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Elmendorf, S.S. Ruskin, R. (2004). Trauma, terrorism: Man's inhumanity to man. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 85(4):983-986.

(2004). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 85(4):983-986

Trauma, terrorism: Man's inhumanity to man

Reported by:
Susan S. Elmendorf

Moderator Ronald Ruskin

Ronald Ruskin, moderator, noted that terror is a normative element of anxiety, often present in children's literature. In exploring terrorism in our time, Ruskin called for a dialogue between psychoanalysts, members of other disciplines, and the community.

The first panelist, Marcelo Viñar, emphasized the importance of studying terrorism at the intersection of individual pathology and culture ‘to deepen the understanding of the dynamics between the individual and collective mind, of the functioning of the mind in solitude and in a crowd’. His paper, ‘An allegation for the enemy's humanity,’ postulated that, when people's identities are threatened by external forces such as globalization, they can develop a terrorist mind, because of the fear of ‘otherness’—i.e. ‘the temptation to transform somebody different into an enemy, and to deal with this enemy through destruction and extermination’.

Viñar observed that we search for consistency and stability in our lifelong struggle to define who we are. He viewed our ‘exaltation of selfsameness’, as a common phenomenon, which ‘promotes joy, affirmation and poetry’. But, he stated that our ideal of harmonic joy is a ‘fetishist illusion of completeness’. When we fail to realize this ideal, we often engage in ‘ordinary racism’, making the foreigner the object of split-off, undesirable aspects of ourselves. ‘It is always tempting, in life and in relationships, to resolve the conflict by way of this mannequin simplification, and to avoid the hard job of overcoming the phobia of the stranger and recognizing and legitimating the difference.

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