Tortured Professionals

I was happy to hear on Democracy Now! this past Friday a lengthy discussion, not for the first time either, covering the reprehensible acquiescence of the American Psychological Association to allowing some of its members to participate in CIA and US military torture. Stephen Soldz was quite eloquent in attacking his professional association for their complicity in giving cover to the Bush atrocities, ostensibly because by being in the room while torture is inflicted, the professional psychologists are keeping it “safe and legal”!!

One of my favorite fissures in modern society, one that I have a lot of hope for as time goes on, is the Revolt of the Professionals (I have a whole section on this in my upcoming book). I’ve linked before to Jeff Schmidt’s excellent book and website, and I want to recommend it again to anyone interested in analyzing the deeper structures of higher education and how they produce obedient thinkers and apolitical professionals. But this mini-uprising among professional psychologists is heartening given their association’s unwillingness to follow the Medical Assn. and Psychiatric Assn. in repudiating torture and the coercive interrogations promulgated by the Bushites… I think we’ll learn tomorrow whether or not the dissidents were able to carry a vote changing the policy of the association, but I’m not so hopeful about that. Thousands of psychologists were wandering around the area while a smattering of a hundred or at most two held their rally with the support of local San Franciscans and others from around the Bay Area.

Anyway, as we finally come to grips with the horror perpetrated in our name abroad and at home, often it depends on the professionals who blindly obey orders to take responsibility for refusing to carry out these policies and practices. This extends well beyond treatment of prisoners of war or convicted criminals in the prison system to include industrial designs that produces pollution or perpetuates global warming outcomes, facilitating the looting of public resources (our diminishing commons) for private gain, and so much more. So-called professionals are simply well-paid workers with a false sense of their own importance. In general they have as little control over the shape of their own lives as anyone else in this crazy society. But often they do play important roles in maintaining complex systems, giving their labor a key role in its potential to halt or at least slow down or cast light on activities that are wrecking human lives and the world.

Below the jump are photos from the rally, but here’s a shot of my old pal Doug Minkler’s poster/sign he brought to the protest (and check out his cool website for dozens of his great images–he’s been addressing this larger issue of professional complicity for years):

Here’s a few photos from the rally the dissident pyschologists held at Yerba Buena Gardens on Friday afternoon:

Here’s Stephen Soldz addressing the crowd, followed by a couple of signs hanging behind him:

I haven’t been blogging much lately. Busy reading, getting a class ready on Shaping San Francisco’s History for New College, helping my sweetheart get ready for her Ph.D. defense (oh no! she’s going to be a professional!), and whenever possible, getting out and about to see the city from new angles. My friend Lisa took me on the roof of Casa Loma at Fell and Fillmore where I took these shots of unusual angles and views, first southwest and then northeast:

Our sidewalks continue to provide one of the last reliably public canvasses for the free expression of public opinion, but it’s a canvas that forces its users into strangely poetic forms of expression… came upon these two on Valencia on Saturday:

Finally, here are some distinctly un-tortured professionals, about 2 sheets to the wind in this shot, after dinner at Charanga to honor our pal Hugh (in the blue suit) who is getting married this weekend. We did not arrange to all wear hats, believe it or not, but somehow the spirit of 1947 got us all independently…

p.s. how is it that while there is an emerging ecological sensibility that is transforming so many aspects of daily life we still have to endure the Dept. of Highways (aka Caltrans) putting in landscaping that looks like it belongs around a fastfood joint? sheesh! They could really use a professional revolt among their landscape designers!

1 comment to Tortured Professionals

  • Dennis

    Amy Goodman gave a lecture about psychologists/CIA torture last weekend at Solfest in Hopland,CA. It was great.

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