Another behavior I frequently observed with children, when they are excited and fighting, is that one boy is going to sit on the face of another, weaker boy, or a girl, to let out a flatulence. While in most cases the audience laughs in such a situation, there is nothing to laugh about because such behavior really is dangerous. It may suffocate the child underneath, or even break their neck, when the movement was done harshly.
Now, how to react when you face that as an educator? It occurred to me in a free school project; the situation in that school was particularly dramatic because there were two boys who were stronger than the rest of the group and who tried to ‘make the law;’ usually they would fight with each other and try out all the perversities they would subsequently inflict upon the smaller boys, and the girls. I was alarmed when they targeted a girl from a different culture, and became hyper-violent with her, to a point to massacre her with their fists and kicking her in the belly. The female educator who used to work with them since quite a time was escaping in the kitchen, to wash the dishes, and I reproached to her that she was really irresponsible, and got the boys off that girl, but it was not a minor task, as they began fighting me instead. I could handle the situation and after some serious talk, they did not attack that girl again. I was matter-of-fact with them. When they were were hitting me, I was not hitting back, but tried to catch up their blows before they hurt me. When they jumped on me from the beds, I was gently letting them down on the floor. After some time, they were so hot and sweaty that they gave up. Then I let them sit down for talk. I simply said:
— When you sit on the face of somebody you may accidentally suffocate them or break their neck.
They didn’t seem to understand right away what that implied. One asked, flabbergasted:
— Do you mean that … the girl would be dead later …?
And I replied:
— It may end up like that, in the worst scenario.
There was no answer. And they never did it again.
Another detail is important in this context. As in this school the general approach to education was liberal, as the whole institution was created by well-to-do local families who were quite fed up with the repressive school system in that country, I was discussing the matter of violence with the principle, a nurse. I told her the behavior of the boys toward the girls may betray sexual tension, and it was perhaps better to have them engage in sexual games instead of being violent to each other, which was, after all a perverse behavior. She agreed and replied that the parents never had the idea to forbid the children to engage in their little sex games on the toilet. I replied I had never noticed anything of that kind, and was pretty sure there was nothing going on in this respect. Upon which she told me they’d had quite of a problem in that respect once, as the boys had encircled one of the smaller girls, and ‘unfortunately’ one that was already in psychological treatment, and they had forced her to undress in the bushes.
The girl had told her psychologist and they’d got ‘a serious problem.’ Upon which they had reasoned that sexual energy should not be pent up and that they should be free ‘to do their little games on the toilet.’
I wondered why it had to be on the toilet and asked her if she thought the toilet was the appropriate place for children to make their first attempts in self-discovery? She nervously replied they could not reasonably allow them to do it in the room, or create a room for that, as it was ‘too dangerous,’ as their educational project was more or less improvised and not ‘blessed’ by the authorities.
So after some questioning I found out that all was pure theory, that the children never even had known they had the right to enjoy themselves when being on the toilet. And more importantly, the matter never had been discussed with the children, only above their heads, among the educators, and the parents. For me, having witnessed the two boys boxing that little girl in her underbelly and kicking her between her legs was clear enough to tell me the whole story. These children were repressed, and the parents glorified themselves with ‘being open and progressive.’
The parents had cherished an idea that they complimented each other for, but this idea was neither put to practice, nor was it in any way communicated to the children.
In my observation perverse behavior never is a direct outflow of natural behavior patterns; there always was a moment in the life of the child when something happened that disturbed his or her normal psychosexual growth; so we have a discontinuity, a split, a crack, a regression in the child’s growth history when we see perverse behavior displayed by a child. In such a case, we know that the natural emotional flow was disrupted at a particular point in time, in the past of that child.
With punishing nothing positive can be reached in such a constellation; in the contrary would I suggest the child needs help to understand the pattern, to see the distortion, without a need for doing something about it. Once the pattern is conscious, the perverse behavior will vanish by itself. To be against something doesn’t help to change it.
You know that when you see people smoking. Many smokers are against the habit of smoking; they say ‘I do not like smoking. I do not like when people smoke. But I smoke because I do not know how to stop it.’ They know the dangers of smoking, they also know that by smoking they involuntarily make others smoke with them, and get infected on their turn. They know all this and they smoke nonetheless.
When a child grows up in a family of smokers, to tell the child that ‘smoking is not good’ is ridiculous, really, because the child hasn’t seen anything else than people smoking. So the child will think ‘Oh, that means that my parents are not good people.’ Is that the intention you had when telling the child that smoking is not good? Did you want to bring the child up against their parents, or create a gap in their trust level?
You see how easily such statements that can be called moralistic, are creating havoc. They are easily uttered and they ‘feel good;’ they give you that feeling of ‘moral righteousness’ the Bible so often talks about. Is that what you want in life, to be a righteous fighter? Well, such an attitude will perhaps look good in your church or prayer group, but it looks rather ridiculous in front of modern children. We are living in 2015, not in 1015.
See a difference? So then, keep your righteousness for yourself, it’s fine, and focus on the needs of the child. The latter is a bit more important, to be true.
Besides, such statements do not have an ontological value for children. They are should-be statements, they are wishful thinking. You cannot educate anybody by uttering such kind of slogans. They even get in the way when building trust with children you care for. So try to get beyond the paradigm of idealism, as it’s really not useful in education.
As a general rule, children respond rather poorly to a morality-based approach; they won’t say anything in the regular case, but they won’t build deep trust and they won’t experience real joy when they know the educators around them are following a strictly compulsive morality paradigm. It’s not morality but true love that helps children to grow sanely, and that can heal distortions if ever they occurred through educational negligence or violence.
And there is something else that morality-based education never understood. Children need a space also for being irrational, or nonsensical. I have observed that all truly happy children once in a while have a moment of madness, when they do things that are nonsensical, dangerous, daring, irrational, and where you can long try to ‘psychoanalyze’ the behavior. You won’t get to any conclusions because there simply is nothing to analyze when a child just needs a space, a moment of free expression of their irrationality.
We humans are both rational and irrational, while we other adults have put our irrationality safely under control, except we are artists. Now, morality-based education stresses the rational mind so much because of their fear of the ‘untamed beast’ that they believe is contained in every child. So their approach basically can be described with the slogan ‘taming the beast.’
I won’t lose a word about this approach because it’s what it is: an attempt to tame animals. But human children are not animals. This approach is based upon a misunderstanding of the human nature, or it’s simply based upon the ideology of Calvinism which is a form of religious perversion. Even Catholic education doesn’t go as far as wanting to ‘root out the devil’ in every child; a Catholic priest knows that the Devil, after all, is contained in God, for there cannot be anything that is outside of God. That is why, despite all, Catholic education has a space for irrationality, for the mysterious, apart from the fact that it’s really a pagan ritual under a new name — and that’s a good thing! It means Catholicism has incorporated nature in its dogma, which is visible in the idea of a ‘Mother of God,’ Maria. Maria stands for the pagan Goddess, and it symbolizes the matrix, the Mother Earth, and the eternal feminine as part of Creation.
In Calvinism, this is not so. There is no Maria in both Protestantism and Calvinism; it was rooted out, it was set outside the ritual, it was iconoclasted. That is why the real Catholic dogma (which is not necessarily the official one) tolerates children’s emotions, and their sexuality, by simply turning the face away; the Catholic dogma, contrary to folk wisdom, is not judgmental, but reduces all human to the Divine, in a rather simple logic that says ‘If God created us sexual, which is obvious, then God must have meant us to be sexual;’ so the real, mystic, Catholic dogma doesn’t condemn emotions and sexual behavior. It only condemns indecency of such behavior, and this is what even a well-educated agnostic would agree with. Would you let your child run around in the street, naked? Would you receive your guests when your child is standing in the hall, masturbating? No, I mean we have to distinguish between religious dogma and decency; the two are not identical, and they are not synonymous.
If I am wrong in my assessment of Catholicism as an emotion-friendly religion, then please tell me how come that the Church has institutionalized the confession as a total and unconditional washing away of all sins to be confessed in the proper ritual? The promise of the baptism is that all sin is temporary, as ‘original sin’ can be washed off; which simply means a redemption of karma, in our modern psychological language.
So baptism frees of karma and repeats the promise of the Creator to accept His Creation despite human interference in the form of ‘sinning.’ In olden times, when a criminal, for example a murderer, was confessed officially by the Church, he could not be trialed by a court. So, Catholicism cannot be said to be judgmental, despite the fact that many Catholics are judgmental. They should take up studying their dogma once again.
But modern consumer society, with all its ‘labeling’ of people, and its ruthless judgmentalism, is not based upon Catholicism but upon Protestantism, and its special vintage of Calvinism. In Protestantism and Calvinism, you don’t have a concept of redemption, but predestination, which means that when somebody murders another, he has done that murder not really by his free will, but he was ‘destined to become a murderer,’ to fulfill his original destiny — which was … predestined.
So in this religious dogma, there is no space for emotions, there is no space for free will, there is no space for the good to prevail because all is ‘predestined;’ it’s a very cruel philosophy that basically says that Creation is bad and corrupt if not from the start, but anyway from the moment of the Fall. I believe this dogma is through and through blasphemic in that it denies the Creator to have the Supreme Power and Wisdom, and puts up an eternal antagonism between good and bad in which the bad prevails, as long as the ‘beast is not tamed.’ The worst educational tortures have been inflicted upon infants and children during the reign of Calvinism, in the countries where this dogma was born, Switzerland, and other Germanic cultures. Until today, as Alice Miller found in her writings, Germanic cultures are by far the most cruel in raising children, and the most violent against children!
In truth, there is no such thing as an ‘inner beast;’ there is well a shadow, there is well one of the inner selves that contains our negative energy, but that instance in us is not an antagonist, but an energy that, when properly handled, can be made a friend, and can be used for creative purposes. Socrates spoke of his daimon, and modern psychology calls this instance our shadow. Anyway, in children this inner self is not yet created, except the child grew up in a moralistic educational setting and reached at least twelve years of age. Before that time, and especially when the child grows up in a natural and loving setting, there simply is no inner shadow, there is no inner beast, there is nothing of that kind. So the Calvinist idea here really is a projection; it uses children as poison containers, as psychoanalyst Lloyd DeMause, a great defender of children’s rights and educational nonviolence, expresses it.
— See Lloyd DeMause, The History of Childhood (1974).
Whole libraries have been written about this subject. Jean-Jacques Rousseau, in his educational novel Émile, describes an ideal world of ‘natural behavior’ that he puts up like an ideology created after, suspiciously so, he himself abandoned his wife and five children. In that novel, he describes a relationship between an educator and the boy Émile that has many pederastic overtones, and where the tutor turns into a real persecutor that leaves the child no secret space, and that today, psychoanalytically, would have to be qualified as ‘obsessional’ and ‘projective.’
This novel should render us very careful when we as educators come and boast with a slogan like ‘back to nature;’ when the Calvinists say the inner beast of the child has to be tamed, Rousseau said the inner beast of the child has to be freed. Both namely admit the existence of an inner demon, and thereby are subjected to a perception error, by projecting behavior upon the human being that is not there.
Fact is that this queer Swiss philosopher, who coincidentally was from Geneva, like Calvin, the founder of Calvinism, had five children to educate and left them in utter misery, to dedicate himself to ‘education.’
I call such behavior insane, while our academic institutions tend to call such a person a saint. Second, when you read Émile attentively, you will quickly realize how persecutory that educator was. Over a few hundred pages, you gain the impression that nothing in the world existed than the hero of the novel and his student boy, as if the two were fusioned in eternal codependence, as if the boy never had creators, a father and a mother, because all that, if not life as a whole, simply is blinded out from the plot.
What we can learn from this story is what I am saying throughout this series of essays: in matters of education, those who recognize and accept their emotions can be good and very good educators, those who repress them, can be good philosophers. Their psychosexual setup may be sadistic but that is less of a problem when he stays home and works on his philosophical treatises; the same is not true when the philosopher begins to educate children. Looking at these matters in a functional way helps identifying the complexity of the problem.
Nature cannot be deformed without unpredictable results occurring; what results is most of the time violence in one form or the other. When you prohibit sex, you create violence. Generally speaking, the ersatz pleasure is always more problematic and more violent than the original pleasure. This is how the pleasure function works in the human being; it gives a priority, a prime, to the original, natural pleasure, and sanctions every attempt to circumvent the natural discharge of emotional tension, rendering the ersatz discharge more disruptive, and more conflictual than the original, natural discharge of the energy surplus.
In addition, the repressed desire perverts the energy contained in it, by polarizing it through retrogradation of its motion, and thus renders the originally harmless desire sadistic, violent and harmful.
To generalize this insight, we can say that ersatz pleasures are always more harmful than original pleasures.
A common example is the youngster who takes heroin because he can’t get through sexually with girls. While sex would have been healthy for him to experience, heroin will transform the blooming youth into a human wrack within less than a year.