Monday, January 15, 2007

Community Problems: Where Society Goes Wrong

"Vengeance is not the point; change is. But the trouble is that in most [people's] minds the thought of victory and the thought of punishing the enemy coincide."
- Barbara Deming

This is such a difficult topic for me to discuss because I have mixed feelings about it.

Most of the problems that become the causes for possible vengeance were preventable in the first place. Not all, as we are fallible beings.

If children are taught from a very young age the tools they need to survive and thrive in their culture as adults, the kindesses and courtesies that should be accorded to others, the compassion that yields great benefits in terms of friendships rather than enmity and the emotional and social skills that will see them fit into a mutually beneficial community and nation, they will have no need to resort to the kinds of behaviours that cause others to want vengeance.

There is no need to resort to vengeance if the behaviours that precipitate it do not occur.
However, they do occur in our world. Rather than seeing them as signals or calls for help, as indicators that the "perpetrator" has needs that have not been filled and he or she cannot keep their life balance without some form of correction and addressing of needs on the part of those closest to that person, we choose instead to punish.

Punishing is so much easier and faster (if vastly less efficient in the long run) than tending to needs that should never have been ignored in the first place. Instead we let the fresh milk go sour, then blame the milk for being at fault.

Do people actually think of punishing a perpetrator as a form of victory? Absolutely, yes! Even a school principal who punishes a child for misdemeanors believes that he has done the right thing in defending his community against the ravages of evildoers (or those who will eventually become evildoers unless they are stopped young).

Parents do n0t usually consider themselves as heroes for disciplining their children following a mistake or commission of unapproved behaviour. They believe that "this hurts me more than it hurts you." Sometimes it does, in an emotional sense, because the parent knows intuitively that something has gone wrong but has no idea how to correct it.

The fact that I had to write that a parent "has no idea how to correct" the behaviour of his or her child is itself a condemnation of a society that does not teach parenting skills that it knows are required.

If we have the knowledge and skills to correct those who have "gone bad" through psychology, therapy or reprogramming, we have the knowledge and skills (the same ones) that should be taught to every young adult before they have children.

Every person who fails at life as an adult reflects back to a failed upbringing by parents. However, it's not the parents who are at fault because they didn't know what to do. Almost every new parent enters that awesome project of parenting as an amateur who knows too little about what a parent should know.

Some failing parents will blame the school and teacher for their problem children, some blame the community or peer friends, some blame television, some blame the other parent. No one wants to blame themselves because it would serve no purpose. They know they did the best they knew how.

No one puts the blame where it belongs, with a society that doesn't teach young adults what they need to know about growing and developing children.

If we want to think in terms of punishing anyone, we should punish politicians who will not authorize school boards to teach new parents and authorize teachers to teach what kids need to learn besides what is on the intellectual-stream curriculum.

Politicians are the only segment of society that reacts positively to punishment. They know what to do (at least some do) but do not make it happen. They do wrong by doing nothing.

Punish that and we will see how quickly education will change from job training to life preparation.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, striving to put the right information into the right hands, then encourage those hands to get to work with it.
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