Thursday, February 26, 2009

Quotable: Alice Miller on torture

From her article, The Origins of Torture In Endured Child Abuse:
The thirst for vengeance does not come from nowhere. It has a clearly identifiable cause. The thirst for vengeance has its origins in infancy, when children are forced to suffer in silence and put up with the cruelty inflicted on them in the name of upbringing. They learn how to torment others from their parents, and later from their teachers and superiors. It is nothing other than systematic instruction by example on how to destroy others. Yet many people believe that it has no evil consequences. As if a child were a container that can be emptied from time to time. But the human brain is not a container. The things we learn at an early stage stay with us in later life.

In my recent book "Die Revolte des Körpers" (The Body Never Lies) appeared in Germany in March 2004, I pointed out that in 22 American states children and adolescents can be beaten, humiliated, and sometimes exposed to outright sadism without this having any legal consequences. Such treatment is equivalent to genuine torture. But it is not called so. It goes by the name of education, discipline, leadership. These practices are actively supported by most religions. There is no protest against it, except on some Internet websites. But the Internet is also full of advertisements for whips and other devices for punishing small children and making them into God-fearing individuals so that God will approve of them and give them His love. The scandal in Iraq shows what becomes of these children when they reach adulthood. The perverted soldiers are the fruits of an education that actively instills violence, meanness, and perversion into young people.

The media quote psychological experts who contend that the brutality displayed by the American soldiers is a result of the stress caused by war. It is true that war unleashes latent aggression. BUT TO BE UNLEASHED IT HAS TO BE ALREADY THERE. It would be impossible for individuals who have not been exposed to violence very early, either at home or at school, to abuse and mock defenseless prisoners. They simply couldn't do it. We know from the history of the last World War that many conscripted soldiers were able to show a human face, even in the stress of war, if they had grown up without being exposed to violence. Many accounts of the war and the conditions in the camps tell us that even such extreme stress will not necessarily turn adults into perverted individuals.

Perversion has a long, obscure history invariably rooted in the childhood of the individual. It is hardly surprising that these histories are usually concealed from the eyes of society. People who have been taught to obey by having violence inflicted on them have very good reasons to avoid being reminded of the sufferings they went through in childhood and prevent the suppressed facts from ever emerging into the light of day.
H/t Arthur Silber from his other site, The Sacred Moment.

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