Psychiatric Views on the Daily News - Episode 85

We Are All Russians, Too

While it is easy to empathize with the victims of war, like Ukrainians, we must also recognize our own capability for destruction.

PSYCHIATRIC VIEWS ON THE DAILY NEWS

It would be simpler, and I assume much more acceptable, to title this “We Are All Ukrainians,” a phrase we are hearing now and have heard in the past. Our late Senator John McCain used it in the 2014 invasion of Crimea. In 2008, he used “We are all Georgians” as Russia invaded Georgia.

Clearly, this sort of identification didnot help enough, perhaps in part we are also Russians. I am not meaning that to focus in specifically on Putin or Russia, but rather the aspects of human nature that allows these sorts of destructive invasions to happen. However, it is hard for anyone to identify with the horror we are seeing. Indeed, even Freud feared what the Nazis could do, getting out of Austria just in time.

More generally, because of our human nature, regardless of genealogy, we are also psychologically parts of other countries and religions, including all over the world. For example, COVID-19 came out of China one way or another. Haven’t all of us made mistakes on a much, much smaller scale in not taking adequate risk precautions?

Certainly, we are all Africans to begin with, in the sense that humans started in Africa and migrated out. Biologically, there are no races. Unfortunately, the psychological development of structural racism in many parts of the world is exemplified by the relative difficulty of African workers trying to leave Ukraine.

We all have the potential of acting like the courageous Ukrainians. Although this is not an excuse of any extent for Putin, we are also vulnerable to hurting people to some much, much smaller extent. If we all can recognize our most unwanted and undesirable characteristics, as is the blessing and curse of being a psychiatrist, that may enhance understanding of such actions, as well as the need and ways to address them.

In the final analysis, which includes gender fluidity and age range, we are all human beings. Whatever can be done to enhance that global identification may help prevent and address such tragedies, including doing so in child rearing, education, cross-cultural education, and empathic leaders.

Dr Moffic is an award-winning psychiatrist who has specialized in the cultural and ethical aspects of psychiatry. A prolific writer and speaker, he received the one-time designation of Hero of Public Psychiatry from the Assembly of the American Psychiatric Association in 2002. He is an advocate for mental health issues relate to climate instability, burnout, Islamophobia, and anti-Semitism for a better world. He serves on the Editorial Board of Psychiatric TimesTM.