When a child is abused by a parent the child may become scared of the parent and may seek to obtain approval in the most effective way possible. This often may involve agreeing with what the parent says regardless of how consistent or rational it is.
(First posted on tripod on September 14 2009)
This method can be used to pass on prejudices from one generation to the next. If a parent dictates the truth to the child without explaining how conclusions are drawn this may lead to irrational beliefs. This would involve indoctrination whether it is intentional or not; it may lead the child to adopt many contradictory beliefs and prevent the child from figuring things out on his own. This may mean that when the child grows up he may be dependent on the leadership of others to direct his life. A child like this may be much more susceptible to joining fringe cults like the Manson or the Jones family. Both these cults attracted followers who had no place to go and came from abusive families. I’m sure most if not all fringe cults also attract similar followers although I haven’t seen the research into most of them. If the only way a child learns to fit in with friends is to agree with them regardless of what they say this may lead to an insecure adult who may become overly dependant on the crowd for support. A better alternative would be for the parent to spend more time listening to the child. When the child is always asking questions this should be encouraged most of the time. It may be annoying but this is a very important part of the educational experience.
Most of not all people develop their behavior patterns early in life, some of the most important behavior patterns begin developing at a very young age. If children are abused at an early age they become angry and grow up to be violent. If they are taught to control their temper and think things through they develop good reasoning skills. If they are accustomed to constant arguments where people don’t listen to the other side they often grow up with a closed mind and worry more about proving they are right than figuring out what is true. Children that are taught to discuss problems and listen to the other side are much less likely to grow up to be argumentative adults.
Once you understand this it helps to understand what type of childhood someone probably had based on their behavior as an adult. If someone is infatuated with programs that use a lot of hype like Nancy Grace or Glenn Beck and thinks they are credible sources of information it is likely that they spent a lot of time arguing with others without learning how to settle their differences as a child and never grew out of it. In some cases this may have a very serious effect on democracy or lack of democracy. A recent example is the incident with Joe Wilson who yelled out during Obama’s speech. He may have had some legitimate complaints but that isn’t the way to address it and at other times apparently he has adamantly advocated for false claims including denying that the USA gave weapons of Mass destruction to Saddam Hussein. Some of his followers have backed him up with emotional support that isn’t based on accurate facts. This could lead to making important political decisions based on lies. This kind of behavior could be a major threat to democracy since democracy won’t work if the public isn’t informed.
It is very difficult in the short run to deal with people who respond more to emotional pleas than to rational discussion that explores both sides of the issue. One way to handle this could be to use further emotional pleas carefully designed to advance an argument but this doesn’t lead to understanding the subject even if it does work. In the long run it would be much easier to understand how these behavior patterns develop and educate children right from the beginning. If children are taught rational reasoning skills from the start they will do a much better job thinking for themselves. This will not mean they won’t make mistakes but it least it will be their own mistakes not the mistakes of their leader. This will also mean that different people will make different mistakes and if they talk it through rationally they will be able to work out the details and correct the mistakes. The alternative is to believe the person who yells the loudest or the one who is the most charismatic. Unfortunately this takes a long time but if it is done right it will last much longer too. This means focusing more on educating children than on debating older people. In the short term adults still have to be dealt with.
This doesn’t mean that reeducation can be forced on people that would lead to more problems than solutions. But there should be a better effort to explain social behavior to the public and make more accurate information available to them so they can do a better job making decisions.
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