Major Global Crises Call for Psychologists to Take the Stage

Gloria Gordon

For several years I have kept a folder on my computer desktop for items relating to my admittedly grandiose plan to deliver a jolt to human behavior experts in the U.S. that will focus their attention on the planetary crises we face in this era.

In sorting through the contents of the folder I find that among its 684 documents there appear two categories of useful files. One set features authorities talking/writing about Big Problems predicted to hit home in the coming decade or two (climate change, economic disaster, global violence, food and water shortage). What is special about these files is that, in the midst of their analyses, these authorities toss in an explanatory mental/emotional cause.

Some examples: when the economy crashes, they throw human greed into their comments; when climate change is featured in the news Al Gore points to emotion-driven thinking habits that we have slipped into since television became a dominant part of our culture; recently James Cameron, director of the film Avatar, tells us that we humans are in denial about the seriousness of the way we have degraded the environment–and that our denial is caused by our fear of the huge mess the planet is in and the dangers that lie ahead: food and water shortage, displaced populations, disease, world violence.

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Cognitive Dissonance and the Movement to Ban Physical Punishment

Mitch Hall

corporalCognitive dissonance theory may be relevant to understanding why it is so difficult for many people to recognize that the physical punishment of children is harmful, unnecessary, potentially traumatizing, and a violation of human rights. While reading an engaging book about cognitive dissonance theory and research (Tavris & Aronson, 2007), I began thinking about its implications for children’s advocates in the movement to eliminate physical punishment. To illustrate the findings of cognitive dissonance research, the authors, both social psychologists, cite striking examples from realms as diverse as politics, criminal justice, medicine, psychotherapy, marriage, and experimental research. Whereas this book did not address physical punishment, it led me to the following reflections, which I also relate to attachment theory and terror management theory.

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Children, Structural Violence, and the UNCRC: Reflections for Children’s Advocates

Mitch Hall

children1If we want to promote children’s rights and to protect children from violence, abuse, neglect, and trauma, we need to take into account the ravages on children’s wellbeing of structural violence – the unjust, harmful, institutionalized inequalities of wealth, social status, and power that cause disproportionate death, disability, despair, humiliation, and heartache among the disadvantaged. Structural violence is manifested in class and caste hierarchies, in the stigmatizing and oppression of minorities, and in the military, political, and economic exploitation of the poor.

Compared with structural violence, direct violence against children is more easily understandable and emotionally compelling in its immediacy. It is horrifying to learn about adults who neglect children or abuse them physically, emotionally, or sexually. We can work to do something about such issues. For example, we can become therapists to support the emotional healing of abused and neglected children. We can take up causes, such as the elimination of corporal punishment or of routine male circumcision, and we can promote gentle birthing practices and caring parenting.

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What I Saw in Gaza

Amal Sedky Winter

gazaaswThe group was allowed to cross into Gaza from Egypt only because Egypt’s First Lady, Suzanne Mubarak, gave her “blessing” to the mission, thus excepting it from Egypt’s 2-year-old closed border policy.


I am not completely new to war landscapes. I was in Iraq right after the 2003 invasion and I did faithfully watch Al-Jazeera’s graphic reports during the Gaza War of December 27, 2008 to January 20, 2009.

But when I arrived in Gaza on March 9, 2009, I succumbed to disbelief: Houses, apartment buildings were shot down (to be expected), but mosques, all police stations and all government buildings, including the parliament? The American International School obliterated; the United Nations Refugee School bombed; hospitals’ walls pocked with bullets. Lone houses stood in plains of rubble; 4,000 of them destroyed.

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Moving from Violence to Talks in Gaza

Marc Pilisuk

gazablog-26373206There is a psychological message of misperception affecting responses to the Israeli attack on Gaza. It mistakes the actions pushed by leaders for the needs of the people who inhabit the areas involved. Leaders need to proclaim they are striking out against feared enemies. People need to go about their daily lives with resources necessary to survive with dignity and with a minimum of catastrophic disturbance.

In common parlance about international affairs, we often tend to refer to countries as allies or enemies, as aggressors or defenders. The tacit support of the Israeli attack upon Gaza has been met by governmental statements from the region hoping for an end to violence on all sides. But public protest in every Middle Eastern country is delivering a different message — of disproportionate response, collective punishment, seeking to starve the people into submission, Israeli refusal to prevent violence from the settlements, and an unconscionable willingness to treat Palestinian lives as less valuable than those of Israelis.

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