Eradicating brutality one person at a time


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Category: Trinidad Society 30 Nov 14


In this part of the world, the brutally murdered are part of our landscape. The UN office on international homicide statistics (non-warring nations) has placed us 12th in order of murders per 100,000 people. First on the list is Honduras, followed by Venezuela, Belize, El Salvador, Guatemala, Jamaica, Swaziland, St Kitts and Nevis, South Africa, Colombia, the Bahamas and T&T.

With the devaluation of death in countries like ours, used to brutality, we devalue lives too— dozens go without mention. The recent shooting of 19-year-old Maria Jose Alvarado, Miss Honduras, and her sister weeks ahead of the Miss World contest made world news. Similarly, the murder of the elderly German couple, Hubertus Keil, 74, and his wife, Birgid, found hacked to death on a beach near their home in Tobago, is zipping around the world.

Like most people in our country who have at least once been given a “bad drive” by “a” police, I have very little confidence in the police to detect crimes, deter crimes, and little faith in our judiciary which retains integrity but remains a unwieldy, disastrous, untidy heap of failed bureaucracy.

So we are in the top 12 most murderous globally, despite our “first world” wealth. I am convinced the real battle is not with faceless boys with guns but in people’s minds. I was thinking of the Tobago murders when Trinidadian-born writer Monique Roffey invited me for the second consecutive week to a “lecture” at the Jung Club, based in the Essex Unitarian Church in Notting Hill Gate in London.

The club was founded in 1922 by close associates of CG Jung, a Swiss psychiatrist whose work on himself and his patients convinced him that life has a spiritual purpose beyond material goals. Put simply (in a complex Jungian construct worth studying), Jung believed (based on his study of world religions) that it was the greatest human task to discover and fulfil our deep innate potential.

Each week at the London G Jung Psychology Club, a tight group of diverse nationalities, ages, analysts, musicians, artists, mathematicians, intellectuals, and those simply curious to understand the human condition sit around a room and engage in conversation with eminent speakers.

This week, we were treated to a brilliant analyst, Martin Knops (recent recipient of an OBE), who has been working with Oxfam for three decades in countries such as ours, faced with humanitarian emergencies.

Analysis, I understood, is a complex, deeply fascinating process which allows us to drill down, past the way we choose to present ourselves to the world.

Dr Knops gave us two case studies: A 65-year-old patient came to him with this story. He was the youngest in a family of five, the only boy living in a happy Catholic family. Everyone called him “boy,” a nickname that stuck. At 15, he falls in love with other boys and fantasises about having relationships with them, but does nothing. At 18 he decides, in order to solve the subject of his sexuality, to join a Catholic order. He feels shame.

This is what interests his analyst, Dr Knops. He says, “Stay with shame, it teaches us everything about ourselves.” The “boy,” now 40, does something terrible from years of pent-up anger and depression.

He has virtual sexual paedophiliac online “relationships.” He leaves his computer on, the sites open. Why? So that he can be caught, saved. He is caught. He is jailed. Dr Knops says jail was useless. It did nothing to develop or save the “boy.” But when the “boy” comes out of jail, he goes into analysis. He speaks of shame. Dr Knops says that “shame is the beginning of self-revelation.” He advises the “boy” to stay with the shame in analysis.

Eventually the “boy” leaves the order and begins to work with the homeless, alcoholics, the dregs of society. He helps them to find themselves. In doing so, he finds peace with himself. His energy as it directs towards healing others heals himself.

The second case study was simple but devastating: a 40- something patient abused, debased, and thrown out by her parents. She travels to war torn nations helping disabled, diseased people. She eventually meets Dr Knops in Oxfam. In therapy she sees that by helping heal others she heals herself.

Dr Knops ends with a stunning reflection that real spirituality is not in a kind of beatific relationship with something high up there but to do with the earth. If it’s real, it makes you more human. He says the brighter the ideal, be it religion, corporations, the deeper the shadows of inadequacy, of loss.

Yes, what’s the link with murders? The link is that the answer is not out there. It’s about a society made up of communities, families and friends, looking out for the wounds of one another. It’s about showing the wounded (and who isn’t?) that actually salvation lies not in lashing out either against ourselves with self-destructive behaviour or at others by bashing them dead, but by helping others heal.

This came not from a priest but a Jungian analyst. This restores hope in the simultaneous power of knowledge and humanity in eradicating brutality, one person at a time.

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All Articles Copyright Ira Mathur