This is such an important and powerful book. It has it all - with one major omission.

'VIOLENCE, OUR DEADLY EPIDEMIC AND ITS CAUSES' tells it exactly like it is. Any

writer who

talks of 'soul murder' gets my vote and James Gilligan makes it crystal clear that 'OUR


comes from the way we, as a society, tolerate the murdering of souls - until we set our


staunchly against this, our epidemic stands to become ever deadlier. Sadly you can


souls whether you believe in them or not.


Despite our current Home Secretary's predilection for prisons, the reality is otherwise.


serious offenders regard them as sanctuary, refusing to leave, and taking desperate

measures to

stay there - Brady and Roberts are recent cases in point. Gilligan cites several


All severe prisoners display gross mental pathology - at least for those who look.

From his

25 years experience, Gilligan has some wonderful illuminating stories to tell - perhaps


these more prominence, he might reach a wider audience.


Our Home Secretary has a statutory duty to protect the public - but he listens to nobody

as to

how to do that - not the judges, nor psychiatrists nor probation officers. If only he would


this book, he would see just how badly he is discharging the responsibilities he

exercises on our

behalf. He could certainly do no better, but sadly is unlikely to do as well.

What staggered me most during my five years in Parkhurst Prison was that so much is

already well

known about the causes of violence. As Gilligan rightly says, we now know how to stop

it - so

the fact that we don't means ultimately that we don't want to, or put more politely, that we


the political will to do so.


How come a government that hides so freely behind the 'experts' when it comes to BSE,


precisely the opposite regarding violence. Gilligan I am happy to see, calls violence a

disease. He quotes Virchow, a pioneer in bacteriology, saying that 'medicine is a


science, and politics is simply medicine on a larger scale'. He continues - "if cleaning


sewer systems could prevent more deaths than all the physicians in the world, then ...


.... institutions can do more to prevent violence than all the preaching and the punishing

in the

world". How many more Fred Wests, and Dunblanes must we suffer before the truth of


statement bites home.


Gilligan is also remarkably brave - he describes how his own father violently ripped off


elder brother's bedclothes, and bull-whipped him while asleep. I had a patient with an

identical story - the consequence for her was that she became suicidal with panic

attacks for 18

years following her father's death. She panicked only in the evenings - when her father


have been home. She only ceased when I persuaded her to face the truth about his

abuse. She

was staggered - "I never would have thought it were me Dad - I thought he loved me



Gilligan relies on Freud's psychoanalysis - no other approach asks whence violence

comes nor what

it means. This is his Achilles heel - sadly Freud's magnificent clinical acumen cannot

take us

where Freud himself dared not go. Until you can do this, Gilligan is correct in believing


worst afflicted by the violence disease remain untreatable.


Freud labelled the remnant of parent figures persisting into adult life the 'Super-Ego' -


there for all to see. What Freud didn't know, and didn't want the patients or anyone else

to tell

him was that this remnant is uniquely toxic - in my view it's the real virus of the violence

disease - Gilligan's notion of 'shame' is too weak. It's also removable - though not


difficulty, and certainly not by orthodox 'Free Association' Therapy. My work at

Parkhurst not

only shows that 'Super-Egectomy' is achievable - it can obliterate violence, even among

the worst



Gilligan's humanity shines throughout this book. I would love to start a joint campaign to

promote these ideas. He makes it so obvious that punishment doesn't work, indeed

cannot work.

He has no truck with 'mad/bad' concepts either - all are antisocial and all can be

redeemed once

you stop murdering souls.


Sunday, 14 April 1996


Bob Johnson


Consultant Psychiatrist, Charing Cross Hospital, Fulham Palace Road, London W6


AND at Orchard Hospital, Fairlee Road, Newport Isle of Wight, PO30 2EP


MRCPsych (Member of Royal College of Psychiatrists),

MRCGP (Member of Royal College of General Practitioners).

Diploma in Psychotherapy (Psychiatric Inst New York),

PhD(med computing), MA (Psychol), MBCS, DPM, MB, BChir, MRCS.


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