Dark, stormy days

It’s not just the weather.

Christschool’s recent post, “Fleeting Innocence, Captured Before It’s Gone” got me thinking and connecting distant points, much in the manner of the orb-weaver spider that connects a broadening spiral of nodes across our back door each night.

We slide further into a scarier world.  It is not just a world where there is less freedom and diversity plus more violence and hate-crime, but rather a world that not only publicly accepts and condones, but even demands the necessity of violence.

It’s there in the realm of education, where the requirements for instruction and inclusion have created new opportunities for some spiteful people to create long-lasting terror for those forcibly obliged to attend.  When children are harassed and bullied and tormented in school to the point they finally react, their persecutors (and those who allow such events to continue) strike back and complain, “We must be allowed to forcibly control and harm those misbehaving children so we can ‘protect’ everyone.”

It’s there in the realm of employment, where the openness of accommodations and efforts of ordinary people to use them for work, shopping and leisure has provided some people with new bases for the discrimination and harassment of their coworkers, employees, and customers.  “They shouldn’t be there if they don’t want to deal with the problems they’re going to create by existing in the public sphere.  It’s too much money or trouble, or uses up resources that Real People need.  They should just stay at home or be gotten rid of.”

It’s there in the realm of national security, where anyone who is suspected of activity can be detained for years without legal process, and tortured as well.  Even ordinary, law-abiding citizens cannot expect to have the same safeguards for rights and liberties that they used to.  “Freedom isn’t free.”

Whereas violence was previously ignored, or dismissed as unimportant, or officially diminished (downgraded) as being less severe than it was, now we have an increasing number of situations where violence is seen as not only inevitable, but also as excusable, desirable, beneficial and even necessary.

Freedom and safety are obverse and reverse of the same coin; when we seek to increase one, we lose more of the other.

Sadly, as economic and political times get more anxious, groups of people withdraw back to their tribal units in paranoia.  The backward, rigid end of conservatism or tribalism reacts to uncertainty and fear by enforcing greater controls.  To some, eliminating tolerance for the Other and superstitiously making sacrifices to appease divine forces seems to be the only way to ward off Bad Things from happening.  Somebody has to pay.  It must be Somebody’s fault.  If Somebody who isn’t behaving exactly as the codes specify is punished, then divine pleasure might be gained.  If Somebody can be blamed for causing our problems, then swift and great revenge is appropriate and balance will be restored.

But scapegoating and harming the few of the outgroup does nothing to ensure that all are safe.  Hardly anyone in the larger public will even listen, and most don’t even want to hear what’s really happening.  We are sinking in insidious evil that is frosted-over in colourful “truthiness” sugar-coating, and is obscured by galas of newslessness about celebrity foibles and the nonsense over manufactroversies.  The bits that do get reported are so shouted-over with “spin” that great chunks of the public can’t even hear them, much less realise the cognitive dissonance.  Such platitudes are just the 21st-century version of Orwellian Newspeak, where we are being sold the terrifying message that

“PAIN IS SAFETY”

Don’t you believe it.  Be careful when there seems to be a break in the clouds; sometimes it’s just the eye of the hurricane.

5 Comments

  1. 24 September 2008 at 15:05

    My child had such a bad day in school yesterday that his teachers are considering reworking his entire IEP. I just wanted to cry. It can be such a breeze some days, and such an uphill struggle on other days. I can’t even talk about it coherently yet. I just wanted to drop by your blog to tell you how much you inspire me. You have overcome so much, and my little boy can do it, too.

  2. ange said,

    18 September 2008 at 13:53

    “When children are harassed and bullied and tormented in school to the point they finally react, their persecutors (and those who allow such events to continue) strike back and complain…”

    My oldest is in 3rd grade and we both have been beat down. He was put in a seclusion room in kindergarten. I don’t ask for much but:
    1) See my son as a person, not a behavior
    2) Listen and honor his words, and escalation most likely won’t happen
    3) Accommodation and modification will help him to be successful, and then he will take risks
    4) For his learning disabilitites, instruct at his pace, between that and number 3 he will progress
    5) Don’t just teach my son “social skills,” teach his peers!

    In any case, I have binders of letters, documents, IEPs, Evaluations, child complaints, a brain full of “how to navigate the special education process” and … nothing has changed. Every year is about compliance and fitting in the box. I am seriously considering homeschooling while continuing to promote change (nomoseclusion.blogspot.com). I don’t know what the right answer is, but it is so difficult to fight the good fight for the greater good and watch your child spiral downward in the process.

    Timely post for me. Thanks.

  3. saydrah said,

    17 September 2008 at 20:27

    Yikes… *looks out the window* Well gee, Andrea, now I’m all nervous! Expecting a black helicopter any minute!

    Actually, reading this post is just like talking to my dad… he says all the same things about the current political climate. It is scary. It’s scary being a young, new professional in the current economy, it’s scary being the right age to be drafted if they brought back the draft and included women, and it’s really, really, really scary to think that Sarah “let’s go to war with Russia” Palin could be a heartbeat from the presidency come January.

    One thing I’m doing to help alleviate my fears of the future is learning Arabic. The cure for fear is knowledge. I find that I no longer think of the Muslim world as scary, no matter how many times the TV tells me terrorists are people with brown skin and turbans, now that I can talk to the people with brown skin and turbans, whether they speak English or not. I highly recommend it as a cure for tribalism. Next I’m going to work on Farsi.

    Maybe student exchange programs could help, too?

  4. 15 September 2008 at 22:43

    “When children are harassed and bullied and tormented in school to the point they finally react, their persecutors (and those who allow such events to continue) strike back and complain…”

    I actually saw this in s school where I was a student tutor: the teacher did not notice the things I was able to see. Sadly, as an ST, I had no authority at all, and it would have been hard to say anything to this particular teacher. Best I could do at the time: have a word with the lad, and say that his best response is no response. Because the one landing in the shit is always gonna be him.

  5. kaleidoscoperefractions said,

    13 September 2008 at 4:05

    Very powerful post, Andrea.

    I’m interested in the link between tribalism and authoritarians.

    It’s very potent to appeal to the tribalist impulse in people…and it appears that this is a large part of the American psyche. It makes me fearful that this time, like last time, it might be effective.


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