AST– A Better Metaphor, Part Six - Abuse

            What I offer as the child-rearing paradigm for groups in conflict is rather bare-bones, I wanted to go after the core of it; I really think to change anything we kind of have to change it all, all the way up from the bottom, because everything is what it is in relation to everything else, and you can’t really change anything if there are connected things that aren’t allowed to change also. Truth to tell though, there are a lot of other ideas around the central metaphor, in supporting roles, like the previously mentioned Christian original sin, one of the theories we have come up with to explain the necessity of the consequences. Others theories attempt to explain why sometimes the causality in the meme pans out and sometimes it does not, ideas about the differences between consequences, discipline, punishment, and abuse.

            They’re pretty much all rubbish, I mean, these hypotheses pretty much only make sense within the paradigm, within the paradigm’s special rules of logic.

            From AST, all of those things are the same, and so the differences don’t explain anything big. It’s what’s common that explains the big things. The central idea of AST means that the worst, most despised and illegal of the four – abuse - is the operative one anyways, so the differences disappear. Inasmuch as the other three words include a measure of abuse, then that is the degree to which they serve the primary function of antisocializing the recipients and what marks the gradient between them is something secondary or further downstream. It’s not about the education value either, they simply appear to be the euphemisms required by the meme, really bringing no added value, none of the additional specificity we would expect from synonyms.

            I hope this point isn’t unavailable to a possible reader who hasn’t bought in yet, one who doesn’t like AST so far and identifies with the consequences, uh, approach, that each metaphor has its application and its prerequisites. Per the consequences meme, the results of our methods are positive things, the kids get ‘better,’ whereas with the AST or the ‘abuse meme’ perhaps, the results of our methods are what negative experiences produce most immediately and simply: stress, and pain, and the need to pass it on. The rule that positive things ensue from ‘discipline’ while negative things follow from ‘abuse’ requires that the two causes be different animals, even opposites, and this arrangement is stressful to support because the two things can appear identical to the naked eye.

            So AST says it’s all one thing, abuse, meaning negative experience, by any other name. The other terms, I think we can pick one to reference, let’s say ‘punishment,’ and postulate the meme’s meaning: so what is punishment?

            A technical sort of definition is this: it’s the imposition of an aversive by an authorized person to modify a behaviour, but that’s the logical kernel only, the principle of deterrent. What is it we think we’re doing when the deterrent has failed, when we are bringing the consequences? I’m afraid I must seem to be hurling accusations here, because my theory is we don’t really go that far, we don’t really break it down and we don’t really have a concrete idea of the mechanics of it. It’s always one of those things, ‘logical’ within the meme, something like ‘it hurts, so you learn’ – the “so” in there appearing to provide the causation. So how about if we speculate about it now, if we really haven’t before?

            I have a pet theory, although  I don’t suppose it’s critical to AST.

            We think we’re hobbling our miscreants.

            It’s something like it, right, at least analogous? When we specify and administer a punishment for an unwanted behaviour, we seem to think that we are able to inhibit specific behaviours, like we can break a leg to cure running away, we hope we can break something, hurt something to make the behaviour, uh . . . unavailable in the future. Further to that, it’s a mental leg we’re hoping to break – that is to say, something in the brain.

            It’s a thought, some idea like that would seem to be behind our discipline – again, if ideas were, or if those ideas were the salient train of thought. It’s not that far off, either, so close that the confusion is pretty forgivable. We do indeed break something in the brain with this abuse, it’s just that the process isn’t as surgical as we hope; we’re breaking more than just the part required for one-off, individual behaviours and I’m afraid the damage is a little more general than that. So, rather than our hoped for conditioning against certain behaviours, what we get is this general antisocialization. This is why antisocialization theory holds the effects of abuse to be the true and evolved function in human lives, because while the ostensible goals of our punishments are often unrealized, the antisocialization is accomplished in a reliable and understandably causative way.

            Another way to say it is, if the true point of our discipline is to antisocialize, to make us all meaner soldiers, then abuse has always been the point and no distinction need be drawn between the “positive” practices of discipline and consequences and the “negative” experiences of abuse. By AST, it’s all abuse, and so we have crossed the line from nurturing (prosocializing) to damage (antisocializing) with the first pat on the bum. From a parenting perspective, while there is plenty of work to do, the question of what is discipline and what is abuse disappears. Truth is simplicity, in a sense, sometimes. I know I’ve been pussyfooting around it, but that’s the message.

            When we punish our kids to make them better, better means antisocial, pre-configured for conflict, that’s the kind of better “consequences” gets us. When we bring it too hard or our kids just get some sort of unlucky, the damage we see, the madness, or crime, violence, self-harm, etc. that we see is not something going unforeseeably wrong, something happening in a new direction, this is simply more antisocialization than we wanted, simply too much of this “good” thing.

            It’s simpler, when you get it, almost a single force or a single principle to replace two sorts of knowledge we’ve had to compartmentalize to get on with, the apparently opposing “principles” of the socializing influences of structure and discipline and the damaging influences of abuse. And it seems pretty straightforward what we’d do if we saw it, if we really let it sink in.

 

            Jeff

 

            Mar. 11th., 2017

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