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West Bank Syndrome

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    On August 23, 1973, a botched bank robbery took place in Stockholm, Sweden.  The robbery turned into a near weeklong hostage crisis, and ultimately, an interesting experiment.  Four hostages were taken by the robbers and held during the confrontational situation.   The hostages later refused to testify against their captors and even helped raise legal defense for them.
    The captives in the Stockholm bank robbery developed a kinship for their captors partly because the police used extreme tactics that put them in more jeopardy.  Their captors held them against their will and threatened to kill them.   Yet the captives felt more endangered by the outside authorities than by their captors.   The captives eventually developed a kinship or devotion to their captors and refused to testify against them. 
    This kinship for one's captor is now called Stockholm Syndrome, occasionally the emotional tick is called Helsinki Syndrome or Patty Hearst Syndrome too.   There are many ways to initiate and institute this tick in people; the point is it exists.  Usually it requires an overt shock, followed by the perception that one's captor is one's benefactor.   It is a coordinated Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde, a good cop bad cop routine that shakes one's psyche.  
    Battered spouses, members of religious cults, kidnapped children and adults, often develop and display Stockholm Syndrome.  It is a blind trust for their captors (their providers as well) and a distrust of outsiders, even those outsiders who are potential rescuers.  There is a certain bond that hits some primordial tick within which enables the captivity.   The captured empathize and even adore their captors to the point where they no longer seek to escape.   Kidnappers manipulate the minds of their victims and convince them the outside world is not to be questioned, that there is nothing outside for them except hardship.  They distort or cover actuality and create falsehoods. 

    Sometimes those with Stockholm Syndrome are forcefully held and other times they are held simply by information.   There is truth just beyond the open door, but they are afraid to go outside.   They've been trained to stay inside, oriented to the dimness of their captor's conditioning.  The captors are seen as the providers and the only people who protect the hostages in a world of uncaring unknowns.  

    People desire to be part of the group, the circle they are aware of.   If people are allowed to socialize with just one group or grow accustomed to just one group they will do whatever it takes to be acceptable to the group and elevate their status within the group's perspective, even allowing abuse.   Stockholm Syndrome is normally noted by some form of shock and trauma, but it might be displayed less fervently or obviously in daily life through playing on fears, particularly of ostracism.   Stockholm Syndrome is an extension of the most powerful social impulse of people, displayed in all people and cultures throughout recorded time, to be included in the group and cared for.    

"No question is so difficult to answer as that to which the answer is obvious."
George Bernard Shaw


    Socrates lived from 469 to 399 BC.   He formulated the theory to questioning and researching information; establishing the basis for scientific questioning.   The Socratic ideas provide a basis for western science and philosophy.   Socrates expanded ideas through discussion of questions and bettered philosophy through communication.   Many formulas for critical thinking were theorized by Socrates and described by his student Plato.   Aristotle, also Socrates' pupil, wrote about Socrates, but Socrates himself left no writings behind.   Others wrote about him.   Though highly respected he was considered to be eccentric, even loony by many of his peers.

    Socrates theorized that no one desires evil and that those who do commit wrong are predominantly tricked to do so.   Socrates was not only an intellectual, his father was a stonemason and he probably learned the trade.   Socrates also served in the military, distinguishing himself in battle as the story goes.   Socrates was a great teacher and questioned the scientific and the societal status quo.   Plato observed and described Socratic thoughts in his influential book "The Republic."      

    Socrates understood people in relation to their reaction to information and their cognitive ability.   He often cited his own ignorance as he openly questioned the conditions and inspired others to do the same.   Despite his claim to ignorance, he was considered most wise and designed numerous allegories and theories to inspire thought, reasoning and questioning.

    The most revelatory of human nature is Allegory of the Cave.   And much like people in an Allegory of Stockholm Syndrome, people are likened to prisoners in a cave.   They are imprisoned by their ignorance and they are held by their captor's presentation of information.   In the cave the captors burn a fire providing the only light source.   Using the light from the fire, the captors cast shadows of various images, symbols, shapes, characters and archetypes on a wall.   The imprisoned are forced to watch the images on the wall, and hear only the occasional noises made by those casting the images.   The prisoners ultimately conclude what they are observing is reality.   Reality in total.  

     The prisoners only observe this counterfeit version of reality.   The more experienced and developed minds among the prisoners are those who can predict what image will come up next or when there will be a noise.   To Socrates and Plato, the untutored are those who do not question, observing merely shadows, trapped by just a portion of distorted reality.   In Socrates' Allegory of the Cave there are four types of cave dwellers.

    There are the shackled who do not question their reality, the presentation they are forced to watch.   The other prisoners in the cave are unshackled, but are still transfixed by the images.   Neither questions the partial reality they are presented.  

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Ethan was raised in Maine, Manhattan, and Mendocino, California. Ethan has traveled the world and has been employed as a Private Detective, a dishwasher, a valet, a snowboard instructor and always a poet. Ethan Indigo Smith (more...)

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