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It’s unlikely many of my readers are old enough to remember transactional analysis (TA), a method of psychoanalytical therapy from the 1960s and 1970s which involved role-playing mind games.

The Canadian psychiatrist Eric Berne developed it in the 1950s. Ultimately, the goal was to produce in the patient the outlook of ‘I’m OK, you’re OK’.

In a comments section on one of the many blogs I read, someone linked to an article from 2016, ‘American Narratives: The Rescue Game’, which posits that today’s identity politics involve TA mind games. The topic discussed is racism in the United States, although, as the author John Michael Greer says, it can be done with any identity politics cause.

Excerpts follow, emphases mine.

Greer describes what is called the Rescue Game:

There’s a school of psychology called transactional analysis, which focuses on interactions between people rather than the vagaries of the individual psyche. Transactional analysis covers a lot of ground, but I want to focus on just one of its themes here: the theory of interpersonal games.

An interpersonal game, like most other games, has a set of rules and some kind of prizes for winners. In a healthy interpersonal game, the rules and the prizes are overt: that is, if you ask the players what they are, you can pretty much count on an honest answer. As this stops being true—as more of the rules and prizes become covert—the game becomes more and more dysfunctional. At the far end of the spectrum are those wholly dysfunctional games in which straight talk about the rules and payoffs is utterly taboo.

The accepted mainstream narrative about race in America today can best be described as one of those latter category of wholly dysfunctional games. Fortunately, it’s a game that was explored in quite a bit of detail by transactional analysts in the 1960s and 1970s, so it won’t be particularly difficult to break the taboo and speak about the unspeakable. Its name? The Rescue Game.

There are three roles in the Rescue Game — Victim, Persecutor and Rescuer:

The first two roles are allowed one move each: the Victim’s move is to suffer, and the Persecutor’s move is to make the Victim suffer. The Rescuer is allowed two moves: to sympathize with the Victim and to punish the Persecutor. No other moves are allowed, and no player is allowed to make a move that belongs to a different role.

That may seem unduly limited. It’s not, because when a group of people is assigned a role, all their actions are redefined as the move or moves allotted to that role. In the Rescue Game, in other words, whatever a Victim does must be interpreted as a cry of pain. Whatever a Persecutor does is treated as something that’s intended to cause pain to a Victim, and whatever a Rescuer does, by definition, either expresses sympathy for a Victim or inflicts well-deserved punishment on a Persecutor. This is true even when the actions performed by the three people in question happen to be identical. In a well-played Rescue Game, quite a bit of ingenuity can go into assigning every action its proper meaning as a move.

What’s more, the roles are collective, not individual. Each Victim is equal to every other Victim, and is expected to feel and resent all the suffering ever inflicted on every other Victim in the same game. Each Persecutor is equal to every other Persecutor, and so is personally to blame for every suffering inflicted by every other Persecutor in the same game. Each Rescuer, in turn, is equal to every other Rescuer, and so may take personal credit for the actions of every other Rescuer in the same game. This allows the range of potential moves to expand to infinity without ever leaving the narrow confines of the game.

Even worse:

There’s one other rule: the game must go on forever. The Victim must continue to suffer, the Persecutor must continue to persecute, and the Rescuer must continue to sympathize and punish. Anything that might end the game—for example, any actual change in the condition of the Victim, or any actual change in the behavior of the Persecutor—is therefore out of bounds. The Rescuer also functions as a referee, and so it’s primarily his or her job to see that nothing gets in the way of the continuation of the game, but all players are expected to help out if that should be necessary.

Sadly, politicians and social activists play this game with real issues and real people who are enduring real problems.

Greer describes how the game plays out, something we read about or see every day in the media:

Like most games, this one has an opening phase, a middle period of play, and an endgame, and the opening phase is called “Pin the Tail on the Persecutor.” In this initial phase, teams of Victims bid for the attention of Rescuers by displaying their suffering and denouncing their Persecutors, and the winners are those who attract enough Rescuers to make up a full team. In today’s America, this phase of the game is ongoing, and a great deal of rivalry tends to spring up between teams of Victims who compete for the attention of the same Rescuers. When that rivalry breaks out into open hostilities, as it often does, the result has been called the Oppression Olympics—the bare-knuckle, no-holds-barred struggle over which group of people gets to have its sufferings privileged over everyone else’s.

The middle phase:

is called “Show Trial.” This has two requirements, which are not always met. The first is an audience willing to applaud the Victims, shout catcalls at the Persecutors, and cheer for the Rescuers on cue. The second is a supply of Persecutors who can be convinced or coerced into showing up to play the game. A Rescue Game in which the Persecutors don’t show quickly enters the endgame, with disadvantages that will be described shortly, and so getting the Persecutors to appear is crucial …

However their presence is arranged, once the Persecutors arrive, the action of the game is stereotyped. The Victims accuse the Persecutors of maltreating them, the Persecutors try to defend themselves, and then the Victims and the Rescuers get to bully the Persecutors into silence, using whatever means are allowed by local law and custom.

At some point, either there are no more Persecutors or people get bored with the game and leave it. The game then enters a new, and final, phase:

At this point the action shifts to the endgame, which is called “Circular Firing Squad.” In this final phase of the game, the need for a steady supply of Persecutors is met by identifying individual Victims or Rescuers as covert Persecutors. Since players thus accused typically try to defend themselves against the accusation, the game can go on as before—the Victims bring their accusations, the newly identified Persecutors defend themselves, and then the Victims and Rescuers get to bully them into silence.

We recognise the pattern, which is a daily narrative for current affairs outlets, turning real issues that require real solutions — e.g. race — into some sort of gamesmanship.

Greer gives two more uses of the Rescue Game — in sexual identity and Marxist politics:

I first encountered the concept of the Rescue Game, in fact, by way of a pamphlet lent to my wife by her therapist sister-in-law, which used it as the basis for an edgy analysis of class conflicts within the lesbian community. From there to the literature on transactional analysis was a short step, and of course it didn’t hurt that I lived in Seattle in those years, where every conceivable form of the Rescue Game could be found in full swing. (The most lively games of “Circular Firing Squad” in town were in the Marxist splinter parties, which I followed via their monthly newspapers; the sheer wallowing in ideological minutiae that went into identifying this or that party member as a deviationist would have impressed the stuffing out of medieval scholastic theologians.)

Nationwide, the Rescue Game looks like this:

With impressive inevitability, in fact, every question concerning privilege in today’s America gets turned into a game of “Pin the Tail on the Persecutor,” in which one underprivileged group is blamed for the problems affecting another underprivileged group, and some group of affluent white people show up to claim the Rescuer’s role. That, in turn, leads to the third issue I want to consider here, which is the question of who benefits most from the habit of forcing all discussion of privilege in today’s America into the straitjacket of the Rescue Game.

Ultimately, there is only one winner in any form of these Rescue Games, and that is the Rescuer:

It’s only fair to note that each of the three roles gets certain benefits, though these are distributed in a very unequal fashion. The only thing the people who are assigned the role of Persecutor get out of it is plenty of negative attention. Sometimes that’s enough—it’s a curious fact that hating and being hated can function as an intoxicant for some people—but this is rarely enough of an incentive to keep those assigned the Persecutor’s role willing to play the game for long.

The benefits that go to people who are assigned the role of Victim are somewhat more substantial. Victims get to air their grievances in public, which is a rare event for the underprivileged, and they also get to engage in socially sanctioned bullying of people they don’t like, which is an equally rare treat. That’s all they get, though. In particular, despite reams of the usual rhetoric about redressing injustices and the like, the Victims are not supposed to do anything, or to expect the Rescuers to do anything, to change the conditions under which they live. The opportunities to air grievances and bully others are substitutes for substantive change, not—as they’re usually billed—steps toward substantive change.

The vast majority of the benefits of the game, rather, go to the Rescuers. They’re the ones who decide which team of Victims will get enough attention from Rescuers to be able to start a game. They’re the ones who enforce the rules, and thus see to it that Victims keep on being victimized and Persecutors keep on persecuting. Nor is it accidental that in every Rescue Game, the people who get the role of Rescuers are considerably higher on the ladder of social privilege than the people who get given the roles of Victims and Persecutors.

Greer ends his article with this:

Perhaps, dear reader, you find it hard to imagine why affluent white people would want to keep everyone else so busy fighting one another that they never notice who benefits most from that state of affairs. Perhaps it hasn’t occurred to you that giving the underprivileged the chance to air their grievances and engage in a little socially sanctioned bullying is a great deal less inconvenient for the affluent than actually taking action to improve the lives of the underprivileged would be. Such thoughts seemingly never enter the minds of most Americans; I’ll leave it to you to figure out why.

Speaking from personal experience, everyone I know who empathises with similar Rescue Games in the UK is in line for a whopping great pension, often from the public sector, and lives in a large house, often in a gated community.

It’s time we, the general public, ignored all of these media-fuelled narratives, which only serve the Rescuers’ purposes, and focus on creating a better world for our fellow citizes, in whatever small way we can.

Until last week, an Independent candidate for Seattle’s city council was running for local elections in 2019.

His is one of the best political adverts I’ve ever seen. Please take two minutes to watch it:

Christopher Rufo has made documentaries for Netflix and PBS, assignments that have taken him around the world. The video shows him with his wife and two sons. Clearly, they are a happy family.

He wants to clean up Seattle, which has become a filthy, depressing place in recent years, and to lower taxes for the city’s hardest hit workers. He says that Seattle doesn’t need more money; it needs better leadership.

What’s not to like?

The radical left went after him, just as they did Tucker Carlson, using the Cuban approach. They harassed one of his sons on his school’s Facebook page and tried to get his wife fired from her job with Microsoft.

On November 14, The Daily Caller reported that, because of the horrific abuse his family has had to take, Christopher Rufo has regrettably dropped out of the 2019 local race. Excerpts follow, emphases mine.

Rufo clearly blamed the radical left:

An independent candidate for Seattle City Council announced on Wednesday that he is dropping out of the race, due to what he described as racial and sexual harassment of his wife by left-wing activists.

Christopher Rufo, a documentary filmmaker, made combatting Seattle’s “activist class” and “the ideologues on our city council” a central part of his campaign for election in 2019.

He sent an email to his supporters explaining the situation. It says, in part:

I had hoped that this would be a campaign of ideas, but I quickly discovered that the activists in this city have no interest in ideas. Since the campaign launch, they have harassed and threatened my family nonstop. I was prepared to take the heat, but unfortunately, they have focused their hatred on my wife and children.

They’ve made vile racist attacks against my wife, attempted to get her fired from Microsoft, and threatened sexual violence. They have even posted hateful messages to my 8-year-old son’s school Facebook page. I know that as the race progresses, the activists will ratchet up their hate-machine and these attacks will intensify significantly

my primary responsibility is to make sure my family is healthy, happy, and safe. That’s not possible in our current political climate, which has been overtaken by polarization and the ever-present threat of violence.

I’ve learned that our problem here in Seattle is much deeper than the city council’s policies—we have created a culture of intolerance that is deeply destructive to the common good. I plan to spend the next few months reflecting on this experience and charting a way forward in a series of essays. I hope that some positive benefit can come out of this disappointment.

Rufo has pledged to refund all of the donations to his campaign, which are upwards of $12,000.

How sad for him and his family. They look like good people.

I cannot imagine going after anyone, especially someone from an ethnic minority or a child. What is wrong with these people, who accuse everyone else of being intolerant?

Where does this end?

Keep in mind that Rufo is probably not a conservative, and is likely to be more of a libertarian.

The Daily Caller‘s article directs readers to another one focussing on Seattle, ‘Seattle Council Member Using Gov Resources To Organize Anti-Trump Protests’, dated January 4, 2017, a few weeks before President Trump’s inauguration:

A Seattle city council member is openly using government resources to organize anti-Trump protests in collaboration with a radical socialist organization.

Councilmember Kshama Sawant posted an open letter to her “fellow activists” on the City of Seattle’s taxpayer-funded website, urging participation in anti-Trump “Occupy Inauguration” protests organized by the Socialist Alternative Seattle. More than 3,500 people have already committed to joining the protests, according to the event’s Facebook page.

“A right-wing anti-worker bigot has been elected President. Donald Trump’s cabinet is a who’s who of multi-billionaires with long records of hostility towards workers, the labor movement, women’s rights, and the planet,” Sawant charges in her letter, which was posted on New Years Eve. She goes on to urge visitors to the government website to engage in “resistance” to the president-elect.

‘Government resources’ is better translated as ‘taxpayer money’.

How can a city council allocate tax money towards protests — of any kind?

Socialist Alternative Seattle, influential in the councilwoman’s campaign and behind the pre-Inauguration protest:

stands in “political solidarity” with the Committee for a Workers’ International, a far-left organization that calls for a “Marxist programme” to end capitalism.

In short, Sawant is using taxpayer resources to organize anti-Trump protests sponsored by a radical socialist organization that brags about its ties to global Marxists

Sawant is the vice-chair of the city council’s committee on civil rights. She did not return a request for comment by press time.

Unbelievable.

Back to Christopher Rufo’s — and Tucker Carlson’s — situation. As one of my readers commented on Saturday:

These orchestrated mob attacks on political dissidents are outrageous and cannot be tolerated. I lay the blame for this escalating violence at the feet of Jeff Sessions, the former US Attorney General.

The first act of terrorism occurred shortly after Donald Trump took office. A Democratic party activist shot Congressman Steve Scalise and several others. Had Jeff Sessions reacted in a decisive manner and declared that violence against Republican officials will not be tolerated and demanded that Democratic party officials condemn the violence, disavow violence as a political tool, and take positive actions to insure that there are no further acts of violence, I believe that we would not see the mob attacks on dissidents we see today.

If local police refused to arrest and local courts refused to prosecute political terrorists, then Jeff Sessions should have stepped in and arrested and prosecuted the terrorists under federal statutes. Recall when Eric Holder was Attorney General, if a local court decision didn’t go the way the Obama administration wanted it to go, Holder would arrest and prosecute the individual under federal statutes.

I couldn’t agree more.

Acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker must now step up to the plate, say ‘Enough!’ and prosecute to the fullest extent of the law.

Americans — from Independents to Libertarians to Republicans — cannot be held hostage or abused by groups of unhinged leftists who belong either in jail or mental health facilities.

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