The Abusive Ape Theory, in Pill Form

I’m a moron, because it took me my entire fucking life to figure it out, but I’m going to see if I can fit it into a tweet.

The “consequences” parenting construct is the child-rearing model for warrior societies, possibly meaning for human societies, albeit with exceptions. The efficacy of our consequences has always been debatable, but the evidence of the effects of abuse are clear, and it is these effects that human parents can and do create in our children. This is the power of nurturing and of parenting. This process I call antisocialization, our socialization to the dark side of things, our fears, our hate, and our violence. The truth behind the “consequences” social meme is that we are self-actualized warriors, that we discipline our children for reasons that some of our fathers told us: we deem ourselves to be too nice, and we have learned that abuse toughens us up. In genetic terms, we have learned to operate our own epigenetic levers, the ones that respond to adverse, abusive environments. Antisocialization Theory says that Christian Original Sin is a part of the “consequences” social construct and that in reality, humans know themselves to be too nice by our natures to compete with the neighbors, that indeed, we are born sinless.

Jeff

May 19th., 2017

AST– A Better Metaphor, Part Three

I think perhaps a creative recap first, a summary with some adjustments.

I plagiarized Dawkins’ idea of the meme, the social construct or metaphor (but there, I’ve cited him now, sort of. Honestly, I thought I’d simply deduced it myself in this instance, but “meme” was Richard’s word and concept. I still confess to plagiarism only jokingly and with respect. I think the idea is so clearly a great and true one that no-one gets to own it for long. Part of the logos now, Richard, congratulations and sorry about the money). I imagine Dawkins came to the same conclusion as I did regarding these memes: they are goal-oriented demons and the impartial, universal truth is rarely one of their goals. I then tried to describe the meme that our child-rearing seems to exist within, and expressed it as follows. I wondered, and I asked:

what is the goal of this meme – what must happen and how consequences make it happen and about how what must happen might never happen without our consequences -? What happens because of this story?

The first thing that jumped out at me was that believing it brings us a sense of control, that this is what the meme offers us, and this seemed to take us to the next link in the chain, what does this confidence, this sense of control mean, what happens because of it more than its opposite? That would seem to be that we bring the consequences with something between bias and faith, and so I thought, perhaps the consequences themselves are the most salient thing, the thing the meme ultimately supports, or rather the effects of our “consequences.”

Which are?

I said elsewhere recently, what we’ve proven to date regarding the effects of parenting generally, including parental discipline, are literally nothing good, meaning nothing, or bad things. The desired qualities of parental efforts do not show up in adult personality testing, that’s our nothing, after a hundred years of searching, as per Rich Harris. What we do have for evidence, however, is the bad things, as per Elizabeth Gershoff and Joan Durrant, for a good start.

Evidence from the dark side is overwhelming, good evidence of what we call the negative effects of physical punishment and abuse. These documented effects, increased incidence of violence, crime, addiction and self harm, and poor grades and cognition, these are what we are left with as the real, measurable effects of what adults can do to children. All that is required to complete the calculation is to realize that if positive parental nurturing counts as “parenting” despite a serious dearth of evidence, then negative parental abuse must also count as “parenting” and if it could be, then it surely would be even if it carried only a small portion of the evidence that we know it does. Also stated elsewhere recently – “Parenting” is defined as a positive influence but stubbornly refuses to show up that way in the testing.

Socialization researchers, there’s your proof, just step over to the dark side, we’ve got piles of the stuff out back.*

I know we don’t like it, I know we all need to think we have a positive effect on our children, but this is the data. My boss explained it to me once, that it doesn’t matter that I fudge my timesheet, that the reality of what I produce for the company and the data I provide them for their micro-management of me do not match. In conflict, the reality is not considered, only the data. That is the data that the accountants must use if they are to justify their positions, so the official story, the politically correct, phony paper version of reality is what moves the world. The only data is the data we must work with. If it were science, if there were any chance that the truth of my timesheet really mattered to anyone and might change the world for the better, I’d worry about it, maybe pull up my socks. But in this case, the data that abuse is what parents can do to leave measurable effects on children is not pulled out of my or anyone’s backside. This is the data, and it’s real.

I know, I hate it too, I would love to think I had a positive effect on my children, but there has been a reversal in our motives. The humanist gains we have made place us at odds with our aboriginal behaviours; it seems that what our “nurturing” does for us is produce these documented effects, increased incidence of violence, crime, addiction and self harm, and poor grades and cognition . . . that’s what it looks like today. This is what warriors look like in peacetime, and that is what has changed: we’ve specialized, we aren’t all soldiers and many of us today have more peaceful goals. (Maybe what I left out of the list of effects, depression and mental illness, maybe these are exactly what we may expect for an organism raised to be a warrior but in that way benched for life.) This is sort of a new problem, maybe inside a few hundred thousand years old, that big bunches of humans for whom this propensity for fighting is less of an asset and more of a liability exists, and perhaps it’s a very new problem that they have begun to outnumber the warriors.

The consequences meme is the child-rearing model for groups in conflict, this is what I’m saying:

. . . what must happen is people must be antisocial enough for fighting the antisocial neighbors, and how consequences make it happen is by hurting and maddening people in childhood and about how what must happen might never happen without our consequences because however rough, tough, and unreasonable people were before, they will be more so after the consequences . . .

This is my answer, this is the goal of the current (and evolved) paradigm for parenting: it means we bring the consequences, and the kids grow up crazier, tougher and meaner than they would otherwise have done.

Kind of the opposite of what you tell everyone, isn’t it, Mom?

Whoops! That wasn’t the artist that time. Who gave that bitter, pissed off little child victim a microphone? I guess we’ll just wind it up there, hope to cut our losses. Have a great day, Folks.

 

 

Jeff

March 7th., 2017

 

*Monty Python, “The Life of Brian.”

 

Here’s the whole series:

https://abusewithanexcuse.com/2017/03/04/ast-a-better-metaphor-part-one/?iframe=true&theme_preview=true

https://abusewithanexcuse.com/2017/03/05/ast-a-better-metaphor-part-two/?iframe=true&theme_preview=true

https://abusewithanexcuse.com/2017/03/07/ast-a-better-metaphor-part-three/?iframe=true&theme_preview=true

https://abusewithanexcuse.com/2017/02/23/human-nature-or-let-me-tell-you-what-we-think-of-us/?iframe=true&theme_preview=true

https://abusewithanexcuse.com/2017/03/10/ast-a-better-metaphor-part-five/?iframe=true&theme_preview=true

https://abusewithanexcuse.com/2017/03/11/ast-a-better-metaphor-part-six-abuse/?iframe=true&theme_preview=true

https://abusewithanexcuse.com/2017/03/16/ast-a-better-metaphor-part-seven-the-abuse-truth/?iframe=true&theme_preview=true

https://abusewithanexcuse.com/2017/03/18/the-good-the-bad-and-the-reality-a-better-metaphor-part-eight/?iframe=true&theme_preview=true

and a bonus nipple-twister:

https://abusewithanexcuse.com/2017/02/23/ast-and-child-sexual-abuse/?iframe=true&theme_preview=true

AST– A Better Metaphor, Part Four. Human Nature – or Let Me Tell You What We Think of Us

It’s a problem when nouns are provided as explanations, generally, or at least it’s a problem for me.

When we search for an answer, it’s a cause for something that we seek – and we might think a ‘cause’ would be something that happens, not so much something that simply exists – but often what is given is only a complex sounding thing. If it fails to illuminate, sometimes it can mean that we don’t yet understand the noun, even to the point that we don’t understand that it is one, that the answer we are offered is not a verb, not an action, a motion, or a process at all.  Of course, processes have names and can be referenced as nouns, but therein lies plenty of opportunity for obfuscation, and a certain percentage of listeners will never stop someone to ask them what the word means. History has a list of such answers, notorious to the modern atheist, scientific mind, and they include royalty, divinity, infallibility, destiny, fate . . . religious sort of “things” like that. Closer to today, one might list soul, self, mind, morality . . . today I’d like to start with ‘consciousness,’ although it’s not really the topic, because it goes to our natures, because, ‘consciousness’ of what, exactly?

I’ll be honest. This isn’t my first time through this document, and in the end I’m not debunking consciousness or our natures: My real target noun is ‘aggression.’ I wanted to say that once, but let’s leave it in the background. By the end of this, all will become clear.

Humans have consciousness; this is a fairly recent fallback position for the common sentiment that was once perhaps that humans have souls, or divinity, along with the idea that we alone of animals have it. The idea has failed, fallen to human testing of apes, dolphins, crows and maybe more animals, tests that show these creatures pass tests that human babies don’t or something. But I don’t disagree generally; we have an outsized share of it, probably in all of its aspects. If consciousness means awareness of self, then I imagine that the less lofty sounding aspects of it might be attention paid to self or self-involvement. Half of what we do is navel gazing – well, half of what some of us do is. Of course, when we’re looking back through history, anything there is to read came from the sort of introspective person that does. Half of the history of human thought consists of navel gazing, of people wondering just what it is that people are and just what it is we should be doing.

It’s a question that there is no getting around.

If you’re ever wondering what to do with yourself, or are given any sort of choice, then it helps that you know what you are – clearly, that is the function of ‘consciousness.’ Having no concept of one’s self could get us into all sorts of trouble, even fights we don’t win. So consciousness is certainly a human trait, but not solely or absolutely, and neither is consciousness absolute when we see it, either: we may have consciousness, but we do not have full self-knowledge, meaning we know enough about ourselves not to wrestle grizzly bears, but not so much that we know what to do with ourselves in our spare time. I think we all agree, determining what human nature is and the search for self- knowledge and consciousness are one and the same. We’re a social animal, we have a lot of policy sort of decisions to make for one another, and so it matters what human nature is, it matters just what it is that we are. Wait for it, though . . .

. . . failing that, it matters just what it is that we think we are.

And it has failed so far, so what we think we are is going to be the best we have to work with. Consensus regarding what we are has failed at least, so this is the state of things. To the degree that we behave consciously and rationally at least, we behave predicated on what it is we think we are. We behave largely biologically and tribally, and unconsciously to be sure, but to the extent that we plan our behaviour, to the creation and evolution of public policy, laws and institutions – and to the creation of parenting books –  in that much, we base our choices on what we think we are, on what we perceive to be human nature.

No surprises there, right?

Some think we are as God made us, some as evolution has sculpted us, some think we are born loving and good, some that we are naturally selfish and aggressive, some that we are unformed until the world forms us.

If I’ve forgotten anyone, I’m sorry.

My experience living and reading in the largely Christian West combined with my interest in punishment-free childrearing led me to think the general consensus in those regards was this: we think some dilute version of Christian original sin, or that evolution means children are untamed, and so we spend a great deal of energy controlling, deterring and punishing children in our efforts to “civilize” them. It was cultural, I thought; most folks have never heard of Augustine or original sin, but it was difficult for me to understand the control and punishment of human children without postulating some negative default condition that the adults were combatting, without thinking that the parents seemed to be postulating one. That idea satisfied me for a time; it was true enough, close enough for television, or rather, psychology.

It wasn’t close enough for science though.

Again, most Western folks don’t know or care for Augustine or Paul (neither do I, don’t get me wrong), and at any rate we were all sinners in the Old Testament as well, right from the start: God created the heavens, and saw that it was good, the earth, and saw that it was good, the beasts, birds and fishes and saw that they were good. Then God created man, woman and knowledge, and saw that it was not so good, for the rest of the book! My apologies if that is not funny . . . it only means that at least the Jews and the Muslims will have some version of ‘all humans are sinners’ in their lives too, not just the Christians.

Notwithstanding, parents don’t speak in the same terms as we navel gazers do. When I can say ‘we beat our children because we think if we don’t they will naturally turn out wild or evil’ in the context of parenting, I can get away with it, but of course, chaos theory rules all and the real truth is very different. I was wrong. It’s nothing like original sin, not even close. That’s what we think we think, but we really don’t. So let’s back that up. So if we did think that, if we did think that we assume our children to be biased towards wildness or evil, and so we try to discourage that with deterrents and punishments, then there may be more to discover regarding that narrative.

First, when did we start to think it, and why?

Leaving aside the religious believers for whom there is no evolutionary past but only a moment of creation for the moment, it would seem to be a story that requires the trappings of civilization like possessions or human hazards like fires and weapons, reasons why the children cannot be wild and uncontrolled. However, like many guesses about the past, it’s bound to be a chicken and egg kind of a thing: does this story have us as a self-hating ape that beats its children because it thinks they’re evil, evolving with time and becoming human? Or do we postulate a sort of reverse evolution, where we found ourselves evolved, super-complex human adults whose babies still appeared to stubbornly arrive as wild little apes and so needed to be civilized individually, by force if necessary?

The first option would seem to have support from Sapolsky and his baboons, but the final many years of his Keekorok troop might seem to prove the idea itself as at least not always true, perhaps lending weight to my idea that we only think some such thing by default. (An accident wiped out the ruling cabal of alpha males and the troop became far more prosocial, even making converts of male baboons that moved in.) There certainly seems to be an entrenched system of abuse that creates and supports baboon social structure and hierarchy usually; clearly primate abuse predates humanity. Most people don’t know much about that, though, so although it may be part of a real scientific explanation, it probably has no bearing on what human parents generally think. I don’t suppose anyone has taken the next step in this train of thought and no-one has perhaps asked that question before: did we evolve from a punishing ape, or did humans invent organized punishment? If no-one has considered the origin of this human behaviour before, perhaps that is a clue that it’s a behaviour we rationalize from our culturally Christian (or culturally Jewish or culturally Muslim) selves, perhaps we are lazily falling into seeing our child-rearing from the religious POV where it didn’t begin, it simply is, as though it always was.

I don’t think anyone takes this model this far, but if pressed, I imagine any advocate for it would think this human practice is a modern one: for the religious, everything is some sort of modern, and for the evolutionist, perhaps they think they are contending with their children’s wild and primal natures, perhaps they assume that we’re born a little too natural. It gets murky fast, when you don’t trust yourself, when you have to guess at your own motivations. Of course, we’ started this discussion saying that our very natures are unknown, so in this conversation we have to admit that our motivations are also mysteries. So as to when did we begin to think it?

I’m afraid it’s stumped me within this paradigm.

For the ‘why’ we must examine the other side of the coin. A discussion of what we think our natures are perhaps requires some look into the other concept, what we think nurture is. Why did we begin to think there was something bad about us by default, and what made us think we could change it?

First of all, it’s a positive sounding word, nurture, but that isn’t the primary meaning. I think nurture is best stated as the software side of our house, that it isn’t concerned with hardware and biology but thought and speech, with what we think and what we do. To what extent our lives and inner lives affect us and our choices: that is the nurture principle, at least the version of nurture that seems to be opposed to any notions of hardwired traits and behaviours in the classic old debate. It’s a little jarring to say and hear, but when we are beating our children, we think we are operating in the nurture sphere, hoping to change minds and therefore behaviour.

In the march of scientific progress, nurture is taking a beating these days. Nature in the form of biology is showing all manner of visible proofs, while nurture cannot seem to show any. Nurture is safe, of course; it can’t be destroyed, because we are all aware of some time in our lives (perhaps daily) where we learned something and therefore changed our behaviour. We know it’s a force within our own selves and our lives, so we can’t very well imagine that teaching our children has no effect; it’s another article and another subject, but those who suggest any version of ‘nurture is not real,’ such as ‘parenting doesn’t matter’ are just plain wrong, as Steven Pinker said too. It’s not a bluff. I have the arguments ready, but I’m trying to stick to talking about what we think, and what we think we think, not about scientific truths at this juncture. We may get there, but let’s not hold our breaths.

(Now that I’m learning a little biology, now that ghost in the machine ideas are working their way out of my thoughts,  of course there really is no division to be made between our hardware platforms and our software, turns out, thought, speech, emotions – these are all physical phenomena, neurochemistry. That slides the entire nurture world back under the nature umbrella in reality. Nurture is really maybe just post-birth nature, meaning the environment or just simply the world, but it’s still a useful distinction in one way: at least we’re highlighting the difference between the things we do and the things we’re actually trying to do.  We can still talk about it. Words are tools to hold things, not the things themselves.)

The nurturing idea, as it applies to childrearing is deeply set. I find myself casting about for a better, more manipulative way to say this, so I’d better go the other direction and de-fang it instead: I have the sense that we must have felt like we proved it to ourselves at some point, and we seem, as Judith Rich Harris said, unable to seriously question it.

OK now. Here’s where I hope I stop parroting other folks.

If the nurture assumption is hard to shake, if it seems self-evident or we have the sense I suggest, that it’s been proved already, then the narrative, our story should account for it. How do we imagine we proved it?

I mean, nurture generally, not a question. I think we’ve all told our kids not to leap into traffic and most of them didn’t, so it’s case closed, great job. I’m looking for something more specific, though, something that would cause this division in our minds, some experience of ours that places nurture somehow in opposition to our natures, or nature generally, perhaps – at least something to justify this endless, insoluble argument. Plus, of course, I’m talking about childrearing, our guesses about our own natures and how those impact our childrearing. That particular aspect of nurture, literal nurturing, childrearing, complete with deterrents and punishments seems to be something we don’t ponder, something we consider time-honoured and proven, so again: proven how?

Well, to back up again just a little, what have we proven today regarding parenting? Amazing to me that any answer this short could be true: nothing good, literally.

Of course, that needs a little explaining.

As so lengthily and painfully pointed out by Rich Harris and others, parental influence is impossible to detect in people’s adult personalities. We think that half of the variability of our traits is genetic and about half cultural or environmental, but that almost none of the environmental side is attributable to parents or parental efforts. I have questions, like is it personality parents affect or something else, but for now, I’ll go with it: ongoing and historical efforts to demonstrate parents’ influence have turned up squat. We keep trying, because as I pointed out before the nurture principle can’t be non-existent, but so far it hasn’t worked out, there is zero scientific evidence for parental influence.

One assumes that parental efforts are for positive things, though, so perhaps it’s fair to say that positive parental influence hasn’t shown up in the lab. Negative influences from parents, however, the effects of abuse or neglect, that is another matter, there are mountains of evidence for that. So not only do we have no evidence for anything good our parents do for us, but a world of proof for the bad. The evidences for negative outcomes correlated with physical punishment and abuse are myriad and robust – and it’s mostly family stuff, so we even have decades of genetic data, it’s not going to be useless for the lack of that either. So: zero proof of positive influence from anything parents do, deterrents, punishments and abuse included, as contrasted with all of the evidence pointing to the negative environmental power of some of those same things. There are a lot of very nice parents out there – and no evidence of their good influence, only of the damages incurred by the less nice parts of the children’s lives. So perhaps we ask ourselves this regarding the plot we are pitching ourselves.

If we’re telling ourselves that we believe that without our nurturing, our children will be bad or wild, then how do we explain to ourselves that we can continue to believe it when we see that the science says all we can do is mess them up? It seems pretty counter-intuitive; I mean, what kind of idiots do we take ourselves for? How do we explain it to ourselves except by using the obvious strategy of simple cognitive dissonance, I mean, of course? I realize, what else can we do with that information but ignore it, live with the conflict pending further discovery?

Are we there yet? I’ve lost track, what was the question again? Oh yes, why would we think that we think children are default some sort of bad and that we do what we do to make them better?

Whoops, that was close. I almost said it that time. I’ve tried to make the point that this proposition is part and parcel of the self-evident nurture idea, and that the nurture assumption is so strong, that we must think we proved it. I then wondered how so, and stated that we have not, even today proved it in a positive sense, but that we see the proof daily of the negative power of what adults and parents can do. Interestingly, today, this proof of the negative power of parenting is split off, and it’s become a popular meme for the biologists to say that parenting doesn’t matter. Tell that to abuse victims, is my answer. But still, somehow, this proof is not a proof today. “Parenting” is defined as a positive influence – but stubbornly refuses to show up like that in the testing.

Perhaps this very phenomenon, abuse and damage was our proof of the nurture principle in parenting in the beginning though, perhaps there was a time when beating our children was new or rare, and it was these real world effects that proved to us that what we do matters. I have an idea, learned in grade school, that the most beaten of the children are out there beating the crap out of the less beaten ones, and I don’t think that needs a lot of mental lawyering to reconcile with the statistics of abuse. I didn’t see the advantage of it, the tough families in the city where I grew up. Sure, they beat everyone and if one couldn’t then his older brother could, but I figured they’d all wind up in prison, live short, thug lives – maybe in a more primal, aboriginal situation though, you want your family group to be the ones who win the fights around the neighborhood.

If so, if this was perhaps the first thing we ever tried to beat our children into doing – going out and terrorizing the neighbors – that works! The statistics of abuse tell us that that is the one thing that beatings do succeed at teaching, so if that was our maiden voyage into child-sculpting, then the first test worked perfectly . . . perhaps that was our proof. And – fair enough, sort of. That may place the timing of the development of this behaviour before modern times, because we have wiped out at least four other homos in the last fifty thousand years and those are only the ones where we’ve found the bodies.

So, with that perspective, let’s review that sentence, where I almost gave it away:

Why would we think that we think children are default some sort of bad and that we do what we do to make them some sort of better?

Just a few more little tweaks: it turns out that the ‘sort of bad’ that makes sense of it is sociability, that ‘what we do’ is beat them far more regularly than the other animals, and the ‘sort of better’ we’re talking about is meaner, tougher, being the sort that wins fights. So again, one more time:

Why would we think children are nice and sweet (which is a sort of bad in a warring sort of aboriginal environment) and so we beat them (which humans do a lot) to make them tough, mean and nasty (a sort of better in a competitive world of male-bonded primate troops as well as traditional human societies)?

Because that doesn’t clash with everything else we know about violence and abuse today, for starters. Because human (and all mammal) babies are clearly sweet and loving, for good reasons, they’re helpless. Because, isn’t that what your dad told you behind the shed? He was toughening you up, and Dad was a lot closer to the aboriginal, biological truth than the authors of parenting books.

Again, this is a conversation with too many layers: I’m not saying we just aren’t mean enough by default for life on this planet, only that we think so, and so because this is our core belief, we beat our children to make sure they’re as mean and tough as the neighbors, who we assume are beating theirs.

I really am not advocating for a version of human nature, my own version, or some Noble Savage, hippy-dippy version where we would all be sweet as pie and it would be the end of war and strife if we only stopped creating all of our species’ aggression, or any other one. I am advocating for a version of a core belief, advocating for what I think it is we believe or believed about what our nature is. I may be saying that abuse makes us mean (and crazy. Did I say that? Crazy, too), but I haven’t stated what I think our default level of mean, sans abuse, may have been – except that to say, whatever it is, however aggressive an ape we might be if left unabused, that with abuse, we are more so. I am saying that this core belief, that we think we are nicer than we need to be, has exponentially more power than the other story, the idea that we are born overly wild or aggressive, to bring a good deal of our thinking in line with reality, because this story makes sense of our rather unique punishing ways. Not only that, but I’m saying that this story’s genesis chapter seems to provide the proof that the nurture side of the old argument has been lacking in the minds of the biologists, because it is nothing to show that the power of a parent to alter a child is undeniable on the dark side of the parenting coin.

Our true natures, though?

I think we’ve been looking at it all upside down since perhaps sometime in the middle ages and sideways since there have been some number of comfortable, secure (OK, rich) people, like since ownership and possessions beyond your flint and spear, and so I think we haven’t had much of a chance at this puzzle, in fact, we probably haven’t made a true start yet. With this better first guess, I’m hoping we can make a better start. There is a ton of epigenetic information coming to light, much of it regarding abuse, and I think this better autobiography may help us to give it all another level of meaning.

It doesn’t mean we’re uncovering a core belief of ours that is objectively true, only that this is what we think is true. The difference is our response to the first perceived problem of our default nastiness – the dishing out of punishments to change it, makes no sense, while our response to the second perceived problem, meaning our perceived lack of aggression – the dishing out of punishments and other abuse, makes perfect sense and is corroborated in every way in many other contexts. I don’t hope that everyone will find this as revelatory as I do, but there are a few implications.

The original sin idea is dead wrong, backwards. We don’t actually think we’re inherently bad. In fact, we structure our entire lives around a core belief that we are loving and friendly by default and we spend our lives trying to rectify that perceived situation. Yes, I mean child-rearing and “discipline” today, still doing what it did for our ancestors far better than what we hope it might do for us.

With all this mad, modern culture around us, we may think we have to guess or deduce our natures, or even discover our core beliefs regarding our natures, and this has been the answer we tell one another, or at least this is the answer I was born into, among the great unwashed of poor white North American culture in the latter half of the twentieth century, this opaque, plausibly deniable sort of Christian original sin. It’s going to be more difficult to picture how we could make such an unconscious error in a more primal state, so much closer to or still in the natural state, predators all around . . . if beatings calmed and civilized our children, one would think that would be a deadly mutation in rough, violent nature and would be quickly selected out.

I’m only saying why I can’t imagine our usual narrative playing out at all, so that as far as I can see there just may be no sensible when or why to it.

That answer again, that we figure we’re born uncivilized and they try to beat the culture into us, masks the true one, the deeper and nastier one, that it is the actual effect of our punishments and abuse that we experience, and the actual effects that make it a selected for behaviour. Being the scariest phenotype possible has been known to have its reproductive advantages. We’re like the Alpha Male species in a tournament sort of genus and I don’t think there’s any denying that our genes are out-competing those of the rest of the great apes.

This logic makes this deeper core belief at least sane if not correct, because it describes a true function with expected results. The core belief we thought we had, some form of original sin is not our true belief, and neither is it objectively true, while the core belief exposed here – that we could be meaner – is borne out by all the evidence of abuse’s negative outcomes, ‘meanness’ and violence being the point of half of them.

All of the available evidence points to the truth of that, that we could be meaner, who hasn’t watched people grow up and get meaner as they do? That’s called normal development. In the other sense, however, as in ‘I could lose a few pounds,’ that we should be meaner, perhaps half of us can’t imagine thinking about our babies today in that way, but I don’t think we really could see ourselves the other way either, believing that beige sort of original sin and that violence was the cure for it.

It makes for a bit of irony. If you’ve come this far, you may as well follow me all the way to farce: what we have here, what we are, is an adult that tells himself he thinks his children are born to be bad, so he beats the sweet, helpless little dears until they are violent enough to function as an effective soldier for the troop while telling himself he’s the agent of all that’s good and proper, the defender of civilization and his babies were the bad ones!

It’s pretty much that we’ve just gotten “good” and “bad” all mixed up, all switched around. I hope that this is a step towards an improvement in our self-awareness, that the “good” we create with our discipline is perhaps not the sort of good we’re all looking for anymore.   In fact, in many ways, biology (behaviour?) doesn’t care what we think. It’s still working, like it must have since it began: we beat our children, and we win every conflict we enter into, at least some human does, and it doesn’t matter in that function whether we know why we do it or not. All that talk about why we got whooped, that was for the other narrative, the false one. Really it’s to make berserkers of us.

All of the evidence says so.

 

Jeff

Jan. 20th., 2017

Here’s the whole series:

https://abusewithanexcuse.com/2017/03/04/ast-a-better-metaphor-part-one/?iframe=true&theme_preview=true

https://abusewithanexcuse.com/2017/03/05/ast-a-better-metaphor-part-two/?iframe=true&theme_preview=true

https://abusewithanexcuse.com/2017/03/07/ast-a-better-metaphor-part-three/?iframe=true&theme_preview=true

https://abusewithanexcuse.com/2017/02/23/human-nature-or-let-me-tell-you-what-we-think-of-us/?iframe=true&theme_preview=true

https://abusewithanexcuse.com/2017/03/10/ast-a-better-metaphor-part-five/?iframe=true&theme_preview=true

https://abusewithanexcuse.com/2017/03/11/ast-a-better-metaphor-part-six-abuse/?iframe=true&theme_preview=true

https://abusewithanexcuse.com/2017/03/16/ast-a-better-metaphor-part-seven-the-abuse-truth/?iframe=true&theme_preview=true

https://abusewithanexcuse.com/2017/03/18/the-good-the-bad-and-the-reality-a-better-metaphor-part-eight/?iframe=true&theme_preview=true

and a bonus nipple-twister:

https://abusewithanexcuse.com/2017/02/23/ast-and-child-sexual-abuse/?iframe=true&theme_preview=true

Updated! AST and Child Sexual Abuse

I hate paedophilia, and that is the name for the human practice of adults having sex with children. I know a bunch of victims, some very close to me. When I say something like “sex is nicer than violence,” I don’t mean for human children, and if I say “sex is nicer than violence for children,” then I am talking about bonobos and chimpanzees, or about our own deep, deep past, barely more recently the time when we and the chimpanzees were the same creature. This is about origins. I have a certain insight, that we do what we do for biological reasons, but that the way we understand those reasons, and the way we talk about why we do what we do is upside down and backwards in some very important ways. In fact, I think we are subject to a kind of ‘false national narrative’ at the species level and our origin story needs a closer look. I imagine there are some smart scientists who are far ahead of me here, but generally, humanity at large speaks with a single voice.

 

I followed a train of thought about punishment. I wasn’t really looking to analyze child sexual abuse, kind of the opposite! I was running from thinking about that for personal childhood reasons, pleased to meet you.

 

The theory I came up with seems to explain a lot, though, antisocialization theory, or AST. For one, it gives a new angle from which to view our taboo regarding paedophilia. With it’s focus on punishment and abuse in human life, AST considers humanism to be new and only making a faltering start so that the safety and protection of children only works as the driver of the taboo if the taboo is also new in the world. If the taboo has deeper roots, then humanism is not likely to be the reason for it. If the biologist’s explanation about genetic addition of disease risks is the main reason, then our biology can find other answers too, and doesn’t require that we talk about it, but we do. Of course, our biology doesn’t require that we know everything about our behaviour, only that we do it – but society’s a different story. That’s where what we think about our biology matters also, what we think about our behaviour affects our choices, our policies, public and private.

 

I think our origin story has us at an impasse on both huge issues, the physical punishment and abuse of children and child sexual abuse, and AST can break us out of it. A brief definition is coming up soon.

 

I think probably AST and the associated book is the place to say that humans fuck their kids just like the chimps and bonobos do – I mean, a lot of them – sorry, us, I mean, a lot of us (I’m still running). Enough of us do that if we saw that that percentage of elephants were fucking their kids, there would be no debate, it would simply be listed as an elephant behaviour. Of course, it’s not acceptable human behaviour – but it’s human behaviour. That is not to excuse anything, quite the opposite: if it is not a human behaviour then it may follow that there aren’t victims. It absolutely is and there absolutely are, way too many, so to all the victims yes, this is a human behaviour, this happened and this happens. To make it clear for everyone else: paedophilia and incest are not nearly rare enough to be outside of the ‘normal’ fields of study and they’re not rare enough to be only a ‘personal’ issue. This is a human behaviour, a human problem, and one that we have not yet addressed in such a way as to change much about it.

 

That is true, and true things require some logic to drive them, so there will be some logic to work out here, what effect our modern situation has had on that, how we have somehow turned an act of monkey love into a powerful antisocializing force. Wait for it . . . the definition:

 

Antisocialization theory has it that abuse contributes in a powerful way to the antisocial side of our socialization, that the pain, confusion, and powerlessness associated with abuse and punishment create antisocial feelings and ideation to some degree in those who experience them. AST postulates that a more antisocial member of the troop is a more effective soldier, self motivated and tough, and that perhaps human or proto human troops that did not go to lengths to antisocialize their children were out-competed in battle. This article is not intended to be anyone’s introduction to AST, but this short version is what’s important in AST regarding child sexual abuse: punishment, violence and abuse are antisocializing factors, designed to make us crazy, angry, and violent beyond perhaps what we may have been without them.

 

Perhaps if at some point if we knew, if we were aware that we were perhaps easily killing off the less antisocial apes, or perhaps the more prosocial apes around us, and so if we had instituted a program of abuse for its effects (if we were beating our children to toughen them up and make better troop soldiers), if we were all in for making war and not love so much, then it makes sense that we would certainly also probably put the kibosh on much of our prosocializing.

 

Looking at the bonobos as a view perhaps beyond our early human past, we do indeed see that sex is a powerful prosocializing force in their lives, and as ubiquitous for them as perhaps authority, hierarchy and punishment are in ours, and the young are not left out of the never-ending orgy. It appears that adult bonobos are not antisocialized from their experience, that, in their primate life, sex exists on the positive side of the social ledger.

 

This is one way in which AST makes our previous understanding so clearly backwards: the taboo regarding sex with children, if it is as old as humankind, isn’t any sort of harm reduction strategy at all. The bonobos, they say, have very little violence and pleasure seems to be their social currency; their sex with their children looks like regular sex albeit with bonobos of all size and shape, voluntary and pleasurable. AST says human beings spend far more time punishing their children than pleasuring them (just saying, not arguing), at least today, and it’s my guess that we have made a choice.

 

We didn’t make a taboo of sex with children because sex hurts them – again, unless we only decided this recently. We did it for military reasons, because loving touch spoils soldiers. According to antisocialization theory, I mean. To put it another way, how long do we think there have been advocates for child abuse victims? Do we imagine the protection of children from sex was a cause that took over the world sometime in ancient history or prehistory when protecting them from violence remains a remote and unlikely goal today?

 

Our social injunction regarding incest is only part of the bigger, antisocialist injunction, not the proscription of harmful child rape, or of shallow gene pools, but rather the proscription of a prosocializing behaviour.

 

Of course, it didn’t stop child sexual abuse, and it’s something we will battle forever, probably, especially within the existing narrative about it. It’s a trauma for us, so how can we imagine we stopped it when it wasn’t a trauma, let alone because it wasn’t one? Despite that it looks nice when bonobos do it, when a human adult fucks a child, it is a bad scene, violent, criminal, abusive, ostracizing, all of it, so it’s hard to see the connection, but it’s there, buried somewhere in our past.

 

Trauma is not why we outlawed it in the first place, is all I’m saying, all antisocialization theory is saying. We can’t imagine ourselves making that sort of choice, but if we can look at the bonobos and imagine them making the choice to outlaw sex with their kids . . . then maybe for them, we can see that it would be an antisocial move. Just in case: I’m not advocating for humans to start living the bonobo life, I ain’t advocating for sex with children. My heart’s in the right place and my wick’s dry on this. I am not advocating and I ain’t asking for sex with kids. It’s just that I have a theory and it makes sense of things, that’s all, and that theory has brought me to where our outrage regarding paedophilia seems to be part and parcel of our love of violence. These are emotional, dangerous topics and perhaps that is in part because we don’t quite understand them yet – but AST can help.

 

Right, wrong, prosocial, antisocial, we outlawed child sexual abuse for antisocial reasons, not for prosocial ones, not to protect kids and not to avoid birth defects. At some point, we’ll have to tether ourselves to that reality, because this misunderstanding – that sexual activity, rather than violence, is somehow the greatest cause of evil in the world – simply fails to generate any real progress on either issue. To repeat: do we really think someone was advocating for the children and against child sexual abuse by adults for as long as we’ve been human, or for as long as we’ve been writing? Hardly! But we have been beating our children and so socially engineering ourselves for conflict and war that whole time. Humans have things to do, destinies to achieve, battles to fight, and we don’t really approve of those lazy bonobos just laying around playing swallow the leader all day. That’s the context in which that taboo came into existence and remains with us, as a part of the warrior code.

 

That’s the secret: sex makes you happy and peaceful, and we worry that we’re not mean enough to deal with the neighbors already, so it’s out, except for procreative sex. After all, the army needs soldiers.

 

That’s how taboos work. You’re not allowed to pick it up and turn it over, not allowed to see what’s underneath it. What’s under this one – surprise! – is violence, and our deep love of and identification with it. Not to minimize child sexual abuse, but the exposed core belief was the secret here, the thing that we have an opportunity to learn: our core belief is not a prosocial one. The truth, eventually, will set us free.

 

Jeff

Feb. 27th., 2017

Punishment as Bullying

The world runs on authority, on force. The army, the police, schools, corporate hierarchies, parenting, parenting, parenting. Family structure. Punishment and discipline is a system by where we control unwanted behaviour by force, and punishment, which, punishment is defined as dishing out unpleasantness to the misbehavers in order to motivate them to change their ways.

 

This is pretty much a definition of bullying. The bully punishes the victim. The bully justifies this punishment by listing the victims’ misbehaviours, or the victims’ families’, or race’s, or faith’s misbehaviours.

 

This is punishing behaviour, this is bullies doing what adults do, doing what the police do, I mean the bully’s behavior is very close to that, closer than any of us would like to think. I’m saying the bully feels he is doing what he sees around him, that in the parlance of some schools of psychology, the bully is getting his power back, after some authority figure has taken his power from him.

 

So, parents and schools going to the bully kids and telling them to stop is a joke to these kids. They see it as just more ‘do as I say, not as I do,’ which it is. I, for one, would love to see someone ask the kids if I’m right about that. Don’t take my word for it. Ask the kids. Better yet, we need a mole, someone who can infiltrate the kids’ group and get a real answer. They don’t trust us.

 

Parents don’t think they are bullying. We have a consensus about what is acceptable punishing behavior, and we really cannot seem to draw parallels with what we see as our legitimate punishments and other similar behaviours. If we can’t, if we won’t see how bullying is an extension, an extrapolation of our punishing ways, then there is very little hope that any of our conversation about bullying, any of our attempts to combat it will get any traction, very little hope of our ever solving a problem if we refuse to understand it in the first place. Surely, someone has noticed that speeches that don’t acknowledge this difficult truth have not had any dramatic effect on the bullying phenomenon? I think any approach that doesn’t include this idea would be considered empty and hopeless, at least to any group that lives under threat or reality of punishment – like our kids.

 

Long and short, if we adults don’t stop ‘bullying’ kids everywhere, we will never stop their bullying, that should be obvious. I don’t know why it isn’t.

 

Many nations have outlawed corporal punishment, in Canada, we are in the process of outlawing it, and I can see the next step, that we will someday realize that the damage caused by punishing behaviours generally outweigh any benefit, and when we all stop anything like bullying, so will our kids. Until then, we will fight this bullying thing in vain, fighting fire with fire, and modeling it and propagating it as we do.

 

So now, there will be programs, task forces, plans and research, all government money spent to figure out this embarrassing problem, and if we don’t try to stop people from the use of punishment – corporal and otherwise – on our kids at home and everywhere else, we are wasting all those resources. And that is a sad, cruel joke, one that the adults don’t understand, and only our kids are laughing about. Not in a good way.

 

Jeff

 

Jan. 22, 2016

Punishment and Respect

Punishment and Respect

 

I’m gonna change my approach a little here, start making these things short and sweet.

 

So this third one of those will be on this idea here: if you punish, it instills respect. Otherwise why would they respect you? So a couple of thoughts:

 

Punishment is a betrayal, of communication, of love, of respect; to be punished is to have our personhood rejected and denied. Punishments happen when a more powerful person or persons has given up talking to or reasoning with us and simply treats us like an object rather than any semblance of a peer, or even a person. To my mind, this is a worst case scenario in adult relationships. At its best, it’s Mandela’s incarceration, a classic walk underground and into legend (though, let’s not forget, not a good time for him still) resulting from a considered difference of political opinion. Rest assured most of the outcomes of this everyday betrayal, punishment, are not so good. One thing at a time, though. Respect.

 

To my mind, punishment is the end of respect. After one punishment, maybe, after some good apology, but after a regular application of it? Talk of ‘respect’ is empty chatter, mind-boggling hubris. A half-century of post-Skinner parenting crap literature never seems to acknowledge that you can’t have discipline from punishment and respect at the same time. I’ll tell you though: you’ve got a choice, and I repeat, you might not lose trust and respect the very first time – but don’t push it twice.

 

Have we really forgotten how it felt when we were the kids? Really? How many of us only come to respect our parents later in life, after we’ve spent a few decades dishing it out on our own kids? How many of us never do? We weren’t born disrespecting, they earned it – and we understand them after we earn it.

 

 

Jeff

 

Jan. 20, 2016

 

Rare Research Opportunity

Parenting styles don’t matter, that is what all the analyses of all the twin and adoption studies came up with. They postulated three sorts of parenting – permissive, authoritative, and authoritarian, and with that in mind and all the twin and adoption data, they found that the middle road was best.

I don’t see it that way, because for them, the middle was the middle and permissive was one direction and authority the opposite direction, when really, it’s a one directional scale. Really, the spectrum goes from no application of authority, through some (permissive), through more (authoritative), to much (authoritarian) application of authority. “Application of authority” means control and the tools for it, meaning punishment, meaning force. My point being the three “parenting styles” they postulated are increasing levels of force, and the data says a little is bad and a lot is bad, but in between is not as bad. To my mind there are other ways to interpret that pattern than that the middle amount of force simply strikes the right balance, I need to know if that’s true, balance between authority and what? Original Sin? If two out of three dosages of it are bad for you, why is the third not?

My interpretation is this: children of permissive parents fear punishment less, the deterrents fail because the child is not convinced he’ll have to pay the price, so some number more of those kids develop bad habits, find trouble. Conversely, children of authoritative parents can be any combination of damaged or bitter and angry from abuse they’ve suffered, and the rougher their parents are, the rougher some of the kids learn to be, and so perhaps more of those kids find trouble too. A multitude of abuse and corporal punishment studies will support that. But then, why the middle road? The other things don’t apply, the punishments are consistent, so the deterrents work, the child has a higher expectation of having to pay the price, and the child has a better chance of avoiding real abuse and damage, along with other things as well, probably. I think that small win for the authoritative parents represents more children trapped in impossible binds, more kids who aren’t hurting enough to really speak out, more kids we’ve fooled into taking it like a man. But the point is this.

The permissive parents’ kids still know they can and will be punished for some things, they know the adults reserve the right to do it, same as with the rougher parents, so they’re carrying the bitterness too, them, the middle-road parents’ kids, they all know that. To my mind, the force is the trouble – and the science also says individual parents don’t leave a trace, that children are raised as a group function, by other kids, with the adult rules and structures in place – the force itself is an issue, but maybe just that all kids know generally that the adults will use the authority, the force, on them is more to the point. That knowledge offends all children, irrespective of how strict or wishy washy their own caregivers are. (That will be a sticking point, of course, I imagine a lot of parents don’t acknowledge that sense of offense, and I would respectfully suggest that not understanding that feeling means there is a large blind spot in our empathy.)

Again, they say individual parents don’t leave a trace on their kids, so that must mean individual parents’ styles don’t matter either – again, by their data, and their analyses, because of the simplistic categorization of “parenting styles.” Life certainly, but their science particularly needs a control set of zero authority parents, because that is the fundamental difference, authority, punishments and force, yes or no, and then perhaps we can make sense of the floating scale of less, more and most too. They saw very little difference, again, the middle road was only a little better, their main point is none of it makes any difference at all, so really, what that means to me, because I postulate force and punishments as the operative force in these matters, is when force is present, the amount of it makes little difference. Perhaps it’s a binary condition, like the presence of some poison the smallest amount of which is enough and more makes little difference. What we need to see is if there is a difference if we remove it altogether. Now it just so happens, I know a family like that we could interview, put through some tests.

Of course, they’d have to be compensated for their time, and these people are rare, which may drive up the price . . . really, though, for a “science” that is a hundred and twenty-five years old, a chance to establish a null control, for perhaps the first time?

What price could be too high?

 

Jeff

 

Jan. 16, 2016

Mom’s Such a Martyr – Parental Sacrifice and the Six Year Challenge

 

One of my many differences with people in the parenting groups and with the prevailing climate in the gentle parenting movement is around sacrifice, around parents looking after themselves as well as their kids, because it’s important to model self-love and care, and because we figure happy, less stressed-out parents will have more success with their efforts to make the gentle change in their parenting. All this and more, and it’s obvious, impossible to deny in theory . . .

LOL. Of course I’m kidding!

My contrariness is not easily intimidated. I don’t know if you, the postulated reader realize it, but I’m kind of living on the edge here, when I start these sorts of rants, often the subject of my critique is something apparently unassailable like this. This is a high wire act in my mind, unconventional thinking, and it’s not easy. But with every new aspect of my study here, I’m gaining confidence and I don’t think I’m going mad. Fooling myself that I’m winning any points in these arguments doesn’t seem overly difficult or complex, which tells me I’m not so far diverged from the reality of things. Of course, for a curmudgeon, this is where the fun is. So to it, then.

This generation’s allergy to parental notions of sacrifice has some strange roots. The image of the sacrificing Mom is that of the Nineteen-fifties middle America, thing, Dad off at work and Mom at home, a slave to the house, the laundry, the kids, and of course Dad, and Mom lives out her life never doing a thing for herself, a martyr for the family. That, yes, a horrible standard for Mom, working twenty-four seven and the most hardworking of Dads not working those hours at all, home time being largely off-time for Dad. This is a situation at which to rebel, and when I was young, it was Women’s’ Lib, the women’s’ liberation movement, or more generally known then as today, feminism, that broke the spell and let us all know that this sacrifice was neither ‘its own reward’ or the model anyone should set their daughters up for.

All right and proper, not strange, I know, but here it is: was that also not the time and culture that beat the crap out of their kids, out of our parents, us and our friends? (I’m fifty-five as of this writing.) I know, right, parenting blogs and feminist blogs and never the twain shall meet, but, folks, it’s all one world out there. Our martyrs passed on their second-class citizen status and associated abuse to us, right? I know, many acted as protectors, shielding us from our more violent fathers, but really, in that demographic, who raised the kids? All I’m saying is, I get it, that culture of “sacrifice” was bad, that model needs to go, for both feminist and – childist – reasons, no argument for that larger thing: that whole culture needs to change, absolutely.

But (and here come the comments), was the sacrifice really the problem in it?

If it seems to be, I think it’s only because of its close ties to abuse, that Mom’s sacrifice means she allowed herself and therefore us to be abused. Does the feminist movement want to say that Mom was complicit in her own and her children’s’ abuse, that is, is Mom’s shared guilt what they want to shine a light on, or should we not just keep the parenting talk focussed on abuse? Abuse is the real scourge here, focussing on sacrifice is oddly misogynist when we’re talking about abuse or parenting, it’s a form of victim blaming – as though there are impersonal, automatic cycles of abuse with lives of their own, but these martyr women, they’re making a choice in it, like they’re the only ones who are. It just smells off to me. Mom may have done it as an adult, but abuse is still abuse, even if we seem to volunteer for it. It’s the driving force in the dark side of our parents’ and grandparents’ parenting and Stockholm Syndrome in itself is a reaction, not a cause. All I’m saying is, Ladies, mothers, feminists and those who are both especially, yes, no-one should model that, that was some misguided sacrifice indeed.

To give the devil and the dark side it’s due, though, some bullshit in the name of a virtue is not a new thing in the world, and many a callous abuser has beaten his chest and cried about his “sacrifice.”  As Dark Side as I can ever be: is the flip side of ‘happy parents are gentle parents’ an ultimatum: ‘Call me out on my bullshit and I will beat the tar out of this kid?’ Misreads and abuse exist for everything, including sacrifice; it doesn’t mean things can’t ever be the good, proper versions sometimes. Sacrifice was our mothers’ and grandmothers’ immediate personal problem, their battle, and maybe still many ladies’ battle today, and solving it saves women, absolutely. Suggesting that fighting this battle somehow saves children, and that the two groups, women and children (read adults and children) can never be in conflict, that one’s gains can never negatively impact the other, however, isn’t right and it’s not helpful. Your fight for freedom was and is against the men, the adults. It’s still OK to sacrifice a little for your kids.

How sacrifice hurts us as children is only one of the many, many ways abuse hurts us. Let’s keep our eye on the prize.

So. ‘One of my many differences.’

I don’t mind some sacrifice. Yes, I’m a cultural Christian, and while that doesn’t mean I agree with the sacrifice of human beings in the literal sense, nailed to trees, I do think sacrifice is, at least in it’s better forms, a good thing, a moral act. In fact, it’s a big part of my planned cure for abuse and punishment in the world. In it’s most practical, generational terms, what I’m advising is that some punished and also possibly abused generation swallow that pain and find a way not to repeat, in fact to sacrifice what they see as a “normal, happy life,” live with the pain and troubles their childhoods left them with and keep their fucking hands off of their own kids, even if they think “raising their kids right” will make themselves feel better. That is gonna feel like some sacrifice, I won’t lie to you.

I felt it, believe me.

I can’t imagine how many times I’ve told the half-joke that I sometimes wish I had beat my second daughter up at least once, just so that during all the frustrating times with her afterward, I could have just closed my eyes for a second and treasured the memory. Man, it would be nice, once in a man’s life to bark an order and see it swiftly carried out. That is an immediate gratification I have rarely enjoyed, believe me. I have fantasies of personal power, my worldview tells me we all do, and I have happily (usually happily) sacrificed getting the payoff those fantasies promise.

In practical terms in a slightly shorter time frame, I would say the sacrifice of our inheritance of parental power needed to last until my younger daughter was old enough to talk and reason with, old enough to understand things, and as I remember it, she was five or six. She was born a full three and one-third years after our older one, so the difficult years, where we manually did everything we might want to train our kids to control themselves for, were then over before ten years had elapsed from the first one’s birth. I mean, ten years into our life as parents, we never had another cause to consider punishing. This when the teen years were still before us, and they aren’t anymore. We sacrificed, and it paid, sorry if that sounds ironically old fashioned.

We sacrificed a lot, all the other things, besides the sense of parental power I will save for another post, but there was a lot of work, and we had opted out of much of normal life around normal families, we sacrificed the support normal parents get from each other. Not kidding, it was a lot, but again: for six years after the birth of your last child, then it’s payoff time. Not kidding about that either.

 

 

Conclusions

 

That old model of family life, yes, that was bad, let’s do away with that, but let’s also make sure we’re fighting the real devil here, not some victim proxy. Mom’s sacrifice didn’t help, but abuse and force, these are the issues that shape us, negative things like these. Sacrifice is still a moral tool, with a legitimate existence. Do we imagine that in harsh, unforgiving nature, sacrifice on the part of parents is not a survival adaptation for the young and so for the species?

Having said that, part of what was wrong with the model of Mom’s martyrdom is that it never ends, the payout is never made. They thought the payout was our success and our happiness – but again: they whooped our asses while they said that to themselves, so that payout maybe never came either, right? Sacrifice for nothing really isn’t, in hindsight. What I’m offering you here is old-time, tried and true sacrifice, hard work for actual results.

Face that Mom and Dad were and all your friends and colleagues are wrong about the benefits of any sort of punishing, and hold back your punitive urges until your kids are six years old. Make that sacrifice and see what happens. And don’t get me wrong, be nice to yourselves, that part is true, it will be easier if you’re getting breaks. If, however, when it gets hard, and you can’t help but feel you’re somehow repeating Mom’s errors, over-sacrificing, I promise you, six years. Six years of feeling like something of a fool, six years of letting your kids get away with stuff you never would have gotten away with, six years of feeling like your inner child has lost a fucking lottery, and after that the hard part is behind you – a decade or two earlier than it was when our parents parented us, if you recall. For my wife and I, it meant it was that long before it ever got any easier for many of the parents around us, and neither the strictest ones nor the least so were immune, which, BTW, fits the social science study data.

Some sacrifice is a good thing, sometimes.

 

Jeff

Jan. 16, 2016

#SixYearChallenge

Negative Proofs

It’s a hard row to hoe, convincing people that all punishment is harmful, Sisyphean, in fact, but the opposite, that was pretty easy: a complete lack of punishment, no dispensing of negative consequences whatsoever – has no ill effects. Punishment is not necessary for life.

You may not be ready to allow that it’s harmful – but for the lack of it to be harmful, me and my family would have to show some harm, some of the sorts of harm we all agree might result from a lack of discipline, wildness, inconsiderateness, poor boundaries, violence, opposition, poor morals – and that is just not the case.

You can’t prove a negative, but you can prove whether removing an organ kills the patient. Punishment is like our appendix, a legacy condition that can only cause trouble. It’s not a requirement for life. I’ve proved that much, and that is no small thing.

You’re welcome.

 

Jeff

 

Jan. 16, 2016

All Right you Mothers – Part #1

First of all, women are oppressed second-class citizens, no argument. I’m all about the equality. Having said that . . .

Ladies, get your shit together, and just like Pink Floyd told the teachers – Hey! Leave those kids alone.

I spend a lot of time criticizing parents, and I don’t mean to be sneaking it in under the radar: mothers are the main parents. In most of the world, most of the child-rearing, and therefore most of the child-rearing mistakes are made by mothers. I suppose in places where the men have proprietorship over their women (old world cultures, sub-cultures where the law doesn’t reach, among the very rich or the very poor), we can say that mothers have no choice, there certainly are places where a lot of misguided mothering is forced upon the mothers by a brutal regime of men – but not in my life! In middle-class suburban or city life in my corner of the former First World, the west coast of Canada, for the most part, it is mothers who have control, mothers who are the autonomous rulers of the family. Men here are still children to some degree, still living in the power-shadow of their own mother; the industrial revolution has removed men from the family structure. We’re like lions now, we will be called upon to fight if there’s a war or a threat, or when the children grow beyond the mother’s ability to control them herself. Other than that, we will defer to the mother, as we always have, from our earliest days.

On a personal level, I would have been one of those minimally involved men – I still am, half the time. Honestly, I still have the weak male core-belief that my contributions to running the household are optional. I cook and clean sometimes, but it’s still sort of voluntary, and sometimes I don’t. I’m sure I would have happily taken the suburban male’s back seat position regarding parenting too, except for this idea I had, my epiphany that children should not be punished. Un-punished children would not have happened if I had left things up to my wife. In my house, it was me, the man, who stood up against potential violence, against the betrayal and disregard that punishing brings to parenting. In my mind, it was about that, about saving my kids from a lot of unconscious brutality, but I have to admit – I wasn’t excited to be that uninvolved, un-consulted father. I was, as so many young men in this First World life are, staring down the barrel of familial irrelevance.

Having seen the effect of that in my own father, as well as in the patriarch of my in-laws’ family, and knowing my constitution wasn’t matched for the alcoholism that was their answer for it, I knew that wasn’t going to sit well with me.

This whole ‘no punishment’ thing, though, this started long before I was able to articulate that fear. I never recognized my dad’s situation that way as anything he didn’t deserve, and I only thought about it in a personal context. It was getting to know my in-laws that gave me to understand that it was a situation many men have to deal with.  Or not, I guess – and that I was facing that crisis/choice also. I think the chronology speaks to any conscious need to build a rationale I may have had – but I’m willing to grant the possible overlap of interests. Much as I’d rather look at it as a pleasant surprise, some collateral repair in my life from choosing to do the right thing, that I fought a careful and prolonged battle with my still-beloved wife to implement a form of child-rearing that very few people would understand or agree with.

I felt for many years, while the girls were young and vulnerable that I was walking a wire not to piss the wife off to the point of divorce while trying to bring her around to my idea, and to this day, I can see the pain that her lack of control over things gives her. The poor girl has done what I advise in my blog, she has lost at both ends, powerless with her own mother, and then cut off from the inheritance of power she needs so bad as an adult, never permitted to enjoy the topside of our eternal parent-child power struggle. I was trying to make the same sacrifice, but I had talked myself into it already, her parents were present in her life . . . for whatever reasons, it was me driving the change and was my wife losing her parental power simultaneously with starting to see the situation of her childhood powerlessness. It was very hard on her. She would never have it any other way now, but I think young motherhood was harder on my young wife than it is for some, thanks to me. Not to mention that I was intervening and insisting on changes because the girls were here now and needed to be spared a lot of “normal” stuff now – and a lot of the “now” was before my wife had understood or agreed with the whole ‘no punishment’ (so no force, so no bedtimes, no mealtimes, no toilet training) thing. If I ever succeeded in one of these interventions, it was often only that I had complained long and loud enough that she would just capitulate.

There wasn’t mostly a meeting of minds while the girls were little. It was a pretty stressful few years, bad for me, probably worse for her. It’s been a lot better since the younger one was maybe five or six, for all of us. Having said that –

My wife is the sweetest, most passive girl I could have found. I would say nine out of ten women I’ve met during the child-rearing years of my life would not have either allowed me to make this change, either would have whooped the kids’ asses while I wasn’t around or left me and had them all to themselves, something. I know what we did, what I made happen is what was in my dear wife’s heart, and she’s been very happy with it for many years now. We have always known we were loved, all through the teen years, always the communication and the honesty has been there.

Using your power early on takes that away from you; it’s a trade no-one in my house will ever again consider, I’m happy to say. Having said that, that, to a considerable degree, is motherhood, this power trap that my wife so painfully escaped, the stage of life where at last a young mother gets to feel her own power rather than her parents’ power, at the expense of her children’s power. I’m hopeful that we have lessened the power of that cycle for our girls and that the cycle will not simply resume with them, when they have children.

I’m hoping that my beautiful wife’s suffering won’t have helped save only our girls, but their kids, and theirs, won’t have been for a blip in history, but the start of something.

So I know how I’m framing this, and it’s horrible. It’s like male/master/rational – female/slave of unconscious needs – and I’m sorry. Any psychologist will remind me that I was getting my unconscious needs met too, of course. As I say, I powered my way into a strong parental position. Also, I acknowledge that most parents will grant that she too had a rational position to argue; I don’t agree, but if it makes me seem less authoritarian, I won’t try to convince you!

Hmmm . . . 1,300 words . . . better leave off for now . . .

Jeff

Oct. 8, 2015