Thursday, October 13, 2011

Ethics and Outrage

A few weeks ago at brunch at the home of friends we were expressing our disappointment with the US President. We agreed that Obama seemed to lack outrage, a righteous indignation, at what is happening all around us. It seems Obama has not expressed outrage since the unfortunate arrest of Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr in Cambridge, MA in July 2009.

So I was very happy to come across the interview with Stephane Hessel two evenings ago on the PBS Newshour. Hessel, a German born Jew raised in Paris, a member of the French Resistance, and a concentration camp survivor, was cogently speaking about his book Time for Outrage--Indignez-Vous! In Time for Outrage, published in October 2010, Hessel asked people to get angry and indignant when their government is not doing what is necessary to preserve the dignity of people.

The subsequent Arab Spring and, later, Occupy Wall Street, hearten him, and he encourages younger people -- now 94 years old, he quips that almost everyone is younger than he—to engage in a cause with outrage, not by violence, but by a determined will. He believes that international law, encouraged by Franklin Roosevelt and the UN charter, the ideals for which WWII was fought, are the values now threatened by failing financial fidelity and corruption around the world. He also sees as unacceptable the treatment of Palestinians by Israel, treatment of the world’s immigrants, that social security does not cover requirements of living, and the organization of lobbyists to oppress our governments.

Just yesterday, in TBIPS’ Practical Analytic Subjectivity course, the class was discussing Claire Allphin’s An Ethical Attitude in the Analytic Relationship (Journal Analytical Psychology, 50:451-468) in which she reminds us that “the source of ethical capacity is the ability to accommodate conflicting needs…” a plea for intersubjectivity if I ever heard one. She cites John Beebe’s obligation of the ethical attitude to protect (the patient’s) self esteem, or, as Hessel might say, each person’s dignity. I was reminded of a 20th century Christian hymn which sang “guard each [one’s] dignity and save each [one’s] pride” as the class, later, discussed interpretation and the exhortation to avoid shaming a patient by the meaning we may bring to their narrative or behavior.

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