If all I am taught is hate, what then do I teach? Instruction by the rod, striking punishment whether warranted or not, leaves its mark and the snap of an arbitrary motivation. Violence, as I learned from my biological father did not teach me his wish: To obey. Instead, it systematically made compulsive anger and bitter recrimination a part of my character, a component I have rallied against in the past with martial arts, Buddhist practice, and now mature reflection.
In the approach to discipline, corporeal punishment was merely a tool of control in the ‘old days’, but also part and parcel of male-pattern aggression in the wrong hands. So, even if the intent was correction, such violence resulted in a very personal legacy of unwelcome memories. Violence against children was merely a part of growing up when I was young, but when the occasional spanking morphs into a skin-breaking, or a bone-cracking event, that intent of instruction is betrayed, as well as the inherent parent-child trust. In many cases, such victims never get over it, becoming that pushover kid who has no choice but to take it, or they go all Jeremy (Pearl Jam fans get it), or join the abusers.
That adult shortcoming of using violence as an expression of anger on a child in an uncontrolled and unjustified manner often manifests in the victim years later as a teenager or adult. The new age nomenclature of ‘lateral violence’ captures it perfectly, whether as emotional abuse and/or physical aggression. Such a borderline personality disorder is not just inherited, I believe, but is also a conditional environmental response that subsumes itself into the character of the once-victim, now an adult, and often themselves perpetrating such destructive tendencies.
Of course, that cycle of depersonalization often aggravates other personal struggles, such as alcohol or drug addiction. Our old fashioned values of being the man’s man and using booze as a coping mechanism can produce an emotional cripple: Able to feel intensely, but unable to express it in a healthy manner. In love, able to express its intensity, but not the fulsome nature of its value, for the heart of the abused rages in anger, and at the minimum, is likely not healed. For those of us in the broken hearts club, we know this helplessness, and it often leads to a deadening of our ability to lead healthy and happy lives.
There is a low hum of dissatisfaction in a normal, loving, healthy relationship that followed me everywhere, for example. This sense of internalized worthlessness was rooted in paternal persecution and bodily abuse, and more importantly, was unrecognized at the time. Tackling this personal heritage and turning it around takes great will, and often a lifelong healing journey. First, fighting the internal demons of childhood pain and fear is often forgotten in the conscious mind of the now-adult. This is the very first step to recovery that is often beyond the ability of modern therapeutic methods to address.
This is where anger and rage traced back to childhood abuse can be so difficult to root out and treat. This step cannot be fully explored in alcoholism, for example, which I believe has partially led to the Serenity Prayer of AA: Accepting those things that cannot be changed. Accepting that history of childhood abuse is the closest approximation for closure in order to make progress to self-growth. The alcoholic has to say goodbye to that sad, fearful child, and then leave it behind, like a Kindergarten ghost.
Chronic abuse, however, cements this abused child like a dead body into the foundation for the structure of adulthood. For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction, as posited by Newton’s Third Law. More often than not this anger is the only survivor of that abused little kid. In a karmic dissonance that borders on an unfair emotional fate, the helpless fear of that previously abused child expands into adult fury. Unwittingly, unwillingly, and unconsciously, the abused becomes the abuser. The depressing, systemic cycle of personal and cultural disintegration, especially of our post-colonial indigenous society, becomes racial profiling to the uninitiated: High crime rates, sky-rocketing incidence of murder, sexual and physical abuse, both reported and hidden, mark the suffering of those have been initiated.
Without the social safety net that should be accorded to these people, we see them fall into the chasms of governmental neglect. Even our northern governments do not have the wherewithal to address housing-related epidemics of crime and health. They would rather not fund clean water and housing, but public learning programs on how not to acquire tuberculosis. Rather than wellness and healthy living programs, they would rather build a new jail.
So, who is then responsible, especially in today’s overly-sensitive, but under-served, public? I guess if the government ain’t gonna do something about it, then each of us as individuals will have to. Unless, of course, we already fell through the cracks.