Public tragedies and polymorphous helplessness


Involuntary dislocation: relevant dimensions and perspectives 74

Adversities and public tragedies 75

The ancient Greek tragedy and Aristotle 77

Interactional Matrix of Intervention and polymorphous helplessness 80

References 87

Involuntary dislocation: relevant dimensions and perspectives

In the preceding chapters, I discussed the importance of examining how we form our perceptions of phenomena of involuntary dislocation (and human suffering, in general), using the epistemological cycle and reflections from key historical and linguistic examples. In this chapter, I develop further the theme of involuntary dislocation by exploring the various ways adversities and human suffering are presented in our societies and how people attribute various meanings to them.

To begin with, it should not be forgotten that the multiplicity of phenomena engendered by involuntary dislocation are multidimensional. Consequently, they can be approached from a variety of different perspectives, each one emphasising dimensions that predominantly refer to material losses and survival; health, medical; psychological, psychiatric; social, group; political, legal; philosophical, moral, ethical, spiritual, etc. Each dimension is legitimate in its own context. However, when these perspectives intermingle, without people being aware that such combinations or merging take place, confusing complexities can be generated, with the ill effects that were identified already.

How are these phenomena presented so that people are positioned to view refugees as dangerous or vulnerable, traumatised or resilient, to feel pity or admiration for them, be suspicious of or empathise with them? In short, the way phenomena are presented affect the way people perceive them, and there are no presentations that can possibly be totally neutral. According to the epistemological cycle, the way events and experiences are conceptualised (the first moment) positions people in a certain vantage point that predisposes them (second moment) to adopt specific attitudes, which then would lead them to take specific actions (third moment).

Therefore, it is imperative to examine how this original presentation of the events and experiences of involuntary dislocation emerges in our societies, and there is an enormous body of worthy studies that addresses this specific field. Incisive insights into these processes have been provided by new and traditional academic disciplines, approaching this task from perspectives such as communication, culture, discourse, humanitarianism, linguistics, media, narrative, rhetoric, postcolonialism, semiotic, etc.

It is beyond the scope of this book to address the extensive knowledge and debates that this wave of scholarship has produced. Instead, while not negating or ignoring them, the framework that this book develops is aimed at supplementing them. Nevertheless, these studies need to be read with caution: insofar as it is appropriate to avoid dehumanising involuntarily dislocated persons, not herding them into an amorphous mass of ‘refugees’, how legitimate is it to comment on ‘the’ humanitarian movement, for example, as if all humanitarian projects form a homogenous group of same phenomena? Undoubtedly, there are humanitarian efforts that are driven by clear political intent, whereas others constitute genuine initiatives for authentic human assistance.

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