W00t, here it is! Finally finished my review of pattrice jones’s Aftershock, which I totally loved. I also loved that I was able to squeeze all of my thoughts – or at least a summary thereof – into the Amazon review. (Probably due in no small part to the prelim/mini-review of Thursday last, in which I excised the copious quoting right outta my system.) Amazon, for those not in the know, caps reviews at a crazy 1000 word limit. I clocked in at 980, hence the w00t! I thought I was going to have to chop it up, like with my Bird Flu review. So w00t, w00t.
I’m still mulling over some of jones’s finer points, such as her building bridges / being bridges conclusion, mentioned briefly at the end of my Amazon review. Time permitting, I’d like to elaborate on that.
But for now, let me just add the following thoughts, which ended up on Amazon’s chopping block:
I love, love, love that jones used gender-neutral and alternating masculine/feminine pronouns and terms. And I super-love that she made a point out of explaining as much in the User’s Guide.
I love, love, love that she avoided citing and otherwise drawing upon animal-based research, sticking instead to psychological studies that utilized willing human volunteers. She has my undying admiration for that, since I’m sure it made writing Aftershock infinitely more difficult.
I love, love, super-duper-love that the issue of trauma and activism was approached from a eco-feminist, anarchist, humanist-without-the-speciesism, animal liberationist, socially progressive perspective. And the discussion remained rooted in sound social and biological science all the while! Totally awesome. Methinks we need more therapists – and activists – like jones in the world.
Amazon review after the jump. If you likey, please hop on over to Amazon and give my review(s) a helpful vote(s). Remember, the more votes I get, the further on up in the page my reviews will appear – thus exposing more and more Amazonians to a pro-animal view. So a vote for me is a vote for the fuzzy wuzzies, is what I’m sayin’.
/ groveling /
(Full disclosure: I received a free copy of this book for review at the publisher’s invitation.)
AFTERSHOCK: CONFRONTING TRAUMA IN A VIOLENT WORLD -> A GUIDE FOR ACTIVISTS AND THEIR ALLIES is psychotherapist/radical progressive activist pattrice jones’s gift to her fellow activists and allies. In it, she imparts her plans for the REAL ‘war on terror’ – “the struggle for a world in which nobody lives in fear of atrocities perpetrated by human beings.” This involves healing those activists who have suffered (and continue to suffer) from “aftershock,” a phenomenon that jones describes as “the physical and emotional reverberations of frightening, horrifying, or otherwise traumatizing experiences endured in the course of their activism.” On a larger scale, we must also work together to heal our “trauma culture,” which consists of a society that is both traumatized and traumatizing and is characterized by deep divisions, such as those between groups of people, between humans and non-human animals, and between people and nature.
In the “User Guide,” jones suggests specific sections that may be especially helpful to aftershocked activists, friends and allies of those suffering from aftershock, and therapists working with activists. However, I urge everyone to read AFTERSHOCK in its entirety. jones is a gifted and accessible writer, so this is hardly a chore! Even when discussing complex psychological theories, jones manages to keep the conversation friendly and interesting, with little jargon. Occasionally she’ll wander off on a slight tangent – such as when discussing the rise of patrism, pastoralism, and the patriarchy – and you’ll find yourself wishing she’d expounded on the idea rather than guiding you back to the issue at hand. As a result, AFTERSHOCK is filled with all sorts of intriguing ideas and theories.
Much of AFTERSHOCK addresses the activist community directly. jones begins by tackling what is perhaps the deepest division traumatizing our culture today – the artificial wall that’s been erected between human and non-human animals. jones explains the physiological processes from which our “animal emotions” originate, and stresses that we cannot suppress, ignore, and neglect our bodies, our feelings, and ourselves without suffering from deleterious consequences such as burnout. Nor will ignoring a trauma make it go away; rather, doing so could exacerbate or cause aftershock. The first action we must take against trauma and aftershock is to confront and embrace our animal selves.
jones then fleshes out her concept of “aftershock.” Because of the trauma they’ve faced, aftershocked activists may suffer from clinically diagnosable post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and/or depression, as well of symptoms of each. Here, jones takes on some controversies within the psychological community, such as “shadow syndromes,” gender bias in clinical syndromes and diagnoses, and the nature of normality. She also describes some unique symptoms of aftershock; because of what they’ve experienced in the course of their activism, PTSD and depression may manifest uniquely in aftershocked activists.
jones concludes her discussion of trauma in individuals with advice for combating and preventing aftershock. For individuals, healing involves sanctuary (creating safe spaces); memory and mourning (remembering and retelling the traumatic event so that it can be integrated into your memories, and grieving the person you were before the trauma, for the “old you” is gone forever); connection (with other humans, other animals, and your environment/ecosystem); and making peace (between “your wishes and the world”). Friends, allies, therapists, organizations, and the community can all help aftershocked activists by providing sanctuary, encouraging remembrance, and facilitating connections. Perhaps more importantly, we can all work together to prevent aftershock (or at least lessen its impact) in our most vulnerable activists.
This section on “Action against Fracture” is a must-read for those working within the framework of an organized, action-centered group. Speaking from experience, jones lays out a coherent action plan for making activist organizations safe spaces for their volunteers and employees. Pay extra-special attention to the discussion of sexual harassment and assault within organizations – as jones notes time and again, an individual may hold progressive ideas on one subject, but still be an agent/tool of the patriarchy when it comes to gender issues (just visit any large, liberal, male-dominated blogging community and see how teh wimmins are treated!).
The last portion of AFTERSHOCK deals with our “trauma culture.” Though it does follow from the preceding chapters, its macro focus almost makes it seem like a whole new book. For me (a non-aftershocked armchair activist), this was the most stimulating section of AFTERSHOCK. Throughout the text, jones raises the issue of parallel (or intersecting) oppressions – racism, sexism, homophobia, classism, speciesism, etc. – and in discussing our fractured culture, this topic truly comes to the fore. jones cautions, “feminists ought not to be eating hamburgers and animal liberationists ought not to be wearing shoes sewn in sweatshops.” A sentiment with which this fellow green / veg*n / feminist / GLBT ally / animal advocate couldn’t agree more! However, many progressive social movements seem, to some degree, to be separated from one another – and ALL share a common disdain for us ‘crazy animal rights fanatics.’ jones entreats us to BE bridges (a step beyond merely building bridges, I guess) between movements – an admirable goal, to be sure, but I’m still left wondering how you ally yourself with movements that you may agree with, but who don’t exactly sympathize with you? Speciesism is the last “ism” that’s still deemed acceptable by the whole of society. Sure, we might be able to rally support on some weak animal welfare measures, such as a ban on foie gras or cockfighting, but the total liberation of animals? Fugeddaboutit.
If only there were more existentialist / eco-anarchafeminist / lesbian / dreamer-blamers like pattrice jones in the world – then I think this whole building bridges/being bridges business would be a (patriarchy-) smashing success!
In the meantime, get yourself a copy of AFTERSHOCK. Read it, share it, do it. Keep on agitating, progressing, and protesting. We’re all foot soldiers in the war on the War on Terra – so let’s keep one another safe and healthy!
Tagged: animals animal rights animal welfare pattrice jones books book review aftershock lantern books trauma ptsd post-traumatic stress disorder depression social science psychology progressive liberal activism activist feminism ecofeminism intersecting oppressions parallel oppressions sexual assault Eastern Shore Sanctuary sexism racism homophobia classism anarchist patriarchy patrism pastoralism violence war on terra war on terror terrorism