Originally Posted by hakeber
To be clear I never said one's background JUSTIFIES their choices or actions. I am merely saying that if we can come from a place of understanding and from the big picture, we can lead people to a better set of choices and allow them to see the awe inspiring side of the task rather than the soul crushingly terrifyingly overwhelming fear of the task of keeping a tiny being safe. Have you ever seen a child hold a pet so tightly in the hopes of keeping it safe they squish it? Do you blame the child for being too frightened about keeping it safe that they squished the tiny being? Some people, due to their circumstances and the opportunities afforded them do not realize they are squishing the tiny being to death (not literally, but spiritually), they believe they are keeping it safe.
I do believe that people's experiences shape their decisions, and I have compassion for those whose lives lead them to violence. However, after growing up relatively poor (on welfare in government subsidized housing) I will take issue with comparing grown adults/parents to a child with a small animal. There is a reason juveniles are prosecuted differently within the legal framework of many countries. Let's not do the liberal overreach and infantilize the disadvantaged.
You THINK it has nothing to do with a college education or your friends here...but if you did not have the life you have, if you worked 18 hour shifts at less than minimum wage and came home to an alcoholic abusive husband and you knew your children would be working on the streets by the age of 8...things might be different. If you grew up to believe in the authority of god and the need to instill that in your children by any means necessary or were surrounded by a community and a church and leaders of your society who told you that it was your duty as a loving parent to keep your child in line and afraid of god and authority and consequences, could we rise above the hardships that in reality we do not have to face and make the same choices we make each day now? How can we say? We choose alternatives because we SEE them. If we do not see them it takes an incredible (one in a million, and you may be that one, far be it from me to say you were not, Gucci) spirit to create the alternative for themselves.
Yes, once again, everyone is a product of their upbringing. However, even within a single family a pair of siblings may choose very different paths as adults in reaction to the same childhood home and parents. Assigning excuses for every poor decision robs us of the credit for every good decision as well. If we were all merely at the mercy of our pasts and environments nothing would ever change. Where would the breaking point be?
Again this is not moral relativism. No one is saying it morally correct for people to hit their child (okay someone is, just not me :-D). All I am saying is that if we condemn first, there is no room for growth or education. And there IS room for growth and education and helping people find better alternatives, around the world that is true and I witness it happening every day. There is room for social evolution. But like with all evolution, it is a process. There are still parts of the world where young women are tied down and their privates are mutilated and their vaginas sewn shut by their own mothers, sisters and aunts (who believe they are protecting them and keeping them safe, BTW). There are still parts of the world where women have their necks stretched with metal rings and faces and bodies scarred and mutilated from very young ages to protect them from brutalities of other tribes. There are still parts of the world where rape is considered a valid tool of war. There are parts of the world where child abuse (not just spanking, whipping, torturous abuse) is a normalized part of everyday life seen on TV as just one of those things that loving albeit scary parents do for the ones they love. There is no time for comdemnation and agression if we want to change things in this life time or our children's life time and lead people to the decisions we have come to in our lives. There is only room for acceptance of undesirable circumstances being what they are and helping people find a better way.
I do agree that empathy is an important skill to utilize when communicating with perpetrators of violence. When confronted with violence in my own life, I have found forgiveness and compassion to be essential. On the other hand, the less experience one has with a particular form of violence or bigotry the easier it is to theorize about it. As a woman of color, I cannot tell you how many times racism has been justified to me as the result of upbringing or lack of education. If people were not capable of distinguishing right from wrong without a model of courage and morality right in front of them there would still be slavery in America.
Not everyone is cut out for that, I know that, but if you were empowered to make that choice, despite your upbringing, it is worth considering that you are in a unique position to guide others towards your decision, and condemning them will only embitter them to your point of view before you have even had the chance to explain the virtues. It's like an ex-fat person punching me on the shoulder saying "You can do it! I did it! Just stop eating all that crap and get to the gym, you lazy greedy cow!" I'm hardly going to listen to them, am I? On the other hand if they say "hey, I know where you're coming from, but you are going to feel SO much better when you try this way of life instead...trust me!" I might at least be willing to listen, ya k now?
But it seems you don't really care if they listen, and that's okay. if you come a place of abuse in your life, you may just need to be angry at those people who have not made the choices you made. It's okay to be angry, it is righteous anger; as long as you understand that it's not going to effect change.
You are correct that a person catches more flies with honey than vinegar. In my daily life I do not yell at strangers who disagree with my point of view. I do not feel anger in any visceral way towards those who choose violence but rather a deep and profound sadness. There are so many things that were never modeled for me in my own life that I have chosen as an adult. I know that change is a choice. The reason that I may have less patience for poor behavior in adults is because I know that ultimately (at least in most western countries) our lives are happening because of us, not to us.
Thank you for all your thoughtful comments.