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My Promise to ChildrenRobert J. Burrowes Salem-News.com
Violence does not 'just happen'. It is perpetrated by damaged individuals, including ourselves.
(TASMANIA, Aust.) - Every day, human adults kill 35,000 of our children. We kill them in wars. We kill them with drones. We kill them in our homes. We also kill children in vast numbers by starving them to death in Africa, Asia and Central/South America because we use military violence to maintain an 'economic' system that allocates resources for military weapons, as well as corporate profits for the wealthy, instead of resources for living.
Apart from those children we kill every day, we sell many others into sexual slavery, we kidnap others to terrorise them into becoming child soldiers, we force others to work as slave labourers, in horrific conditions, in fields and factories (and buy the cheap products of their exploited labour as our latest 'bargain'), and we condemn millions to live in poverty, homelessness and misery. We cause many children to be born with grotesque genetic deformities because we use horrific weapons, like those with depleted uranium, on their parents. We also inflict violence on children in many other forms, ranging from 'ordinary' domestic violence to genital mutilation. And we imprison vast numbers of children in school in the delusional belief that this is good for them. See 'Do We Want School or Education?'
Despite all of the above, we adults still maintain our delusion that we humans love our children. And that we are civilised. Mind boggling!
While some effort has been made by the international community to recognise that young human beings have needs (see, for example, the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child - http://www.ohchr.org/en/
The man who inflicts violence on women was damaged during childhood. The white person who inflicts violence on people of colour was damaged during childhood. The employer who exploits workers was damaged during childhood. The individual who endorses the state violence inflicted on indigenous peoples was damaged during childhood. The terrorist, the political leader who wages war and the soldier who kills in our name were all damaged during childhood. The person who supports structures of violence (such as the military, police, legal and prison systems) was damaged during childhood. The person who supports structures of exploitation (such as capitalism and imperialism) was damaged during childhood. The person who thoughtlessly participates in destruction of the natural environment was damaged during childhood.
Violence does not 'just happen'. It is perpetrated by damaged individuals, including ourselves. Or it is built into political, social and economic structures by damaged individuals, such as ourselves. So we have a choice. We can take responsibility for healing the damage done to ourselves. And we can take responsibility for ending the origin of all of this violence: the violence we adults inflict on children. Or we can continue to delude ourselves that there is another source of all of the violence in our world and devote more erroneous effort to addressing it.
All violence is an outcome of the visible, 'invisible' and 'utterly invisible' violence inflicted by adults on children. See 'Why Violence?' http://tinyurl.com/whyviolence Once the child has been damaged, it will inflict violence on itself, the people around it, as well as non-human species and the natural environment; it will also play a part in maintaining structures of violence and exploitation (such as the education and legal systems, as well as capitalism) in which it is both victim and perpetrator.
Where violence has been exposed in other contexts, it has led to liberation movements (such as the anti-slavery movement; the anti-war movement; struggles against imperialism, colonialism and racism; women's liberation; struggles for the rights of indigenous peoples; the environment movement; animal liberation; struggles for the rights of people with disabilities; and the struggle against homophobia) as well as solidarity movements (in which, for example, whites have acted in solidarity with people of colour, pro-feminist men have acted in solidarity with women, and humans have acted in solidarity with non-human species and the natural environment).
Clearly, a children's and adolescents' liberation movement, by whatever name, is long overdue. And while an appropriate charter of young people's needs might include many provisions contained in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, it must ultimately include fundamental provisions that identify the need to live without the fear and experience of adult violence in its many forms, and the need to be listened to and allowed to act in accord with their own Self-will, even when this conflicts with adult preferences. Until we are able to acknowledge and support these needs of children, we are deluding ourselves about the possibility of effectively tackling the military, ecological and economic threats to our survival. And time is clearly running out.
So, to all young people, everywhere, my promise is this:
If we have differences about what to do, I promise that I will talk about it with you until we find a way forward that seems fair to us both. When I was a child, the adults in my life didn't give me much choice about what I did, so I am scared that talking about something means that 'no-one will listen' and I won't get what I want. But I will try to trust that if I talk honestly to you about what I need, then you will listen carefully and help me to get what I need as well. I sort of know that if I listen and I am fair to you, and I trust you to listen and to be fair with me, then youwill learn to listen and be fair with everyone. But this is hard for me.
Conflict has often been scary.
I will not presume that you are less capable than I am, even though you are younger. I will treat you like an equal, just as we adults like to be treated as equals.
I will be honest with you about how I feel and what I need.
Most importantly of all, I promise that I will listen to you as best I can. I get scared when you are scared, angry or sad but part of me knows that you need to feel scared, angry or sad (or something else) when things don't work out as you want, just as you will sometimes feel content, loving or happy when things do work out. Of course, it is easier for me to listen when you are content, loving and happy, and I wish that you were like that all of the time! But life isn't like that hey? I also get scared when you tell me that your Dad/Mum or someone I think is our friend is abusing you but I will do my best to listen to and support you to defend yourself against this violence, one way or another. In my heart, I know that listening means listening to however you are and letting that guide what you do. In the adult world, however, this just isn't easy to do every day. But I will try! This means, then, that I will also not try to scare you out of telling me the truth when I don't like it, including your truth about me!
From today, in a nutshell, I promise that I will support you to act in accord with your own Self-will. I want you to be free and to be everything that you were born to be.
If you wish to join the worldwide movement to end all violence, including violence against children, you can sign online 'The People's Charter to Create a Nonviolent World' It takes courage to tell the truth that no-one wants to hear.
Biodata: Robert J. Burrowes has a lifetime commitment to understanding and ending human violence. He has done extensive research since 1966 in an effort to understand why human beings are violent and has been a nonviolent activist since 1981. He is the author of 'Why Violence?' http://tinyurl.com/whyviolence His email address is email@example.com and his website is at http://robertjburrowes.
Robert J. Burrowes
About Robert J. Burrowes
Robert Burrowes has a lifetime commitment to understanding and ending human violence. He has done extensive research since 1966 in an effort to understand why human beings are violent. He has been a nonviolent activist since 1981.
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