Friday, August 5, 2011

Indulging Power, Denying Nurture

Power never takes a back step
-- Only in the face of more power.
---- Malcolm X
(See How New York City Beat Crime in Scientific American, Aug 2011)
My nephew, a psychiatric nurse, once worked for several years in an institution that housed child murderers; that is, children who had intentionally brought about the death of another human being. I asked him how the job was and how he got along with the kids. He answered that they were mostly OK but very occasionally one would try to stab him. I asked my nephew what he thought those kids needed most. He replied, “They need a father.”

One of the most pernicious confusions ever to infect thought and theory in education, psychology and psychiatry is the idea that hurt and harm are inextricable. The current dogma is that to hurt is to harm and to harm is to hurt. (See Hurt, Harm & Safety)

Commonsense examples from the real world disestablish this doctrine: an inoculation, dental surgery, hard exercise and criticism may hurt; they needn’t, indeed, often do not, harm. Radiation, pollution, inattention and gluttony often do not hurt; yet they may, and, not infrequently, do harm.

Recently in Philadelphia gangs of teenagers have been running through Center City streets and attacking uninvolved bystanders, apparently for the excitement and fun of it. They are likely learning -- or know already -- that to the extent no one will or can control you, to that same extent do you have the free exercise of power.

There is a lot of excited babble among the governing classes and pundits as to what to do about it. Because of the hurt-harm dogma, some possible solutions will not even be brought up for discussion.

For references and to examine this issue further, see The Singapore Solution

--- EGR

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