Sunday, 24 August 2008

Cast off

We know where we’re going . . .

While I’m away, The New Centrist has two new posts up, on Lithuania and the Jewish partisans of the Second World War, and on Czecholosovakia 68. Amongst other things he links to an interview with Alexandr Dubček’s son Pavol on Aktuá which in turn links to lots more. Also via TNC, this BBC News account includes Josef Koudelka’s photos.

I find a fair amount to disagree with in some of what Sultan Knish writes, but here’s a post I recommend wholeheartedly, Back in the USSR: You have to be crazy to believe in the truth. In light of Russian rhetoric casting doubt on the mental health of the Georgian president, rhetoric some Western commentators have been happy to play along with, Sultan K. gives a short account of Russia’s dark history of using psychiatry as an instrument of political oppression.

A lesser example of using psychiatry for political purposes was seen in the UK recently. When the former presenter of BBC Radio 4’s All In The Mind Dr Raj Persaud was up before the General Medical Council accused of plagiarism, one of the voices that spoke in his defence was David Owen.

Raj Persaud’s period on All in the Mind reached a particular low point last year when he interviewed David Owen on his book The Hubris Syndrome. In the interview Owen portrayed various politicians as being somehow mentally ill.

Owen seemed unable to talk about any of his targets, I mean subjects, without mentioning his own relationship with them, and so the curious point that emerged was that those he portrayed as less than sane were people who had failed to heed his good advice, while those who seemed to have taken his words of wisdom to heart were all well balanced individuals.

The interview was completely unchallenging. No serious questions were raised as to the supposed psychological basis for Owen’s argument. Emphasis was placed on Owen’s past career as a neurologist as if this also qualified him as a psychiatrist. It was a mix of politics and personal vendetta masquerading as science, and Raj Persaud gave him a free ride.

UPDATE: Medicalising Politics by Blacktriangle blog, 21 January 2009, on David Owen and other partisan pathologisers.

Over in the department of big theories and big maps, there’s a post on Information Dissemination about the strategic implications of Russia’s invasion of Georgia. It’s a long and interesting post, and something I’d planned on writing more on. For the moment I’ll just mention the assertion contained in the post that “Georgia, which has a relationship with the United States is being consumed by Russia, and ultimately will be regardless of what the United States does.” I disagree strongly, and I point to the history of West Berlin. Looking at it on the map it seems wholly unreasonable that the city survived Stalin’s attempts to swallow it. The effort expended on saving it also seem unreasonable in cold ‘realist’ terms. Yet in the end the Berlin Wall proved to be the keystone whose removal led to the whole iron curtain coming crashing down.

More when I return, see you in September!

The Berlin air corridors image is a detail from a 1965 US Air Force map.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the link. I've been on vacation too. Hope you are enjoying yours.


kellie said...

Looks like you got a lot more sun and better food than us, but I got used to the low-lying cloud making the Scottish landscape all moody and romantic. When the sky finally cleared just as we were leaving, it seemed an anti-climax. It felt like cheating to walk about without the raincoat and waterproof trousers!