Bhaktivinoda Thakura was a great saint from Bengal, India 1838-1914.
He was very humble, but thought himself the greatest of sinners. In one of the verses from Saranagati, he describes himself as the lowest of mankind, who derives pleasure in seeing the distress of others. The words para-sukhe duùkhé are very significant in the following verse. Sukhe means happiness and duùkhé means distress.
From Saranagati – by Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura, Song 4, Verse 2
nija sukha lägi’, päpe nähi òori,
para-sukhe duùkhé, sadä mithya-bhäñé,
“For the sake of my own enjoyment I have never hesitated to perform sinful acts. Devoid of all compassion, I am concerned only with my selfish interests. Perpetually speaking lies, I become dejected upon seeing others happy, whereas the misery of others is a source of great delight for me.”
In the past, America has been a beacon of the moral high ground, setting the standard for other nations by practicing the golden rule of treating others like we would like to be treated. Through both of the World Wars, and the Cold War, America has never tortured it’s enemies, because we knew that if we did, our own soldiers would be tortured by our enemies. We faced Hitler, the suicide bombing Kamikaze pilots from Japan, and thousands of nuclear weapons were pointed at us from Russia during the cold war, but we still did not lower our standards.
On September the 11th 2001, 19 men used box cutters to commandeer 3 planes in order to fly them into buildings, and now our government is waging a “war on terror”. They say we must use torture to acquire information on the terrorists, before they can strike us again. The CIA, however, does not want to participate in this technique, because they know that torture does not work. It yields faulty information, because the tortured detainees will often give wrong information just to stop the pain.
Why, then, has the Bush administration adopted this policy of torture? Why has it pushed a bill (S.3930) through congress that shreds the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and gives the President the prerogative to say what the Geneva Convention defines as torture?
The New York Times said, “the definition of torture is unacceptably narrow, a virtual reprise of the deeply cynical memos the administration produced after 9/11. Rape and sexual assault are defined in a retrograde way that covers only forced or coerced activity, and not other forms of nonconsensual sex. The bill would effectively eliminate the idea of rape as torture.”
The bill also gives the President the power to detain and torture anyone he wants forever without legal recourse.
The Times says this is a "dangerously broad definition of 'illegal enemy combatant' in the bill (which) could subject legal residents of the United States, as well as foreign citizens living in their own countries, to summary arrest and indefinite detention with no hope of appeal. The president could give the power to apply this label to anyone he wanted."
Germany’s congress gave Hitler the same power with the Enabling Act. This legislation paved the way to fascism and the ultimate destruction of Nazi Germany. Is America going down the same road? Why are Bush and Cheney following in Hitler and Himmler’s footsteps, when they know that torture does not work?
Perhaps because they just get off seeing other people suffer.
What are the psychological reasons some people derive pleasure in seeing others suffer?
Harvard trained D.C. psychoanalyst and George Washington Medical Center Professor Justin A. Frank has a new book out called “Bush on the Couch: Inside the Mind of the President” in which he discusses the President’s behavior of torturing others for torture’s sake. Last week he talked to Randi Rhodes on Air America Radio, Sept. 29th.
RHODES: The things we are about to ask you and hear the answers to are going to shock an appall some people who think that Bush is doing the right thing by suspending Habeas Corpus, by asking for permission to declare anyone, including a citizen of the United States, an enemy combatant, imprison them for life without justice, and torture them? What kind of person does that, in freest country in the world? What is his psychology about torture and doing away with free speech?
DR. FRANK: As a psychoanalyst, it’s very important to look at his entire life. It’s been full of examples of torture, from his childhood - where he used to torture small animals - blowing up frogs with firecrackers, from his youth – when he would brand people on the buttocks naked with a hot coat-hanger, and then say it is nothing more than a cigarette burn. This is a man with a long history of sadistic, cruel behavior. He gets pleasure from torturing people, and he always has. He has always enjoyed heroes who are soldiers, sailors, war veterans, but not just those kind, who are in the army, but people who are killers, cowboys – he talks about it on a regular basis. He has always worshipped the tough guy, and violence. He is very much like a 7-year-old boy, stuck at the age of 7, who lives for vengeance, power, beating up on the weaker people, and avoiding the stronger people, and now he is the President.
It’s a shocking story. He was the oldest of his siblings. He had a terrible tragedy when he was 7, when his sister died. He was the first born, and when he was 3 and a half, his sister was born. When he was the second grade, his sister contracted leukemia, and she died. There was no funeral. There was no talking about her being sick, and the day after she died, the parents, handling grief in their own way – played golf. George was not told about her death until a couple of days later. There was never any talk about it. One of the things that is very important in a child, when there’s a death like that is that they have sibling rivalry and murderous wishes towards their sibling, if they are the first born, and the next one comes along, and knocks them out of the “Garden of Eden.”
He was also close to Robin, because she was a playmate till she got sick. She was very vivacious, and I think that he really loved her. He couldn’t talk about that side of things. He couldn’t talk to his mother about what a great person she was, and how he’s missing her, so there was not way to talk about either his guilt about feeling murderous, or his sense of loss, because he felt he might hurt his mother and make her feel even more depressed.
(Ed. Note: His mother has also always been a very sick individual. After Katrina, when she visited the Superdome, she looked at all the black victims and said, “These people were poor anyway, so this is working out quite well for them.”)
There was no place for him, so he retreats into cruel behavior, and disconnection. It’s calling “splitting”, or schizoid behavior, where you disconnect yourself from the effects you have on other people. After that, he was “on the road,” he became cruel, sadistic, funny - a bully at the schoolyard - a verbal bully all the time. This was his way of managing things that were unmanageable, and I would say, he became as close to psychopathic as you can be.
RHODES: Wow. So now, he’s in charge of the entire apparatus of military justice. Does he understand the concept of justice?
DR. FRANK: No. He does not. The issue for him is being right, and certain, and never ever admitting a mistake, or defeat of any kind. In the Woodward book that came out today, State of Denial, one of the quotes was so interesting. It said, there were some Republicans at the White House, and he said to them, ‘I will not withdraw, even if Laura and Barney are the only ones supporting me.’ Now, a couple of things: he said during the campaign of 2004, he called her “Laura the lump”. So, he is “lumping” his wife and his dog as non-people who have to support him. He does not care about what anybody thinks. He is so hell-bent on being right that it does not matter. That kind of statement is not the statement of the President of the United States. It’s a statement of someone he does not care about the people of the United States.
RHODES: What’s interesting are the people he surrounds himself. They are also damaged. I started writing a book a long time ago, and I never finished it, because it made me sick. I looked at their background: Karl Rove – his father was not really his father. He didn’t meet his real father till he was forty. His mother committed suicide in a Reno hotel. Newt Gingrich – is not really Newt Gingrich, he is McPherson – his father beat him too - two alcoholic parents raised him. Cheney was also alcoholic – he had two DUIs. Bush, also DUI. Laura apparently killed her boyfriend in an accident in the middle of nowhere in Midland, TX, sold pot at SMU. What is with these people that they all found each other?
DR. FRANK: It’s hard to know how they all found each other, but it’s all probably a marriage made in… I don’t know where, but not in heaven. It’s really perfect for them. They really feed off of each other, and they have kind of a gang mentality, which is a way to stay safe, and Bush has surrounded himself, and brilliantly so, with people who agree with him – who support him. The thing that disturbs me… and I also was starting another book called Enabling Cain – and I got sick also, like you have been. It’s about how we always support killers, so often, and how come these three senators Warner, and Rockefeller, recently backed down immediately after two days of protest.
RHODES: And Spector, who put the Habeas amendment on the floor, votes against his own bill! It’s just stunning the bullying that must go on!
DR. FRANK: The bullying really works. I think that Rove is much more effective than J. Edgar Hoover was in the 50’s in terms of God knows what he has on these people to get them to shut-up.
RHODES: One of the most offensive things Bush said recently was that, “when the final history was written about Iraq, it will look like just a comma.”
You have a hundred people showing up dead and tortured every single day in a country that never say one single suicide bomber before we invaded and occupied them, and now people are asking him how horrible this is. If you want to talk punctuation, I want to say this man has his head up his colon, but I want to get your psychoanalysis on how he puts things.
DR. FRANK: Why didn’t Wolf Blitzer say something after that statement? There was no follow up. That is one of the issues that also concerned me. The complicity of the media, who may sometimes ask good questions, but does not follow them up. And the question then is, why doesn’t he follow it up? I think he doesn’t want to know what he would find out, and that is the main point I wanted to make - that President Bush is indifferent to the loss of life. He really does not care. He wants to invade Iraq. He wants… for whatever reason, I don’t know – I can’t read his mind, but I do know that he is indifferent, and the indifference has to do with a phenomenon called “splitting”, which has to do with disconnecting the effect of his actions and dehumanizing other people. This is a way of diminishing his destructiveness. He has always done that all of his life from when he was a child, and from when he was in college, when he was branding people - and when he was interviewed in the New York Times, he said, “It’s nothing worse than a cigarette burn.” Who goes burning people with cigarettes? But separately, it’s a way of dismissing his actions.
RHODES: It almost kind of feels like Osama bin Laden might be Bush’s imaginary friend. That would be wrong, right? That would be impossibly wrong for me to say or think wouldn’t it?
DR. FRANK: I don’t think it’s that impossible.
RHODES: O.K. All right… Oh! YOU DON’T???
DR. FRANK: I’m sorry to say that there is a central thing they have in common which is fundamentalism, and hatred of and disrespect for the life of others, and the willingness to kill in order to prove their point.
RHODES: That is creepy. Sometimes, when I listen to what Osama bin Laden says, and then the President quotes him, I can’t tell if he’s quoting him, or the President is saying this. It’s almost identical, you’re right, with the fundamentalism, and the love of death - the bring on the rapture thing, where Bush’s religion thinks that dying is a good thing, and that if you go up in the rapture, you will go up into paradise, and Osama bin Laden says the same thing. They are both equally in awe of death. They have this special place in their hearts and minds about death – they don’t want to live life. They just want to sort of kill time to get to the next place. It’s creepy. Here's another thing I would like you to comment on. Bush compares himself to two great American Democrats:
BUSH: The Democrats offer nothing but criticism and obstruction, and endless second-guessing. The party of FDR, and the party of Harry Truman, has become the party of cut and run.
DR. FRANK: This is a man who is now demonizing anyone who disagrees with him. He has taken disagreement, and turned it into “cut and run”. Any kind of thought, or thoughtfulness, is an anathema to this man, because his world, for all his life has been split up into good and bad and Cowboys and Indians. There is no such thing as thought. There is no such thing as dialogue and interaction, because that is dangerous, and it makes him anxious. He has a long history of avoiding it, or of mocking people, or of saying, “I don’t do nuance”, or of putting people down as a way of thought. It makes him crazy. In the Goldwater movie, when he decides to run for President, and he talks to JFK about how he wants to go across the country with it, like the Lincoln/Douglass debate, and present it in front of the people – that could no more happen today, than anything, and that’s because we have a very divisive situation with a President who cannot tolerate any kind of debate or discussion. It’s very frightening.
RHODES: When I seen him do his Rose Garden press conferences, even though he knows the questions – they’ve all been screened – no one gets a follow up, he makes fun of every reporter by giving them some goofy name – he mocked a blind man for wearing sunglasses… Is that because he might be anxious that somebody might be smarter than him in the room, and mark him for being a phony? Why is he so nasty?
DR. FRANK: If you can scratch a bully hard enough, if you can get close to him, you will find that they are very frightened people, and if you ever stand up to a bully, they will cave. This is a man who is now 60, has honed to a fine-tuning, the ability to push people around, give nicknames, and make fun of people. It is because he’s anxious, but he covers it over very well with his own joking around, and dismissing (the comma is a dismissal). He is what I would call a “triumphalist”. He believes in triumph, and that’s the most important thing.
RHODES: And for him is not the means to be respected, it’s the end. It’s exactly the opposite of what we teach our kids. We say the end does not justify the means, you have to be fair, you have to be clean - we have to respect the law, we have to work within the rules…
DR. FRANK: Why do we teach our kids that? Because naturally, they are actually like Bush - they are untaught. That’s who they would be. This is a man who has been unsocialized, except for learning how to be polite sometimes and put on a suit. But basically he is like a 7 year old inside of a man’s body.
RHODES: Oh my God! And he’s got his finger on the nuclear football – and he controls our economy. He controls our foreign policy. He refuses to engage in diplomacy. When all the people who were here at the UN in New York and could solve the problems of the world were asking for a debate, and Bush was freaked out by it so he wouldn’t be in the building at the same time.
DR. FRANK: He can’t even look them in the eye. He has to run and hide. He had all kinds of contingency plans in case he ran into the President of Iran in the hallway… that they would have separate exits. That’s been written up in some of the papers I’ve read. It’s really disturbing that he had the entire secret service to make sure he didn’t run into anybody. When you are saying when you’re talking about Habeas Corpus, and what we are on to – this is a dangerous President – this is a serious problem, and when we are joking about his misspeaking and all of that stuff – we are missing the point. This is a very dangerous situation.
(Ed. Note) The proper human attitude is humility. This is the way the saint Bhaktivinoda actually looks upon himself. Here is Song 4 of the Saranagati in its entirety:
First Principle of Surrender: Dainya
1) My life is ever given to sin; in it there is not a particle of good. I have caused others great anxiety, and have troubled all souls.*
2) For the sake of my own enjoyment I have never hesitated to perform sinful acts. Devoid of all compassion, I am concerned only with my selfish interests. Perpetually speaking lies, I become dejected upon seeing others happy, whereas the misery of others is a source of great delight for me.
3) There are limitless material desires within the core of my heart. I am wrathful, fond of exhibiting arrogance, intoxicated by vanity, and bewildered by worldly affairs. I wear the cherished ornaments of envy and egotism.
4) Ruined by laziness and sleep, I resist all pious deeds, yet am very enthusiastic to perform wicked acts. For the sake of worldly fame and reputation I engage in the practice of deceitfulness. I am victimized by my own greed, being always lustful.
5) A vile, wicked man such as this, rejected by godly people, is a constant offender. Devoid of all good works, forever inclined toward evil, he is worn out and wasted by various miseries.
6) Now in old age, deprived of all means of relief, thus humbled and poor, Bhaktivinoda submits his tale of grief at the feet of the Supreme Lord.