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Understanding Obama And Other People Who Kill

By Robert J. Burrowes

07 May, 2013

When Barack Obama orders the US military to attack people in another
country, whether in a war or by using an illegal drone strike, he knows
that people, including innocent men, women and children (called
'collateral damage'), will be killed. How can he do this? When Benjamin
Netanyahu orders Israeli military attacks on unarmed Palestinians, he
knows that innocent men, women and children will be killed. How can he do
this? When corporate executives, such as Hugh Grant (chief of Monsanto)
and Gregory R. Page (boss of Cargill), make decisions that deprive people
- including those in Africa, Asia and Central/South America - of the means
of economic survival, they know that people will be exploited and killed.
How can they do this?

It takes someone with a particular psychological profile to kill people.
Most of us cannot do it even when ordered to do so. Studies have shown
that even in combat situations under enemy fire many soldiers either do
not shoot or 'aim to miss'.

People who deliberately kill have suffered an extraordinary level of
terror and violence during their own childhood and this leaves them
particularly badly emotionally damaged. This might be concealed behind a
good-looking face and/or a superficially pleasant personality. So what is
the psychological profile of a killer, whether political leader, corporate
executive, terrorist or someone who commits murder on our streets? Careful
scrutiny and analysis reveals that these individuals share at least 23
feelings/attributes most of which are invisible to casual observation. See
'Why Violence?' http://tinyurl.com/whyviolence I will identify just twelve

Fundamentally, perpetrators of violence are terrified and they are
particularly terrified of those individuals who perpetrated violence
against them when they were a child although this terror remains
unconscious to them. Second, this terror is so extreme that archetype
perpetrators are too terrified to consciously identify to themselves their
own perpetrator (one or both parents and/or other significant adults who
are supposed to love them) and to say that it is this individual or
individuals who are violent and wrong.

Third, because they are terrified, they are unable to defend themselves
against the original perpetrator(s) but also, as a result, they are unable
to defend themselves against other perpetrators who attack them later in
life. This lack of capacity to defend themselves leads to the fourth and
fifth attributes – a deep sense of powerlessness and a deep sense of
self-hatred and this latter attribute, in turn, negates any sense of
personal self-worth, leaving them with an extremely negative conception of
themselves as 'bad', the sixth attribute. However, and this is vitally
important, it is too terrifying and painful for the perpetrator to be
consciously aware of any of these feelings/attributes: they remain deeply
embedded within their unconscious and they are not necessarily apparent to

Seventh, the extreme social terrorisation experience to which archetype
perpetrators of violence have been subjected means that the feelings of
love, compassion, empathy and sympathy, as well as the mental function of
conscience, are prevented from developing. This is because the human
potential to have a conscience and to have the feelings of love,
compassion, empathy and sympathy depend on exposure to these and
cultivation of them during childhood: they cannot be fully developed
later. Devoid of conscience and these feelings, perpetrators can inflict
violence on others without experiencing the feedback that conscience,
love, compassion, empathy and sympathy would provide.

Eighth, archetype perpetrators of violence have a delusional belief in the
effectiveness and morality of violence; they have no capacity to perceive
its dysfunctionality and immorality. Ninth, because they are terrified of
identifying that they are the victim of the violence of their own parents
(and/or other significant adults from their childhood) and that this
violence terrified them, archetype perpetrators unconsciously delude
themselves about the identity of their own perpetrator. They will
unconsciously identify their 'perpetrator' as one or more individuals of
whom they are not actually afraid from an existing 'legitimised victim'
group because this or these individuals are either clearly not threatening
(to them) and/or are vulnerable in some way. This identification might be
limited to their own children and/or be a larger social group such as
people who are black, Islamic or Palestinian, for example. It might also
include the impoverished masses of people in Africa, Asia and
Central/South America.

Tenth, archetype perpetrators unconsciously project their self-hatred, one
outcome of their own victimhood, as hatred for their victim. This enables
them to both self-justify their behaviour and to obscure from themselves
their true but unconscious motivation: to remain unaware of their own
terror, defencelessness, powerlessness, self-hatred, self-worthlessness,
and all of the other unpleasant feelings that make them become
perpetrators of violence.

Eleventh, archetype perpetrators have an intense fear of knowing the
truth: it is safer to believe that their carefully but unconsciously
chosen victim, who is always much less powerful than the perpetrator, is
'the problem' (and thus gain the desired, but delusionary, sense of
'having control'). The truth would require them to stand up to the actual
perpetrator and, of course, this is utterly terrifying.

Twelfth, archetype perpetrators of violence lack the courage to heal; that
is, they delude themselves that their own fear and terror are not
responsible for their violence because they are too terrified to take
responsibility for feeling this fear and terror as the central component
of any strategy for dealing truthfully and powerfully with their violence.

Perpetrators of violence need our understanding and support: they are
people who are badly emotionally damaged. But their violence needs to be
nonviolently resisted as well. If not, perpetrators in powerful positions
will drive us to extinction as they endlessly seek delusional relief from
their own fear, self-hatred and powerlessness by inflicting violence on
the rest of us.

In contrast to perpetrators, why do some people resist violence? Why, for
example, do professors like Noam Chomsky and Chandra Muzaffar, and
individuals such as Bradley Manning, resist violence? Why do nonviolent
activists such as Mairead Maguire, Kathy Kelly and Dr Teck Young Wee
(Hakim) resist violence?

They do so because they feel courageous and powerful; they have a deep
sense of Self-worth and can ascribe worth to others; they have
well-developed feelings of compassion, empathy and sympathy; they have a
clear conscience; they abhor violence and injustice, as any emotionally
undamaged individual must do, and they know that violence cannot achieve
any desirable social outcome; because of their courage and power to act,
they have no self-hatred to project; they love the truth and do what they
can to expose it, even at risk to themselves; and, perhaps most
importantly of all, they are self-loving which means that they can love
others too. Self-love is true love: the individual that does not truly
love itself cannot love another.

If you like, you can ask yourself this: which of these two psychological
profiles most accurately fits you? If you see yourself with something like
the latter profile, you might wish to consider signing online 'The
People’s Charter to Create a Nonviolent World'

Biodata: Robert has a lifetime commitment to understanding and ending
human violence. He has done extensive research since 1966 in an effort to
understand why human beings are violent and has been a nonviolent activist
since 1981. He is the author of 'The Strategy of Nonviolent Defense: A
Gandhian Approach', State University of New York Press, 1996. His email
address is [email protected] and his website is at






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