Domestic Violence among the Agents of Authority

Here’s a popular recent article from Addictinginfo:

  • And here’s the text:

You Think Football Players Have A Domestic Violence Problem? Cops Are Three Times Worse


One of the biggest problems with police is that simply being a part of the force gives them a PhD level training in how to get away with breaking the law. While the majority of cops are likely honest (I hope), this sort of being above the law can make life very difficult for spouses and domestic partners of police.

Over the last year or so, the National Football League (NFL) has been under fire for its domestic violence problem. After Ray Riceand Adrian Peterson, the NFL has vowed to do something about it.

Still, almost 70 percent of Americans believe that domestic violence in the NFL is a serious problem. Did you know that it’s actually a bigger problem with police, though? It’s three times worse.

The problems in the NFL are somewhat overrated. There are actually a lot fewer domestic violence arrests among NFL players than there are in the general public, but that could be because police are often fans, which brings us to police. Of all professions, cops are the worst for domestic violence.

In families of police officers, domestic violence is two-to-four times more likely than in the general population — from stalking and harassment to sexual assault and even homicide. As the National Center for Women and Policing notes, two studies have found that at least 40% of police officer families experience domestic violence, in contrast to 10% of families in the general population.

A 2013 Bowling Green State University study, through news searches, tallied 324 cases of reported officer domestic violence. It is likely that this number is a gross underestimate, because as the National Center for Women and Policing has detailed, officers frequently cover for each other.

“Cops ‘typically handle cases of police family violence informally, often without an official report, investigation, or even check of the victim’s safety,’” the Atlantic’s Conor Friedersdorf writes, quoting a study from the National Center for Women and Policing. “‘Even officers who are found guilty of domestic violence are unlikely to be fired, arrested or referred for prosecution.’”


Unlike in the NFL, police carry a gun for a living, which can make it particularly frightening for domestic partners. Even worse, they know where the battered women’s shelters are, so there is no escape. Even with cops’ reluctance to do anything about their brothers in blue, 40 percent of families of police report domestic violence, as opposed to just 10 percent of the general population.

Aside from having domestic partners of cops wear body cams, there isn’t a whole lot that can be done about the culture of domestic violence and its cover-ups. One woman in Colorado wasn’t wearing a body cam, but she did record the abuse of her daughter and even then, the police department tried covering it up. After the video made state and national news, the county dissolved the police and the sheriff’s office took over.

Jeremy Yachik, the abusive officer in Colorado, was convicted of egregious crimes. According to his girlfriend’s 15-year-old daughter, he regularly tied her up, slammed her head into walls, beat her with ropes, restricted her food, left her tied up in dark rooms, and force fed her a sauce that’s about 10 times hotter than habanero peppers. His punishment was three years of supervised probation, 30 days in a jail work-release program, and 80 hours of community service. We may have another chance at justice, but only because he was arrested last week for separate charges of sexually abusing a minor.

Featured image via Wikimedia

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So that’s a little depressing, to be sure, but it’s not a surprise, is it? After all, force and authority are the job, so it’s not a huge stretch to suggest that some police also believe in those things on a personal level and that some certainly employ them in their personal lives. I know I’m not showing causation, as Ms. Gittleson also did not, but this phenomenon does surely underline a strong correlation between the legitimate force of authority and abuse.

Causation and it’s proof are always hard to find in human affairs, so that will be a tough row to hoe, but let’s state the challenge, say it out loud and see what happens: how do we establish causality between the legal, authorized use of force and punishment and the phenomenon of domestic abuse? To say violence begets violence is a truism to my mind, but hardly a proof of anything, and anyhow, folk wisdom like that in regards to authority, punishment and abuse has a tendency to support the authorities’ positions. It’s something I’ve said before, but I would like to reset the precedence: folksy aphorisms will have to line up on the side of the status quo. But perhaps causation is not really the relationship there; maybe it’s more like one is the other rather than one causes or promotes the other. The analogy might be this, that choice does not cause discrimination; rather choice is discrimination, two sides of a coin. Certainly that is my view of it – punishment and abuse are two sides of a coin, two sides of the same coin.

We should never be surprised when a great number of policemen lose their faith in force and violence and begin to see their role as better served through mercy and discretion, but it should be no great surprise when “legitimate” force and punishment are co-resident with abusiveness either. I imagine that the difference is that some folks can keep force and punishment in the ‘necessary evil’ category while some just come to see it as a good thing always, as long as it’s being dished out by the right people.

I’ve made these points elsewhere, so I’ll leave off with my philosophizing for now. But the other thing about this article, the main thing, is frightening. Woe to those whom the agents of authority have singled out for abuse, for they have no-where to hide. Authority has a tendency to become a social club rather than a regulated organ for what is right and what is wrong; it always seems to be about who’s in and who’s out. In the worst cases, its members can apparently do no wrong.


Sept. 19, 2015

Why Ending “Corporal Punishment” Won’t Fix It

I had this idea of doing a YouTube sort of video, but for various reasons, I’m giving it up.

I spent some time writing it though, so here’s the rough script, just ’cause I can’t bear to write and not publish . . .

YouTube – Abuse with an Excuse


Me talking – scene? In the yard, birds and flowers?



Hey Folks, thanks for the click, of course.

This will be a talk about a sort of technical, psychological aspect of how we raise our children, and it’s not going to be exciting for most internet users.

If it were an 18th, Century manuscript, I guess it would be titled ‘A Critique of the Prohibition of Corporal Punishment’ –  maybe it will be, too, old-timey as it sounds, that is what it’s supposed to be.

I want to show that outlawing “corporal punishment” is not working and is not ever going to work to end spanking and violent child discipline and I plan to demonstrate that it is due to faulty assessment, that there is far more to this problem than what is happening in the very narrow definition of “corporal punishment.”

More, I hope to show that any policy built around the idea of stopping “corporal punishment” is in fact misguided, built upon a bad idea.

My belief, to avoid any surprises, is that punishment generally is a leading cause of our social problems and not a cure for them at all.

I think the world will become a better place with every act of punishment that we don’t engage in – but that is not the subject of today’s talk.

Today will be just one small part of that larger conversation.

So, Folks, if that interests you, if you’re a policy maker in the government or some Social Services agency, or a person engaged in the attempt to understand their own childhood and themselves, welcome!

Maybe you’re a teacher in an Early Childhood Education program, teaching our future daycare staffers and teachers, or simply a person who wants to delve deeply into parenting before, during, or after the experience of it, and if so, or for whatever reason this catches your eye, welcome!

I may bore you to tears or I may make you angry – parenting is very personal – the only thing I will promise is that unless you know me online or in real life already, you have probably never heard the views in here before.

If you make it through to the end, I’ll I commend your attention span, and welcome your input.

Again, on behalf of all humanity, because we all start out as children, I thank you for your interest.

OK then. I think we’re probably alone now.


Scene change?

Hi there, welcome to Abuse with an Excuse, the movement with a poor name and an even poorer chance of success, because, well, because we can’t have nice things, can we?

Scene change? – sad things, kids, people? A headline reading ‘Canadian Majority Government falls to No Confidence vote, nation gives Same Guys Super Majority?’

After all, if we could change only one thing to make the world a vastly better place, surely that would be too easy! Plus we wouldn’t deserve it, would we, sinners that we are?

Scene change? – images of Christian self-abasement, Whitey from ‘the DaVinci Code?


It sure seems like that sometimes, but I guess in truth, I’ll have to say no and no.

Of course we deserve nice things.

Plus, it’s a fact is that making this one change in the world will be anything but easy.

But that’s only because it’s unthinkable.

Scene change? – Galileo in the Tower of Pisa?


If we can get past that, it might not be so hard – so that’s the goal.

That’s my challenge to the world. Can we think the unthinkable? Can we get outside of the box?

We’ll be going after one of the PC Brigade’s favourites, I’ll warn you now. No shame in walking away.

Scene change? – Protest scenes, placards – Simpsons? South Park . . .



Don’t get too excited, I know we’d all like to think we get outside of the box sometimes – but we probably won’t like the outside of this one.

Most don’t.

We probably think that what’s outside of this particular box is something along the lines of a sharknado – no wait – Biebernado.

Scene change? – Can I do that? Sharknado scene, and the same with JB?



Don’t worry; I’ll get back to that.


Scene change? – Graphic of a box, and us flying into it, inside some image of people, humanity, then a “spanking scene,” then one of a parent administering a task-based penalty


Today’s box has two things in it, besides all of mankind: the first is “corporal punishment.”

The second, well, I’m looking for a better name, but generically perhaps we can call it simply “non-corporal punishment” for now.

The terms are problematic, and we’ll see why soon.

You get the idea, though, two sorts of punishment, corporal as opposed to otherwise, which means ‘pain, discomfort or endurance-based punishments’ as opposed to punishments that are intended to be non-violent?

Common examples of the latter kind are referred to as restrictions on ‘screen time’ for our modern, wealthy kids, the removal of a desired thing, a toy, the ‘timeout,’ ‘grounding’ (curfew), increased chores, etc.

Scene change? –graphic, outside of the box, someone closes box and labels it?

I’m sure I haven’t lost anyone; we all know that stuff, right?

That stuff, though, that is inside the box – and we are stepping out of it.

It is my hope that when we turn back to look at it, that we will see only the box, labelled “punishment.”

Scene change? – back to me talking – where?

So far so good? Super.

When we’re finished here, I’ll help you pack that box out to the curb. Hold on, we’d better back up.


This is about childrearing, parenting.

Scene change? – somehow show a bunch of folks approving of the task-based scene and disapproving of the “spanking.”

There are a great many people living in the box for whom the contents are distinct, very different things, and this conversation is intended for the ones who identify as anti-corporal punishment, people who do not hold with hitting children and “spanking.”

Scene change? – somehow show a bunch of folks approving of the “spanking” scene

All those who are pro-corporal punishment, you’re not going to care about what I have to say here.

Stay if you’re curious, but really, this conversation is for most of the folks you are in opposition to already.

Scene change? – somehow show the ‘pro’ folks disapproving of ‘anti’ folks  and vice versa

I don’t think you are necessarily any more harmful than the non-corporal punishment people on the whole, and I don’t think you’re not worth talking to – I just think this is internal, anti-spanking movement stuff.

Scene change? – meeting of the People’s Front for Judea? Palin guaranteeing Idle’s Right to have babies and Cleese’s response?

The errors I’m pointing to here are ours, not yours.

You’re next on my list to attack, don’t worry, I’m not forgetting you.

If you’re still being like that after I straighten these namby-pamby types out, we’ll talk.

Scene change? – me talking?


Where was I? Oh yes.

Don’t get me wrong –I’m anti-corporal punishment. Pain for pain’s sake? Kind of a no-brainer to my way of thinking.

In fact, I’m anti-punishment.

“Anti-punishment.” Let’s let that sit there for a second.

Scene change? – deer in headlights shot? Leela – “Yes. Wait – what?”

Has everybody heard that particular combination of syllables before?

Is it something we hear in the box?

Anti-punishment. Surely it’s been said, I just can’t be sure when or by whom.

The thing is, I want to be anti-corporal punishment, so I’m anti-punishment, period.

That’s how it works, sorry to tell you, but all punishment is physical, and it’s all based in violence.

It’s not all “corporal,” I’m not saying that, because “corporal” means the pain is the penalty.

What I am saying is all punishments require physical means to make them happen, enforcement.

Imagine forcing somebody to take a punishment over the phone, if you had no physical presence.

Scene change? – cartoon, Slyvester getting clobbered through the phone . . .


Me talking again

It’s possible, don’t get me wrong, some caregivers have that sort of power, but they got it through plain old-fashioned physical superiority, either in the past, the kid’s experience – or because of a present or future threat.

Or both, obviously.

(A word about pronouns. Sometimes when I’m talking about hypothetical kids, I’ll say, he or she, him or her, but if I lose track and I’m always talking about boys, it’s only an example, I don’t mean to leave the girls out.

I’m a man, and if the hypothetical has a correlation for me, I may say ‘he’ just through identifying with it.

I’m not intentionally just using male terms as global identifiers.

Mostly, I’m always writing this exact sort of stuff, and to type ‘he or she’ twenty times a day is tiresome to do, and tiring to read as well.)

When we can control our kids with a word, when we can impose a punishment and simply watch while the kid hands over the toy or walks himself to the naughty chair, whatever he has to do to pay for his crime, that kid knows something that we maybe don’t.

He knows that it isn’t optional, that if he says no to this penalty and opts for what comes next, that things only get worse for him.

Children that appear to take their punishments willingly know from experience what happens when they get their backs up and refuse.

This is what I’m saying about “non-corporal” punishment: it is always only the child’s first, best option.

It does in no way replace the rough kind of punishing, the physical kind is always there, because “non-corporal” punishment cannot exist without it.

Hmmm . . . wait a second . . .

Trauma doesn’t have to be consistent to be damaging, I mean your life doesn’t have to be all trauma to damage you.

Even one-timers can destroy people, worst case scenario.

That means that a child whose life includes mostly non-physical penalties is still vulnerable to trauma and damage if the discipline only turns violent occasionally – and it always does, at least occasionally.


The physical kind of punishing is always there, because “non-corporal” punishment cannot exist without it, that statement needs a little support, to say the least, right?

Well, this isn’t hard science, but I have a few things.


is everyone aware that much of the older child-rearing advice was proudly corporal?

Do we know that they advised smacking babies specifically because they lack language skills and therefore cannot be reasoned with?

Scene change? – baby shots, maybe an old birth scene with the ritual First Spank?

Actually, fair enough almost, they do lack speech and can’t be reasoned with, but I’m not actually feeling the need to weigh in here on corporal punishment of babies as such – I’m anti-ALL punishment, I’ll remind you.

But what the previous generations’ childrearing literature means is what I’m telling you about kids and non-physical punishments: we often learn our physical lessons before we even get our legs.

When a toddler or a child has learned to stand still and take his medicine, it’s likely because he has been trained by force, because, third time, you can’t talk babies into anything.

This I offer as proof that if we control our babies, if a great many of life’s conflicts with our babies are settled in our favour, there is only one way we can have accomplished it.



Scene change? – shots of Darwin, Goodall, a frowning, hairy Jemaine Clements . . .


when it really isn’t actual force – and I may have to know you well to believe you if you say so – maybe there’s a human nature aspect to it, that perhaps humans have retained some instincts. Maybe kids just know to toe the line when the parent is only showing warning signs.

That is something like genetic proof, if we have that instinct, because it means those of us without it flourished less, and that heeding the warnings is a survival trait– and it reminds us that a first non-violent attempt to control a child isn’t something we just invented.

If there are two varieties of punishment, they have always existed together, side by side.

Scene change? – Walmart scenes with kids? Corporal punishment in public?


Scene change? – back to me talking

Evidence that they can be separated is still pending; I’m not holding my breath, because the vast majority of households in Canada and America self-report still “spanking.”

That tells us this “no corporal punishment” narrative isn’t changing anything.


we have a long, long childhood and most of us never make it all the way through without calling the parents’ bluff at least once.

Somebody tell me that we never learned this when we pushed our grownups to the limit– our caregivers weren’t bluffing, were they, because what is punishment if the parent won’t back it up?

And in what way, while I’m asking questions and being rhetorical, in what way has this generation changed that fundamental fact about punishing? That you can’t bluff?

Rhetorical, of course, we haven’t. That’s the secret.

You know you have to follow through, right?

That statement right there, there’s another sort of proof.

If you have to follow through, then your non-physical punishment was always going to be physical if it had to be to work.

(That is a whole other discussion, what we mean when we say something “works.”

Perhaps that will be the next entry.)

Scene change? – scenes to show the following two scenarios . . .


and I’m sorry, it’s the same as number one, really, just another angle – how physical do you have to be sometimes to follow through?

Grounding and curfew aren’t corporal punishments – but the fight that will ensue when your teenager says ‘fuck you’ and heads for the front door is sure to trespass into the physical, isn’t it?

Same with a toddler who doesn’t want his timeout; timeouts certainly aren’t corporal punishments, but bringing him to where timeouts happen and keeping him there is something that happens in the physical world, isn’t it?

Where else?

Scene change? – me talking

So, that’s three or four points, arguments to show that “corporal” punishments aren’t the only rough kind, because all punishments have force, violence, and disregard as their basic, necessary ingredients.

I repeat: what is any punishment if we don’t follow through?

Punishing means following through.

Unfortunately, following through means just what it sounds like it means.


“Corporal” is not the point, if the other kind is also nasty, is what I’m saying.

What I’m saying is corporal punishment VS non-corporal punishment is not really it, it’s not a meaningful distinction.

The distinction should be physical or not, violent or not, if that’s what we’re trying to say, ‘don’t hit.’

Does it really matter if we hit them because we planned to, because that’s the sort of penalty we like and really not matter if we hit them to make them stay in timeout, stay in house arrest, or complete their extra chores?

Scene change? – a scene to show this? The old one of Dad marching a kid to the neighbor’s with the broken window, ball gear . . .

If we hit them to force them to do the restorative part, pay for the broken thing, apologize to someone?

Scene change? – – a cartoon for the following?

This entire conversation, could be put another way, I could say that we don’t endorse “corporal punishment” for original crimes, the thing the child did to warrant punishing, but we do indeed recommend it if the little bugger won’t take the first offering.

Scene change? – me talking

Ha. Sort of.

I’m not asking this directly, ‘is hitting in those situations bad;’ I’m asking is it qualitatively different than simply skipping the restriction or the chore and just hitting them straight off?

What difference do we think it makes if we fail at what we hoped for and wind up using force and violence anyway?

None of course – well, not enough, I should say.

If a thing is rough, it’s rough.

We don’t get to pick and choose which violence is good, because it serves our purposes and which is bad, because it doesn’t; a bad thing is a bad thing, so let’s double check, ask again.

Is hitting children bad?

Apologies – it’s just a rhetorical reminder.

If that’s the distinction – whether we hit them right away or not, whether we hoped we wouldn’t have to or not – then I’m really sorry, but all of our punishments are on the wrong side of the line and the wrong side of history.

This violence isn’t from corporal punishment, from hurting kids as a penalty, this violence is from stubbornly following through and getting physical in an attempt to punish “non-physically.”

Ironic violence I suppose, but it counts!

Scene change? – Monty Python fish slap? Back to me talking

Corporal punishment is physical by definition and non-corporal punishment still depends on our willingness to back it up with force, so there really isn’t a sort of punishment that doesn’t.

That means everything that is wrong with “corporal punishment” – which we say as though it means “violent punishment,” as if there were another kind – is really what’s wrong with punishment, all of it.

There is no “other kind,” this is what I’m trying to show, because again, as we know, what is discipline if we don’t back it up, don’t follow through?

Oh, Hell, this is the way I write, isn’t it? Nobody talks like this.

Actually, nobody writes like this either, let’s all just be thankful for that and move on.


Just say it, right?

We can’t “not hit” young children and still have control. I’m not condoning “corporal punishment;” that was intended to demonize control.

Control is the problem, and deciding “not to hit” alone won’t help.

When our control of our kids is non-negotiable, they will make us hit them, which is the trap, the rookie mistake we all make.

Do we think our parents were never starry-eyed youngsters who were never going to do that to their kids?

OK, maybe not all of them, but certainly some were!

The trap got them and us along with it, and it’s going to get us again because of this . . . misunderstanding, this misconception that hitting is merely a choice, when we’re not really changing any of the other choices that our parents made.

The trap has us if we think that.

Again, if our control of our kids is non-negotiable, they will make us hit them.

Didn’t many of us do exactly that in our youth?

Call the bluff, make them hit us?

Scene change? – Matt Damon, Good Will Hunting, “Nope. Bottle.” Williams, “Why?” Damon: “”Cause fuck him, that’s why!” Back to me, talking

I know my brother did, regularly.

(My ‘back story’ is that I watched my three older siblings and the fighting that went on in the house, and watched my hyperactive brother attract all the attention, more bad than good – so I was good, scared straight.

Actually, though, I did act out and earned a spanking and a grounding once, I guess, an all-day skip out of grade four or five and shoplifting spree, and it was from that sort of need too, for sure, testing for limits.

It was my one and only formal punishment as I recall, in childhood, before the teen dropout/rebellion.

The teen thing was too late for spankings and by then there really wasn’t anyone around with the will or the attention to administrate the groundings.

It’s at about that age that for good or ill, our parenting is often already done and over.)

Thing is, until we have kids, we may not know that we are quite so committed to being in charge, many of these attitudes are, uh, unexamined.

Scene change? – family voting scene from ‘Signs?’

Back to me, talking

For many of us, the idea of some democracy in the family is a new and dangerous idea, no-one suggests it; and if no-one questions parents’ rights, then no-one has to answer for them.

You know what?

It was sort of possible taking the first three quarters of this thing at least a little ways down the road towards fun – irony is fun for adults, right? –but at some point things are serious, or we wouldn’t be here, would we?

Punishment, over-punishment and abuse are very real.

I’ll try, but I’m afraid I can’t see many jokes from here to the conclusion . . . I’ll just try to make our time on the Dark Side as brief as possible and just remind us all that the truth can be painful, but it will set you free.

I think getting outside of this particular box hurts – so to try to take the sting out of it, let’s just watch my hummingbird feeders while we push on, OK?

Humour can only take us so far.

I think maybe some peace and quiet might serve us better.

Scene change? – Hummingbird video . . .


We’ve all watched parenting or caregiving from the day we were born, and it’s like the air, always there, we’ve never known life without it, and we can’t imagine having to ask ourselves what it is, or how it should be approached, right?

Scene change? – early scene from ‘Look Who’s Talking?’

Hummingbird video . . .

Of course, I‘m sorry if it’s obvious, but humans have built some deep fields of knowledge on the subject of air, despite that the air has always been there, that we’ve watched it from the day we were born . . . pick anything and look closely, and there’s a world of study in it.

For me it’s this question, one better than ‘corporal punishment or not’ this one – ‘punishment or not?’

For me, this opens up a new understanding of the world, such as the bit I’m trying to share with you today, which is “corporal punishment” is too specific, that too much violence, too much damage to children and damage to family relationships is still getting past.

Which it is.

Consider the growing prison industry and the proliferation of psychiatric drugs for kids and teens.

These poor fixes show that something isn’t working, that the hurt and the damage are still happening, despite our idea that we have stopped supporting violent punishing practices, because really we haven’t; not yet.

As children, we’ve all felt unfairly punished and known that those times had the opposite of our parents’ intended effect, that they made us sad, angry, less wanting to be responsible, upstanding citizens, if that was they wanted.


As parents, haven’t we all had some heartbreak or remorse, feeling terrible after having done the ‘tough, responsible thing,’ perhaps sensing that the effect wouldn’t be what we wanted?

Both of these multi-generational hurts happen because of this trap, because we imagine that simply choosing not to hit is going to be the answer to it, while really, that wasn’t the trap itself but only the bait.

It happens, our hearts broken at both ends of the transaction.

As kids and again as parents, we fall prey to this misconception that we can have it all our way with the kids, total control without hurting them in the process, because we think only “corporal punishment” is the bad kind, we think only “corporal punishment” will hurt and damage them.

When really, there is no other variety than the bad one.

Really, it’s all bad – if by “bad” you’ll allow that I mean forceful, callous, often violent . . .

“Corporal punishment” is the central element of a myth that allows the violence to continue that none of us wants or we wouldn’t buy into it in the first place.

Irony always in this conversation.


I hope I’ve been able to get us to see this myth, this “corporal punishment” with fresh eyes and some logic, and to see how that idea misses the point and subverts our efforts to lessen the violence and callousness inherent in our childrearing.

It’s a test for truth, that when we buy into a narrative and the promised change isn’t forthcoming, that the truth is lacking.

Let’s stop wasting each other’s’ time with this one, OK?

Let’s look at it a little closer, and we’ll see: the emperor has no clothes, the myth has no truth.

Banning “corporal punishment” will not stop the violence in our childrearing, and hoping so, just as so many of our parents did, won’t change it either.

We need to kill this well-intended zombie lie, and you know how to kill a zombie.

You have to go for the head, the brain.

Now, finally, again, don’t get me wrong, end corporal punishment now, sure – but it’s not the real problem.

The real thing, of which corporal punishment is only its lure, is punishment, all punishment.

I mean, we’ll phase it out; it won’t be all at once, I know what that’s like.

We don’t punish at our house, so when we get a punished kid to look after who’s in that never-ending grudge match with the adults, and he starts looking for a fight?

We can’t deal, we dial 911.

We just can’t play that game anymore.

So I get how if we simply punished and pissed everybody off forever and then suddenly removed all constraints – I get it, not bright, kind of terrifying.

Looking at you, Bieber.

There it is! Sorry, I had that one loaded up, I kind of had to.

Scene change? – scene of JB behaving badly

Hummingbird video . . .


Slow change is OK – but “corporal punishment’s” end is NO change, because every sort of punishment requires the ‘follow through.’

In that sense, all we’ve done is taken a stand and condemned the mirage, but no actual, real thing is going to be examined or criticized.

Worst case scenario, we’ll act like we’ve found the problem, and we’ll grow old and die wondering what went wrong – the current state of affairs – the worst case means we just never figure it out.


Of course, the only possible real cause to point to is punishment itself, again, if we think hitting kids is bad and we shouldn’t do it.

It might change the world if we can see that, if we can see that it’s the very core of it, the essence of punishing we’re really at issue with and not something . . . peripheral.

If it’s violence, hurt and disregard we’re trying to stop, then we’ll have to start to see that’s all punishment that is, let’s say problematic.

That’s the first step, obviously.

The thing is, we don’t even try to solve a problem if we’ve confused it with a solution. That’s part of this problem.

Scene change? – A few seconds of peace and quiet, then back to me talking

Thank you for reaching the end!

I’ll have the text of this available at, my WordPress blog and elsewhere, along with two hundred mostly shorter blogs from the last few years, and I’m happy to discuss any and all of it.

Shit Flows Downhill

Shit Flows Downhill

. . . and payday’s Friday, the plumber’s knowledge base, as we boys mansplain it to each other. (Wow. Word had no comment for that word! Did Microsoft buy the Urban Dictionary?) Of course, I’m not here to discuss plumbing, which is a good thing: I suck at it. This for the metaphor.

You know, the king wakes up on the wrong side of the bed and dumps on the court, the cabinet all growl at their staff and slash the budgets of their least favourite departments and ultimately the people don’t get their bread.

Abuse flows downhill, is what I’m trying to say, along the lines of authority.

The family version is, Dad lords it over Mom, Mom gets a little more disciplinary with number one son, this firstborn noogies his younger sibling more than usual and the lastborn kid winds up taking it out on the dog, who then puts the run on the cat, etc., etc., ad infinitum. Plus of course, Dad is upset because of something his boss did or said, who is simply passing on directives from above . . . not ad infinitum, technically though. In theory, the buck stops at the king or ‘the shareholders.’ I don’t think in this conversation that we need to credit Dad’s or the king’s claim that he represents and works for God; I’m not weighing in on God’s existence or not here, just saying I have yet to meet the man or the king who might be on God’s mailing list. Our default position for such claims must of course be skeptical, even if we think it’s possible. Certainly most such claims are false.

Abuse follows lines of authority, it bears repeating. Just as hierarchical structures of authority make so many large cooperative efforts possible for humans, it’s this same structure makes punishment and abuse possible. Without authority, punishment is simply abuse – but without authority, abuse would simply be an unconnected bunch of fights. Winners win, losers lose, but that’s just violence. Abuse is an abuse of authority, and authority means something like ‘legitimate power,’ so abuse is violence in a more specific, organized context. Interestingly, disorganized violence we can view as natural and amoral, like what the bears do and we don’t judge harshly for it. Abuse is different.

Abuse is a crime within some sort of social order. Along with all the new things human resource pooling has brought into the world like agriculture, industry, and community care of the sick and elderly comes things like oppression, war, and abuse – new crimes for new situations.

Of course, shit flows downhill in a racial sense too.

If, God forbid, Barkley was right as well as honest when he told us that whooping their kids is what black people do (paraphrase), meaning if there is any racial difference in America as to the use or amount of use of corporal punishment, then maybe this is why, because that’s how the stuff of plumbers’ efforts flows. Because life is a pyramid and bad stuff falls down from above like a champagne fountain where people are the glasses; the ones at the upper levels hold what they can and all the rest falls to the ones below, all the bad stuff winding up at the bottom. Do I have to say who is at the bottom of our society? The poor, obviously, among which group black and brown people are over-represented here in North America.

So maybe Charles was right, maybe the stereotype, the cliché has some truth, maybe the under-classes really are rougher on their kids. I am not a racist, no “buts.” If that stereotype has any truth, and if it is in any way due to the fact that gravity operates on our waste, then that is on us, the folks at the top.

I love all things in and around social issues, I love socially-directed comedy, and I really enjoy black comics preaching about racism (Chris Rock: a black man has to fly to get to where a white man can walk!). I do worry about my own racism, because that pleasure is very specific, almost fetishist if you consider that I live in the most black-deficient place in North America. But Chris Rock, Pryor, I love those guys. Know who I can’t stand? George Lopez. I don’t suppose it’s his whole act, but unfortunately for me and George, the only few times I’ve seen him, he was going on about how his parents whooped him, how it was good for him, and how if we don’t whoop our kids they’re all going to turn out badly. All I can see in it is a brown guy, a member of an oppressed group, talking about how the answer for people is more oppression, more roughness.

I pity a person for that, knowing that their pain is too great to face – but these comics, Lopez is not the only one, many comics do that material, Eddie Murphy did – these comics are marketing their denial, and marketing corporal punishment. That is not helpful – plus it is easy to see it as a form of collaboration with the folks at the top.

Shit flows downhill, but that sort of comedy is like installing a pump in the line too, really un-called for.

Now for some really wild conjecture – in a discussion of racism! What could possibly go wrong? – regarding race, class, and corporal punishment: life is tough for the under-classes, and if the poorest folks really are rougher on their kids it isn’t from any sort of bad intention. We all think discipline is a good thing. Poorer kids are at higher risk levels for everything except being spoiled and feeling entitled, so maybe poor parents make a logical choice to be stricter, to do more of what they hope will keep their kids on the straight and narrow.

As for why it’s not working, if that’s what’s happening, I will refer you to the rest of my blogs, but suffice it to say it isn’t champagne that is flowing down on the poor from above and it isn’t champagne that poor folks have too much of and have to pass down to their children.


July 12, 2015

Crimes, not Victims

       Crimes, not Victims

I’ve said this elsewhere, but – damn.

It’s one more example of the political Right’s nastiest bit of spin-doctoring – the “liberal media.” How long have we been talking about women’s rights, black and Hispanic rights, gay rights, children’s rights? All these groups.  The national conversations about whether it’s acceptable to discriminate against them or not are really starting to piss me off.

The focus on the specific marginalized group is what gives it the lie. Don’t know if we all noticed the difference, but when we were talking about the Catholic Church, did we question whether children were on the no-molest list? No, we blamed the priests and their bosses. When we see the ISIS atrocities, do we discuss whether the victims are Christians or Muslims and which if any of those victims are on the no-decapitation list? No we’re talking about the perpetrators of these crimes, of course.

So why is discrimination different?

Why, when the crime is discrimination, is the focus on the victims? I believe the wording of the discrimination laws offer a clue: “race, creed, religion, sex, age . . .” – so anyone who wasn’t on the radar when they drafted those statutes is still fighting to get into the text, to get on the no-discriminate list, I guess. But why?

Why is obvious, of course. It’s about who is dominant in the culture, and they’re not in the habit of prosecuting themselves. So, there’s a for-real why, making my rhetorical one kind of stupid, but still: why, when this is what might be rational? That discrimination is a crime, and I don’t much care who your victim is! There is one important group to mention in this conversation, and that is white people (here in Canada and the USA), most importantly rich white people. Discrimination is a crime engaged in by the dominant ones, by definition, so that’s the group we’re talking about. Discrimination by minorities is a lesser problem, also by definition.

Why can’t discrimination just be bad? It always is, isn’t it? Why can’t we just let it go, why are we hanging on to the pure essence of something that we have already outlawed for many major minorities? Is it that we feel we have to discriminate against somebody?

This is a quickie, so here’s the upshot: if you’re watching your TV and some talking heads are going on about gays, or women and their rights, switch them off. If they’re talking about victims, that’s our clue: that talk is the perpetrators’ game. The liberal considers all people to be citizens and worthy of rights and protections, and so the conversation is not about who the victims are, they are the victims, that’s all we need to know.

This is about crime, which means we should be talking about criminals. We should be talking about crime. Only the criminals sit around discussing whether their victims have rights.

Forget Forgiveness

for bd, AI, TTMO, pamela . . . i’m forgetting people, I know – oh, for thewalrusofsheol, wraith and noahbody . . . anyone who needs a break from platitudes . . .

with love from the dark side of parenting

Forget Forgiveness

Wait, wait, hear me out a bit. Believe me, I know the generally accepted narrative: you can’t hold anger in your heart, you have to let it go, all of that. I even accept that our worst tormentors probably never had a chance not to be the way they were, but still. Forgiveness is overrated.

First of all, for it to be what it should be, for the thing to live up to the advertising, forgiveness would have to be optional. As things stand today, in the view of this cultural Christian, that really isn’t the case. We all know that forgiveness is the endgame, and that it’s only a matter of time before we find ourselves somehow omniscient enough to forgive – almost without exception, even in some of the most horrible cases of abuse. The pressure to forgive starts the day our victimization comes to light.

That pressure leads many folks to a premature declaration of forgiveness, at a time when probably neither the abuser nor the victim have really learned their lessons. That sort of forgiveness is easily rescinded as soon as the abuser does what they do, and for that, rightly so – but the pressure simply restarts and it can become another dysfunctional cycle in our lives. Worse to my mind, is simply that in this Original Sin based Christian society, victims may suffer endlessly but abusers can too often sit and wait to be forgiven, that it’s automatic, that they are entitled to forgiveness from any decent Christian victim. That’s the Christian ideal, right, ‘Father, forgive them?’ Well, you know what?

The legend we have for the moral behaviour and teachings ascribed to that fellow, Jesus, are a rather impossible paradigm. We need to see that as a sort of bait and switch game, which is probably no more fair or positive for us than comparing our bodies to the impossible Hollywood beauties carved out of surgery and starvation. So with that in mind, and believing that there are more things to be in the world than saints or Hell-deserving sinners, I say f@#$ ‘em, our torturers. Let someone else forgive them, some moral savant or someone with less of a personal stake in it, someone who can afford to forgive them, because mostly, we can’t.

In this Christian culture, we know about Original Sin, we know we are all sinners and subject to the Christian message, that we will all sin, and we need Jesus’ forgiveness to avoid eternal pain and suffering. The human being cannot help but to reason and analyse, and when something goes wrong the human being wants to know why. We may need this information again, and so we find the agency responsible, we assign blame. In this particular culture, where we are prone to blame ourselves already, sinners that we are –

          if we forgive the obvious culprit, who will be left, who takes responsibility? For us, the default is us.

That is what I mean, that we can’t usually afford to forgive our attackers, because blame deflected from them too often comes back to us. That is some serious unfairness that the victimizer is freed from the accusation and victim suffers both, the abuse and the guilt. Forgiveness for the abuser is far too often a continuation of the violence against ourselves.

Second, real forgiveness is a process of maturing, a process of acquiring a longer perspective, and in most cases it takes time, real time, like the time between generations, like the time between the spring and autumn phases of our lives. Of course there’s part of the social pressure to forgive in that: we want to look like we’ve matured, and in a healthy way. It would be more ironic if it weren’t the normal situation: we are expected to go far too swiftly from so hurt as to cause a rift to a state where we have healed, matured and are now in the power position, bestowing forgiveness. That is not the sort of thing that the majority of sightings of it are ever going to be the real deal. That transformation is never easy and not often quick. Truth to tell? Several decades and the demise of our abusers probably go a long way towards bringing that achievement – and it is one – into the realm of possibility. Some of us don’t even want to heal as long as our parents are alive to see it; we need to be the open wound, the accusation; we can’t imagine goals for ourselves until they’re gone.

So my idea is this: we need to keep ourselves of two minds about it. Forgive in theory, know as you go about your life that ‘there, but for the grace of God, go I,’ and think that all of us could be that bad and hope that we can all be forgiven, sure – but let’s keep that in perspective, let’s keep that cerebral – cold, even. Let’s don’t invest our own feelings in it, give that idea our head maybe, but not our hearts. Our hearts need to be protected.

What I’m saying is, let’s stop treating abuse and forgiveness as personal, one-off situations, matters of the heart – after all the Big Data is coming in: we are not alone in our troubles. Not with 7,000,000,000 plus people running around – and start using our heads. Let’s consider that the prevalence of abuse and all manner of unpleasantness short of it and the near universal need for forgiveness likely indicates a social problem, and put our collective heads to it instead.

I just mentioned this rant to a wise woman I know and she told me a story about forgiveness. She was upset about a failed marriage, and she was always on a self-discovery journey anyways. She spent some serious time – three or four years – doing a lot of inner work, stuff involving her father, etc., and at a point, it became clear all the ways in which she had married her father – hardly all the fault of the man chosen for the part. She wasn’t looking for a way to forgive her husband, I think she was mostly still mad about it – but her own work towards self-knowledge took her to where she had to forgive herself, and forgiving him was just, uh, collateral repair.

That, I think, is how it works, and I know that’s what we’re advocating when we recommend forgiveness, but a few things need to be said.

One, that was a very intense, directed bunch of work that lady did, we don’t all do it, and even so, years.

Two, that was an adult situation. I’ll check, but if my wise friend has forgiven everyone, her own parents, etc., I think I can safely say it took her a bigger chunk of her journey than that focused three or four years of father-work. This person is on the lifelong plan. And that’s the sort of approach that produces real forgiveness, always as a by-product. For our caregivers, our parents, our abusers, the situation is very different, most obviously because we don’t choose our parents (at least those of us who aren’t reincarnationists don’t think so).

Whether we believe that all our damage from our earliest days can be healed or not, surely we can agree that the chance that it can’t be must be considered in any calculations we’re making. A full understanding of what even happens during our earliest days, while some people have remembered and dealt with some things, would remain impossible to guarantee considering that limited understanding we had during the experience. I think, given the inevitable unknowns, that true forgiveness could only result from our achieving a state where we could forgive literally anything.

I’m not saying it’s impossible, it happens all the time. I’m just saying it takes time, and if its schedule is even in the same ballpark as the abuser’s idea of a proper schedule, then it’s probably not the real thing. (Forgiveness is something taught to us as children by the very people – parents, preachers, teachers, in short, adults – that we might end up having to forgive. That is a conflict of interest at the very least, and an outright, cynical scam in the worst cases.) There is tremendous social pressure to forgive, to look healed and mature, to show the forbearance and mercy of a good Christian martyr – and unfortunately, the form of forgiveness usually satisfies the social pressure even if the substance is lacking and the true healing delayed. I worry that if forgiveness can become an entitlement, then there is no mechanism to change our behaviour, that if we must forgive our cruelest caregivers then perhaps we can make lax choices and do our own kids wrong, knowing that we’ll be forgiven in the end.

These are my concerns about forgiveness as a given. That if we forgive too soon that we’re blaming ourselves instead. That if we find a way to forgive our tormentors, that we may be less aversive to making the same sort of mistakes with our own kids. That forgiveness is only a treatment for a problem and not a solution, that we need to spend more energy on stopping the abuse and harm in the real world rather than accidentally trying to minimize or legitimize it by declaring all sins to be not only forgivable, but that they all must be.

Finally, let’s compare our usual attitude about forgiveness for a moment with our attitude about punishment as a parenting tool: that a cultural Christian or possibly a person from any bible culture is expected to aspire to forgiveness as a moral obligation, and along with the same culture’s injunction to ‘honour thy parents’ means that erring parents are to be forgiven if at all possible and to be pretend-forgiven if not. Contrast that with the parenting situation where the dealing out of penalties for misbehaving children must never be shirked. Discipline must be consistent for it to work. That has the potential to give us a glimpse of the measure of the gulf between our experiences of child- and parenthood:

Parents, abusers, even if they get no penalty other than their child or victim’s ill feelings, can wait for their socially entitled forgiveness while the child can be secure that his or her penalties will be swift, rarely waived, and even more rarely apologized for.

The social pressure to forgive is always there, irrespective of detail. I’ll just let you imagine how society’s will gets expressed when someone stands with the children and tells parents that the apologies and forgiveness are all traveling in exactly the wrong direction.


July 6, 2015

Don’t Believe Me! “Abuse” VS “abuse”

Don’t Believe Me! “Abuse” VS “abuse”

First of all, WhoTF am I?
Actually, when you’re nobody – like me – of course you’re staunchly opposed to the logical fallacy we call ‘appeal to authority.’ Clearly, if authority is a prerequisite for correctness, and someone like me carries none of it, then I’d have to just be wr . . . wro . . . I’d just be wr-r-r-o . . . oh, , forget it. It’s too heinous to consider, let alone say. Of course, in the case of my favourite subject, it’s authority that’s wrong, definitively.
Appeal to authority, while never a guarantee of correctness, is always beside the point. Right is right and wrong is wrong, and it’s on all of us to understand why something is or isn’t correct. It almost doesn’t matter that a thing is right if we ourselves can’t say why. “Because X said so” is even less satisfying to us (to me, at least) in our adult years than “Because I said so” was in our childhood ones – plus in the adult world, it’s even scarier.
Second, this idea isn’t one that requires a great deal of memorization. Once you get the principle in your head, it all just flows.

Definitions of abuse
Punishment can be pretty well defined as abuse (in the generic sense, bad treatment) with a purpose. When the deterrent alone fails and the penalty is to be dealt, we hope that the reality of the penalty will increase the power of the deterrent going forward. So the abuse – the beating, hiding, whipping, whooping, spanking, curfew, grounding, withdrawal of: love, privileges, loved objects. Angry shouting, threats, and insults – the abuse in the generic sense, meaning treatment we don’t enjoy, the abuse is all part of the deterrent, which of course, the deterrent is supposed to avoid all the bad stuff, both the crime and the punishment. I expect you’re way ahead of me, right?
The punishments are acceptable because they add to the deterrent which we hope will lessen future punishments, so punishments make for fewer punishments, apparently in some sort of magical feedback loop (which, if said loop actually functioned, misbehaviour and crime would be cured at an early age. If this feedback was a functioning, important part of our lives, the world would be upside-down from what we see, the well-behaved and unpunished would never be improved, and the most punished people of the world would be the best behaved! Need I say it? Study after reputable study show that the world’s most punished people are the most damaged ones in nearly every way imaginable). But that is going too far too soon.

Most of the people I interact with on this topic have a go-to, first definition for abuse (Abuse, capitalized) which is the one that means damaging, illicit, and immoral and is offered as mutually exclusive with legitimate punishments. This is the most popular definition today, I think, so fair enough, we do indeed require a term for illicit, immoral abuse. It’s just that I’m not ready to lose the older, more generic definition of abuse, meaning anything directed at us because it is something we wouldn’t like. I know it’s too late to stop the above definition from taking over the world, and I wouldn’t anyway: “Abuse” is a terrific term and covers so many forms of abuse, making many small causes part of a larger one, that is an important function.
But to the extent that it has become a Label, it has become something of a hindrance to clear thought around punishment, corporal punishment, and the consequences of forms of abuse (lower case) that have not yet found their way into the upper case territory of Abuse. In the world of social science and human behaviour, functions like abuse and its damages have their existence in a continuum, a gradient from none to all, with some randomness. My challenges in the discussions I have with some who may be too dependent upon the Label are all around this black and whiteness, ‘this is Abuse,’ ‘that is not.’ It begins to appear that at the first point in the gradient that a person defines an act to be Abuse, say the 51% mark, it is Abuse, insupportable, damaging, and to be deplored, but at 49%, we’ve not met the criteria, and the act in question therefore somehow defaults to being supportable.
Most importantly, viewing a gradient scale like this as a binary one allows any damage we suffer and cause to ourselves and each other that is born from abuse suffered under our hypothetical 51% threshold to go undetected, unaddressed, untreated and unmitigated.
It seems that Abuse qualifies for a lot of attention, abuse not so much – a problem, I believe. Although they are perhaps different stalks of a vine, they are very closely entangled. My concern is that we cannot kill the upper case one without that we are also willing to kill the lower. My fear is that the present situation – that we suffer the Abuse to live because we love the abuse – will never end.
Can we agree on this? That the punishments we use are a form of abuse, in the generic sense? As opposed to any legal sense, or any definition that is intended to differentiate the acceptable from unacceptable. Generically, if I call you an asshole in traffic, that is me abusing you, verbally, yes of course. And perhaps mine was abuse in a sort of moral or legal sense, whereby no good would be deemed to come of it. Perhaps though, the act of drivers cursing at one another is often harmless, so if no violence occurs, no harm, no foul, and as such, is lower case abuse
Now if I were to yell at my kid, tell her she’s a bad kid, in order to motivate her to not do whatever it was, that is me abusing her, in the generic sense at least, certainly, but with a good purpose, an admonishment to set her straight in life. That is what I mean by abuse with a purpose.
(With my blog name – – I have made a harsh judgment, renaming the purpose as the excuse, and therefore defining abuse less generically and more toward the immoral or illegal. It’s a little provocative; the present exploration here may cause me to re-think it.)
This example may be a good one, perhaps yelling at a child and telling them that they’re bad is Abuse in many peoples’ minds, and not bad enough for the label in others’. Then, this being my point, it is certainly abuse in the other sense, something the child is not likely to enjoy, certainly an act somewhere along the spectrum and therefore carrying some gradient danger of damage. For those who define it as Abuse, it’s to be decried and stopped; for those who wouldn’t capitalize it – I am apparently free to carry on with my yelling and efforts to make my child’s “badness” one of her core beliefs. That, just in case I didn’t make it clear how I would define it: if I had to choose, it would be Abuse.
But I don’t have to choose, and neither should anyone. It’s a false choice, Abuse or abuse – “abuse” is bad enough.
If we take that attitude, we may actually make some headway in our efforts to battle bullying and Abuse, for this reason: the cycles of violence and abuse are not only driven by Abuse, but by abuse generally, the legal kind as well. Not only is the choice a false one, Abuse or abuse, but the enemy in our battle against violence and Abuse is a false one, a straw man. The psychological and social functions that we can observe, the cycles of violence, the cognitive and other types of damage associated with corporal punishments and Abuse, these dynamic forces are not composed of or driven by our distinctions. They are made of and driven by real things. Things that we don’t like, things that harm us or decrease the joy in our lives, these things, to the degree that they are experienced, are what drive the negative social forces. It doesn’t matter whether the negative stimulus is beyond our hypothetical 51% for Abuse status. It all carries its share of risk, at every percentage along the scale. “Abuse” is a legal sort of definition. No such distinction exists in nature.
In reality, it’s “abuse” that is the operating force.

A Natural Force, like Gravity
Perhaps an analogy, something to help clarify the difference between how we are so much more able to think critically around hard science, but not so much around other things. Think of abuse as a natural force, like gravity. We know gravity is a natural force, and we know that it exists in proportion to the mass of the object, usually only considered for celestial bodies, planets, and if we go hopping from planet to planet, we know we’ll encounter varying degrees of gravitational force. Perhaps the clever lads and lasses at NASA even have a fairly good idea of at what level of gravitational force things get too dangerous for humans, the amount of gravity that would cause dangerous collapses, would simply grind down human joints at an accelerated pace, or make it too difficult for the heart to raise blood to the brain– a quantity they might capitalize, Gravity.
Does that help?
All gravity has a quantifiable measurement and all gravity factors in life. Normal gravity wears joints out, and weak hearts can’t always raise blood to the brain even here on Earth. Falls and collapses have their risks here too. Of course, there are other things, but just for that little bit of our illustration – if we could lessen the gravity on ourselves, even if it’s not Gravity, our joints would last longer and feel better. At half of Earth’s gravity, I bet our knees would last right through to retirement.
So this is the heart of the matter of Abuse, my friends: it’s abuse that is the natural force, like gravity, and as such, abuse that, due to its ubiquity, has its effects on our lives. “Abuse,” meaning as opposed to ‘legal’ punishment or discipline, is a straw man, a mirage despite being a real life scourge, and it is the supporters of the lesser “abuse” that give oxygen to Abuse. “Illicit harm,” this is not a core concept. “Harm” is the core concept. I’ll say ‘keep our eye on the prize’ after we can get our eye on the right prize in the first place.

Thanks for reading, and please, retweet, reblog, get it out there, it’s free. Tryin’ to save the world here.
If anyone knows a PhD who can run with this, terrific.


A conflicted Society – Psychology VS Punishment

A conflicted Society – Psychology VS Punishment

A swat is good for a kid, teaches ‘em right from wrong. This has been accepted wisdom for many, many folks for a very long period of time: punishments teach.
Abuse damages people – this has probably been accepted by fewer people, and also for fewer centuries.
Can we think both these things? That is to say, is there a place in our minds for both of these . . . functions? Is there room in our society for these opposing apparent effects we see as resulting from what are perhaps closely related causes?
Psychology and the naming of the ravages of abuse have the potential to change the world in unimaginable ways. The symptoms and unrealized potentials that so often follow in the lives of the abused are a scourge the vastness of which cannot be overstated. The only measures of it that approach the truth are our wonder and appreciation of those who somehow manage to overcome, as well as our appreciation of those who refuse to repeat their abuse upon the next generation and to imagine a world without abuse is to imagine nothing less than heaven on Earth. Unrealized it may be, but only the fields of knowledge in and around psychology and sociology have the potential to bring this dream into the realms of possibility. Unrealized, to repeat. I admit that.
The reasons for the unfulfilled potential of the study of human interactions are many, and not all within the scope of what I’m trying to say here. Conversely, the unfulfilled promise of the other idea – that is sort of my specialty. The other idea, of course, being that children need discipline – read “punishments” – to become responsible, well-behaved, law-abiding adults.
The social – I hesitate to say ‘sciences,’ so the social ‘fields of inquiry’ – haven’t really been tested yet, in terms of their potential to cure some of society’s ills. Despite so much good information coming out in the last few generations about the damages of corporal punishment, spankings and other corporal punishments remain the rule rather than the exception. Despite the consciousness on the part of the psychological and psychiatric communities of the harm caused by punishments, over-punishments and abuse, these professions seem to spend their time selling fixes for the harmed people after the fact rather than focussing on prevention (I mean, to be fair, that is more properly the province of social workers and educators, plus it’s so vastly worse than just pointless and thankless – it’s no wonder no-one gets paid to do it). It seems the patients possibly believe in psychology, and are willing to use what psychology offers – but it appears their parents and caregivers do not. Therapy is looked upon as a very personal thing. When a person’s damage is so bad that it robs them of their quality of life, then they may look at the source of their pain; when we are tacitly accused of being the source of the younger generation’s pain we are less likely to participate in that examination.
Punishing, the belief in punishing, sets the scene for abuse in many ways. I know it’s a normal part of the narrative around parenting and abuse to say that proper ‘discipline’ and abuse are opposites, to say that the parent seeks to mold and direct their kids while the abuser seeks only to harm and humiliate. However to believe this, one must ignore all the gradients between those poles.
One must refuse to see that near the worst end of this bridge, that there is some remnant of the parent, and that near the best end, that there is some small component of the abuser. This would be a truth even if the two things were opposites – but psychology has shown us that as much as they are, they also are not. The truth is that, even as within the popular narrative’s apparent opposition all punishing has a component of abuse, the darker, psychological story of unconscious mechanisms show the abuse component to always be present in fairly constant measure. I’ll make a sharp left turn here.
I’m guessing that paragraph separated the believers of psychology from the believers of punishment (‘discipline,’ if you prefer)? Did anyone just make a choice, or learn that they had already made a choice somewhere in the past? Because that is the point I’m heading for here. No-one seems to take psychology or childhood trauma seriously, not until we run out of choices, or until our choices take a deadly turn, not until we’ve lost everything first. This is my point, the answer to the questions posed at the start of this little rant. If there is room in our minds for both of these concepts, then our minds are split, our selves are severed in two. We need to understand that a choice is necessary. Of course there is only one choice to make.
A modern person who has no concern for abuse, no concern for the consequences of the pain we create, that person is a monster, a villain. That person has been destroyed, he’s either a rare, birth-defected organic monster or has suffered some kind of ultimate abuse himself (or some combination, the possessor of an activated ‘warrior gene’ perhaps). That person has not made a conscious choice, and that isn’t a choice that it is possible to make consciously.
In the middle ground is where humanity lives, nearly all of us. Unaware of the choice, or unaware that one must be made, we treat the lessons of psychology like art, an amusing intellectual exercise, humouring the work and the visionaries who have shown us the way as though they were children and their life’s works were finger paintings.
“Sure,” We say. “Betrayal of love. Childhood emotional and mental trauma, being trained to look at hurt and deprivations as being good for us, demonstrating Might is Right, modeling bullying and the use of force – that’s bad, I mean, I guess . . . but what are you gonna do?” (Shades of ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’ . . . )
“Like, sure, psychology. But seriously . . .”
This, while in our real lives, we punish, wielding pain, withdrawal of love, and selective deprivations of all kinds ostensibly to produce ‘better’ people – because we think the lessons of psychology and the understanding of abuse, unlike hard science’s laws like gravity, only apply to some few of us, to extreme cases, to other people, to other parents, to other parents’ children.
There is a choice, one conscious choice to be made, because not to make it leaves us in the middle ground. That choice is to buy into the basic premise of psychology and the understanding of abuse, which, at its simplest is: hurt hurts. To deny the social forms of philosophy this way, to believe in punishing is to say hurt heals. That’s the simple logic of it, peeled down to the essence. But beyond that, because we don’t really believe in the sciences of human behaviour and so this logical truth can’t reach us, this:
Punishing, being what we have believed for millennia, has us still living in a world of abuse, war, hatred, bigotry, and a crumbling environment. If you think it hasn’t caused it, I ask you this: has it fixed it? Do we think it’s going to fix things any time soon, is that our fantasy? Will anyone say that if we treat our children, our criminals and our enemies with more harshness and less forgiveness that that is the way to peace, tolerance and a better future? Five, six, maybe ten millennia of ‘discipline,’ and this is our world. It’s not all bad, but it’s got a lot of bad still. Is this supposed to be the generation where our ideas of bringing pain and with-holding love will finally solve our problems?
No? So that isn’t a choice, then? What about the status quo?
Would no change in the level of pain and deprivations we use to make things better be a viable choice? Should we be just exactly this harsh and retributive then, and if we do, can we expect improvement in our problems? Should we make sure not to decrease the amount of unpleasantness we visit upon each other?
No again? Of course we want to lessen abuse and pain in the world, but we think we can get there while supporting a concept like punishment, a concept that means hurt heals, a blatant reversal of what is obvious and true.
Or is it yes?
Yes, we really do think the knowledge of abuse and its damages isn’t real, or somehow not important? We really do believe that a great deal of hurt is bad, but some hurt is good, so we need to make sure everyone gets hurt in some perfect measure, we really do think that if we don’t hurt each other, if we don’t hurt our children in some way that they won’t learn and the world will become a worse place?
The knowledge of abuse and its harms are the future of the pursuit of human happiness, and the belief that using pain and the loss of love to make better people of our children is the dark, unconscious past, that is what I’m saying. Let’s get on the right side of history with this. We’ll need to take psychology and human science out of the universities and into our homes, into real life. Most importantly, into our families, our parenting. This is it.
Hurt hurts, or hurt heals.
If hurt heals, then what is abuse?
If hurt hurts, then what is punishment?
Anyone who thinks the world is getting worse (it’s not) because of our gradual increase in humanity (a slow but constant upswing), is suffering from Good Old Days Syndrome; they are not making an accurate assessment of our long violent history. As bad as things look now, they used to be worse, and it is humanistic ideas, the fulfillment of which could well be our modern understanding of abuse and its effects, that are making the difference. The modern lives with no humanism, gang life, lives of never-ending war and strife, they are the lives with the most violence and crime, not lives lived in liberalism and molly-coddling.
That’s the choice before us. Humanism, psychology, these are the real deal, let’s let them change us. Let them save our children, our world. We’ve tried the other idea, over and over, hoping for different results, and we know what that is. But of course, mental illness is one of the documented symptoms.

Familiarity Breeds Blindness – When We Can’t See the Concepts for the Words

It’s a sad thing when words lose their power, when we have lived with them for so long that we’re no longer impressed by the things they signify. I think it was when I was reading “Midnight’s Children,” (set in India) when I was shocked, first by the expression ‘sister-sleeper’ and then in “White Tiger” when it was the stronger ‘sisterfucker’ and I realized that our version, ‘motherfucker’ had lost its punch, that I was no longer feeling the image it evokes. I started saying and writing what I think of as the Indian version in order to take advantage of its freshness and power. (Interestingly, my Canadian Microsoft Word is also accustomed to the mother version, but is flagging the sister version for a spell check.)

Show a man a photoshopped picture of himself in coitus with his own mother and he’ll react – but the word for him in that image just means somewhere between ‘dude’ and ‘swine’ these days, at least for some of us. ‘Sisterfucker’ isn’t a more disturbing concept, it was just unfamiliar to me, so my mind looked at it a little closer, and the image was a nasty surprise. I must have quit paying attention to what ‘motherfucker’ means. Now, in case anybody’s concerned that I’m switching gears, don’t worry. Here it comes.

I re-posted one of my older child-rearing, anti-punishment blogs on another site and it started a few conversations with a few people, a man or two and some ladies, some mothers. The conversation came around to my controversial stance that ‘corporal punishment’ is a misleading phrase, that in fact (‘fact’ to me at least), without a willingness to get physical there can be no punishments. Hold on –

early on while writing my blogs and my book on the subject, I looked up ‘punishment’ to get a somewhat official definition. The dictionary ones were pretty straightforward, but the Stanford Dictionary of Philosophy went on for many pages. What I came up with, in the shortest form, is that punishment is the imposition of an aversive in order to lessen an unwanted behaviour. ‘Aversive’ means an unwanted stimulus, a term I usually change to ‘unpleasantness,’ and ‘imposition’ means to put something on someone without any condition as to whether they want it or not. So a punishment is something you don’t want and is put on you without your consent, in order to change an unwanted behaviour of yours.

That, just in case ‘punishment’ is a word that we don’t examine anymore, just in case we’ve forgotten the meaning or never really heard it in the first place –

So I spent a few comments trying to convince some people that all punishments depend on force, that their children weren’t likely to have been taking their non-corporal timeouts and such from a place of willing agreement, that their kids probably had learned, either the hard way or by inference, that the non-corporal punishment wasn’t going to be optional, that if they didn’t take it, it would wind up being forced upon them, that the punishment would escalate.

I’m trying not to generalize about gender here, but interestingly, among these very few people in the discussion, the most vocal man made no bones about it. Damned straight, was his attitude, a good smack will put them right. Kids don’t understand talking; that is what they understand.

The ladies, though, they didn’t believe in hitting or corporal punishment, and while they did believe in punishment, they insisted they didn’t back it up with force. Trying to make my point, I asked repeatedly if their punishments were optional, if there was any way the punishment wasn’t going to happen, or if it was going to happen by hook or by crook. One of the ladies assured me that it wasn’t optional, that if the child simply walked away from his or her timeout, that she would simply bring the child back to it, as many times as it took. I didn’t argue that ‘bringing the child back’ was a physical act, and I didn’t ask how forcefully it might have to be done if the child was stubborn about it, although these are certainly important parts of the puzzle for me. I just asked again, if it’s not optional, then the parent is going to make it happen by whatever means necessary, right?

One answer struck me as pretty schizoid, but maybe it’s just this language thing, maybe the words in the response had been said so often that the meaning had been lost: in an answer that said ‘punishments are not all backed up physically’ someone said something like ‘of course you have to follow through.’ Now that last phrase is familiar indeed, ubiquitous even – we all know it. But unexamined it must be, because otherwise how can someone say ‘of course you have to follow through’ and feel it is somehow a contradiction to ‘I am willing to do whatever it takes to make this happen?’ So that’s what’s happening, I think, when I try to make this point, it’s the same as my opening example, like we hear the deadly, incest accusation of ‘motherfucker’ all day long, and it’s all in fun, harmless, like a friendly ‘cabron’ between pals, but when I say that all punishments are backed up with force . . .

well it’s like I said ‘sisterfucker’ loudly during a moment of quiet at a church barbeque. Shock and horror. The deer-in-headlights blank stares of the good peoples’ moral indignation.

So I’m the bad guy. All right, I’ll play that role, I’ll crash your barbeque – what time again? Oh right, I remember. It’s always happening.

It All Starts When We Punish our Kids, Part #7

It all starts when we punish our kids.

What all starts? Well . . .


Addiction is a strange thing.

I used to say, getting high, getting drunk – that I can understand, but gambling? Spending all your money to feel the high from heroin, or from weed, you’re getting something, at least some relief from all those pesky feelings, and with alcohol . . . well, I think with drink what you get is different. I think what alcohol gives you is a chance to vent, a chance to give voice to your worst feelings with no worry that you might remember doing it.

But gambling? That seemed like only half an addiction to me. You lose all your money and . . . nothing. Talk about cutting out the middleman. That is some pure, un-cut self harm right there.

And that is the clue to what’s really going on with addiction.

The addict tends to think that the very thing that is ruining him is the thing that’s saving him – that’s another clue. The addict sees good in the harm, perhaps it’s possible to say that the addict can’t tell good from bad, but probably more accurate to say that for him, the harm looks like good, or feels like good.
Harm from which good is said to come, or good that is derived from harm?

That is what punishment is supposed to be, that is the theory of punishing, good from harm, harm to create good. And this is where the addict learned it. Where we all learned it, at home, from our caregivers.
When a parent punishes, either hits, spanks, grounds or puts us in time-out, confiscates a desired object or simply withdraws his love in order to hurt us and induce us to avoid that hurt by doing what he wants, this is what is shown: good from harm. Worse, the parent explains it, spells it out: this harm is good for you. For many of us, for so many of us, this lesson is applied for nearly every possible hard lesson we get.
It’s no wonder so many of us think harm is good, at least that harm brings good.

Is it?

Familiarity Breeds Contempt – Corporal Punishment and the Catholic Church

Just when I thought we had an enlightened Pope, the obvious truth comes out to smack me in the face – well not in the face, I guess. This obvious truth smacked in some other part of my body, some part where being struck isn’t going to cost me my dignity, I guess.
This Pope has come out on the side of many marginalized groups, gays, Muslims (marginalized in the West), even women, I think. He even said righteous atheists could go to heaven! But this –

“He made the remarks during his weekly general audience at the Vatican, which was devoted to the role of fathers in the family.
The Pope outlined the traits of a good father, as someone who forgives but is able to “correct with firmness” while not discouraging the child.
Some child welfare campaigners have questioned his comments.
The Pope said: “One time, I heard a father in a meeting with married couples say ‘I sometimes have to smack my children a bit, but never in the face so as to not humiliate them.’
“How beautiful,” he added. “He knows the sense of dignity. He has to punish them but does it justly and moves on.””

– this was rather disappointing. It says in the article that the Catholic Church argued that it “in no way supported corporal punishment,” but one has to wonder if this most shockingly liberal Pope could say this then what would more conservative back-benchers think about it. The article also mentions that the Church had come under criticism last year by a UN committee that was monitoring the progress of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child.
So, I’m a little afraid that we’re all getting a peek behind the curtain at this Great and Liberal Pope. If he can be supportive of corporal punishment for everybody on Earth – after all, we all start as children – then perhaps that gives the lie to his support of smaller groups, perhaps that support might start to look merely political.
The premise I find amusing: that as long as we’re not struck in the face, we retain our dignity while receiving our corporal punishment. I’m sure we all remember how dignified we felt when our pants were pulled down for it.

Personally, I feel this as a slap in the face, and sort of well, personal. The guy supports every possible cause they throw in front of him except mine. Murphy’s Law, got me again.