Thursday, November 1, 2007

What about the "Stockholm Syndrome"!


If you have read the incomparable Pauline Réage’s Histoire d’O (Story of O) you might have heard of the very bizarre story of Lord Glenelg, mentioned in the Jean Paulhan’s Preface (the French writer, critic, director of the NRF and member of the Académie Française) for the novel published in 1954.

It appears that in the spring of 1838, on the Caribbean Island of Barbados and in response to the new law on the abolition of slavery, a certain Lord Glenelg set his slaves free; however, these slaves refused their new found freedom and requested strongly that their Lord place them back under his authority. Glenelg refused, probably more out of respect for the law than out of Humanism… the essential thing is that he rejected utterly his previous slaves’ unusual demand. And what did these do, in response? They massacred their old oppressor along with his family, for denying them the “right” to be exploited!!
Apparently, a victim can develop a morbid affective bond with his executioner, an unexplainable infatuation that goes much beyond the cliché of Sadism and Masochism. This is the parallel drawn with Histoire d’O, the story of an obedient young woman, O, and her dominant jailer-lovers which explore this phenomenon, from an erotic, yet psychosocial and existential point of view.

That was in the 19th century; now a slightly different story from the 20th century. On August 1973, in Stockholm, an abducted bank employee, Kristin, fell under the charm of one of her abductors, Jan Erik, the man robbing the bank and holding the people inside. The hostage fell under the spell of the terrorist; moreover, she fell in love with him. She, along with five other victims, abandoned their fellow hostages and adopted the “ideology” of their kidnappers. Things did not stop here. After their release and his arrest, this “converted” group refused to press any charges against their abductors, visited them in prison and defended their cause! This rather unusual behaviour was named after the case by an American psychiatrist: the “Stockholm Syndrome”.

In more recent times in the 21st century, we heard a similar anecdote. It seems that every century has its own “fairy-tale”: Yvonne Ridley, the former British reporter for the Sunday Express was kidnapped by the Taliban while reporting in Afghanistan in September 2001.This ex-supporter of the Labour Party and later Muslim convert confessed after her release that the first thing she said the moment she laid eyes on her kidnapper, was: “Wow! You’re gorgeous!” and she admitted that she was taken by the beauty of his “amazing green eyes” and his big dark beard etc. etc. It wouldn’t come as a surprise that these stories tend to follow a certain predictable pattern. If we consider the last two cases, we observe a certain sexual submissive fantasy that is pushed beyond the norms (psychoanalytic theory, for instance, talks about a recurrent feminine fancy: “the fantasy of getting raped”).

What concerns me personally and the question that I have been asking myself is the following: Are we Arabs perpetually under the influence of this so called “Stockholm Syndrome”? Maybe my question has a specific validity in the Lebanese case, where in theory have the “freedom”, the “choice” to admire this or that popular leader, to scorn one and to applaud another while jeering at a third. In essence to vote for X, and not for Y.Do we praise and cherish the ones who will lead us eventually to catastrophe? It seems that we Lebanese have a considerable predisposition for this alarming syndrome and sustained humiliation. What better example than an old yet famous episode of the Lebanese version of Candid Camera, where the victim, a young man passing by, is asked to take part in a movie scene where an attractive young actress slaps him on his face. In response to which he repeats the following line “bardou ba7ibbak ya wa7sh” (“despite all, I still love you, O you savage!”) .However, as the “director” is displeased with the outcome the scene is repeated and so is the humiliation.
Take one: the accomplice slaps the victim on his face and the latter cries “bardou ba7ibbak ya wa7sh”
Take two: the accomplice slaps the victim on his face and the latter cries “bardou ba7ibbak ya wa7sh”
Take three, four, five until the crew realize this could go on and on……………………………………….

Who will break the karma’s never-ending cycle? When will we convert to the “Lima Syndrome” 1 instead, where our oppressors sympathize with their victims?

1. This syndrome is considered to be the opposite of the one we evoked, as in December 1996, “terrorists” (members of the MRTA Marxist guerillas) took over the Japanese embassy in Lima (in Peru! Of course), and they showed high empathy for their hostages, and their needs…


وسيم said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

The problem for the Lebanese is that they have too many oppressors to choose from. Ultimately oppression is a state of mind and while we cannot eliminate outside influences our leaders are of our own making and we should take full responsibility for our sorry sate of affairs.


Arab said...

I wish Lebanon got rid of the problems keeping it in a real chaos ASAP.

Arabs should really help Lebanon!

Anonymous said...

An amazing story, but more so in today's terms and reasons. From an angle I see it rather normal for the so called slaves to kill their 'Master", when he freed them (or may I say LET THEM GO). Meaning in those days and circumstances they were left without food or shelter, as they were bourn into slavery they really did not have the comprehension of freedom as it is known today. They were literally doomed and were unable to provide for themselves and dependents if any. I scarcely see as today's capitalism norms, where you have the laborers on one side and the proprietors on the other. They have to work according to fixed circumstances and timings, if not they will be laid off and will end up in the same situation as the Barbados slaves. Freedom as Happiness is immeasurable.


Anonymous said...

dear khaled,
your comment and analysis studied the syndrome from its "tragic",humanist, philosophical point of view; i think it's a very meaningful dimension : just like nobody taught poor people "how to be happy", these slaves, nobody taught,them how to be free, freedom for them is total chaos, anonymous...