The poignant and emotional state of people affected by war and political violence has become a principal issue of unease for international legislators and the boundaries between clinical and political practices are becoming blurred. This paper will discuss the social and political impact of the medicalization of political violence as proposed by Young (2002), Fassin and d’Halluin (2007) and Pupavac (2004).
The medicalization of political violence began in the aftermath of the Vietnam War, when according to Young (2002) American psychiatrists ‘invented’ the analysis of ‘post traumatic stress syndrome’ PSTD to move the political concerns of atrocities of the war into a clinical arena, in order to provide a more appeasing account of American veterans and their behavior. Within this analysis it was claimed that the executors of atrocities could suffer similar psychological problems as their victims, creating a new group of ‘self-traumatized perpetrators,’ people traumatized by their own acts of violence executed in the war.
Stemming from this period there has been a gradual acceptance of therapy as being the best way in which to deal with the trauma of war and political violence. Today there is a kind of therapeutic culture, ‘a psycho-social’ ethos, which dominates and is powered by emotionology, the stance or criterion that a society, imposes on its people and their conduct; governments in America and in Europe need their people to be involved in politics in a more emotional way (Pupavac, 2004, p. 151).
International aid in reaction to political violence and war is being dominated by a ‘therapeutic security paradigm’ (Pupavac, 2004, p. 150) which is a kind of ‘cultural imperialism’ wherein Western ideals and standards are forced on cultures and populace that already have their own methods of handling trauma caused by political violence and war. Within this paradigm those affected by war are described as emotionally dysfunctional which hinders their ability to self-government, hence psychosocial intrusion by Western authorities is rationalized (Pupavac, 2004).
The fundamental belief of psychosocial interference is that whole societies suffer trauma as a result of war and that entire populations are psychologically impaired and emotionally scarred, rendering them to continual cycles of aggression and hostility; but while trauma is recognized and overestimated the notion of refuge or asylum are being rendered unlawful (Fassin and d’Halluin, 2007) and acceptance of mass suffering is strong while the acceptance of individual suffering is not.
Within the realms of medicalizing political violence and the preoccupation with psychic trauma, which focused on “asylum seekers and victims of torture” (Fassin and d’Halluin, 2007, p. 312), a system of ‘psychotraumatology’ has been developed by governments in an attempt to reduce the number of asylum seekers entering the US and Europe; doctors and psychologists are forced to depend not only on their ‘psychological expertise’ but also on their ‘their political activism’ (Fassin and d’Halluin, 2007, p.
312 and 316), wherein they now need to not only treat trauma but also extort the truth “from bodies and minds” (Fassin and d’Halluin, 2007, p. 325) to establish evidence of persecution. Asylum seekers, the survivors of torture, rape and other violence are now shamed, exposed and helpless and considered to be impostors until they are able to prove their right for political asylum; “the spoken evidence has to be certified by the experts and “generally speaking, judges give more credence to physical than to psychological traces” (Fassin and d’Halluin, 2007, p.
449). In a world where governments are longing to show authority and medicalize political violence; in a world where defenceless and traumatized individuals are yearning recognition and assurance, arbitrated by psychiatrists or other experts, legislators and policymakers must realize that peoples’ autonomy as sound individuals is being diminished, but although there is evidence of a growing therapeutic society, its supremacy remains vulnerable. References
Fassin, Didier and Estelle d’Halluin (2007) “Critical Evidence: The Politics of Trauma in French Asylum Politics,” ETHOS, 35(3):300-329. http://www. anthrosource. net Pupavac, Vanessa (2004) “War on the Couch: The Emotionology of the New International Security Paradigm,” European Journal of Social Theory, 7(2): 149-170. http://www. sagepublications. com Young, Allan (2002) “The self-traumatized perpetrator as a “transient mental illness,” Evol Psychiatr, 67(4):630-50