Evelin Lindner, Jacqueline Haessly, Will Hoonaard and Leo Semashko
Double marginality of children, their dignity, humiliation and priority
I cannot agree more with you a priority of children is an essential step to human dignity and to prevention of humiliation! on our Children and Equal Dignity project page (http://www.humiliationstudies.org/intervention/children.php) I have written the following:
‘The quality of relations between generations, particularly towards the young, shows where a society stands. How we treat our children decides in which world we will live tomorrow. Preventing children's humiliation is paramount for a decent society (Avishai Margalit, 1996, The Decent Society, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press).
Please see also Children’s Suffrage Executed by Parents and Guardians (Leo Semashko, St-Petersburg Polytechnic University, 2004). According to Leo Semashko, the most effective way to prevent children's humiliation is to create the institution of Children's Suffrage Executed by Parents and Guardians.
The destructive effects of early childhood neglect and humiliation are significant. Victims may become perpetrators and carry out acts of humiliation through affective blindness. Perry (1997) relates a story that testifies to the severity of the potential effects of childhood humiliation:
A fifteen year old boy sees some fancy sneakers he wants. Another child is wearing them – so he pulls a gun and demands them. The younger child, at gunpoint, takes off his shoes and surrenders them. The fifteen year old puts the gun to the child's head, smiles and pulls the trigger. When he is arrested, the officers are chilled by his apparent lack of remorse. Asked whether, if he could turn back the clock, would he do anything differently, he thinks and replies, "I would have cleaned my shoes."His "bloody shoes" led to his arrest. He exhibits regret for being caught, an intellectual, cognitive response. But remorse – an affect – is absent. He feels no connection to the pain of his victim. Neglected and humiliated by his primary caretakers when he was young, this fifteen-year-old murderer is, literally, emotionally retarded. The part of his brain which would have allowed him to feel connected to other human beings – empathy – did not develop. He has affective blindness. Just as the retarded child lacks the capacity to understand abstract cognitive concepts, this young murderer lacks the capacity to be connected to other human beings in a healthy way. Experience, or rather lack of critical experiences, resulted in this affective blindness – this emotional retardation (Perry, Bruce D. (1997). Incubated in terror: Neurodevelopmental factors in the 'cycle of violence'. In Osofsky, Joy Doninger (Ed.), Children, Youth and Violence: the Search for Solutions, pp. 124-148. New York, NY: Guilford Press, retrieved March 15, 2000, from http://www.bcm.tmc.edu/civitas/incubated.htm).’
Evelin Gerda Lindner, M.D., Ph.D. (Dr. med.), Ph.D. (Dr. psychol.), Social Scientist
September 21, 2005
I am very grateful to you for your deep understanding of the necessity to make children a priority in society and for its firm support. I fully agree with you that the quality of its relation to children and youth defines the quality of a society. As seen in the last two centuries and deftly expressed by Janusz Korczak in the beginning of the 20th century, the traditional quality of relations of an industrial society and state to children, leaves a wide open space for humiliation of the children’s dignity.Despite all the successes of an information society growing inside the industrial society, children are now doubly marginal.
Double marginality of children is, first, the age marginality and, secondly, the social marginality. The age marginality is natural; it is connected with the initial age, when the human is still small, weak and ignorant.But the child possesses all human qualities at the beginning of development. This marginality comes from nature, it is temporary, and it passes with age.The social (including state, political and legal) marginality of children is created by society and defined by its quality.Presently social marginality of children is manifested first of all in the age voting qualification.All the Constitutions recognize a human as a citizen of the state from the moment of his birth but voting rights are only received from the moment of maturity, as a rule, at 18 years. However, there is an opportunity to give voting rights from the moment of birth but, owing to the age marginality, the EXECUTION of a child’s voting right would be INCUMBENT upon his parents or legal guardians.
Thus, social marginality of children differs from natural (age) that there is a social way of overcoming it.(The only way to overcome the natural marginality of children is for them to reach adulthood.) However, until now the industrial society and state is not interested in overcoming the social marginality of children. Therefore, the children of the industrial society must endure this double marginality, this double source of humiliation. In this connection the most authoritative international organization – the UN - was compelled to ascertain on the Special Session (May 2002) that modern society leaves children in "poverty, discrimination and neglect" and that it has not created "a world fit for children" yet. Poverty, discrimination and neglect are doubly strong sources of humiliation for children. Double marginality of children in the industrial society fosters humiliations of children, at least twice as large and strong as the humiliation suffered by adults. You, as the doctor of medicine and psychology know better than I, what deep and perniciousconsequences (psychological, moral, social, professional etc.) result from the double humiliation of children.
The quality of the human capital of society and social capital of the person is cut "at the root" by double marginality of children. A social priority of children, established by the social-cultural institute of children’s suffrage executed by parents and guardians, is the sole way to overcome the social marginality of children and the reason for their humiliation. The priority of children will neutralize a social source of their humiliation and arm them and their caregivers (parents, teachers, doctors, grandmothers, grandfathers, instructors etc.) with the powerful tool of an opposition and minimization of their humiliation owing to their natural (age) marginality. The priority of children removes the social marginality of children in all countries and cultures.
A serious step in the direction of children’s priority and a sharp reduction of their humiliation was made in Sweden, the first nation in the world to accept in 1979 the "anti-spanking" law forbidding parents to use corporal punishment on their children. But this law, despite its doubtless value, only limits arbitrariness on the part of parents and does not aim them at prevention of the social humiliation of children ("poverty, discrimination and neglect") and does not arm them with an adequate powerful and lawful mechanism. The social-cultural and legal institute of children’s suffrage executed by parents can be such a mechanism.It creates and establishes the necessary preconditions for the priority of children in a society and state. only in a condition of children’s priority, when children come first in the society and state, is it possible to expect a qualitative reduction of the children’s humiliation and an increase in the quality of the human and social capital.
I see a role for children’s priority in the statement of equal dignity of all people proclaimed by the Declaration of the Rights of Human and in prevention of the humiliation of the human dignity. I do not consider my opinion to be the final word; therefore I would be glad if you put it up for discussion on the site of your unique international organization "Human Dignity and Humiliation Studies" (HumanDHS). The discussion topic can be formulated approximately so: "Priority of children, human dignity and humiliation prevention". Such a discussion is possible on our site if its authors would be interested in it.
Warmest wishes of peace and harmony,
September 27, 2005. (November 5, 2005, Rose edit)
Your valiant efforts will, no doubt, alleviate the despairing lives that surround so many children.
Perhaps the phrase, "Children without Borders" might be a suitable title for this effort. In the past, we have had "Doctors w/o Borders," "Engineers w/o Borders," etc., but they all take the name of the "doers" as part of the title. It is about time that such efforts as yours put the names of the "victims" into the title. Please keep me posted about your work--and, down the road, I can be of some assistance. Warmest regards,
Will C. van den Hoonaard
Professor of Sociology
University of New Brunswick, Canada
September 21, 2005
Leo and all,
I have been following the conversation on-line about Children First, and would like to recommend a resource for families. My book, Peacemaking: Family Activities for Justice and Peace, was first published in 1980 by Paulist Press, and reissued in 1990 by Resource Publications under the name, Learning to Live Together. I am currently revising the book to bring it up to date for the 25th anniversary of the publication of the first book. The theme of these books came out my work as a peace and family life educator working with students, parents, educators, and community organizations from 1970 on. People have used the book with families, as well as with intergenerational groups, in religious and social service organizations, and in both public and private schools in many countries of the world.
The Third Edition of this book has undergone numerous revisions to reflect justice concerns of Twenty-First Century. The book is divided into two sections. Part I, Steppingstones to Peacemaking, includes four chapters. The first three chapters focus on ways to create an environment of emotional and physical safety for every member of the family, where the attitudes, values and skills of peacemaking can be learned and practiced. These include the steppingstones of affirmation, respect for differences, and cooperation. Chapter Four suggests new ways to examine and resolve conflicts that occur between people within families and within communities in peaceful ways. Each of these steppingstones addresses in some way issues important for our day.
Part II, Families in Our Global Village, places the family in the context of the global village we know as planet earth. Here, we examine the relationship of our family to the global society. Our global interdependence manifests itself through several critical issues. These issues are analyzed for their impact on our family life. A series of questions challenges us as families to examine our present and future life-style choices from the perspective of living and sharing with others in our globally interdependent world. Three of the chapters in Part II have been extensively revised and a new chapter has been added. Chapter 5 explores what it means to live in a global village. Chapter 6 offers new insights into the way we care for others in our global village. Chapter 7 challenges us to become people with the ability to imagine and language a world at peace, and offers concrete ways to bring that vision to reality. Chapter 8 identifies ways to celebrate while staying mindful of our connectedness to all others.
Each chapter includes a set of activities that can be used with all members of a family or community group, a family prayer and reflection service, and a brief bibliography that offers additional background reading for more in-depth exploration of a particular topic. The book concludes with an Afterward, a reference list of organizations and individuals offering peace education and peacemaking programs for families, schools, community, and/or intergenerational groups, and an updated bibliography of books, magazines and cooperation games for family fun.
Thanks for all that all of you do to focus on the importance of considering Children First in the policies and decisions that affect our own and their lives and in the world. Peace,
Jacqueline Haessly, PhD
September 22, 2005
Note from the editor: Sociology of Childhood, in general, and in the tetrasociological paradigm in particular, can play a powerful role in the rise of a new culture of harmonious peace, primarily through to place in the forefront of a children priority in society. Without a children priority in society, a new culture of peace is difficult if not impossible.
Tetrasociology of Childhood: Theoretical and Political Priority of Childhood through Children’s Suffrage
The ISA RC 53 Mid-Term Conference Marginality and Voice: Childhood in Sociology and Society 2005 June 23-25, 2005
For sections: Children and politics; Future directions for the sociology of childhood
The marginal position of children in the world was defined by the UN Special Session on Children (2002), which stated that modern societies leave many children in "poverty, discrimination and neglect." This also defines the marginal status of the sociology of childhood, including its theoretical as well as empirical research. Traditionally, the sociology of childhood has been limited by narrow research and easy criticism of the status quo. It has offered neither a way to qualitatively change children’s position in society, nor a way to change its own marginal position as a discipline.
Tetrasociology of childhood is a new direction for the sociology of childhood within the framework of tetrasociological theory, which begins with recognition of four reproductive spheres and sphere classes of society. (For more details about spheres and sphere classes see L. M. Semashko, Tetrasociology: Responses to Challenges, St-Petersburg, 2002). This theory identifies children as an important part of one of the sphere classes, the social class, employed in the social sphere of society. Children are considered here as the initial human capital. The quality of human capital, and of society as a whole, depends upon the quality of children. Children and their social reproduction have priority importance for any society. Therefore, in this theory, children and all groups connected with them (parents, teachers, health workers and other caregivers), which make up 50 to 80 % of the population in any country (we shall designate this group “the childhood group”), will be those most likely to recognize childhood as a social priority.
However, for the childhood group to achieve a social priority, thereby overcoming its marginality, it must first be recognized as a political majority. This can only occur through children’s suffrage executed by parents. This gives children’s interests, by means of the childhood group, a powerful political voice. (For more about children’s suffrage see Leo Semashko, Children’s Suffrage, St-Petersburg, 2004). A political voice for children’s interests can be a powerful stimulus for a new culture of peace, a harmonious peace that seeks to end poverty and prevent wars, terror, and other destructive forces. (For more about a new culture of peace see the new Website: http://www.peacefromharmony.spb.ru). In this way, the tetrasociology of childhood opens up a new direction for the sociology of childhood, with a nonviolent way to qualitatively change the position of children in society to one that corresponds to their natural importance. It will also qualitatively change the status of the sociology of childhood as a social science.
March 12, 2005