Which Way We'll Go?bycharlesw69©
There are times when societies loose any sense of direction and purpose, where people are dissatisfied, but are afraid, unwilling or incapable to look forward for solutions. Unfortunately that is the quagmire in which Australia is caught in the closing stages of the Twentieth Century.
In attempting to find a tomorrow, we see some minority groups, riding happily on the shoulders of a sensationalism seeking media, trying to move the clock back. We can see them moving from the misspelt "three R's" to a return to "traditional family values" passing through a new wave of sexual repression, religious zealotry, racism and the like.
Which is the way out of this doldrums of retrograde thinking? Certainly not the going back to earlier times that, although giving an illusion of stability and knowledge of the way ahead landed us exactly where we are today.
If one of the main aspects of neurotic behaviour is the inability to learn from experience, then we live in a very mentally unstable community indeed.
In the past couple of years alone, we have witnessed some extraordinary examples of the totally warped view of the world spoused by some of those in charge of administering the legislation brought to life by politicians that have only one clear objective in mind: Being re-elected, rather than exercising true leadership.
Millions of dollars and literally hundreds of people were used across state boundaries in the Children of God fiasco, because there was a suspicion of under age children engaging in sexual activities with adults. In 1995 a man killing an 18 months old girl by driving his grossly over-powered pick up truck through the front wall of a house received an 18 months sentence.
Reading the daily papers we can see how somebody driving under the influence of alcohol that kills innocent people would hardly receive more than a three years sentence.
We have witnessed how, a medical practitioner breaking infection control procedures which resulted in four patients contracting AIDS was just made to attend a refresher course, while somebody having sex with a consenting minor would be treated far more harshly.
It was almost a century ago that Freud dared to mention that terrible thing that was child sexuality. However, one hundred years later, authorities and the press act more in accordance with work published by Krafft-Ebbing in the mid Nineteenth Century. This man, under the disguise of a scientific and medical approach to the many facets of human sexuality would like us to considered that anything beyond sex in the missionary position for procreation within a marriage is one form or another of psychopathology.
It takes an amazing achievement in self-delusion to refuse to accept that children are sexual beings far before they turn 16. Nevertheless, people continue to act as if, when reaching that age a magic switch will convert those 'innocent little angels' into responsible men and women, or persons, if one was to bow to the altar of the idol of political correctness.
On top of this appalling denial of the right of children to experience their sexuality, we actually teach our youth that they can be irresponsible enough to kill someone and virtually walk away with impunity. We teach parents that they have no need to supervise their children around the pool because the State has legislated that fences must be erected. We teach them that education only takes place in school and is the sole responsibility of the authorities and that at every inch of the way somebody or some institution will take care of rescuing them whenever their actions land them in any form of danger, real or imaginary. Day after day we broadcast the myth that it is possible to have freedom without responsibility.
At the essence of the deprivation of liberty experienced by the inmates of any jail is that any decision making is taken away from them. Somebody else is in charge of saying when to get up, what they will eat, what work they will do and how they will do it, what they will read and, in general, how they will spend their time until lights out come. In other words, the vanishing of freedom cannot occur without the disappearance of responsibilities therefore, a person cannot be at the same time free and not responsible.
Thanks to politicians that would like us all to become re-enacted versions of the convicts of the past, our country is becoming more and more like a modern day Devil's Island. No questioning of authority is accepted or, sometimes even tolerated, we watch public servants who see fit to storm out of a press conference when somebody casts legitimate doubts on their statements. We see, time and again how parliamentarians use abuse and arrogance to hide their dirty dealings or, at the best their incompetence.
Which way is up?
If the axiom that "people have the governments that they deserve" is true, compounded with the absence of a responsible media, then, as a community, we are certainly doomed. However, as individuals, we have the obligation to maintain the personal determination needed to influence the younger generations towards a more realistic future.
Every person can make a contribution towards this end at any time, but those working in the field of the so-called mental health professions are in an ideal situation to do so. However, they should be specially aware of and prepared to deal with the issues of the development of a client's full potential, rather than trying to maintain the status quo by imposing the prevailing views of the time. After all, people mainly consult any form of therapist because of their inability to deal with the demands of an environment that often refuses to accept the way in which they view the world. In other words, the health workers should be prepared to constantly confront their own ideology, whether expressed in the form of "standard professional practice" or unquestioned cultural beliefs.
Perhaps this would be as impossible to achieve as Max Weber's concept of "value free judgment". However, we must at least avoid the extremes exemplified by the work on "repressed memories" seen in recent court cases, which appears to have more of the makings of a therapist's own pathological processes than anything based on a client's reality.
Neither the lives of thinking adults, nor those of the youth who make a choice that has not been pre-digested for them will be easy. As always, pressure will be brought to bear on them from those who "know better", like they did with Pasteur and the many others who dared to challenge the dictums of the establishment of their time.
We must ensure that the legacy we leave behind is a solid foundation over which a new future can be built, rather than the artificial marsh devoid of life that our current leaders, both in academia and politics alike, seem to favour. We must teach our youth to intelligently question what happens around them, we must help them to become the masters of their lives, their bodies and their future and, if that means opposing the views of mainstream society or sometimes even challenging or breaking outdated laws then, so be it!
LEARNING WHAT TO DO BY DEFAULT
Australia has the dubious honour of having one of the world's highest rates of teenage suicide. Unwanted teenage pregnancies are also an all too common occurrence. Drug usage of both, legal as well as illegal substances continues to be rampant. The community (sic) response? Looking at 'treating the mental illnesses of the teenagers who may become suicidal risks', complaining about 'promiscuity induced by sex education at school', and increase the 'police powers and the penalties to deal with the evil of drugs'.
These three approaches have four fundamental elements in common. First, they have been around for many years. Second, they have been proven useless time and time again. Third, they address the symptoms but never make an attempt at identifying the causes and, fourth the one that is the most important: they have all been defined as socially acceptable, therefore non controversial
Because of this futile pursuit of agreement at all cost, it is perfectly possible to fund drug rehabilitation programs with more than 90% failure rate, rather than setting up the facilities through which the young may come to the realisation that the world around them may really be a stinking place in view of which they may decide to do something to change it rather going down the path of self destruction at the end of a needle, a rope, a razor or a gun.
Some people think that a large proportion of teenage suicides could be prevented by clinical interventions. Few think of those interventions taking place at the community level, aimed at changing preconceptions, values and attitudes, educating the parents, the teachers, the medical profession and others, rather than being solely directed at the individual victims of a future that never was.
The adults of today must realise that the world is not made out of tidy pigeon holes where every aspect of humanity is pre-defined, pre-ordained, consistent, and where every individual fits like a hand in the right sized glove. The truth is that we live in a cauldron of constantly changing needs, with equally changing ways of self expression, where we must learn from each other young and old together if we are to survive.
Of course, each person has his or her own priorities. But what happens when those priorities result in their children becoming unhappy, unhealthy and uninterested spectators rather than active actors in the theatre play of their lives?
Some nine years ago a mother, relating 'the agony' of accidentally discovering that her thirteen year old daughter was at a park with a group of youth playing music and singing rather than spending the night at a friend's place as she was supposed to be said that 'she could have been killed or worst, she could have been raped'.
In her priorities, the finality of death was preferable to any form of sexually related outcome. For the past four years the daughter has been undergoing psychotherapy, after going through a period of severe anorexia. She is also suffering from asthma but continues the self-destructing behaviour of smoking. Isn't this perhaps too high a price to pay for a supposedly righteous and chaste existence?
When the extremists of the revival of the dark ages, such as the Festival of Light complain about sex education at school, not many people raise their voice to defend it. What is even more important, no one appears to be prepared to level at it the most valid criticism: Sex education at school does not go far enough.
Delivered often by untrained teachers that frequently do so through the lenses of their own sexual inadequacies and fears, it would appear that, in most instances, sex education is focused entirely in the reproductive sphere, rather than in the area of sexual feelings and experiences.
When dealing with sexual issues, teachers, like most members of the medical profession, mainly limit their aim to the 'plumbing'. They purposely ignore the sensations, exploration and discovery of passions that human sexuality entails. Finally, when they timidly venture beyond that self imposed ceiling, they adhere to what has been defined for them as 'acceptable', leaving aside the richness of the learned aspects of sex that separate us from lower levels of animal life.
If we are going to have valid sex education programs, we will have to teach the young that sex is not about talking, but about doing and experiencing. However, we must also teach them that in following that road, they must learn to be responsible.
We must once and for all debunk the taboos that soil sexual feelings by classifying them as dirty, sinful and the like, unless, of course, they are considered in the most traditional context of 'marriage, reproduction and the family'. In fact, if sex was intended only for procreation rather than enjoyment, it is highly unlikely that the world would have grown to be as over populated as it is.
In the real life of today, conception needs not be more than just an avoidable by-product of the pleasure, the relish and the joy that sex brings to those free enough not to feel guilty about the enjoyment and excitement that they experience while sharing their bodies with other persons.
In the 60's R.D. Laing thought that in a world where the superpowers had the ability to destroy every human being several times over, to be mad was the only sign of sanity that a person could give. Today, in spite of the efforts of France and China, the threat of an imminent nuclear holocaust may have faded, from almost a certainty to the level of an unlikely event, but the world devoid of transcendental ideals that the young face is far from a rosy place.
Some attempt to seek an answer in religion, even if the price they have to pay is to surrender intellect, freedom and the adventure of tasting the deep richness of an ever changing world. They are the ones who become involved in helping others not because they are committed to the establishment of a better society, but because it is expected of them by their dogma.
Those of us who experienced the full extent of the 60's and 70's first hand, had the opportunity to see how intense life was with causes worth dying for.
Many of us faced the uncertainties of the future with ideals of a better world. We battled against the repression handed out by the establishment and felt that we were contributing to a positive change. From opposing the Vietnam war to facing the fascist inspired Queensland government or the dictatorships of other countries, many of the 'children of the barricades' who survived grew to know who they were, where they were and were they wanted to be. We learnt to develop a social conscience, to give to others as well as to receive, rather than just to take, but above all we learnt that authority is not always right, that it can be opposed and that accepting the unacceptable is morally wrong.
This constructive opposition to authority continues to happen in many places around the world, specially among some of the better educated segments of the so called Third World countries, but it is becoming more and more of a rarity in Australia and the Anglo Saxon world in general.
When antagonism to authority is expressed in Australia, the US and most of the developed countries, we witness mainly examples of nihilistic behaviour, where the key elements are destruction, of self, property or others, specially soft targets, such as those who find it most difficult to defend themselves. There is no positive view of the future, nor a fight for a better tomorrow. It is only violence for the sake of violence.
Some may say that this is due to the violent entertainment seen in every cinema, television and the like but, is it? Perhaps the violent movies are not creating a market, but exploiting one that is already well established.
Is there a way up?
There is not one simple and sure recipe to mix all the necessary ingredients to produce a perfectly happy outcome. However, we can at least try cooking using different combinations of whatever is already at hand.
A good point to start would be to reduce the frequency and intensity of double bind messages that are directed to children.
Most of those contradictory statements come from an adult's dissociation between rational thinking and feelings. People often agree to something at the logical level, specially if the issue does not touch them directly, but are not capable of living according to what they state is acceptable. For example, a considerable number of people who may state that 'there is nothing wrong with nudity' would flatly refuse to shed their clothes except in the most socially approved circumstances, and even then, they may do so with a high degree of apprehension.
This dissociation stems, primarily from a very poor self-image that prevents a person from believing that they have the right to oppose anything, least of all any form of authority. Their actions are a response to the basic belief instilled into them by society that they are 'not good enough', that 'doctor, teacher, et al. knows best', etc.
Many so called grown ups are still a long way away from learning to live in harmony with their own convictions and even further away from living in concert with themselves as wholly intact individuals.
Unfortunately, this lack of learning does not stop them from becoming masters at finding excuses not to do anything about crucial issues affecting their lives and experts at developing arguments to defend the fallacy of believing that whatever their problems may be, they are theirs alone and have no bearing on the way in which their children develop.
Many of those parents compound the damage they cause by becoming over protective. They see their children at the mercy of dangers in every corner, jumping at the thought of 'lolly giving strangers'. They believe that the world is a hostile, dangerous place, where one must always be ready to fight to defend one self and where no-one is to be trusted, making their young into pusillanimous beings incapable of taking the risks that are necessary to enrich their lives and weary of many relationships that could have the capacity to greatly enhance their view and understanding of the world around them.
If we have to 'fight against the world every inch of the way', is it then surprising that violence is perceived more and more as an adequate way of responding? Is it then surprising that violent shows keep sustaining high ratings in television?
To make a substantial impact on the shortcomings of our community many things would have to be changed. No doubt the issues involved are too many to be shifted all at the same time, nevertheless, the start to this process is long overdue and the best place to begin it is ourselves. We, adults, have to finally mature before we can be of help to the young.
If we are going to venture forth once and for all we will have to surrender preconceptions and dysfunctional values and create an entirely new view of the universe. We will have to face, not only the fundamental inner obstacles of built-in fear and guilt created by our socialisation, but we will have to contend with politicians and the media barons, who have a great interest in preventing the development of thinking individuals, as those who do think refuse to be gullible and may start intelligently questioning their decisions and dealings.
The challenge is here, the time is now, the ones who have to raise to the demands of creating a future are not some politicians, public servants, consultants or any other sort of proxy, they are simply us. We owe it to ourselves and to our children.
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