Manipulating Young Minds: American Gun Culture and the Cycle of Violence

Families are a microcosm of the communities they emanate from; subsequently issues of human behaviour and how to modify and encourage its various manifestations are among some of the most contentious issues in society. Do we live in a more enlightened age when it comes to matters relating to raising children, understanding human behaviour and promoting appropriate values and standards in our societies?
A report out of the United States of America suggests that some parents teach their children as young as 4 years old how to use a gun-not any gun mind you, but high powered weapons of mass destruction like machine guns, including high powered, rapid fire assault weapons. The parents who support teaching their children to use these dangerous weapons argue that it “demystifies guns and help children learn the dangers of them. They say that it is simply a means to an end and will help reduce gun crime and mass murders in the long term (Sawyer, 2014). Disbelief is simply an understatement when attempting to understand the kind of reasoning being used here. To argue such a case without any idea of its implications is staggering, and one needs to ask should parents who advocate and promote putting high powered assault weapons in the hands of kindergarten aged children be considered fit enough to raise a balanced, well adjusted child? To what extent are they endangering the healthy psychological and emotional development of the child? Furthermore are they manipulating the child into believing that a gun or any other weapon is simply an innocuous harmless piece of technology if used correctly? Moreover are they carrying out an act of cruelty by forcing very young children to use weapons which kill and maim humans and other creatures?
The renowned psychoanalyst Alice Miller would argue that “The conviction that parents are always right and that every act of cruelty, whether conscious or unconscious, is an expression of their love is so deeply rooted in human beings, because it is based on the process of internalization that takes place during the first few months of life…” (Miller, For Your Own Good: Hidden Cruelty in Child-Rearing and the Roots of Violence, 1990, p.5) She further asserts one of the more obvious empirical conclusions one can draw from human nature, and that is if a child is nurtured with unconditional love and understanding, and without physical violence or emotional blackmail, then they in turn will practice the same kind of behaviours as fully grown human beings.
Teaching and training children as young as 4 years old how to use weapons of mass destruction, when they have yet to develop their own moral sensibilities is wrong. It is a form of emotional blackmail and manipulation. It is a form of child abuse.
Miller’s more serious assertion, and one all parents ought to take heed of, is that more often than not methods of child-rearing, including discipline and moral regulation in families, is carried out in such a manner so that a child is not aware of what is being done to him or her. Clearly parents have a choice whether to put a weapon of mass destruction in the hands of their child or a toy or game which promotes a more harmonious, civil and balanced set of values and standards.
Miller says it is generally accepted that children forget a lot of their early childhood, but the serious consequences from the trauma of harsh treatment will live on and manifest itself from mild neurosis as an adult, to the more bizarre manifestations of complex psychopathologies. There are no harmless pedagogies or ways of raising children she argues, because even when an adult is sure they are considering the best interests of the child there true motives are:
 The unconscious need to pass on to others the humiliation one has undergone oneself.
 The need to find an outlet for repressed affect.
 The need to possess and have at one’s disposal a vital object to manipulate.
 Self-defence: i.e., the need to idealize one’s childhood and one’s parents by dogmatically applying the parents’ pedagogical principles to one’s own children.
 Fear of freedom.
 Fear of the reappearance of what one has repressed, which one re-encounters in one’s child and must try to stamp out, having killed it in oneself earlier.
 Revenge for the pain one has suffered. (Miller, op.cit., pp.97-98)

Miller is not an advocate of anarchy in child-rearing, on the contrary, she argues strongly for tolerance, compassion, awareness, respect and the importance of leading children to awareness and self-knowledge, but not at the barrel of a gun. While adults are able to reproach their God, Miller says, “Children are not allowed to reproach their gods-their parents and teachers”. (Miller, op.cit, p.254)

References
Miller, A , For Your Own Good: Hidden Cruelty in Child-rearing and the Roots of Violence
Farrar Straus Giroux, 1983

Sawyer, D. (2014, January 31). Parents Argue Teaching Young Kids to Shoot Prevents Gun Accidents. Retrieved from ABC News: http://abcnews.go.com/US/parents-argue-teaching-young-kids-shoot-prevents-gun/story?id=22317419

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