employee/soldier, and submissive law-abiding citizen.

Moreover, once we destroy the Selfhood of a child, it has many flow-on effects. For example, once you terrorise a child into accepting certain information about themself, other people or the state of the world, the child becomes unconsciously fearful of dealing with new information, especially if this information is contradictory to what they have been terrorized into believing. As a result, the child will unconsciously dismiss new information out of hand.

In short, the child has been terrorized in such a way that they are no longer capable of learning (or their learning capacity is seriously diminished by excluding any information that is not a simple extension of what they already ‘know’). If you imagine any of the bigots you know, you are imagining someone who is utterly terrified. But it’s not just the bigots; virtually all people are affected in this manner making them incapable of responding adequately to new (or even important) information. This is one explanation why some people are ‘climate deniers’ and most others do nothing in response to the climate catastrophe.

Of course, each person’s experience of violence during childhood is unique and this is why each perpetrator becomes violent in their own particular combination of ways. This explains, for example, why the violence of some men against women manifests as sexual violence, including rape.

So what is happening psychologically for the rapist when they commit the act of rape? In essence, they are projecting the (unconsciously suppressed) feelings of their own victimhood onto their rape victim. That is, their fear, self-hatred and powerlessness, for example, are projected onto the victim so that they can gain temporary relief from these feelings. Their fear, temporarily, is more deeply suppressed. Their self-hatred is projected as hatred of their victim. Their powerlessness is temporarily relieved by a sense of being in control, which they were never allowed to be, and feel, as a child. And similarly with their other suppressed feelings. For example, a rapist might blame their victim for their dress: a sure sign that the rapist was endlessly, and unjustly, blamed as a child and is (unconsciously) angry about that.

The central point in understanding violence is that it is psychological in origin and hence any effective response must enable both the perpetrator’s and the victim’s suppressed feelings (which will include enormous fear about, and rage at, the violence they have suffered) to be safely expressed. For an explanation of what is required, see ‘Nisteling: The Art of Deep Listening’.

Unfortunately, this nisteling cannot be provided by a psychiatrist or psychologist whose training is based on a delusionary understanding of how the human mind functions. See ‘Defeating the Violence of Psychiatry’. Nisteling will enable those who have suffered from trauma to heal fully and completely, but it will take time.

So if we want to end violence against women, we must tackle the fundamental cause. Primarily, this means giving everyone, child and adult alike, all of the space they need to feel, deeply, what they want to do, and to then let them do it (or to have the feelings they naturally have if they are prevented from doing so). See ‘Putting Feelings First’. In the short term, this will have some dysfunctional outcomes. But it will lead to an infinitely better overall outcome than the system of emotional suppression, control and punishment which has generated the incredibly violent world in which we now find ourselves.

This all sounds pretty unpalatable doesn’t it? So each of us has a choice. We can suppress our awareness of what is unpalatable, as we have been terrorized into doing as a child, or we can feel the various feelings that we have in response to this information and then ponder ways forward.

If feelings are felt and expressed then our responses can be shaped by the conscious and integrated functioning of thoughts and feelings, as evolution intended, and we can plan intelligently. The alternative is to have our unconscious fear controlling our thinking and deluding us that we are acting rationally.

It is time to end the adult war on children so that all of the other violence that emerges from this cause can end too.

So what do we do?

Well, if you are willing, you can make the commitment outlined in ‘My Promise to Children’. If you need to do some healing of your own to be able to nurture children in this way, then consider the information provided in the article ‘Putting Feelings First’.

You might also deeply consider, and act in response to, the extraordinary damage inflicted on children by sending them to school. See ‘Do We Want School or Education?’

Why are these so important? Because if you want a boy (or girl) who is nonviolent, truthful, compassionate, considerate, patient, thoughtful, respectful, generous, loving of themself and others, trustworthy, honest, dignified, determined, courageous and powerful, then the boy (or girl) must be treated with – and experience – nonviolence, truth, compassion, consideration, patience, thoughtfulness, respect, generosity, love, trust, honesty, dignity, determination, courage and power.

So each one of us has an important choice. We can acknowledge the painful truth that we inflict enormous violence on our children (which then manifests in all directions) and respond powerfully to that truth. Or we can keep deluding ourselves and continue to observe, powerlessly, as the violence in our world proliferates until human beings are extinct.

In addition to addressing this violence, you are also welcome to consider participating in ‘The Flame Tree Project to Save Life on Earth’ which maps out a fifteen-year strategy for creating a peaceful, just and sustainable world community so that everyone has an ecologically viable planet on which to live. And, if you like, you can join the worldwide movement to end all violence by signing online ‘The People’s Charter to Create a Nonviolent World’.

In essence, if you want a man who doesn’t inflict violence on women, then his mother and father should not inflict (visible, invisible and utterly invisible) violence on him as a boy.

Biodata: Robert J. Burrowes has a lifetime commitment to understanding and ending human violence. He has done extensive research since 1966 in an effort to understand why human beings are violent and has been a nonviolent activist since 1981. He is the author of ‘Why Violence?’ His email address is and his website is here.