Thursday, August 30, 2007

Democracy Now! | "The APA Has Long Been a Clan" - Psychologist, Author Mary Pipher Returns APA Award Over Interrogation Policy

Democracy Now! | "The APA Has Long Been a Clan" - Psychologist, Author Mary Pipher Returns APA Award Over Interrogation Policy

AMY GOODMAN: Mary Pipher rose to national acclaim with the publication of her book Reviving Ophelia, which remained on the New York Times bestseller list for some 150 weeks. She has written a number of other books. Her latest is Writing to Change the World. I began by asking Dr. Pipher why she decided to return her award from the APA.

MARY PIPHER: I’ve been following this issue as a psychologist for a couple years, mostly on your show, Amy. But last Sunday, August 19, APA, American Psychological Association, passed what they call Substitute Motion Three, which essentially allows psychologists to continue in their roles supervising and in some ways overseeing, planning the interrogations at places like Guantanamo and perhaps black sites, as well. I was very upset by this.

I also watched your show on Monday. I had read the Vanity Fair piece by Katherine Eban, a wonderful piece, the Jane Mayer piece in The New Yorker. And it all came together. And I just decided I really don't want our organization to go this way. I’ve had a very good long-term relationship with APA. I’m very proud of my profession, but I was so aware that we were making a terrible mistake, and I felt it was my -- it was really a moral imperative that I act.

I thought my act would be of small import, and no doubt it will be of small import, but I hoped two things would happen as a result of it. One would be that American Psychological Association once again join the other helping professions: American Medical Association, American Psychiatric Association, American Nursing Association, all professions that do not permit their members to be in Guantanamo or the CIA sites. The other thing is, I realized that if psychologists weren't in those sites, they could not exist, because we give those sites legitimacy. And the only thing that allows President Bush and the CIA to have a sort of veneer over what’s happening there and pretend as if they are different places than, say, the bowels of prisons in the Congo or Egypt, is that we supposedly have medical supervision. And psychologists are those medical overseers. So I think that if enough people were interested in this, if enough psychologists stood up, it wouldn't just be a matter of our organization passing a better vote, stopping our members from being involved in enhanced interrogations, it would be a matter of really having the whole structure fall. So that’s very much my hope, and I’ll be a small part of it.

AMY GOODMAN: Dr. Pipher, what do you say to those who resisted the moratorium on psychologist participation in these interrogations, saying if psychologists aren't there, they can't make it better, that psychologists who are there could protest if they see torture taking place?

MARY PIPHER: Well, first of all, psychologists designed much of the torture. We were involved with the SERE project at Fort Bragg. We developed the protocols. And what our field has actually done is create through reverse-engineering, actually, some of the earlier methods for our captured [POWs]. We reverse-engineered them into a very rapid and heinous process by which almost anyone could be broken down and hallucinating and psychotic and, in a sense, destroying their mind within about twenty-four hours, forty-eight hours. And so, we’ve been very, very much a part of this.

If we leave, first of all, it can't happen anymore. But secondly, if we leave, what we’re really saying is psychologists are not involved as interrogators. You know, this goes back. My mother was a doctor in a small town. And first of all, she was a very good person. And she was one of these people that she told me a lot of stories, and all of her stories had a strong moral crux. But she took her work very seriously. She worked very hard. And one of the things that I remember her saying was parts of the Hippocratic Oath. Here’s one of them: never do harm to someone for someone else's benefit. That’s what we’re claiming to do. That violates the most basic of standards for caregivers. The other thing is, make your patient your highest priority. Psychologists, doctors, we are about helping people. That is our mission. And so, anytime we do something else, we become something else. And it’s very important to me that I am defined not by the APA's current recent behavior, not by the APA’s Substitute Motion Three, but that I’m defined as my mother was defined, by a way of thinking about human beings that in a sense insists I treat all human beings as people of worth and dignity.

You know, I remember one thing that happened a lot. I lived out in rural Nebraska. My mom had to do everything. I mean, she was the doctor at football games. She did all the physicals. She sat with old farmers while they were dying. But she always carried her little black doctor bag. And if we stopped along a road because there was a car wreck -- we did that all the time -- she and my dad -- had been a medic in the war -- would jump out and run for that accident victim. And they didn't ask that person if they had a criminal history. They didn't ask that person if they were a Republican or a Democrat or paying their taxes or had the proper identification. They took care of that person. And that's what I think is our job as psychologists, just as my mother thought it was her job as a doctor.

AMY GOODMAN: Dr. Mary Pipher, you have worked with torture victims. Explain when you worked with them, where you did and what you learned.

MARY PIPHER: Well, I’ve worked in two capacities. First of all, I’ve always been someone deeply interested in human rights -- again, I think, from my mother. But I was marching in 1965 in Kansas City to desegregate. I was a long-term member of Amnesty International. I was writing, ironically -- today I was writing urgent action messages all over the world to protest the torture of specific people who are being held in facilities, sadly not unlike some of the facilities where we’re holding, in quotes, “enemy combatants.” The other thing, though, is I’ve long worked with Physicians for Human Rights. I’ve done Asylum. I wrote a book, Middle of Everywhere, in which I immersed myself in our refugee community for about three years, and I have always worked with refugees in our poverty programs, and so on.

The other thing, though, is just as a therapist I’ve spent my entire life helping traumatized people. I listen to the damage that people talk about when they’ve been -- for example, someone whose child has been murdered. One time we worked with a policeman who had accidentally killed someone, someone who’s been raped or had a child who was sexually assaulted, someone who’s been abandoned by their long-term mate. I understand trauma very well.

And two things I know about torture victims, Amy. One is many of them are innocent of any wrongdoing. They were tortured for purely political reasons. The other thing is there is always lasting harm. There is always lasting harm. I could tell you stories of specific people, if we had the time, but what I know for sure is if you have been locked up and treated as an animal, you're never the same person again. It's like you have a chronic disease like diabetes or schizophrenia or Parkinson's: you’re forever compromised. Your mind indeed has been very changed by those experiences.

So I think because of my empathy and my understanding and my moral education, I was someone who was perhaps more aware of these issues than many other issues. The other thing, too, and I’m very lucky in this, is I’m not in a bad position. I don't have to make my living participating in behavior that’s questionable. I’ve always tried to arrange my life that way, and I’m proud that I’ve been able to. But I’m someone who can speak on these issues and probably not be terribly hurt by it.

There was a young woman in our town recently, Alex Svoboda. You did a story on her, I believe. She was badly beaten by the police in North Providence when she was protesting for some workers who weren't receiving their human rights. And I’m actually friends of her parents. They live here in Lincoln. And I saw the pictures of her, you know, sitting on the ground with her leg twisted behind her. And I know how long she’s been in the hospital in the ICU and have heard wrenching stories from her parents. And it reminded me of this story -- I don't know if you remember it -- that James Baldwin told. But he had left this country, didn't care for America. It wasn't good to blacks, and it wasn’t good to gay men. And he had moved to Paris, where he was having a great time, very respected, very admired. He never planned to come back to the States. And then the Birmingham bombing occurred, and he said he would return to the States and work for civil rights. And his line, which I remember very well, is “I will not let the Civil Rights Movement be carried on the back of four-year-old girls.” And so, another influence for me in the last couple weeks, thinking about my decision, was I was thinking about Alex Svoboda, this young idealistic girl who’s trying to protect workers from working a hundred hours a week for less than minimum wage and about her lying in a hospital all broken up. And I was thinking it’s not fair that we ask our twenty-year-olds to do all the fighting. We sixty-year-olds, we people who have a little authority, we should be on the front lines with these issues. So I’m just very lucky I was in a position I could do something. There’s thousands of people --

AMY GOODMAN: Dr. Mary Pipher, are you encouraging other psychologists to -- what are you urging other psychologists to do? I was going to say to return their awards, but you’re unique, or you’re one of the few who have received such a high honor.

MARY PIPHER: I’m very unique because of that. Well, I think in a matter of conscience it’s better not to encourage people to do a specific action, beyond, I think, every psychologist in the country who is in accord with my thinking should do something to let APA know how deeply upset they are. Now, I actually know some things people are doing, like resigning, for example. I wouldn't recommend that. That’s a very complicated question.

But I think that the APA has long been a clan; the top leadership, the people on the council have been there for decades. It’s a very ingrown group of people. And I think we probably need some new leadership in APA. I’m not even a member of APA at this point. I closed my office in 2000, and I allowed all of my memberships to lapse. But I think for the members, it would be an excellent thing to really look not only at this specific decision, but the whole way that APA at this point is functioning.

For everyone in America, I have a different agenda, and that is, at some point in this country we all started to feel hopeless, and we all started to think that there was really nothing we could do, that we were too weak and we were too small and we just had to lie down and let the government and the different forces that were knocking us down just roll right over us. And my own feeling about that is, the best antidote to that kind of despair is get to work. And I believe everybody in America has something important they can do that will make a difference. And so, that's what I really want to see happen.

I’ve had a lot of young people come up to me -- in fact, I’ve had calls from all over the world by now, and everybody is saying, “What you did gave me hope.” And I think what every one of us does gives other people hope. And we can all do that. And we can start to regain our belief in this country as a competent country, as a decent country, as the beacon on the hill that it’s been historically now for 300 years.

MARY PIPHER: You know, how Pete Seeger always said about music: it isn't whether or not it’s good, it’s what it’s good for. And I didn't come at writing as an academic or as a poet or a creative writer. I came at writing as a social activist, and I want every one of my books to have a very powerful effect in changing the culture. And so, I have spent a lot of time figuring out how to do it. And the way to do it is have a deeply personal voice, my own authentic voice that comes from deep within myself, and my writing and speaking voice are virtually identical. And then, the other way to do it is through stories, because you can’t argue with a story. You know, people can argue with you if you stand up and say what you believe or don't believe, but if you tell them a story and tell them a story that opens their heart, they will change. So that's what the book is about, is writing in a way that we can effect change.

And I talk about this idea that the point of my kind of writing is to empower the powerless, to give voice to people who have no voice, but also to educate readers in what I call the moral imagination. And that is the ability to understand the world from other people's points of view. And that’s an extremely big problem in America right now, is people don't have much moral imagination, so that when they talk about, say, “illegal aliens,” they don't have a story, they don't have a face, they don't have a picture of a real person. They have almost no empathy with the person they’re talking about.

I remember when Sensenbrenner was talking about gaming the asylum system and how we had to go after those terrorists gaming the asylum system. At that point I had just happened to have been back to Bellevue in New York City to visit their unit for victims of torture. The people on that unit that were seeking asylum were Buddhist monks from Tibet. And I just thought, “Man, Sensenbrenner hasn't been here. You know, he hasn’t been to Center for Victims of Torture in Minneapolis.”

And so, the job of the change writer, from my point of view, is to say I respect you as a reader, and I know if I tell you the truth, as I see it, having spent some time listening to people and asking them -- you know, Simone Weil had that question, “What is your experience?”-- asking people, “What is your experience?” which I did when I wrote Middle of Everywhere, my book on refugees. I spent three years asking people that. And it greatly enhanced my own moral imagination to listen to all those stories. You also have a good job for enhancing your moral imagination. But that’s the job of the writer: to help other people’s moral imagination grow, basically.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Democracy Now! | "The Media Dissector" Danny Schechter on Karl Rove's Resignation, the Subprime Mortgage Crisis and AT&T's Censorship of Pearl Jam

Democracy Now! | "The Media Dissector" Danny Schechter on Karl Rove's Resignation, the Subprime Mortgage Crisis and AT&T's Censorship of Pearl Jam

AMY GOODMAN: Well, let’s talk about the subprime crisis. Plummeting stocks on Wall Street have forced the mainstream media and economists to finally take notice of the housing bubble and the related dangers of the subprime lending industry. The New York Times laments what it calls the “spiraling credit crisis.” The Wall Street Journal points to the “debt bomb.” The Center for Economic and Policy Research says many journalists and economists have long ignored the facts. The housing market has been seriously overvalued for the past ten years. Its collapse will cause a severe recession with grave consequences for millions of families. The subprime loan industry has emerged as a major and controversial player in the housing market. A recent study by the Center for Responsible Lending indicates subprime loans have led to one million American families losing their homes in the past decade. Danny, you’ve been writing extensively about this.

DANNY SCHECHTER: I’ve been writing about it, and I also made the film In Debt We Trust, and we have a website,, to try to organize a campaign for debt relief in America. In other words, Bono has called for debt relief in Africa. We have to start fighting for debt relief in America. A moratorium on these foreclosures would be a first step, and also an investigation into the profiteers on Wall Street. We're talking about literally billions of dollars that have just been spent by the Federal Reserve and by central banks around the world to try to prop up the system. A lot of that is really benefiting the people who created the problem in the first place: the hedge funds, the financial analysts who went ahead with this effort.

This subprime thing is really serious. I don't know if your viewers are all clear of it, or your listeners, but basically people who didn't have adequate credit to get homes were told, “No problem. Just pay us a little bit more, and we will give you the mortgage.” Then they took the mortgage. They resold the mortgage back into Wall Street into what are called securitization trusts. These trusts then not only financed more acquisitions and buyouts and the like, but they also basically made incredible amounts of money for these people.

So we're now facing a situation, the New York Times -- I love this phrase -- just the other day talked about a “moral hazard,” meaning that the risk takers who brought on this panic would feel bailed out again. And they are being bailed out again. And the problem is the opposition is not saying much about it. The Democrats are not talking about it. Activists are ignoring it, maybe because economics is the dismal science.

But we have been getting a lot of response to our film, In Debt We Trust, and to this issue, because it’s an issue that brings together people across the partisan lines, across class lines, across racial lines. It could be the issue that could lead to a fight for economic justice in this country.

AMY GOODMAN: You talk about the hedge funds, for example, and how they're connected to this. Do you think that it's not a major issue in the presidential race, because the very moneyed class that these politicians are both coming from, some of them, but also appealing to for money are those that are a part of this?

DANNY SCHECHTER: Yeah, well, we saw this, and I document this in my film, In Debt We Trust, about the bankruptcy reform bill, where tremendous amounts of money were spent on lobbyists, $151 million to try to get this “reform” passed, and Democrats supported it, as well as Republicans. So it wasn't just, you know, the big bad Bushies here, but it was sort of the Democrats, as well, who were implicated. And part of the reason was, is because their campaign donors include these very wealthy companies and financial institutions and real estate developers. So it's very much a part of the deeper corruption of our financial and economic system.

AMY GOODMAN: How do you think it has to be dealt with right now?

DANNY SCHECHTER: Well, it has to be dealt with -- first of all, we have to become more aware of it and put this issue more on our agenda. I mean, the military has just tried to spur reenlistments to Iraq by saying, “We'll help you pay off your debts. If you have college loans, we’ll help you pay them off.” So debt is central and part of that crisis, as well. So what we need to do, it seems to me, is (a) inform ourselves -- screenings of In Debt We Trust might help in that process -- secondly, we need to push for regulation. We need an investigation. We need to have prosecution of these big corporate guys who have been making so much money off the misery of so many Americans and to try to put an end to these processes. So it's a -- you have to stop talking about subprime, you have to start talking about subcrime, which is an article that I wrote on the other day, and it’s gotten a tremendous response. We have to criminalize these practices, not just nod at them and bail out the people who have put us in the situation.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Gmail - [Leon_e_almanac] Leonardo Electronic Almanac Supplement - Volume 15, Number 7 - 8, 2007

"By this I do not mean that materialism in any way fails for lack of a theology, nor that the sacred forms some ontological ground on which the material world is more deeply founded. Rather, what has been often lacking is a commitment to understanding that affect which we recognise under the rubric of sacredness, an elevation beyond not merely the instinctual but also the intellectual pleasures, a yearning apart from the desire for justice, peace and plenty for all. Since the term sacred has, moreover, been tainted by centuries of mouthing in institutions that have done little for justice, peace or plenty, we need another term, one that might displace the materialist reluctance to address affect in general and this affect in particular. I propose a mediological enquiry into the nature of wonder, a task admirably launched by Zielinski's book."

Antonia Hirsch

Antonia Hirsch:

Tacet is a three-channel video installation, each channel featuring a full-body portrait of an orchestral conductor. Each of the three conductors is sight-reading the national anthem of one of the member states of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

When mentally conjuring up the sounds of an orchestra, the musicians’ involuntary movements, changes in breathing, etc., manifest their sense of the music’s rhythm, volume, or a particularly dramatic moment in the score.

All that is audible within the installation space are the incidental sounds of the musician’s reading — the shuffle of paper, the rustle of clothing, a sharp intake of breath — the body of the conductor acting as a catalyst for the music.

In Tacet, the national anthems act as a cipher for a democratic system’s necessary basis: the collectively imagined nation state. Globalization has given rise to economically-driven state alliances such as NAFTA, thereby calling into question the relevance of the nation state — together with its democratic institutions. Tacet explores how the collective fiction of the nation state is individually embodied and critiques conventional models aiming to harmonize divergent voices.

Monday, August 06, 2007

How to See a Work of Art in Total Darkness - The MIT Press

How to See a Work of Art in Total Darkness - The MIT Press

How to See a Work of Art in Total Darkness
Darby English

Table of Contents

Work by black artists today is almost uniformly understood in terms of its "blackness," with audiences often expecting or requiring it to "represent" the race. In How to See a Work of Art in Total Darkness, Darby English shows how severely such expectations limit the scope of our knowledge about this work and how different it looks when approached on its own terms. Refusing to grant racial blackness--his metaphorical "total darkness"--primacy over his subjects' other concerns and contexts, he brings to light problems and possibilities that arise when questions of artistic priority and freedom come into contact, or even conflict, with those of cultural obligation. English examines the integrative and interdisciplinary strategies of five contemporary artists--Kara Walker, Fred Wilson, Isaac Julien, Glenn Ligon, and William Pope.L--stressing the ways in which this work at once reflects and alters our view of its informing context: the advent of postmodernity in late twentieth-century American art and culture.

The necessity for "black art" comes both from antiblack racism and resistances to it, from both segregation and efforts to imagine an autonomous domain of black culture. Yet to judge by the work of many contemporary practitioners, English writes, black art is increasingly less able--and black artists less willing--to maintain its standing as a realm apart. Through close examinations of Walker's controversial silhouettes' insubordinate reply to pictorial tradition, Wilson's and Julien's distinct approaches to institutional critique, Ligon's text paintings' struggle with modernisms, and Pope.L's vexing performance interventions, English grounds his contention that to understand this work is to displace race from its central location in our interpretation and to grant right of way to the work's historical, cultural, and aesthetic specificity.