Friday, June 08, 2012

On the Mitigation of Guilt -- Two Variations

Variation I -- We're Doing the Employee a Favor by Aggressing on Him

I used to work as a paralegal at the DC law firm of Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Feld.  I have two law degrees -- a J.D. and an LL.M. in International Trade Law -- but, yes, I worked as a paralegal.  I was woefully underemployed.

I believed I was a victim of job harassment at Akin Gump during my entire tenure, from March 1988 to October 1991.  Job harassment is an act of aggression carried out against a targeted employee.  I suppose there were employees who rationalized their aggression with the following belief: "Well, he's a lawyer.  He can get a job anywhere.  If he quits or gets fired, in a certain sense, we're really doing him a favor.  With his background he could get a much better job somewhere else: a better paying job that better suits his credentials."

I was fired by Akin Gump in late October 1991 by the chairman of the firm's hiring committee, Dennis M. Race, Esq.  Perhaps Mr. Race and other attorney managers reasoned: "Well, he's a lawyer.  He can get a job anywhere.  Yes, we are firing him but, in a certain sense, we're really doing him a favor.  With his background he could get a much better job somewhere else: a better paying job that better suits his credentials."

Make no mistake: harassing an employee and firing an employee are acts of aggression, regardless of the employee's ability to get a better job somewhere else. These acts of aggression are not beneficent--they are aggressive acts.  Acts of aggression tend to engender guilt feelings in the aggressor.  The rationalization, "he can get a better job somewhere else," is simply a rationalization of aggression that mitigates guilt feelings in the aggressor.  Believe me when you harass an employee or terminate his employment, you are not doing the affected employee a favor.  You are, in fact, engaging in self-serving acts of aggression that benefit your own psychological, political, or business needs -- and not the needs or best-interests of the targeted employee.

In sum, the rationale, "he can get a better job somewhere else," is an expression of the ego defense of rationalization that mitigates the unconscious guilt feelings of the aggressor.

Variation II -- Denuding an Employee of Identity

Before he terminated my employment at the law firm of Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Feld on October 29, 1991, Dennis M. Race, Esq. consulted a practicing psychiatrist about my case, or so he claims, without mentioning my name.

I've never understood the significance of Dennis Race's talking to a psychiatrist about me without mentioning my name. What legal significance did it have whether he mentioned my name or not? Under the rules of medical ethics as particularly applicable to psychiatrists, a psychiatrist may not offer a professional psychiatric opinion about someone the psychiatrist has not personally evaluated in private consultation. The name of the subject is not the issue. The issue is the offering of a clinical assessment about someone whom the psychiatrist has not seen personally. I just don't get the legal or ethical significance of Dennis Race's statement: "We talked about Gary Freedman without mentioning his name."

The fact is that Dennis Race later attached my name to the anonymous clinical assessment of me in the pleadings he submitted to the District of Columbia Department of Human Rights. In so doing, my former employer, Akin Gump, defamed me. The individual named Gary Freedman lost his livelihood despite the fact that a psychiatrist said that an unidentified person was potentially violent. The psychiatrist's assessment, offered about an anonymous person, was attached to the person named "Gary Freedman." In the end, it was Gary Freedman who had the following label attached to him: "paranoid and potentially violent."

The Social Security Administration has paid out about $200,000 to an individual named "Gary Freedman" despite the fact that the characterization "paranoid and potentially violent" was attached by a psychiatrist, Gertrude R. Ticho, M.D., to an anonymous person.

I am truly mystified about the significance of Dennis Race's statement "We talked about Gary Freedman to Dr. Ticho without ever mentioning his name."

Last night I had a peculiar thought. I was thinking of the Nazis and the process they employed to murder people. What the Nazis did was to attach a number to individual prisoners, then gas them. Adolf Eichman, the architect of the Holocaust, could legitimately say: "We didn't kill people with names. We killed people with numbers. The people we killed were anonymous. We didn't know who they were. When we sent, say, Velvel Greenblatt to the gas chamber, we weren't sending Velvel Greenblatt to the gas chamber -- we were sending an anonymous person with the number 89690086 to the gas chamber. We didn't murder Velvel Greenblatt. We exterminated number 89690086."

The fact is that in the end, Velvel Greenblatt was dead, regardless of whether you call him Velvel Greenblatt or No. 89690086.

Am I comparing Dennis Race to the Nazis? No. Nutcases always compare those who have wronged them to the Nazis.

I am intrigued by the psychological meaning of denuding someone of his identity before aggressing on him. What is the psychological significance of that procedure in a case where, as explained above, it has no ethical or legal importance?

The psychoanalyst Bela Grunberger in his trenchant analysis of antisemitism "The Anti-Semite and the Oedipal Conflict" offers insight into the psychoanalytical meaning of taking away someone's identity prior to subjecting that individual to some form of aggression. See The International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 380-385 at 381 (1964).

Grunberger writes: "The anti-semite's specific regression is most clearly seen in his representation of the Jew. This follows the line of destroying his individuality. The Jew is denuded of all personal characteristics (the Nazis obliged the Jews to place before their names the epithet 'Jew", and initially in the concentration camps they were designated only by numbers. When the question of destroying some of them arose, the director of the operation merely verified their numbers without any consideration of their identity, a typically anal-sadistic process but serving a purpose opposite to that of the sadist. It is not a question of power, but a means of reducing guilt, though of course, the two may be equally implicated.)"

Did Dennis Race discuss me anonymously with Gertrude Ticho -- thereby denuding me of my identity -- because he knew he was doing something wrong, and he wanted to reduce his guilt feelings? Were Dennis Race's actions the actions of a man with a guilty conscience? Who knows? Of course, we could always telephone Otto Kernberg, M.D., and discuss the case of Dennis Race with him -- without, of course, mentioning Dennis Race's name!