Violence Part 1: Paternalism

There are many societies in the world with a violence problem, including the United States. Canada is not immune. This institutionalized violence is caused by a three-legged stool of factors: paternalism, the natural human reaction to violence, and our inability to choose good leaders. In the first part of this three-part series, we look at the causes and effects of the paternalistic society we all live in.

Historical Background

Most societies of the past few thousand years have been based on a paternalistic model, and with good reason. It’s a nasty, mean world out there, and having a Daddy who is big and strong and tough enough to protect us is a really comforting thought.

This may work in a small family unit, but when it comes to choosing a leader for a larger group, a small problem arises. The guy who gets chosen is usually the biggest, strongest, and toughest one. These may be good criteria for choosing a war chief, but they have very little to do with having the ability to lead a peaceful society once the nasty guys have been driven away.

Paternalism is Supposed to be Finite

The point with a paternalistic family (or a maternalistic one, for that matter) is that the children eventually grow up and take responsibility for themselves. It is a crucial stage in the maturing process of humans when we discover that our parents are only human, and that Daddy is not the strongest man in the world, and that he cannot protect us from everything. The problem with the institutionalized paternalism that we live under is that a great number of people don’t ever grow up. They spend their lives looking for someone to pat them on the head and tell them that “It’s okay, darling, Daddy will take care of you.” Thus they are doomed to be forever frightened of the world, forever giving their allegiance to the next father figure who fools them into giving him power by promising to protect them. As some of the worst leaders in history, such as Hitler, Stalin, and Chairman Mao demonstrate.

Paternalistic Police

Our image of police forces and their function is also part of the problem. There are too many police officers who think of themselves as the strong men who protect everyone from violence by being more successful at violence. As is demonstrated every day on the streets of America (and at times in Canada as well), some of those police officers think that this means they may act as judge, jury, and executioner. And all too often they do. 14 people are killed in California, and North American media go wild. 1100 people are killed every year by policemen in United States, and I’m afraid a lot of people consider that part of the penalty their society has to pay to be safe. Which they aren’t.

Just Growing Up is Not Enough

Unfortunately, telling everyone to “just grow up and take care of yourself” is a bit simplistic. After the California massacre, I assume that the 185,000 people who ordered guns online on Black Friday thought they were doing just that. Which basically resulted in a bunch more immature, frightened people with guns.

Until we create a world where people are encouraged to mature fully, we’re bound to the wheel of violence and violent response that has held humans in thrall for the past few thousand years. More on that next week.


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