Workshop Part 6:
Death of a Child
WORKSHOP VIDEO PART 6: Death of a Child
In Video Part 6 Bassam and his wife Salwa talk about the killing of their 10 year old daughter by an Israeli Army Police bullet outside her school. Bassam tells us how he chooses not to revenge his daughter’s death as it would sacrifice his other children to a life without a father. He chooses legal justice for the killer. Salwa talks about her initial anger with peace activism and her subsequent reaffirmation. We also meet Rami an Israeli whose 14 year old daughter was killed by a suicide bomber. These two sets of parents have put aside their desire for revenge. We accompany them on their journey through unbearable pain to their ultimate recognition of the subjectivity and humanity of their ‘enemy’.
- To try to understand the journey of bereaved parents (Palestinian Bassam and Salwa, and Israeli Rami) after the murder of their daughters to ultimate recognition of the shared humanity of their ‘enemy’.
- How revenge sacrifices self and others.
- How the diagram The Ethical Mindset helps us to understand Bassam’s and Rami’s response after the death of their daughters?
- Killing and death in conflicts can lead to a process of relinquishing violence between ‘enemies’ when loss and pain can be accepted (Klein’s depressive position) when the same suffering is recognised in the ‘enemy’. In this process projections are withdrawn to allow empathic recognition of perpetrator and victim in self and enemy; fear is overcome and pain and comfort shared.
Issues to Explore:
- Ask the group members if they would like to share what they are feeling after watching this video part?
- What can we learn from Bassam’s and Rami’s respective response to the death of their daughters?
- Do Bassam and Salwa and Rami see themselves or their children as victims? children?
- How do you understand Bassam’s ability to maintain his ‘responsibility to his message’ when his daughter has been killed?
- What do we learn from Salwa’s reaction to Bassam after their daughter’s death; think about the role of women in peace-building?
- What is Bassam saying about his daughter’s murderer’s reason for killing her and his insistence on the legal process? Glossary: mentalisation
Facilitating the Workshop:
- You will need to address your own feelings about these bereavements, e.g. sadness and anger, views about perpetrator deaths versus victim deaths (no consensus about which is which!), imbalance of power, and whether loss does or does not obliterate the political backdrop of the two deaths.
- Think about individual and community bereavement and the range of interventions possible after traumas involving terrorists or natural trauma such as earthquakes and floods, where there are no perpetrators.
Allow the group to compare and contrast these and consider the context of the deaths of these two children.
- Consider what the function of having someone or something to blame, e.g. where there may be culprits.
Invite the group to look at the way this option is rejected by Bassam and Rami and others in the film.
- Compare the desire to forgive and who may be being forgiven, with the search for justice. Are they compatible? What happens when justice is not achieved? Consider Bassam and Salwa and Rami with regard to victimhood and sacrifice, resilience and agency.
KEYWORDS YOU SHOULD KNOW:
Agency is the capacity of an agent (a person or other entity, human or any living being in general) to act in a world. The capacity to act does not at first imply a specific moral dimension to the ability to make the choice to act, and moral agency is therefore a distinct concept.
As with individuals, groups small and large reconstruct their group experience through stories that may become the official collective narrative of the group. Confronting or changing a collective narrative may be difficult simply because so many are invested in it, emotionally or through the power hierarchy. Individuals attempting to create a new version of the collective narrative may induce anxiety in the group and find themselves the objects of group aggression.
(Melanie Klein) The initial depressive position is a significant step in integrative development which occurs when the infant discovers that the hated bad breast and the loved good breast are one and the same. The mother begins to be recognized as a whole object who can be good and bad, rather than two part-objects, one good and one bad. Love and hate, along with external reality and internal phantasy, can now also begin to co-exist. Winnicott found the depressive position in emotional development as an achievement.
Baron-Cohen describes the first stage of empathy as recognition: “empathy occurs when we switch from a single-minded focus of attention to a double-minded focus of attention”. He says we are not only thinking about our own mind, thoughts and perception, but we are keeping in mind someone else’s mind at the very same time. The second stage is to respond to the other’s thoughts and feelings with an appropriate emotion. Baron-Cohen continues:” Empathy makes the other person feel valued, they feel that their thoughts and feelings have been heard, acknowledged and respected” .Baron Cohen explains dehumanisation and evil as the result of ‘zero degrees of empathy’
(Baron -Cohen S: Zero Degrees of Empathy).
The Ethical Mindset with Congruent Behaviours is a concept developed by the Moving Beyond Violence team. The Ethical Mindset facilitates stepping out of denial of destructive collective narratives, and out of violence. This denial refers to the mental roadblocks that prevent us from acknowledging the irreducible humanity of others, overcoming whatever resistance we may have to disqualify difference and thus engaging an Ethical Mindset, accompanied by congruent behaviours.
The MBV multi-stage guided process is designed to explore stepping out of denial and into an Ethical Mindset. The congruent behaviours are those that engage fundamental hospitality and care. They maybe dictates of familial, cultural, religious, or political cultures; the hospitality, protection and care are prerequisites for a safe and just society. Our protagonists’ stories help us identify the internal and external processes which led to their Ethical Mindset. At times of failure the Ethical Mindset may be repaired through Jessica Benjamin’s Moral Third which engages recognition, empathy and a willingness to dialogue in a search for an alternative way.
Bowlby's four stages of Loss observed through studies of attachment; Klein’s integration of loss in the Depressive Position (see above) and Bowlby’s Loss are seen as essential process for integration and healthy emotional development. .
- numbing that usually lasts from a few hours to a week and may be interrupted by outbursts of extremely intense distress and/or anger.
- yearning and searching for the lost figure lasting some months or sometimes for years.
- disorganization and despair.
- greater or less degree of organization
(Bowlby’s original 3-phase process of Loss was published in "Processes Of Mourning" Int. J. Psycho-Anal. 42:317-40.
Mentalisation is a mental process that bridges recognition and attachment theory which is associated with capacity for mentalising. mentalisation allows us to understand human behaviour in terms of intentional mental states (e.g. needs, desires, feelings, beliefs, goals, purposes, and reasons). Peter Fonagy suggests that individuals with disorganised attachment will have poor mentalisation-abilities. Securely-attached individuals tend to have had a primary caregiver who has more complex and sophisticated mentalising abilities so that as children and later they are more able to mentalise their own and other peoples’ mental states. "The whole idea of thinking about thinking is that we learn about ourselves through being understood by other people. Babies learn about their feelings by having their feelings understood (ie recognised (IS))by someone else." (David Wallin) Wikepedia
Recognition that response (from or to) the other which makes one’s own or the other’s feelings, intentions and actions meaningful. It shows that we have had an impact on the other. . It allows the self to realise its agency and authorship in a tangible way. But such recognition can only come from an other whom we, in turn, recognise as person in his or her own right. Recognition is integral to…”differentiation” – the individual’s development as a self that is aware of its distinctness from others. Lack of recognition is associated with victimhood and loss of agency; or dependency on recognition, as Benjamin has discussed, may lead to people engaging in power struggles; ie when people feel their suffering, their point of view, their needs, their value and dignity, or their actions are being denied recognition. Social traumas require social recognition so that people feel their suffering is known, has meaning, and their need for dignity and value is respected. ( Benjamin J.The Bonds of Love: (1988) Pantheon Books. NY.)
A term used to define a single or repeated overwhelming stressful event, such as emotional or physical abuse, violence, loss, severe accidents, environmental events, which alter a person’s psychological condition and in all probability the brain. Such events are not only terrifying and painful, but may lead to ongoing fear of a repetition of the experience. The fear of repetition of the past feelings or events, triggered perhaps by a smell or sound, then “activates” an involuntary response. Trauma often leaves people mentally disorganized and anxious, suffering loss of cognitive functions and normal emotional responses. This is referred to by psychiatry as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder(PTSD), a term now used colloquially as well. In PTSD people can be numb or agitated, masking their symptoms or dysfunctional, but any heightened emotional or physical stress will bring about definite symptoms of fear.
It might be useful and specifically relevant to this discussion to include Freud’s statement that the effect of trauma on a person “shatters the foundations of his (sic) life (as a result of which) he abandons all interest in the present and future and remains permanently absorbed in mental concentration on the past” (1917, Introductory Lectures)