Wednesday, November 22, 2006

So many wankers, so little time

The competition for "wanker of the week" is getting really stiff, what with Michael Richards' racist outburst and lame-assed apology. But leave it to Richard Cohen, the "esteemed" WaPo columnist, to reach new depths of inanity:
In a post-Sept. 11 world, I thought the prudent use of violence could be therapeutic.
Say what!?!

Talking is therapeutic - including heated, confrontational talking. Taking up a hobby is therapeutic. Hell, writing is therapeutic. Violence? Not so much - whether we're talking on an interpersonal or large-scale situation. To call something therapeutic implies that it has some beneficial effect on those undergoing the therapy, some sort of healing effect on those seeking treatment as well as those around them. I fail to see how the mass-slaughter of something in the neighborhood of a half million Iraqis, along with the 3,000 coalition troops killed, not to mention the countless maimed, displaced, and traumatized people who've been affected at ground zero. Nor has the sheer divisiveness that the last several years of war-mongering has caused within our own borders. I can say that personally I lost quite a number of friends and friendly acquaintances in 2003 as the Iraq debacle got underway, and that my experience was hardly unique. Near as I could figure, those dishing out the worst bile at anti-war types such like me didn't exactly seem to be gaining any therapeutic benefit either: the more bile they spewed, and the more their targets pushed back, the more hostile they became. In therapy, participants talk with each other, not at or past each other.

If Cohen subscribes to some sort of "catharsis" hypothesis - i.e., the notion that violent or aggressive acts will lead to a "release" of emotions followed by calm, there is a growing body of research that would contradict that notion (I'd suggest brushing up on some of Brad Bushman's work over the last decade, or even go back to Russ Geen's work from the 1970s). Extrapolating from the lab to a large scale, what has this huge international "catharsis" led us? Not to calm, but to escalating violence and hostility. There is nothing "therapeutic" to be had.

What might be therapeutic at this juncture would be to take that first step and admit the problem: that the war is a debacle that was a bad idea from the get-go, and even better to look at some of the more problematic facets of the American Zeitgeist (such as this belief that others' resources are ours for the taking). Having taken that step, the next therapeutic action would be to simply stop contributing to the mess: get Americans the hell out of Iraq, and acknowledge that our government has no legitimate claim to "helping" to clean up the mess (as an astute Iraqi would likely say, "You've done enough already.").

As for Cohen, do us all a favor and retire. I hear that gardening is quite therapeutic. Give it a go.

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