Friday, February 29, 2008

Kosova Independence

I think it is especially important for the world community to pay attention to what is happening right now, in Kosovo (Kosova).

On February 17, 2008 Kosova declared independence from Serbia.

Kosova has been a highly contested territory. The majority of the population are ethnic Albanians and it was an autonomous province when the region was unified under the former Yugoslavia. Kosova is the location of some of the most important shrines for the Serbian Orthodox Church, and of course there are conflicts about resources, power, and decision-making. "Belgrade regards Kosovo as the cradle of Serb culture and religion and sees its independence as illegal." For more background information, click here for CNN In-Depth reports. CNN also has an excellent timeline which explains the history simply and clearly.

Reports from the Associated Press described rioting in Belgrade (the capital of Serbia) and Pristina (the capital of Kosova), as Serbs protested the declaration of independence. Massive protests against the independent Kosovar state have been increasingly destructive, as rioters assert that "Kosovo is Serbia." The United Nations reported that 200,000-250,000 protesters took to the streets in Belgrade last week. (listen to the whole report here)

Looting has also been reported in Belgrade. One witness who posted looting footage on on youtube attached this statement to the video: "I would like to say that these are only marginal appearances, and that the huge majority of citizens of Serbia are normal and honest people, and I am proud to be one of them." See the video:"Kosovo za patike" ("Kosovo for sneakers/gym shoes").

Click here to read Samantha Power's reaction
to the Kosovar declaration of independence (she doesn't sound worried about it deteriorating into mass violence and she explains why).

Here is another view of the situation, which is highly critical of the Albanian perspective and illuminates some of the issues from the Serb perspective: please click here to read Diana Johnstone's article.

Police said they arrested nearly 200 rioters Thursday night during the worst anti-Western violence seen on Belgrade streets since former Serbian president Slobodan Milosevic was ousted in 2000.

Rioters torched several offices of the U.S. Embassy's consular section. They also attacked the Embassies of Germany, Belgium, Turkey and Croatia. One person died and more than 150 were injured.

Today, just a couple of hours ago, the European Union has pulled out of a town in northern Kosova due to Serb-initiated hostility towards EU personnel and property. The Serbian state had resisted the EU presence in Kosova before the declaration of independence, and the violence has escalated since last week.

There has been ongoing and escalating violence in the region as Serbia has rejected the declaration of independence. Here protesters display a Serbian nationalist hand gesture that has intense cultural significance in the region (during my travels in Bosnia and Croatia, I was repeatedly warned never to make this gesture with three fingers pointing, even by accident, because it represents a vision of Serbian dominance and power).

Many EU member countries have recognized Kosova, including United States,France, Germany, Denmark, and Turkey. However, several countries oppose recognition including Russia, Serbia, China and Spain. Now Serbia is demanding that the United States "annul" its recognition of Kosova: according to the Serbian Prime Minister, this would "restore stability to the Balkans."The blue countries have formally recognized (or intend to recognize) Kosova. The gray countries have been neutral or delayed about responding. States which have expressed concern over unilateral moves or wish for further negotiations are shown in orange. States refusing to recognize Kosovo as independent are shown in RED.

Russia (a permanent member of the UN Security Council) backs Serbia and has condemned the independence declaration issued by the Kosovo parliament on 17 February. Serbia and Russia assert that the Kosovo state is illegal. Spain and China (another permanent member of the Security Council) have also refused to recognize the Kosovar state.

The BBC and other news agencies report that Russia is backing Serbia's refusal of Kosovo's independent status. Russia has even threatened to use "brute force" against NATO or other troops supporting the Kosovar Albanian independence.
Russia's ambassador to NATO, Dmitry Rogozin, has warned ... "If the EU develops a unified position or if Nato exceeds its mandate set by the UN, then these organizations will be in conflict with the UN." In that case Russia would "proceed on the basis that in order to be respected we need to use brute force."
I entered the word "Kosovo" on youtube, and I came up with several really disturbing videos exclaiming, "Kosovo is Serbia" ("Kosovo je Srbija"). With my limited understanding of the language, I can understand enough to tell this is scary war propaganda. Even if you don't understand Serbian, the pictures of soldiers with huge guns pointed at little red-roofed villages communicate a threatening message that transcends words. I didn't want to embed this video (show it on our blog like other videos), because I don't want to encourage this kind of intimidation through video propaganda, but I thought I would link to it in case you want to take a look for yourself.

I am worried.

Serbia has a consistent history of perpetrating acts of calculated political violence against large numbers of civilians in order to prevent secession.

Mass violence doesn't just happen: in builds, and often it starts with angry protests, violence to property and symbolic targets (such as Embassies).

Intervention NOW is crucial!

The eyes of the world must be on the Serbian state (and its Russian backers). I believe that people learn through consequences, and when people are allowed by the world community to perpetrate acts of mass violence without accountability, there is no telling how deep human beings can delve into darkness and destruction.

However, when the world is watching, people are less likely to perpetrate heinous human rights abuses.

Some things we can all do are to stay informed, disseminate information, and talk about what is happening in Kosova.

Show somebody the map so they can see where it is (a brand new country smack dab in the middle of Europe!).

Urge any countries with whom you identify to support Kosovar independence, and to take actions to prevent further violence in the region.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

ManAlive Violence Intervention

Hi folks, the brother of Dr. James Gilligan, (Harvard Medical School psychiatrist, who wrote the books on Violence which we recommended for the group study and we'll mention next week) Mike Gilligan, produced a documentary on a batterers' intervention program which is based in San Francisco. The program is called ManAlive, and the training I participated in last week was intriguing. It speaks to many of the issues of both IPV and community violence we discussed in class.

This link is for the documentary information, in which the groups are displayed. Dr. James Gilligan and Hamish Sinclair, the developer of the model, are featured in the video. Check it out!


Karen Armstrong Talk

Hi all,

Here is the talk which Diana brought up in class, given by Karen Armstrong. She wrote Battle for God, which was one of the reading excerpts this past week.

Self-Immolation (suicide by burning alive)

As a result of the reading this week, I learned a new term. I was familiar with the practice of "Sati" or "Self-Immolation," especially for widows burned alive on the funeral pyre of their husbands, and also its use in protests. But I didn't know the words to describe it, so I looked at wikipedia under "self-immolation" and "sati."

The Term "Sati" means a lot of different things actually, and comes from Hindu mythology, relating to a story of a goddess bearing the name "Sita", who went through a "trial by fire" in order to be reaccepted by her husband (who was alive--not dead!). The word "Sati" now also refers to a "chaste" or "good" woman, as well as a widow who has gone through self-immolation.

The wikipedia posting about self-immolation did not mention the practice being used by widows (or widows being forced to undergo this death by burning), and the listing on "Sati" also barely mentioned the definition applying to widows' suicides.

Finally there was a listing called "Sati (Practice)" which provided some details about the practice in Hindu cultures, but pretty definitively implied that it was a problem of the past, which is "rare" nowadays. They mentioned literally a handful of cases in the last 50 years, which I found to be such a disservice to the MANY women who die each year through coerced Sati.

We know from the readings and the presentation offered today that this practice, though illegal, is still practiced commonly in different parts of India. The statistics that were cited were from the 1800s, and it was not clear whether no one had bothered to collect statistics about how many women experience this type of death in modern times or whether no one had bothered to post it to wikipedia yet... One related statistic I found was that the UN reports that 5,000 women per year are killed in India because the husband or husband's family feels that the woman's dowry is insufficient. Often these "dowry deaths" are staged as burnings, especially "accidental" burnings in which the stove explodes, or the woman is lit on fire and pushed out a window.

I found some videos on youtube that I wanted to share, but I want to preface them by saying that they may be quite painful and difficult to watch. The first was made by the "Revolutionary Association of Women of Afghanistan" (RAWA), and it shows the impact of self-immolation on women who attempted suicide to "escape miseries."

Self-immolation may be used in formal protest, and some of the most famous protests utilizing these methods were enacted by Buddhist monks who were against the Vietnam war. This footage may be upsetting to watch, as the monks sit quietly and peacefully while they burn to death.

We talked today about the search for meaning in life (and death) and wondered about what individual people decide is "worth dying for" or "worth killing for." This footage brings up more questions than answers for me... how about you?

Religion, Ethnicity, and Violence

Hindu Informed Violence Against Women

This is a preview for a movie (you can get it on Netflix) about widows in India, and the lives that they have been forced to lead.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Earth, Fire, Water

These three films by Deepa Mehta, explore themes of women's lives in India. "Fire" especially relies on references to Sita's self-immolation (trial by fire) in Hindu mythology, as it relates to the storyline of two women who fall in love despite societal, religious, and family disapproval. "Water" explores the lives of widows, with a focus on a young girl who is widowed while still a child and who inspires others to resist their circumstances and make changes for themselves. "Earth" I have not seen, so I am not familiar with it yet.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Violence, Trauma, and Social Welfare Colloquium

We have confirmed that the group study will be presenting a colloquium for the Social Welfare and broader Berkeley community this spring.

Save the Date: Monday, May 5 from 4-6pm (in room 5 Haviland)

Students are invited to present for a larger audience the work that they have prepared for the group study this semester.

Terror in the Mind of God

Hi folks - We will not be reading this book for next week, but its an interesting and timely book I wanted to recommend and pass on.

Terror in the Mind of God by: Mark Juergensmeyer

Apparently, his was the first published book to feature a picture of Osama Bin Laden, BEFORE 9/11. His work became of even more interest afterwards.

He has a new book now, which he spoke about at Berkeley last Thursday, called:
Global Rebellion, which may also be of interest...


Violence Against Women Act

Hi Folks - There are many pieces to the VAWA legislation, which is why many of us have heard different things. Heres a link to different components of the legislation...I checked Wikipedia and its definition is not updated with the most current information...


Saturday, February 9, 2008

Alive Day Memories: Home From Iraq

Here is a news story about the film.

You can get this HBO Special featuring interviews with injured veterans returning from Iraq at almost any video store, on Netflix, or you can ask me (Ruby) about it and I'll help you get a copy.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

quick thoughts on "Alive Day"

In Alive Day, hosted by James Gandolfini, the interview with Jonathan Bartlett, who was the youngest of the injured veterans featured, struck me especially because he was so nonchalant. I googled the movie and found writings by each of the people featured in the movie and wanted to pass that link along. Jonathan's writings, coupled by his interview in the movie, helped me make more sense of what some of his grieving and healing process have been. His writing also mentioned another dimension of his trauma (though he does not call it that), which was the pain he experienced in seeing his family react to his injuries. It was interesting that he also felt like he needed to hold their pain.

Michael Jernigan and Dexter Pitts also struck me because they were the only ones who articulated any symptoms of PTSD. But they described the most traumatic events as those where they were the perpetrators of violence. This, although a much different scale, resonated with me because just recently I was recalling the time I spent working in residential treatment facilities and how violent the physical restraints are, despite the fact that their intent is to provide safety. Reed also mentioned this in class. When I worked in a residential treatment facility, I was injured and sustained a concussion. A couple weeks later I was one of the staff in a physical restraint of a 13 yr old boy who banged his head against the floor repeatedly as we held him. I was far more traumatized by that restraint than by my own injury.

If any of you end up seeing the movie and have other thoughts, I'd like to hear what you think. Here are the links...
Veterans Featured in "Alive Day Memories"
Jonathon Bartlett
Michael Jernigan
Dexter Pitts

Thoughts on the Iraq War by Jonathan Bartlett

This was written by Jonathan Bartlett, one of the veterans interviewed in "Alive Day Memories." This is excerpted from his blog, which can be read here:

Someone messaged me this today, Read it and I shall respond to it question by question.

I've read some of your stuff and in it you don't mention your stand (for or) against the war. Are you not allowed to? are you afraid? or is it that you dont have an opinon?

How do you feel towards america and the government? it seems like you internalize it all. A part of me would want to blame them for putting you in that situation. As an individual that was directly affected, how would you say you feel? was it worth it (would it even be fair to ask)?

Personally, i dont really try to think about it, although Im not for the war, or any type of war for that matter.

Now, being home, do you feel like the government has done their part to make it as comfortable for you as possible. Have they helped in normalizing your life? and even then, have they helped you find a job, have they helped you make a future?

I guess these are all questions ive always wondered about (without trying to sound political). It would be nice to hear from a person directly and not though some interview filtered through the media. I wonder if there are any repercussions for stating your true opinion? i dont know if i would be paranoid if i were you.

More then losing your limbs, i think the worst part is the psychological affects. I wish people would be warned about these things. Im clueless. i dont know what its like to be in the army.

sorry, i hope this isnt too much and i hope i havent crossed the line. all i know is to be honest and hope that you can talk about it. thanks.

Jonathon's Response:

Thank you for reading, I do have a stance about the war. I seem to be in the unenviable position of being for the war but against the administration. I am allowed to have a stance about anything just as you are. While we still have the right to think and feel as we will, free from governmental or interest group control, I encourage everyone to think and feel as they wish. I do. Am I afraid? To have an Opinion; No. The only thing I am afraid of is that I may not be up to the challenge of being responsible with the power I possess and the power I gain everyday. But then I understand everyone makes mistakes and they must learn from them so I will too. Also, I have at my right and left men and women who will kick me something fierce to remind me of my duty and my responsibility.

No, Its not fair to ask. This is something an empathetic human being should know. I am deeply ashamed of my government and the people whom elect it. I am still quite hopeful about the vast majority of America, but not the people who vote. These are the stupid assholes whom seem to want to trade ALL our freedoms away so they can feel safe. There are days when I want to see it made better and then there are days when I am of the mind to burn it all down and watch the trees grow in it's place, maybe start over, maybe not. As for putting me in that situation, I am pissed that the commander in chief and all his lieutenants were implicit in outfitting the soldiers, marines and other combat troopies with the worst there is to be had so their business buddies and good old boys could make a buck off this war… that I am pissed about. But I was a trained killer, It was my job to go wherever they sent me and kill whoever I was told to kill. I signed up for it. Sides, I liked my job. I was good at it and am happy to say that I probably always will be. It's a state of mind you see, it's never left.

There will always be war, conflict, violence and strife. Please, get used to it. There will always be pain and woe and grief and tears and blood, probably all over the place and everywhere for all time. Humanity will continue to kill each other off when we cant get along and generally be bitches to each other till one group or an individual can put everyone in their place and lead us on to something better. All one can do is be good at war and violence, survive, try to make the world better and hope for the best. Hiding your head in the sand, preaching nonviolence and hoping bunch of people who want what you have and will kill you to get it see your point of view will only get you and yours killed.

The government goes out of their way to make sure vets of this war are well fed, taken care of, given a lot of help and opportunities and all the medical attention they could want. They also give us lots of money and education. However, they do need to be kicked into gear sometimes. The government is a giant and slow bureaucracy you see sometimes the gears need to be greased with the blood of an incompetent bureaucrat, but then I am thinking wishfully out loud again. Some say they don't do enough for they are slow to respond and need encouragement of various kinds but they keep us fat and happy. It's a good political move on their part because they are having very little trouble keeping the vets quiet about the shit pulled in this war. Also, I doubt very strongly they are going to do much about me expressing my opinion on a public forum. And if they do come to shut me up then my plans will be accelerated by a few years. That's all.

As for the psychological aspects, it wasn't the army's fault really. The army itself is like a Giant Ant colony. The ones who do most of the work and take all the fire from the enemy are guys and girls like me. The ones whom make all the important decisions are the ones sitting in the middle of the nest having their every need met; those are the ones I have issue with. There is really NO psychological preparation that is available to make you deal with getting blown to bits and put back together again. They can prepare you for death, and dealing death to our enemies. But not dying and coming back as I did.

So. Have I answered you sufficiently?


Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Discussion Questions: "Trauma & Recovery"

Today we explored Judith Herman's text, Trauma and Recovery, with each group member focusing on a particular chapter to present to the group. Folks had really interesting insights and important critiques of the work, and we are planning to continue the discussion next week as well. People came up with some very "meaty" questions, so here's a short list of the questions that arose from the Herman readings (by chapter):

1. Can there be progression in the field of "trauma" without political movements (such as war veterans/rape survivors) to support/demand changes?

2. How else may people respond to trauma--other than the PTSD framework with clusters of symptoms: hyperarousal, constriction, intrusion?

3. Is restitution an accurate way of talking about recovery?

4. What does liberation from captivity mean for the survivor?

5. What is the role of subjectivity and objectivity in this work? Is there an appropriate role or place for subjective/"poetic" descriptions of abuse?

6. Is there a difference (or what are the differences) for individuals between a single event trauma and a repeated or prolonged trauma history?

7. What should the healing relationship (with a professional) look like?

8. Herman makes a case for creating safety first, then working on issues. What about cases in which environmental safety is not reasonably feasible (dangerous neighborhood, school, other factors)? How can we help people to increase/seek safety?

9. How can we "manage the trauma narrative" or help people open up their wounds to the degree that is is helpful and then close the session? How can we handle clients whom we may not see again who are sharing intense material? How can we respond to the "doorknob phenomenon" in which a person drops an emotional bomb just before leaving the office?

10. What is the process of healing like when it isn't as "neat and rosy" as Herman describes in her optimistic and strengths-based description?

11. Herman proposes setting up groups for people who have experienced trauma as time-limited, and distinct in terms of task (safety, reconnection, etc). How might this design impact participants? What is the relevance of group continuity, and should support groups be designed to stay together as cohesive units through the healing process rather than being segmented in chunks?

* A recurring question/critique of Herman's work was her use of gender pronouns: particularly the word "she" was used to refer to victims and helpers, and "he" to refer to soldiers. Does this leave out male survivors of violence and trauma (especially sexual abuse)? Does this "essentialist" framework with the gender pronouns reflect a bias on Herman's part? Does it bias the reader in terms of what groups of people are readily accepted as "victims/survivors"?

WHO Statistics on Violence

The World Health Organization published a report in 2002 that provided responsibly calculated statistics regarding the prevalence of violence and violence-related mortality in the world. Links to the summary and full report are here

-During the 20th century, an estimated 191 million people lost their lives due to armed combat (well over half were civilian noncombatants).

-Over 1.6 million people per year worldwide lose their lives to violence.

-During the war in Bosnia, approximately 10-60,000 women were raped.

In the year 2000 alone:
-An estimated 199,000 youths died as a result of violence
-An estimated 57,000 children were murdered
-An estimated 1,659,000 people died from suicide, war & homicide combined
-An estimated 1,510,000 people in low-income countries died as a result of violence (91% of violence victims are from low-income countries)
-An estimated 149,000 people in high income countries died as a result of violence (9% of violence fatalities worldwide)
-An estimated 520,000 people were killed as a result of interpersonal violence
-An estimated 815,000 people killed themselves, making suicide the 13th leading cause of death
-An estimated 310,000 people died of injuries from armed combat

Monday, February 4, 2008


hey everyone- just wanted to check out the posting process :)
see you tomorrow!

What is Trauma?

Last week, we talked about some operationalized "definitions" of trauma, in terms of how the medical, psychological, and psychiatric professions have conceived of "PTSD" or "Posttraumatic stress disorder." But if post-traumatic stress disorder is the "definition" of trauma, what does the "T" in PTSD stand for? What is "trauma" anyway?

How can "trauma" seem to refer to the cause and the consequences?

So people were wondering what constitutes a trauma... and how PTSD and trauma could be referred to using the same word.

"Trauma" refers to both an "injury/wound" and the "conditions caused by this" (for physical and psychological "injuries").

The first known publication of the word "Trauma" in English was in 1693 in Blancard's Physical Dictionary. The definition was "a wound from an external cause."

The Oxford English Dictionary Offers This Definition of Trauma (and "traumatic")
1. Pathology. A wound, or external bodily injury in general; also the condition caused by this; traumatism.

2. Psychoanalysis and Psychiatry. A psychic injury, especially one caused by emotional shock the memory of which is repressed and remains unhealed; an internal injury, especially to the brain, which may result in a behavioural disorder of organic origin. Also, the state or condition so caused.

* * * * *

An Extensive List of Links to Definitions of TRAUMA on the Web

Most definitions focus on an "injury" or "wound" and many definitions make specific reference to the body, for example "a physical injury" or "an injury to the body."

Not as many mention emotional, psychological, or spiritual traumas, and many of the definitions focusing on bodily injury do not mention the corresponding injury to the self/mind/emotions that can accompany physical injury. Many of these are medical sites, which could account for some of the skewing towards physically-focused definitions.

Some definitions stipulate that it is "caused by an external force." How do you think this definition deals with suicide or self-cutting?

A rare few implicate "violence" as the cause of trauma. Do you think violence has to be present in order for trauma to occur?

How do you define trauma? What do you think of these definitions? Have you read other definitions?

Who Are You? (check all that apply)

How did you find this blog?

Trauma and Recovery

Trauma and Recovery
by Judith Lewis Herman

Don't Hit My Mommy

Don't Hit My Mommy
by Alicia Lieberman and Patricia Van Horn

Violence: A National Epidemic

Violence: A National Epidemic
by James Gilligan


Ayaan Hirsi Ali

Ayaan Hirsi Ali
from the cover of "Infidel"