S/SW blog philosophy -

I credit favorite writers and public opinion makers.

A lifelong Democrat, my comments on Congress, the judiciary and the presidency are regular features.

My observations and commentary are on people and events in politics that affect the USA or the rest of the world, and stand for the interests of peace, security and justice.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Boundaries "101" - bad politics


in the way I mean the term here, refers to the idea of psychological boundaries. I have been thinking about the national and international news and how those events and controversies have been impacted by psychological boundary-breaking. Why is it that the current news about domestic surveillance, detainee abuse, Republican lobbyist/politician scandals, and an imperial presidency, is related to "boundary-breaking"? In my opinion, the relationship has to do with the influence of those of our leaders who themselves have dysfunctional boundaries. As a matter of fact, in writing this piece, I will be doing a bit of boundary breaking myself, by presuming to evaluate the boundary issues of the current administration.

First, I offer a bit of background about the concept of psychological boundaries. Charles Whitfield, M.D., an expert in trauma recovery, discusses the historical and spiritual concept of boundaries:

Some ancient historical perspectives of boundaries; Buddha (c. 500BC) - importance of detachment from individual self (ego, codependent self) and unneccessary pain. Lao-tzu (c. 500BC) - importance of non-attachment to the '10,000 things', which 12-step workers also call 'people, places and things'.
Jesus Christ - importance of living life as true self, connected to God and fellow humans. He also taught that while you can accept, love and forgive those around who are not truly God- minded and who can hurt you, you do not have to stay around them and let them mistreat you.

Recent historical perspectives -With the beginning of modern psychology in the late 19th century, we continued exploring boundaries and limits, and we began to widen our understanding of them.

Pia Mellody, in "Setting Functional Boundaries," explains that,

Boundary systems are invisible and symbolic "fences" that have three purposes: to keep people from coming into our space and abusing us to keep us from going into the space of others and abusing them to give each of us a way to embody our sense of "who we are." Boundary systems have two parts: external and internal. Our external boundary allows us to choose our distance from other people and enables us to give or refuse permission for them to touch us. Our internal boundary protects our thinking, feelings, and behavior and keeps them functional.

Functional boundaries, thus, have just the right amount of permeability. The boundaries around the current administration, in my opinion, are dysfunctional. First, it is too difficult for the public, congress, the courts and the media to get inside and see what is going on within the executive branch. Oversight, information, insight and accountability are dangerously limited. This behavior comes out in the form of stonewalling congress, inordinate secrecy, over-classification of intelligence, the bubble around our current president, untruths and acting as if beyond the law. The boundaries are too rigid, not allowing appropriate entrance into the adminstration in matters of the public interest.

Secondly, members of the administration, and the agencies within it are too willing to get far outside of their appropriate boundaries, too invasive, too quick to ignore others' rights. This behavior comes out in the form of invading Iraq, spying on Americans, refusing to abide by the Geneva Conventions with detainees, spinning the press, mixing church and state, and breaking the law. The boundaries are too loose when it comes to doing bad things to those outside of this Republican administration.

In a previous post (on January 3) I explored the current administration's grab for Presidential power, which originated during the Nixon administration, in my opinion, with Vice-President Cheney and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld (both of whom have very rigid boundaries to letting others in). They then enlisted their 21st century president, via his suggestibility (too thin boundaries - to invasion of ideas not originally his own), to be the beneficiary of more widespread executive power. To complicate this, I think that our current president also had boundary dysfunctionality with a certain amount of rigidity at the same time. This comes out with his unwillingness to take in news on TV or read newspapers.
The other aspect of the dysfuntion has to do with the influence of the neocon movement on this administration. Neocon theory is rife with examples of dysfuntional boundaries. In a previous post exploring this phenomena, I quoted an excellent article from the Christian Science Monitor. Highlighting in bold face are what I see as illustrative ideas of inappropriate boundaries; I define the thinking errors in footnotes following the quote:

What do neoconservatives believe? "Neocons" believe that the United States should not be ashamed to use its unrivaled power – forcefully if necessary – to promote its values around the world (1). Some even speak of the need to cultivate a US empire. Neoconservatives believe modern threats facing the US can no longer be reliably contained and therefore must be prevented, sometimes through preemptive military action (1). Most neocons believe that the US has allowed dangers to gather by not spending enough on defense (2) and not confronting threats aggressively (1) enough. One such threat, they contend, was Saddam Hussein and his pursuit of weapons of mass destruction. Since the 1991 Gulf War, neocons relentlessly advocated Mr. Hussein's ouster (1).
Most neocons share unwavering support for Israel, which they see as crucial to US military sufficiency in a volatile region. They also see Israel as a key outpost of democracy in a region ruled by despots. Believing that authoritarianism and theocracy have allowed anti-Americanism to flourish in the Middle East, neocons advocate the democratic transformation of the region, starting with Iraq (1). They also believe the US is unnecessarily hampered by multilateral institutions, which they do not trust (2) to effectively neutralize threats to global security.

1. Boundaries too permeable from inside the movement to agression towards "the other."

2. Boundaries too rigidly protected against perceived threats from "the other."


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