Cultural Stockholm Syndrome?

On Thu, the Guardian published an article on the Taliban flogging a little girl in public (in Pakistani tribal regions). The girl is suspected of “illicit relations” and flogged without trial. She squeals and shrieks to a pitiless crowd. Even if you (understandably) don’t want to watch the video below, have a look at the opening frame. The person pinning her head down appears to be a woman dressed in an almost-but-not-quite burkha. [Warning: disturbing footage]

Outrage is a very healthy reaction but I think it’s also good to look at the mechanisms that allow something like this to happen. Matt Dillahunty sees the adoption of a white Jesus by African slaves (in the time of slavery) as an example of Stockholm Syndrome. I think here we have the same thing. A woman (probably a family member) holds the girl down, probably thinks she’s being a good follower of [Taliban-style] sharia law — and completely misses the cruel irony.

Alas it’s very easy for members of an oppressed group to fall in love with the oppressors and join them. Another example is female genital mutilation: in most cases it’s done by a girl’s mother/grandmother as a time-honoured family tradition. Of course I don’t want to single out oppressed women — this is part of a general human nature and happens to every oppressed group.

I don’t think the girl is shrieking from [just] the force of the beating. It seems to me the main reason is the humiliation of this public ritual. She’s degraded (in front of men) for being an “improper woman”. We can see how powerful oppressive systems provide the opportunity for Stockholm syndrome. They create a mythology of two classes of the oppressed: (1) the nice, well-behaved oppressed and (2) the uppity, shameless oppressed. This leads some members of the oppressed community to try and prove they are in class 1 and not 2. Humiliation is in the eye of the beholder, I think without social roles like that of the woman holding her down, the girl would have had to deal with the brutality of the beating only.

Finally this video’s a great example of the banality of evil: the beating is done in a very matter-of-fact-way, the intensity’s probably not strong enough to cause permanent injury (in this case), just to psychologically terrorise, and then everyone just gets up and goes about his daily life…

[UPDATE: This is being investigated by the Pakistani courts. I thought the whole point is they don’t have control over those regions. Also the article says there were 2 men pinning the girl down. It looked more like a woman so I said “appears to be a woman”, if it is a man this post would obviously have to apply to another example.]

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The thinly-veiled identity of lives and rants in Sydney. Views not his own, provided by hivemind. All my original work on this blog is licensed under a CC BY-NC License.

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