School: Children’s Boot Camp
I was powerfully moved by the description I read in the Nurture Assumption of what Rich Harris termed something like the “eternal children’s group” and especially by the description of the Yanomamo children’s group, described by an anthropologist – Mead? Or maybe the fellow who has come under such scrutiny lately about it? – the description being that in a little hunter/gatherer/warrior group, the boys teach each other to fight, and the boys who don’t or won’t fight are abused until they do or until they are killed. Even under the shadow of the general bad attitude anthropology has sometimes had, I’ve been to school: this may have been cherrypicked, but it’s not outlandish. Perhaps the scandal is in labelling some group of brown folks in this way – I don’t mean to say all hunter/gatherers are warriors, I only mean to reference the ones that are. Of course the point is us, Canada has a military.
I grew up in the context-free West, west of west in white Canada all the way out on the Pacific, and I thought parents raised children in some way, certainly most of us do and as parents we try, but this is a fairly new bunch of ideas, childhood and parents spending a great deal of time administrating this childhood. It seems this children’s group may be the more aboriginal and evolved situation, and so it seems we learn our important lessons from one another in childhood, not so much from Ma and Pa – and we are abused, usually in the same sphere.
This makes some sense by social relatedness theory, your tribal cousins will have more leeway to abuse you for their warrior ends than your parents, who are presumed to protect their genetic progeny, not aggress against it. Interestingly, if in the industrial world, adults are taking a bigger hand in trying to direct childhoods, some of the discipline and indeed over-discipline we see would seem to indicate an ability to work around our feelings of relatedness and what it entails. I hope it’s not indicative of any sort of genetic shift, not a capability we are selecting for, but perhaps. The usual workaround we have employed, prior to adjusting our natures about it, perhaps has been simply to punt the kids back into the children’s group, send them off to school. Then the boys can teach one another to fight as always, and failing that, should it be necessary for the adults to intervene, they are unrelated professionals, also not biologically worried about hurting our kids.
In this way, we learn to fight, in this way we are harmed, scarred, and hardened for battle. Antisocialized.
There are class implications in the other sense too, rich and poor.
The kids sent the furthest, into the hands of the least caring, are the children of the richest and the poorest, aren’t they? Boarding schools in other countries for the richest and “Residential Schools” for the poorest, the north American aboriginals, sent a million miles from their families and culture. (If the phrase “Residential Schools” doesn’t register, Google it along with “Canada.”) The social science results are already in about the difference between being rich and “having problems” (generic “being antisocialized”) and being poor with problems. The rich have resources, buffers. A rich antisocialized criminal may get a friendly judge, a rehab program. A wealthy destroyed child can be hidden in the basement, whereas a poor one needs to get out there and get a job and find a whole lot more trouble.
An antisocialized would-be warrior who is poor and bound for gang life and prison perhaps, lives his life out in the subordinate social group, his antisocial crimes generally harming poor folks and not tolerated by the dominants and their police, while an antisocialized would-be warrior from a wealthy family may simply carry on his family’s predatory capitalism, even wars, and his crimes maintain his social group at the top of the order. Abuse all, inequality grows. All are abused, all are miserable – but some get to drive the bus and some do not. All are tossed into the sea; the rich can purchase water-wings.
April 27th., 2019