Abandon Text!

W. H. Auden once said: "Poems are not finished; they are abandoned." I have been abandoning writing projects for many years, since only the pressure of deadline and high expectations ever got me to finish, or even start, anything of merit. This blog is an attempt to create a more consistent, self-directed writing habit. Hopefully a direction and voice will emerge.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Teaching violence, teaching control

I heard on NPR the other day that a program was doing a "violent-toy exchange," in which kids brought in their toy guns and violent video games and exchanged them for constructive or cooperative games: craft kits, puzzles, sporting equipment.

For all of my familiarity with Attachment Parenting and our continuous committment to shield our children from media as long as possible, I still feel a strange ambivalence about these sorts of events. True, I am convinced that the popular culture has immersed itself in extreme violence, and that such constant exposure to ever-more-graphic displays will have an inevitable corrosive affect on sensitivity and sensibility of developing minds. But I also feel like the counter-culture, the anti-violence activists, have yet to come up with a coherent philosophy to handle the reality of violence in human nature and in life.

This local event, at least, had the right idea to emphasize the alternatives to violence. Most of our political and social problems in the world are one long, unending quest to get people to consider alternatives to violence. And it is perfectly rational to say: "Look, building things with Legos is every bit as 'boy' as running around with guns." And so it is. But once the building is done, it is every bit as "boy" to explode the Lego buildings with Richochet Racer mortar fire. While they encourage the constructive, pro-social elements of human nature, they fail to acknowledge the aspects of violence that are built into human nature itself. Boys are not "infected" with violence from outside entities; they only fail to develop the capacities to control and channel violent impulses that were always there to begin with.

Recently, when I was wrestling with my two small sons, I spontaneously started to show them some basics of aikido. I encouraged them to experiment with different ways to push me over, and showed them what worked and what didn't. I showed them some ways to roll and fall without getting hurt. That they enjoyed it was not surprising; but I was shocked at how much they paid attention. Usually slow and casual in responding to my requests, Aidan was obedient to the point of being crisp. His violent impulses, thus far only finding release in playground stick fights, was now getting official sanction and direction. He loved it. More importantly, I think he was ready for it. He needed it.

I do not believe we can take all the violence out of our kids, nor even that that is a worthwhile goal. I believe it needs to be channelled, schooled, and controlled. The pro-social-non-violent moms might be shocked when I call, not only for more Legos, but for boxing, wrestling, martial arts, archery, and hunting. Our children will be schooled in violence. Our only choice is whether we will do the schooling, and incorporate principles of restraint, discipline, respect, sportsmanship, and honor -- or whether we will let their schooling come from Grand Theft Auto and The Sopranos.

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