Friday, 25 December 2009

Compartmental Conscience.

I describe our human ability to have a selective conscience as "compartmental conscience". This term enables us to visualise the way we put bits of our conscience into different boxes in our minds, separate from other boxes, and the way we take things that we don`t want to have a conscience about and set them aside into another box. This process allows us to function even when different boxes/compartments have contradictions with each other.

Lets look at some examples:

I was prompted to write this blog after seeing video footage of youths tempting a swan to the riverbank with some food, only to viciously kick it in the neck, killing it outright. The TV program then showed a vet operating to save the life of a swan that had had it`s wing broken in another savage attack. The bird lay on an operating table and the vet amputated the wing. The swan`s blood triggered my mind to visualise a similar scene where the bird would be a turkey or chicken being prepared for eating and I imagined that the vet would happily sit down to a roast chicken, yet was here using all her skill to save a bird. This is an example of compartmental conscience. In one mental compartment she is eating a bird, and that compartment says that it is OK to do so, yet in another mental compartment she strives to save a bird. It is the compartmentalising of conscience that enables these contradictory actions to take place, the closedness of each compartment in the mind allowing guilt-free actions in one mode and conscienceful actions in the other.

We see this pervasively in the relationships around us. Someone may bully a friend or a spouse, or whomsoever, on the one hand, and be decent and kind and morally upright on the other. One mental compartment will justify being abusive to one person whilst the another compartment will not allow such behaviour at all. Indeed, it can be the very nature attached to one compartment that propels the moral or immoral behaviour of another. A typical situation would be the compartment we make when we want to justify being unkind to someone: We may be respectful and kind and loving to this person most of the time, but when we want to be unkind we create a compartment with a label of justification...Something like,
" so- and- so forgot my birthday, so I am justified in not speaking to them."

We as human beings want and need to be in a mental compartment that is comfortable and approving of our actions..We see this in religious practice, for example, where people cleave in order to furnish approval for themselves, both from within themselves and from the community in which they live. But where there is one area where we obviously strive to be good, there are others where we are less than good people. Religion can be excellent propaganda for us as "good people" and can help us to feel good about ourselves, yet it can also convince us that other bad actions are acceptable/allowable given that we are so good in this one area. And this we see all around us, a sort of trade-off between compartments, that lets us off the hook as far as guilt is concerned.

So what consequences are there, in the broader picture, of compartmentalising our consciences? Well, cruelty, discrimination, racism and bullying, demonisation and witch hunting, are all products of compartmentalising. We see it in the Nazi ability to demonise Jews whilst they maintain normal, non-paranoid, relations with their families and fellow countrymen. We see it in gang-mentality where violence can be inflicted against "outsiders", or other gangs, but not towards their own. We see it in criminality where a compartment allows shoplifting or burglaries. We see it in society wherever we look.

Bullying..... and I mean all types of bullying....compartmentalises the one to be bullied by some judgment that will enable bullying to take place without there being conscience to prevent it. You have to put someone in a box as "different from others" in order to allow your conscience to get away with it. We thus see that doctors, for example, can be exemplary towards most of their patients, and yet will put a patient whom they don`t like or maybe have damaged in some way, into a separate box labeled "problem patient". The placing of this patient into another category will enable the conscience to switch off in regard to this particular person and the doctor can be rude or even medically abusive without any conscience at all.

We need to be aware of compartmentalising in our interpersonal relationships and in the wider world. Whilst it has many damaging affects, it can also enable our better nature to thrive and function normally.

Sunday, 20 December 2009

Your Kids Belong to the State.

The present government is hell-bent upon inspecting families where children are being home educated. This crusade gathered momentum after the failings of social workers led to mistakes where children who were being abused at home died. None of these children were home educated in fact, but out of a drive to be seen to make sure the system protectes all children, the government decided to aim their cosmetic rightfulness at home educating families. Later, way down the line, they shifted their professed aims by claiming that they wanted to inspect children educated at home to make sure that they were receiving a proper education.

So what? you might say. Why should this be of any concern to me? Many people who send their kids to school, state or private, have said that they are all in favour of children who don`t go to school being properly assessed and monitored. Somehow it looks okay doesn`t it? You know, government protecting children, concerns about child welfare and suitable education. Whatever could be wrong with that?

But parents who educate their kids at home have opted out of mainstream education for good reason.They have concerns about educational methods in schools and the ever-present culture of bullying.They are concerned that schools absolutely fail a huge number of children, not least because children are demotivated by a "sit down and learn what you are told to learn" mentality. Having opted to imbue their childrens lives with a nurturing educational ethos based upon harnessing a child`s natural instinct to learn,the government then decides that it doesn`t trust them to do this: It wants to inspect them, invade the family, direct what should be taught, how and when and for how many hours. The government wants CONTROL and it wants it`s eyes all over the private life of a family..just because the parents are opting out of a standard education for their kids.


Human rights alarm-bells ring out a cry of suppression as we become aware of very basic group psychology playing out it`s desire to punish people who do not conform to the wider group: in this case there is a larger group unease at some parents rejecting the school system. The fact is that with children being withdrawn in ever greater numbers from schools, the state has to try to protect itself by shifting the onus of suspicion away from a failing educational system onto the educational heretics, "home edors". People in home ed. who simply want to educate their children in a non-coercive way, inadvertently end up reflecting guilt back at the "powers that be" as they try to avoid looking in their own mirrors.

To avoid guilt/responsibility the state is common practice in guilt avoidance... tries to shift guilt onto home ed. It wants to control it because it needs to deflect it`s own guilt away from itself. In the most simplistic terms the phenomenon of guilt-shifting is no better played out than by sending the authorities to the door of innocent people: it makes them LOOK guilty of something. The game-play of any authority casting suspicion, publicly, upon a person or group, has the affect of cohering the masses against a common "enemy". It is precisely the same process as all forms of bullying, racism, etc.

The reason why this should concern everyone is because the state is pushing it`s way into all of our private lives, we are all under suspicion, civil liberties are under assault. Home educating families have become part of a slippery slope that will, if the government get their way, invade us all.

If you look you can see the signs everywhere: The state thinks it has the right to dictate what you do in your own home and it`s moral high ground is getting bigger all that time. We have seen how fat people cannot adopt, black children must be adopted only by black families, etc. Parents who eat the wrong fatty food have more recently become in danger of having their kids taken away. The most recent imposition has been that everyone must be CRB checked if they are involved in looking after children. The drive against home educating families and the self-righteous invasion of their human rights is all part of the wider picture of a moralising state that damages its ordinary citizens in the name of protecting children!!

So let`s have a look at those instances I mentioned above, measures supposedly to protect children and look after their best interests:

1/ Fat people cannot adopt because they might die all the sooner due to being overweight, not to mention that they would be a bad example to any children they adopt!!! So who suffers most as a result of this policy? Children. Children in children's homes or children shunted from one foster family to another and who are desperate to be adopted.

2/Black children must be adopted into black families because it is deemed "better for them" to be brought up by their own people, so to speak. Who suffers? Black children who spend endless years in children's homes because there is no black family to adopt them.

3/Parents who eat the wrong kind of food and feed their children the wrong kind of food are guilty of a form of child abuse and should have their children taken away. And who would suffer if children were to be removed from their parents? Children yet again. Children who would be traumatised by the powerlessness and incomprehensible cruelty of being pulled away from their parents.

4/ And the CRB checking of adults who help out with looking after kids? The kids will suffer... because people do not want to be impugned by a CRB check and children will miss out on activities if adults do not volunteer their time.

Now you can see the pattern.... So when we get to the issue of forcing a misguided and backfiring morality on home educating parents by wanting them inspected and forcing them to follow the government`s narrow and regime-based educational models, we can clearly see exactly who is going to suffer. Children. Children in families where they are loved and nurtured, where education is not a regime but a joy, who will be forced to accept that the state has the right to override their parents, invade their family, dictate how their parents should educate them ... and the frightening lesson that the home is violable by the Local Authority.

With the government`s proposed violation of the home, the precedent has been set that children belong to the state, not to parents.

We will come back to these, and related issues, in later blogs.

Sunday, 29 November 2009

Errors of Perception.

We look out from our position of "self" and take what we see as concrete knowledge of our surroundings and our relationships. Indeed, without assumptions about our environment and the cues we receive from the people around us, it would be very difficult to function at all. We live by core perceptions that hold us together and we modify and change elements around these constants, as necessary.

But sometimes these perceptions are incorrect, we make mistakes, and there are consequences for us and for those around us.I am particularly interested in how and why we make assumptions in regard to the society we experience and our inter-personal relationships and how this impacts on our lives and on society too.

My blogs are an attempt to think about these issues and to try to understand the hidden forces at work in our everyday lives with an eye to fairness and right and justice.

We can understand why there is prejudice or injustice, violence or immorality, but these are not just the "dark side" of our better selves, they emanate from the same source,our human nature.I hope that trying to understand these elements of our functioning self will help us to mitigate the affects of destructive impulses in a constructive sense, but, if only to calm our frustrations and our feelings of defencelessness, thinking this through is eminently worthwhile. In common parlance this is termed "self help" !!!!!

Let`s take an example:

We have seen via the media that social workers have made mistakes when assessing
cases involving children. Some cases of child abuse have been missed, but conversely we know that some cases have been imagined where no abuse is present. How can this happen?

There are two main influences here, the personal, where our personal psychological baggage influences the things we think we perceive, and the group, the part we play in a group dynamic with the people around us.

Now, we might assume that professionals are trained to be objective and have certain criteria by which to ascertain whether there is child abuse or not. We can see here how we immediately follow our acquired assumption that "professionalism" is a safeguard towards correct, unbiased and non-subjective discernment. But the professional process is only dictated by the people who contrive these methods, and the processes and those people are subject to their own personal baggage and their own group position as well!

Let`s take a very ordinary experience: We walk down the street and as we go we assess, as part of an unconscious process, who is a threat and who is not. This assessment is almost instantaneous , we have little control over it and yet it informs us as if it were knowledge and not just a response to all our cues. We certainly do not feel we are hijacked by irrational baggage !!!
So what are these cues and where do they come from?

Well, we carry reflex responses old and new, autonomic fears coming from our development as a species, biological drives, inherited cues from our parents and family and of course cues arising from our own experiences. We also acquire new cues all the time, from people around us and from the media.

Personal Cues:
When a social worker goes to assess a family, they may be trained to be objective, but they are unaware of the part played by their own personal issues and the wider group drive. No amount of training can change this, mitigate it maybe, but not eliminate it. Why? Because, on a personal level, we are not always able to cognise our own cues: If I have been upset by a particular person with particular physical characteristics when I am four years old, I may not recall this, and yet if it is triggered when I interview a parent who happens to carry this characteristic, my objective judgement will be swayed, I will have a negative perception of them and my intellect will try to rationalise my feelings. What can happen here is that the observer, the social worker in this case, will align their subjectivity with their objectivity, that is, they will find a rational, observable reason to doubt the parent, not realising that they are doing this. This then can be passed to colleagues as observable according to their "possible child abuse" criteria, and will assume the power of "proof" against the parent. Thus, the idea that a particular parent is guilty begins upon a cue that is not conscious and takes on all the colours of objective truth as it grows from one professional to another.

This, of course, can work in reverse, a social worker may have a positive cue related to a certain characteristic in a person they are assessing, yet this person is abusing a child. The positive cue will mask the objective judgement and once again the intellect will justify this perception.

Group Dynamics:
In the U.K. there have been such huge mistakes in overlooking cases of child abuse, such that cases of mistaken abuse will inevitably rise as social workers desperately try to avert error. Many families have been victim to this and their children have been removed.
There is serious contradiction in pursuing child abuse if innocent parents and their children are persecuted, just as in the name of justice, it is not acceptable for innocent people to be jailed for crimes they did not commit. Yet social workers are making mistakes out of fear that they will overlook a case of abuse, a death will occur, and they will be held responsible for it. Individual social workers are trying to protect themselves by rigorously pursuing the group drive to find child abuse, and because they are afraid of the wider group, society,if they should not notice a real case of abuse, they can make mistakes.

So a social worker mindful of "not making a mistake" will view a family differently from a person observing without a personal fear; the fear they have directly plays upon what they "see". We can observe this mechanism too, if we consider the phenomenon of looking for abusers as part of a group need to outcast misfits,deviants and unacceptables in society: Good guys and bad guys. People who have a "crusade" to find deviants of any sort are not able to be rational at the outset. Here, they are part of a group with a crusade to stamp out child abuse and by their position cannot be balanced or objective. If we set out to find something negative in someone we are apt to perceive it, just like any paranoia-induced perception, still more so if we are in a group intoxication, a group with a mission, all of whose members are primed to seek out abuse. In such a group we can lose much of ourselves, we can abdicate perceptions that we would have if not directed by others, and we can ignore our better judgment in the pursuance of our group-induced personal needs..

But what is it about a group that implants ideas and propels group loyalties? Well, we get approval, protection, a comfortable familiarity from being in a group. We are persuaded by group ideas because we need as human beings to belong and feel accepted and needed; if we don`t conform, we lose this. Being an insider gives us a sense of well-being and fulfilment. Leaders within groups use strategies to make the group stick together, they promote ideas of "us and them", draw us in close and reward us when we gratify them. Being in a group with a mission to stamp out child abuse is a worthy position, but as such it necessarily creates delusions of superiority and grandeur and it is the very "we are saving children against abusers" that causes an inability to think about whether there is really child abuse or not. The group desires results.. and the workers in the group want to gain approval for finding it. Because we crave this approval we are seduced by it and this distorts our perceptions.

So with just a preliminary look at the forces at play behind the scenes in such a situation as requires professional judgement, we see just how unsafe our perceptions are. With influences from our own psychological makeup and the imposition of group demands, it is almost impossible to be professionally objective.

I do believe, however, that awareness can change things and achieve a better society for us all.