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Stateside with Rosalea: To Whom It Does Concern

Hypnotism is a funny thing. I remember as a child seeing a local cow-cocky - shy as a kitten usually - belting out a song in a glorious tenor voice in front of a packed town hall. Secret talent. Secret wish. The hypnotist cannot make the subject do anything the subject doesn't want to do. That's why rapists who use hypnotic drugs are rarely reported - because, unless rendered unconscious, the victim was a willing participant in their own violation.

Society at large has a very difficult time understanding the concept of "agency" as it applies to the individual. To render a person unable to make decisions he or she would normally make is as much a usurping of their personal agency as is rendering that person unable to make the movements they would normally make, by tying them up or holding a knife to their throat.

And there are many ways of hypnotising people besides dangling a jade scorpion in front of their eyes. Power is a powerful hypnotic. To be around people who, in their decision-making, affect the course of history is to lay yourself open to becoming hypnotised into doing things - or not doing things - that in the quieter moments of reflection, when you are your own agent, you regret. And if those things have a consequence so awful it is almost beyond your comprehension, then of course it seems safest to go on letting your individual agency be exercised by the person exercising that attractive power over you.

The most moving thing I've seen on television this past week was last night when the local ABC channel showed photos of the people from the Bay Area who were on the plane that crashed in Pennsylvania. To see those faces - smiling, hopeful, ordinary - was to understand the equally strong power of the individual. Those people lived their lives. Their lives were snatched away. Each and every one of those individual lives was valuable.

To turn an intrinsic value that we take for granted every day into the excuse to devalue some other individual life is to participate in giving up your agency as an individual.

Two towers went down in New York. One woman still stands. She holds in her hand not a gun or a holy book or a missile. She holds a light. Only light can dispel darkness. Only light. Not more concealment. If you have a light to shine on this darkness - no matter what it might reveal - then you should exercise your agency as an individual to shine it.

Lea Barker
Berkeley, California
Tuesday, 18 September 2001


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