Sunday, September 29, 2013

Cleansing Minds

Hal Pepinsky,; “peacemaking” at
September 29, 2013

                Among my fellow criminal justice educators are healers of wayward youth whose calling is to correct offenders’ thinking errors, or on which choices are bad and how to avoid making them.  I hear “bad choices” echoed among penitent sinners and offenders.  On the side of promoting right thinking are those of us who seek to ensure that our graduates know important “facts” and master basic “methods” of learning and analysis, called as they are to practice a truly scientific advancement of knowledge about crime and criminality.  And across the nation, legislators and administrators are consumed with ensuring that our young people learn the right, standardized, privatized “core” stuff, and with closing neighborhood public schools whose students aren’t at least at average grade level.  Among facts taught in textbooks, subject to standardized testing, are those about religion, and state and national history.
                This morning the BBC broadcast an interview with Robert Ford, an English radio operator for the Tibetan government who was subject to rehabilitation through re-education, where over five years he mastered the Chinese fact that he had been a spy for a covert British protectorate.  The BBC interview concluded with the news that Ford had died a week after they had recently taped him, where he explained that in his English-language mind, he remained convinced that he had been no such thing.  Listeners today were reminded that Chinese police continue to fill re-education camps with pre-trial detainees, who confess as surely as pre-trial detainees in the US strike plea bargains.  The Orwellian process that became notorious in the US during the Korean War as “brainwashing” endures.
                It was a harbinger of life to come that my greatest fascination as a Chinese major in college in the early sixties was with Chinese Communist theory and practice of social control, including the critique of the Euro-American notion of due process--essentially that it was a product of Western imperialism that protected the private property claims of landlords, men, and assorted Westerners.  I remember spending some time delving into the US psychological research literature on brainwashing, only to learn later that CIA-military “psychological operations” extended to training, for assassination and other “black ops,” that survivors of MK-Ultra and of Ewen Cameron’s CIA-sponsored physical electronic attempts at mind-replacement have described to me many times over.
                Brainwashing is a translation of the Chinese xi  gan, which I would literally translate as “cleansing minds.”  As I wrote on “comparative method” in 1988 just after returning from Norway, I learn most from other cultures to notice counterparts in mine.  As I heard Robert Ford this morning, describing his re-education by his Chinese captors, the way his essays on whether he had or had not committed an act of war against the Chinese people were historically, personally, right or wrong, sounded exactly like the kind of (re)education I keep hearing that our children need in bigger, more rigorous doses.  Is this not a national calling to cleanse young minds?  Love and peace--hal

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