A Jeanne Site
Structural Violence and Respect
California State University, Dominguez Hills
University of Wisconsin, Parkside
Latest update: June 9, 2000
Faculty on the Site.
On Tuesday, 26 Apr 2000 Saundra Davis wrote:On 4-11-00 I sat in class attempting to listen to your lecture, but the distractions were numerous. I spoke up to reiterate what another older student had acknowledged and responded to in another class, the fact that there seems to be a lack of respect or maybe just a total difference in upbringing from our day to this. I understand these young people are considering themselves mature adults but they seem to be able to dish out their attitudes and what we consider rudeness but they are much more comfortable when we from the old school just ignore it and mind our own business. Well, I feel that this is my business since my ability to learn depends greatly on the learning environment and being able to benefit from your wonderfully open and diverse lectures. I also understand that my approach must always be positive in order to get results. I did begin with the positive by saying that its wonderful to see them in school and how organized I see their work is for this class which means they must be receiving beneficial subject matter from the lessons and lectures. But I still addressed the issues of rattling paper, opening chips and candy, walking back and forth to clean out notebooks, bumping desks and consistently chattering loudly enough to be distracting. Well, I certainly felt the offense that was taken so I waited until after class and I asked them how they felt about what I said. Well, I was disappointed to get the response of "that's your opinion" because it wasn't just my opinion; it was fact. Another response was, "I'm grown so I do what I want. My parents can't even tell me what to do." I began to understand why so many young people seem to stay in trouble. These comments lead me to believe that figures of authority mean nothing to these young adults. At the age of 5 or 45, I would hope that my children have enough respect for me or for you and any other older adult or figure of authority, to render respect. As you know I have 5 daughters and I sincerely hope they show the same respect for other elders (anyone their senior) as they give me. I would be sick to know they disrespected anyone, even their peers. I must reiterate that as you always say Jeanne, we would dare not address our elders with anything but respect for fear of the backlash.
I therefore conclude that in the past the Use of Fear to Persuade proved to have been beneficial in molding more disciplined youth. I grew up with the fear of God, the fear of my parents, and the fear of authority. These fears have certainly been motivation factors in my life. I raised my kids with these same fears and I feel like their attitudes toward life and their futures, their moralistic behavior and their principles and values have certainly been affected by these factors. They have all graduated early or received awards and honors in school and in the community. They have always received praise for their behavior and or attitudes, and when employment positions come up in the city or local government, so often they say "Call Saundra's girls. I'm very proud of that fact and of them but I give the credit to their disciplined attitudes and respect for themselves and others, stemming from their fear of God and consequences.
I truly can't understand how people effectively rear children without certain fears, discipline or consequences. Rewards are not always as effective as fear. Dangling a carrot may not always be effective, especially if I'm a cat and not a rabbit. Sometimes Tough Love is a must! Saundra Davis
Saundra brings up lots of important points. Let's go back and look at what we've had to say this semester about love and respect.
- Lear on love
- Buscaglia on love
- Jones and Gerard on fear as a means of persuasion
- tough love
- structural violence
- parents are "responsible" - what does that mean?
- understanding respect - Elizabeth Barrett Browning's How do I love thee? And how do we mean to know that? sentimentality, romance, respect, trust
- forgiveness, good faith, and discourse
How do we get from each doing what he/she wants to do, to a space in which we can come to a shared climate of respect? Fear, I don't think so, though I do think fear works at times, in limited ways. Listening, with caring, maybe? But you have to be willing to let me listen.
Think on this one. I'll have lots to say after San Diego. jeanne
After San Diego we had the Town Hal Forum, then exams, graduation, and New York. Now I have lots to say. I want to go through the list I jotted down above, to give you my first impressions. Then, as you have time to reply, and I have time to reread and rethink, we'll develop our process text on respect.
- Jonathan Lear on Love and Its Place in Nature. I very much like Jonathan Lear's reassessment of Freud at the end of the 20th Century, for he makes far clearer to me than most earlier studies how we can begin to understand the mind, and so not get trapped into neuroses and structural violence.
On. p.5, Lear says: "In trying to understand human subjectivity, mind is trying to grasp its own activity. How does mind recognize itself?" Analysis deals mostly with helping one who has already encountered blocks to the understanding of self. Teaching is more about guiding us to understand mind so that we can avoid the need for analysis.
So how did I get from that to respect? Well, I happened to be reading Lear at the time I posed these questions for a process text. So we could use the Herbartian apperceptive mass as one explanation. Lear's discussion of Freud, and my efforts to link that to teaching were uppermost in my mind. But the interesting thing about linking concepts across fields is that it helps us to "steal theory."
Lear emphasizes the processes of mind that are not rational, processes that are simply affective or emotional responses. He speaks of "archaic mental functioning," which refects the mind's need for self-understanding. "[I]t seems that even the most archaic unconscious mental process contains within it an implicit, fantasied 'theory' of that process. A 'theory' of the mental process is part of the person's (perhaps unconscious) experience of that process. Thus the fantasied 'theory' becomes part and parcel of the mental process, and in altering the fantasy one alters the mental process itself."
What this means to me is that theory goes way back. We all engage in theory. We try to explain ourselves to ourselves. And that leads me to one definition of respect: a willingness to accept that the Other has some theory of action that guides her behavior, and makes that behavior make sense to her. The theory guiding her may very well be fantasied "theory," but it establishes her process of reasoning in present transactions, and deserves the respect of listening in good faith. To dismiss her theory without a good faith hearing is to dismiss the process of mind that brought her to that validity claim. I consider such dismissal violent and disrespectful.
- Buscaglia on Respect I'm going to ask those of you who were inspired by Buscaglia to share in this piece. Which sections of his books would you quote to give the flavor of what respect meant to him?
My answer is based on memories of him. Leo Buscaglia was a joyous man, bursting with life. I remember the time he got a ticket for speeding on the Pasadena freeway on his way home. He had been singing Madame Butterfly! Imagine, driving home from teachcing, so happy he serenaded the world with an opera he loved, and was profoundly surprised to be given a ticket!
I think that respect to Buscaglia would have meant respect for that life giving joy he saw in everything, even the drive home. He didn't just see individuals as unique, he saw them also as the fireflies that give off that joy.
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