Never violence…

June 11, 2011 § 2 Comments

Astrid Lindgren when she was confirmed 1923.

Never Violence!

Delivered upon children’s author Astrid Lindgren‘s acceptance of the German Booksellers Peace Prize in Frankfurt, Germany, October 22, 1978.

[And as Steve added:

“…the prize committee first rejected the speech for being too…what? Confrontational? Radical?”

She told them that they could keep their prize if she wasn’t allowed to hold it, and then they changed their minds, but not easily or readily.

Here follows the speech that was rejected.]

Dear friends!

What I must do first is thank you, and this I do with all my heart. The German Booksellers’ Peace Prize has such a luster around it and is such a great honor to receive that one almost totters when it is put into one’s hands. And now I stand here, where so many wise men and women have stood during the years, putting their thoughts and hopes forth about the future of humanity and about the eternal peace that we all are longing for. What can I say that hasn’t been said already in a better way than I can?

To talk about peace is to talk about something that doesn’t exist. Real peace does not exist on our earth and has never existed other than as a goal that we evidently cannot reach. So long as humanity has lived on this orb it has dedicated itself to violence and war, and the fragile peace as it now exists is constantly threatened. At this moment the whole world is living in fear of a new war, a war that will destroy us all. At the prospect of this threat more people than ever are working for peace and disarmament—that is true. This could be a hope. But it is difficult to be hopeful. The politicians gather in large crowds at top-level meetings and talk so warmly for disarmament, but the only disarmament they desire is that of someone other than themselves. “Your land shall disarm, not mine!” No one wants to start with oneself—no one dares to start—because all are so afraid and have so little confidence in other’s will to work toward peace. And while one disarmament conference replaces another, the most insane rearmament in humanity’s history takes place. It is not strange that we are all afraid. Either we live in the East, North or South; either we live in a great and powerful country or a small, neutral one. But we know that a big new war would hit the whole of humanity, and whether it is in a neutral or not neutral heap of ruins that I lie dead can make no big difference.

Mustn’t we, after all those thousands of years of constant wars, ask ourselves if it is because of some kind of construction fault in the whole species of man that we always take up violence? And ask if we are doomed to come to our end for our aggression’s sake? We all want peace. Isn’t there a possibility then that we can change before it is too late? That we can learn to dissociate ourselves from violence? Simply try to become a new strain of human beings? But how should that come about? And where should we, in that case, start?

I think we have to start from the foundation. With the children. You have given an author of children’s books a peace prize; you must not expect any big political views or suggestions for international solutions to the problems. I want to talk about the children, my worries for them and my expectations for them. Those who are children now shall take over the handling of the world, if there is anything left of it. They shall decide between war and peace and what sort of society they shall have; if they prefer one in which violence continues to escalate or one in which human beings live in peace and community with each other.

Is there on the whole any hope that they shall be able to create a more peaceful world than what we have succeeded with? Why have we failed so badly in spite of all good will? I recall what a shock it was for me when, still very young, I suddenly realized that those who governed countries and the world’s destiny were no Gods with a superior outfit or clear, divine sight. They were human beings with the same weaknesses as I. But they had power, and they could in each moment come to the most ill-fated decisions by the impulses that ruled them. If things were against us, it could be war because of one single human being’s desire for power or revenge or vanity or triumph or—what seemed to be the most common—blind faith in violence as the most efficient aid in all situations. And in the same way, one single good human being filled with consideration could ward off catastrophes, just through being good and filled with consideration and through repudiating violence.

The conclusion from this could be: it is individual human beings who determine the destiny of the world. And why aren’t all good and filled with consideration then? Why are there so many who only want violence and power? Is there an innate evil will in some? I couldn’t believe it then, and I don’t believe it even this day. The intelligences—the gift of reason—are innate, but in a newborn baby no seed lies within from which it will automatically grow good or evil. What determines whether a child will become a warm, open, trusting human being with the ability to commune with others or a cold, destructive loner is decided by the ones that welcome the child into the world and either teach it what love is or leave it to be shown.

Goethe has said “Überall lernt man nur von dem, den man liebt”, and then it must be true. A child that is lovingly met and who loves its parents learns a loving attitude to its surrounding world, and keeps this basic attitude throughout life. Which is good, even if he or she comes to belong to those deciding the world’s destiny. And should, contrary to expectation, he or she happen to become one of those deciding the world’s destiny, that’s good luck for us all—if their basic attitude is love and not violence. Future statesmen and politicians are formed in their character before they are even five years old—that’s horrible but it is true.

And if we now look back at how children have been treated and raised so far as we can follow it through the times, hasn’t it too often been a question of breaking their will with violence of some kind, either physical or psychological? How many children haven’t gotten their first lesson in violence “von denen, die man liebt”, their own parents—and then passed this teaching on from generation to generation? “Spare the rod and spoil the child” you can read in the Old Testament. This, ever since written, many fathers and mothers have believed. They have diligently swung the birch and called it “love”. But all those “ruined boys” of whom there are so many at this moment in the world—the dictators, the tyrants, the oppressors, the tormentors of human beings—how was their childhood? That you ought to do some research into. I believe that behind most of them there is a tyrannic father or other raiser with a birch or a rod in the hand.

Mustn’t you then become despaired when there are voices screaming for retrogression to old authoritarian systems? That is what is going on in many places in the world. Those who blame “too much freedom” and “too little strictness” in upbringing for youthful “misbehaviors” now want “harder grips” and “tightened reins”. This is to use Beelzebub to drive out the Devil and will only lead to more violence and bigger and more dangerous gulfs between the generations in the long term. Those much longed for “harder grips” would possibly “achieve” a superficial effect that its advocates could interpret as an improvement. Until, that is, they are gradually forced to notice that violence breeds violence—as it has always done.

Many parents are worried by those new signals and have begun to wonder if perhaps they have done wrong. Is an anti-authoritarian upbringing something objectionable? It is only if it becomes misunderstood.

An anti-authoritarian upbringing doesn’t mean that children shall be left to care for themselves or to do precisely what they want. It doesn’t mean they shall grow up without norms, by the way, or that they will reject them. Both children and adults need norms for conduct, and children learn more from their parents’ example than from anything else. Of course a child shall have respect for its parents, but indeed—parents shall also have respect for their children and not abuse their natural advantage over them. A mutual, loving respect—that one wishes for both parents and for all children.

And for all those who are now screaming so eagerly for harder grips and tighter reins, I would want to tell you what an old lady once told me. She was a young mother when the common belief was “Spare the rod and spoil the child”. She hadn’t been fully convinced of it, but at one time her little boy had done something, so she decided he “needed” a spanking—the first of his life. She said to him that he had to go out and find a birch for her. The little boy left and was out for a long time. At last he came back, crying, and said:”I didn’t find any birch but here you have a stone you can throw on me.” Then she too began to cry, because suddenly she saw everything with the child’s eyes. The child had thought “If my mother in fact wants to hurt me, then she can as well use a stone.” She put her arms around him and they cried together for a while. And then she put the stone on a shelf in the kitchen, and there it laid as an eternal reminder of the promise she gave herself at that moment: “Never violence!”

Well, if we now raise our children without violence or tight reins of any kind, do we then get a new human species living in eternal peace? Only a child book author can hope something so silly. I know it is a utopia. And of course there is so much else in our poor, sick world that has to be changed so that there can be peace. But we have, in the here and now—even without war—so incomprehensibly much cruelty and violence on earth. The children are indeed aware of it. They see and hear and read about it daily, and must think violence is a natural state. Mustn’t we, at least in our homes and through our own examples show that there are other ways of living? Maybe it would be a good idea if we were to put a stone on the kitchen shelf as a reminder for children and ourselves: Never violence! It would yet maybe at last be a small contribution to the peace of the world.

translated from Swedish to English by me and Steve Thomas.

Addition: and now people are calling for tighter reins again here. Something that seems to be opportune among many, but I see it as a backlash. Not only young people are exposed to this with tighter reins, but also adults. Can this backfire? And what happens then? How about if we tried to speak with each other instead?


Self-centredness: when does it turn into narcissism? And when isn’t it narcissism yet really?

June 11, 2011 § Leave a comment

Some quick thoughts… I read a posting on a blog this morning and it triggered these thoughts (actually a little ironic) together with other thoughts and recent personal experiences.

You can hear (I think many of us have heard this from an early age or been met with a message more or less explicitly saying):

“Don’t be so self-centred!”

But this is a safe way of making the child exactly this, whether you see it or not?That latter adult either behaves like he/she is invisble or the opposite or both? And on top he/she feels maybe also easily guilt for wanting (and sometimes needing) space? Something that doesn’t make things better.

And if you are self-occupied why are you?

And more interestingly: How are you cured from this?

Are you by saying to yourself or by being told:

”Be less self-centred!”

I’m quite ironic and sarcastic here. Because I wonder if those who are blamed for being self-centred aren’t those who are causing other people less problems? Compared to those you really could and should react at?

Can circumstances also make some people more self-centred, or expressed differently: more self-aware? There can be circumstances where you really blossom and grow, and others where you experience the opposite.

And there can also be a snobbishness over how people express themselves. How they use the language… Not to talk about how they are spelling. What does THIS say about the ones looking down on other people’s writings, unless those aren’t expressing horrible opinions?

I have a niece and a nephew who are dyslectics, but at least the niece is expressing herself gladly despite her bad spelling.

Yes, this about changing people… Why are we? And how do we deal with what and those we should really need to deal with? People really causing harm, and a lot of harm…

Free from the congregation – he was teacher at a World of Life School in Sweden…

June 8, 2011 § Leave a comment

The article above says that

“Per Kornhall is the high school teacher running Satan’s errands. At least if you believe what some religious leaders say.”

Kornhall is now working for the National Swedish Agency for Education and this agency has been pointed out as a tool for the Devil by some religious leaders.

He has written a book recently about his experiences as a young teacher in a World of Life school in Sweden (Uppsala), where he sought safety as a young and lost/stray (vilsen) man.

“The pastor makes people give a tenth of their last money — even from their social allowances, because God has said they should. It’s God’s order.”

Everything is motivated with that it’s God’s will and this makes it difficult to contradict or question what the pastor(s) say.

By writing this book he wanted to bring these experiences to an end for his own sake, and he also wanted to contribute with a piece of contemporary history.

He was a little worried that by publishing this book traumatic memories would come to surface, something that never occured though. And he explains that:

“Those memories are well processed.”

Which means that he isn’t afraid of God’s punishment (any longer). The “control and manipulation in the name of Jesus” (also the under-title of the book) failed so he dares to speak out and thus hasn’t felt bad or anxious after the book was published.

But it can be quite different for the young people who have been schooled into this sect at an early age he thinks. When they break up/off they can start acting out, drinking and living wildly, because that’s what they have been taught about the world outside the sect. Thus thinking this is the way to behave. Or driven by an understandable need to rebel? Or maybe both?

And in the worst case this can harm both themselves and other people around them.

Kornhall taught his students about the evolution, of course this wasn’t looked upon with approval, but the leaders for the school didn’t dare to react of fear for the school authorities in Sweden. But when he started to critizise the pastor Ulf Ekman he was shut off.

Here you can read more about Kornhall’s book.

And here is an article that says that Ulf Ekman is critizised for his real estate affairs. At the same time people are working in the church and earning very little money and a lot of those belonging to the congregation are quite poor, but still have to give a tenth to the church. The article says that Ekman and his wife bought a quite expensive house and then renovated it for a lot of money. People wonder where the money come from.

I can’t help but think about other sect-leaders.

Other articles about this school are also talking about blind obedience and authoritarianism, as in for instance “Serious criticism against the World of Life” from 2002 and “The Life of Word School is critizised” from this year.

June 11: The pediatrician Lars H. Gustafsson has written about a similar theme in a blogposting today. Where he mentions the book “Hängivelsen” (The Devotion) by the Swedish author Elisabeth Hjort. Here’s another blogposting about this book.

Behavioral methods practicable again…

June 7, 2011 § Leave a comment

from the movie Hets.

In the article, “Behavioral Methods Practicable Again”, a Swedish journalist questions the effects of those courses of actions on children — aside from teaching children to behave “well.”

Parts of these programs are at risk of being abusive, she writes. She thinks a side effect (and a really negative one in my opinion) can be that children will be taught that it’s okay to violate/abuse other people if you are the one with more power.

She points out that behavioristic methods teach children nothing more than obedience, and for no better reasons than simply to get rewards and avoid punishments. The good behavior therefore is merely cosmetic and not anchored in honest values. What happens if the child later lands in a situation in which an authority encourages violence and harassment toward others, she asks? Or in a power position for that matter, with no insight into what bullying does to people’s self-esteem?

She writes about the effects of unreflected submission and the concept thatmight makes right.”

Self-fulfilling stupidities!

As much as I’m glad to read such opinions, I’m a bit bothered that she isn’t stronger. As if she is still under the spell of not displeasing her readers, of not rocking the boat too terribly much.*

See earlier posting “Positive” discipline – what is that? Why is it needed? For what?”               

* Lucienne X. Lombardo has written about Alice Miller and the fourth commandment (fifth commandment in some religions**) in the review “Some observations of Alice Miller’s The Body never Lies” which he ends with:

Parents should honor and empower their children, so that they, their children and their children’s children will live their own truths over long and authentic lives!

Then what would pass from generation to generation would be ‘real love’ and attachment based on the truth of experience rather than the façade of love based on guilt and attachment based on a morality of domination and control. Power would not mean, ‘to dominate and control’, it would mean, ‘to empower’. If we could apply to our own lives the understanding of the meaning of childhood experience that Alice Miller provides in The Body Never Lies, the personal, relational and political health of ourselves, our children, and all with whom we come in contact can be improved.”

**”Honor your father and your mother, as the LORD your God commanded you, so that your days may be long and that it may go well with you in the land that the LORD your God is giving you.”

One of Hitler’s men…

June 6, 2011 § Leave a comment

“Positive” discipline – what is that? Why is it needed? For what?

June 5, 2011 § Leave a comment

What is the whole notion about discipline based on? Based on what kind of presumption?

That we need to be disciplined? That children need to be disciplined? Because it is something in our/their character that needs to be disciplined? The idea about inborn drives “disguised in a new dress”?

Is there maybe really some fundamental flaw in the human nature? Do we need to be fixed? And/or corrected?

These thoughts were triggered by an article I read recently, with a heading that would be something in the style “Subtle border between pressing and supporting” in English, and that the “Global Summit on Ending Corporal Punishment” also includes “Promoting Positive Discipline”.

The article refers first to the Swedish pediatrician Lars H. Gustafsson who says that children shouldn’t have to realize their parents’ own dreams. And then to the Swedish psychologist Eva Hoff who says that children’s creativity isn’t developed by threats or rewards.

Gustafsson’s advice:

  • Always think well of the child!
  • Respect your child’s integrity, don’t demand full control of the child’s life, dreams or plans.
  • Have rules that are as firm as possible, but show lots of patience.
  • Be mindful of the child’s right to feelings of dignity and value, never use punishment that violates those feelings.

I think I object to what he says about punishment (if he has said this). I would say NEVER punish – ever!

Gustafsson mentions the heated discussion on the net after Amy Chua’s article in The Wall Street Journal, where she writes how strict discipline is the road to successful children and he sees this as prolongation of the debates about nannies and curling-parents we have had earlier here in Sweden.

One day the parents are too lax, the next they are criticized for curling – for smoothing the way for their kids too much. On the other hand current ideas are that children should be drilled hard and play less; parents shall push and have demands hard as bricks on results.

“It’s easy to feel that if my child doesn’t succeed it’s reflected onto me; that I as parent haven’t pushed and supported enough.”

As a school doctor he has seen both extremes: parents who have been pushing their kids too hard and those who have been totally absent in their children’s lives.

“If it’s possible to say something positive about the debate surrounding neo-authoritarian methods, it’s that they indicate engagement. They’re carried out by parents who prioritize their children, who see them as important and want the best for them.”

But he doesn’t like the methods. He says that he has seen so many young people, especially young women, succumb under demands to achieve. He says the risk is that they “walk straight into the wall” (as we say about exhaustion and burn-out).

I don’t like the neo-authoritarian methods at all and don’t see anything positive in them.

“What we see in Japan, for instance, are worrisome numbers of suicides among young people.”

Articles in Swedish about Amy Chua’s ideas here and here.

See another video with Chua here. And here is her home page with her description of how she was raised and from what kind of family she comes.

Addition June 6: Lars H. Gustafsson’s blog. Where he for instance is writing about “Ellen Key and the free play”. She was very critical to that time’s pedagogy in kindergartens, with emphasis on order and dicipline, and detered by the obedience culture she had seen in Germany (and what did that lead to?). Key lived between 1849 and 1926, thus before WWII.

She has been called the freedom’s apostle, and by many considered to be one of Sweden’s most interesting societal debaters.

The American woman Mamah Bortwick came in contact with Key, learned Swedish and started to translate Key, because she wanted Americans to come in contact with Key and here views (in this case on marriages, if I remember right):

“In 1911, Borthwick began translating the works of the noted Swedish feminist thinker and writer Ellen Key.”

They also met.

You can read about poisinous pedagogy here and about The Roots of Violence here.

Gustafsson is also writing interestingly about communication in “Lost in Translation”.

Yes, so true:

“What good fortune for those in power that people do not think”

– Adolf Hitler, as quoted by Joachim Fest.

S. and I visited Taliesin last summer (2010). The last two pictures are from there.

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