Friday, September 09, 2016


PTSS and second generation immigration


First of all this book is a remarkable reconstruction of an old historical and judicial event whose archival resources are particularly deprived. The author collects all she can and hen crosses the resources and leaving the interpretation open when necessary, though she wants to prove a point: the real person responsible for the crime was not prosecuted.

Along with the story the author manages to give us some at tomes frightening elements concerning justice in these newly opened provinces in Canada. For example she clearly states Justice is for the rich. The poor are at a disadvantage. She also shows along this line that Blacks, Acadians and Indians are all segregated against and can hardly expect any kind of real justice.

Thus the accused has to pay for a lawyer if he wants one. No lawyer will be provided to those who cannot pay. But at the same time they will be able to call for some witnesses to come to the bar but they will not have the right to speak for themselves, hence to defend themselves.

These frontier provinces have no jurisprudence, no legal system, no judicial institution really worth mentioning in 1805, when the events take place. Of course they use the good old British law, etc. But in this English or British tradition common law is essential and there is no common law in this area of Canada. In fact it is the case we are speaking of that will start building that common law for manslaughter or murder in these provinces. That means the prosecutors and judges can then make mistakes since procedures are not set, and they are very free in their interpretation of the facts and the law since there are no common law guidelines.

The book concludes that this led to a typical miscarriage of justice because of two reasons according to her. First the impossibility to really discriminate between sanity and insanity, though the accused was at the time of the crime and still is at the time of the trial obviously insane and delusional. This should according to her have changed the approach of the crime itself. Though she does not say if the outcome could have been different. Murder or manslaughter are hardly different at the time when you know that the death penalty is imposed for burglary and she gives one example of a black slave whose murder is changed to manslaughter (of another black slave he raped first) and is hanged all the same. Could insanity have excused the murderer from being tried but where would he have been detained in his insane state? In what institution? Or just in prison for life? This would be the negation of his insanity itself.

The second reason is what she calls religious fanaticism. The word is probably very badly chosen. It is an ethical judgment and it is not because Voltaire uses it for Mahomet that it is acceptable. She should have spoken of fundamentalism: implementing the teachings and rulings contained in the sacred book, the Bible in this case, down to the very commas, refusing to take any metaphor or parable in any other way than what the words themselves say and considering this meaning as a real realistic description of the world or instructions to the believers. No matter what you may think, if someone believes the end of the world is for tomorrow morning there is no reason to feed the cattle. God will really take care of it. Such fundamentalism exists in many religions. It is the negation of the metaphorical mind of man. On the other hand fanaticism does not need to be attached to any particular sacred text of any particular religion. You can be a fanatic anarchist, a fanatic communist or a fanatic neoliberal believer: that always means eliminating those who do not think like you. Fundamentalism is the full implementation of the principles of a religion or a philosophy. That does not imply killing them all, God will recognize his own, which is then fanaticism.

And that’s where the author missed the real modern meaning we can see in this case.

The author’s book is a typical case of miscarriage of psychological evaluation of the main characters. She gives the data but she does not interpret these data in any modern way. We are dealing here with second generation immigrants in America.

The first generation, more or less willingly, emigrated to what is today New England or New York and was known at the time as the 13 colonies, before the American Revolution. They were loyalists at the time and thus were confronted to their inability to stay after the American Independence. The first migration was total uprooting from their English environment. This can create in many people some trauma that can develop into a Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome that can be compensated by some attachment to a stabilizing element, in this case the King of England. They are Loyalists.

That determines for them and their children, hence the second generation, a second uprooting episode that can cause a trauma that can develop into a Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome, less important in the first generation people since they move to Canada and remain tied up to the King of England, their stabilizing element. But this element does not stabilize some of the traumatized second generation people because they never knew England and the King of England. Those PTSS subjects then are going to look for elements that could stabilize them. The book gives a typical case for the preacher himself Jacob Peck and for his main mental victim who is going to turn murderer, Amos Babcock. Jacob Peck becomes an apocalyptic preacher announcing the end of the world and creating around him and in the minds of the people taking part to night long winter revivals fear and acceptation that they are going to die within hours. I am sure that most people take that with a grain of salt, but the most traumatized immigrants take it as if it were God’s own words. Then you have to obey. Jacob Peck does not apply this prediction to himself but builds it into other people’s minds and thus bring some to a breaking point. That’s Amos Babcock. But note in the final and tragic sermon, Jacob Peck who pretends to be a reincarnation of John the Baptist also pretends on that night that he is in direct relation with the King of England who has announced that in ten years there will no more be kings on the earth. That shows how much traumatized Jacob Peck is: he is symbolically killing the main stabilizing element that the previous generation and probably most of the second generation have kept and cultivated in their traumatizing experience.

Of course, there is a discrepancy in Jacob Peck’s preaching on that night: the end of the world is for daybreak and there will be no more kings on earth in ten years. But that is not the point. The point is that he has to get rid of the King as a stabilizing element to make the acceptation of the end of the world at daybreak real.

When you add to that this second generation has no land at all, or little land, no capital, and that they are poor leading a hard life  with the only physical compensation of very numerous children up to twelve or even more in such families, you can understand that this trauma is governing and commanding the minds of some of these second generation immigrants.

So I will totally disagree with the author’s conclusion. We do not have to judge or try the two people at stake all over again. We cannot change history and this 1805 trial is history. But we can try to understand, not to accuse. Jacob Peck definitely has a certain level of responsibility in Amos Babcock’s crime but he is a victim just as much as Amos Babcock is? Jacob Peck is living a mental drama in his trauma: the conviction that he is forever condemned to suffer, be poor and his only hope can be that the end of the world comes fast and if there is any way to make it come faster, he is convinced he has to use them: he preaches to bring people to his level of conviction and then he just hopes some of them are going to do what will trigger that end of the world because it has to be triggered by man, by Babylon. It is the crimes of men that will bring God’s decision to send Archangel Gabriel to start the apocalypse.

Then Amos Babcock, who has the very same traumatized psychology finds the lead he needs to bring that apocalypse onto himself and everyone and this apocalypse is not a crime since it is a liberation. To reduce these events to only one victim, Mercy, Amos Babcock’s own sister, is reductive. The victims are practically everyone around, even the less poor and the richer. They will go on, carrying that PTSS of at least two uprootings and deportations under the name of immigration, which is a very long historical trauma, and they will transfer their trauma onto victims, which will enable them to stabilize their psyche: Acadians who are equal but kept on the side, Indians who are not equal at all and kept in the margin and Black who are not equal at all, still slaves in 1805 in this province of Canada, and are kept in a property instead of human status.

It is of course to  be regretted that the author did not implement modern psychology to the two main characters to asses their mental aptitudes. Let’s be clear: they are not insane, they are not sick, they are just traumatized by history. This trauma has to be treated but not with some drugs or prison time. It has to be treated in a very complex and long liberating procedure because it is a liberation to get free from such a PTSS, what some call a soul wound that can be so severe at times that it can cause death, around the subject or of the subject himself, alone or in a collective sacrifice with a vest loaded with explosives.

After all it is so clear that only men can trigger God’s decision to bring the apocalypse.


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