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ETA Terrorism

     In my posting on ETA terrorism I said "Violent men are almost incurable." Stephen Read of the UCLA Department of Psychiatry comments:
     "This indeed remains a profound problem for culture and society. I am not sure where to start with a response. I am tempted to say that it suggests a reinforcing/habitual/ perhaps addictive quality to violence. And yet, like other habit/addictions, all are not equally susceptible. It remains true that many soldiers return successfully to civilian life. As distasteful as it is, there is strong anecdotal evidence that torturers are disturbingly "normal" to the observations of many ("banal" was Arendt's adjective), and outside of the torture chamber (and if such apparatus is not available) seem to take up non-violent human relations.
     There are also many attestations to the toxic nature of killing and other violence, with certain difficulties in generalizing from well-known examples. Inquiries into the "biology" of violence have been difficult to pursue as they provoke challenges from a civil rights point of view. E.g. the distinguished late Jolly West, chair of the prestigious UCLA Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences for many years, was foiled in a serious attempt to establish such an institute at UCLA. And this despite his own well-established credentials as a defender of the underdog.
     Cultural inquiries also seem to be quite value-laden; not that investigators should (or could) be value-free, but that the values truncate or pre-determine the outcome of the approach. And yet, to accept the finality of the provocative sentence is to accept an unavoidable spiral into violence as our fate. And that has not happened, I don't think. What are the effective checks or diversions or suppressors of these impulses?"

     My comment: This is the deepest problem we face. What is man? Kind men who become soldiers often end up enjoying killing people. There is a profound truth in the old belief that original sin can be countered with grace. But, as the saying goes, the devil is in the details.

Ronald Hilton - 5/18/00