It All Starts when We Punish our Kids, #6

It all starts when we punish our kids.

What “all starts?” Well . . .

6. Racism.

Childhood punishments are where we first hear talk about “the other,” about “those kinds of people,” about Good People and Bad People.

  • You don’t want to grow up to be one of those people, do you?
  • You’re bad. I told you to be good!
  • “Jimmy played with matches. Don’t be like Jimmy.”
  • Stay away from those kids, they’re bad.

Those aren’t very direct, it’s no simple thing to draw a direct line from there to something like Ferguson, but a few things can be said, and if you’re looking for proof of anything in the foggy sphere of social science then you’re just looking for a way out of things you don’t want to hear. If social change relied on hard, math-style proofs, our progress would be at full stop instead of just being really, really slow.

Even when phrased in the second best way, descriptions of when we behave and when we misbehave are still about what we are, and not about things we only did or didn’t do. Santa Claus wants to know if you’ve been a good boy or a good girl, he needs to know you haven’t been naughty. When it’s our own language, and especially if we only know one language, it’s easy to forget what that verb is; we rarely conjugate words we learned as young children, but those statements don’t speak to what you do, they speak to what you are.

When we do something wrong, it’s because we are bad. Of course when we think a bunch of people do something wrong, then they are bad.

Of course, a good definition of bigotry is thinking that “the other” does what they do for impossibly stupid reasons, and that can as easily be descriptive of how a parent reacts to a young child’s misbehavior as it can to one race or culture’s inability to comprehend the actions of another’s. What we do, and therefore what we are, has its reasons and makes sense. The destruction wrought by a toddler or the rioting of an underclass race is just senseless. They need to be made to understand that they’re being bad.

Of course, little sponges that humans are, everything we do anywhere near a young child, and especially what we do to them, the stuff that affects them directly, is stuff that we are modeling, stuff they are learning. If we explain everything we see not in terms of processes, not in terms of interactive activity but rather simply because of what the people doing it are, of what the person doing it simply is, then that is how they learn to understand the world.

And, yes, that is a problem, and one cause for the problems we have understanding one another across cultures and across races; it opens the door for bigotry, it skews us toward not trying to understand the experience of “the other” because we already have our explanation, it’s just what they are.

Here’s the rest of the series:

Prisons and Bad Neighborhoods – the Irony of Deterrents, Part #4

Deterrents run on contrast.

The power of a deterrent must be, in some relationship, proportional to the difference between the penalty and its absence, or rather, life with the penalty and life without it. Meaning, of course, if your life is Hell, deterrents have a tough job. That’s why, despite his age, Charlie Manson is still always getting into trouble – because why not. What are they gonna do, take his TV away? Lights out early? Charlie don’t give a Goddam, because his life sucks already. Now if we told him that if he were to behave perfectly for a month that we’d set him free and give him a house somewhere with his new bride and cable, he might have to think about it.

See the difference there?

One, if he doesn’t spit on a guard he’s still in prison, and if he does he’s still in prison but he can’t watch Mike and Molly.

Two, if he spits on a guard, he’s in prison and can’t watch Mike and Molly, but if he doesn’t he’s a free man with a young wife who thinks the sun shines out of his ass – and HBO. (Have you SEEN “The Knick?” It is so cool!)

So the power of deterrents lies in the difference the penalties make in your life. So now let’s look at racial inequality in the justice system and policing, so much in the public consciousness right now.

In an inner city bad neighborhood, life is tough. There’s a lot of crime, gangs rule many aspects of life, the food supply sucks and the schools are not exactly on the good colleges’ lists. Many parents are either working long days to get by, or unemployed and depressed and/or addicted. The influence of the gang life starts young. When poverty is hurting you and yours, criminally acquired money must have a very strong pull. Things can look pretty hopeless, especially for the underclass races. Even for those who try, a good education requires money, and earn as much as you can, people in these neighborhoods often have no family money, no savings or even credit to help.

(Note: sure some make it, which is generally defined as ‘making it out,’ which, that’s our hint: a successful person from the ‘hood knows that his kids’ odds will be better if they grow up somewhere else. And saying some make it up and out, that is a small percent, and despite what the purveyors of the American Dream would have us believe, the larger percentages reflect the larger reality. It’s tragicomic that a few percent of anything is supposed to prove a rule. That really is some bad science.)

So, gang pressures, violence, bad food, the commodification of sex, and a very tough road to get out – contrasted with prison, I ask you: how different is it? Couldn’t that list describe either one, life in the ‘hood or life in prison? At that level of contrast, how much of a deterrent can prison really be? As proof of this rhetorical argument, consider the following possibility.

That the police appear to already know this. Could this be why they appear to have stepped up the penalties for crime all the way to a street execution? With the lack of police indictments and the extreme lack of police convictions, one could say they are sending a calculated message: never mind prison, the real deterrent is some level of likelihood that your sentence will be carried out in lieu of your arrest. This line of reasoning may also explain why there is so little movement towards non-lethal weapons for police; it may not be the effectiveness factor so much as that they don’t want to remove the real deterrent. So there’s the deterrent’s required contrast: a tough life with some happy times or a bloody death and a heavy loss for those who love you.

And still, still, even with the ultimate deterrent in place, still crime abounds, still the police have to follow through far too often. Even when the deterrent is the end of everything, people still misbehave. We’ve tried locking them up, we’ve tried killing them, where do we escalate to next? Maybe they’ll go full mob next, shoot the kid and then go after his family.

Or maybe we might have to grow up and explore the idea that punishment is a form of abuse, and actually causes more social problems than it solves. Like Charlie in the opening example, maybe if we offer our poor a life, a house, HBO, a chance to pursue some happiness, then maybe prison or a bloody death in the street will begin to look more unthinkable by comparison.

Because for folks in the ‘hood as it stands today, all too often, it’s not enough of a contrast to make a difference.

Punishment can’t solve everything, but here’s a case where prevention isn’t even considered!

It seems that when a paedophile wants help beforehand, there’s nothing for him.
“Go fuck some kids first,” Society tells them. “Then we’ll deal with you. But do try to get caught, OK? I mean otherwise, we may never be able to help you.”
” – oh yeah. The kids. We may never be able to help the kids, either.”…iles-differently-635?utm_source=vicetwitterus

I know I’ve also heard that non-paedophile murderers can’t get help beforehand either, like this Canadian shooter at the Parliament buildings, or this American, 20 years ago, Wesley Alan Dodd. We love our punishments so much, we won’t even consider prevention, apparently.

A Conflicted Society – the Dreamer, Part #2

My family was always involved peripherally or otherwise, in psychology. My mother was a great reader, we always had copies of “Psycho-cybernetics,” “How to Win Friends and Influence People” and such around the house, “I’m OK, You’re OK” – self-help classics. In my late teens and when I returned home in my early twenties, it had gone to Alice Miller, Jon Bradshaw, ACOA. This was the early 1980s. My brother was working in an emergency shelter for teens and getting his degrees, and one sister did that sort of work as well. Both of my sisters were big readers and were on voracious journeys of psychological self-discovery. I’d say the elder was more based in the classics, Freud, Jung and R.D. Laing, and the younger loved Alice Miller during that period – I’m embarrassed to say I don’t know who she’s been reading since. So this is what all the conversation was about in that time, around Mom’s house. Suffice to say, I came by this obsession honestly.

Mom had been taking in foster kids, teens. Screwed up kids were our world, either we worked with them, or we were still busy being one, like me. Or both, I guess. We’d also had some sexual abuse in the family.

During this period, talking Bradshaw, ACOA (would invoking Suzanne Summers’ name help or hurt here? She was the voice for Adult Children of Alcoholics, wasn’t she?), and Miller, it seemed that there were many sorts of abuse, and that almost no-one escaped them all. After all, we all have problems, and this whole survivor movement was based in the idea that it was childhood trauma that caused our disorders. Physical, sexual, verbal, emotional abuse, abandonment, alcohol and substance abuse, divorce, there were books, support groups and movements for all of these traumas . . .

. . . and it was starting to look to me that lines were being drawn between them all, I had a creeping feeling that everybody, despite the support, was somehow on their own, fighting their parents’ particular brand of abuse. It began to look to me like all parents were abusing their kids, and yet no-one was saying that, no-one would say all parents were abusive. It was starting to feel apologist in that way. Most parents are good, they all mean well, but a certain percentage of them are violent. They all mean well, but a certain percentage of them are drunks. They’re mostly OK, but some are child rapists. Mostly, they’re good folks, they’re doing the best they can, but some abandon their kids, and some are emotional blackmailers. Parents are good and selfless, but many are verbally abusive. Now, I know this is to some degree the ranting of a developmentally arrested person, but it’s all adding up, isn’t it? I was starting to sense the presence of a common denominator.

I wish I could say when the exact moment was, when the crux of the matter occurred to me, that punishment was abuse, that punishment, despite its legitimate status was, uh . . . scientifically, functionally . . . made of the same stuff as abuse. I can’t, though. This wasn’t the moment, but maybe it was the catalyst: when I moved from my rooming house in the town where I took my trade school and home to Mom’s house, I was twenty-three, and I ran into a girl I’d known before, during my lost years. It was love at first sight, well, first sight after several years.

She was twenty or twenty-one, she was just separated from someone, and she had a little boy. He was around one year old. It wasn’t long before we had bought her parents’ condo and we lived together for three years, and I brashly, foolishly took the role of the boy’s father, as if he didn’t already have one. These are regrets, I look back on that time and I’m embarrassed and horrified, the whole period seems like a bad dream. Taking on the role of husband and father with that prefabricated family was like putting on a suit of clothes or something. It seemed to me that I knew everything about it, automatically; it felt like a programmed thing, like I was living on autopilot, and I barely remember it now. I don’t think I was actually conscious. But one episode I do remember.

She was emotional and kind of volatile, and I had come home from work one day and found her at critical mass, waiting for me at the front door. The toddler was driving her nuts, and it going to be my turn.

“He’s not doing” something, or “He won’t do” something else, she said. I don’t remember much, I’ll warn you. I wasn’t high or anything, I wasn’t smoking during my time with them, but drinking weekends. I was just unconscious. I wasn’t angry before, I don’t think it had been a bad day or anything, but as soon as she complained about her son, as soon as she gave me a target, it triggered me. I was instantly pissed off too, and I marched into the house, yanked that two or three year-old’s pants down and smacked him several times, hard. That is the end of that fragment of memory, I’m afraid, I can’t say how we got through that, what the rest of that evening was like, but I think the spell was broken. I think after that I realized that I was living someone else’s pre-programmed life. That was nearly thirty years ago, and I’m pretty sure I’ve never hit another kid.

His mother and I went our separate ways, and a few years later I met my present and only wife, the mother of my kids and by the time our girls were born in the mid-nineties, the thought had come. There would be no punishment, at all.

The lesson of my poor little rent-a-kid, the guilt of that beating, and the unconsciousness, the feeling of having been . . . used, there is no other way to say it, used by some generational repetitive process with a life of its own, that lesson stuck with me. I hated that feeling. It cropped up on other occasions while my girls were young, while my wife and I were fighting over our child-rearing (I mean, what were the odds my wife would come to all the same conclusions as me, and on the same schedule?), that feeling of repetition, that feeling of doing just what my parents had done. It was like Nietzsche’s eternal recurrence, or some evil Deja Vu experience. I hope it’s not necessarily true, but I worry that the feeling meant I was doing something terribly wrong. Of course I did. I was a full-time pothead through those years, always out in space, emotionally unavailable, physically unavailable for half an hour or more at a time, every three to four hours, for a smoke. The smoke was there to make that feeling go away, but of course it only operates on the feeling and doesn’t change anything concrete.

Still, though. Those are problems, things that will have their impacts on the kids, bad things that will leave some scars, but even so – most kids get stuff like that, and punishments and all that they mean as well.

You know, maybe addiction is a fractal sort of thing, a theme that runs all through the lives of folks like me and the people around us. I think maybe that feeling of unconscious repetition was the same one that made it so easy, and made it seem so natural to slide into that first family situation, with my live-in lady and her little boy. Feeling automatic, feeling that I could know how to do it, having never studied it, having never put conscious thought to it for a minute, it was like my first high, the free one, the best one, the one you end up losing the farm trying to recapture. Did I learn to associate that sense of comfort with a trauma, like a kid who gets wasted and crashes the car, killing a loved one? Was whooping that kid’s ass my car crash, and now the feeling of repetition and familiarity, that sense of life as it has always been fills me with terror and guilt?

Whatever it is, I have tried very hard to be a father and a husband consciously this time out, and that has had my wife and I swimming against the current since the kids were born, fighting the grandparents, at odds with our friends, the parents around us, and fighting our own urges for control, because we feel control requires force. If it weren’t for each other, meaning all four of us, which it always has been, it would have been a lonely journey.

It hasn’t been though.

My first experience as a father was a trauma, a horror. This time around has been the exact opposite.

A Conflicted Society – the Dreamer, Part #1

I’m not special. I’m no genius (no shit, Sherlock!), nobody would describe me as ‘brilliant’ or ‘visionary’ – quite the opposite. I mean, I don’t expect I’ll be noticed or remembered for my ideas. I may never achieve my first big dream, of having anyone call me a writer. Those are just fantasies, I know that. I’ve never taken those dreams seriously, they’re just embarrassing little voices that perhaps we all have in some form or other, and while we’re in our right minds we don’t converse with them. Plus, every sane person has doubts about themselves and their ability to perceive and deal with reality, and therefore has doubts about their whole worldview. Please note, I said ‘sane person.’ Of course many people appear not to doubt themselves at all. When it’s more than appearance, when they really don’t, they’re not sane. Well, of course, sanity is relative, but those folks are not sane enough for many social responsibilities, like philosophizing or voting.

So maybe what I call My Insight, or My Epiphany, (nothing delusional about Capitalizing your Thoughts, is there?) that punishment is damaging abuse and misguided in all of its applications has some of its roots in my fantasy, that it is born from grandiosity and immaturity. I think, in psycho-babble terms an unwillingness to accept the world as it is and ourselves as we are is ‘immaturity.’ I did have a psychiatric assessment done when I was fifteen, and ‘dreamer’ was the diagnosis; it didn’t take a lot of years for me to accept that description, and that was almost forty years ago now but I imagine I’d assess the same way today. I accept the label, but still immaturely reject the premise. A society will survive without noticeable impairment if some small percentage of its citizens are not pragmatic. No harm, no foul. To paraphrase the great mariner poet of my youth, a yam, what a yam, and that’s all. What a yam (say it out loud).

I was depressed and unmotivated when I was checked out at fifteen, and a puritan at the time with the discovery of marijuana still a few years off. It was just that point in high school when we are to start making choices about what sort of career path to take, wood or metal shop, science or law, and none of it appealed to me, I was dreading adulthood and work. When you’re fifteen, a few things apply: one, I thought a thirty or forty year employment was forever; and I couldn’t seem to find my way out of a teenage rebellion that I somehow knew could bring no change. There was a primal scream of “NO!” welling up in me, but no imaginable reward to come after I let it out.

So I rebelled, dropped out of school at the legal age to do that, and did nothing for several years until I simply picked up where I left off, chose a trade and went back to school. It had taken me five years of dependency and poverty before I saw any upside to having a job and leading a pedestrian, working man’s life. During those years I discovered I was a poor drinker, too many blackouts, too little control, and I knew that couldn’t be a regular thing for me. It still was, to some degree, throughout my twenties, but in those lost years of my late teens I also discovered the heathen devil-weed, which seemed to make life tolerable for some thirty years. By the end of that dalliance though, it was just never enough, and I gave that up.

Now I have this. Now, in order to face what depresses people, what depresses me in particular, life’s apparent meaninglessness and life’s even more apparent hopelessness, I have this idea, that punishing is causing all of our problems.

It seemed to me at some point that what I just called ‘life’s hopelessness’ was really just My Hopelessness, and perhaps not only mine, but many people’s, and if it was personal and individual like that, maybe there was something for it. The ‘hopelessness of life’ – that is existential, a parameter we have to live within, but Our Hopelessness, that’s a little more down to earth, perhaps that is somehow . . . manageable. That’s not how we get there, though, let me back up a little.

When a young person gropes with the question of meaning, at least the way I recall it, it’s phrased thusly: Why are we here? Towards the end of my adolescent sabbatical from life I was reading some philosophy, some religious stuff, and sometimes consuming small, five dollar bits of paper or semi-toxic mushrooms on the weekends, and for a stretch in my twentieth year every weekend would bring about a new perspective, I would have a new philosophical or semi-religious idea. Still depressed then, I needed an explicit reason to keep breathing and going to work, and I worked through several of these hallucinogen fuelled constructions in fairly rapid succession. I’ve got to say, despite the suspect nature of the mental states that seemed to produce them, some of the thoughts from those weekends have stayed with me for life. One of them was this: ‘why are we here?’ struck me as a pointless, meaningless question. People from all over ask it, people from, here, here and also there ask it, and truly, if we were somewhere completely elsewhere, another planet, another universe, another form, we could still ask it! What is the meaning in asking why am I here, when I would ask it wherever I was? So after that mental leap, I started to think that the surface meaning of this universal question wasn’t the point of it, and certainly wasn’t the sense of it, so to understand its appeal would require a subtext, and that goes to the person asking it. Why do we ask it, is the proper question, and the answer is, because we’re sad.

‘Why am I here’ is not a question a happy person asks, and it isn’t a question one asks when they’re somewhere they want to be. But now, again, it’s personal, it’s at the human level. ‘Why are we here?’ – that is cosmological, religious. But ‘why am I sad?’ that is in the here and now. That we might have a chance to answer. If we look at meaninglessness, hopelessness and the mystery of why we are here as universal, philosophical, as pertaining to some predetermined Human Condition (not all grandiose, Capitalized Thoughts are mine), then they appear unanswerable. But what if that’s not it? What if universal sadness either isn’t universal, or at least isn’t necessarily universal?

What if the near universality of sadness and hopelessness has a nearly universal real life cause, in the here and now? Or to put it another way, what if we could imagine a human being who was happier, a person who might never ask ‘why am I here?’ In what ways would this person’s life have to be different from the rest of ours? This question must have been lying dormant in me when I finished my interrupted education, got my trade, and returned to my home town to take up life as a normal, working adult.

A Conflicted Society – Police Brutality

Violence is a problem, right? No? Depends? Depends on who’s doing it and why, the ends justify the means, greater good and whatnot? Wait a minute, I need to start again. An attitude like that will get you nowhere.

Deep breath, and a pause.


In our society, the police are intended to be a force for good, set against the forces of all things bad, that is, crime, larceny, violence, all manner of negligence. Of course, it works as well as anything that we force; it “works” as well as forceful discipline of children works, which is to say that it “works” in these ways –

  • It works best on the criminals with the least intelligence. That is to say, a child of one or two can be fooled that the only way to avoid the penalty is not to misbehave – but by three or four, they know better. Many criminals re-learn this lesson when they escape the consequences of their very first crime, because discipline works best when there is a certainty of being caught, and it begins to fail when as soon as that certainty does.
  • It works best on the criminals with the fewest resources, which is to say, it can be difficult for a poor policeman to punish a rich criminal, like the poor gardener hoping to control the rich employer’s child, who may wield more power to adversely affect the life of a poor and dependent adult more than the adult can the wealthy child.
  • It works on particular individuals in particular incidents, and stops the particular individual’s crimes from continuing, at least during the period of their detention.

Of course, it “works” in these ways, because of the force the police bring to the task. Adult criminals, especially violent ones, are not likely to line up for their punishments because they are politely requested to. Along with detection and investigation, force is what the police get paid for. I’ve made the point elsewhere that no amount of force will ever be a permanent solution for society’s ills, that in fact, force and violence exist on the “causes” side of that equation rather than the “cures” side, despite that the “good guys” are doing it. Having said that, and bearing in mind that most of us don’t agree with that thought, the police are the folks that we pay to use force and violence for good. And as long as it works, it’s all good.

Well, as long as it works well, as long as the police can’t be shown to have crossed the line and used too much force and/or violence so that a conviction can’t be obtained on a guilty suspect. As long as the police don’t use even the normal, acceptable amount of force and/or violence on an innocent (or apparently innocent) suspect who can afford a lawyer or get the attention of the media. Then it’s Police Brutality, and we’re all properly shocked and horrified. I’m not saying we’re hypocrites, just . . . uh, conflicted.

We are conflicted as regards violence generally, but mostly specifically in this way: we think it’s good and bad at the same time. At once we think it’s bad, and it’s a problem, but when we cast about for a solution, there it is again, violence – here to save the day! At once we see the damage it causes, the never-ending cycles of harm spiraling down through the years and the generations – and yet still, every problem looks like a nail. We still somehow think everything can be solved with the hammer.

(There’s a Freudian joke in there. I didn’t intend it as part of the argument, but maybe he wasn’t such a dope . . . but we’ll save that thought for another conversation.)

I’m not saying I have all the answers, of course not, but I wouldn’t be alone in history if I were someone who thought he could at least indicate the direction we need to go. The direction we should go, the place we need to work toward if we are ever to create the sort of society we wouldn’t be lying about if we could describe it to our kids in family-friendly, positive terms is this: less violence, not more. Less violence – and I want to make this perfectly clear – less violence, even from the good guys. Less violence, even towards the bad guys. Because the truth is, Police Brutality, the bad, shocking kind, and police brutality in lower case, the sort that we like, the sort we think we need, they both feed the never-ending cycles of violence.

These seemingly eternal cycles are persistent, and it’s not for no reason. They persist, because half of our conflicted selves love violence and force; it is we who are preserving the cycles, and it simply due to a failure of reason, a misfire in our minds. The truth is, abusing the bad guys is no more helpful to society in the long run than abusing the good ones. We know abuse often turns good guys into bad ones.

What we need to realize is that it moves the bad guys in the same direction, from bad to worse. Yes, even when it’s the good guys doing it.

A Conflicted Society – When it’s your Job to Die

Remembrance Day in Canada, Veteran’s Day in the States, it brings a lot of talk, mostly all patriotic, and some controversial, nationalism VS pacifism stuff if it becomes a debate. It’s all well and good. Personally, I like some of both: remembrance, sadness, sympathy for the many bereaved and afflicted, tempered with some concept that war is bad, and that peace is the final goal. Again, all well and good.

But we are a very conflicted bunch. I don’t think it would be a stretch to say we are confused on these subjects, the appreciation and treatment of our veterans and their families, as well as anything around violence and its consequences, such as police brutality (to use an old-fashioned expression about it). Maybe I’m not reading the right things, but from my limited perspective, it doesn’t seem to be something that we ever break down, it doesn’t seem that either we try to understand it, or that we simply fail in the attempt.

All the talk about our veterans is, uh, a little too positive to help us get to the truth of it, it’s all about the positive aspects of sacrifice, about heroism, and it doesn’t explain how our soldiers can get the shoddy treatment that many of them get after their service. To explain that requires a visit to the dark side, I’m afraid. In this case, the operative thing, the driving function behind it lies in the soldier’s job description. That isn’t a secret, we all know it. But, that it matters in this conversation is somehow a secret, nonetheless. So here it is.

It is a soldier’s job to die for his country.

This is our conflict, but perhaps it’s only a matter of perception. If we phrase it in this way, describing the sacrifice in the more negative way, we can see that the conflict disappears, like this:

We ship a person overseas do fight and very likely die, or even more likely these days to suffer loss of limb and traumatic brain injury. Here’s the thing: this is not good treatment. Therefore, refusal of adequate medical and psychiatric care and the refusal of financial support that so many ex-soldiers receive when they come home, wait for it . . . is not a conflict. It is not any change in how we have treated these people from the day we decided to send them into war. To say it another way, our abuse of these folks starts long before they come home.

Let’s imagine it from another angle. Let’s imagine that we can hear the people in power discussing what we all perceive as our failure to look after our warriors, that we can hear the generals, the State Department, the politicians. Let’s try to see it from the POV of some powerful, cynical leaders when they are dividing up our dwindling tax revenues and deciding where to spend our money. Imagine how much priority is given to the care of a person that we already sent off to die. These folks aren’t likely to forget that it is a soldier’s job to die.

Call me a cynic to say it, but I am indeed cynical enough to imagine that it gets said, hopefully half in jest by these folks, that our wounded veterans failed at their job. Old cynic that I am, I find it impossible to imagine that no-one in these positions ever said “You had ONE job!” To carry on in this dark vein, sending a person off in a modern war to die on the far side of the globe – that isn’t cheap either. For the budgeteers of our world, soldiers cost money going out and coming back. Do I need to say it? Going out is the essential part of a soldier’s journey in many of our minds, and it certainly is in the minds of the men signing the cheques.

What I’m trying to say, getting back to it, is that the mistreatment of our heroes is not some detail, not some unintended consequence of war. It is intrinsic, it is logical even, it is part and parcel of the war machine generally, and it is not likely to change. It is fully in line with war and its objects. Mistreatment of veterans is not a problem we can fix while we’re at war, while we love war. It’s not going anywhere. The masters of war are just patiently waiting for us to get it off our chests and then shut up again.

If you’ve got a problem with that, then your problem is with war. Which, if you have a problem with war, that’s a good thing.

But just so you know.

The Irony of Deterrents, Part #3

‘Law and Order’ types – Republicans, Conservatives – and punishing parents, these folks who advocate for deterrents and punishments, they like to say how they’re fixing things, how they’re “modifying behaviour” and setting children and criminals right. Well, they’ve been at it for all of recorded history and maybe longer, and of course kids are always new, solving some doesn’t change anything for the next batch, but if their attitude did anything to lessen crime – well, there would be less crime. If there had been any progressive lessening of crime by these methods, these last eighty centuries (three hundred generations?) should have given us some sense it was working. Instead, we have pretty much all reached the conclusion that these things are as they have always been, and always will be, that crime is simply part of the human condition. This despite that our nearest cousins, the chimpanzees and bonobos, seem to live with a peace-to-crime ratio similar to ours.

You know, I offend a lot of people, I basically spend all of my online time telling everyone that they are bad parents, but there’s more. I think that, despite the offense of my message, people are put off by something else. I suspect they all know I’m not being completely honest with them; I think it must show that I’m holding something back. So here it is. No fear.

You ‘Law and Order’ types, you authoritarians, you punishers of children and criminals, know this: you’re not just failing. You’re not just not having the desired effect, oh no. You are destroying the world. You are making the world the Hell that it is for so many people. Your punishments – often intended as deterrents, you hope not to have to follow through, I’ll give you that – have the same effect, cause the same suite of damages that abuse does, to wit, psychological problems, cognitive difficulties, and crime. You are causing all the social problems you say you’re trying to fix.

That, plus you want to talk about how it’s natural and inevitable, and you refuse to do the troubleshooting, you refuse to take your negative stimuli out of the equation. You want to say it’s inherent, the crime, the greed, the violence – but you will defend to your last breath the very active, hands-on stimuli that has been shown by study after reputable study to cause exactly these things, and you will stubbornly never let up long enough to prove it one way or another.

That is the situation.

Now I’ll start talking nice again – well soon.

You didn’t create this situation. But having been told, having had it pointed out to you – the next time you mete out a punishment you will be doing just that. So cut it out. Stop destroying the world.


Here’s Part #2, might be critical to this part:


The Islamic State Just Doesn’t Get It.

Well, it seems those damned Muslims in Iraq and Syria are misbehaving again.

And they’re getting worse!

WTF is the matter with those people? We’ve already bombed the crap out of them at least twice, and still they insist on their revelatory religion, and they’re only getting more committed to it, getting stricter and more fundamentalist. We’re having to go bomb them again, like we told them we would, like everybody knew we would if they acted up again. We’ve tried everything, haven’t we? We occupied them, some really present, hands on supervision, plus we’ve tried invisible death from the sky. If that doesn’t let them know that we will always know when they’re misbehaving and that we can always catch them and correct them, I don’t know what would!

We’ve shot them, bombed them, blown up whole families, even whole villages, yet for some reason, despite that we will kill and maim them, they continue to kill and maim each other. Where do they get this idea that it’s OK to do that? Who do they think they are?

It’s their Quran, isn’t it? It’s a manual for violence, and it teaches that life is cheap. That must be it. They are raised on the belief that violence can solve any problem that presents itself, and that belief is so pervasive and so entrenched that all of our righteous violence can’t seem to get through to them. It almost seems hopeless. It almost seems like we should just give it up. After all, we’ve tried everything.

But how can we? What they’re doing is so bad!

I guess we’ll just have to step it up.