Thursday, 24 February 2011

On, Survivors, Helpers and Missionaries…..

There are so many causes and so many people in need, and so many people who wish to help.

And yet progress is incredibly slow. 

More than 100 years after the first public awareness campaign of the criminal and brutal abuse (a word that does not do justice to the realities – it’s more akin to torture) of children in Institutional settings, we are still struggling to come to terms with practices that are ancient and deeply embedded in the Dominant Culture. 

Oliver Twist was the second novel by English author Charles Dickens, published by Richard Bentley in 1838. The story is about an orphan Oliver Twist, who endures a miserable existence in a workhouse. Shock and horror followed, yet fundamental change did not. 

The highly organised Aboriginal Residential School Systems that were instituted in Law by the British, Canadian, Australian, New Zealand,  African, Asian,  North and South American Governments and the Churches all started at this time.

Residential Schools, where the children of colonised cultures children were forced into Institutions to be ‘trained’ or ‘assimilated’ are at least 500 years old. There are threads of these kinds of mechanisms dating back to the Roman Empire.

Children today are still forcibly removed from their families and placed in Institutional ‘care’, often on the most spurious of grounds, and are still suffering from the adverse affects of ‘helpers’, some of whom are genuine, some of whom are predators. The damage from such 'mistakes' may never be repaired.

And still the stories, that is to say the evidence of living Survivors, and the historical record, is routinely ignored, dismissed, denied, suppressed. 

Survivors are targeted, intimidated, manipulated, hospitalised in psychiatric wards and marginalised. Not least by those who are responsible for those systems of ‘care’ that have harmed so many children. Or their supporters.

There can be no statute of limitations when a child’s life is destroyed thus, for the sentence of pain, confusion, shame, fear last the entirety of the life of the adult that child becomes, and is often passed on as a silent legacy through their chidlren and their families in what is known as intergenerational trauma pattering. "The sins of the fathers.........." means more than most understand, and those who do understand what this means take opposing views; one side sees it as an essential tool of power, the other as an essential understanding to break the cycles of abuse and neglect.

All too often those who seek to help the Survivors are themselves embedded in the ideologies and beliefs of the system and unwilling to confront the realities of that system in a meaningful way. They are funded and given legitimacy by those Institutions most culpable for the abuses Survivors survived. They have internalised the system to such a degree that to confront the system means confronting their own sense of identity. And time and again, when Survivors bring this up, the Survivors are called 'trouble makers' or worse....

All too often helpers get in the way of the Survivors, and are co-opted by the Societal power flows so as to protect those Powers.

All too often, helpers become frustrated with those they seek to help – because they do not understand that the affects of abuse and neglect are life long, that they recur again and again, and all too often the helpers claim that those they seek to help are ‘their own worst enemies’.

Catholics who want to help Survivors yet refuse to confront the realities of Catholic Institutional Power are caught in a vice, trapped in a conflict of interest, and in most cases the Survivors, the children are the losers, and the loss is immense : one’s natural expectation of a life that is loving and loved, healthy and nurturing. 

Psychologists and Social Workers who limit their purview such that Society and the Establishment (Power) are not identified as the drivers of distress that they are; who sustain the myth that it is all in the mind of the person in distress and if only that person can properly ‘manage’ their mind, then all will be well and the person can re-integrate into a toxic Society, get a job and ‘have a life’ – and on whose terms?

Psychiatrists, who claim that distress and adverse behaviour is genetic, and news media that repeat this inaccurate and damaging 'theory' when it is obvious and known scientifically that this is not the case at all, and who prescribe pharmaceuticals as the means to a management system, managing the symptoms of distress that will not abate precisely because the locus of distress is ignored.

People of  Faith, who subscribe to the presence of supernatural demons causing adverse behaviour in human beings, who deem that if only those demons can be exorcised the health will return, and who therefore diminish the human agency at the heart of all abuse.

Conspiracy Theorists who claim that Reptiles, Aliens and other entities are controlling the human race in adverse ways, and in so doing absolve real human beings of real and material responsibilities, and worse stimulate unreasonable fear in many, many people.

Technocrats who posit technological solutions to the problems of Civilisation which do not include the leaving of lands as yet ‘unexploited’ to the peoples (and animals ) that dwell therein, whose cultures are now understood to be both sustainable, healthy in physiological and psychological terms, whose societies are as diverse as the habitats they have emerged from, and the return of those lands already taken, for remediation according to the wisdom of experience of those ancient, ancient cultures.

In all these cases, the helpers ‘sense of identity’ replaces their ‘sense of self’. The external is governing the internal. And thus they are unable to respond accurately, appropriately to the realities of Survivors, Aboriginal Peoples, the Environment.

Too many operate under the false assumptions of the Society they were born into, and conditioned by; too many say “If only they could be more like me, us, if only they could find a way to ‘fit in’!”

The helpers and Missionaries are NOT always helping as much as they would like to believe. 

The well-meaning MUST face the realities. They must face their own culture and confront it at every turn.
Thus they will leave the space open for those who suffer to help themselves.

Nature is a self healing process. Self healing demands that those who wish to help get out of the way. Giver space to that which needs to grow.

Both Ivan Illych and Paolo Friere have written profoundly, and with great clarity, empathy and honesty on the issue of helpers and missionaries, and their works do a far better job on this issue than I do here... 

Alice Miller too has written extensively, and with clarity on this crucial matter, of the helper, the 'enlightened witness'.

"Q.: What kind of therapist, do you feel, is adequately trained to deal with the adult who has been damaged as an early child?
AM:. In my opinion, only therapists who know well of the painful stories of their own childhoods can respectfully and effectively deal with the suffering of their patients. They will not preach them forgetting and forgiveness out of their own fear; they will know that ALL of their patients suffer from the effects of the denial of having been beaten, humiliated or even tortured."

 So too David Smail....

"Having spent my working lifetime in the British National Health Service, I have found that only a minority of patients enter my office feeling themselves subjectively the moral equal of their peers. In addition to the distress that brings them there, most people are apprehensively expecting to be judged. 

This, when you think about it, is an unusual state of affairs for someone consulting a professional adviser. For example, even though you expect a lawyer to be wiser than you in the ways of the law, you do not anticipate when consulting one that you will be treated as a morally inferior being, and any lawyer who treats clients as such is unlikely in the long run to prosper."

And yet, the evidence is that helpers do assume this superiority, time and time again. 

With disastrous results for those they purport to help.

I will be writing more on this. I will be presenting evidence and so will others around the world.

Kindest regards


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