Deaths in schools highlight the internal threat

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Here is a frightening statistic that US politicians and the president cannot intellectualize, offer some weird explanation for, or defensively suggest a solution for:

In 2018, there have been more school children violently killed in schools on US soil than military personnel serving their country.

To date, there have been 29 school children killed in an educational setting, while 13 military personnel have died (seven of which were killed in a helicopter accident). The harsh reality of this simple statistic shows that it is safer to serve in the military today than it is for an adolescent to go to school to learn. Formal school settings are now becoming war zones.

It is obvious that politicians have covert agendas (relating to financial support/benefit) regarding their stance to gun control legislation in the US. Given this, mind boggling reasons are being forwarded by politicians, for this devastating epidemic: abortions, ritalin, too many gates (entrances) at the schools, video games, the media, type of clothing worn, lack of religion, and so on and so on. I have previously written about the stupidity of the suggested solutions that have been forwarded by the president to deal with this societal issue.

The absurdity of how politicians are thinking (and speaking) about the most serious social issue facing America would not instill any confidence in a parent who has a child.

The thought of the possibility of a mass shooting occurring at a school that one’s child goes to, must now be in the forefront of the mind of every American parent. This thought will gain more and more intensity as time goes on, as parents live with the uncertainty and anxiety of realizing that the biggest threat to American society is an internal one. In February 2018 it was the Stoneman Douglas High School, in May 2018 it was the Sante Fe High School, in ….. it will be the ….. High School, and so on as the copycat ‘cancer’ gains momentum. Who and when will be next? Waiting for the next tragedy heightens anxiety:  It is only a matter of time…

The idea and metaphor of building a wall (a) to keep the enemy outside and (b) to protect and keep safe those living inside, no longer holds water given the ongoing nature of the mass shootings in schools.

Imagine being a student sitting in a classroom, constantly worrying whether you may be the next horror story in an ongoing cycle of destruction. Imagine the underlying suspicion that each student feels when looking around the class at fellow students, worrying about who the next shooter may be. Imagine the intense, anxious and stressful atmosphere in a classroom that is supposed to instill enjoyable creativity and learning. Imagine what it is like for students to return to school after the horrific event, walking through the previously blood stained corridors and classrooms where dear friends had been wounded or killed. Imagine the post traumatic stress reaction that each and every high school student of America is having to deal with, even those who may not have witnessed the trauma first hand.

Given the above, it can be argued that the next generation of Americans may be traumatized, anxious and fearful individuals who will not feel emotionally safe in any interpersonal context.

Many individuals take their cues from what leaders and public figures say and how they say it. This may be especially true for young, formative minds that can be easily manipulated. Words that spew out of a leader’s mouth offer suggestions of how members in their society should engage each other. In this regard, leaders need to assume responsibility in how their societies function and behave.

Aggressive and autocratic narratives, intolerance of diversity, fear-based rhetoric, self-centred and demanding comments, and suggestions that one stands above the law, are the building blocks for behaviours to manifest in society, families, and schools.

So sad, so very sad…

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Empower our children to be independent

We usually tell our children to listen to, and trust teachers and authority figures, without question (to be good and respectful).

But what if this teaching is at the core of the political leadership crisis that we are presently experiencing globally? Or what if it plays a part in the stories of sexual harassment and abuse by authority figures?

Hohentwiel Castle
Hohentwiel Castle

What do Trump, Zuma, Mugabe and al-Assad (to mention a few) have in common? In brief, they are egocentric leaders who have no ethical values in how they conduct themselves and lead their countries. They are bullies who never consider the ideas and perspectives of others. In fact, any perspective that may be different is considered a threat that needs to be nullified as quickly as possible. In the process, they are leaders that create conflict and polarize societies.

The sad story from a societal perspective is how these leaders manage to get into power.

It all starts with a promise – a promise of a better life (but only if you listen to ‘me’ and follow ‘me’).

The promise is conveyed in an emotionally, persuasive way to generate the necessary emotive energy that overrides rational and independent thinking. The promise has to first highlight what is wrong and bad about the situation that the people find themselves in at that moment. The promise then casts blame on all past leaders, as well as the historical processes, that have led to the present demise. Linked to this, the promise activates the powerful energy of fear.

The promise then offers an answer (or solution). In short, the answer is that the messiah has arrived who will singlehandedly change things. More importantly, the promise offers protection and care. In their seductive and fanatical rhetoric, these con artists sprue out simplistic solutions to complex human struggles.

Once in power, these leaders demand unwavering loyalty and obedience from everyone. No dissent or opposition is tolerated. At best, any dissonant will ‘be fired’, at worst, be tortured and killed. They re-activate fear, only this time, with them being the source.

Frightened baby hyena
Frightened baby hyena

If we teach our children to be independent thinkers, to curiously question all things being said, to have courage to stand alone without harming others, to take responsibility for one’s actions, to take care of the environment and all living things, and to not fear any challenge that life may throw at one; we will raise individuals who will not get seduced and/or bullied by authority that only aims to disempower one.

Children need to learn that they have the necessary power to create a life that is meaningful and productive, despite the ups and downs that may occur. And if every human being endeavors to do so (and be optimistic in the struggle), there will be little or no need for an authority figure or political leader to protect one and/or tell one what to do and how to do it.

As a way to help prevent self-centered bullies from usurping and then abusing power, I feel that we need to have conversations with our children about how they relate to authority figures. In the process, our children will become more aware of the potentially harmful power dynamics that exist in such relationships.

Part 5: Learning

Learning
Learning

The little boy was absorbed in what his father was showing him. The father was explaining how the motor worked.

Human systems are learning and evolving systems. Formal and informal learning occurs as knowledge is passed down from generation to generation.

As we move into the future and encounter more and more complexity, we need our children to know that there are two distinct types of reasoning when dealing with problems.

Firstly, we need to teach them that there is technological knowledge which is embedded in Newtonian physics where there is a right answer in trying to solve a particular problem. The reasoning processes that are applied in such cases, usually requires linear cause and effect thinking. Such thinking and knowledge is the predominant teaching in our formal educational settings.

On the other hand, we also need to teach our children to think in terms of processes and patterns that occur in nature and in people’s lives. This type of thinking is generally referred to as systems thinking and is best applied to ecological and human problems such as poverty, pollution, global warming, migration issues, war and terrorism (to mention a few). There are no absolutes in the world of ecologic, so in order to resolve an issue, one needs to apply ‘both/and’ type thinking to the dualistic conflict that is being encountered.

Gregory Bateson contended that the major problems in the world are the result of the difference between how nature works and how people think. On this point, our children need to know when to apply technological thinking and when to utilise ecological thinking. What type of thinking and reasoning in turn, is determined by the nature of the problem that needs to be (re)solved.

Applying more and more technological reasoning to complex global issues is not working. Helping our children to think in terms of the unfolding processes in a holistic, inter-connective way will provide them with the necessary reasoning skills to help heal the fragmented, intense and conflicting world we live in.