bessel van der kolk: on victims and collective memory

krista quoted bessel on saying this (though she didn’t say from where) in bessel’s on being interivew and it has definitely blown my mind.

“…victims are members of society whose problems represent the memory of suffering, rage, and pain in a world that longs to forget.”

so poignant.

when i think about what wrongs and traumas happen in the world, because they are uncomfortable (even when they’re mine), it is all too easy to push them aside or try to forget them. but at another point in the episode bessel mentions a solider with post-traumatic stress disorder (ptsd) who actually didn’t want to be treated. the logic was something along the lines of being a physical embodiement and memory of the people lost and the situation itself.

i think ptsd is an extreme case as it’s just one of many types of trauma and victimhood. psychosomatic trauma, physical trauma, and mental trauma all show up differently, but the people who have experienced those things are societies markers of those realities. in way, they’re like scars. and while you can pay to have scars covered up, if the process of getting the scar doesn’t make you better, smarter, more compassionate, whatever, something is wrong.

so i think whatever type of oppression or structural problem we’re talking about, if there are victims somewhere, we haven’t yet solved the problem. as i think about it, this has interesting and significant implications for what it will meant to end racism, sexism, homophobia, etc. we need systemic and ecosystem solutions to these issues, not just point in time solutions.

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