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  February 11, 2002

Civilized Children

If you are reading this, it's very likely that you were a modern civilized child. Due to the advancements of science, medicine, and education, you probably think you had it better than your hunter/gatherer ancestors in their apparently "brutish" life.

Think again. Most civilized children -

• are hit, beaten, shaken, sexually abused, yelled at, criticized, ridiculed, and mistreated in myriad emotional and physical ways that are illegal between adults

• live in families that are havens of disintegration, dysfunction, and destructive modeling

• are often brutalized and isolated at birth

• are often denied their deep need to nurse at the breast

• are often denied their deep need to receive regular affection and close contact from their mother and father

• often sleep alone and afraid, while their parents sleep with each other

• have natural rhythms of inspiration, imagination, creativity, fun, joy, and love which are ignored and forced into unfeeling schedules

• have powers of intuition, imagination, dreaming, and other non-ordinary perceptions which are ignored or ridiculed

• have feelings of pleasure, anger, frustration, joy, elation, sadness, fear, doubt, agitation, and body curiosity for which they are punished

• are forced to wake, drink, eat, shit, piss, learn, play, laugh, and sleep to the rhythm of a machine (the clock) in degrees of length and intensity dictated by adults

• are forced as very tiny children to go to schools and be indoctrinated by the dogma of science and consumerism, to be molded, judged, and labeled "stupid" or "smart" (worthless or worthy)

• are forced to ingest drugs like Ritalin if they do not fit into the "cage of behaviour" expected by adults

• are corralled into a future of meaningless work, inadequate pay, relentless debt, and addictive escape - to consumer items, entertainment, legal substances, and illegal drugs.

Not a pretty picture.

Too much of the time, the childhood of your average civilized kid is more like a sentence in a concentration camp. In fact, I believe it was the author Alice Miller who said it was often easier to treat the victims of concentration camps because they knew who the enemy was. In our "civilized" childhoods, those who damaged us were often the ones we needed to get love from. We were not just physically controlled, we were emotionally chained to them as well.

Just as political prisoners are often broken down to acquiesce and believe in the dogma of their oppressors, children are broken to become adults who say "My father only hit me when I deserved it, and it did me good." But how would adults feel if they were beaten, ridiculed, and abused by people twice their size now? Would they feel it was just, and for their own good? I think not. As adults, we would not stand for the very same treatment that we were subjected to as children - and what billions still subject their own children to. When a woman is battered or emotionally abused, professionals and friends tell her to leave. When we see a parent hitting a child in the grocery store, we think of it as "discipline" and walk the other way.

The abuse continues because we had to shut down our feelings in many ways in order to survive. Without access to a full range of feelings we are blind enough, and numb enough, to lie, cheat, batter, abuse, murder, go to war, and even be cowardly enough to hurt the bodies of our own little children - half our size.

Legislation, though essential, will only put a dent in the problem. Each of us has to see it and then free ourselves of the emotional armour we are still carrying around. Drugs won't free us. Talk won't free us. We have to go into our feelings and do the work.

The life of truly wild, aboriginal peoples was never easy. But even in their physically demanding life, they were far more emotionally integrated and rarely treated their children like we do. As I have said before, humans are social animals. Imagine if a gosling, wolf pup, seal pup, beaver kit, kitten, puppy, or gorilla baby were treated according to the list above. I think it would be fair to say that they would grow up to become very disturbed animals.

Welcome to the zoo.

Pass the bolt cutters.

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