Where it all begins, Part 1

By Kathie MM

Most children, in this country and much of the rest of the world, have been subjected to considerable verbal and psychological violence, and often physical violence, by the age of two—and it may only get worse. The “terrible twos” often means terrible treatment.

Toddlers are routinely yelled at, sworn at, called names, threatened. They are shaken, slapped on the hands or buttocks, sometimes slapped in the face, spanked, sometimes hit with switches, kicked, beaten—and all of these things may happen in what people think of as “good homes.”

Given the level of violence in families, it should not be surprising that in day care and nursery schools, children are heard yelling, “I hate you, I’m going to kill you!” They don’t need to watch TV to learn these messages.

Robert J. Burrowes has written passionately about the likely outcomes of violence against children.

Here is an example of what he has to say:

“The man who inflicts violence on women was damaged during childhood. The white person who inflicts violence on people of colour was damaged during childhood. The employer who exploits workers was damaged during childhood.

The individual who endorses the state violence inflicted on indigenous peoples was damaged during childhood. The terrorist, the political leader who wages war and the soldier who kills in our name were all damaged during childhood.

The person who supports structures of violence (such as the military, police, legal and prison systems) was damaged during childhood.

The person who supports structures of exploitation (such as capitalism and imperialism) was damaged during childhood. The person who thoughtlessly participates in destruction of the natural environment was damaged during childhood.”

What do you think of Burrowes’ argument?

Do you have other explanations for this country’s high level of engagement in violence?

Clearly poverty and racism can also damage children but hordes of violent people are reapers rather than victims of those social ills. If we really want to reduce violence in and by our country, we better play closer attention to what we do in our homes.

Please share your views.

This entry was posted in capitalism, child abuse, environmental issues, family violence, imperialism, Poverty, Prisons, racism, Terrorism, Understanding violence and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Where it all begins, Part 1

  1. LB says:

    Thanks for the post and link, Kathie. I read several of Robert Burrowe’s articles, including “The Psychology of Victimhood: Obama, Cameron, Netanyahu, Clinton, Kissinger”:


    I appreciated some of his insights on ‘victim psychology’, a subject I was (coincidentally) googling just last night. Though our perspectives differ in some respects, he makes some very good points, as in the following paragraph:

    “In essence, individuals who have a ‘victim psychology’ are people who have been so terrorized during childhood that they end up feeling (unconsciously) powerless to stand up to, confront or even identify the individual(s) – their parent(s) and/or other significant adults from their childhood – who perpetrated violence against them. As a result, they will usually project that someone of whom they are not actually afraid is victimizing them and they will powerlessly point their finger at this delusional) ‘perpetrator’ and demand, fearfully and compulsively, that this person or group change their behaviour. This is because victims give responsibility to others; that is, they want others to take responsibility for not victimizing them. Why? For a victim, the idea that they can change and learn to defend themselves powerfully is beyond comprehension.”

    Like I said, I found this paragraph very insightful(!), although I do have some problems with the wording of the last sentence. Since I believe we tend to repeat situations and patterns that challenge and threaten us until we master their lessons ~and with the caveat that there are *always* exceptions~ I think overcoming a victim mentality generally has less to do with learning to defend ourselves (which assumes legitimate threats from *outside* forces continue to exist) and more to do with becoming self-aware, recognizing how unconscious, psychological projection works:


    It’s true that many of us experienced violence (either verbal, psychological or physical) in some form as children. I have childhood friends who grew up loved and supported (listened to) by their politically engaged and ‘liberal’ parents, yet suffer from the same delusional and defensive thinking when it comes to cultural conditioning and unconscious projections. One of them is a legal advocate for poor (and minority) children. She supported Hillary in spite of her ‘faults’ (not the least of which would be the bombing of millions of innocent brown and black-skinned children) because she wanted to see a woman lawyer become president. The other friend, a Bernie supporter (and keeping in mind Bernie has also supported war, weapons of war and capitalism), is a philanthropist who works with various organizations serving marginalized youth. Both do good work and yet support the legitimacy of our violent system.

    Becoming conscious, self-aware, informed, and compassionate in a more inclusive sense, is part of the challenge of being human. More so for those of us who’ve been conditioned to believe in the unacknowledged violence of capitalism, empire, and/or the feel-good selfishness associated with individualism, positive thinking, selective empathy, and group denial.

    There seems to be a pervasive cognitive dissonance among those on the left and right, all along the political spectrum. Being fully human means taking up our crosses, learning to deeply care for and *see* others, even our enemies through a different lens.

    To some extent, humans have been killing and oppressing one another to get what we want for a very long time; there’s even evidence of violence among groups of prehistoric, hunter-gatherers:


    Many of us seem to want our comforts and comfortable perspectives more than we want truth. It’s complicated. I’m still working on myself.

    • kathiemm says:

      Thanks for another thoughtful ad thought-provoking comment, LB, with links to additional thought-provoking materials.

  2. Pingback: Where it all begins, Part 2 | Engaging Peace

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