Poisonous Pedagogy and our Culture of Violence

(a reprise from December, 2012)

As often happens when a diary grows too long for comfortable reading, I’ve found it necessary to rewrite it, and edit out all but what seem to be the most important themes.  While considering the inherent difficulties of reducing firearms violence in this nation by the most prevalent ‘fixes’ discussed in the media and in the liberal blogosphere: gun control and mental health ‘help’, I collected a lot of links to facts and opinions on both.  Most data collection and op-eds were spurred, of course, by the heinous mass murder of innocents at Sandy Hook elementary.  Rather than loading this post up with worthy considerations, allow me to shorthand most of it with links.

Mother Jones has compiled information on the past three decades’ worth of mass murders and spree killings here; they report that ‘a majority of the shooters were mentally ill’, and ‘had exhibited signs’ of such prior to the shootings.  The Guardian has an interactive US states map of gun crime statistics as well as admittedly incomplete global statistics.  For those of you interested in how FBI instant background checks work, and especially the category three-fourths of the way down the page: Categories of Persons Prohibited from Receiving, it’s here.  Note that the mental health prohibitions are pretty narrow, as they perhaps should be, lest the FBI be privy to prescription databases.  There are plenty of videos and printed material concerning SSRI antidepressants and increased violence; I’ve even been involved in some online discussions about neuroscience and the illusion of free will’ (Sam Harris).

The theme concerning our nation being engaged in perpetual war as being related to our tolerance, or often even reverence for military violence is a worthy one, as studies have shown a correlation between the two.  But that still doesn’t get to the point of asking why ours is such a violent society, or even aside from the profitability of Incessant War, why so many of our ruling elites  either love or don’t mind killing, and extol the virtues of torture and drone assassinations, as do far too many of our citizens.

Even as experts theorize that the glorified violence in movies, television programs and video games may play a part, few seem to ask what drives the desire to watch or play, even become immersed in those socially bankrupt genres? 

Of the many pieces I’ve read that offered some counter-arguments to the conventional fixes of mass murders and gun violence, this piece by Mike King at Counterpunch; he’s done a lot of research at the intersection of mental health and criminality, including soldiers.  It’s a great piece, even though King may cause you some discomfort as he pricks some holes in your/our sacred cows by showing the many historical and current social injustices that have been created by even what he calls ‘well-meaning’ legislative fixes.

King’s piece comes the closest to what I see as a brief but careful analysis of the situation, but still…I’d like to look even further behind the American Curtain of mistrust, fear and violence that is so endemic to our society.

While the many beliefs of how individual consciences develop (or don’t)  are too broad a discussion for this post, the general definition of conscience is that with which we make moral judgments as to Right and Wrong, to which can be added: experience remorse when we act in ways that work against our moral principles.  Religious views are even more complicated than philosophical/psychological ones, since the divine is involved.  In most psycho-social models, I think it’s safe to say that as an infant’s brain and awareness develops the most rapidly over its first three or four years, that each experience is imprinted for better or worse, on the child.  Attachment theory, or bonding with at least one primary caregiver, as a basis for learning to trust that a warm someone can be trusted to provide the care (physical and emotional) required for the infant to thrive and learn and become self-aware and authentic as it individuates from its caregiver/s or parent/s, ventures out on its own both physically and figuratively, and finds a secure base on its return.  Trust, learning, and beneficial deeds are rewarded, thus imprinted, and if parenting is consistent, warm and stimulative/creative, so much the better.  And of course the importance of warm and loving touch can’t be overstated.

There are many schools of thought that violence and psychopathology are bio-determined (one example), and clearly in cases of brain abnormalities, that’s possible.  This post will consider the experiential ones.

Poisonous Pedagogy

Polish Ph.D. and author Alice Miller (1923-2010) rejected her lengthy practice of Freudian analysis and spent the next decades of her life immersed in the childhood causes of psychopathic violence and cruelty later in life, as well as early experiential causes of simple neuroses and personality disorders.  There are others who’ve written extensively about Trauma models, but for the purposes of this post, I’ll use her body of work since it was so extensive and familiar to me.  It happened that much of my life was spent in researching answers to questions she and many others wrote convincingly about, although many of their conclusions have been reviled and rejected as heresy against conventional psychiatry.  She understood the great backlash against her conclusions and activism well, and grasped that only those who reflected on their own childhoods honestly could hope to embrace them.  It’s Miller’s belief that most all psychiatric models fail mightily in rejecting childhood treatment as the key to later mental health status and interpersonal relationships, which has allowed parental and institutional cruelty to flourish for far too long.

Essentially, she believed that when children were either neglected, abused physically and/or emotionally, and reared in accordance with a ‘might makes right’ authoritarianism, they weren’t able to build authentic selves, the natural ones that were instead stifled, preventing the victimized children giving voice to their emotions, personal truths and creativity.  She described how personally empowering the simplest loving kindness is, and how toxic the long term effects of withholding it, or worse, being ruled by punishment, rather than simple discipline, meaning teaching…or learned personal developmental accountability…is.

She describes the various voices we often hear in our heads, chiding us, disempowering us, creating shame or guilt reflexively, based on nothing more than negative imprints, rather than negative deeds, which some religions call sins.  Her belief was that one of the most toxic dictates of religion was the ‘honor thy father and thy mother’, and by extension, all adults, rules, rather than the opposite: ‘Honor thy children, for they will inherit the world, and must needs be ready to be able to perceive truth, behave lovingly, with dignity, act cooperatively for all, and to be creative and honest in their communications with others’.  Or something like that.  ;o)

At the further end of childhood abuse is the dislocating and often ruinous practice of hurting children, sexually abusing them, or creating such fear in them that their bodies, brains, and even cells…record and remember the abuse, and become central to their perceptions of others and their social interactions.  (My apologies; I seem unable to write along that road much further, but your imagination will fill in the blanks I’ve left with your own knowledge.)  Author Ron Kurtz, from whom I took classes and had personal sessions, explained in both The Body Reveals and his Hakomi Therapy manuals that our bodies respond to negative influences by tightening muscles in certain areas to desensitize us from emotional pain.  The body doesn’t lie.  An easy example would be if a toddler reached toward his/her caregiver for help, food, anything, and were regularly smacked for it….that child would begin to build tensions around its heart area to protect it; another might ‘armor’ its solar plexus to dull constant fear, etc.  Great emotional burdens unresolved can lead to hunched shoulders (kyphosis), a fear-driven bully might stand with elbows cocked, ready to ‘draw on’ the next person he/she meets.

Of course there are varying degrees of silencing or manipulating children to bend their wills through coercion and deception, but she and her mentor Katharina Rutschky named both the individual and institutionalized practices poisonous pedagogy.  She explains that since children are pretty much hard-wired to love their parents, they tend to internalize abuse or neglect as their own fault, and repress their anger, hurt and indignity where unless one day let out into the light of day, it brews more poisons that will one day be heaped on others, as in bullying, coercion, revenge, and violence, either latent or actual, and/or turned inward, creating depression, shame and guilt, most of which stays buried and unrecognized (repressed), ‘poisonous perpetrators and voices’, unidentified.

Miller says that one of the worst themes that’s been perpetuated over time is the notion that authoritarianism and corporal punishment has been institutionalized in most schools, and is touted as ‘for the child’s own good’.  Additionally, as I mentioned earlier, she’s even found a lot of resistance to the dangers of spanking and hitting from parents who were hit or maltreated as children, which she wrote about, and Arthur Silber (the Power of Narrative), featured in one of his many essays on her work.  The resistance often goes: ‘Look at me; I was spanked, and I’m fine’.  She guesses that since most psychiatric therapeutic models are based on blaming us as victims, and hastening ‘forgiveness’, far too many of us will be, and are, taking medications to alleviate the symptoms of toxic parenting and institutional authoritarianism, rather than being willing to do the hard work of remembering what we were encouraged to forget.

Most severely abused children, of course, didn’t turn into monsters, and are able to have loving relationships, even though they may need to deal with plenty of emotional baggage, as most of us do.  Miller writes of the crucial ‘helping witness’, a figure that is unable to rescue a child, but provides enough love and consistent attention that the child can learn some measure of trust in others; it might have been another adult, or even a sibling who helped to ameliorate much of the potential damage of abuse.  Those who grew up without helping witnesses can benefit tremendously from ‘enlightened witnesses’, or those who intimately understand the consequences of child abuse, and can encourage us to find their own inner truths, thus neutralizing their needs to inflict hurt on others or themselves, and instead building healthy relationships.

From Alice Miller:

I have wrongly been attributed the thesis according to which every victim inevitably becomes a persecutor, a thesis that I find totally false, indeed absurd. It has been proved that many adults have had the good fortune to break the cycle of abuse through knowledge of their past. Yet I can certainly aver that I have never come across persecutors who weren’t victims in their childhood, though most of them don’t know it because their feelings are repressed. The less these criminals know about themselves, the more dangerous they are to society. So I think it is crucial for the therapist to grasp the difference between the statement, “every victim ultimately becomes a persecutor,” which is false, and “every persecutor was a victim in his childhood,” which I consider true. The problem is that, feeling nothing, he remembers nothing, realizes nothing, and this is why surveys don’t always reveal the truth.

Of the 192 nations worldwide, only 32 have outlawed corporal punishment; in the US, nineteen states still permit children to be beaten, and some states describe the permissible protocols for abuse as punishment ‘for the child’s own good’.

As an aside, neither Miller nor most shrinks I’ve read seem to consider how psychologically poisonous grandparents can also be, all the more powerful in that we are led to believe that grandparents always offer unconditional love and support.

Re: the young, socially marginalized profiles of mass murders:

When I began to consider some of the apparent characteristics of Dylan Klebold, Eric Harris, and Adam Lanza, my mind got stuck on their marginalized-loners status at school.  All were considered to be weird, geeks, Goths, any of that.  I remembered William Pollack who’d written Real Boys : Rescuing Our Sons from the Myths of Boyhood; the blurb:

Based on William Pollack’s groundbreaking research at Harvard Medical School over two decades, Real Boys explores why many boys are sad, lonely, and confused although they may appear tough, cheerful, and confident. Pollack challenges conventional expectations about manhood and masculinity that encourage parents to treat boys as little men, raising them through a toughening process that drives their true emotions underground. Only when we understand what boys are really like, says Pollack, can we help them develop more self-confidence and the emotional savvy they need to deal with issues such as depression, love and sexuality, drugs and alcohol, divorce, and violence.

In a short video, Pollack rued the fact that young men are encouraged to ‘suck it up’, never ask for help as it’s a sign of weakness, and above all, never admit to being in pain or fear, which conversations could be healing for them.  In a staggering statistic, he claims that between the ages of ten and nineteen, boys commit suicide four times as often as girls. 

What can we do about any of this?  For one, honor our children and grandchildren as they learn to navigate themselves and the world.  We can act as helping or enlightened witnesses to others; some counties have organizations like Big Brothers and Sisters, or Partners, teaming adults with trouble teens; and encourage people to lovingly discipline their children.  Perhaps most importantly, we can speak truth to our friends and relatives, and bring light to the shallow and false mythologies families often promote down the generations.  Secrets held inside us have immense power to poison our souls and psyches.  I submit that honest dialogues are supremely loving acts, and can be healing tonics, as can apologizing earnestly to our children and grandchildren when we screw up and dishonored ourselves, temporarily forgetting our love, as Alice Miller says.  We can make community, and try to behave lovingly and honestly even with those we don’t care for.  Most of don’t have the money to spend on therapy, but we do have each other.


Two excerpts from Miller’s ‘For your own good’ can be found here (the bolded portions toward the end), including:

Disassociated from the original cause, their feelings of anger, helplessness, despair, longing, anxiety, and pain will find expression in destructive acts against others (criminal behavior, mass murder) or against themselves (drug addiction, alcoholism, prostitution, psychic disorders, suicide)” and

“People whose integrity has not been damaged in childhood, who were protected, respected, and treated with honesty by their parents, will be – both in their youth and in adulthood – intelligent, responsive, empathic, and highly sensitive. They will take pleasure in life and will not feel any need to kill or even hurt others or themselves. They will use their power to defend themselves, not to attack others. They will not be able to do otherwise than respect and protect those weaker than themselves, including their children, because this is what they have learned from their own experience, and because it is this knowledge (and not the experience of cruelty) that has been stored up inside them from the beginning. It will be inconceivable to such people that earlier generations had to build up a gigantic war industry in order to feel comfortable and safe in this world. Since it will not be their unconscious drive in life to ward off intimidation experienced at a very early age, they will be able to deal with attempts at intimidation in their adult life more rationally and more creatively.”

A side note:  Arthur Silber is still very ill, has almost no money, and could use any financial help you might be able to give him; his Alice Miller essays are here.

‘The “Pseudocommando” Mass Murderer: A Blaze of Vainglory’, psychiatrictimes.com (srsly)

“The term “pseudocommando” was first used to describe the type of mass murderer who plans his actions “after long deliberation,” and who kills indiscriminately in public during the daytime. He comes prepared with a powerful arsenal of weapons and has no escape planned. He is sometimes described as having the intent to die in a “blaze of glory.” [snip]

“Mullen7 described the results of his detailed forensic evaluations of 5 pseudocommando mass murderers who were caught before they could kill themselves or be killed. Mullen noted that the massacres were often well planned out (ie, the offender did not suddenly “snap”): the offender arrived at the crime scene well-armed, often in camo or “warrior” gear. He appeared to be pursuing a highly personal agenda of “payback.” Mullen’s study also found a number of traits and historical factors that these individuals had in common: They were bullied or isolated as children and had become “loners” who felt despair over being socially excluded. They were also described as being resentful grudge holders who demonstrated obsessional or rigid traits.”

The revenge romance:

He piled upon the whale’s hump the sum of all the general rage and hate . . . and then, as if his chest had been a mortar, he burst his hot heart’s shell upon it.

~ Herman Melville,  Moby Dick

37 responses to “Poisonous Pedagogy and our Culture of Violence

  1. Hear, hear… hear, hear!

  2. related of course: ‘The “Pseudocommando” Mass Murderer: A Blaze of Vainglory’, psychiatrictimes.com (srsly)

    “The term “pseudocommando” was first used to describe the type of mass murderer who plans his actions “after long deliberation,” and who kills indiscriminately in public during the daytime. He comes prepared with a powerful arsenal of weapons and has no escape planned. He is sometimes described as having the intent to die in a “blaze of glory.” [snip]

    “Mullen7 described the results of his detailed forensic evaluations of 5 pseudocommando mass murderers who were caught before they could kill themselves or be killed. Mullen noted that the massacres were often well planned out (ie, the offender did not suddenly “snap”): the offender arrived at the crime scene well-armed, often in camo or “warrior” gear. He appeared to be pursuing a highly personal agenda of “payback.” Mullen’s study also found a number of traits and historical factors that these individuals had in common: They were bullied or isolated as children and had become “loners” who felt despair over being socially excluded. They were also described as being resentful grudge holders who demonstrated obsessional or rigid traits.”

    The revenge romance:

    ‘He piled upon the whale’s hump the sum of all the general rage and hate . . . and then, as if his chest had been a mortar, he burst his hot heart’s shell upon it.’
    ~ Herman Melville, Moby Dick

  3. I’d take a different tack, while proposing it as an adjunct to the pedagogical insights you present, wendye, and we can maybe impute any ideas of which might be the prevailing influence to our individual experiences.

    To my mind, inhabiting a country that is permanently on a war footing makes the American experience cradle to grave that of a people whose violent tendencies, normally repressed by a healthy conscience, are not only encouraged but honored to an inordinate degree – now more so than ever.

    I read quite a while back a book titled ‘ The Army At Dawn’ which told of the youth of WW2 US Army, the hardening experience of killing followed by leadership responsibilities for those who then led the nation and for a long time after, the world.

    In my own family, my father too was an army man in battle. But he could go home to a little country and give up being a soldier. Where folk thought about farming and tourism and sports, not world domination.

    In the current climate, my sons I counted blessed not to have attended public high schools where the military in this country are sacred heroes. What damage this is doing to the youth of this country!!

    • hmmmm. i agree that the amerikan zeigeist is indeed informed by the nation being on a permanent war footing, in fact since wwII. and that most police are now ex-military and trained in the most brutal and militaristic ways, to boot (with all their free war toys, as well).

      and yes, miller noted this: ‘It will be inconceivable to such people that earlier generations had to build up a gigantic war industry in order to feel comfortable and safe in this world.’ i suppose that i’d have to wonder how strong their consciences were/are to surrender them to honor their violent tendencies because…it’s the amerikan way? perhaps i’m missing your larger point, though. and good on your father’s sanctuary upon his return.

      now i say all this as the mother of an adopted son i thought we’d reared in respect, love, safety, and individuation…who just returned w/ his guard unit from 10 months in the UAE, our partners in war and torture. when he called the other night he was sooo wishing that his grandpa were still alive to know that he’d been given sergeant’s hashes, just like grandpa! fuck, i told him , please know that i’ll be wanting to tell you more hard truths about what this nation is truly fighting for when you come here next. while he was at a base in el paso for a few weeks where his birth father’d been stationed, he tried to find records of him, but of course, he couldn’t. at least i’d remembered his name from my many communications with that base while searching for him. how much was genetic, how much…all else? we’ll never know, even in our agony.

      • Yes, wendye, I was remembering your anguish, and because I am sure your own pedagogy with respect to your son was even more stellar than my own- we each have done the very best we could do, and you have been blessed to have the support of Mr. W.

        That was one reason I expanded the concept, because I don’t believe a healthy conscience ever desires to kill other people. But our young people ,indeed ever since the munitions build up, Rosy the riveter and all that, are preyed upon and propagandized and peer pressured – I’m not saying they will all go out and become mass murderers, but the pedogogiclly traumatized as your piece points out, already weakened, yes, the environment is there for them, ready and waiting.

        As tarheel points out, many factors, many causes, but those are big ones, no question.

        • i can only honestly say that we *tried to do* the best we could do, juliania, and yes, mr. wd was crucial. but in times of stress, i’d har my mother’s voice chastizing the chirren; and once, when our son was young, he bit me in the butt while i was working in the kitchen. reflexively, i smacked his butt, but fortunately he was old enough to hear, if not totally comprehend, my sincere apology.

          i’m not sure i understood all of thd’s list, especially the schoolteacher list. but as far as consciences and killing go, i’d still submit that given the right circumstances, any of us could murder another. i know i could, in defense of those i love, most especially. and do it reflexively, with my own bare hands if the need arose. forgiving myself for the deed i hard to know ahead of time…or in my speculative imagination? that’s another issue. ;-)

          yes to the burgeoning applause to the militarized culture, but propagandizing (brainwashing) against ‘the other’ in war wouldn’t take a true sociopath to submit to, but a mass murderer would, imo, fwiw.

          thanks for expanding on what you’d meant, though. i deleted a side note on a book j. kellerman had written; i’ll need to decide whether i can emotionally afford to go search for what he’d written…that i’ve forgotten. blocked? compartmentalized? ;-)

  4. Causality is very difficult to pin down. In very many things, multiple causes have the effect of over-determining the event.
    Yes, the traumas of childhood and youth
    Yes, the historical culture of the zeitgest
    Yes, the immediate social stresses
    Yes, the local culture of the scene
    Yes, whatever prejudices and bigotries of the murderer
    Yes, whatever genetic predispositions to reactivity, flight, or fight
    Yes, the current local social narrative that involves the murderer
    Yes, the immediate internal narrative or dramatic ritual (such as psuedocommando) the murderer brings to bear on the act
    Yes, will to have historical impact with one’s death and the deaths of others
    Yes, to the drive to cap off one’s own life with a self-perceived personal triumph
    Yes, to the perceptual delusions that might play out in mental processes.

    No one train of circumstances need be exclusive nor are all required. Which incident are we talking about here? That is where the factors swing in.

    But for forensics, all that is under motive.

    Interrupt the means. Interrupt the opportunity to act. The act does not occur. Even with all three preconditions, the act still may not occur because of a decision contrary to motive.

    It is interesting how we focus on the one immediate precondition that is mostly a story of what is within the murderer’s mind and “individual responsibility” and ignores what contributes to the social and environmental context available to all those in the area.

    A teacher talked about the levels of classroom culture. That is true of our civil society as well, which the classroom is supposed to model and teach.
    1. I don’t want to get in trouble
    2. I want a reward
    3. I want to please somebody
    4. I follow the rules
    5. I am considerate of other people
    6. I have a personal code of behavior , and I follow it

    So what happens when that culture becomes corrupt in all its major institutions?
    Why not poisonous pedagogy and our institutions of national security? Or poisonous pedagogy and our economic institutions?
    If there is a culture of violence, it is held in being by a widespread common sense about the reality of violence. And a widespread common style of acting out violence. And widespread common symbols that communicate violence as symbolic forms, ritual acts, and common narratives. What about them is more troubling now than before? That the trend is not going toward fewer mass murders? That we now hear about every last mass murder in the US or the world? That the NRA wrings ever more gun sales out of each mass murder?

    • wish i had a it more time right now, but for now: “Interrupt the means. Interrupt the opportunity to act.” to that i’d add ‘stop the abuse of chirren that underpins a lot of stuffed rage, fear, and hurt’, and yes, in the various economic and nat.sec.institutions in this nation; so many sociopaths, imo’. by means, do you mean gun control, by chance? opportunity: la vegas hotel security failures or close? would almost like to have seen videos of this guy in motion, or even a standing still shot. bet he had a lot of tells, myself.

      now as far as this reprise, i’d put it up for this case, and the others i’d mentioned originally, esp. sandyhook.
      but as i’d said, i did not read about this particular pseudo-commando, and he seems to fit the bill.

      “That the trend is not going toward fewer mass murders? That we now hear about every last mass murder in the US or the world? That the NRA wrings ever more gun sales out of each mass murder?” yes, all of those, and as all media are turned on this, paul ryan is making more hell on the citizenry, w/ of course, the compliance of many of the blue team.

      gotta go now. mr. wd just drove in w/ the shopping.

      • Thanks for rescuing this. And agreement with your response.

        • welcome, thd. i spent some time this mornin’ trying to find miller quotes on the intersections of narcissism, grandiosity, depression, and greed, but the last one was only mentioned under a video interview no longer up on youtube. close to: ‘would loving respect have filled the holes with true self?’ i might add: self love of the non-narcissistic sort. i do remember that she’d spoken about reclaiming our bodies even for pleasure, as many of her clients had experienced.

          i did however find a quote akin to ‘do be honest w/ your friends IF doing so is a bit painful; don’t if you find even small pleasure in it’. guilty as charged, sad to say. but then the concomitant: guilt, blue meanies.

          on edit: on reflection, i think they weren’t actually friends, but antagonists.

  5. millionaire mass murderers are the new It

    some more on war trauma.

    “Like so many mass shooters, Paddock’s system was humming with serotonin uplifters, including diazepam, the white crack, marketed to millions of depressed suburbanites as Valium. What was driving Paddock’s anxiety?
    Of course, mass killings committed by the state don’t count in the record books of crime. They’re not even considered massacres. After Wounded Knee, 20 of the killers were awarded the congressional medal of honor for their “bravery.”
    It’s amusing to watch the contortions that media and political elites go through to avoid mentioning the most obvious lesson to be drawn from the spiking rate of mass shootings: state-sponsored violence propagates violence within the state. We have been at war now for 16 consecutive years, a war that has expanded from Afghanistan to Iraq, Iraq to Pakistan, Pakistan to Somalia, Somalia to Libya, Libya to Yemen, Yemen to Syria, Syria to Niger. So much sustained killing takes a physical and a psychic toll on a nation.  To me it’s no coincidence that the Vegas shooting happened just a few miles from Creech Air Force Base, where America’s drone pilots do their remote-controlled wet-work.”
    can traumatized adults raise health kids? No. everyone over 20 should just kill themselves. it’ll be the best thing for us, really. our civilization is going nowhere. (h/t to Hannibal Lector. of course I am joking.)

    maybe if we can get the girls to be as invested in militarized sports competition as the boys are, the gals can be as suicidal as us boys are.
    A punitive model permeates our society on so many levels. Even when the threat of violence for “deviance” is not explicit, the fear factories in the media, schools, etc., never stop.

    “those killers in America work 8 days a week.”

    “Mullen’s study also found a number of traits and historical factors that these individuals had in common: They were bullied or isolated as children and had become “loners” who felt despair over being socially excluded. They were also described as being resentful grudge holders who demonstrated obsessional or rigid traits.””

    and how does the constant threat of personal collapse in the instability of our society play into this? how about the apocalyptic fear-mongering about mushroom clouds (today we play the Kim Jong Uno card) and the like?

    I am very sad to say that many of the traits described in this post remind me of my 1 yr younger brother. right at this moment. childhood trauma, isolation, etc., religious mania, and heavy, heavy doses of Alex Jones type howling paranoia. about everything. massive compensatory self-lionization, obsession w/purity, embrace of violence against women & children as a male right, the need for inevitable apocalyptic cleansing of the earth (esp. from me), past struggles w/alcoholism but now a “dry drunk” who heaps coals of fire on weak people struggling w/addiction, absolute certainty, and I mean absolute, about his own understanding of what’s going on in the world, fag bashing, anti-Semitism (yep), etc., etc. there may be one or two people (or a few more) more delusional in their schizophrenia than he is, but none even close in their furious revenge fantasies. (and it’s not a manic phase either. this has been going on for over 3 years. would he ever do anything? I don’t know. he’s very, very incompetent and he’s dirt poor. can’t afford a slingshot & too dumb to know how to make one.)

    everyone one of us has personal relationships destroyed or damaged by the sea of violence we live in. where does the line b/n the violence of the state & the violence of the family begin & end? e.g., what role does poverty play in child abuse? (this is what bothers about Alice Miller. it’s not that she’s wrong but that she’s limited: you can’t “fix” family violence under capitalism.)

    anyway, back to being depressed now. later.

    • too much for me to examine, rebut, j. but ‘you can’t fix family violence under capitalism’ as in” poverty is solely responsible? ye gods and little fishes, i call bullshit. were the church authoritarians by way of capital? well, maybe you’ll say yes. early churches did say ‘keep your place, plebes’. but never mind, tomorrow; yes: later..

    • i hadn’t known that the LV mass murderer was a millionaire, but i’ve stayed away from the constant ‘reporting’, and hoo-boy, is it constant. mr. wd had read me the wounded knew part of st. clair’s piece, and yes, he drew a parallel with forsythe’s mass murder w/ paddock, but as i reminded mr. wd, forsythe had a hella lotta ‘nits make lice’ seventh cavalry soldiers aiding him. and of course there was also the sand creek massacre of black kettle, little wolf’ss bands and others, which rides the top of the barbarity list, of course. and the camp was under a white flag of truce at the time. st. clair’s quotes from hayes and his sidekick reminded me of post-MOAB: “today herr cheeto became the president!” gaggable war cries from the pundit class.

      it was clueless of me to ask if the churches are capitalistic; of course they are, but it took me time to run some images past my mind-screen. as in: the opposite of liberation theology for the most part, with many catholic modern day sheriffs of nottingham, (including tithing), prosperity doctrine, big box churches, etc.

      i’m grieved to hear of your brother’s psycho-spiritual profile; if it’s not prying, may i ask if you and your other brothers were raised/treated differently than he was? were any of you guided, loved by enlightened witnesses where he wasn’t, for instance?

      i had looked up the stats and profiles of female mass murders in amerika, and discovered that while most were mentally ill, they killed when they snapped and went psycho, and not always w/ guns. as for your jest about killer sports, i reckon that miller’s contention that ‘it’s for your own good’, suck it up boys’ is applicable as hell. on second thought, i might be wrong that she’d posited that boys were admonished more than girls, but at least girls are/were allowed to cry, weren’t they? boys just stuffed all expressions of anger, fear, and pain, girls perhaps slightly less so. daughters (perhaps more so, ‘grandaughters’ in my case) such as i were just left with huge reservoirs of guilt, which i haven’t been able to shake as an adult.

      but in the end, all we can do as individuals is to stop generational cruelty and forced obedience one family at a time, isn’t it? the bryn mawr link is beyond me; could you please provide cliffs notes when you bring in such a lunker? i’d appreciate it. oh, and please do expand on your ‘poverty’ contention. i’ve seen it the opposite way in my own life. others maintain the old ‘i was hit, look at me, i’m great!’ and iirc, some at my.fdl did when i’d first published it. akin to: ‘liberals fomented the self esteem meme in schools, and now 2 + 2 = 5 is a correct answer.’ rubbish.

      • millionaire mass murderers are the new It

        it’s terrible. he & I were very close once. I don’t know this for sure cuz he won’t talk about himself except in quasi-Messianic terms (& so also a martyr b/c unrecognized Christhood is a frustrating burden to bear), but something happened to him in Georgia in 2013, in S Ossetia. He had been teaching English in Donbas, Ukraine and was moving on to Turkey which, b/c of money, he had to do by bus. He got detained & robbed and who knows what else by the Russian army in Georgia. B/c he was not able to continue work overseas, he came back to the US in 2014 and was a completely changed person. unrecognizable. Fresh adult trauma reinvigorating latent, unresolved childhood trauma? All 4 of us brothers have spent plenty of time in therapy & I have been fortunate to have some really wonderful supporting friends & surrogate parents in my life.

        where does the personal begin & the political end? poverty doesn’t recognize the inside & outside of anyone’s domestic front door. nor does the televangelist. in the pop sense of these words, the “focus on the family” is itself part of the problem.
        the Bryn Mawr link is to a book review of “Achilles in Vietnam,” a really wonderful study, imo, using the Iliad as a guide to understanding combat PTSD. lots of interesting points, like how when “war fighters” are demobbed in the US, they are immediately separated from the people, their fellow soldiers, who shared their horrific experiences. but the main thing is that the inhuman rage soldiers feel (“Sing the wrath, O Muse,” the 1st line of the Iliad) comes from a justified sense of betrayal from those in command. (not really addressed in the book iirc, but the utter superficiality of public culture on any matter of import makes it easy for a person returning from combat to view their world as completely unreal. can’t help. I haven’t done “the dance of Ares” myself but listening to politicos & journos & eggheads of all stripes blathering on about the troop love is sickening to me. what’s a combat vet to think?)

        • what a tragic story, mmm are the new It. it’s hard not to wonder if he’s sustained some sort of closed head injury and/or was left w/ his own sort of ptsd, isn’t it? but that’s a thing that both kurtz and miller agreed on: the body never lies, and childhood traumas change us even on a cellular level. perhaps it was enough for his old traumas to boomerang back to him, but given what you’ve said, it doesn’t seem likely he’d seek any sort of…help. how hard it must be to witness his hatred eating him alive, though.

          we’ll all hope that he doesn’t act out his rage, especially given what you’ve said about his ’embrace of violence against women’ as a male right. oh, my stars. and how easy to intuit that he’s powerless on the inside, and may have been rejected by women, as well.

          that the rest of you worked your way through it w/ the help of friends and therapists is pretty heady stuff, my brother.

          i reckon that you haven’t answered my request to expand on the poor and emotionally stifling parenting, but it doesn’t rally matter. our experiences must be informing our takes, is all.

          thanks for the cliffs notes on achilles in vietnam; i wonder now if it’s quite different among the all-volunteer warriors, even know that for many, the military is by way of a jobs program in disguise? what a fooking brilliant move that was, arrrggh.

          speaking of which, arthur silber said a few days ago that if he can rally, keep body, soul, and cat together, he intends to write a polemic against ken burns’ ‘vietnam war’ epic. john pilger’s was grand, i think.

          not so much the homage to the warrior class from the talking heads, but: Psych ward:

          “Today, we continue to condone, as we whimper in our cells, condos or McMansions, institutional killing at an industrial scale. We continue to countenance the training of thousands of killers (otherwise known as ‘our boys’) in ‘boot camps’ where their sensitivities towards evisceration and ensanguining are blunted, and many thousands more men and women who directly support them logistically, nutritionally and medically. We continue to revere the executives who command them and who themselves train in elite colleges where they are taught the fine arts of chemical, ballistic, incendiary and steel-edged death.”

        • re: “in the pop sense of these words, the “focus on the family” is itself part of the problem.” if you’re talking about james dobson, yes. our adopted daughter was abused brutally before she was six months old; we fostered her in an emergency. she evidenced all of what came of that brutality, and after my sister- and brother-in-law visited, they sent us dobson’s ‘how to discipline the strong-willed child’, seriously. i did try reading it, but when i got to ‘hit the child withe a stick so the child will know that it’s not the parent, but the stick that is disciplining them, i flew into a rage. did i send it back? possibly, can’t remember. but i did ask mr. wd if we might send them a ouija board for xmas after S-i-L maintained that our daughter’s birth must must have put a witch curse on her.

          their children separately came here (the black sheep of the family) to tell their secrets, but both ended up going back into the boom of their ‘family’. far easier, seemingly. but we wonder if they’ll repeat the lies, humiliations, etc. to their own chirren, which now number at least six or seven. but none of them are poor, middle-middle class, but fundie as all giddy-up.

          • omg. the answer to being beaten is more beating. i’m sorry. Dobson is a colossal SOB.
            given other things going on, i’ll pass on talking about my own mum und dud. family is too close right now. but from the age of 5, summers/weekends excluded, I like most Merkins spent half my waking life in a public institution, school. but even in the decent to “good” schools I went to, what did I learn? competition, rivalry, clawing to the top, disdain for “weaker” peers (i.e., those not naturally expert at taking standardized tests, like I was), unquestioning deference to irrational authority, etc.

            • ‘mum and dud’; one might surmise who played which roles. for tonight, i have to beg off, as both son and daughter called tonight. no, i shouldn’t be depressed, it’s almost ‘been written in the stars’ by now.

              but are you earning enough dollars to at least eat marginally well, tom joad on the oly road?

              sleep well all, dream well or at least instructively.

            • “omg. the answer to being beaten is more beating. i’m sorry.” got a bit more courage today, at least enough to say that our babby girl wasn’t beaten, per se, but shaken so hard that she went into epileptic seizure, went blind in one eye (mercifully it eventually healed), and her birth mum’s ‘failure to protect her’ resulted in something altogether worse, if you can imagine.

              she was born with fetal alcohol effect, a step down from FAS, attachment disorder, which can be related to mum’s alcoholism, of course. she was prescribed cherry-flavored liquid phenobarbital which had the effect of making her into a perpetual motion machine.

              ironically, i was the identified abusive mother upon whom she wrought her revenge, and i can’t think of one of her therapists over the years who disagreed with her displacement of that onto me. eventually we ran out of resources to secure help for her, and gawd save us, put her into the social services system. in a group home, she got preggers intentionally eventually married the ex-con father who also had attachment issues. although his father abused him, as per alice miller, there was no deviation from his belief that his now-dead pa was a hero. ma, had, and still has, the largest collection of dolls i’ve ever heard of…on every surface of her house. perfect chirren, perfect behavior, and they never even get their clothes dirty.

              the additional irony is that it seems that i’m her best friend now, and usually hear from her at least twice a day. okay, courage dissipated for now…but no, you don’t fix an abused kid by hitting them, nor any other child, either.

              • Sorry to hear all that. Limited internet till later today. Still kickin.

                • glad to hear you’re still kickin’, j, but noaa says it’s cooooold in olympia, maybe 10 degrees warmer than here last night and tonight, which was 25 brrrrs. and are you eating well enough, not to pry? okay…to pry just a little….

                  • “if you are starving in Olympia it’s cuz you are stupid.”
                    i’m fine. been a difficult couple of weeks. but i’m warm, dry, and well…fed, if not well-fed, quality wise.

  6. Dark with power, we remain
    the invaders of our land, leaving
    deserts where forests were,
    scars where there were hills.
    On the mountains, on the rivers,
    on the cities, on the farmlands
    we lay weighted hands, our breath
    potent with the death of all things.
    Pray to us, farmers and villagers
    of Vietnam. Pray to us, mothers
    and children of helpless countries.

    Ask for nothing.
    We are carried in the belly
    of what we have become
    toward the shambles of our triumph,
    far from the quiet houses.
    Fed with dying, we gaze
    on our might’s monuments of fire.
    The world dangles from us
    while we gaze.

    ~Wendell Berry

  7. System gobbled two comments.

  8. here a few excerpts from phil rockstroh’s ‘Citadels of Paranoia; Panoramas of Despair: An Occupation of Phantoms’, oct. 9. i’ve always loved his soul-wrenching prose, and i do agree w/ the background atmospherics of the amerikan so-called ‘culture’, but as underpinning the LV murderer’s sociopathic deed? yes, some of it. his paragraphs on institutionalized, reified, fear is great, and what more gun control discussions bring.

    “Alienation is an apt response to negotiating a soulless landscape. Where is the eros in Big Box/strip mall encounters? The ad hoc architecture of the consumer culture, which manages to be both utilitarian and garish, renders the heart dry as dust and grinds the mind to spittle. The psyche is in constant communion with its outer surroundings. Thus, what comes to pass if what is extant is a nadascape of vapid commercialisation, designed to deliver the shallow sensations concomitant to consumerism but lacking a connecting eros to both numinous inner realities and binding human encounters? A mortification occurs. Some individuals are driven to lash out in anger, even in acts of mass murder. The rage remains inchoate thus is displayed In acts of road rage…in nebulous hatred of outsiders and minorities and the foreign other.

    “Shooting sprees. As American as convenience store hotdogs, mass incarceration and drone murder.
    Las Vegas, the crass and sterile US landscape on stilts and steroids, retails in empty sensation. Dominion of night where coruscating lights have scoured away the stars. Perpetual, meretricious come-ons. City of towering, shlock temples wherein what the US holds sacred is worshipped: legal larceny, the deification of empty sensation, and the transubstantiation of everything it touches, flesh and material, into fodder for exploitation. Kitsch über Alles. A 24/7 neon pentecost of mammon.

    A wilderness of the collective mind howling with hungry ghosts. Vengeful spirits…inundate the air of the US cult of death. The imprecatory prayers of millions of slaughtered Indians ride the western winds and are funnelled into the void of vapidity that is Las Vegas.

    A man, eaten hollow by alienation, his soul rancid with displaced rage, stands on a hotel balcony. The heft of his firearm is the only thing that feels tangible in his hollowness and amid the weightless sheen of the architecture of the city below.”

    the rest is here.

    • nice. the lights of vegas are enough to make anyone want to take out a gun & start shooting. the lights that is. all the sewage of the world flows into, back into cuz there is no backflow preventer, the US. and it’s many times distilled into the purest form of excrement in Vegas.

      • fine imagery, yes? the only times i’ve been thru ‘whatever happens in vegas…stays in vegas’ was twice on a bus to los angeles for a buddhist convention (yeah, i know) after the lights were out. that’s when it was at its most sinister to me, just the trash, tumbleweed, street people, and demonstrating the fakery of ‘the glitz’. glad you’re doing moderately okay, tom joad on the road.

    • reckon he’ll add that to his resumé? oh: he just did. ;-) langston hughes’ ‘a dream deferred’, really? some odd wealthy woman at firedoglake shook an ugly stick at me for quoting one of palast’s pieces. he’d linked to some site, i’d used it. she went a bit bananas insisting i change the link, noting that she’d gone to school with him, and had emailed him about my alleged fook up. he kinda sorta said, fine, she (meaning me) could change it to his ‘offishull site’. dagnabbit, what was her name? she’d bought a gorgeous, pristine georgia o’keefe folio from my book sale to raise money for tarheel dem’s many items confiscated from him while he was imprisoned at holman square dark site during the nato convention in chicago. spoiler alert: he did finally get out, bless his heart.

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