Wednesday, December 12, 2012
Spare the Child for Christmas
No child should be abused during the Christmas season or at any other time; and if complex systems lead to the abuse and in some cases torture of children out of mind out of sight they should be changed, especially if they’re part of a celebration that is supposed to be about the well being of children and other people.
(This was originally posted in December of last year on Open Salon; many of the points are still valid and it will be followed up soon by an update based on similar activities happening this year.)
The Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation has apparently taken legal action to attempt to have the nativity scene shown above removed from public property based on the separation of church and State interpretation of the first amendment. There seems to be an incident like this that is highly publicized every year and a close look at it may indicate that they’re being misrepresented to the public by the Mass Media especially by fox News. The above link and several news stories from Fox news and presumably many other conservative news outlets decline to invite the people from the Freedom From Religion Foundation to present their views on the subject and explain why they’re raising law suits on a semi-regular basis; however if you look it up on their web site you will find that they provide a more rational explanation for what they’ve been doing and why on one page about Religious Holiday Displays on Public Property, and another one about Peace on Earth, explains that despite all the complaints that they get from religious people objecting they also get many more from people that support the separation of Church and State including many religious people. One of the reasons why many religious people may support this may be because they remember the persecutions throughout history that have been targeted against religious people for being part of the wrong religion which is why many religious people supported the separation in the first place.
Regardless of why they have been attempting to have these displays removed from public property, I’m not sure this is the best way to handle the situation. One possible alternative that they could consider is an accompanying “Spare the Child” display. Alternative displays aren’t something the Freedom From Religion Foundation hasn’t considered before; they done that before focusing primarily on atheist displays. However I suspect this may have a long term impact that many people may not recognize; however it may also bring in the support or opposition of many other groups, as will become more apparent once I describe my suggestions in a little more detail.
Philip Greven has written a book by the same name, “Spare the Child” about how much damage child abuse, and more specifically, corporal punishment, has done to the long term development of children and how it has been implemented throughout history. He focuses primarily on the impact that has resulted from Protestant religious teachings about corporal punishment but similar tactics have been used by many other religions including the Catholics, Mormons, Jewish and Muslim religions. The following excerpt indicates a common view that is taught by many religious advocates:
James Dobson, a psychologist and the director of the multimillion-dollar organization in California called Focus on the Family, whose books on child rearing (especially Dare to Discipline, which has sold over a million copies) have been enormously popular among evangelical Christians, explores the issue of children’s willfulness in The Strong Willed child: Birth through Adolescence, thus joining a long line of corporal-punishment advocates obsessed with the wills of children. As a man who believes that pain is a marvelous purifier,” Dobson has no hesitation in recommending that parents use spankings” to control and to suppress their children’s willfulness and rebelliousness. Source: “Spare the Child” For more on James Dobson see Dobson’s Indoctrination Machine.
This is just one of many well researched efforts to show how much damage has been done to children by corporal punishment and it indicates how damaging it is; Others include Alice Miller “For Your Own Good” Murray Straus “Beating the Devil out of them” and Barbara Coloroso “Kids are Worth it.” And Sweden has demonstrated how successful it can be after abolishing Corporal Punishment thirty years ago which they demonstrate in Never Violence - Save the Children Sweden (PDF file). By focusing their opposition to the use of corporal punishment they could attract additional support from many human rights groups in addition to advocates of separation of church and state. This also brings the advantage of presenting the debate in a manner that also involves the protection of children. The Christian religion claims that they care a lot about the well being of children and they focus an additional amount of attention during the Christmas season on the baby Jesus whom they worship. They would probably be shocked if anyone suggested that Jesus should be abused when he was a child; if so then why wouldn’t they be equally shocked about the abuse of many other children.
Another long term difference that it may have involves the reduction of the authoritarian indoctrination methods that result from corporal punishment that is often used to teach children what to believe in addition to using it to discipline them. Both Alice Miller and Philip Greven have written about how corporal punishment has been used to teach beliefs as well and they’ve indicated that if they no longer use it children may be much more capable of thinking for themselves instead of believing what they’re told blindly by their leaders. When writing about lack of concern that was expressed by the Catholic Church Alice Miller said:
“Such persistent silence is alarming in the extreme. If this were not the first time the recipients had been informed of these findings, they would no doubt have indicated as much in their replies. But if it was the first time, then it is very hard to understand why they displayed such a lack of concern. Are we to believe that the welfare of future generations is a matter of supreme indifference to them? They themselves make frequent reference to the problem of violence and how it might be resolved. Surely we may assume that they are opposed to hatred and violence. Why, then, do they have no wish to know where that hatred comes from and how it evolves? Why do they choose to ignore the sources that have been pointed out to them?...”
“If the Catholic Church were to open its eyes, train its gaze on the cruelty being done to children, and speak out against it, would that have a detrimental effect on the power of the church? Probably, for at present time that power rests squarely on the subjection of the faithful to its authoritarian decrees. If self-possessed believers were to begin questioning the power structures of the church, those structures would come tumbling down. Willful ignorance of the laws of psychology will, however, hardly suffice to preserve those structures.” Source: Alice Miller “The Truth Will Set You Free” This means, essentially, that if they take a much more vocal stand against child abuse they will also be doing much more than many people realize to stop blind belief in irrational cults. If the religious people realize this they may oppose it even more but if they do then they will be in the unenviable position of defending their religion by defending the right to abuse children, which isn’t new of course, since they’ve been doing that for a while.
The religious impact of child rearing may not seem as directly related to Christmas as the impact of sweat shop labor by children. In most cases when people give gifts to each other they don’t think much about what goes into manufacturing them or whether or not some of them might be made from sweat shop labor. And the certainly don’t say things like, “Merry Christmas, here’s a present I bought for you which was made by a child forced to work in a sweat shop all day. This child will never have any opportunity to get ahead in life and may die before getting to middle age because she’s being forced to work for wages that won’t even provide enough money to buy the products she makes let alone support her properly.”
That doesn’t mean that every product we buy is made by a child in horrible conditions, of course; however many of them are and in today’s economy it is difficult if not impossible to tell how many are being made with sweat shop labor. According to “No Logo” by Naomi Klein even the location of these sweat shops is considered a trade secret. They claim that they don’t want their competition to find out how they compete and gain an advantage; however the same people that have investigated sweat shops have found that many of their competitors use the same sweat shops. They didn’t used to keep the locations of their “factories” secrets in fact they used to have actual factories not sweat shops and the labor movement was gradually eliminating sweat shop labor in the USA and they were getting their products to the consumers at a reasonable price without suppressing the rights of workers as much as they used to until the Globalization movement escalated. Once this happened they started getting out of the manufacturing business altogether and subcontracting everything to enable them to maintain plausible deniability.
There were more investigations of these this subject, even by the traditional Mass Media, during the nineties which is why this information is available. At the same time the Mass Media was in the process of consolidating which escalated in the late nineties; and then after 9/11 the Mass Media has become much more concerned about other things and as far as I can tell there is little or no reporting about these activities in the Main Stream Media any more but if you look at alternative sources it is clear that the investigations haven’t completely stopped; in fact if you Google “sweatshop child labor photos” you’ll find hundreds if not thousands of photos opn the subject, most of which have related articles on the subject that can tell you much more about what goes into the production of the products we buy. Clearly these sweat shops haven’t shut down since the MSM stopped paying attention to them; if anything they’re probably escalated with less attention being drawn to them. They’re not even resulting in improved quality of the merchandise or lower prices for consumer either which they try to imply. Prices continue to rise and the merchandise continues to be of lower quality that falls apart much quicker so that consumers are being forced to buy them over an over again. Before they shipped the factories over seas and traded them in for fly-by-night sweat shops they were spending much less money on advertising, public relations, shipping, lobbying, campaign contributions and other administration expenses that have nothing to do with the manufacturing of the product; instead they used more of their budget towards actually manufacturing goods and paying the workers a reasonable wage, even if it wasn’t as much as they should have gotten then. And while they were doing this they were still making a reasonable profit. Now the economy is designed primarily to maximize profit for the few at the top with little or no benefit for many other people.
The political establishment isn’t paying much attention to the subject either. Newt Gingrich, of course made the news when he made several comments about the subject recently and anyone who thinks about Mitt Romney’s past at Bain Capital surely must suspect that he has done his share to consolidate business’s and ship jobs overseas; however Barack Obama doesn’t seem to be much if any better judging by articles like Obama Pretends Slave Labor and Sweatshops Don’t Exist In India. He may seem like the alternative candidate on the subject since the GOP has looked so bad on it but he hasn’t done anything to highlight it and there is no reason to believe that he will. In fact, no candidate that want to run for high office can possibly collect the money they need to be taken seriously by the MSM unless they agree, tacitly, or otherwise, to ignore the subject. If anyone from alternative parties or non-government organizations attempted to run on the issue or many other issues they would be ignored by the MSM unless they receive an enormous amount of grass roots support then they would almost certainly be portrayed as fringe candidates. This is much more likely to happen now that the MSM has consolidated into a small group of people controlling the news and they’ve turned it into a corporate propaganda machine that refuses to address corporate corruption even when it is leading to the enslavement of thousands of children. There is no reason to believe this will change until there are many more people that recognize that the MSM is a propaganda machine designed to suppress democracy and act on it. They could act on this by implementing some form of election reform and restoring a broader independent press or by educating more people to stop relying on the corporate propaganda machine for their information.
A major part of the reason that the corporations have been able to get away with this for so long is that they’ve been able to keep the public distracted and prevent them from being socially active or even aware. They’ve done this by using their propaganda machine to create an incredibly dumbed down idiot box and by using an increasing amount of sophisticated marketing to children that starts at a very young age. Roy fox has done a very good research project into this in Harvesting Minds where he studies how corporations have started indoctrinating children through Channel One that targets children with commercials in schools, a location that was once considered a haven from advertising. Others have done additional research into the impact that advertising has on children and the damage is enormous. If anything this marketing dramatically escalates during the Christmas season. This marketing often escalates throughout life until some people become so obsessed with the consumer culture that they create elaborate Christmas displays with an enormous amounts of lights that attract enormous crowds admiring the decorations and they associate it with their religion and chose to believe that this has something to do with morality and the worship of Jesus without considering the sweatshop labor that is probably behind it or the fact that this is nothing but an enormous amount of hype that serves no purpose. In one newsworthy example, ('Your soul will burn in hell': Family's giant Biblical message to vandals who tore down and stole their elaborate Christmas lights)
it attracted thieves who stole the lights and the people replaced it with a vindictive message that hardly seems to indicate the Christian forgiveness that was taught by Jesus. They complain because the thieves ruined their daughters Christmas without considering the possibility that they may have done more damage by teaching them a shallow set of values. This is just one of the many arguments that arise from these obsessions with Christmas displays and children often get caught in the middle of them and they tend to tech these children very shallow values at a time when they’re very impressionable.
Whether it is selling toys that were made with sweatshop labor or marketing to children they make people feel as if Christmas is a cheerful time of the year, and for a small percentage of the public it probably is; but there are an enormous amount of people that have to pay the price for this and they keep paying all year long. Many people may take a day to help the local poor during the holiday season but this assistance usually only lasts for a day or two and for every child that is helped through this assistance there are probably many more that have fallen through the cracks where no one is even looking.
Fortunately the Occupy Wall Street movement is trying to change many of these things but they still have an uphill battle despite the grass roots support that they’ve received. For many people it is now turning into old news but they haven’t done much if anything to improve anything. This can’t go on indefinitely; either they’ll have to clamp down even harder and show their true colors or they’ll have to allow a sincere discussion about many of the important issues. If they attempt to have that discussion without inviting many of the most informed and sincere people and claim that they’re having a serious discussion about the issues it will only work for a short while assuming it works at all. They’re attempting to shut down many of these Occupy protests as soon as possible and they would probably prefer not to have them during Christmas but they will almost certainly not have any choice about the protest themselves; although they can control the way they cover them in the Mass Media. Even if they do present a distorted version of it in the MSM the movement will still find a way to get their message out. In fact, not surprisingly, they now have an Occupy Xmas movement (The original web site is no longer up but this article describes their activities.) that is independent of this blog but they’re recommending many of the same things, that you try not to buy from sweat shop businesses or any business that is involved in price fixing, planned obsolescence, shipping jobs over seas or many other corrupt corporate activities.
A display covering all these things may be bigger than the Freedom From Religion Foundation might want to handle alone and it will bring an enormous amount of opposition from some of the most powerful institutions in our society; however that doesn’t mean that it can’t or shouldn’t be done. In fact if the Freedom From Religion Foundation isn’t ready willing and able perhaps the Occupy Wall Street movement could do it. Once the overwhelming opposition becomes apparent then it will become much more obvious that many of the most powerful institutions that pretend to protect children are actually one of the greatest threat to the majority of children in the world. They only protect a small percentage of the children in the world and focus the attention of the public on that while ignoring the vast majority of children that have little or no protection thanks to powerful corporations and other corrupt institutions. If more attention is drawn to this then children around the world can be spared year round not just for Christmas.