Every adult with a modicum of a moral and ethical sense will instinctively recoil from Child abuse. It is reprehensible, and, to those whose sense have not been dulled or atrophied by multiculturalism and PC, evil. Beyond the instinctive revulsion lies a question. Perhaps it is worth wondering just what it is about child abuse that we find so disturbing?
In many societies, it was, and continues to be, commonplace for girls as young as 12 to be married to older men. I would suggest that the evil of child abuse represents the extreme of a behavioral style which shares a particular orientation to time, to the self, and to the community. I will not here address the way in which certain cultures treat women and children as chattel. That is a large subject for another day. However, I do think there is an aspect of cultural orientation that is worth comment.
One of the things that makes America a great country is our future orientation. From the very first, America was settled buy people who came here looking for a better life for themselves, but more importantly, for their children. The American expectation has always been that our children will lead better lives than us. While we consider this the most natural thing in the world, in reality it is much more of an aberration than you might think.
Throughout historical and pre-historical times, it was the usual course of events for infant mortality (infant and child death under the age of 5) to approach 50%. Still births and early infant deaths were so commonplace as to be unremarkable. Parents were wise not to become too invested emotionally in their children until they could have some assurance of their long term survival. The key to being supported in one's old age would be to have many children so that there would be some survivors who could take care of you when you no longer could.
In prior social organizations, of necessity, the primary emotional investment was from the young to the old. The young needed the old but more importantly, the expectation was that the gratifications of the old were primary, the young secondary. When a 12 year old was betrothed to a village elder, no one would ask the girl for her opinion. Her sole importance lay in what material advantages she could accrue to her family of origin, primarily to her father. The more Paternally centered the social structure, the more the Father's gratifications eclipsed the needs of everyone else.
If our orientation is toward our father, we will naturally spend most of our time looking backward, with the attention going from father to grandfather to great grandfather, etc. This is a prescription for a static society. If the young spend most of their time and energy looking back, they will have less time and energy to look forward.
I would suggest there is a psychodynamic substrate to this. We are familiar with the Oedipal Complex as described by Freud. The boy, at about 4 or 5 years old, notices that his mother prefers the company of another man to him. He has wishes to possess the mother for himself and develops rivalrous feelings toward his mother. The Oedipal phase resolves when the child faces reality, that his father could harm him and take away what he considered precious if he didn't renounce his tie to his mother.
What has aways been less studied and remarked upon is the existence of an inverted Oedipal Complex. Father's have envious and rivalrous feelings for their sons. Most of the time, these feelings are unconscious; sometimes one is aware of the feelings and responds by sublimation or reaction formation, or one of the other various defenses we are prone to use. The fact is that men will always have some envy for their sons. They envy their sons youth and possibilities. While they are aging and losing their prowess, their sons are growing up and becoming bigger and stronger than they are. Plus, while the number of years ahead of us is steadily diminishing, our sons are growing into their young adulthood, ready to face the world, start a new family of his own (rendering us useless in the process), and, if we are lucky, gaining the wherewithal to help us in our growing dependency. It is natural in such circumstances to feel some envy, especially if we have been able to offer our children a better life than we had. In the case of our daughters, the situation is compounded by our envy of a woman's ability to truly create a new life, something none of us can do, and frightening and conflicted feelings aroused by our daughter's blossoming as a woman. Managing these feelings is one of the unacknowledged difficulties of parenthood.
For those who lack the psychological tools to manage these feelings, abuse of the child can be the outcome.
In my series on Political Correctness, I went into some of the psychological mechanisms that were involved in its expression. Among other factors, were the wish to return to a past (fantasied) blissful time. This suggest there is some commonality between the left, through their ties to Utopian PC and past-oriented philosophy of the Islamic fascists. As I develop some of these ideas, perhaps the unholy alliance between the Islamic fascists and the Left will become less of a mystery.
If I am correct, the links between these stories will become clearer as time goes on:
Sharia oppresses the citizens of Islamic countries. Islam must reform, but the legal hierarchy in Islamic nations will not do this because the judges and legal scholars understand the cost: many passages in the Quran and the hadith must be rejected, and this they cannot do. After all, the Quran came down directly from Allah through Gabriel, so says traditional theology. So how can Islam reform? But reform it must. It can start by rewriting classical fiqh (interpretations of law). Again, though, that would mean leaving behind the Quran and Muhammad’s example. How can the legal hierarchy in Islamic nations do this?
This entire meditation on Kollwitz's life and work was occasioned by the media circus around Cindy Sheehan, grieving but activist mother of a soldier son killed in Iraq. Whether you think Sheehan is being exploited herself or exploitating others tends to depend on what side of the fence you are on the war, but sympathy for her grief is near-universal.
Grief-striken parents are a tragic given in war. Whether they consider the sacrific worthwhile or not, the tragedy, as Kollwitz herself said, leaves a wound which will never really heal--nor should it.
But this sort of angry activism on the part of a mourning parent such as Cindy Sheehan seems to be a relatively recent phenomenon. What is driving it? Why are we seeing it and hearing about it now, as opposed to previous wars? My attempt to answer these questions will be the subject of Part II. For background reading, though, you would do well to read this excellent post from Varifrank.
So now begins the struggle for the future. It is a struggle which engages all of us. Mr. Fitzgerald thinks it can bring only failure unless we keep the spotlights on over Gaza. Ms. Grant thinks it’s a good opportunity to have a truly secular state.