Monday, July 31, 2017

Sticks and Stones

The Australian article about the attitudes of those in poverty is different enough that I could choose a half-dozen topics from it to riff on.  Feel welcome to comment on any of those, even though I don't here.  I think I got it from Instapundit, but maybe it was at Maggie's.

The essay doesn't go where I expected it to from the first few paragraphs.  He rather goes J D Vance one step further.  The part that jumped out was his discussion of actual violence versus spoken violence. While it has been popular recently for SJW's to declare words as a near equivalent to violence - and conservatives to get apoplectic in response - that sentiment has actually been around for a long time. I have read many times that angry words to children can hurt just as much as blows, with anecdotes of emotional wounds that persisted into adulthood from thoughtless or pathological adults. Movies seem to imply this often, likely because screenwriters are word-people and were usually not beaten-people as children.

It was gratifying to read someone who insists No they don't. Getting beat up really is much worse. He considers it something of an affectation from middle-class upbringings to claim otherwise. As one who has endured real violence in his family and his neighborhood, he is very clear on the distinction that only being insulted or threatened, and not getting beat up, was a real relief. He is spot on. I can remember my cheeks reddening from being challenged and insulted by older children, and it does feel very bad to be publicly humiliated. But I was still glad to have gotten away to the next block with no further damage than to my feelings. I lived in a bad neighborhood, but merely bad, not harrowing.  Still it was enough to understand what he was driving at.

Our nervous systems are in some ways simple, and when something hurts us, the dial goes to 10 and can't go higher. Physical pain, emotional pain, the in-the-head part is the same. That much is so. But with actual violence, new dials start to get twisted, dials of fear, dials of pain, dials of hopelessness, and these are perpetuated by the wincing re-enactments of past injury.* You are deprived of the very tools you would use to cope. For someone to deprive you further by calling your suffering "the same as" something much milder seems an added cruelty.

I see a parallel in the overuse of the word "Holocaust."  Some events deserve the comparison, but not many - the Holodomor, the GULAG, the Killing Fields, the Great Leap Forward, The Rape of Nanking.

*This wincing is something of a mild PTSD symptom. If you would understand how people who have serious versions of that might feel, you can tie it back to that symptom, of those stubs, burns, breaks, falls, and other injuries we briefly recall in a physical way when we even think about them. That's one symptom. Consider what it would be like if that happened more intensely, or ten times as often, or in your dreams.


Donna B. said...

Urban poverty and rural poverty are entirely different things and I suggest that urban poverty is more physically violent because immigrants (and it matters little where they come from) contribute to the competition. Rural poverty is much more likely to be less competitive because they are all of the same tribe. And that's not necessarily a good thing.

Aggie said...

Depends upon the history and emotional makeup of the abusee and the tactics of the abuser, I would say. I've known emotionally fragile people who would actually cringe when criticized, but were capable of acting out very effectively - angrily and with canny rage - when physically bullied, once the 'physical' line was crossed. Perhaps emotional/verbal abuse and physical abuse have an overlapping region of impact severity, like in a Venn diagram.

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