NEWSLETTER OF THE INTERNATIONAL PSYCHOHISTORICAL ASSOCIATION

FALL 2023
[includes WINTER 2024]

Volume 42, No. 4

Inna Rozentsvit, Editor

1.
LETTER TO THE EDITOR: PSYCHOHISTORY IS NOT STAGNANT

by Paul H. Elovitz

Dear Editor,

In the fine Summer issue of this Newsletter, Ken Fuchsman, in citing Arthur Eaton’s “History Telling: The Rise and Fall Of Psychohistory”, could readily leave the casual reader with the impression that psychohistory is a stagnant field. While I’m confident that this is not Ken’s belief or his intention with the piece, I don’t want readers to come away with this erroneous notion.  Let me explain why:

  1. The Psychohistory Forum is constantly coming up with new ideas and methodologies. For example, the forthcoming issue of their journal, Clio’s Psyche, is focused on the relationship of poetry to psychohistory.  To the best of my knowledge this is the first special issue on this subject.
  2. Psychohistorical ideas are disseminated throughout the world: Going online during the COVID-19 pandemic made psychohistory a much more international movement.
    The Psychohistory Forum now has a growing number of international two-year electronic members of the Psychohistory Forum.
  3. I just received an email from an Iranian colleague that 12 of the 14 chapters of my The Making of Psychohistory: Origins, Controversies, and Pioneering Contributors have been translated into Persian, and I have also been asked to write a preface to this version.
  4. The Psychohistory Forum’s Psychobiography Reading Group is thriving, having online meetings every other month. The November 14, 2023 meeting will be focused on Freud’s
  5. The Psychohistory Forum has raised money for and will be publishing (assuming there are enough submissions) a special psychobiography issue in 2024. This will be in addition to our usual three issues.
  6. Clio’s Psyche already has a variety of submissions for its special issues on the Psychohistory of Antisemitism (Jew-Hatred) and the Psychological Explorations of Election 2024.
  7. Clio’s Psyche has a considerable backlog of material, and it is publishing its 110th The Journal of Psychohistory has been publishing since the early 1970s and therefore has even far more issues.
  8. Lifetime Achievement Awards have been given out to about nine colleagues and the next issue of Clio’s Psyche will include the Peter Webb Petschauer Festschrift, which has the most submissions ever received. On December 2, 2023, we granted these awards to four distinguished women: Carol Gilligan, Nancy Chodorow, Eva Fogelman, and Nancy McWilliams.
  9. This newsletter, thanks to the work of Inna Rozentsvit, Ken Fuchsman, and perhaps others, is making substantial contributions to psychohistory.

Ken, who did such wonderful work during his presidency of the IPhA in confronting some of the negativity about psychohistory in the formal historical profession, should be applauded for his willingness to confront our challenges.  As a historian, I can say that the American Historical Association (AHA) abandoned psychohistory, which is why I am one of many who did not renew his membership, leading to only four people listing psychohistory as their subfield.  In fact, I personally suffered when at a personnel meeting (which I was not allowed to attend in person), this figure was cited by a colleague who hates psychohistory, though he uses what we do in his writings.

Jacques Szaluta confronted the editor of the American Historical Review (AHR) when he declared that he has not and will never publish psychohistory. Jacques should be commended for his many efforts in asking our historical profession to be as open-minded as they were in the 70s and 80s when they published various psychohistorical articles by Peter Loewenberg and the editor of the AHR. I saw no reason to pay membership dues to receive a journal that had abandoned the work that I and many others have been doing.  In the era of the Internet, the AHA and AHR are not the gatekeepers of history.

While I’m not sure if Ken independently came across the studies by Eaton and Pawelec elsewhere, I know I regularly have sent links to these out to our Psychohistory Forum Clio’s Psyche Leadership Team, of which Ken is a valued member. While we in psychohistory pay attention to what’s going on in our professions of origin and sometimes regret their actions, we have kept psychohistory from being anything but a stagnant field.  Thanks, Ken, for bringing up these issues.

Best regards,

Paul H. Elovitz

Paul H. Elovitz, PhD, is a founding member of the IPhA, founder and director of the Psychohistory Forum, founder and editor of Clio’s Psyche, a contributing editor of The Journal of Psychohistory, the author of over 400 psychohistorical publications, and a proud psychohistorical historian.  He may be contacted at .

2.
INTERNATIONAL PSYCHOHISTORICAL ASSOCIATION’S 47th ANNUAL CONFERENCE
SAVE THE DATES: MAY 31st – June 2nd, 2024 (FRIDAY-SUNDAY)
VIRTUALLY ON ZOOM

HOPES and FEARS for OUR POLARIZED WORLD:
PSYCHOHISTORICAL PERSPECTIVES
SUBTHEMES: PSYCHOHISTORICAL INSIGHTS ON
• WAR IN ISRAEL/PALESTINE AND UKRAINE
• DEATH ANXIETY AND TERROR MANAGEMENT THEORY
• ULTRANATIONALIST, FUNDAMENTALIST, AND OTHER AUTHORITARIAN MOVEMENTS
• 2024 US PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES AND CAMPAIGNS
• ROOTS OF ADULT PSYCHOPATHOLOGY IN CHILDHOOD TRAUMA
• PSYCHOANALYSIS, HUMANE PARENTING, AND INDIVIDUAL AND COLLECTIVE HEALING

Besides the topics and subtopics above, the presentations will cover a wide range of topics within the field of psychohistory, encompassing the intersection of psychology/psychoanalysis and history.

Whether you are exploring individual case studies, broader historical trends, or methodological innovations, we welcome diverse perspectives that contribute to the richness of our community’s intellectual dialogue.

We believe that your participation in the conference will not only enrich your own understanding, but also contribute to the collective knowledge and growth of our field.

Our confirmed featured speakers are:

For more information about the featured speakers and the conference schedule,
please visit https://psychohistory.us/conference/

3.
“WHY WAR?” — LETTERS BETWEEN ALBERT EINSTEIN AND SIGMUND FREUD

A NOTE FROM THE EDITOR:

Nearly a year has passed since the Carnegie Corporation of New York released its sobering assessment of the top-tier risks to global peace and security in 2023. Among these concerns loomed the specter of the China-Taiwan conflict, with potential entanglements drawing in the United States and other regional powers. The list also highlighted the perilous escalation of tensions in Ukraine, the volatile military standoffs between Israel and Iran over nuclear proliferation and regional proxy conflicts, and the pressing issue of migration surges toward the United States, among other pressing global challenges (source: Carnegie Corporation of New York). In essence, the world finds itself immersed in a maelstrom of tension, conflict, and the looming shadow of warfare.

Can humanity find a path to liberation from the perpetual threat of war? Is it conceivable to harness the primal forces of human aggression towards safeguarding against the impulses of hatred and annihilation? These profound questions were posed to Sigmund Freud in a poignant missive from Albert Einstein, dated July 30, 1932, amidst the rising tide of Fascist and Nazi violence sweeping across Europe. Einstein, recognizing Freud as a sage in the study of human instincts, sought counsel on the psychical roots of behavior and avenues by which the ceaseless conflicts plaguing humanity might be quelled. Though penned nearly a century ago, the echoes of their discourse resonate eerily with our contemporary struggles.

Presented below is an edited rendition of Albert Einstein’s letter to Sigmund Freud, entitled “Why War?” This letter, along with Freud’s insightful response, was originally published in 1933 by the International Institute of Intellectual Cooperation. These exchanges formed part of an esteemed international series of open letters, sponsored by the Institute, wherein luminaries of intellectual thought exchanged perspectives on paramount issues, chief among them being the looming menace of war (source: UNESCO Courier, May 1985).

__________________________

WHY WAR? A LETTER FROM ALBERT EINSTEIN TO SIGMUND FREUD
Caputh near Potsdam, July, 30, 1932

Dear Professor Freud,

…Is there any way of delivering mankind from the menace of war?

It is common knowledge that, with the advance of modern science, this issue has come to mean a matter of life and death for civilization as we know it; nevertheless, for all the zeal displayed, every attempt at its solution has ended in a lamentable breakdown.

I believe, moreover, that those whose duty it is to tackle the problem professionally and practically are growing only too aware of their impotence to deal with it and have now a very lively desire to learn the views of men who, absorbed in the pursuit of science, can see world-problems in the perspective distance lends. As for me, the normal objective of my thought affords no insight into the dark places of human will and feeling. Thus, in the enquiry now proposed, I can do little more than seek to clarify the question at issue and, clearing the ground of the more obvious solutions, enable you to bring the light of your far-reaching knowledge of man’s instinctive life to bear upon the problem…

…As one immune from nationalist bias, I personally see a simple way of dealing with the superficial (i.e., administrative) aspect of the problem: the setting up, by international consent, of a legislative and judicial body to settle every conflict arising between nations. Each nation would undertake to abide by the orders issued by this legislative body, to invoke its decision in every dispute, to accept its judgments unreservedly and to carry out every measure the tribunal deems necessary for the execution of its decrees.

But here, at the outset, I come up against a difficulty; a tribunal is a human institution which, in proportion as the power at its disposal is inadequate to enforce its verdicts, is all the more prone to suffer these to be deflected by extrajudicial pressure. This is a fact with which we have to reckon; law and might inevitably go hand in hand, and juridical decisions approach more nearly the ideal justice demanded by the community (in whose name and interests these verdicts are pronounced) in so far as the community has effective power to compel respect of its juridical ideal. But at present we are far from possessing any supranational organization competent to render verdicts of incontestable authority and enforce absolute submission to the execution of its verdicts. Thus I am led to my first axiom: the quest of international security involves the unconditional surrender by every nation, in a certain measure, of its liberty of action, its sovereignty that is to say, and it is clear beyond all doubt that no other road can lead to such security.

The ill-success, despite their obvious sincerity, of all the efforts made during the last decade to reach this goal leaves us no room to doubt that strong psychological factors are at work, which paralyze these efforts. Some of these factors are not far to seek. The craving for power which characterizes the governing class in every nation is hostile to any limitation of the national sovereignty. This political power-hunger is wont to batten on the activities of another group, whose aspirations are on purely mercenary, economic lines. I have specially in mind that small but determined group, active in every nation, composed of individuals who, indifferent to social considerations and restraints, regard warfare, the manufacture and sale of arms, simply as an occasion to advance their personal interests and enlarge their personal authority.

But recognition of this obvious fact is merely the first step towards an appreciation of the actual state of affairs. Another question follows hard upon it: how is it possible for this small clique to bend the will of the majority, who stand to lose and suffer by a state of war, to the service of their ambitions? (In speaking of the majority, I do not exclude soldiers of every rank who have chosen war as their profession, in the belief that they are serving to defend the highest interests of their race, and that attack is often the best method of defense.) An obvious answer to this question would seem to be that the minority, the ruling class at present, has the schools and press, usually the Church as well, under its thumb. This enables it to organize and sway the emotions of the masses and make its tool of them.

Yet even this answer does not provide a complete solution. Another question arises from it: How is it these devices succeed so well in rousing men to such wild enthusiasm, even to sacrifice their lives? Only one answer is possible. Because man has within him a lust for hatred and destruction. In normal times this passion exists in a latent state, it emerges only in unusual circumstances; but it is a comparatively easy task to call it into play and raise it to the power of a collective psychosis. Here lies, perhaps, the crux of all the complex of factors we are considering, an enigma that only the expert in the lore of human instincts can resolve.

And so we come to our last question. Is it possible to control man’s mental evolution so as to make him proof against the psychoses of hate and destructiveness? Here I am thinking by no means only of the so-called uncultured masses. Experience proves that it is rather the so-called “Intelligentzia” that is most apt to yield to these disastrous collective suggestions, since the intellectual has no direct contact with life in the raw, but encounters it in its easiest, synthetic form upon the printed page.

To conclude: I have so far been speaking only of wars between nations; what are known as international conflicts. But I am well aware that the aggressive instinct operates under other forms and in other circumstances. (I am thinking of civil wars, for instance, due in earlier days to religious zeal, but nowadays to social factors; or, again, the persecution of racial minorities). But my insistence on what is the most typical, most cruel and extravagant form of conflict between man and man was deliberate, for here we have the best occasion of discovering ways and means to render all armed conflicts impossible.

Yours very sincerely,

Einstein

__________________________

WHY WAR? A LETTER FROM FREUD TO EINSTEIN

by Sigmund Freud

You begin with the relations between Might and Right, and this is assuredly the proper starting-point for our enquiry. But, for the term “might,” I would substitute a tougher and more telling word: “violence.” In right and violence, we have today an obvious antinomy. It is easy to prove that one has evolved from the other…

Conflicts of interest between man and man are resolved, in principle, by recourse to violence. It is the same in the animal kingdom, from which man cannot claim exclusion; nevertheless, men are also prone to conflicts of opinion, touching, on occasion, the loftiest peaks of abstract thought, which seem to call for settlement by quite another method. This refinement is, however, a late development.

To start with, brute force was the factor which, in small communities, decided points of ownership and the question of which man’s will was to prevail. Very soon physical force was implemented, then replaced, by the use of various adjuncts; he proved the victor whose weapon was the better or handled the more skillfully.

Now, for the first time, with the coming of weapons, superior brains began to oust brute force, but the object of the conflict remained the same: one party was to be constrained, by the injury done him or impairment of his strength, to retract a claim or a refusal. This end is most effectively gained when the opponent is definitively put out of action in other words, is killed.

This procedure has two advantages; the enemy cannot renew hostilities, and, secondly, his fate deters others from following his example. Moreover, the slaughter of a foe gratifies an instinctive craving a point to which we shall revert hereafter. However, another consideration may be set off against this will to kill: the possibility of using an enemy for servile tasks if his spirit be broken and his life spared. Here violence finds an outlet not in slaughter but in subjugation. Hence springs the practice of giving quarter; but the victor, having from now on to reckon with the craving for revenge that rankles in his victim, forfeits to some extent his personal security.

FROM VIOLENCE TO LAW

[…] We know that in the course of evolution this state of things was modified, a path was traced that led away from violence to law. But what was this path? Surely it issued from a single verity; that the superiority of one strong man can be overborne by an alliance of many weaklings, that l’union fait la force. Brute force is overcome by union, the allied might of scattered units makes good its right against the isolated giant.

Thus, we may define “right” (i.e., law) as the might of a community. Yet it, too, is nothing else than violence, quick to attack whatever individual stands in its path, and it employs the selfsame methods, follows like ends, with but one difference; it is the communal, not individual, violence that has its way.

But, for the transition from crude violence to the reign of law, a certain psychological condition must first obtain. The union of the majority must be stable and enduring. If its sole raison d’être be the discomfiture of some overweening individual and, after his downfall, it be dissolved, it leads to nothing. Some other man, trusting to his superior power, will seek to reinstate the rule of violence and the cycle will repeat itself unendingly.

Thus, the union of the people must be permanent and well-organized; it must enact rules to meet the risk of possible revolts; must set up machinery ensuring that its rules the laws are observed and that such acts of violence as the laws demand are duly carried out. This recognition of a community of interests engenders among the members of the group a sentiment of unity and fraternal solidarity which constitutes its real strength.

[…] Now the position is simple enough so long as the community consists of a number of equipollent individuals. The laws of such a group can determine to what extent the individual must forfeit his personal freedom, the right of using personal force as an instrument of violence, to ensure the safety of the group.

But such a combination is only theoretically possible; in practice the situation is always complicated by the fact that, from the outset, the group includes elements of unequal power, men and women, elders and children, and, very soon, as a result of war and conquest, victors and the vanquished i.e., masters and slaves as well. From this time on the common law takes notice of these inequalities of power, laws are made by and for the rulers, giving the servile classes fewer rights.

Thenceforward there exist within the state two factors making for legal instability, but legislative evolution, too: first, the attempts by members of the ruling class to set themselves above the law’s restrictions and, secondly, the constant struggle of the ruled to extend their rights and see each gain embodied in the code, replacing legal disabilities by equal laws for all.

The second of these tendencies will be particularly marked when there takes place a positive mutation of the balance of power within the community, the frequent outcome of certain historical conditions. In such cases the laws may gradually be adjusted to the changed conditions or (as more usually ensues) the ruling class is loath to reckon with the new developments, the result being insurrections and civil wars, a period when law is in abeyance and force once more the arbiter, followed by a new regime of law. There is another factor of constitutional change, which operates in a wholly pacific manner, viz: the cultural evolution of the mass of the community; this factor, however, is of a different order and can only be dealt with later.

A SUPREME AUTHORITY

Thus, we see that, even within the group itself, the exercise of violence cannot be avoided when conflicting interests are at stake. But the common needs and habits of men who live in fellowship under the same sky favour a speedy issue of such conflicts and, this being so, the possibilities of peaceful solutions make steady progress. Yet the most casual glance at world history will show an unending series of conflicts between one community and another or a group of others, between large and smaller units, between cities, countries, races, tribes, and kingdoms, almost all of which were settled by the ordeal of war. Such wars end either in pillage or in conquest and its fruits, the downfall of the loser.

No single all-embracing judgement can be passed on these wars of aggrandizement. Some, like the war between the Mongols and the Turks, have led to unmitigated misery; others, however, have furthered the transition from violence to law, since they brought larger units into being, within whose limits a recourse to violence was banned and a new regime determined all disputes. Thus, the Roman conquests brought that boon, the pax Romana, to the Mediterranean lands. The French kings’ lust for aggrandizement created a new France, flourishing in peace and unity. Paradoxical as it sounds, we must admit that warfare well might serve to pave the way to that unbroken peace we so desire, for it is war that brings vast units into being, within whose frontiers all warfare is proscribed by a strong central power.

In practice, however, this end is not attained, for as a rule the fruits of victory are but short-lived, the newly created unit falls asunder once again, generally because there can be no true cohesion between the parts that violence has welded. Hitherto, moreover, such conquests have only led to aggregations which, for all their magnitude, had limits, and disputes between these units could be resolved only by recourse to arms. For humanity at large the sole result of all these military enterprises was that, instead of frequent not to say incessant little wars, they had now to face great wars which, for all they came less often, were so much the more destructive.

Regarding the world of today, the same conclusion holds good, and you, too, have reached it, though by a shorter path. There is but one sure way of ending war and that is the establishment, by common consent, of a central control which shall have the last word in every conflict of interests. For this, two things are needed: first, the creation of such a supreme court of judicature; secondly, its investment with adequate executive force. Unless this second requirement be fulfilled, the first is unavailing. Obviously, the League of Nations, acting as a Supreme Court, fulfils the first condition; it does not fulfil the second. It has no force at its disposal and can only get it if the members of the new body, its constituent nations, furnish it. And, as things are, this is a forlorn hope.

Still, we should be taking a very short-sighted view of the League of Nations were we to ignore the fact that here is an experiment the like of which has rarely been attempted in the course of history, and never before on such a scale. It is an attempt to acquire the authority (in other words, coercive influence), which hitherto reposed exclusively on the possession of power, by calling into play certain idealistic attitudes of mind.

We have seen that there are two factors of cohesion in a community: violent compulsions and ties of sentiment (“identifications,” in technical parlance) between the members of the group. If one of these factors becomes inoperative, the other may still suffice to hold the group together. Obviously, such notions as these can only be significant when they are the expression of a deeply rooted sense of unity, shared by all. It is necessary, therefore, to gauge the efficacy of such sentiments. History tells us that, on occasion, they have been effective. For example, the Panhellenic conception, the Greeks’ awareness of superiority over their barbarian neighbours, which found expression in the Amphictyonies, the Oracles and Games, was strong enough to humanize the methods of warfare as between Greeks, though inevitably it failed to prevent conflicts between different elements of the Hellenic race or even to deter a city or group of cities from joining forces with their racial foe, the Persians, for the discomfiture of a rival. The solidarity of Christendom in the Renaissance age was no more effective, despite its vast authority, in hindering Christian nations, large and small alike, from calling in the Sultan to their aid. And, in our times, we look in vain for some such unifying notion whose authority would be unquestioned. It is all too clear that the nationalistic ideas, paramount today in every country, operate in quite a contrary direction. Some there are who hold that the Bolshevist conceptions may make an end of war, but, as things are, that goal lies very far away and, perhaps, could only be attained after a spell of brutal internecine warfare. Thus, it would seem that any effort to replace brute force by the might of an ideal is, under present conditions, doomed to fail. Our logic is at fault if we ignore the fact that right is founded on brute force and even today needs violence to maintain.

LIFEFORCE AND DEATH INSTINCT

I now can comment on another of your statements. You are amazed that it is so easy to infect men with the war-fever, and you surmise that man has in him an active instinct for hatred and destruction, amenable to such stimulations. I entirely agree with you. I believe in the existence of this instinct and have been recently at pains to study its manifestations.

In this connexion may I set out a fragment of that knowledge of the instincts, which we psychoanalysts, after so many tentative essays and gropings in the dark, have compassed? We assume that human instincts are of two kinds: those that conserve and unify, which we call “erotic” (in the meaning Plato gives to Eros in his Symposium), or else “sexual” (explicitly extending the popular connotations of “sex”); and, secondly, the instincts to destroy and kill, which we assimilate as the aggressive or destructive instincts. These are, as you perceive, the well-known opposites, Love and Hate, transformed into theoretical entities; they are, perhaps, another aspect of those eternal polarities, attraction and repulsion, which fall within your province. But we must be chary of passing overhastily to the notions of good and evil. Each of these instincts is every whit as indispensable as its opposite and all the phenomena of life derive from their activity, whether they work in concert or in opposition.

It seems that an instinct of either category can operate but rarely in isolation; it is always blended (“alloyed,” as we say) with a certain dosage of its opposite, which modifies its aim or even, in certain circumstances, is a prime condition of its attainment. Thus the instinct of self-preservation is certainly of an erotic nature, but to gain its ends this very instinct necessitates aggressive action. In the same way the love-instinct, when directed to a specific object, calls for an admixture of the acquisitive instinct if it is to enter into effective possession of that object. It is the difficulty of isolating the two kinds of instinct in their manifestations that has so long prevented us from recognizing them.

If you will travel with me a little further on this road, you will find that human affairs are complicated in yet another way. Only exceptionally does an action follow on the stimulus of a single instinct. […] As a rule several motives of similar composition concur to bring about the act.

When a nation is summoned to engage in war, a whole gamut of human motives may respond to this appeal; high and low motives, some openly avowed, others slurred over. The lust for aggression and destruction is certainly included; the innumerable cruelties of history and man’s daily life confirm its prevalence and strength. The stimulation of these destructive impulses by appeals to idealism and the erotic instinct naturally facilitates their release. Musing on the atrocities recorded on history’s page, we feel that the ideal motive has often served as a camouflage for the lust of destruction; sometimes, as with the cruelties of the Inquisition, it seems that, while the ideal motives occupied the foreground of consciousness, they drew their strength from the destructive instincts submerged in the unconscious. Both interpretations are feasible.

[…] I would like to dwell a little longer on this destructive instinct which is seldom given the attention that its importance warrants. With the least of speculative efforts, we are led to conclude that this instinct functions in every living being, striving to work its ruin and reduce life to its primal state of inert matter. Indeed, it might well be called the “death-instinct”; whereas the erotic instincts vouch for the struggle to live on. The death instinct becomes an impulse to destruction when, with the aid of certain organs, it directs its action outwards, against external objects. The living being, that is to say, defends its own existence by destroying foreign bodies.

But, in one of its activities, the death instinct is operative within the living being and we have sought to trace back a number of normal and pathological phenomena to this introversion of the destructive instinct. We have even committed the heresy of explaining the origin of human conscience by some such “turning inward” of the aggressive impulse. Obviously when this internal tendency operates on too large a scale, it is no trivial matter, rather a positively morbid state of things; whereas the diversion of the destructive impulse towards the external world must have beneficial effects. Here is then the biological justification for all those vile, pernicious propensities which we now are combating. We can but own that they are really more akin to nature than this our stand against them, which, in fact, remains to be accounted for […]

The upshot of these observations, as bearing on the subject in hand, is that there is no likelihood of our being able to suppress humanity’s aggressive tendencies. In some happy corners of the earth, they say, where nature brings forth abundantly whatever man desires, there flourish races whose lives go gently by, unknowing of aggression or constraint. This I can hardly credit; I would like further details about these happy folk.

From our “mythology” of the instincts we may easily deduce a formula for an indirect method of eliminating war. If the propensity for war be due to the destructive instinct, we have always its counter-agent, Eros, to our hand. All that produces ties of sentiment between man and man must serve us as war’s antidote.

These ties are of two kinds. First, such relations as those towards a beloved object, void though they be of sexual intent. The psychoanalyst need feel no compunction in mentioning “love” in this connexion; religion uses the same language: Love thy neighbour as thyself. A pious injunction easy to enounce, but hard to carry out! The other bond of sentiment is by way of identification. All that brings out the significant resemblances between men calls into play this feeling of community, identification, whereon is founded, in large measure, the whole edifice of human society.

In your strictures on the abuse of authority I find another suggestion for an indirect attack on the war-impulse. That men are divided into leaders and the led is but another manifestation of their inborn and irremediable inequality. The second class constitutes the vast majority; they need a high command to make decisions for them, to which decisions they usually bow without demur. In this context we would point out that men should be at greater pains than heretofore to form a superior class of independent thinkers, unamenable to intimidation and fervent in the quest for truth, whose function it would be to guide the masses dependent on their lead. There is no need to point out how little the rule of politicians and the Church’s ban on liberty of thought encourage such a new creation.

The ideal conditions would obviously be found in a community where every man subordinated his instinctive life to the dictates of reason. Nothing less than this could bring about so thorough and so durable a union between men, even if this involved the severance of mutual ties of sentiment. But surely such a hope is utterly Utopian, as things are. The other indirect methods of preventing war are certainly more feasible but entail no quick results. They conjure up an ugly picture of mills that grind so slowly that, before the flour is ready, men are dead of hunger.

[…] But why do we, you and I and many another, protest so vehemently against war, instead of just accepting it as another of life’s odious importunities? For it seems a natural thing enough, biologically sound and practically unavoidable. I trust you will not be shocked by my raising such a question. For the better conduct of an inquiry it may be well to don a mask of feigned aloofness.

The answer to my query may run as follows: Because every man has a right over his own life and war destroys lives that were full of promise; it forces the individual into situations that shame his manhood, obliging him to murder fellow men, against his will; it ravages material amenities, the fruits of human toil, and much besides. Moreover wars, as now conducted, afford no scope for acts of heroism according to the old ideals and, given the high perfection of modern arms, war today would mean the sheer extermination of one of the combatants, if not of both.

This is so true, so obvious, that we can but wonder why the conduct of war is not banned by general consent/Doubtless either of the points I have just made is open to debate. It may be asked if the community, in its turn, cannot claim a right over the individual lives of its members. Moreover, all forms of war cannot be indiscriminately condemned; so long as there are nations and empires, each prepared callously to exterminate its rival, all alike must be equipped for war. But we will not dwell on any of these problems; they lie outside the debate to which you have invited me.

I pass on to another point, the basis, as it strikes me, of our common hatred of war. It is this: we cannot do otherwise than hate it. Pacifists we are, since our organic nature wills us thus to be. Hence it comes easy to us to find arguments that justify our standpoint.

This point, however, calls for elucidation. Here is the way in which I see it. The cultural development of mankind (some, I know, prefer to call it civilization) has been in progress since immemorial antiquity. To this phenomenon we owe all that is best in our composition, but also much that makes for human suffering. Its origins and causes are obscure, its issue is uncertain, but some of its characteristics are easy to perceive

The psychic changes which accompany this process of cultural change are striking, and not to be gainsaid. They consist in the progressive rejection of instinctive ends and a scaling down of instinctive reactions. Sensations which delighted our forefathers have become neutral or unbearable to us; and, if our ethical and aesthetic ideals have undergone a change, the causes of this are ultimately organic.

On the psychological side two of the most important phenomena of culture are, firstly, a strengthening of the intellect, which tends to master our instinctive life, and, secondly, an introversion of the aggressive impulse, with all its consequent benefits and perils. Now war runs most emphatically counter to the psychic disposition imposed on us by the growth of culture; we are therefore bound to resent war, to find it utterly intolerable. With pacifists like us it is not merely an intellectual and affective repulsion, but a constitutional intolerance, an idiosyncrasy in its most drastic form. And it would seem that the aesthetic ignominies of warfare play almost as large a part in this repugnance as war’s atrocities.

How long have we to wait before the rest of men turn pacifist? Impossible to say, and yet perhaps our hope that these two factors man’s cultural disposition and a well-founded dread of the form that future wars will take may serve to put an end to war in the near, future, is not chimerical. But by what ways or by-ways this will come about, we cannot guess. Meanwhile we may rest on the assurance that whatever makes for cultural development is working also against war. […]

4.
ON ISRAELI SOCIETY SINCE THE MASSACRE OF OCTOBER 7TH

FROM THE PERSPECTIVE OF AN ISRAELI JEWISH PSYCHOTHERAPIST
By Ziva Bracha Gidron
“Grief is dwelling in my heart, on one hand, and joy is lying next to it”
(Zohar)

ABSTRACT
On Saturday, October 7, 2023, Hamas Muslim Arab terrorists attacked Israeli civilians in the most brutal massacre after the holocaust. *1,200 Israeli civilians were slaughtered in the name of radical Islam. From that moment, Israeli society transformed from an extreme national trauma to a performance of unity, a great movement of volunteering in Israel and all over the Jewish communities in the world among all shades of society. This psycho-spiritual national movement from one state of fragmentation to another state of revelation is part of the ancient Jewish philosophy of always being able to “carry opposites” in a dialogical creative way.

This article also indicates one of the radical reactions to the massacre: the arousing of antisemitism and the world that seems to be silent again. The democratic world that justifies the massacre with the accusation of “free Palestine” permits the persecution of Jews just because they are Jews and denies their right to live in a sovereign state. Perceptions that Israel and Jews all over are the world’s “scapegoat” encourage, justify, and excuse evil. This includes the double standards of the women’s rights movement’s values, who stand silent when Jewish women were raped and slaughtered. The article emphasizes the psycho-historical Jewish commitment to raise our heads in a modest and prideful way and say, “I am Jewish.” Being Jewish in Israel is a right accompanied by a duty to do good and fight with no fear for this right.

INTRODUCTION
Two days before October 7, 2023, I gave a lecture to fellow therapists on the topic: “Hope in Psychotherapy and Hope in Judaism.” This was the subject of my doctoral thesis, and since 2019, I have been focusing on Hope as a psychic experience that reflects on the human spirit and expresses inner strength and ongoing continuity of life. In my lecture, I emphasized the ability to “carry opposites” and to “unite opposites.” This reflects my assumption that Hope can be created in an ongoing continuum between the two paradoxical human experiences: fragmentation and reparation. The lecture was concluded with a smiling and decisive statement that psychoanalysis, whose great founders were Jews, brought to this world the “healing through talking,” and that Jews all over human history brought substantial moral values to the world, the greatest of which is Hope. I believe that Hope is an essential phenomenon for any individual and that it has a special place in any therapeutic relationship. I summarized with a quote from the Talmud: “even if a sharp sword is hanging over one’s head, he should not prevent himself from mercy” (Talmud, 3rd century CE, Tractate Brachot). I finished the lecture, looked up at the sky, and smiled: the sky was bright.

At 6:30 am on Saturday, October 7th, during the holiday of Simchat Torah, the sky became dark. The people of Southern Israel, who lived near the Gaza border, most of them in kibbutzim, villages, and cities, as well as youngsters in Nova Peace and Love Festival, had not yet opened their eyes when predators in the form of Hamas terrorists torn their lives apart. After one day of this brutal massacre, 250 men, women, and children were kidnapped to Gaza. Houses were bombed or entirely burned. 1,200 Israeli civilians were beheaded, slaughtered, and burned alive. None of us understood whether we were in the 21st century or were the witnesses of some sort of mad medieval apocalypse.

In the new Nova film, the editors took the testimonies and photos of the young people who survived this horror, describing celebrating a few moments before, and then hearing the screaming of men and women that were brutally killed or raped. Can we give words and interpretation to such a chaotic experience that isn’t described in any psychological theory? Can someone be able to rewrite this day of Israeli history when evil entered our homes with one purpose: to horrify, demoralize, and kill Jewish people, and to destroy the only Jewish state in the Middle East?

In this article, I wish to be just one voice that calls upon all of us, all of humanity, as we are all responsible for healing this world from absolute evil. As a woman, a mother of soldiers in the army, a psychotherapist, and a psychodramatist for more than 24 years, I wish to describe the psycho-historic and spiritual journey experienced by me, an Israeli Jewish person, over 70 days since October 7th – from Simchat Torah to Hanukkah. As time passes by, it becomes clearer to me that the basic premise of this article is to talk about the psycho-spiritual ability of Israeli society to heal itself, reunite, and continue the journey of hope to live in peace in our land.

Unfortunately, the reality is that there is no place for peace right now; it is the time for war, and we are fighting for our lives. Israeli society transforms through this time in a dynamic, physically, and emotionally painful movement – from an experience of destruction to a feeling of phenomenal resilience and unity. The past 70 days felt like an ongoing dream, which I couldn’t translate into words. This is my first try to put a catastrophic experience into interpretative frameworks, words, definitions, and insights, although the words are barely adequate to describe and analyze what happened to us as Israelis and Jews.

WHAT AND WHY THIS HAPPENED?
As Israel was waking up to a holiday, about 3,000 Hamas murderers with green headbands with the inscription “Allah Hu Akbar” (a trained group of terrorists known as “Al-Nukhba,” meaning “tunnel fighters”) emerged from Gaza, heading towards kibbutzim and villages near Israel’s southern border, and a festival of peace-loving people. Heavily armed, and (according to the video footage) some of them intoxicated, they were filled with a crazed desire to murder Jews, shouting “itbach el-Yahud,” which means “slaughter the Jews.”

As a psychotherapist, I treated terror victims for years, but this was the first time I heard (“thanks” to the GoPro footage of the terrorists), that in the name of radical Islam, they had planned to murder, burn, and rape children, women, and men of all ages. The holiday of Simchat Torah, which was supposed to be the happiest of the Israeli holidays, turned into a day of terror and mourning.

Some people try to explain this day using modern psychology, which cultivates rational cause-and-effect relationships. They would say that the reason for the massacre was the occupation, anger, oppression, and distress of the Palestinians that pushed them to slaughter the “oppressive” Jews. Others might say that this is how all “freedom fighters” act, and by murdering the oppressors, they raise awareness of their suffering. Some might point to psychopathological motives for cruel sexual crimes. However, the actions in practice did not suit the criteria of these motives.

THE MOTIVE OF THE OCTOBER 7TH MASSACRE IS A PART OF THE NATIONAL TRAUMA
There is no doubt that the motive for the massacre (without too much psychology) is the identity of the victims: Israeli citizens and Jews living in a sovereign and democratic State of Israel, despite many of us, religious and secular, believing that the purpose of a person is to do good to those around him, and certainly do good for our Arab neighbors and the Palestinians. These good intentions came through in so many political agreements, like the Oslo Agreement (1993/1995) and the 2005 Israel’s (unilateral) disengagement from Gaza agreement (https://www.britannica.com/event/Israels-disengagement-from-Gaza), only to be followed by terror attacks from the Palestinians.

As an Israeli who believes in a dialogue between people, but unfortunately, I was wrong in my assumption that they could compromise. History proves that most Arab Muslim leaders, and especially Palestinian leaders, find it difficult to “carry complexity” and to realize the vital need to compromise in all kinds of conflicts. It took me years to understand that most of their leaders built their so-called “peace dialogue” as a cover for their real intentions, which are “everything or nothing.” The Palestinian leaders couldn’t care less about the suffering of their own people. Due the military actions of the IDF, it became evident that Hamas terrorists criminally used their own civilians as human shields. They concealed a huge amount of ammunition in private houses, hospitals, UNRRA help centers, schools, and kindergartens. Gaza’s civilians were part of a huge program of building tunnels that were aimed to hide Israeli hostages there. Therefore, the national trauma is based on historical criteria of the Jewish national survival trauma.

ISRAEL’S NATIONAL TRAUMA
Perhaps there is one clear “diagnosis” of the post-October-7th situation in Israel: the whole nation is experiencing its second-largest national trauma after the Holocaust. The murderers shot everything with their own GoPro cameras and posted the footage online. One of them recorded calling his parents and informing them proudly and enthusiastically that he slaughtered “10 Jews just now,” and the parents blessed him.

These scenes of pogroms were posted again and again, and the images became tougher and tougher to watch, let alone digest. This is why this trauma is defined as a national one. It took us a few days to realize that we are in a “historic time tunnel,” as if time had stopped. We are in the era of pogroms against Jews throughout all times in history: in Eastern Europe, in Islamic countries, and during the Holocaust.

In the DSM-5, trauma is defined as a consequence of one being exposed to death, severe injuries, sexual violence, and emotional abuse. The trauma of October 7th includes all those factors. One of the main effects of the trauma is the feeling of abandonment, which intensifies the loss. We lost not only the basic sense of security and the feeling that we are always protected, but we almost experienced the loss of faith and hope that our region could flourish again.

One of the ways to treat traumatic mental situations is to elevate the feeling of belonging. This national trauma feels much the same as what the gang-raped woman experiences when she is not believed after reporting what happened to her. Even her “close ones,” like various women’s organizations that etched #METOO on their banner, decided that this was the right time to remain silent. Because when Jews are attacked and Jewish women are raped, they are not considered worthy enough of protection. Perhaps because, like the State of Israel, these women are free, successful, and attractive, and not considered weak enough to arouse sympathy? Or perhaps, as stated in one of the graffiti at universities in the USA, “they deserve to be raped, murdered, slaughtered, and kidnapped.” This is a double trauma.

Another important factor of trauma here is that in this October 7th war, Hamas terrorists were using their own civilians as human shields, operating from hospitals, kindergartens, and schools. They know the IDF’s standards of protecting civilians. They also know that in the eyes of the rest of the world, any civilian casualties will add to political and propaganda attacks on Israel. Only now have I realized that they don’t really want any dialog; they simply wish to eliminate the state of Israel. It makes our national trauma even deeper.

The trauma in Israel hit three circles: the first circle included the survivors in the kibbutzim, villages, and cities in the South, and those who witnessed the murders and rapes there and at the Nova festival. This circle includes also the 250 hostages — men, women, and children — from less than one year old to 85 years old! Also, their families should be included here. The second circle is represented by their communities and those evacuated from the place of massacre, as well as their close friends. The third is the entire citizenry of Israel, who weren’t there physically, but who saw minute-by-minute what was going on there, via social networks and TV.

Almost 10 million residents of Israel experienced trauma in the second and third circles, physically and mentally attacked “alive,” staring at the TV screen, unable to do anything but freeze, and very quickly become enraged and fight. We know that trauma usually throws off the mental balance and encourages the three Fs: fight, flight, and freeze. However, precisely the opposite happened: the social cohesion, the burst of volunteering for help, and the mobilization for the war constituted and continue to constitute a very significant component in the healing processes.

THE CONSCIOUSNESS OF DEATH
Murderers who call themselves “Palestinian freedom fighters” declared that their distress justifies not only the killing of the body but also its burning alive (many families were burnt one after the other while each family member watched the burning), rape and gang-rape, and mutilation of the genitals of women and men who were raped (including the cutting off male and female genitalia after the rape). It turned out that the mutilation of the genitals of Jewish men constituted the main joy for the murderers. The butchers who committed these crimes were roaring the verses from the Quran.

It was the first time I understood that the history of the Muslim world is inspired to slaughter, rape, and murder as a religious duty. According to the radical interpretation of the Muslim religion, the good is not the absolute good derived from universal principles of justice and morality but an exact imitation of the actions of the founder of Islam, Muhammad. This contrasts with other currents in moderate Islam, and certainly the Sufis, the mystical Islam, which was a blessed source of inspiration for philosophy. However, Hamas in Gaza and most Palestinians support the version of the radical, militant stream that calls for revenge on infidels (those who do not believe in Islam), particularly Jews and Christians who are called “monkeys and pigs.”

The riots carried out by Arabs against Jews over the years, both in Islamic countries and in Israel, are considered by them “child’s play,” if compared to the planning, aspiration, and readiness to murder, rape, plunder, and humiliate an entire region in the south of the sovereign State of Israel (from the protocols of the interrogation of the terrorists by the Israel Police). I can understand the need of normal people to try to project their anger onto others, but it’s a mistake to think that those terrorists were simply angry, and that the reasons are the occupation, Israeli or international politics, or even the suffering of Palestinians. From all the evidence that has been collected, we can be sure that the massacre is an expression of a radical Muslim worldview that used all these as an excuse for a brutal pogrom attack on an entire region in the State of Israel.

The main reason is that the State of Israel is the multi-generational fishbone in the throats of radical Islamic terrorist leaders and all those who aspire to realize the antisemitic manifestos, calling for the elimination of the only Jewish state from the world map.

What happened on October 7th can be defined as an attack by death-seeking murderers on normative Israeli citizens who cherish life. The murderers who penetrated the Jewish-Israeli fabric committed an indefinable infiltration, much more than brutal physical abuse (mutilation of limbs, burning of babies) and every kind of brutal rape (gang-rape of Jewish women spread to almost 3000 more people in the first circle and to a whole society of nearly 10 million people in the second and third circles).

Some may say that the Hamas terror acted in the name of faith, but unlike the Jewish faith, radical Islam prefers a death consciousness, death aspiration, and glorification of death in the name of the struggle against those who cherish life, and glorifying death in the name of the war for freedom. The Jewish people’s and Israeli citizens’ aspiration to live full lives in the Land of Israel is driven by a life consciousness that includes freedom and creativity. Lives are characterized by social, religious, and national complexity. Complexity at its core is the belief that man was created in the image of God, and as such, he has rights and especially one moral duty: to distinguish between good and evil, to do good, to reveal the good, and to believe that the good in man can prevail. Unlike the call of Islam to pursue, murder, and even rape the infidels, especially the Jews (see the Sura’a no.11 in the Quran). The Quran has its own definition of evil, and this is the path radical Muslims are determined to walk.

ISRAELI SOCIETY CHERISHES LIFE
On October 7th, I experienced the greatest social and national catastrophe in Israel in my life. The son of my best friend, a captain in an elite unit, was killed, and many of my students’ lost sons and daughters; some were kidnapped to Gaza. I called all my fellow psychodramatists and psychotherapists to gather under my supervision to give first aid to all those citizens who were evacuated from their homes. I knew that only this kind of volunteer action would help me to process what I was feeling.

I couldn’t name the experience, but then I remembered a tree of Bion’s three basic perceptions: First, in moments of a catastrophe, one experiences an unthinkable “nameless dread” experience. The “O” mental situation. So, I didn’t force myself to put these “no name” feelings into words. Second, the courage to “be simple.” Lastly, third, to transform from “Beta” (raw) fragments to “Alpha” structured well-organized language that can develop the ability to think creatively.

While I tried to process the events physically, I felt the need to vomit, sleep, or be insanely active in volunteering. Doing things helped me feel alive, but it didn’t help me to articulate my feelings. I noticed I was insanely worried about people who were kidnapped, who I didn’t personally know, especially women and children. I also felt guilty about miracles that happened to me.

In psychotherapy, my patients brought into the room what I tried to repress: fear, anxiety about their children, shaken sense of security, and a lot of crying. I found myself redefining with them a coping style in five emotional movements (not stages). One (1) is the right to invent and create their own subjective emotional relief methods. Another (2) includes simple actions, swapping inner forces, i.e., changing situations that swap energy with those that give energy. (3) There were also authentic ways of behaving, even odd actions, i.e., one patient decided to bake cakes in the middle of the night if she woke up restless, or to put on makeup, or dress up nicely just because it gives her the feeling of resilience, and it works for her, even in the middle of the night. (4) I witnessed and observed the strength and practical human spirit. Especially the acts of kindness and huge wave of volunteering by all parts of the Israeli society in such short time. (5) I was amazed and impressed by the power to stand upright and do what we know how to do well: recreate our lives from ashes. I saw how elements of Jewish faith took an essential part in the healing process in this catastrophic situation.

The transitions from one experience of attempted annihilation of Israeli citizens in the most murderous way, to a sublime experience of unity, hope, and the continuation of creating the unique human fabric of Israel, are phenomenal. I discovered again that this ability “to carry opposites” during the transitions, from one mental position to its opposite, is what expands the realms of hope. I saw once more how Jews and Israelis create hope: by caring for opposites /containing complexity. This ability is much more than “the multiple self” in Mitchell’s (1993) language, or the experience of mental movement, in Eigen’s (1986) language. The ability “to carry opposites” is not just a psychological idea; it is the psycho-spiritual and mental stance of Judaism and the characteristics of the Jewish people in general.

Throughout history, Israeli society’s ability to recover and rise from a brutal, murderous, and destructive attack, as happened on October 7th, is an expression of the Jewish history and Jewish basic philosophy, and ability to experience transitions from crisis to revival and from fragmentation to reparation and to refuse to succumb to persecution, malice, injustice, and cruelty. Jews in Israel and around the world have learned not to surrender to feelings of helplessness, despair, and stagnation. Throughout Jewish history, Jews have been restricted in their freedoms or they were forced to flee, so they learned to find alternatives, turning almost every crisis into a situation that requires extraordinary mental strength and creativity. They chose “to enter through the window” when “the door was closed” and to choose life anew when evil entered.

There is a claim that all this aggression against Jews in the Land of Israel occurred when Zionism began; this claim has no historical base. The brutal attacks on Jews by Arabs were carried out long before the establishment of the State of Israel in Islamic countries (since the early days of Islam, around 800 CE), and later, in Israel, Jews suffered from a cruel massacre in 1929 with no provocation from any Jewish communities. The choice of Jews as the world’s scapegoat has always manifested in the denial of their rights: destruction, murder, rape, and disgrace are not new to us.

Most of Israeli society is yearning for peace. The Israeli residents of the Southern Border, especially the Kibbutzim, are known as those who initiated the most touching initiatives to help Palestinians. They are the ones who established associations to bring particularly sick children to hospitals in Israel and collected donations for them at every opportunity. In a natural human act of kindness and love, it was precisely the residents of the Gaza region, who cried out for peace with their neighbors – and they were the first to be murdered by them.

THE ROLE OF THE “SCAPEGOAT”
In group psychoanalysis, the role of the “scapegoat” is described as someone upon whom all evil, malice, rejection, and filth that the participants cannot bear within themselves are projected (Friedman, 2015). Group psychoanalysis tends to describe such situations as part of a group’s development through the proper mediation of the group therapist, where the person in this role chooses not to be a victim and moves on the developmental axis from a destructive experience to a healing one. But what happens when the group therapist encourages the group to attack the “scapegoat,” because they cannot cope with their feelings of rejection, or if the participants are envious of his/her success? Some situations encourage an attack on the links of group members (Biran, 1992); e.g., when the group leader or the therapist encourages a constructive confrontation. Sometimes, the leader or the therapist takes a hostile role in the name of bringing up conflicts, from the group’s unconscious up to their consciousness; then the one who becomes the scapegoat is “sacrificed” on the altar. Throughout history, Jews understood that one way to avoid being in the role of the scapegoat and be the ultimate victim is success. Success in almost every field: culture, literature, sports, community, wisdom, philosophy, politics, economics, and poetry.

To have a place in Jewish community, one did not have to be rich and famous, but to have the aspiration to live life of morality, faith, and education. Thus, Jews were commanded to develop, despite and because of oppression and evil, not through aggression, but rather due to human, social, and moral creation.

All over historic periods Jews were the scapegoat of mega empires. It appeared in the most vicious ways, e.g. via blood libels for religious motives; massacre and persecutions as part of psychological projection of repressed parts of all kinds of frustrations and aggression, as well as envy and jealousy of the way Jews survive and thrive. On October the 7th, Israeli citizens became a scapegoat again. However, Jews primarily educated themselves to grow from darkness. This created the Jewish dialogical language, expressed in the desire to live in brotherhood and peace among the nations they lived with. All this contrasts with the attempts of Palestinian “freedom and liberation fighters,” who, despite the wonderful creative forces existing in Muslim history (e.g., Maimonides, a great Jewish philosopher, was influenced by the great Arab philosophers of the 12th century), were encouraged to fight over the holy land, which until the 18th century was not considered holy to Muslims at all (Kedar 2022). The tendency to harm others recognizes evil as an expression of the perpetrator’s victimhood, thus justifying their suffering. On October 7th, Hamas’s evil, “dressed” in the garb of radical Islam, did not seek an excuse, but appeared in all its cruelty, with precise planning

THE GOOD AND EVIL IN JUDAISM AND PSYCHOTHERAPY

“For in the image of God He made him,” is a declaration in the Book of Genesis of the image of creativity in human life and the role of trust, compassion, justice, and giving as the definition of G-d. It appears to refer to the immanent good within. The human soul contains this good even when a person is broken or chooses to live a life that includes evil. In this approach, if a person chooses to recognize the image of G-d within, he can also heal the pain, sorrow, or traumas they have experienced. This is the basic approach of Judaism to human freedom and the power within to create hope. For this reason, a person’s role is to stay connected and value all aspects of life, as part of his personal psychological aspect.

On October 7th, morality, values, and humanity were completely absent and erased from the minds of the Hamas murderers. Do the psychotherapeutic and psycho-historic perspectives have something to say about the absence of basic morality in radical Islam? And is the evil we experienced a normative expression of the evil present in every person, and not a unique characteristic of the murderers of October 7th?

According to Hasidism, who symbolize the social-spiritual perspective of Judaism, every person has an “infinite spark of good” that never ends. Every person is responsible for searching and revealing his special spark of light, and potential to create meaning, and to influence his life and the good life of the society he lives with (H’baaal shem tov, the founder of Hassidut,1700-1760). Therefore, Judaism is much more than a religion; it is a worldview that has been the greatest inspiration for human morality. In addition to the body and soul, a person has a spiritual dimension, or in Freud’s terms, a moral foundation, the superego, responsible for the ethical functioning of the person. The greatest Jewish philosophers were the Talmud-wise men who established the foundation of the ethical Jewish life. In Judaism, ethics are essential (Rotenberg, 1990). This moral standard is completely absent in the October 7th perpetrators, who were armed with murderous ideology and GoPro cameras, and joyfully shouting while beheading children and raping young women. The image of God was not just hidden from them; it was entirely erased.

The duality and tension between good and bad, up and down, exist on a spectrum of psychic movements at every moment of our lives. This tension is usually a sign of creation and vitality. The tension between moments of joy and sadness, states of breaking alongside experiences of repair and growth, and particularly the tension between good and bad. It is at the base of humanity’s attempt to live life in all its complexity, as there is not only good and not only evil. Our relationships are a manifestation of social ethics that require a person to be capable of creating their life as part of human society and to limit themselves to its laws. Throughout the generations, Jewish ethics did not see Judaism as an elitist and flawless perception. On the contrary, they sought to help a person fulfill their role in the world through personal and global repair – Tikun Olam (Buber, 1967). Jewish ethics means that a person is required to live a value-based life founded on charity, morality, and justice, as an expression of a life of faith. However, the return of Jews to their homeland was inspired not by the impulse of aggression or any religious or death ideologies, but by the perception of hope.

From the psychodynamic lens, Hope is a dialectic experience that expresses the contradiction that exists in every human experience. One may enter the therapist’s room and claim Hope and yet do everything he can to “sabotage” it unconsciously (Mitchel, 1993). However, in the spiritual Jewish tradition, Hope is the sense of inner enlightenment that emerges despite any dialectical experience and within paradoxical components (Rabi Shneor Zalman, 1772; Rabi Menachem Mendel from Lubavitch, 1988; Rotenberg 1990). This approach was developed in Jerusalem (2015-2019). The research articulates the integration between psychodynamic approaches and the spiritual aspect of Judaism from a Chassidic point of view, to create a space for Hope in psychodrama group psychotherapy. The research indicates a process that expresses the relationship between fragmentation and reparation as an emotional state that is viewed as contradictory and dialectical as well as having the capacity to develop Hope within them. This research concludes that Hope can be created on an ongoing continuum between the two paradoxical human experiences: fragmentation and reparation. Those are the reflections of opposites that can enrich one another through creative therapeutic dialogue (Rotenberg, 1990).

Only now, more than 70 days after the massacre, the psychotherapeutic world is beginning to formulate how to start healing the rift that quickly turned into a national trauma. This is because many psychodynamic concepts have collapsed. Particularly, the perception of the good and evil in a person, as well as the concepts of mental forces and trauma treatment, none of which previously encountered the absolute evil of October 7th since the Holocaust. An evil was expressed in such barbaric acts that even this definition diminishes the magnitude of the destruction. Winnicott, Bion, and Mitchell would also stand powerless and pale in the face of the death perception of those who call themselves “Palestinian freedom fighters.” Concepts like human love and freedom start with a clear definition of what is good and what is evil. But in a world dominated by the subjective experience that I was very much a part of until October 7th, there is no room for an objective definition that says, “this is evil,” “this is malice,” “this is absolute evil,” and “this is good.”

The attempt to justify the cruel evil of Hamas as those who suffer themselves is a dangerous endeavor, because such justification takes us back to an ancient, chaotic, and archaic place, where everyone who commits murder suffered, and therefore their suffering and actions are justified. The psychotherapeutic world, in all its shades, should acknowledge the need to redefine trauma based on absolute evil.

Israeli Jungian psychologist Baruch Kahana, along with the founder of Jewish psychology, Prof. Rotenberg, Israeli laureate of the prize in social work from the Hebrew University, defines the difference between absolute evil and relative evil. Kahana explains that absolute evil is a state of mind where a person equates his internal experience and its consequences and actions to absolute justice, even though the actions mean the annihilation, murder, humiliation, and corruption of others. This contrasts with the concept of relative evil, which exists in each of us and is usually projected onto others because we can’t face and contain anger, insult, or a sense of injustice. A person can be aware of his rage and might repent his evil behavior by self-reflection, recognition, and introspection of these elements as primitive defense mechanisms (Kahana, 2023).

As per Melanie Klein (2002), evil is an expression of the tension between the forces of vitality and creation versus the forces of destruction and devastation. The therapist’s focus is to help the patient recognize the dialectic of different developmental positions within themselves and to strive for the depressive position that reconciles the opposites, allowing one to continue living and striving. This contrasts with the schizoid-paranoid position that amplifies the feeling of split and strengthens the perception of the bad versus the good (Kahana, 2010, 2023). Kahana emphasized the need for dialogue between the dialectical mental states. Nevertheless, if someone can’t recognize his actions as evil, there is no way to make any healing dialogue.

The cruelty and malice that we, Israelis, encountered on the morning of Saturday, October 7th, 2023, can be defined as absolute evil, one in which the immanent good in a person no longer finds a way to express itself outward, not even in the name of feeling pain or suffering. This is because the dialectic is erased, as well as the feeling of complexity, and evil completely overwhelms the person (Rot, 2023). However, those who massacred Israelis were not just despicable humans; they also had a worldview based on death. Evil exists in every person, but the moral and ethical demand of Judaism, originating in the Bible and continuing in the Talmud, Jewish ethics, philosophy, Kabbalah, and Hasidism, is the demand to choose life. “I have set before you: life and good, and death and evil… the blessing and the curse, and you shall choose life” (Deuteronomy, 30:19).

A REQUEST
Modern antisemitism was exposed in October the 7th, and I implore psychologists, psychotherapists, and caregivers to realize this as a part of a psychological on-going trauma. And for the healing to proceed, let’s go back and connect with the world of Jewish spirituality – Talmud, Kabbalah, and Hasidism – to learn the psycho-spiritual methods of creating Hope and to increase the light in the world. Jews and non-Jews can be inspired by Jewish heroic history, which includes creating therapeutic emotional movement of healing. From aggression and destruction – towards Hope, creativity and recovery.

Personally, I would raise my head in modest pride and say, “I am Jewish,” without having to apologize for my right to live as a Jewish Israeli woman in the only country in the world that accepted me totally as is, because I am a Jew. Being Jewish in Israel is a right accompanied by a duty to do good.

The perceptions that have taken over parts of the world, particularly the radical Muslim world and other parts, that justify and excuse evil – for being “weak” and “suffering” and deserving of harm – deserve renewed reflection to allow for a healing discourse. Palestinians have the right to live lives of healing, hope, and prosperity, as long as most of them condemn evil in the name of Islam. Yet, I declare here that no evil in the world will take from me the right to continue to be a good person, a good Zionist, to believe in the “spark of good” in the world, and to continue to believe in the forces of hope and healing within us, without denying the existence of absolute evil.

Meanwhile, as in Zohar, “grief is dwelling in my heart, on one hand, and joy is lying next to it” – grief for the brutal loss of life, and joy for the miracles I experienced and still see in Israeli society at this time. While this article is being written, we light the candle of Hanukkah, and as Rabenu Behayye Iben Pikuda, a Jewish philosopher, wrote in 1080 first millennium AD, “a small spark of light repels much of the darkness.”

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P.S. I am finalizing this article in January of 2024… Although 1400 Israeli citizens were murdered, and 134 hostages are still in Hamas captivity, the “pro-Palestinian” (aka pro-Hamas) protesters start to deny the 0ctober 7th massacre. Same as they deny the Holocaust…

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Ziva Bracha Gidron, PsyD, is the founder & manager of the Jerusalem Psychodrama Institute “Hakol Kore.” She is a psychotherapist for individuals and couples and has been a psychodramatist for more than 24 years. Ziva is a senior lecturer in the Israeli educational ministry working with the Crises, Stress, Suicide & Emergency Treatment Unit. She is also a senior lecturer at the Prof. Rotenberg Institute. She integrates Jewish psychology with various psychotherapy methods. Her doctoral thesis in Psychology was on “Unity of opposites” – on creating Hope in Psychodrama Group Psychotherapy, based on the relational approach and the Jewish Hassidic Spiritual Approach.

How to cite this article?

Gidron, Z.B. (2024, February 2). On Israeli society since the massacre of October 7th, from the perspective of an Israeli Jewish psychotherapist. International Psychohistorical Association’s Newsletter, 42(4), 4. https://psychohistory.us/fall-2023/#4

5.
INTERNATIONAL HOLOCAUST REMEMBRANCE DAY
From Appalachian State University’s Center for Judaic, Holocaust, and Peace Studies


January 27 is International Holocaust Remembrance Day, also called the International Day in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust. This is the day Auschwitz was liberated. In 2005, the United Nations (UN) made this day an International Day of Commemoration of the Victims of the Holocaust. The UN urges every member state to “honor the six million Jewish victims of the Holocaust and millions of other victims of Nazism and to develop educational programs to help prevent future genocides.”

As one response to the UN call for education, the state of North Carolina enacted the Gizella Abramson Holocaust Education Act (NC Gen. Stat. 115C-81.57), which requires the Holocaust to be taught in public schools. This Act went into full effect Fall of 2023. North Carolina is one of 22 states in the United States requiring that the Holocaust be taught in the classroom.

Take a moment on January 27, to remember the victims and the survivors of Auschwitz and the Holocaust and join us for our annual Memorial Service.

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Appalachian State University’s Center for Judaic, Holocaust, and Peace Studies promotes tolerance, understanding, and respect for all human life. We believe that all people have the right to live and thrive in safety, and we seek to build a more equitable and peaceful world through education and outreach.

The Center for Judaic, Holocaust, and Peace Studies was founded in 2002 to develop new educational opportunities for students, teachers, and the community. Located administratively within the College of Arts and Sciences, the Center seeks to strengthen tolerance, understanding, and remembrance by increasing the knowledge of Jewish culture and history, teaching the history, and meaning of the Holocaust, and utilizing these experiences to explore peaceful avenues for human improvement and the prevention of further genocides.

The Center for Judaic, Holocaust, and Peace Studies is an associate institutional member of the Association of Jewish Studies, a member of the Association of Holocaust Organizations and of the North Carolina Consortium of Jewish Studies.

Visit https://holocaust.appstate.edu/ for more information.

6.
U.S. ANTISEMITISM AND ANTI-ZIONISM BEFORE AND SINCE HAMAS’S ATTACK ON ISRAEL
by Ken Fuchsman

There has been a deplorable rise in antisemitism, anti-Muslim, and anti-Israel sentiment since the Hamas October 7, 2023, attack on Israel. On X, formerly Twitter, in the month following the attack the hashtag #Death to Muslims was posted tens of thousands of times. During the same period the hashtag #Hitler was Right appeared over 46,000 times. There is more. The Council in American-Islamic relations reported that complaints bias and requests for assistance between October 7th and October 24,2023 jumped a 182%. The Anti-Defamation League found that comparing the periods of October 7th to October 23rd in 2022 to 2023 the increase of antisemitism was 388%. Media has covered these dramatic upsurges. It is a major news story.

What has gotten less coverage is that recently many more religious based hate crimes per capita have been directed at Jews than other groups. For 2022 the FBI reported that there were 1,122 antisemitic hate crimes and 158 anti-Muslim hate crimes reported. For Jews this was the highest in years. The FBI findings dovetail with the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) annual report on antisemitic incidents for 2022. The ADL found 3,697 antisemitic events, which was an increase of 36% from 2021.  It was the highest number of antisemitic incidents since the ADL started making these reports in 1979.

Hostile crimes against any religion are despicable. In the U. S. there is a long history of anti-Catholic and antisemitic activity. Muslims were added to this history after the 9/11 attacks. Still, there is something that distinguishes antisemitic hate crimes from the rest. On October 31, 2023, FBI Director Christopher Wray stated that Jews are “a group that represents only about 2.4% of the population” but accounts “for something like 60% of all religious-based hate crimes.” He noted that antisemitism in the United States is now reaching “historic levels.”

There is something else. If we combine a look at the recent past with the volatile present, there is evidence of diverse forms of antisemitism spanning the political spectrum. That there are currently many forms of antisemitism in the United States calls for further documentation and discussion. This piece is not a comprehensive review of anti-religious hate, nor does it engage with the political, diplomatic, and military issues arising from the October Hamas attack. It focuses just on the resurgence of antisemitism and related phenomenon in recent years.

What counts as antisemitism? In 2016, the 31 member states of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance came up with this definition, “Antisemitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of antisemitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.”

Antisemitism is a mansion with many different rooms, each containing a different demonizing stereotype of Jews. There are a variety strands of antisemitism evident in what follows. Each are connected to a specific image of Jews. One demonized image is of Jews as powerful conspirators who control the world economy and are responsible for the suffering and failures of others. Another stereotype is of vile sexual, evil female bitches/witches who deserve the gas chambers. A third is of Israeli Jews as genocidal colonizers and oppressors. These demonized images arouse fury, hatred, and blame. Jews are often singled out as responsible for people’s hardship, suffering, and exploitation. In each instance, they are stereotyped as evil doers.

A place to start this story might well be the American public’s reaction to the traumatic Great Recession of 2008.  We can trace the acceleration of recent suspicion of Jews to this catastrophic economic downturn. A 2009 poll conducted by scholars from Stanford and Columbia found that among non-Jews, 24.6% of respondents attributed a moderate amount of fault for the recession to Jews, and 38.4% said that Jews were partly responsible for the economic downturn. Connected to this belief in Jewish financial power is the rightist belief in a conspiratorial New World Order. When asked if “a secretive power elite with a globalist agenda is conspiring to rule the world,” of Republicans voting in 2012, 34% answered in the affirmative. An example of this comes from the infamous conspiracy theorist, Alex Jones, who talks of ‘the Jewish Mafia” who he asserts “run Uber, they run health care, they’re going to scam you, they’re going to hurt you.” 2016).

Much of the association of conniving Jews running the world’s economy is derived from the circa 1902 Russian forgery entitled The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. This notorious work claimed that Jews used capitalism to conquer the world. Trump and some other Republicans have alluded to a global economic conspiracy manipulated by Jews.

These stereotypes of Jews often translate into crimes of hate. Even before the 2008 recession, political hatred itself caught the attention of American lawmakers. The FBI was directed by Congress to report annually on hate crimes. In 2017, there were 2,013 such crimes directed at African Americans, and 938 at Jews. More than twice the number of hate crimes were aimed at blacks.  It might seem to make sense that there are more racist than antisemitic hate crimes. But then there is this, there are over six times the number of African-Americans as Jews. As well, 18.6% of anti-religious hate crimes in 2017 were aimed at Muslims compared to 58.1% at Jews.  In 2018, there were 5.3 million U.S. Jews, and 3.45 million Muslims. Per capita. in 2017 there were more hate crimes focused on Jews than either African-Americans or Muslims.

This was not just a one-year finding. Between 2018 and 2021, in every year for hate crimes based on religion more than half were directed towards Jews. In 2021 there was a jump of 11.6% in these crimes, and Jews remained the largest group attacked because of religion at 51.4%.

As well as hate crimes, there are hate groups. Such a group is an organization that attacks, vilifies, and maligns an entire class of people because of their race, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or gender identity. Such groups in the U.S. in 2018 were at an all-time high, numbering 1,020. These organizations rose by over 30% during the four-years from 2015 to 2018. The overwhelming majority of hate groups are white nationalists. Antisemitism is now and has long been a frequent feature of white nationalist groups.

The fire and fury of Anti-Semitism in Western culture often reveals the darkest sides of human endeavors. As we know, the animosity towards Jews reached a peak during the Nazi years in power and the Holocaust they originated and implemented. American Jews have not been subject to the pogroms and final solutions that were inflicted on Europeans. Historian Robert S. Wistrich wrote that in the U. S. in the thirty years after World War II, “antisemitism – according to the existing social research – has been a peripheral phenomenon.” He adds that “no explicitly antisemitic political movements” successfully “made electoral headway in the post-war era.” In 2019, historian Deborah Lipstadt wrote: “Jewish life in the United States flourishes in a way that would have been inconceivable to Jews living in America before World War II.”

What then explains this more recent change? The rise in antisemitism is correlated to the rise in rightist political groups in recent years following the Great Recession. These groups frequently see Jews as powerful economic conspiratorial manipulators. What is striking is that on one hand, some of these radical right organizations believe that Donald Trump is aligned with them.  On the other, there are respected historians who maintain that Trump has been more willing to appeal to antisemitic sentiments than have most of his predecessors.

Princeton historian Julian Zelizer, “Trump has dabbled in anti-Semitic rhetoric.” The image of Jews that Trump and his followers present is primarily of Jews as directing a powerful economic conspiracy impoverishing others.  In its last 2016 television commercial before the election, the Trump campaign ran an ad that claims that a particular establishment controls the “levers of power.”  It then showed photos of three prominent Jewish individuals. The three Jews were billionaire George Soros, Goldman Sachs’s Lloyd Blankfein, and then Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen. The ad itself stated that there is “a global power structure that is responsible for the economic decisions that have robbed our working class, stripped our country of its wealth and put that money into the pockets of a handful of large corporations and political entities.” Without verbally identifying Jews, the ad reinforced the antisemitic ideology that Jews head a world-wide conspiracy that successfully manipulates the economy.

In August 2017, neo-Nazis participated in a Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.  While marching in lock step Neo-Nazis repeated “The Jews Will Not Replace Us.” In discussing this notorious incident, President Trump proclaimed that “you also had people that were very fine people, on both sides.” He never did specify if fine people could vociferously proclaim Jews will not replace us.

Over a year later, at a campaign style rally on October 26, 2018, Trump railed against “globalists” who damage the economy.  Not surprisingly, someone in the crowd connected this world-wide manipulation to a Jew and yelled out George Soros.  The crowd then chanted “Lock him up,” and Trump responded by proclaiming “Lock him up.” The next day, shouting antisemitic phrases and armed with an assault rifle and three handguns, Robert Bowers went into a Pittsburgh synagogue and murdered eleven members of the congregation in the largest single killing spree of Jews in American history.

Donald Trump was not the only leading Republican playing to anti-Jewish stereotypes.  Just before the 2018 Congressional elections, then Republican House Majority leader, Kevin McCarthy, tweeted “We cannot allow Soros, Steyer, and Bloomberg to BUY this election.” Identifying these three wealthy Jews certainly echoed Trump’s 2016 famous campaign ad. What aroused the ire of many is that this came one day after the discovery of pipe bombs sent to the homes of Soros and Steyer, among others. Those explosive devices were supposedly sent by a 56-year-old Florida man who was captured in a video at a Trump rally and whose van was covered with Trump stickers. Historian Sara Lipton says that Trump knows his followers include anti-Semites and white supremacists and that he wants to keep them in his fold.

These antisemitic followers sometimes imagine Trump as a powerful Hitler like savior who can defeat the evil Jewish oppressors and bring revenge, liberation, and freedom. Neo-Nazi Andrew Anglin wrote to the Huffington Post, “We support Trump because he is the savior of the white race, sent by God to free us from the shackles of the Jew occupation.” Anglin is founder of the neo-Nazi Daily Stormer internet site. Less than two weeks after the 2016 election, at a gathering of alt-rightists, leader Richard Spencer gave a speech described as “dripping with anti-Semitism.”  Then members of the group broke out in a Nazi salute as Spencer declared “Hail Trump, hail our people, hail victory.”

White nationalism accompanied by antisemitism is not new in America. In the mid-nineteenth century, white southerners became worried that they would be outnumbered and outvoted by northern majorities hostile to their peculiar institution. Rather than be a minority, southern states seceded and formed the Confederacy. After being defeated and following Reconstruction the south instituted segregation. Historian Ulrich B. Phillips wrote in 1928, “the central theme of southern history” is that “it shall be and remain a white man’s country.” For “the white men’s ways must prevail.”

There remain white nationalist groups. Some have recently developed their own tactics in going after Jews. The antisemites here act as death threatening revengers. Antisemitism has often slid over into threats of violence. Jews have been targets of verbal terrorism. Here are four examples.

Bethany Mandel is a conservative journalist who writes for Jewish publications the Forward and Commentary. After the 2016 South Carolina primary, she made a comment about Trump’s legion of antisemitic followers. She writes, soon after on twitterI was called a ‘slimy Jewess’ and told that I ‘deserve the oven’…. I received death threats in my private Facebook mailbox, prompting me to file a police report.” Mandel also tells the story of Ben Shapiro, an Orthodox Jewish journalist who resigned from Breitbart News. Afterwards he and his father received hostile antisemitic tweets. Shapiro said, “There are an outsized set of Trump supporters who will threaten your safety. I’ve been hit with a number of death threats, and sleep with a shotgun beside the bed.”

Jonathan Weisman, a Jewish New York Times writer, in May 2016 posted on twitter a comment on a newspaper column. Soon after Andrew Anglin unleashed his Daily Stormer crew on Weisman, who writes, “I was served an image of the gates of Auschwitz… Holocaust taunts, like a path of dollar bills leading into an oven.” These were followed by tropes such as Jews as financiers of Israel, Wall Street profiteers, fifth columnists, as both weak and all-powerful.  Weisman says over the course of weeks he received between a thousand and two thousand messages on Twitter, emails, and voice mails.

Tanya Gersh is a Jewish real estate agent in Montana. Alt-right leader Richard Spencer’s mother owned property in the Montana community of Whitefish. After consulting Ms. Gersh, she later complained online about Gersh. Andrew Anglin advised the followers of his neo-Nazi Daily Stormer site to go after Ms. Gersh. Between November 2016 and March 2017, Anglin’s site published over 30 articles about Gersh and her family, called on his readers to say they are “sickened by their Jew agenda,” and published the phone number, email, and social media accounts of Ms. Gersh, her husband, and their 12-year-old son. Over the next several months, the family received death threats, references to the Holocaust and over 700 hate messages, including the sound of gunshots. After two gunshot calls, there was an immediate call back. The caller said, “This is how we can keep the Holocaust alive,” he said. “We can bury you without touching you.” One emailer wrote to Gersh, “You should have died in the Holocaust with the rest of your people.” Another said, “You are a disgusting, vile Jew … This is OUR country: you’re merely living here (for now).” Anglin himself posted a picture of Tanya’s 12-year-old son superimposed to the entrance of Auschwitz. The Daily Stormer’s webmaster, Andrew Auernheimer, left a voice mail for Ms. Gersh, calling her “a fucking wicked kike whore.” Adding, “This is Trump’s America now.”

In response to this Anglin inspired onslaught, Gersh sued him. Antonia Farzan reports that on July 15, 2019, “a federal judge recommended that Anglin should be ordered to pay Gersh more than $14 million in damages, finding that the neo-Nazi had ‘acted with actual malice’ when he posted her contact information online and encouraged his followers to harass her.”

We can safely conclude that antisemitism has been on the increase in the U.S. since the Great Recession. In 2023, this radical right brand of antisemitism continues, as well different kinds of prejudicial and hostile trends are developing since the October 7th Hamas attack and the Israeli military response. The evidence for the sustaining radical right antisemitism comes from the Institute for Strategic Dialogue and Advance Democracy. These groups found that Neo-Nazis had begun appropriating the language of Hamas.  The American radical rightists are using the mid-east conflict to inspire attacks on Jews. Members of the Proud Boys have posted on the wish to kill or harm Jews.

What is striking since October 7th is that throughout much of Europe and the United States the war in the mid-east is arousing hostility against Jews and Muslims. This kind of wartime passion is most often confined to the nations fighting each other. But not now. There are rallies across a variety of countries. In the U.S., college campuses are being torn apart by outraged rhetoric. This recent phenomenon is still another manifestation of the partisan polarization that has been plaguing the United States since at least the Great Recession.

Another factor to consider starts before the recent middle east conflict, the American public had divided views on Israel. A Pew Center 2022 poll found that just 55% of Americans had favorable views of Israel while 41% were unfavorable towards the Jewish state. This brings us to the of the relationship between harsh criticism of Israel and antisemitism. What is currently evident is that the image presented is still of Jews as powerful oppressors, but this time it is less as economic conspirators, but as genocidal colonizers. In this mix, there is the slogan of “from the river to the sea.” This has been interpreted in a variety of ways, and one is that Palestinians need to occupy the territory from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean. That would then include wiping the nation of Israel off the map, and, of course, Jews would no longer have their own nation state. While this slogan is used, some anti-Israeli partisans claim they are free from antisemitism. The demonized stereotype of Israeli Jews presented by many of them is just another variation of antisemitism. Jews are still caricatured and still being presented as powerful evil doers who deserve retribution.

Some things are clear: the wounds of 1948 have not completely healed. That, of course, is the year when Israel achieved statehood to the consternation of the Arabs in the region. This hostility to Israel includes that by 2012 Hamas embraced the slogan of river to sea. Their leader, Khaled Mashaal proclaimed, “Palestine is ours from the river to the sea and from the south to the north.” For clearly, it is their aim that what is now Israel would become a rejuvenated Palestine.

Given these threats to Israel, how do American Jews conceive of Israel as central to what it means to be Jewish? A Pew Research center poll, this time from 2021, addresses that question. Journalist Justin Nortey reports the findings: “Caring about Israel is ‘essential’ to what being Jewish means to 45% of U.S. Jewish adults, and an additional 37% say it is important, but not essential… Just 16% of U.S. Jewish adults say that caring about Israel is ‘not important’ to their Jewish identity.” A related question has a broader audience: what are Americans attitudes towards Israel as compared to favoring the Palestinians? A 2022 Gallup poll found that 55% of Americans polled sympathize more with Israel and 26% with the Palestinians. Twice the percent of Americans are drawn more to the Israeli outlook than the Palestinians.

A follow up Gallup poll in March 2023 found that for the first time more Democrats sympathized more with the Palestinians than with Israel. 49% of Democrats side with the Palestinians, and 38% with Israel.  This was an 11% switch in a year.  More Independents side with Israel, 49% of Independents lean towards Israel, and 32% with the Palestinians. Republicans are overwhelmingly with Israel, 78% are for the Jewish state, and just 11% with Palestinians. By early 2023, Democrats for the first time were less sympathetic to Israel than the Palestinians. This was a significant shift in the political winds.

Partisan divisions were playing out on American college and university campuses even before the Hamas attack. In 2021 and 2022, there was a major controversy brewing over the actions and reactions to Lara Sheehi, a Lebanese born and raised Assistant Professor of Psychology at George Washington University. On her twitter account, she posted the following: “FU** ZIONISM, ZIONISTS, AND SETTLER COLONIALISM”; and told those who disagreed to “Fu**ing learn something.” She also had this to say about Hamas: “If you … STILL entertain for even a split second that Hamas is the terrorist entity, there is literally zero hope for you, your soul, or your general existence as an ethical human being in this world.” Among those who have labelled Hamas terrorist are the U.S., the United Kingdom, European Union, and the Organization of American States. Those nations and groups to Dr. Sheehi are without hope for their soul. The Lara Sheehi case was not the only anti-Israel or antisemitic one at American colleges. The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) reported a 41% increase in such incidents between 2021 and 2022.

Not surprisingly, after the October 7th Hamas attack, Sheehi expressed support for a George Washington University group which characterized Israel as conducting a “war of extermination against the Palestinians.” The statement also asserted that Israel’s policies are “genocidal.” After the Hamas attack, the George Washington University administration was not as sympathetic to the actions of the pro-Palestinians as was Dr. Sheehi.

The group Sheehi supported was the Students for Justice in Palestine. George Washington University suspended them for 90 days. The objectionable actions were the group posting images in the University’s library. These included statements like “Divestment from Zionist genocide now,” and the often used “Free Palestine from the river to the sea.” The University’s President Ellen Granberg said the student group’s actions included “antisemitic phrases that have caused fear and anxiety for many members of our Jewish and broader GW community, and we wholly denounce this type of conduct.”

There were a good number of controversial incidents at universities following October 7th. At Stanford, one of the more elite universities in the country, there is a required orientation course for freshman. It is called College 101. An unnamed but now suspended instructor on October 10th in class, asked the Jewish students to identify themselves. He then separated the Jews from their belongings, and declared this was an exercise simulating what Jews were doing to Palestinians. The teacher also asked how many Jews were killed in the Holocaust. After the answer of 6 million was given, the teacher then said more were killed by colonizers.  He then added, “Israel is a colonizer.” When this classroom event was reported, the instructor was removed from his teaching duties by the Stanford administration until they could conclusively determine what happened.

Columbia University Professor Joseph Massad wrote soon after October 7th that what Hamas did was “astonishing,” “astounding,” awesome.” He described the Hamas attack as a “resistance offensive” to counter “Israeli settler colonialism and racism toward the Palestinians.” In response, a petition demanding Massad’s suspension gathered 47,000 signatures.

Yale University American Studies faculty, Zareena Grewal, on the day of the attacks tweeted, “Israel is a murderous, genocidal settler state and Palestinians have every right to resist through armed struggle, solidarity #FreePalestine.” Shortly afterwards a petition to fire her was started.  In 13 hours, it had obtained 10,000 signatures.

At Cornell, Patrick Dai, a junior, was arrested for posting online threats to kill Jewish students and shoot up a Kosher dining hall.  Dai said he was going to bring an assault rifle to school and shoot Jewish students.

A variety of colleges have also suspended and/or disciplined students in Students for Justice in Palestine and other pro-Palestinian groups. These universities include Columbia, Brown, Brandeis, and MIT. As well, accusations of Islamophobia have been levied at Stanford, American, Yale, and Princeton, among others. The frequency and intensity of the controversies on campuses over the conflict between Hamas and Israel has led the U.S. Department of Education to investigate antisemitism and Islamophobia at specific schools. The colleges include Columbia, Cooper Union, Cornell, Lafayette, University of Massachusetts, and Wellesley College.

On the antisemitic side of the ledger, the vehemence and animosity of pro-Palestinian groups have alarmed many. In this highly intense political climate, to many we are witnessing not only anti-Israel but another manifestation of antisemitism. While she denies being antisemitic, Professor Sheehi’s declarations are indications of how incendiary anti-Zionism can be.

At least since the Great Recession, the United States has been witnessing a form of antisemitism by radical rightist groups and more recently a different outlook that demonizes Israel and includes support for those who want to eliminate Israel as a Jewish state. Hostility to Jews now is now prominently present on both sides of the political spectrum. The warnings of a Republican appointed FBI Director of the historical levels of U. S. antisemitism are on the mark. The full spectrum of those hostile to many who are Jewish has created a unique atmosphere for Jews.

In November 2023, Jonathan Greenblatt, the Director of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) said: “Antisemitism has been intensifying and increasing. We’ve seen it normalized, and from the far-right and from the hard left.” U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said that since the Hamas attack, there has been “an increase in threats against Jewish, Muslim, and Arab-American communities and institutions across our country. Hate directed at Jewish students, communities, and institutions add to a preexisting increase in the level of antisemitism in the United States and around the world.” Greenblatt added, I am “the grandson of a Holocaust survivor whose barbershop was vandalized and destroyed by the Nazis in Germany. So, I can’t even believe this is happening in our country today.”

What is noticeable these days is that there is a double-pronged hostility to Jews and the Jewish state that spans the full political spectrum. What is transpiring these days is that diverse and often contradictory ways of stereotyping and demonizing Jews are prominent at the same time. It makes the recent period a troubling time in the long history of antisemitism and anti-Zionism.

7.
RELIGION AND PSYCHOHISTORY
STATEMENT of the IPhA’S FAITH, PSYCHOLOGY and SOCIAL JUSTICE WORKING GROUP

The nature of religion is a controversial topic.  Freud and Jung famously clashed over it, and to this day clinicians and academics continue to entertain diverse and sometimes conflicting theories about it.  Indeed, not every member of the IPhA Faith, Psychology and Social Justice working group agrees with every aspect of this statement.  Our aim here is not to settle controversies conclusively but merely but to give psychohistorians and clinicians an empirically informed conceptual framework for thinking productively about a complex and multi-faceted topic.

It is not easy to rigorously define “religion,” nor is that necessary for our purposes. The term certainly encompasses “pagan” religions of prehistory, of extant indigenous societies, and of today’s new age movements. We primarily use the word in the context of the great world religions, such as Judaism, Christianity, Islam, and Buddhism, both in their institutional embodiments and in the mystical experiences of adherents. Finally, religion broadly construed also encompasses “cult” phenomena of all kinds, including totalitarian civil religions of the Twentieth Century (most notably fascism and communism), various forms of religious fundamentalism, and cults such as QAnon.

Religion, History, and Social Justice 

Religion probably originated in connection with Paleolithic ancestor cults (King, 2017) and the animistic worship of trees, the sun, and other aspects of nature. The great world religions are products of the class-stratified agricultural societies of antiquity and the post-classical world.  It is worth noting that most of these religions in their origins were forces for social justice in the face of the oppression and violence that has historically plagued civilization.  The biblical account of the Israelites’ exodus from slavery in Egypt, for example, testifies to the status of liberation and justice as core values of Judaism.

Similarly, Buddhism originated as an egalitarian reform of India’s increasingly stratified society in the Fifth Century BCE.  In the context of Roman domination of Palestine, Jesus and his movement asserted a prophetic interpretation of Torah (Gourgey, 2021; Hendricks, 2007) and practiced a communism of goods (Miranda, 1982/2004). Similarly, Muhammad’s Seventh Century CE religious reforms focused on social justice and equality, including an elevation of the status of women (Aslan, 2011).

All these religious movements, however, came up against and eventually accommodated to a system of political economy based on slavery and war. The Jewish Temple became associated with royal power, for example, as did Buddhism in India and China. Christianity and Islam became state religions of empires and kingdoms from antiquity into the early modern period.

The history of these religions over the centuries has been a continual struggle between priesthoods who legitimize political-economic power and reformers committed to renewing the visions of social justice in which these same traditions are rooted. This struggle continues into the present.  In American Christianity, for example, both fundamentalists and many mainstream Catholic and Protestant clergy construe their faith as a national civil religion, while others, such as bishops William Barber and Michael Curry, seek renewal of the kind pioneered by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (Barber, 2020) and Catholic liberation theology.

Psychology of Religion

As for religion and psychology, this is a vast topic that we can only discuss here in the most cursory way.  Suffice it to say that scholarly research in the last hundred years has provided some support both for Freud’s view of religion as a form of false consciousness and Jung’s view of the religious imagination as a resource for healing and wholeness (D’Agostino & Leicher, 2023). Terror Management Theory (TMT), for example, explores the self-deceptions involved in the denial of death (Solomon et al, 2015). According to TMT, however, death anxiety pervades and shapes all forms of culture, and not only religion. Death anxiety is exacerbated both directly—by massive death immersions such as wars, genocides, and pandemics — and indirectly by culture wars that threaten people’s cherished beliefs (Solomon et al., 2015).

A convergence of capitalism, mass communications, and urbanization in the 20th century ushered in an era of unprecedented cultural conflict (D’Agostino & Benson, 2021). For example, Europe was torn apart by a bitter conflict between communists and fascists waged through the media of print, film, and radio propaganda, and later the battlefields of World War II. In the U.S., urban secularists and rural fundamentalists clashed in the 1925 Scopes Trial, a culture war that continues until today.

By the turn of the millennium, global corporations were using sexualized advertisements to promote consumerism throughout the world (Curtis, 2002; Sacks, 2003), threatening traditional religions just as capitalism had earlier threatened rural Protestantism in the United States (D’Agostino & Benson, 2021). This analysis sheds light on the 2001 attack by fundamentalist jihadis on the World Trade Center, a symbol of global capitalism and U.S. hegemony. President George W. Bush, himself influenced by Christian fundamentalism, responded by escalating both this “clash of civilizations” and the death imagery; see Cotton (2016) for a psychobiographical etiology of the president’s mindset and “war on terror.”

Religious phenomena today need to be understood in this global context.  Possessive individualism, the secular religion of our planetary capitalist civilization, cannot satisfy the needs of human beings for authentic community, as the persistence of religious fundamentalism and cults like QAnon attest (D’Agostino & Leicher, 2023). While it seems likely that individuals raised in authoritarian families and suffering low self-esteem are more at risk than others of joining such cults, the problem is fundamentally a failure of the dominant culture to provide authentic community, not just a personal deficiency of individuals.

In his Jungian classic Depth Psychology and a New Ethic, Erich Neumann (1949/1990) conceptualized the psychodynamics of religion as the projection of archetypal complexes onto an external pantheon of gods and goddesses. The specific content of archetypal symbolism varies from culture to culture (Campbell, 1976). The ancient Greeks, for example, envisioned the supreme God as Zeus; lesser deities as Athena and Aphrodite; the Hero as Achilles and Odysseus, etc. With Christianity, the biblical God replaces Zeus, and other archetypes appear as Jesus Christ, Satan, the Virgin Mary, demons, and angels. Medieval Christianity replaced the cult of Greek and Roman heroes with veneration of the saints.

In today’s scientific civilization, the supreme deity becomes the impersonal laws of nature, and the biblical creation myth is replaced with the Big Bang Theory. In the neoliberal capitalist (market fundamentalist) variant of modernity, deities such as the Almighty Dollar, the Free Market, and the Evil Government populate the pantheon (Quiggin, 2010), while the Hero archetype is personified by cultural and political celebrities.

Clinical and Social Implications

We conclude this essay with some necessarily abbreviated clinical and social implications of the foregoing.  As Fromm (1941/1994) and Neumann (1949/1990) have pointed out, authoritarian forms of religion provide stability and security for people at a certain stage of psychological development. Individuation and personal growth appear related to the withdrawal of projections, both of the personal unconscious and of archetypes.

Withdrawal of archetypal projections has implications for social as well as personal transformation. Projecting archetypes of the Shadow and of Good and Evil, for example, frequently contributes to racism, militarism, and other social pathologies.  These archetypes appear to have their roots in our earliest childhood experience, where the infant’s positive and negative affective states are projected onto the mother (Kavaler-Adler, 2019). Superimposed on these earliest experiences involving attachment are those in later childhood, especially resulting from punitive parenting (Milburn and Conrad, 2016; D’Agostino, 2019).  The psychology of religious fundamentalism, examined by Strozier et al (2010), can generally be traced to punitive parenting (Greven, 1992; Heimlich, 2011; Benson, 2016; Capps, 1995).

Survivors of punitive parenting typically exhibit repression of rage, which may be projected onto scapegoats (e.g. where white males are enabled to victimize “the other” (D’Agostino, 2019), projected onto others like oneself (e.g., where Black males victimize one another; see Taylor, 2018), displaced onto one’s own children, or turned onto oneself, as in the case of a female drug addict discussed by Miller (1986). Recovering this unconscious rage and bringing it to consciousness can be central to the healing process for such individuals (D’Agostino, 2019).

At the societal level, displacement of unconscious rage onto political scapegoats is central to the psychology of authoritarianism (Milburn & Conrad, 2016; D’Agostino, 2019). Scapegoats that can represent the punished child are usually vulnerable outgroups, such as Jews in Nazi Germany, Muslims in Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist regime, or Blacks and immigrants in the politics of white supremacism in the United States. Those who displace their rage onto scapegoats typically persecute others because they find it too painful to confront the traumatic memories of their own abusive treatment by parents.

When political scapegoating and similar displacements are expressed in the consulting room, they can provide important clues to clients’ unconscious complexes. For example, idealization of public agencies that use force, notably the military and police, may be clues to the client’s experience of corporal punishment in childhood (Milburn & Conrad, 2016). This displacement of introjected feelings of power onto authority figures typically alternates with scapegoating, indicating that the client is oscillating between “identification with the aggressor” and discharging the unconscious rage of the inner punished child (D’Agostino, 2019).

In addition to promoting individual healing, therapists and psychohistorians can intervene at the societal level by supporting parenting education. For example, parenting classes in schools can help free future generations from attachment disorders and punitive parenting (Kind, 2014). Teaching these classes to boys as well as girls also helps dismantle the intergenerational transmission of gender stereotypes, notably the notion that baby care is woman’s work (Miedzian, 2002). Another parenting education initiative is the French magazine PEPS (https://pepsmagazine.com/), which provides a forum for parents to share positive parenting practices and experiences. Other resources include The Wonder Weeks book and website (https://www.thewonderweeks.com/) and Parents First™ (https://parentsfirst.net/), a parenthood support organization.

The Twenty-first Century threats facing humanity can only be adequately addressed on many levels simultaneously. Capitalism’s culture of possessive individualism must be replaced by what Jung called individuation, an ongoing dialog between the conscious ego and the entire unconscious psyche. Meditation is an important healing modality that can be put into practice by individuals.  One effortless form of meditation, rooted in India’s Vedic tradition but not requiring any religious beliefs, has been validated by voluminous peer reviewed research (O’Connell & Bevvino, 2015).

At the same time, new forms of community are needed, including expanded forms of political participation and more democratic and empowering schools and workplaces (D’Agostino, 2012).  Renewals of the world’s religions are needed that create authentic community and mutual love. Erich Fromm’s The Art of Loving can be a resource for facilitating such renewal and community building. Inter-religious examples of such renewal include the Poor People’s Campaign (Barber, 2020) and the worldwide Focolare Movement, founded by Italian Catholic reformer Chiara Lubich (Masters and Uelmen, 2011). Finally, as noted above, parenting education is a powerful societal intervention that can help dismantle the intergenerational transmission of relational disorders at the basis of so much human destructiveness, religious and secular.

_________________________________

IPhA Faith, Psychology and Social Justice Working Group:
Constance L. Benson, M.Div., M.Phil.          
Marc-André Cotton, M.A.                                
Brian D’Agostino, Ph.D.                                   
Charles Gourgey, Ph.D, LCAT, MT-BC         
Gabriela Gusita, Ph.D.                                      
Doris Leicher   , NCPsyA.                                 
Kenneth Rasmussen, Ph.D., PsyD.                

BIBLIOGRAPHY

  • Aslan, R. (2011). No god but God: The origins, evolution, and future of Islam. Random House.
  • Barber, W. (2020). We are called to be a movement. Workman Publishing Company.
  • Benson, C. L. (2016). Unfinished business: From punitive to humane parenting in the Bible and contemporary Christianity. Presented to the International Psychohistorical Association, New York University, 2 June 2016 http://constancebenson.com/publications-and-lectures.php
  • Campbell, J. (1976). The masks of God (4 volumes). Penguin Books.
  • Capps, D. (1995). The child’s song. Westminster John Knox Press.
  • Cotton, Marc-André (2016). Sacrifice the Bush way: From self to others. The Journal of Psychohistory, 44(1). http://www.regardconscient.net/earchives/1607Bushsacrifice.html
  • Curtis, A (2002). Century of the self (television documentary series). British Broadcasting Corporation.
  • D’Agostino, B. (2012). The middle class fights back: How progressive movements can restore democracy in America.
  • D’Agostino, B. (2019). Militarism and the authoritarian personality: Displacement, identification, and Perceptual Control. Journal for the Advancement of Scientific Psychoanalytic Empirical Research (J.A.S.P.E.R.), 2(2), 45-71. https://bdagostino.com/other-publications.php
  • D’Agostino, B., & C. Benson (2021). Understanding Trumpism: A Terror Management perspective. Psychohistory News, Vol. 40, no. 1 (Winter).
  • D’Agostino, B., & D. Leicher (2023). Religion and death a century later. The Journal of Psychohistory, 50(4).
  • Fromm, Erich (1941/1994). Escape from freedom. Holt.
  • Gourgey, C. (2021). Judeochristianity (website) http://www.judeochristianity.org/index.html
  • Greven, P. J. (1992). Spare the child: The religious roots of punishment and the psychological impact of physical abuse. Vintage Press
  • Heimlich, J. (2011). Breaking their will: Shedding light on religious child maltreatment. Prometheus Books.
  • Hendricks, O. M (2007). The politics of Jesus: Rediscovering the true revolutionary nature of Jesus’ teachings and how they have been corrupted. Three Leaves Press.
  • Kavaler-Adler, S. (2019) The Klein-Winnicott dialectic: Transformative New metapsychology and interactive clinical theory. Routledge.
  • Kind, M. (2014). Changing the world: Teaching parenting in schools. Psychohistory News, 33, No. 3 (Summer). https://www.psychohistory.us/archive.php
  • King, B. J. (2017). Evolving God: A provocative view on the origins of religion. University of Chicago Press.
  • Masters, T. and Uelmen, A. (2011). Focolare: Living a spirituality of unity in the United States. New City Press.
  • Miedzian, M. (1991). Boys will be boys: Breaking the link between masculinity and violence. Doubleday.
  • Milburn and Conrad (2016). Raised to rage: The politics of anger and the roots of authoritarianism. MIT Press.
  • Miller, A. (1986). For your own good: Hidden cruelty in childrearing and the roots of violence. Farrar, Straus, and Giroux.
  • Miranda, J. P. (1982/2004). Communism in the Bible. Orbis/Wipf and Stock.
  • Neumann, E. (1949/1990). Depth psychology and a new ethic. Harper and Row.
  • O’Connell, D. F., & D. L. Bevvino (2015). Prescribing health: Transcendental meditation in contemporary medical care. Rowman and Littlefield.
  • Quiggin, J. (2010). Zombie economics: How dead ideas still walk among us. Princeton University Press.
  • Sacks, J. (2003). The dignity of difference: How to avoid the clash of civilizations. Continuum.
  • Solomon, S., Greenberg, J., & Pyszczynski, T. (2015). The worm at the core: On the role of death in life. Random House.
  • Strozier, C. B., Terman, D. M., Jones, J. W., & Boyd, K. A. (2010). The fundamentalist mindset: Psychological perspectives on religion, violence, and history. Oxford University Press.
  • Taylor, E. (2018). How to move Black America forward. Lulu Publishing Services.

8.
SCORSESE’S MOVIE KILLERS OF THE FLOWER MOON AS ART, PSYCHOLOGY, AND HISTORY
by Ken Fuchsman

DISCLAIMER: Movie reviewers of new films out of consideration for the readers normally leave out crucial parts of the plot. This article does not make such omissions. If you do not want to know the whole story, skip reading this piece. I look at Scorsese’s Killers of the Flower Moon, which is based on real events, as a work of cinematic art and as history. I act more as if this is a long familiar work than something brand sparkling new. 

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Martin Scorsese’s 2023 movie, Killers of the Flower Moon, tells the story of newly oil rich Osage Indians in Oklahoma soon after the First World War.  In the film, these innocent Native Americans are being murdered by an outwardly generous but an autocratic white man. Federal investigators under a young J. Edgar Hoover find the corrupt criminal and he is convicted. In the film, the Indians are no longer subject to homicide. The movie is based on David Grann’s volume of the same name. What made this oft relocated tribe wealthy was that on their apparently barren Oklahoma land was an abundance of oil. So began a tale of exploitation and murder that devastated this proud group of native Americans who became the victims of lethal plots.

The fact-based film echoes a founding American myth that has been re-enacted in various guises in politics, literature, and film from 1776 to the present. The tale includes that powerful, corrupt, authoritarian leaders exploit unsuspecting victims. In their Revolution, the innocent American colonists were upholding liberty and pursuing happiness over the autocratic British monarchy.  In some versions of this story, it is the victims themselves who democratically unite to defeat the evil usurpers.  In other versions, it is heroic law enforcement officials, a Western sheriff, a worldly-wise private eye, or a seemingly mild-mannered Clark Kent who fight the evil doers. In any version, autocrats and/or evil doers wish to destroy democracy and/or the innocent. Heroism is needed to defeat autocracy and/or evil. In American film, the narrative of the powerful, the vain and corrupt exploiting the innocent has been told from different angles. In the past, elements of this theme are present, for instance, in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Chinatown, All the President’s Men, and Spotlight. Martin Scorsese’s Killers of the Flower Moon revisits crucial components of this perennial theme.

Not surprisingly, given its setting, Scorsese’s movie also includes elements of the classic American western film. As in cowboy movies, in Killers of the Flower Moon, there remain vestiges of the Wild West. This includes lawless criminals victimizing the good guys.  In this genre, frequently there are besieged sheriffs seeking to defeat the outlaws so good can defeat evil. Two things in Scorsese’s movie diverge from many western films. First, is that virtuous Indians are victims rather than barbaric perpetrators. Second, it is not a heroic local sheriff, but officials of the American government headquartered in Washington DC who are sent by J. Edgar Hoover to root out the criminals.

As mentioned, these movies can on occasion bear a rough kinship to American hard-boiled detective fiction and its movie cousin, film-noir. In these crime dramas, often a savvy male investigator uncovers who are the corrupt criminals and solves the murder. At times, as in Chinatown, the detective is in over his head and is almost as ignorant as the virtuous victims. In Killers of the Flower Moon justice seeking federal investigators do not exhibit the hard-boiled skeptical noir sensibility. This movie does not contain references to a fallen, foul world as is frequently present in the atmosphere of film noir. Scorsese, of course, has often specialized in another American movie classic genre, the gangster film. From his 1973 Mean Streets, to the masterful 1985 Goodfellas, and more recently 2019s The Irishman. The master criminal in this Scorsese film, William King Hale, bears resemblance to a powerful mob boss, with all the foulness in these various American film dramas of crime.

An air of foulness, of course, also pervades many of Shakespeare’s tragedies. Oddly enough, in the film version of Killers of the Flower Moon, there are surprising echoes of a tragic Shakespearean plot. The drama is the Bard’s Othello. There are overlaps and divergences between Shakespeare’s tragedy and Scorsese’s movie. The three main characters in Shakespeare play are Iago, Othello, and Desdemona. In Killers of the Flower Moon, they are William King Hale (played by Robert DeNiro), Ernest Burkhart (by Leonardo DiCaprio), and Molly (played by Lily Gladstone). Shakespeare’s Othello is an esteemed, heroic Moor General; Iago is a military subordinate and seemingly trusted adviser to Othello, while Desdemona is Othello’s wife. Iago is resentful of the slights he feels Othello inflicted on him and plots to deceive and demean Othello. Iago manipulates Othello to be suspicious that his wife is carrying on with another man. Othello falls for Iago’s manipulative scheme and murders his wife. In this regard, Iago pretends to be Othello’s friend and ally while all the while he is plotting to destroy Othello. Iago admits to his deception, and proclaims “I am not what I am.”

In Scorsese’s film William King Hale bears some resemblance to Iago, Ernest to Othello, and Molly to Desdemona. Hale is an American businessman and rancher who presents himself as the generous benefactor to both the wealthy Osage Indians and to his nephew Ernest Burkhart. Like Iago, King Hale is not who he appears to be. Hale is as conspiratorial and manipulative of his nephew as Iago was with Othello. The uncle persuades Ernest to participate in his murderous plots against the Indians. Ernest has married Molly, a wealthy Osage. As Iago gets Othello to become murderous to his wife, Hale manipulates Ernest to slowly poison Molly. Though as manipulative as Iago, the American rancher possesses none of the self-examination and self-insight of Iago. Hale is motivated by greed and power, and not Iago’s resentment. As well, Ernest does not possess the nobility of Othello.  Unlike Desdemona, Molly turns out to be an agent as well as the intended victim. Shakespeare’s Othello and Scorsese’s Killers of the Flower Moon both center on an interconnected trio, with manipulation and murder at the center of both works of art.

A divergence from Othello’s Desdemona is Ernest’s Osage wife, Molly, a diabetic. In the English tragedy, Iago’s goal is to get Othello to go after his wife. Hale’s plan is to use Ernest to eliminate all of Molly’s relatives and then slowly murder her. Ernest at Hale’s insistence spikes his wife’s insulin with other chemicals that will eventually kill Molly. Earlier, Hale had previously arranged to have murdered Molly’s mother and sisters. As Molly becomes the sole surviving oil rich adult member of her family, if she dies, all her wealth would go to her husband. Knowing this, the conniving Hale orders his nephew to sign a document that will give Hale all his nephew’s worldly assets if misfortune befalls Ernest. As Othello does not regularly suspect Iago’s machinations, Ernest, who is not too bright, remains unsuspecting and eventually puts his signature on the piece of paper. It is clear as mud, that once again the Iago-like Hale’s criminal enterprise would culminate not only with Molly’s murder but with Ernest’s demise. Hale would be the legal beneficiary.

Hale’s motivation is not revenge, but greed. In Roman Polanski’s Chinatown, the wealthy autocrat, played by John Huston, declares most people never have to face the fact that at the right time and place they are capable of anything. With Hale, the self-recognition does not include inwardly confronting his capacity for evil. Hale conspires to obtain the money and power he craves. There are no indications in the film that there is any inner struggle or signs of a guilty conscience. Hale just designs plots to kill all who stand between him and his lust for money and power. Sometimes in the grand American founding myth, there are allegations of a conspiracy to wipe out the creator’s endowment of natural rights. In Killers of the Flower Moon, the corrupt autocrat has designed such a plot eventually aimed not just at Molly’s Osage family, but also at his own blood relative.

As mentioned, a theme of the movie has to do with Hale directing his easily manipulated nephew to slowly murder his wife. The relationship between Ernest and Molly is crucial to the movie’s unfolding drama. As well as poisoning his wife, clearly Ernest also deeply loves his wife and children. The movie over and over shows the acts of gentleness, concern, and kindness Ernest has for Molly. As a wife, Molly is as devoted to her spouse as he is to her. On one hand, Ernest is faithfully carrying out his uncle’s plan to slowly murder his wife through insulin shots spiked with other chemicals while simultaneously he is deeply bonded to the wife he is killing. For much of the film, Ernest does not put two and two together. Unlike in the Bob Dylan song where you don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows, Ernest for most of the movie does need a weatherman. He seemingly cannot imagine what the loss of a beloved family member will do to him emotionally and spiritually.

There are two things striking here. Scorsese has put the focus of Killers of the Flower Moon on the marital relationship. He does so in ways that go beyond the motifs of the book on which the movie is based. Scorsese then enriches the film’s dramatic and emotional impact by connecting a domestic relationship to a criminal enterprise. These illegal plots also contain a deep and troubling tragedy. The eventual deep power of the film cannot be separated from the relationship of Molly and Ernest. Like a masterful dramatist Scorsese, who co-wrote the film’s script, brings most elements of the plot together into a powerful culmination. This is a cohesive and integrated story, a major cinematic accomplishment.

The film’s story also contains the Osage tribal efforts to counter the murders. Tribal leaders recognize that local Oklahoma law enforcement officials are ineffective and may be corrupt.  Arrangements are made to send a trusted representative to Washington DC to enlist the federal government in law enforcement duties. King Hale gets word of this, and this envoy is murdered.  In the meantime, her husband’s slow poisoning Molly is having its impact. But she gathers her forces, goes to the nation’s capital. She personally encounters President Coolidge and beseeches him to come to the rescue of the Osage tribe. Not long after, investigators working under a young J. Edgar Hoover appear in Oklahoma and take over the criminal investigation. Eventually, criminal plots are uncovered, King Hale is arrested and put on trial.

Molly was a victim who became the agent whose heroic actions set in motion the intervention of the federal government that changes things. In short, though targeted to be murdered, Molly is no Desdemona. Her courage, determination, and resourcefulness allow victims to eventually find some justice.

But what about her husband? At first, Ernest pledges to stand by his uncle. Then one of Ernest and Molly’s children dies. Ernest is overcome with grief. He comes to recognize that he has loyalties not only to his blood-relative but to his beloved wife and the family they have created.  He turned state’s evidence. King Hale is convicted. Ernest himself will be doing jail time for his part in the murders.

Molly is brought to a prison visiting room to spend time with her jail-bird husband. They talk. She then changes the tone. Molly asks Ernest what was in the medicine he entered into her bloodstream. While the camera is on Ernest, he says just insulin. The next thing in the film is our hearing the door slamming as Molly exits the room. Ernest’s self-recognition and honesty with his much-loved wife has only gone so far. The culmination of a tragic drama has been presented here by Scorsese. Ernest, in playing both ends against the middle, ends up as a murderer who has burned all his bridges. Molly, on the other hand, has the tragic recognition that her husband’s ultimate loyalty was more to his murderous, monstrous uncle than to her. This is a dramatic and emotionally convincing conclusion to this drama of foulness, murder, and deception. After Molly’s exit, Scorsese tags on news announcements in a simulation of a radio broadcast from a later era.

As a work of cinematic art Scorsese has unfolded a powerful, cohesive human drama. It is both a horror story and an American tragedy. Yet ironically the film’s director has not told the complete story. There could be at least two more films made from this historical material. A part that remains untold is the impact on Molly of her recognition of her husband’s actions. What are the scars and legacy for her? She had a husband who was deeply devoted to her, who loved and ironically nurtured her through sickness and health. Still, the man who loved her deeply was seeking to slowly murder her. The father of their children intentionally acted to slowly end Molly’s life. How does any human come to terms with such things? The personal, emotional legacy of contradictory actions of a white husband toward his Native American wife is an unfinished part of the narrative Scorsese’s drama has unfolded. The attempted intimate partner homicide that Molly experienced is not a rare human phenomenon. Again, how can anyone come to terms with this heart of darkness? A crucial consequence to all this killing and exploitation is left unfinished.

Scorsese might need to make two sequels. David Grann’s historical narrative extends beyond the trial and conviction of William King Hale. The FBI under J. Edgar Hoover used that legal spectacle to enhance its own image, but it did not uproot all the criminal activity. Later Grann discovered an additional story. He found and interviewed living Osage descendants of the murdered victims. There were subsequent revelations. What Hale did was just the tip of the iceberg. There were multiple other conniving white men conducting multiple other murder plots to kill Osage and steal their riches. It was the Wild West where white men killed multiple Indians and law enforcement did not investigate the full extent of the crimes. The story of King Hale as a variant of King George the III carries on the founding American melodrama where autocratic evil is resisted by virtuous victims seeking justice and freedom. It makes for superb film making.

In the instance of the killers of the Osage, there is not a single autocrat but a dispersal of evil doers. The American founding myth of the victims and a single father type autocrat is not sufficient to account for the extent of the crimes and horrors. Scorsese made an understandable decision to choose art over extremely foul historical facts. The untold truth that Grann uncovered is not one that conforms to the ongoing American myth where centralized authority undermines precious American liberties, and the autocrats are defeated by heroes. Elements of this myth are still prominent. The founding tale is evident in our current political polarization. Amongst us, some demonize those they see as unjust restrainers of unlimited liberty, and others are characterized as authoritarian threats to constitutional democracy.

Things in life, politics, and art often move in opposite directions at the same time. In film art, Scorsese’s Killers of the Flower Moon is both a masterpiece, and an unfinished human and historical tragedy.

Jillian Dion, from left, JaNae Collins, Cara Jade Myers, Robert De Niro, Leonardo DiCaprio, Martin Scorsese, Lily Gladstone and Tantoo Cardinal arrive for the screening of Killers of the Flower Moon during the Cannes Film Festival in France, on May 20, 2023. On and off the red carpet, the festival had a strong Indigenous presence — a fashion show featuring Indigenous designers was a highlight. Antonin Thuillier/AFP via Getty Images

9.
WAR HORSES
by Howard F. Stein

War horses, pot boilers,
Music ever-faster, ever-louder,
Orchestras play.
It’s off to the races,
Round the bend,
Steeds hurtle together,
Stampede to the finishing line.
If not orchestras,
Then violinists, pianists,
Cellists, vocalists.
Music is spectacle.
Speed is grotesque.
Virtuosity is all.

Musical bombast deafens,
But still is not loud enough.
Subtlety, gradation,
Perish, as allegro
Accelerates into prestissimo,
While forte
Drowns in fortissimo.
What player even remembers
When moderato was still
Welcome to the listener’s ear?

Favorites overplayed – though
Never played enough.
Performances blur,
Homogeneous perfection.
Substitute one conductor for another,
You’d hardly know the difference.
Like the perfectly
Lubricated machinery
In Fritz Lang’s film Metropolis,
All pieces come to sound alike.
Repetition reveals only
What you’ve heard
A hundred times before —
Audiences cheer
To the thrill of the same …

The list of war horses
Reads like a menu:
Take Sibelius’ Finlandia,
Liszt’s Les Preludes,
Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony,
Tchaikovsky’s Fourth Symphony,
Wagner’s Ride of Valkyries,
Verdi’s Requiem,
Rossini’s William Tell Overture

And then, marvel of the cosmos,
Appears an unforeseeable miracle:
A piece of music I have known
Nearly all my life, familiar
Exactly ‘how it should go,”
Sounds as if I am
Hearing it for the first time —
A cliché revived —
I ask myself, “Where have you been
All my life? How could I have been
So wrong for so long?”
Both the music and I,
New and renewed.

10.
TV SERIES “DOPESICK”: A CHILLING STORY OF AMERICA’S OPIOID CRISIS

Compiled by Inna Rozentsvit

The HULU’s original series “DOPESICK” takes a deep dive into America’s opioid epidemic, by documenting the crimes of pharmaceutical company Purdue Pharma, which single-handedly triggered this epidemic. Driven by profits, and profits only, Purdue Pharma executives knowingly falsified the data presented to DEA about the addiction capacity of the OxyContin and pushed prohibiting doses to be prescribed long-term, without any regard to lives they destroyed.

The series takes viewers to the epicenter of America’s struggle with opioid addiction: from the boardrooms of Purdue Pharma — to a distressed Virginia mining community, to the hallways of the DEA and the DOJ…

While it utilizes fictionalized characters, this eight-episode limited series is based in part on journalist Beth Macy’s nonfiction book Dopesick: Dealers, Doctors, and the Drug Company that Addicted America. You can find the real story here: https://time.com/5520159/purdue-pharma-lawsuits/.

“DOPESICK” puts the uber-wealthy Sackler family, the owners of Purdue Pharma, under the microscope. The strong performances from Michael Keaton and Kaitlyn Dever and an empathetic approach to the very real people impacted by the opioid crisis portray a harrowing drama.

Ed Cumming of The Independent rated the miniseries 5 out of 5 stars, found DOPESICK to be an ambitious drama series, saying, “It aims to explore the scandal from the Sacklers down, opening with the development of the drug in the 1980s, to show how greedy bosses and avaricious sales reps were able to hijack the good intentions of doctors all over the country,” praised the performances of the cast members and called the script “admirably tight,” while complimenting the direction. [Cumming, 2021, “Dopesick is a masterful study of America’s opioid crisis – our five-star review.”]

Some of other critics’ reviews:

“It’s oh-so-appropriate to cast once and future Batman Keaton in the role of an everyman doctor who plays an important role in aiding the DEA and US Attorney: the scheme at the heart of DOPESICK is one worthy of any supervillain.”

“Ultimately, DOPESICK is an exposé of the methodology behind pharmaceutical companies and how they make money. It charts the addiction tactics, marketing ploys, and corporate double-dealing which goes on behind closed doors.”

“Given the size of its canvas, DOPESICK is a remarkable achievement, which clearly lays out the facts of the slow-burning tragedy, with lots of helpful date reminders, without losing track of the human stories behind it.”

Watch DOPESICK trailer here:

11.
“HOW DOES IT MAKE YOU FEEL, GIVING A CHILD HIS FREEDOM?”
A MOVIE THAT SHINES A LIGHT ON CHILD TRAFFICKING

Compiled by Inna Rozentsvit

“Sound of Freedom,” based on the incredible true story, shines a light on even the darkest of places. After rescuing a young boy from ruthless child-traffickers, a federal agent learns that the boy’s sister is still a captive and decides to embark on a dangerous mission to save her. With time running out, he quits his job and journeys deep into the Colombian jungle, putting his life on the line to free her from a fate worse than death.
— Angel Studios

“Since Sound of Freedom launched in the US, demand has been building around the world in dozens of regions and languages,” said Jared Geesey, Senior Vice President of Global Distribution for Angel Studios. “Child trafficking is a global issue, and we hope to build on the incredible momentum here in the states and share the film’s powerful message worldwide.”

Since its debut, “Sound of Freedom” has captivated hearts, sparked profound conversations, and inspired viewers with its compelling narrative. The unwavering support and fervor shown by audiences has propelled the film to unprecedented success, cementing its position among high-budget films this movie season.

 

Some Audience Reviews, which overall rated the movie at 99% v. the critics’ 57% (from https://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/sound_of_freedom/reviews?type=user&intcmp=rt-what-to-know_read-audience-reviews):

“Incredibly powerful movie/documentary that gets the crystal-clear message out there on the ugly reality of what’s going on with children and sex trafficking. I made everyone I know watch it and they all felt the same. Excellent cast/acting. Must watch. (The movie doesn’t show actual acts of sexual abuse and violence, just the message of it which makes it tolerable to watch).”

“Beautifully acted, particularly by the two children stars, which overshadows the disturbing subject matter and turns it into a surprisingly enjoyable experience because the children’s performances are so moving. It was also suspenseful and memorable…”

OFFICIAL TRAILER (2023):

12.
REPORT ON “PSYCHOANALYTICAL AND PSYCHOBIOGRAPHICAL EXPLORATIONS
OF SHAKESPEARE AS REVEALED IN HIS PLAYS”
PSYCHOHISTORY FORUM PRESENTATION BY DR. JEFFERY RUBIN

by Kevin McGinnis

In his work-in-progress Psychohistory Forum presentation on September 30th, 2023 (https://psychohistoryforum.com/psychoanalytical-and-psychobiographical-explorations-of-shakespeare-as-revealed-in-his-plays/), Dr. Rubin analyzed the psychoanalytic connections and themes found in Shakespeare’s work. Prefacing this work, Dr. Rubin explained that his approach involved an emphasis on inductive reasoning, the problem of contemporary biases and ahistorical prejudices, and the avoidance of pathography. For Dr. Rubin, to understand Shakespeare psychoanalytically, we must rely on the evidence that scholars have, which is Shakespeare’s written work, namely his plays. Using Shakespeare’s plays as a guide allows us to draw inferences on both the culture of the time period and on Shakespeare’s psyche as well.

Dr. Rubin warned that scholars must not speculate too far beyond the confines of the limited evidence we have. With the enduring evidence that is accessible to us, primarily Shakespeare’s plays, scholars can derive latent meanings from them just as a psychoanalyst does with a client during psychotherapy. Dr Rubin stated that art is generative, and it allows for patterns to emerge in Shakespeare’s plays, such as the general absence of mothers, betrayal, and the extreme violence, which are themes that were common during Shakespeare’s life. These messages and meanings can offer a reflection of Shakespeare’s society and the environmental and personal context in which he wrote his plays.

In psychotherapy, different forms of artistic expression can frequently provide significant therapeutic benefit through two main mechanisms. The first mechanism is the meditative practice of creating or consuming art and the second mechanism is the metaphors and meaning extracted from the art itself. As Dr. Rubin pointed out in his paper, it is possible that Shakespeare used his art as a way to heal himself. Shakespeare likely experienced various life stressors, transitions, and traumas as many people in modernity do as well. Importantly, the promotion of mental health treatment largely did not exist during the late sixteenth century and early seventieth century beyond what people had available to them at the time.

Art was and continues to be a valuable tool for self-expression, the exploration of ideas and psychological healing. Psychoanalysis, psychobiography, and psychohistory offer the opportunity to link historical and anthropological research with potential, underlying psychological motivations Shakespeare had as he wrote his plays. Dr. Rubin warned that it is important to be cautious in our application of these methodologies, as our retroactive interpretations of Shakespeare’s psychology from his plays could become ahistorical and reductive if we do not account for our contemporary biases and knowledge. Dr. Rubin’s presentation provided a comprehensive and unique view of psychobiography, Shakespeare’s plays, and Shakespeare himself that unified different disciplines of study to build a better conceptualization of one of the most important and impactful collections of literature in history.

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NB: If you are interested to read Dr. Rubin’s chapter on Dying to be Free: Coriolanus and Shakespeare’s Fight Against Servitude and Self-Betrayal – visit https://psychohistoryforum.com/psychoanalytical-and-psychobiographical-explorations-of-shakespeare-as-revealed-in-his-plays/

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