Thursday, September 18, 2014

The roots of violence

I've had to take a bit of a break from the internet lately as the rage explodes about the issues of domestic violence and child abuse following the cases involving NFL players. Its not that these issues trigger personal experiences for me. Having spent my professional life dealing with both child and adult victims of violence, I can't engage in a rage-fest where both sides simply scream at each other in an attempt to ensure that their views dominate the discussion. Ultimately, it accomplishes very little - if anything at all.

But today I'd like to put a couple of thoughts out there for all of us to ponder. They were sparked by these words from Michael Eric Dyson.
The point of discipline is to transmit values to children. The purpose of punishment is to coerce compliance and secure control, and failing that, to inflict pain as a form of revenge...
Regular readers here know that I talk a lot about the difference between partnership as a form of leadership as opposed to dominance. Much of that comes from the work of Riane Eisler who has talked about those two forms of relationships more generally. Here is how she summarized it in her book The Chalice and the Blade:
The root of the problem lies in a social system in which the power of the blade is idealized - in which both men and women are taught to equate true masculinity with violence and dominance and to see men who do not conform to this ideal as too soft or effeminate.
She outlines how children learn about violence and dominance early on.
When children experience violence, or observe violence against their mothers, they learn it's acceptable- even moral-to use force to impose one's will on others. Indeed, the only way they can make sense of violence coming from those who are supposed to love them is that it must be moral.

Terrorism and chronic warfare are responses to life in societies in which the only perceived choices are dominating or being dominated. These violent responses are characteristic of cultures where this view of relations is learned early on through traditions of coercion, abuse, and violence in parentchild and gender relations.
Domestic violence and child abuse are the direct result of a culture where dominance (and the fear it engenders) is idealized over partnership.

1 comment:

  1. SP, thank you for this 'look' at Riane Eisler. I can't imagine why I didn't realize she is alive. Years ago in a conversation about God etc, you recommended two works to me 'When God was a Woman' ~Merlin Stone, and the 'Chalice and the Blade' by Eisler. My local library located the first for me and I read it ....slow-ly (because I had to return it and couldn't locate it anywhere else). ;-) The second I bought over a year ago, and it's still sitting in my 'to be read' pile! Who knows, maybe I'll pick it up before another year passes.... maybe.