Why I Stayed? The Hopelessness of Popular Issues

I’m not bitter. Well, OK, I’m a little bitter.

In my day job, as an uneducated working man, I have customers all over town and one customer in particular that is an hour’s drive away from home, an hour and ten minutes from my office, and I listen to the radio in the van, the CBC, sometimes affectionately known as the Canadian Broadcorping Castration. At least that’s what we called it in a long past job, when I worked for a competing outfit, a small town Cable company. The CBC has some good talk stuff, some good comedy and fiction programming. I turn it off when they play music. I find modern mainstream music dreadfully boring, and don’t want to fall asleep at the wheel. There is some good talk, as I said, but the noon hour, call-in, current issue show can get me down. When they talk about issues of bullying, or this week’s issue, violence against women, things I have put some thought to, hopelessness looms and the world looks like a stupid, mindless place where nothing will ever get better. It seems like no-one is trying to find a root cause for these things.

When I hear repeatedly “Why I Stayed?” and all the usual phrasing around it, I want to answer, I even went so far as to call in the other day, but I chickened out before they answered, even though I had gotten through, somehow made it past the usual busy signal, I balked for two reasons. One, it’s hard to be the curmudgeon, interrupting a naïve, shallow conversation with the nasty truth, and two, it’s even harder when the poor fools trading banalities scoff and ignore you! I didn’t want so publicly to be casting the pearls of my insight before the unassailable popularity of the clichés the talkers were employing. There are plenty of clichés we use for that sort of thing; some good ones have been attributed to Mark Twain.

Domestic violence is a specific form of bullying – and bullying is a specific form of punishment, specific, namely, in that it is unauthorized. When someone deals out punishments – verbal, physical and emotional abuse – and the crimes that these abuses are intended to discourage are not in line with a broad social consensus, then that is bullying, abuse, violence. It is abusive if the crime, such as being a minority or a female, is not considered to be a crime by the larger majority, but the tools of abuse and punishment are the same.

The punished person, the victim of abuse is told that they are wrong, told that they are bad, told that they deserve the mistreatment, and they are mistreated in any number of ways. This is life for many children, this is life for many children who are over-punished, and many of the girls who are treated this way throughout their childhoods find their way into abusive relationships. Why do they stay?

Because this is NORMAL to them. Verbal and physical abuse is NORMAL to many of these girls, it’s the only life they’ve ever known, so they stay because they’re unaware that there is any safe place to go to if they leave. Now here’s the nasty part:

If there are many women who wind up in these abusive relationships who do not report abusive childhoods, if women find themselves in that situation having had no documented history of being abused, that is our clue that even “normal” lives are making adult abusive situations appear to be normal. If they miss the clues that may have tipped them off to a partner’s impending abusiveness, it is because they have learned not to see the abuse in their “normal” childhoods first. As have we all. This is the problem with these “cycles of abuse.” The cycle operates whether or not we acknowledge abuse, whether or not abuse in some part of the cycle is “normal,” legal, expected, or even mandatory.

I’ve said it elsewhere: our “normal” use of punishment is a cause in the world, a cause of the violence we consider to be beyond normal, a large part of all the cycles of violence, cycles of abuse. That women who we wouldn’t consider victims of childhood abuse, even women who don’t consider themselves to be victims of childhood abuse find their way into these binds is evidence that they have lived in these binds before. Do the ‘math.’ If two and two make four, it cannot be allowed to matter that we don’t LIKE four.

This is what I call “reasoning” or “logic.”

If someone doesn’t like my theory here, I would ask – what is their theory of domestic violence? Is it that men are just violent swine, that it’s “in our natures?” Of course many men are indeed violent animals, and of course that is terrible, and they need to be responsible for themselves. Of course, the men who are completely free of sexism are few and far between – but to say “men are pigs” is only a description, only a label, it is not an explanation for anything. To simply call an abuser an asshole and stop there is no more helpful that to call the victims fools. How does labeling people that way explain the many men who do not abuse their women, or the many women who won’t be mistreated? Or how does it explain the abused woman’s part of the cycle of violence, how does it explain why they stay? Is this simply a manifestation of that old, logical saltpeter, Original Sin, people are just bad, and we shouldn’t try to find the reasons for these sorts of things?

Again, Original Sin doesn’t explain when bad things DON’T happen. So, I’ll ask my strawman critics again – what is their theory? What natural process explains domestic violence?

This week it’s violence against women, and last year it was school bullying and cyber-bullying. I have written on bullying before, but I’ll discuss it again soon. For now my point is, these two controversies have had the cumulative effect of depressing me. Listening to people discuss these things in a blind, unanalytical way, trying to solve an effect with no acknowledgement of the cause . . .

Well, that is just sad and pointless.

I almost want to accuse the media of knowingly and willingly selling mindlessness, because mindlessness is popular, we eat that shit up. And the hopelessness they throw in for free.

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