We get mail

Actually I got an email from Andy, with a couple of links:


I thought I’d pass on these observations I’ve found for you to consider, ponder and maybe even comment on.

The first is from Alice Miller, and comes from her website:

http://www.alice-miller.com/flyers_en.php?page=3 (the 12 points)

The second is from a search of wikipedia for the psychology of torture:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Psychology_of_torture specifically this quote:

“It is very tempting to take the side of the perpetrator. All the perpetrator asks is that the bystander do nothing. He appeals to the universal desire to see, hear, and speak no evil. The victim, on the contrary, asks the bystander to share the burden of pain. The victim demands action, engagement, and remembering.” Judith Herman

Thanks, Andy. As far as my thoughts, the first link, to Alice Miller’s “the Roots of Violence”, I’m not sure I completely agree with. She paints a very utopian picture at the end of a world in which all violence is utterly unthinkable because all children have had a good upbringing. Not only does the realist in me think that’s ridiculous, but I also think it’s a very dangerous way to think. Blaming all of the world’s violence on poor childhoods provides too easy an excuse for people to not take responsibility for their own actions. If I were to do something violent, it would be because I chose to do that, as an adult, right now. It would not be because somewhere in my childhood that’s how I learned to act, nor should anyone allow me to use that as an excuse.

Besides, I really do think that there is some violence that is inherent in the human condition and always will be, even with the best of childhoods. Children are not the completely innocent angels of Alice Miller’s world, only corrupted by the discipline of their parents, they are fallible and prone to selfishness, just as adults are.

The second link is an interesting area of research, and I think the quote is also an interesting one. It is always easier to not know something than it is to acknowledge it and thus have to do something about it.

Interestingly enough, I think that tendency is also human nature, but a nature that can be overcome if we choose to.


Technorati tags: Childabuse, Email, Torture

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  1. doesn’t anyone believe anymore that human beings are inherently violent (“evil” if you will) as well as inherently compassionate (“good” if you will)? that seems to be the fundamental truth to me. we are complex animals with the same emotions, drives, and instincts as lower animals. only we have more creative ways of conceiving and expressing all these things. the answer to the world’s problems is a multi-pronged approach to deal with whatever we can and an honest admission that we can’t cure everything we don’t like about human existence.

  2. Knowing as we do how childhood abuse shapes one’s entire lifetime, I don’t see why the impossibility to create a perfect world should stop us from trying to create a better world.
    You over-simplify Miller’s argument. Genuine compassion for one childhood’s suffering will never be used by anyone as an excuse for present violence. People who have understood what violence does to children and felt what it did to them will naturally be driven to protect the weak and to resist injustice. They do not need to disguise pent-up rage and pain with psychological or physical symptoms, much less to discharge those feelings on scapegoats, be it a loved one or a whole nation.
    It is your argument on responsibility that is utopian. It doesn’t explain how people can persistently justify inhuman ideologies, glorify war, torture in the name of religion, blindly follow dictators and gurus, torment and humiliate the weaker in the face of all the suffering they produce and against scientific evidence and logical arguments. Those people NEED to believe, because their whole life, a life built on the lie that violence they endured was loving, good and beneficial, would fall apart the moment they stopped believing. But by feeling the once prohibited feelings, those adults can truly become responsible of their own actions, because they will not need to avenge and resolve painful memories by hurting themselves or others. As long as this is denied, no amount of “goodwill” will be able to create a better humanity. Cruelty is not part of human nature. Cruelty is learned.

  3. Lilian,

    I think we;re just going to have to disagree on this one. I don’t believe you can explain away all of the world’s cruelty by talking about poor childhoods. You’ll never convince me that there are millions of people willing to kill themselves, and others, because of their religion and that’s all because they were raised to be that way. Some of these people came upon those beliefs much later in life and quite apart from having been treated cruelly by their parents. I do believe selfishness is part of human nature and that selfishness can become violent when left unchecked.

    I never said my point about responsibility explained the world, but if everyone simply took responsibility for their own actions I do believe it would constitute a tremendous effort toward creating a better world.

  4. Okay then 🙂
    I’d like to clarify my thought. It’s not the violent beliefs themselves that come from childhood; those are delayed rationalizations for the urge to hurt others and oneself that comes from repressing feelings connected with childhood injuries. How could crazy dictators be taken seriously by those who have learned love and respect in their most tender age? But most of us never did. We learned that might makes right and that we were hurt by our parents for our own good. So when we are preached to exterminate, persecute and hate others (especially the weaker) for the greater good, it sounds like coming home.
    As adults, we are all too eager to forget and minimize what it felt like to be a powerless child every single day at the hands of cruel adults, whom we could not leave or question. We prefer to turn a blind eye and seek vague philosophical explanations for evil when the answer is right under our nose. Unfortunately we all pay a price for this denial.
    Wish you the best of luck 🙂

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