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Spanking Children and Torturing Detainees: What’s the connection?

Our constitution was the first attempt at making this shift in thinking. The constitution makes the case that human beings are equal, that we must treat all sentient beings with some basic dignity because to do so betters the entire country.

The ideal was bigger than the shift in thinking. Most people did not think this included slaves, women, or children. These inalienable rights were viewed by most people as reserved for "the right" or "the elite". We applied this concept in the beginning more generously to white elite men than we did to "others". (like the American Indian, or Slaves)

Our forefathers had made the shift in thinking but had not yet understood the cognitive process of creating inequality. They did not understand how easy it is for the human brain to make an identification error per the writings of Alfred Korzybski and later Samuel Bois. An identification error being a error in classification per the use of a judgment or subjective mind, instead of facts and validity. So an identification error would be failing to note that slaves were human beings. Or failing to note that women were human beings. Or failing to note that children were human beings. As a result of this error in thinking, most of our controversies in regard to the constitution have been about the application of these rights to classes of people. (otherwise known as the species "human")

The chasm that has developed has created almost a blindness for some. This blindness is fueled by an identification error that allows us to divide human beings into "those who have rights" and "those who do not". This is despite the fact that our constitution does not make this distinction.

There are three basic philosophical ingredients to our dependency on violence as a means of creating objectives of change:

1) The invalidation of a subset of humanity: that is a group of people who our government or group of people in power have determined are not valid human beings and so therefore do not have those inalienable rights. This is applied today to detainees, women, children and minorities.

2) Denial. All perpetrators of violence must do at least one of these three things in order to validate the use of violence as an effective means of creating change.

A) Minimize: It wasn’t that bad. We only did it a little bit. It didn’t hurt them that much. (all of which are usually a subjective measure determined outside of those who the violence was used against.)

B) Deny: We didn’t do it. It didn’t happen that way. The violence did not exist. (torture tapes anyone?)

c) Blame: We had to be violent because "they" (referring to those who have been deemed invalid and not worthy of inalienable rights) made us do it. It was their behavior that made us act this way. They caused it by their own actions. Our actions were not a choice or under our own control. We HAD to do it.

3) The use of fear as a motivator for change.

Society is divided. There are some out there who will read these words and know without a doubt that what is said here is true. And there are those who have internalized this way of thinking, this cognitive distortion and will defend the use of violence as a legitimate means for accomplishing change in another person or culture. There are those who see violence as a legitimate means to an end, and those who do not. Note the identification error that Pat Buchannon makes when he talks about detainees as "terrorists" despite the fact that this has not been determined.

Is our society blind in this regard? Have we not been raised in this "blindness"? Have we not all been subjected to this cognitive distortion? We all have. Whether we suffered violence at it’s hand as children, or as members of a subset who have been deemed invalid. We have all been witness to this process. Many of us have internalized these distortions unconsciously and do not even know for sure why we defend it.
But this thinking, these underlying cognitive distortions run like a river through our culture.

Einstein was a pretty smart guy. He has many thoughts on violence and they are clear and cogent. But of all the things Einstein wrote, the issue of violence was among the most controversial. Even today his thoughts on violence are not considered as valid as his thoughts on string theory. No we can’t prove his statements but they indeed force us to examine deeply internalize unconscious thoughts.

One of his quotes:

"Peace cannot be achieved by force. It can only be achieved by understanding" Albert Einstein

The interesting thing to me is that it’s not just "perpetrators" who are violent. And the labeling of "perpetrator" is problematic for this reason. (it puts members of the human race in a subset which can then be viewed as "valid" or "invalid" and therefore subjected to violence). The violence that occurs in our prison systems might be an example of this. The people in prison are often considered non human and therefore we tolerate the violence perpetrated against them at a higher level than we would non prisoners.

Furthermore, the line between "perpetrator" and "victim" is often blurred. We have been engaged in spirited dialogue about whether or not Pelosi colluded with the tortures thereby crossing that line. Once we have been victimized and internalize the structural idea that violence is a legitimate means of change without valid concepts of the consequences then we become in varying degrees the "perpetrator" of violence. We collude even when we don’t necessarily use violence. This act of collusion, this internalized power structure makes many of vulnerable to power and control. Some more than others.

If we think about the issue of domestic violence, the issue of child abuse, the higher rates of corporal punishment used in the african american culture, the statistic that women who are abused in domestic violence are at an increased risk to use power and control themselves, we see this has some ring of truth. Where violence and power and control have been used there is some evidence that this method of interaction is internalized and perpetuated. Violence creates a never ending circle of violence.

So, what is power and control? How can it be defined? It is not simply the use of violence. It is this mixture of the above stated cognitive distortions.

Here are the parts of "THE POWER WHEEL" developed by the Duluth Model for Domestic Violence.

1) coercion: the use of threats.
2) intimidation: the use of size, power and force.
3) name calling. Belittling or making the other person "invalid".
4) Isolation: another form of invalidation. Separation from the pack.
5) Minimize, deny and blame…as is…a necessary feature.
6) objectifying others. racism, sexism and using children.
7) King of the castle. I am the boss I can do what I want.
8) Finance: using money to control. (requires invalidation of financial rights and freedoms).

All of this does not mean that there is no valid use of violence. However, the dichotomy between the power of those who use power and control and the power of those who do not is clearly evident in our social constructs. Think of the image of Jesus Christ, who refused to use violence and instead "allowed" the power and control thereby "controlling" himself instead of trying to control another. How fascinating is it that Jesus Christ became an icon for so many. And notice the battle between those who use power and control and those who shun it. Always the shunner of violence is presented as weak and powerless. And yet, at the very root of this refusal to allow power and control as a motivator in your life, is the choice that you are willing to die rather than be controlled.

It’s fine to kill for an objective as determined by our government but to die for the sake of "peace" is weakness. This thought is perpetuated over and over again. Our own fear of death, harm, losing control, makes us easy to control. Such irony. It is only the act of holding an ideal above the value of our life that sets us free. And it is this act that those who have internalize power and control find so disturbing. So threatening. You cannot control someone who is willing to die for peace.

There is a reason why Jesus had to die, why Martin Luther King Jr. was such a threat, why Mahatma Ghandi had to go to jail. These acts of courage, these conscious choices to fight against the fear for the sake of something more important threaten the status quo. These thoughts threaten the power behind power and control.

So what do spanking children and torture have in common? The use of power and control as a means to an end.

We cannot change what we don’t accept.

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I am a licensed mental health counselor specializing in the treatment of trauma. My twenty years of experience in treating survivors of domestic violence, childhood abuse, sexual assault and war have increased my desire to participate in studying the invariant relationships related to violence. My current pet theory has to do with denial and truth. The invalidation of those who suffer from trauma, has created symptoms that plague our society. The most serious symptom being the perpetuation of violence in our denial of it's consequences.

The truth shall set you free. But it takes skills (emotional intelligence) to handle the truth...because most of society...
"can't handle the truth."