Theorising and pontificating?

A letter-writer in our April edition is perplexed and frustrated by our 'Can psychology find a path to peace?' special.

I found just over half the featured articles on ‘Can psychology find a path to peace’ (February 2016) alternately perplexing and frustrating.

In Masi Noor’s piece, what actually does ‘forgiveness’ mean in practice? Should we expect those who have been burnt, beheaded, enslaved, buried alive, shot, as well as their loved ones to forgive the perpetrators of these acts? What actions would represent such forgiveness? What should we, the world, actually do?

The fact that ‘history is replete with examples of extremism’ (Diane Bretherton’s imagined conversation with Ed Cairns) should make us hang our heads in shame. Unfortunately despite our research, our diagnostic phrases, and our prescriptions to work together and to build better relationships, we have not succeeded in slowing the rate and intensity with which humanity destroys itself.

In what way and how, for example, would alerting politicians to ‘rivalrous cohesion’ (from Dominic Abrams contribution) resolve the violence in practice in the here-and-now. If we describe expressions of empathy and solidarity with a country that holds broadly similar beliefs and values to our own as a ‘volte face’ because we have also given voice to the differences between us in the way we do things round here what hope is there for spreading ‘harmonious cohesion’ across continents and faiths?

Sadly, I agree with Heidi and Guy Burgess’s piece that the law of political irony probably applies in the long term. History shows that the destruction of one group does not prevent the rising of other similar ones in its place. I believe that bombing on its own is not a valid strategic solution. However, I am concerned with the recommendation to ‘allow them to live as they choose’. Should we therefore allow ‘suttee’, honour killings, female genital mutilation, beheadings for dissent, sharia and other such practices?

I am seriously concerned that we, as psychologists, risk losing sight of reality, especially that of life and death. If we can do no better than theorise and pontificate then we should do as the philosopher says: ‘Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent.’

Leylâ Ziyal

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