FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Protect Us From Our Friends

by BRUCE E. LEVINE

For many people I know — especially many young people, Native Americans, and others alienated from American dominant culture — the difference between liberals and conservatives is only in technique used to coerce conformity and gain control.

My friend Roland Chrisjohn is a psychologist and a professor in the Native Studies Department at St. Thomas University, and he is also an Oneida of the Iroquois Nation. Roland says, “Protect me from my ‘friends’.” While his enemies on the right murdered indigenous Americans to steal their land, Indians’ so-called liberal “friends” forced assimilation through boarding schools that prohibited the use of tribal languages and customs, which made it easier to divide and conquer and then “legally” rip them off. While the right favored massacres, the liberals preferred “curing” indigenous Americans and came up with sayings like, “Kill the Indian to save the child.”

I spend a good deal of time with non-Indian kids who are also not fitting into American society, specifically its schools. A few of these kids are manipulative, exploitative caricatures of a manipulative, exploitative society. But most of the kids I see are a pleasure to hang out with precisely because they don’t fit into their schools and society; and for these kids, liberals and conservatives are also two sides of the same oppressive coin.

When I write articles or give talks questioning the wisdom of prescribing kids speed in order to get them to shut up in a classroom, pay attention to a boring teacher, and do their meaningless homework, I get superficially different – but essentially the same –reactions from self-identified conservatives and liberals.

The conservative reacts, “Yeah, these kids don’t need medication. They need their parents to get tough with them and show them whose boss. These teachers have their hands tied by liberals. Too much coddling has ruined America.”

The liberal reacts, “While I agree that some children are incorrectly diagnosed and improperly medicated, my son was getting Fs in school until he was prescribed Ritalin, and now he is going to college next fall, every parent’s dream.”

Similar to America’s liberal-conservative “Indian problem” debate, something is missing from the liberal-conservative “problem child” debate. What’s missing is the possibility that nothing is essentially wrong with these kids. What’s missing is the possibility that they simply don’t fit into the dominant culture that has opted for efficiency, bureaucracy, and corporate feudalism at the expense of meaningfulness, diversity, and genuine democracy. What’s missing is the possibility that perhaps there is something admirable about their rebellion against authoritarian hierarchies and manipulative relationships.

The liberal-conservative media parades ex-maladaptives who are now grateful that authorities have modified them to fit in. Conservatives prefer ex-maladaptives who straightened out after their mother kicked them out of the house or father took the belt to them. Liberals prefer the ex-maladaptives who have been transformed through medical treatments.

Conservatives who have had an easy time fitting into society believe that those people who cannot fit in are lazy, stupid, or undisciplined. Liberals who easily fit into society believe that those people who cannot fit in are diseased or disordered. It is difficult for either of these conservatives or liberals to imagine that their view of progress is another group’s view of insanity.

When a society worships itself, there is bigotry not only against those societies that don’t share its values but also against individuals within that society who don’t buy in. And so “progress” as defined in modernity means that personalities that don’t buy into modernity need to be modified.

Do young people who don’t comply with authorities for whom they do not respect have oppositional defiant disorder? Do kids who don’t pay attention to boring authorities have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder? Do kids who feel threatened by an aggressive and competitive society have social anxiety disorder? Do these young people need to be reformed by behavior modifications and medications?

Conservative-liberal American society is sure of itself. It is sure of which cultures are backwards and which personalities need to be modified. And it is sure of its technologies for transforming other cultures and the problematic individuals within it. The goal of genocide and personality-cide is essentially the same: elimination of that aspect of humanity which gets in the way of the dominant culture’s view of progress.

The price for all of this arrogance and bigotry is a certain kind of karma. For genocidal practices and stolen land, Indians have certainly not received political, legal, or economic justice. However, there is a justice being meted out for forcing Indians into becoming something they are not. Because of American society’s denial and its failure to make amends for this violence, American society’s karma is to repeat such coercions with its own children.

American society’s karma for ignoring the resentment of Native Americans for forced conformity is that it now ignores its own children’s resentment over similar coercion. And American’s society is being severely punished for ignoring this resentment. A society’s foundation is its families, and in the United States, familial relationships are being destroyed by children’s resentment, which acts like a slow-killing poison.

BRUCE E. LEVINE is a clinical psychologist and his latest book is Surviving America’s Depression Epidemic: How to Find Morale, Energy, and Community in a World Gone Crazy (Chelsea Green Publishing, 2007). His Web site is www.brucelevine.net

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bruce E. Levine,  a practicing clinical psychologist, writes and speaks about how society, culture, politics and psychology intersect.  He is the author of Get Up, Stand Up: Uniting Populists, Energizing the Defeated, and Battling the Corporate Elite (Chelsea Green Publishing, 2011). His website is www.brucelevine.net

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

Weekend Edition
December 09, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Nasty As They Wanna Be
Henry Giroux
Trump’s Second Gilded Age: Overcoming the Rule of Billionaires and Militarists
Andrew Levine
Trump’s Chumps: Victims of the Old Bait and Switch
Chris Welzenbach
The Forgotten Sneak Attack
Lewis Lapham
Hostile Takeover
Joshua Frank
This Week at CounterPunch: More Hollow Smears and Baseless Accusations
Paul Street
The Democrats Do Their Job, Again
Vijay Prashad
The Cuban Revolution: Defying Imperialism From Its Backyard
Michael Hudson - Sharmini Peries
Orwellian Economics
Mark Ames
The Anonymous Blacklist Promoted by the Washington Post Has Apparent Ties to Ukrainian Fascism and CIA Spying
Erin McCarley
American Nazis and the Fight for US History
Yoav Litvin
Resist or Conform: Lessons in Fortitude and Weakness From the Israeli Left
Conn Hallinan
India & Pakistan: the Unthinkable
Andrew Smolski
Third Coast Pillory: Nativism on the Left – A Realer Smith
Joshua Sperber
Trump in the Age of Identity Politics
Brandy Baker
Jill Stein Sees Russia From Her House
Katheryne Schulz
Report from Santiago de Cuba: Celebrating Fidel’s Rebellious Life
Nelson Valdes
Fidel and the Good People
Norman Solomon
McCarthy’s Smiling Ghost: Democrats Point the Finger at Russia
Renee Parsons
The Snowflake Nation and Trump on Immigration
Margaret Kimberley
Black Fear of Trump
Michael J. Sainato
A Pruitt Running Through It: Trump Kills Nearly Useless EPA With Nomination of Oil Industry Hack
Ron Jacobs
Surviving Hate and Death—The AIDS Crisis in 1980s USA
David Swanson
Virginia’s Constitution Needs Improving
Louis Proyect
Narcos and the Story of Colombia’s Unhappiness
Paul Atwood
War Has Been, is, and Will be the American Way of Life…Unless?
John Wight
Syria and the Bodyguard of Lies
Richard Hardigan
Anti-Semitism Awareness Act: Senate Bill Criminalizes Criticism of Israel
Kathy Kelly
See How We Live
David Macaray
Trump Picks his Secretary of Labor. Ho-Hum.
Howard Lisnoff
Interview with a Political Organizer
Yves Engler
BDS and Anti-Semitism
Adam Parsons
Home Truths About the Climate Emergency
Brian Cloughley
The Decline and Fall of Britain
Eamonn Fingleton
U.S. China Policy: Is Obama Schizoid?
Graham Peebles
Worldwide Air Pollution is Making us Ill
Joseph Natoli
Fake News is Subjective?
Andre Vltchek
Tough-Talking Philippine President Duterte
Binoy Kampmark
Total Surveillance: Snooping in the United Kingdom
Guillermo R. Gil
Vivirse la película: Willful Opposition to the Fiscal Control Board in Puerto Rico
Patrick Bond
South Africa’s Junk Credit Rating was Avoided, But at the Cost of Junk Analysis
Clancy Sigal
Investigate the Protesters! A Trial Balloon Filled With Poison Gas
Pierre Labossiere – Margaret Prescod
Human Rights and Alternative Media Delegation Report on Haiti’s Elections
Charles R. Larson
Review:  Helon Habila’s The Chibok Girls: the Boko Haram Kidnappings and Islamist Militancy in Nigeria
David Yearsley
Brahms and the Tears of Britain’s Oppressed
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail