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

 

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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

The Cruel Irony of Deterrents

This is my favourite series right here. It’s outside the box, it’s to the point, and entertaining.

 

😉

 

https://abusewithanexcuse.com/2014/10/22/law-and-order-the-irony-of-deterrents-part-2/

https://abusewithanexcuse.com/2014/11/06/the-irony-of-deterrents-part-3/

https://abusewithanexcuse.com/2014/11/27/prisons-and-bad-neighborhoods-the-irony-of-deterrents-part-4/

https://abusewithanexcuse.com/2015/02/02/the-carrot-and-the-stick-the-irony-of-deterrents-part-5/

 

These ones are better coupled with the Irony series too, I think . . .

 

https://abusewithanexcuse.com/2014/09/01/punishment-a-self-fulfilling-prophecy-and-the-roots-of-institutionalized-racism/

https://abusewithanexcuse.com/2015/07/12/shit-flows-downhill/

 

Thanks for reading, folks! Please, share and retweet, it’s all free. Trying to save the world here.

 

Jeff

Dec. 19, 2015

Policing at a Crossroads

. . . same crossroads all things eventually reach when they start down the road toward humanism, or just plain exist, moving like the rest of us into the future. At some point in the train robbery, you have to commit to letting go of your horse and holding on to the train. The period where you still have both options is dangerous, so safety dictates it be short. I know, sorry.

I’ll go straight to it, but it’ll take a minute still – still sorry.

I caught a headline somewhere, most likely Twitter, some person got released from a wrongful conviction, and got paid some great amount for damages, which got me thinking. Of course, the first NPLP (something I’m trying to start – Namby Pamby Liberal Pussy. Folks like me.) thought is ‘Yes! Science has saved another wrongly convicted man from police machinations!’ and yes, there could be a racial aspect to the story, I mean of course, there always could be, but the picture was of a black fellow.

Then of course, I sort of globalized the concept, like I enjoy way too much, started to wonder, if there are say, a thousand such cases in a given place during a given period, then how many of the thousand were non-criminal innocents and how many might have deserved their sentences or worse for crimes they weren’t prosecuted for and/or convicted of? I mean, surely, if the police can be known to have railroaded an innocent black man into prison, then it is probably not beneath their morals to have set some heinous, dangerous criminals up for solid wrongful convictions either.

So, the first RWN (Right Wing Nutjob, something that’s a normal epithet on a site I play on, Thoughts.com) thought following that probably is, I hope somebody is reviewing which sorts of folks they’re setting free, like trying to make sure the newly free drug-related convicts really are only that or something. And, yeah, we always hope for some local knowledge, some attention to detail. Numbers games are always error-riddled.

But for me, again, trying to globalize, trying to see the social implications of all things punishment-related, this is it here.

That second practice must have felt pretty justifiable, if the cop knew, for sure, that his target’s incarceration would make the public a good deal safer, that if in short, the end really was justification for some evil means. However, technology, humanism and morality have moved on in this case, specifically, the old setup tactics are failing now because some humanists, someone who cares, have applied DNA testing etc. and caught the police cheating.

In the long term, each generation gets treated better than the last, and they each learn to expect to be. We expect moral circles to expand, and we are viewing moral issues in a more egalitarian, more logical way with each decade as well, and one result of that process is this. We want to hold our police to the law more than we perhaps have in the past. Police forces evolved because the wealthy found their prosperity to be more stable when the King tried and punished crimes, rather than living with the endless feuding produced by the previous vendetta sort of system where families looked after offenders to their interests privately. So police came into being long before modern democracies. Now, we are taxpayers and the police don’t work for the King anymore, they work for us. So the time honoured tactic of setting a man up to please the policeman’s employers, now, looks as criminal as it always did, except worse.

Worse, because the victim is supposed to be the boss. Worse, because it’s now our moral issue, because we’re the boss. Can’t blame it on the King anymore, it’s us. Now that it is, I think we think the police are supposed to do their jobs and somehow succeed while never straying across the line of the law themselves for the very good reason that when they stray, it’s sometimes against us. I don’t imagine anyone has escaped the image of an experienced cop’s disdain for the idea, and fair enough, I get it, I do. It’s violence for violence, the experience is real, the danger is real . . . but still. As true and undeniable as that is, it’s still, I’m sorry, not that meaningful, uh . . . scientifically, yes, even for social science. Anecdotal, to be sure, but not only that. The thing is, all that is life as viewed from the past, from horseback. Our societies, and our police forces are at the choice-point now, still feeling the ongoing trauma of our authoritarian ways of the past and still trying to keep a grip on it, but we also have one hand on the train of the future, where mass media and big data are starting to show us who we really are.

So when the King’s dragoons abuse their position, it’s a moral crime, sure, but he’s the King, he’s responsible and we’re not. When our tax-funded, public police do, it’s our moral crime, we’re responsible, and in democratic societies like ours we need to do something about it. That is our job, to vote intelligently and not support evil, law and order politicians.

For the police, that is the crossroads we’re at. Yes, we have in the past turned a blind eye to some over-stepping on the part of the police, but now here we are, taxed and paying for it. Any herd of herbivores tolerates the presence of the predators, perhaps, the wildebeests live with the lions as a fact of life – but I don’t think they would if they had to pay for it too. I think this crossroads perhaps adds up to a slight change in job description for the police, an acknowledgement of the democratic nature of our society and who’s working for who.

Specifically?

What if we did let’s say, refresh our commitment to the police staying on the right side of the law themselves? We the people might try to remember that the goal, eventually, must certainly be a lawful world where at least the police aren’t criminals too. Sorry, also not very specific. Let’s just brainstorm a bit, point form.

  • It might not be going too far to suggest that police need to lose a few more fights to regain public sympathy. Personally, I reserve my concern for the people who lose the vast majority of the fights. Today, the police don’t look vulnerable enough to justify their shoot first policies. I think non-lethal weaponry in the hands of the police would go a long way towards building some public trust for the police, and for that to happen, there has to be some sense that police casualties are indeed a negotiable thing, as long as there are so many more citizen casualties. As long as the life of a single cop is supposed to be worth more than any number of citizens, we’re going to be in conflict and in that sense, police are creating social problems rather than solving them.
  • I actually like the idea of this possibly fictional ‘Ferguson Effect.’ If the police are really engaged in a sort of work slow-down action to protest the growing public scrutiny of them or to avoid getting themselves into trouble, that might be a good thing. If they are not going through a door when their only possible security is to kill those folks on the other side, maybe that’s a good thing. Personally, I can imagine that there are ways in which even gang activity and drug dealing are less offensive than state-sponsored murder of criminals. I mean, if this is the conversation?

“Hey, Police! Stop shooting unarmed alleged criminals!”

“Hey, it’s dangerous out here! Do you want policing or don’t you?”

“Yes, but murder is a crime, so it is for you too!”

“Hey, it’s my security! Do you want this crime stopped or not?”

“Yes – THIS crime, but your crime too!”

“Hey, if you haven’t got my back, I ain’t working! If it’s my life at risk, I ain’t going through any more doors. See how you like it when we’re not out there killing criminals for you.”

This adds up to an immediate threat, a pressure play, but what if maybe we call the police’s bluff, what if we stop and think about it for a minute? I say we give it a try, see how it plays out. Whatever happens, we learn something. So here’s my response:

“Good idea. Let’s see how it works out. If everything goes to Hell, we’ll make changes again, but for now, yeah. Let’s see how it pans out.”

  • We need to stop arresting people for minor crimes, period. An arrest is an action that is an escalation compared to many of the “crimes” we arrest and detain for, and as such, worse. We need to mail out invoices for fines, and we need to help the miscreants pay the fines – not arrest them and start potentially deadly fights to do it. If we are trying to lessen crime, then we need to stop justifying larger crimes – confinement, violence – by using them to stop smaller ones.

 

So, this is getting long, I’ll stop.

Long and short? As a society, as many societies, we seem to have missed the change, we seem to not have noticed that democratic governments change everything, all the ancient social institutions, and that police forces today work, literally and officially, for the people, all the people. What was police brutality in the past and used to be a private act, the King’s goons working out on His citizens, is now insubordination. Eric Garner was a member of the consortium that employs the NYPD, a citizen, and he was murdered by his own public servants. Ironically, that should offend authoritarians everywhere as well as everyone else.

It stopped being us VS them when we established our democracies, Folks, it’s all us now. Let’s deal with crime generally, not just some people’s crimes. Ours too.

 

Jeff

Nov. 23, 2015

Getting Carried Away – Punishment Psychosis

Getting Carried Away – Punishment Psychosis

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: these mass shooters are punishing their victims.

It’s NOT a new thing, and it’s not remotely anything different than what we all do, what we all approve of, violence as a response to things we don’t like.

They learned it at home.

We all agree with their basic premise: we should hurt people who do stuff we don’t like.

Because that’s supposed to straighten them out, as if our punishing stimulus is the only stimulus, as if nothing else in the world has any bearing on what people do, as if we’re all living in one of Skinner’s boxes. Manson, Brevik, probably all of these idiots, they have such an unconscious, un-formed idea of what they’re doing – those two apparently thought the spark of their violence would ignite the whole world in race violence – that it betrays a kind of blindness, a sort of blind faith in the power of violent punishment, that all they thought they had to do was begin and some sort of chain reaction was going to start the race war that cures the world of whatever they don’t like. This seems to be the fantasy of the mass shooters, one violent act of punishment and the world is changed. This is perhaps what may be referred to as Punishment Psychosis, when this fantasy takes over your life.

I repeat: we agree with this idea. Punishing what we don’t like is supposed to change the world for the better.

Yes it is, and we agree! Well – YOU do. I’ve seen through it, I’m working that poisoned insane logic out of my system, but trust me, I spend a lot of time online and in person fighting what I have determined to be a terrible scourge, the practices of punishing. Almost no-one doesn’t think we shouldn’t hurt people to make them do what we want; in positive wording, almost EVERYONE thinks hurting people to make them do what you want is the way to live.

It’s not. It’s really, really not, and we’d all agree if the only example is these mass shooters, but we’re corrupted. We get our own payoffs, we get things to go our own way in this system, so we can’t or won’t admit the connection when we see the obvious logical extreme versions of it in the news. Repeat: obvious. Really, really obvious that murder is nearly always a punishment, yet somehow that fact is irrelevant, and I find myself baffled, echoing the Aboriginal view of the environment.

How are basic truths somehow irrelevant?

How is it that the basic, obvious motive for the mass shooters – punishment – somehow not a part of our attempt to solve the issue? It’s because punishment is ubiquitous, invisible. It’s something we do, actively, it’s not something that happens by itself, yet we can’t factor it in to anything, we can’t imagine it as an option, we can’t imagine taking it out of our equations as a factor.

OK, look. I know you see this as quixotic and stupid, I know the point I’m making looks like this: people get poisoned, and poison one another, and that’s all because we all eat. If we didn’t eat, we couldn’t be poisoned, what’s the point? You gotta eat. If that seems a good objection to you, I respectfully submit that you’ve given the game away, suggest that you have maybe just proved my point, if you can equate punishing with eating: you think punishment is like food, we can’t live without it.

That’s just not true, despite that we all think it.

My wife and I raised our kids without using punishment once, and my girls did not grow up wild and amoral. They are moral and brilliant, and if they do anything wrong, it’s never anything punitive or violent. Because that’s just crazy when it’s supposed to be for a good reason, let alone when it goes pear-shaped.

My model, my hypothesis predicts this: that this phenomenon, angry mass shooters, is not going to change and it’s not going to end, because the prime driver, punishment, has something like Diplomatic Immunity. It isn’t going to improve because of ideas about gun control, because in the Punishment Culture, or the Punishment Cult, the tools of violence are held on the ‘solutions’ side of the ledger. If we could change that, then real change could be possible. But until we do change that, this thing isn’t going away.

Because the basic thing happening there? You LIKE it.

Don’t We Think Our Parents Did their Best?

Don’t We Think Our Parents Did their Best?

Kids nowadays got no respect.

They’re out there right now, whining about their pasts and blaming their parents, like their parents were supposed to know better or something, telling their own kids what brutes their parents were, while condescending to these poor, just started walking upright past generations that they ‘did the best they could,’ or ‘the best they knew.’

In past generations, my ‘no-punishment’ talk might have at least found an argument. The older generations at least knew that they were punishing, and they knew it was a practice that could be attacked and/or defended. But these kids now, trying to raise their own? You can’t talk them out of something they don’t even know they’re doing. These nampy-pamby modern young parents think they can get it all their own way without corporal punishment, without getting physical on their kids – which means when these too-nice parents do get it all their way through intimidation and threats and having shown the kid who’s boss while he’s a baby and can’t tell anyone, as well as by occasional violent outbursts, that no-one’s allowed to realize it because ‘We are not a Family that uses Corporal Punishment.’ That is the difference between the honest corporal punishers of the past and a whole lot of the ‘non-spanking’ parents that were the children of the 60s, 70s, 80s, and 90s.

Don’t get me wrong – these are the gentler of these children with children! Many still just spank – but they still mostly think they’re nicer than the old folks were, and maybe so. Maybe so, but the first group mentioned above, they tried to make a real change in principle, at least in their minds if many perhaps failed in practice, but the others? It’s not even a philosophical split. For the ones who are staying the course with parental authority and physical methods, it is only a matter of degree, what the old folks got wrong. They just took things too far.

So here’s the insolence, the lack of respect.

What did the previous generation, the children with grandchildren fail at? Were these knuckle-dragging forefathers simply incapable of controlling themselves once they started with the whoopin’, is that the theoretical basis for the ‘took it too far’ theory? Perhaps it was something they thought instead. Maybe they simply held with stronger deterrents and stronger penalties than we do today, or they had a longer list of punishable offenses., so the difference is perhaps not that the beast remained so strong in our parents and grandparents that they were simply more impulsively violent, but that they were more institutionally violent, that it was not accidental, but a belief driving the action. If that’s closer to the mark . . .

Then what did they fail at?

Strictness level too high, penalties too harsh? So this generation has the dial in just the right spot, is that it, kids nowadays don’t have the same feelings and the same complaints as our parents did and our grandparents did, because we have dialled in just the right amount of pain or deprivation to match their crimes, and they can’t help but admit it? Or are the children of the children of these modern middle-aged children still going to make the same complaints to each other because the basic principle hasn’t changed, namely, ‘they never let me X and they think they own me and they shit on my life whenever they want?’ Find me the evaluation of any matter of degree in that, I ask you.

So were our parents, our grandparents unevolved, incapable of non-violence, or less violence? No, that wasn’t the trouble then, any more – or any less – than now. There were some gentler people living in even the far past than many people living today; civilization is not a linear progression, it’s messy. Did they simply ‘go too far?’ No, because of course we don’t go too far – and you know our kids have all the same complaints we did and our parents did. Again, I’m still getting to it: the disrespect.

They didn’t do their best and fail. They’re not animals with no self-control any more than you are, and they didn’t fail at assessing what was punishable and what was an appropriate punishment, either. They failed because there is no winning this game. Spoiler alert –you are not going to win the game of discipline in child-rearing either, and self-control won’t save you. Getting just the right amount of force and/or fear in your discipline isn’t going to win it either – because . . .

The right amount of force, violence, deprivation, unpleasantness of any sort is none, exactly none, which is a principle. These are the contrasting principles in this story: the betrayal, violence and/or deprivations of punishment – or not; yes or no, that is a difference of principle, and that is the only change in our child-rearing that would be a real, qualitative change.

The old folks, they didn’t fail, because that’s not fair to say of someone who never had a chance in the first place, and it’s disrespectful. Those folks weren’t stupid. They were exactly like us, they had better intentions, and they did the best they could within a bad system. If we think we’re going to do better, without having a better idea, without having a different idea, then we’re going to find out, and we’ll know that we were no smarter than they were. Too late to make a change, of course.

Evolution isn’t automatic. It happens because we want to live and sometimes in order to do that, we have to figure out a better way.

Our Parents Did Their Best, Didn’t They?

       Our Parents Did Their Best, Didn’t They?

Our parents did their best, right?

This is not your usual parenting blog, and ‘yes’ is not going to be at the top of my list of relevant answers. If you’re looking for support for a normal parenting model, structure, discipline, that sort of thing, move on. I am not in the business of seeking to be popular with the great masses on those topics, and here you will find only one piece of advice regarding those things. Unless your child has special needs I don’t know anything about – just don’t do it, or rather do it as little as possible. I don’t mean socially possible, or possible for us, uh . . . mentally without a lot of internal conflict and even pain. I don’t care about that. I mean, I care, a little. Parental pain however, is not my primary concern; this is for the kids, as they say. What I will accept as a real constraint is money. If you’ve got to go to work and your kid is screaming blue bloody murder and doesn’t want to be dropped off – well then my concern may also be that you keep your job and the kids continue to eat and enjoy their roof – still though, there is probably an entire range of income levels where people might say that. At some point, uh, no. Somewhere between if you’re rich and if you really could stay home without losing that home, your excuse for forcing and frightening that kid starts to wear thin. I’m not saying ‘Ladies, stay home.’ I’m saying go to work, Mom AND Dad even, but find a way to get to work without having to use force and discipline on your kids, that’s all. Your chance of parenting success improves if both parents are doing the work.

That’s all I’m saying.

If you’re poor, or unsupported, working class, even lower middle class, people have to work, and so my ask of the world of parents becomes a big one. I know you have to move them around quickly, I know certain sorts of misbehaviours just aren’t tolerable in the short term and a short-term only fix, less than optimal as it is, is sometimes all you’ve got. Society, inequity, all manner of evil shit conspires to make life tough all around and worse for the poor and working poor, and anyway, everyone thinks that the tougher we are on our kids the better, so no shame in it, it’s normal. I still ask one thing though:

Just think about it. Just as you go about your busy days, doing all the stuff you have to do, just try to keep me and my plea – don’t punish your kids – in mind, see how it fits. Maybe notice the times when a promised punishment wound up with the kid in harm’s way from trying to avoid it, or that the worst kids seem to have the parents who are ‘using discipline in the most vigorous way,’ things like that. I know most of us don’t have the luxury to wait and reason with a child, but just start to think about doing just that if you could. A lot of rich folks could, but they never think about it and they don’t.

What we do regarding discipline is the problem, and not a solution for anything in the medium or long terms. Structure, unfortunately, requires discipline, so that’s out the window too. So to whatever extent you can afford it, even if it’s only dreaming about gentle, patient parenting, please, live free-range, give up the structure and the tradition and anything else that makes you want to punish your kids, that is my position.

Are you still here? Really?

You know I mean any punishment at all, right, not just the physical stuff, not just hitting and corporal punishment? That I mean don’t take away screen time or favourite toys (or God forbid, pacifiers, rattles, or Mom), don’t ground punitively (you may sometimes need to keep a child or teen home for their physical safety, I suppose), don’t put ‘in timeout,’ none of it? Just don’t do anything if you’re doing it for the specific reason that your child won’t like it. OK?

OK, we must be alone now!

Where were we? Oh yes:

Our parents did their best, right?

First of all – so what? ‘Did their best!’ That, as they say, plus a couple of bucks will get you a coffee at most places. Seriously – Hitler could have said that! Again, seriously! What do you suppose are the odds that his final prayers included the words ‘God, I tried, God, I did my best . . .’ oh, Man. I so want to blather on about Hitler right now . . . but no, back to kids, more important by sheer numbers. Riddle me this, Dear Reader if there is one, or Objection, Your Honour if you prefer: relevance?

In what other situation, when humanity attempts some feat and fails, is the admission – ‘they did their best’ – also the solution? That shouldn’t be the end of it! Of course it amounts to an Appeal to Emotion and can only serve to put a stop to any further questions, but sure . . . there. All fixed. Sigh.

Of course they did their best. If the Hitler illustration wasn’t clear enough: we all try to do our best. But what is it we’re doing that we have determined is ‘the best’ we have to give? Again – refer to your Hitler lessons. Everybody’s ‘best’ means something different and it’s not a good enough answer; we need to know why things go wrong, duh. But there’s something else.

If all the parents in our family’s history ‘did their best’ and that somehow means it’s OK or at least that we’re not going to talk about it anymore, then I would like to contrast that with how we seem to feel about them, the other, all those other parents out there whose best isn’t good enough at this very moment. Surely there must be a huge number of people out there who are neglecting their responsibilities and not educating or disciplining their kids. How else to explain the state of affairs in the world, the bullying, the disrespect, the crime and delinquency?

(I wanted to say ‘the music’ but I thought the joke would work better if I didn’t give it away for another quarter-second.)

With the present state of affairs, can we dispense with the apologetics and say that it might matter if the current batch of parents’ best isn’t good enough? No? Careful there, you’re right, it’s a trap: if the excuse that works for our parents works for the other, then we’re not going to be able to blame things nowadays on parents nowadays. After all, they’re doing their best, right? So . . . yes? It matters? Of course it matters, if parenting matters at all, but that is not enough agreement to matter, is it? How does it matter, exactly, that’s the thing. If it’s the thing I said above, ‘a huge number of people out there who are neglecting their responsibilities and not educating or disciplining their kids,’ then first, I thought you left the room a long time ago, and second, uh, no, not so much. There is no such large group of parents. How many do you know, how many people have you ever met who profess no interest in disciplining their children? Seriously, that hypothesis is bigotry in the broadest sense, postulating something that it is possible to believe about the other, but patently ridiculous if it were suggested about ourselves.

Pretty much everybody in our culture believes in discipline, don’t believe the talk, as if the support for discipline is threatened. Still, it is possible to see the world and children and teens as being in a terrible, uncontrolled state – so if there’s anything to it the answer must be somewhere else. And it is.

So they did their best, that’s true as far as it goes – not very far – and we can’t blame them, but I tell you this: if we don’t look at it, if we don’t figure out exactly how their best wasn’t good enough, we are going to repeat their mistakes, and our kids will say of us, ‘they did the best they could.’ – and they’ll be wrong. We have our chance to make changes right now, but we don’t want to even look at it.

Jeff

June 5, 2015

My Battle

My Battle

(That properly dead and gone swine can’t own those two words forever, can he? 10,000,000 lives AND an important pair of words taken out of circulation forever? No. Hell, no. We can’t get the lives back, but we can damned sure reclaim the words. I’m not famous or anything, I’ll do it first. You’re welcome.)

The point of this post will be to define my argument with the world, to try to establish my position (in opposition to any sort of punishment, especially of children) and to glean the position of those I might hope to convince. Suffice to say, I hear the objections a fair amount, yet I still can’t credit where the supporters of punishment are coming from as a considered position, it seems rather an un-focused one. That position is occupied by most of the world, though, so I guess it’s always going to be a moving target for me, no slight on anyone.

But I am getting a little desperate here.

In order for me to win this debate, there needs to be one. If the world of normal parents can’t see fit to choose a champion, block off some time and sit down with me to work through this, then, strange and counterintuitive as it may be, I guess I’ll have to help you, make your points for you, if necessary. Maybe if I misrepresent the POV, someone will be motivated to jump in and correct me.

It’s me against the world, of course it is. Even among the No Punishment folks, the few out there, there isn’t a lot of common ground. (The only other person I found with that search, ‘No Punishment,’ seemed to have no interest in my offered support for his position and only reacted to me as though I were either one of his students who needed correction, or maybe as though I were some sort of threat, as though I were his competition. Funny thing was, after his rebuff, I wanted to be. I got over it, though. Maybe he was just being a good critic. My first attempt at a book on this topic – being anti-punishment – which I sent him really was crap. He reacted as a prof., marked my book (a fail) and rejected my emotional support for his cause. It hurt me that my support for what I know to be a very unpopular POV meant nothing to him, he didn’t need or want it. It still rankles.) Maybe we get so used to hostility, opposition, and a lack of will to even try to see our stance that we end up so invested in our own status as outliers that agreement becomes a threat to our perceived uniqueness.* That is definitely part of the deal for me, so maybe not only me. Try as I may to assure myself and you all that it’s all about the content for me, all about the ideas themselves, I know I must always be aware that my personal need  for a unique identity is there, and makes for a conflict of interest.

Of course, these sorts of personal, internal conflicts of interest are everywhere. If you’re with me on this, then you may applaud my due diligence, the full disclosure. If you’re against me, then I guess to put it in fighting terms, I just gave you my back. That’s either a bad decision I’m making after taking a few hard shots, or it’s supreme confidence, make your own interpretation. I may be dumb enough to offer my back, but I don’t plan to give away the whole game plan! It’s a little of both, of course. Plus, the haters gonna hate anyway; he who has ears to hear, let him hear. That’s a lot of metaphor, but this isn’t math and rocket science, either.

So maybe it’s me against the world. Maybe it’s personal, as I said somewhere else, ‘the rantings of a developmentally arrested person,’ I mean, of course there is some component of that, but maybe that’s mostly what it is. That, however, may or may not matter; it depends on whether the ideas produced from this dysfunction stand on their own, doesn’t it? Many ideas we have, many good ones have likely evolved through error, but when the evolved idea works for us, who cares? If the idea has merit, the source isn’t important. If the idea is bad, the source may also not matter – we’re dancing around the logical fallacy of Appeal to Authority here. Just as a bad idea is a bad idea and selling it on the basis of its author’s good reputation is fallacious that way, so too is dismissing a good idea from an unknown source. So here’s my developed idea, which may or may not have come largely from my narcissism, as well as the opposing social idea, whose origin may also not be derived from either a divine or provable hard-scientific process:

MINE: (as well as a small percentage of people’s here in the US and Canada, I can’t speak to elsewhere. It seems, un-alienated aboriginal peoples the world over don’t beat their children as much as developed people, and besides Scandinavia’s improvement on our numbers, there may be other places in the world where the aboriginal attitude has survived better than among those of us from Europe and the middle East. I understand Hinduism and Buddhism to be a sort of evolution of aboriginal religion, still somewhat connected to natural systems. I don’t say most people practice it, but I think those religions haven’t ensconced corporal punishment of children into Holy Law at least.) Sorry – again:

MINE:

Punishment is a source of psychological and social damage because it causes harm, by definition. The harms caused to people when we hurt one another are not limited to illegal, proscribed practices. When we harm one another for what perceive to be good reasons and for good purposes, we are still harming each other, and this harm stays with all of us. This is not only regrettable, I think it isn’t inevitable. I think we can get around it. If we did, I think we’d be amazed at what human beings with far less damage can do.

SOCIETY’S: (for lack of a better term. I’m going to bundle up what may be a large variety of attitudes not all of which will apply to everyone. The only criteria is that they don’t involve the complete abolition of punishing in 99% of its forms, as I do. I’ll try to control myself, but maybe you should expect to be insulted. Apologies in advance. Here’s the bias: I’m not going to try to make sense of it; this is not my side of the argument, I couldn’t do it justice, and why would anyone ever believe I did, or tried? I’m going to do the sad, cynical thing, present my side in as good a paragraph as I can muster at the moment, tied up with a positive  ribbon and bow – and present my strawman opponent’s view in a list of unconnected talking points. It’s not a dirty trick if I point it out, right, full disclosure? Fair again, or fair enough? Anyone who wishes to take up this side of the debate is invited to make the sense of it that they can, in as artful a way as they wish. Please do: if you believe it, you owe it to yourselves and your cause. Personally, I feel someone owes it to me! On the one hand, my opponent in this debate is so big he doesn’t even know I’m here, but on the other hand, I’m battling a phantom, an idea expressed so vaguely that it can’t be held in one place long enough to beat it.) Sorry again – again:

SOCIETY’S:

  • Punishment is an important and useful tool for:
    • Controlling bad behaviour and crime
    • Encouraging good behaviour and morality
    • Protecting ourselves from violence and crime
    • Promoting the society’s values
  • Punishment, when administrated properly doesn’t cause permanent harm
  • Children need to learn about consequences
  • Children need to learn right from wrong
  • Children need to learn to listen, so that they will in an emergency, to keep them from a road, a cliff, or a river
  • Punishment “works” where nothing else does
  • Punishment is “natural;” other animals use punishment
  • A program of punishment is required to “civilize” human beings, otherwise they will behave badly
  • Not all punishment is physical
  • Non-corporal punishment is not harmful
  • Punishment and abuse are different things, qualitatively, the difference is not simply a matter of degree
  • Not Punishing is negligent – there is a moral, social and/or religious obligation to respond to misbehaviour with unpleasantness
  • Punishments reinforce deterrents, stopping crime and misbehaviour before it happens

Wow. That wasn’t too bad for a guy who’s not down with this side of the conversation. I still wouldn’t count on me, I can be very devious. Trust, as some powerful swine once said – but verify. Still, a fuller and less abrasive list than I expected myself. Having said all that, beware, no waiting: here’s the trap.

I have arguments for everything on the ‘society’s’ list, except that I’ll allow one and one-half bullets from the very first thing on the list. Don’t get me wrong, that list looks great, and if half of the things on it were true, ah. What a wonderful world that would be. The thing is, if those things were true, someone out there, some Defender of Normal Parents Everywhere should be able to deconstruct them for me, show me why they’re true, how they work. Because I have done my own deconstructions of these scenarios, and I can’t see any way all that stuff could ever possibly work.

(Except, as I say, for some caveats contained in the very first point of the list:

  • Punishment is an important and useful tool for:
    • Controlling bad behaviour and crime
    • Encouraging good behaviour and morality
    • Protecting ourselves from violence and crime
  • The confinement part of the criminal justice system undeniably makes us safe from a particular convict for a particular time, true. That is not the same as saying the prison system makes for a safer society in general.
    • Promoting the society’s values
  • This also is certainly true, punishment can indeed be used to promote and even enforce a given society’s values and morals. That, while true, would be true of any society, some of which we may not approve.

So even those two aren’t as true or as powerful as my hypothetical proponents of punishment may have hoped.)**

For the rest? Pick one, somebody, please, and let’s break it down, see how it works. Or maybe, I’ll make a series of this, one point at a time? I’ll do it, you know. Don’t think I won’t.

So, thanks for reading, and please, share and retweet . . .

Jeff

* Anyone know ‘Little Britain?’

** 725 of 1860 words between parentheses! Like, 40%ish. That must be a new record for me.