Willingness to torture and structural violence
(Andreas von Wallenberg Pachaly, Düsseldorf)
In our history, the question seems to be how it was possible for a highly civilized people to have such an inhuman
to build, maintain and successfully operate a human extermination apparatus over many years, still in part
to be unanswered. We didn’t have it with spontaneous prodromes at that time, but with carefully built up and carefully
to do with the structures of violence that have been realized! The question to what extent the phenomenon of concentration camps is a typically German one and what about it?
is actually the typical one, is still not sufficiently answered today, although it is both individu-alpsychological (Lifton)
as well as more socio-psychological and sociological approaches.
At the same time, this question raises further questions. How come people systematically torture people and how come,
that in some societies more is tortured, in others less and in some obviously not at all? Since
now more than 15 years it is my concern to develop psychoana- lytic, socio-psychological and sociological concepts for
in order to bring social phenomena of violence closer to understanding. It does not apply in particular to
the mistake of falling for concepts and concepts developed from dual psychology only analogously to social phenomena
to short-circuit. In this context, I have developed a series of concepts to create individual, group-dynamic
and social phenomena in an integrative way. These include the ego function
of social participation, a group-dynamic understanding of structural violence, a process-oriented understanding of
Peace skills, etc. This contribution comes at a time of obvious social insecurity, in which
existential anxieties and regressive needs grow and people’s willingness to become real or reactive is increased.
to trust structures that seem to provide security, as well as the tendency to trust the company out of social responsibility, is growing.
and retreat to individual, narcissistic positions. My concern is not to create a finished
system, but rather to stimulate a discussion, because exactly this corresponds to my understanding, how
structural violence can be countered.
I would like to show that structural violence (S-G) finds expression in the personality, and for discussion
make that people who are marked by S-structures to a considerable extent, much easier to become torturers
are more likely to be educated, and also more susceptible, to be educated. The aim is to analyse the extent to which the
“The “willingness to torture” of a society is related to the level of structural violence to which its members are exposed.
and that has become part of their personality. I understand torture to be
The kind of destructive problem-solving ability of a society which, in my opinion, has its roots in both the dominant
social structures of this society, as well as in the group-dynamic structures of the primary groups and the
personality structures of their individual members. Of course, this is all interwoven and only an integrated
The overall picture will make a useful analysis possible. We should be particularly concerned about the false, misleading
generalization and inference, which are often avoided by a casual interpretation of the results.
of the Milgram experiment that all humans were torturers. This is wrong, and neither are all men
rapists and all mothers are child molesters. My thesis is that it is more specific social,
of group-dynamic and individual psychological structures to enable torture systems, to prevent torture
and to create a willingness to torture. to conduct this in the approach of an investigation that would
The purpose of this contribution is to show how the moral indignation that goes beyond the causes can be covered. First, I’d like to introduce to you
give insight into more recent Argentinean research results (Bleger, 85) about very early oak of our
Personality. These gain a special significance on the background of the Argentine experience with
Torture and dictatorship. They are concerned with the most central part of our self, which is also responsible for the mature, adult
people remains undifferentiated and at the same time is very vulnerable and if unprotected, vulnerable to existential
which, on the other hand, is also a very sensitive perceptual organ for social
processes can be. This is because it is a very permeable perceptual organ for societal moods and
tensions. This quality of human existence is correlated to the influence of structural
Violence and its effects on the development of the human ego. I would like to show that people who are in a
in which they are at the mercy of pronounced structural violence, of which not only situatively, but also in their own right.
but that this leads to an influencing of the personal growth, of the ego and its individual
I functions leads. In a last part I try to bridge the gap between the real dependence of the
people of a certain degree of external security and the fact that structural violence is likely to
to prevent the growth of an internal security, of a rest in oneself and that they rely on an offer
of external security. As I’ll explain below, the torturer then has all the easier
Play to take the place of the protecting parents. Here again lies in authoritarian or even totalitarian systems
the approach of promoting the willingness to torture. This happens superficially in the sense of an identification with the
Aggressor. On a deeper level, existential fears become bearable by merging with the “protector”.
This is facilitated in a group dynamic way if there are numerous members of a society who, because of the
structural violence have a low willingness to endure ambiguity and are relatively quick to be overcome by
existential fears, consciously and unconsciously, will be flooded. This is encouraged by how I’m still downstairs
that S-G prevents the growth of stable and flexible personality structures. The difference
For this purpose, members of a society in which S-G is not very pronounced will generally produce individuals who
are less dependent in their existential safety on external, safety-giving structures. And I’m going to
attempts to make it clear that totalitarian structures can also provide security if one identifies with them,
submits to them and internalizes them, even before the existentially threatening nature of the same structures.
Starting point of this work were two observations. 1. the apparently banal fact that there are in countries,
where there are many victims of torture, there are also many torturers. This seems logical. I’d like to hypothesize,
that a society that produces many tortured also produces many torturers. There might be a
connection exist. 2. another interesting historical fact is that in the time of the Nazi occupation.
significant differences in the extent to which the respective civilian administration was actively involved in the
the occupying forces to make Jewish fellow citizens recognizable, to record them and to transfer them to the
to transfer extermination camps (Stone 1995). Poland and the Netherlands are in the lead here and Denmark
in the back. So there are obvious differences in how far a society is willing to collaborate.
with a torture system.
The role of pain in torture
First, however, I would like to go into the function of experiencing pain, in order to show that pain is not just the
Central’s at torture. Pain impresses us as an obvious consequence of torture first. Mine
Understandably, however, it does not constitute the core of the torture. Pierre Clarstres(1976), Antrophlogist and
Psychologist has studied the function of pain, in the Amazon region in societies that are not hyrarchic
are structured. For example, he found that the initiation rites, among others, represented extreme torture situations for the Guaqui.
(With the help of a sharpened jaguar bone you drill through her penis and other parts of her body. The price of
Initiation was silence. The aim of initiation in its subsequent aspects is to draw the body.
. In the initiation ritual, the guaki society presses its sign on the body of the young people. A scar,
a clue, but now indelible. Naturally these are not only physical traces, but also
psychic traces. But torture in these primitive tribes, where it is bestowed upon all young men.
an educational aspect that goes from the group to the individual, from the tribe to the young people. The Message
is torture: you’re not worth less than everyone else, but you’re not worth more either. In a way.
through the torture of initiation a law was taught, namely the ver- bot of inequality that everyone remembers
will be. Equality is burned into the body in these archaic societies. At the same time
The law of the body nullifies the power of the state, there is no differentiated power holding super-group state.
It can’t develop either. The embodiment of these body signs is that you shall not have the desire for power.
and you shall not submit. The absolute equality of all tribal members must be established.
Thus the physical pain and the torture get there a completely different function than the torture about which we
here to discuss The meaning of pain can therefore only be understood in the interpersonal and group-dynamic
context should be understood correctly. For example, if torture was carried out in 120 countries in 1993, we must also try to
to understand the function of torture for these companies.
A GROUP DYNAMIC UNDERSTANDING OF STRUCTURAL VIOLENCE
Not all social violence is direct, openly between human beings or is caused by functionally disturbed
subgroups. There is also a social violence that works in the hidden, is quasi secret.
and structural conditions. It lies in systems and insti- tutions which are
practice (Wallenberg, 1986) appear unfair or inhuman. At the end of the sixties, the Norwegian
Social scientist and peace researcher, Johan Galtung (1975) a sociological understanding
This is a hidden, silent violence that works indirectly, but with consequences,
no less cruel and brutal than direct personal violence. He defines S-G as the
cause of the difference between the actual and potential performance of an individual, and applied
This concept is based on the analysis of the relationship between the rich northern and the poor southern nations.
An essential characteristic of structural violence is that it is not an act of violence between individuals, but an act of violence between individuals.
that whole population groups are affected. A further characteristic is that the people concerned
is not aware of the influence of structural violence. This inability to perceive S-G when it is personally
is the most underhand quality of structural violence. An example of structural violence from
of recent German history is the widespread practice of nursery schooling in the former GDR.
Wages were kept very low, by state regulation, and therefore it became a necessity for
almost all families that both parents had to work continuously. Only six weeks after the birth, the
Mothers often start working again. In order to make this possible, so-called cribs were created for
Children from 6 weeks to 3 years. In those cribs, there were usually two educators for twenty to
twenty-five toddlers. Everything had to be handled according to a strict, rigid regime. Every toddler
was fed according to a rigid plan, drained, and laid to sleep. Once the toddlers are alone.
they were “potted” according to a rigid pattern. The affection that has been given to the individual children
was, systemically, sparse. At the same time, this crib model was presented to the parents, particularly
to the mothers as a way to emancipation. One can speculate what a lasting effect this
the personal development of the East German children, who were institutionally and
were cared for, almost as if they were erratic blocks. Factors that are specified by research scientists
were to influence the psychological growth negatively. include: the early age of entering
the manger (2 to 6 months); the large group size (20 to 25), the mechanical cleanliness and
toilet training; the high pressure on infants to adapt to the norms of the group; and the
the infants were able to develop with their educators. These are
all factors related to a psychopathology occurring at the same time or at a later date
have been. As a result of crèche education, the development of inadequate ego structures in children
which are always trying to adapt to the requirements of the outside world and have become very dependent
are of external structures (Israel 1992). Laewen (1992) found a detrimental influence on the
child-parent relationship, as a result of the abrupt entry into the crib, which made it impossible for mother and father
made to serve for the child as a security-giving base. Hortmann (1992) described early disturbances
of personality in children who had great difficulty entering the day nurseries, but who were
nevertheless, for ideological reasons had to remain in the crib, or after a short break
had to come back. The problems that life in the cribs created were even experienced during the
communist regime in the GDR Schmidt-Kolmer, E. Tonkawo-Jampolskaya, R. and Atanassowa, A. (1979)
published, although a discussion is largely suppressed for ideological and political reasons.
was. In 1982 Grosch reported a very high rate of somatic symptoms, which increased,
when small children, after a break of only three months, had to visit the crib again. She reported
that based on their experience, the development prognosis for these kids was very bad. Since
the time of Grosch’s publication was the publication of problems affecting nativity education
are forbidden. Only research that discussed how to adapt to life within the
The crib could be published. What’s important about my subject is the fact
that the emotional emptiness and mechanical handling of the children in the day nurseries, but above all by the
system and its structures and less as a result of bad intentions or more individual
problems of the individual educators can be seen. We can understand the nursery education as an example
structural violence, which was supposed to cement the power status quo in the former eastern Germany, in which it
educated people on the one hand to adapt, and at the same time their need for security-giving external structures
reinforced. This could then in turn be temporarily breastfed by being dependent on others.
I will take up this connection below to discuss the relationship to the willingness to torture. One
another characteristic of structural violence is that the personal needs, interests, inclinations, and
ignoring the abilities of individuals and forcing them into the prefabricated framework of a theory or ideology
will be. This became very clear in our recent past, when the East German regime became increasingly rigid.
In its final phase, it closed itself off from the brotherland Poland, because the solidarity movement as highly infectious
and the regime was afraid of the “virus Solidarnozc”, as well as of a virus effective against S-G
Group Group movement. All states that increase the isolation of the individual or whole groups and that
Reducing the possibility of being able to enter into growth-promoting contacts with others, points to structural
Violence. It is interesting in this context that in the GDR, as in all totalitarian states, the founding of the
political parties and the formation of associations, clubs, or private organizations forbidden, or a strict
that was subject to regulation. I would like to postulate here that the ability to form certain types of groups,
namely, those that provide a network of human relationships for further development, that
The starting point for this is to be able to perceive S-G and to oppose it. A property of this
Groups is that they are not dependent on ideological agreement with the existing power structure,
that personal feelings are recognized and taken seriously, and may be shared, and that the feelings are
individual members of the group are integrated into the social context of the group and not split off
will be. Rather, they are used as a starting point for new perceptions, investigations, and actions.
Qualified psychotherapeutic groups are e.g. such a forum and were therefore often in the GDR with
IM’s “populated”. At the same time, East German citizens formed citizen committees in the 80s and allied
in peace groups that were independent of the state. They discussed civil rights, encouraged by the Treaty.
the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE). By the way, the CSCE is a good example
an international, political group at a relatively high level, which opposes structural violence by
can be characterized. We can also see by means of this example that many problems S-G on an
national level cannot be solved, but only in an international context, and
can be changed. Through international encounters, narrow-minded, petty behaviour is often only
and a chance for change opens up. International institutions such as WHO, UNESCO
or the UN has the potential to open a transcultural space between nations, in order to create a
To provide space for the perception and dissolution of the invisible web of structural violence.
This function was also fulfilled by numerous small groups which, under the protective umbrella of the Protestant
Church, and which had the very important function of confirming people in their social perceptions.
even though, as a rule, they were infiltrated by secret police warrants. These small groups have been
even though they were legally ille- gal, tolerated as long as they did not go public. Otherwise
the group and the participants will be prosecuted. In the fall of 1989, it was the psychologic and
the moral strength of these groups, which ultimately overthrew the regime. It was her psychic intrepidity,
their ability to endure fear in the face of a power apparatus that was objectively superior by a tens of thousands and it was
their moral superiority, which is based on conviction, social power structures, and
to have realistically perceived injustice created by them, i.e. their ability to perceive their own perception
to be able to trust me. M.E., this is a good example of how S-G who openly and borrow in a society
can be made aware through groups and international encounters. Another property of structural
Violence is that it always strives to maintain the current balance of power in order to bring about real change.
impossible to make. It is the task of every socially working psychiatrist and psychotherapist who is not
is satisfied by being a cogwheel in the existing power structure and thus being the transmitter itself.
to become structural violence, to continually question oneself: To what extent am I subject to a
Treatment philosophy that adapts the patient only to the unjust aspects of society, and
People alienated from themselves? To what degree do I conduct scientific research under the control
of a superego who’s unyielding to human needs? Victims of structural violence
show a variety of functional disorders including a pronounced demoralization, deeply rooted
feeling incapable of influencing your own destiny. Also other psychic or psychosomatic
Symptoms can be seen as a crippled compromise, with social oppression.
I’m gonna be okay.
The human response to natural disasters is different from the response to S-G. Natural disasters seem
to be able to bring communities together and to bring humanity together through the evocation of an altruistic
and emphatic cooperation, which often results in relief actions. By contrast,
structural violence instills a sense of powerlessness and hopelessness into its victims. That lies
the efforts of the owners, users and S-G to obtain and maintain power in order to
to escape an unbearable feeling of powerlessness. S-G suffocates the mere intention of forming groups to deal with
To connect others in order to be able to perceive existing power structures, or even to oppose them.
These hidden structures S-G tend to deny the universal validity of basic human rights in order to
to prevent citizens from perceiving oppression as me alien. Instead, they perpetuate the experience that
the prevailing conditions are a necessary and natural prerequisite to ensure their continued existence. In
In contrast to the open violence of a natural disaster, S-G exerts its influence on the people on subliminal
Out of the way. People who are under the influence of structural violence are often unable to perceive whether their
the result of own congenital defects or the result of destructive external circumstances, which are considered to be the cause of the
to be perceived as overwhelming, to be able to do something against them. It is this resolution of the inside and outside
Outside causes external destructive forces to be experienced as inherent in a self and thus the healthy
and constructive self-esteem is undermined or even prevented from developing. In my work
with torture victims, during my collaboration with Amnesty International in the past 14 years, I have been
Argentinians and Chileans, who struggled for it (Puget, 1984, Amanti l990), so that they could be
To have lived pure to come under the influence of a dictatorial regime. Bleger (1972) developed in
This is a key ana- lytic concept that is helpful in understanding the processes to which the human body is exposed.
I submit under the influence of violence is to make understandable: He hypothesized that there would be
personality core of man there is a primary realm in the self in which there is no differentiation between
Inside and outside and me and you, who also still exists in the adult. In this area of the
primitive I’s coexist with completely contradictory feelings like love and hate. In this core area
intrapsychic structure we find no organization according to rational or hierarchical principles. Therefore
In times of great anxiety, which are also caused by social insecurity and external influences, people tend to be more
Chaos can be triggered by willingly and irrationally subjecting oneself to oppressive political systems.
not to be flooded and washed away by their existential fears. S-G now prevents the S-G from
the growth of stable and flexible psychic ego structures. This is done by
people do not grow up in an interpersonal dialogue that is based on their own original needs.
oriented and sounded out what is possible and what is unrealistic, but rather that people are placed in the Prokrustrakresbett
are adapted to given structures without regard to their own needs. So, you can’t do
flexible perception and realization skills for their own needs and the needs of others
of the body. This leads to a greater dependence on external structures to which responsibility is transferred.
will provide for the satisfaction of their own needs. It is to be noted that own needs
are no longer genuinely perceptible as such, but the needs of the structural violent
in place of their own. It now seems as if structure, any structure, even auto- ritarian or
fascist structures that primitive ego can protect from unbearable anxiety. This happens independently
of whether these people would join totalitarian methods at a more mature adult level, or
not. M.E. we can only by first and foremost recognizing this fundamental quality of man, which is
How we change the way we support human societies and their members. Indispensable prerequisite
for the creation of social structures that do not seem to support torture
on the one hand, the recognition of the need for a minimum range of social security for each and every
to be individual members, on the other hand to give people the opportunity to experience themselves in border situations,
to get to know each other, and thus also to come into contact with inner fears, to deal with them and to help each other.
to learn to fetch.
This above discussed, undifferentiated area of the human ego can be understood simultaneously as
a container of feelings and motives, which are evoked by the wider social environment and osmotic
are perceived. The individual must be confronted with these archaic, undifferentiated and often experienced as overwhelming
to avoid your fears. If these anxieties become too great, there is a danger that he will be paralyzed by a corrupting
Adaptation is falling home. For example, more than 700,000 East German citizens collaborated as informal informants with the
so-called state security police. They got so involved in an inhumane system that they had to
sometimes even spying on their spouses. A similar human behavior could also be observed during the
Nazi rule. The East German State Security Police was omnipresent. Anyone who wants to
expressed against the regime, wanted to make career, had relatives in West Germany or contact with foreigners
was spied on by a network of informal civilian warrantors. People have been put under pressure,
arrested, interrogated, tortured, imprisoned and in rare cases even killed (Wollenberger, 1992; Besier
and Wolf, 1992). Important for our understanding of totalitarian and dehumanized states is the knowledge that
torturers, as well as other destructive, oppressive social and national structures of violence.
the protective father and the protective mother by placing their place in the psyche of the person concerned.
take on their protective role and offer security to that part of the self that is protected by
existential anxieties and fears are threatened. We have described this situation in many reports by
I’ve been confirmed by the state security. Many “informal employees” regularly reported on
and it was not so much the relatively low material compensation that was the decisive factor in the
Motivation bil- dete. On the contrary, a relationship based on trust with her senior officer was often established,
and they then felt through this very commanding officer that they were facing the dangers of the world of the totalitarian system.
outside. This mechanism leads to a situation in which the individual ego and, further on, large parts of an
society accepts the conditions and prerequisites of a totalitarian and dehumanizing system.
Finally, I would like to reiterate my hypothesis. S-G, can do the same thing as individual torturers,
or other representatives of a totalitarian system, they can take the place of more flexible, more genuine
more supportive and growth-promoting interpersonal structures and to the person concerned nevertheless
a feeling of being gunned down by his fears experienced as existentially devastating. This makes such
People who have only internalized this kind of structure in situations in which torture systems are built up.
become more vulnerable to becoming a part of them. They just couldn’t build stable and flexible ego structures,
who give them the skills to support themselves in a living, confrontable network of relationships.
and support and to bring them into line with their own human needs and the human needs of others.
to establish or maintain a relationship. They are more likely to become part of a torture system than members.
of a company in which S-G exists at a lower level. If the point of intersection between structural
Violence and the willingness to torture the point is that an external system takes the place of parental protectors.
and offers the individual protection against threat, existential fear and torture, we can assume,
that all conditions which give the individual the opportunity to perceive entanglements and oppression help to
to counteract this process of becoming “entangled”. Likewise, the ability to “look like a hero”
to behave regression-free also depends on the feeling of inner security, which people have in their development.
have acquired. We must assume that this is done both by family processes and by
social processes, such as in church, school, military, and other important relationship groups
run off. In conclusion, I would like to point out that S-G (which is ultimately also expressed in colonialism as
came), is something that does have repercussions on the mental development of individuals and groups, and
in turn, how a society and its individual sub-groups and members are capable of dealing with
to deal with stressful events. As Sartre so aptly said, to see what colonialism did to us.
you just have to see what the colonialists did to the colonized.
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