Part V: Philosophy in the Analytic Room
In the last part of the paper, Rozmarin reiterates that ‘being is always a betrayal’ and calls each of us to a new conceptualization of freedom:
‘We all live in a spellbound society, in denial of unbearable injustice and violence—each individual who steps into our offices is the bearer of much more trouble than he or she can handle… We must choose whether to resign to living and practicing under the spell, to asking our patients to renounce their concern for others as mere fantasy replaceable with healthy self-servitude, or to embark on a journey of remembrance and recognition, and of critique of things as they are, towards unknown consequences’ (p.344).
Rozmarin’s paper is a challenging dialogue between philosophical discourse and clinical experiences of freedom. It forcefully demonstrates that freedom can only be understood in the context of intersubjective and historical embeddedness. There is one possible danger that I see in his paper: by using the lived experience of intergenerational survivors of the Nazi Holocaust to illustrate his themes, we as readers with different backgrounds may be seduced into thinking that this paper does not apply to us. We might be tempted to think of the Holocaust only as an isolated event. And yet, genocide is ubiquitous. Other ‘forgotten’ genocides abound around the world, including the treatment of Native Americans. In the modern era the death toll from genocide is over a hundred million people in scores of countries around the globe (Hinton 2002, p.23).
In the book Annihilating Difference (ibid), the anthropologist Scheper-Hughes introduces the concept of a ‘genocide continuum’ that brings everyday occurrences to our attention. She suggests that everyday acts of micro-genocide are ‘conducted in the normative social spaces of public schools, clinics, emergency rooms, hospital wards, nursing homes, court rooms, prisons, detention centers and public morgues’ (p. 369). Scheper-Hughes warns that we must be vigilant to the less dramatic, permitted, everyday acts of violence that reduce others to nonpersons, monsters, or to ‘things that give structure, meaning and rationale to every day practices of violence’ (p.369). While recognizing the risk of diluting the term ‘genocide’ by using it to describe events of everyday life, she points out the more dangerous risk of failing to recognize the everyday violence enacted by ‘ordinary’ good enough people. As Adorno might say, we need to be awakened from our ‘spell’.
Awareness of the issues Rozmarin raises is crucial, especially in turbulent times such as ours. His efforts to highlight freedom as an ethical relationship to the other comes across with a special urgency both for our practice and our personal lives, and I strongly recommend this paper as essential reading for analysts and therapists.
Sharon R. Green, Seattle, WA