It All Starts when We Punish our Kids, #4

It all starts when we punish our kids.

What “all starts?” Well . . .

           4. Depression.

The damages from abuse are many, but they’re becoming well known. I’ve often listed the categories of them, physical, psychological, emotional and cognitive, but the damages themselves are:

Impaired cognitive development (trouble in school, poorer grades);

Behaviour problems;

All manner of disorders: eating, depression, anxiety, self-harm,
Physical injuries, sometimes permanent and/or resulting in impaired physical development;

Etc., etc.

The thing is, the list of damages that have been so well documented as resulting from what is called corporal punishment – that is the same list. This is why corporal punishment is fast being outlawed all over the world.

All punishment is corporal punishment – that’s the big secret. Therefore the list of damages that result from all punishment is the same list. (See Part #2, Violence.)

Now, clearly, it is usually, if not always impossible to show causation from even childhood abuse to teen or adult depression, let alone childhood punishments to teen or adult depression in specifics, but the science is in. Statistically, connections have been repeatedly shown. Documented victims of abuse and corporal punishment have higher incidences of depression and the secondary manifestations of depression listed above: addiction, self harm and suicide, as well as many, less obvious symptoms.

In a personal perspective:

1. I have suffered depresion myself, and I can’t really connect it specifically to childhood abuse or punishment. I was the last of four children, and I suffered the least punishment of all my siblings, which I accomplished the old fashioned way, by doing what I was told. Now, avoiding the punishments didn’t save me from depressive episodes throughout later life, but it’s possible that the environment of punishment is itself a cause for depression. I mean, I got the message, the one we all get, whether we wish to consciously grant it power over us or not: my parents would rather hurt me than accept any serious inconvenience from my behaviour.

Again, I can’t say specifically that that did it – but it certainly could do it. And statistically, it almost cetainly does.

2. One of my two unpunished daughters has suffered some teen depression. The environment at home wasn’t that way for her, we never sent that message. That message is everywhere for kids though, daycare, school, the homes of other kids. It probably even had a subconscious presence in our house. Both myself and my wife were raised in punishing homes; perhaps my kids felt the stress of us fighting our programming, perhaps they could feel that they were getting away with stuff that we never did as kids, and maybe they could sense the unconscious reactions we were fighting. That might do it.

Another factor may be that our girls were sort of alone, because of the way we raised them, because they were the only un-punished kids they knew. That may have set them apart, and they certainly have felt lonely and not a part of the group, especially during the teen years when the other kids were rebelling and sharing their parental war stories with each other. (My impression is that they found most of the other kids somewhat mean and . . . how to say it? Limited.) That may well be a depressing aspect in her life too.

Plus, of course, other random things in life also happen. Whether by sub-conscious transmission or something genetic, her depression appeared at the very same age as mine did. There’s very likely something there too. But the first few things, the punishment related ones, they could still be factors.

Plus, of course, other random things in life also happen. Whether by sub-conscious transmission or something genetic, her depression appeared at the very same age as mine did. There’s very likely something there too. But the first few things, the punishment related ones, they could still be factors.

Here is the rest of this series:


Curing Crime

          I know, no-one dreams of actually curing crime, not adults, not really. It’s just one of the fantasies we teach our kids, that anyone is actually fighting some abstraction called “crime,” be it fictional heroes and super-heroes, or the real, live police along with the rest of the criminal justice system.

          Any adult knows that once we create institutions, they have their own instinct for survival, and it’s no secret lately that the criminal justice system is big business . . . so like everything else in the money system, the very people who might have been tasked with “curing crime” are the last people who might want to actually do it. But it’s not just the prison moguls, it’s all of us who aren’t curing crime, and I can see another part of the problem. It came to me while commenting on another post tonight.

          We, as a society, have yet to define the crimes in the first place. Take for instance, violence, up to and including murder. Crimes, right? Not so much. These things are not crimes in themselves – I mean they are, they are, in reality – but not in our societies, our human societies. In many contexts, violence and murder are seen as solutions to crime and misbehaviour. It’s not “murder” when the good guys do it, apparently.

          So, here’s the point. No-one is fighting these abstractions, “violence,” “murder.” These are still unidentified as problems and they are often identified as solutions instead. So we must realize that these things are not considered to be inherently criminal. So if murder is not clearly in the “crime” section of our minds, what is? How can we stamp out violence and murder when we, as a society do not perceive them to be inherently criminal?

          We must realize that no-one is fighting “crime.” We are only fighting some of the people who commit these “crimes,” and using these very same activities to do it. And that is what we keep coming up against, every time the police do what they do for is in an overly public or blatant way, every time they cross “the line.” We are seeing the truth, that it is the people who commit crimes that our societies, through our police and criminal justice systems are fighting, and the actual “crimes,” violence and murder, walk free, never even accused.

          We need to put violence and murder in the “crime” side of the ledger if we are ever to even begin the fight against them. If murder and violence might ever be stopped, then the good guys can’t be allowed to do it either.

What Do Dolls Teach?

How to look after an infant?

How can we suppose that a plastic, inanimate, lifeless, insensate thing that needs no maintenance teaches that?

Shouldn’t we consider that by placing such a thing in the hands of our children might teach exactly the opposite of empathy and caring? A doll doesn’t need food, care or love. A doll is a thing, a possession, something to be purchased, played with and discarded.

Is this really supposed to influence a child in a positive way for any potential future care of the real thing?

Not to mention the legitimate feminist complaints, specifically, why are we trying to train our girls, babies themselves when they get these avatars, that looking after babies is their function? Plus of course, boy’s dolls are made to war with each other . . .

Somebody remind me: what are the upside of these macabre grotesque parodies of human beings again?

When Bad Things Happen to Good People

          Of course, this is a question that comes up a lot; my daughter just attended a funeral for a little girl who had cancer and suffered sickness and pain for most of her four year life. Many of the family and relatives were Christian, and someone answered a slightly different question, ‘why was she taken from us’ by suggesting that we don’t know what nightmares a longer life might have had in store for the child. The young folks telling me the story were appalled and thought that made no sense, but that seemed fair enough for to me. I certainly wouldn’t wish any prolonging of the pain of terminal cancer on anyone. I think the person conjecturing may have meant that any other sort of pain and nightmares may have been waiting for the girl even if this cancer had been cured, but true enough. Who knows? The idea was, that we don’t know, but God surely knows better.

          My point is, we can’t possibly know why people are taken, and that was a smaller question than the one suggested in my title, why bad things happen to good people and vice versa. Of course, we can never answer these questions – but maybe we can learn something by exploring them.

          This from a previous post of mine:

“Our children, human children are born helpless, can’t even lift their heads, can’t so much as roll over, so our babies’ first experience of us is of all-powerful, all-providing beings. If we add punishing to that, the child’s experience is of an all-powerful, all-providing being that is also vengeful and punitive, one that must have things all their own way.

Sound familiar? After some months and years of this world, the only world the child has ever known, if we introduce the Judeo Christian (and Islamic) God, then this will fit the child’s worldview. That God will make sense to a child who lives in that world –

– So in this sense, punishment lays the groundwork for religion. This is why the religious, and the fundamentalist religious are so tightly bound to their belief: they have always known the basic narrative of the Punishing God to be true.”

          In the arc of a real, human life, we experience our parents or other caregivers before we experience God, and this prompts me to question whether the question posed by this post doesn’t also hearken back to that time in our lives. Is it possible that this question, and the sense of unfairness that it represents dates back to our earliest childhood? Is it possible that this was an important question when our parents were the Gods, before we were introduced to the universal God?

          Perhaps we were punished for things that were either completely innocent, or more commonly at least for things that we didn’t understand to be “bad” and deserving of some sort of punishment. Maybe that is why this question appeals to the atheists among us as much as it does to the religious.

To Conflate or not to Equate


          In debate, and especially in internet debate due to the open, egalitarian nature of the web, conflation is a regular problem, and a constant issue, where even the ubiquitous strawman argument has to take second place in the hierarchy of fallacies. But of course, the assumption that two things are the same when they’re not is only one mistake. There is also the error of assuming things are different when they’re not; there is the inability to tell when two things are really the same.

          Of course, for anyone who’s seen my blogs, you know I’m a one-song jukebox.

          You know what I’m going for here: people need to conflate punishment with abuse a whole lot more; this is a case of extreme over-differentiation.

          We differentiate these two things only by our intentions and our wishes. If we hit a kid with only the intention of hurting it, that is abuse; if we hit a kid to teach it something, to increase his skills and knowledge and thus improve its life forever afterwards, that is not. This formula works for all acts that can fall on either side of this difference, punishment or abuse: blows, confinement, isolation, confiscation, loss of privileges.  If we wish it to have positive effects, it’s punishment; if we only wish for negative effects, it’s abuse.

          Is this how other things work?

  1. If we only hope to destroy the environment, that’s environmental terrorism, but if we wish for positive effects from our factories, then it’s industry, economic growth? Does our wish for positive things in industry mean we are not polluting?
  2. If we only wish to wipe out fish stocks, that is, let’s say, specicide, but if we are hoping to feed the world’s people with the fish, then that is food production? Does our wish for feeding the world mean we are not wiping out our ocean life?
  3. If we only wish to vilify and make war on other cultures and faiths, that is xenophobia, warmongering and intolerance, but if we wish to preserve and promote our own culture and/or faith, that is conservatism, tradition and loyalty, a social form of self-love? Does declaring our faith and our way of life to be correct and proper mean we are not asserting the other side of the coin, that other faiths and cultures must be wrong?
  4. If I only wish to pay no taxes at all, that is tax evasion and selfishness, but if I want keep as much of my salary as I have a legal right to and use every possible deduction available, that is simply providing for my family, being a responsible provider. Avoiding the political discussion, avoiding issues of government waste and corruption, would the government not be in a better position to do its work with more revenue, if I missed a few deductions? Does my healthy self concern and family concern not have its downside in the bottom line for a government that is operating on a deficit?

          I think I’ve made the point by now, and it’s a simple one really – everything has a measurable downside, life is a trade-off in many ways. But working backwards through my list, it still needs to be laid out as clearly as possible, some things need some conflation, some “differentiation” is false and needs to go away.

 – less taxation IS government deficit;

 – preservation of culture IS xenophobia;

 – resource extraction IS depletion of the environment;

 – industry IS destruction of the environment; and

 – punishment IS abuse

          Our wishes do not change these facts, intentions do not somehow invalidate the effects of our actions. Causality, cause-and-effect, happens in the real world and our wishes do not change that fact.

          The science is in regarding the effects of abuse and corporal punishment, and the effects are the same; they include practically all of the problems people suffer generally, they are simply shown to be more common and more severe in people who have been documented as having suffered abuse or corporal punishment.

          The emotional, psychological and cognitive effects of abuse and corporal punishment have their roots in the emotional, psychological and cognitive functions of punishment, in the betrayal of trust and love and in the convoluted “logic” of punishing (such as hitting a child to teach it not to hit, or hurting a child’s feelings in an effort to teach the child not to hurt another’s). These effects cannot be wished away.

          Reporting of these effects can be suppressed, children can learn that they mustn’t point these effects out to their caregivers, but the effects themselves remain.

          Conflate this things, abuse and punishment, please. Wishes do not make for a real differentiation.