Tuesday, December 21, 2004

O.K, that's it I'm tired now. Seriously, take the hat off. Posted by Hello

Too much soy nog makes me drool.. Posted by Hello

Does this hat make my cheeks look fat? Posted by Hello

Saturday, December 18, 2004

Smilin' Posted by Hello

Lookin' about Posted by Hello

Jolly Jumpin' Posted by Hello

Picture 18.12.04

Here are some pictures of Eabha taken today.. Stay tuned for pictures on Dec. 25th and pictures from Oregon dec. 27th!

Friday, December 17, 2004

..All I Want For Christmass Is My Two Front Teeth.. Posted by Hello

Shhh...Eabha and Daddy Sleeping.. Posted by Hello

What'cha reading mumma? Posted by Hello

Pretty As A Picture And Worth More Than A Thousand Words Posted by Hello

Anarchist Parenting..

(the best part is the last one - #3.)

From Green Anarchy #10, Fall 2002Taking Children Seriously (TCS) and

AnarchyBy (I)An-ok

What is TCS? One of the greatest breakthroughs in anarchist theory and practice first appeared six years ago, and hardly any anarchists even know of its existence. Not only that, but most of the anarchists who do know of its existence either disregard it or dismiss it with comments containing hierarchical and authoritarian language. I am referring to the philosophy and practice known as Taking Children Seriously or TCS.
Taking Children Seriously is an educational and parenting philosophy which uses Karl Popper's views on epistemology, critical rationalism and a belief in fallibilism to reach a conclusion that coercion of any form is bad for the growth of knowledge and psychologically damaging to people, especially children. From this conclusion, Taking Children Seriously creates the framework for a methodology through which parents can cooperate with their children to find mutually preferable solutions to problems and disagreements that arise between them. The TCS movement has over a thousand participants all over the world, has produced two books and maintains a journal and a number of active e-mail discussion lists.
The advantages of TCS TCS takes parenting, a subject which is hardly ever discussed or thought about in anarchist circles, and provides an approach to it which is consistent with anarchist principles that oppose hierarchy and domination. TCS also lends a sharply critical eye towards contemporary authoritarian parenting philosophies and practices.
The lack of such a critical approach to parenting, as well as the lack of an alternative parenting methodology consistent with anarchist principles, creates one of the most discouraging situations within the anarchist movement. Namely, anarchists end up inexplicably conveying messages to their children of acceptance of the "necessity" of relationships of domination.
TCS combines educational philosophy, epistemology and parenting and transforms them into a unified and inter-dependent system. This is of great value to anarchists, since most anarchists strive for a holistic outlook and approach towards people and society, and tend to shun laundry lists of forms of oppression and anarchist principles.
Along with providing a holistic approach to child-raising, TCS provides a rational approach, as well as an emphasis on peoples innate fallibility. Given the fact that many defenders of authority often use the inequality of knowledge as a justification for those with the greater knowledge to assume positions of authority, TCS sees the explicit recognition of ones own fallibility as being essential for preventing one from becoming an authority over children. TCS also sees this as vital for the growth of knowledge, since if one realizes that one may be making a mistake, one is left more open to new and better ideas which can be of more use for both parent and child alike.
The TCS approach to learning and parental discipline Most people, anarchists included, unconsciously view children as being products in the process of being assembled. Schooling, parental advice, life experience and sometimes religious indoctrination are supposed to supply the product with the appropriate software necessary for functioning, while parental control and "discipline" are supposed to ensure that the product does not damage itself or leave the factory during the assembly process. This view of children comes about from a lack of faith in the abilities of children to use reason or make their own decisions.
Instead of this, the TCS approach contends that every action that one does comes from an individual choice, either explicitly or implicitly. The choice one chooses may or may not be the right one, but it is through the use of one's abilities to reason that one is able to eventually find the choice that works best for them at the moment, and as a result create or grow their own knowledge. TCS says that children can and should live outside the factory/product paradigm of childhood. TCS sees authority of any kind as being detrimental to the growth of knowledge by discouraging one to think for themselves.

What TCS is, and what it is not
Posted by Sarah Fitz-Claridgeon the TCS List on Mon, 31 Dec, 2001, at 00:04:15 -0500
A poster wrote:
I too agree that children should be treated as adults
That is not quite the TCS position. Our children are not adults, but they are people – psychologically autonomous, knowledge-creating entities – and as such, it would be irrational discount their theories. They have the same rights as adults, but their parents have obligations towards them of a kind that adults rarely have towards other adults.
(to learn valuable adult lessons),
That is not why I think children's wishes matter, and it sounds rather a manipulative, pedagogical aim, which is likely to be both anti-rational and immoral. What if I were to speak of treating you in such-and-such a way to get you to learn “valuable adult lessons”? Assuming you are a decent, law-abiding citizen of good faith, you might not think very highly of me, might you? You might, at the very least, find that a trifle patronising or a bit of a cheek. You might bristle at being “treated like a child” in this way. At any rate, I should not feel altogether well-disposed to someone taking it upon himself to do that to me.
but the adults I know generally select the better of two options or choices.
Do they?
When I look at adults and children of my acquaintance, it certainly doesn't look as though it is the adults who are most likely to “select the better of two options or choices”, as you put it. I think there is a double standard operating, such that adults' mistakes are glossed over whilst children's are held up as a justification for removing from them the right to choose.
The answer is not to remove anyone's right to control his own life; the answer is to share one's theories in a rational knowledge-creating decision-making process. As William Godwin said over 200 years ago, “If a thing be really good, it can be shown to be such. If you cannot demonstrate its excellence, it may well be suspected that you are no proper judge of it.” If what you want to persuade your child – or whomever – of, is true, why not have the confidence to argue the case instead of imposing your will?
Should children be given free choice? Or should they be led to the appropriate choice?
The choice which parents know in advance is ‘appropriate’? Or the right choice, which can only be discovered by reason and creativity?
Unless “led” implies “pressured” or “coerced” or “manipulated” (i.e., “coerced”) free choice and “being led” are not mutually exclusive. Like adults, children should have free choice, and just as you would want as an adult, they should be given the benefit of our wisdom: we should share our theories with our children, just as we would with an adult we care about. What we should not do – assuming we don't want to ruin a perfectly good relationship – is to take the decision out of the other person's hands. If my bank manager were to take it upon herself to remove my control over my money, even if she could convince the entire world that she knows best and that it would be for my own good, and even if she was right that I'll make a mess of things, she would get the sack at the very least, and you would think her actions wrong. And you'd be right. She can tell me her opinion (to the extent that I want to hear it) but morally, she can't make the decision for me against my will.
But I am an adult, and children are children, I hear you say. You still need a substantive argument to justify taking the decisions out of their hands... and I'm afraid no amount of arguing from authority will hack it. 8-)
Just think where we'd be if throughout history, everyone had taken the view that existing “expert opinion” must be true by definition. Nothing would ever improve, would it? Every new idea (of which TCS is one) would immediately be rejected because it contradicts the prevailing expert wisdom. Any new idea is, by definition, a criticism of the prevailing wisdom. It does not follow that it is false. It is no good trying to judge TCS by whether eminent psychologists or other ‘experts’ have researched it and given it their blessing, you have to use your own mind, your own critical faculties, your own thinking, to judge it.
While I am certainly free to play videos (which I personally consider destructive of children),
What are your arguments against the TCS articles on the web site in this connection? Why destructive? Why destructive of children but not adults? Does the logic of the growth of knowledge magically change on their 18th birthday or what?
I have much to learn admittedly about TCS, but at first blush it suggests extreme permissiveness by parents, and there is a vast literature dating back at least to the work of Robert Sears and his associates in the 40s and 50s indicating that over permissiveness breeds demanding children and tyrannical teens. I look forward to exploring TCS with the group.
I can assure you that TCS has not been the subject of any ‘research’ and certainly was not studied in the 1940s. Apart from anything else, it did not exist then. But also, as I keep saying, TCS is NOT permissive parenting. What the research commonly refers to as permissive parenting is parenting that is primarily uninvolved, leave-them-to-rot parenting by self-absorbed, chaotic, neglectful parents. Other brands of permissive parenting include the archetypal progressive hippie parenting in which the parents are so busy tripping that they aren't there for their children, and who tend to fall into the error of moral and cultural relativism and thus share frighteningly poor or inconsistent theories with their children, if any – or perhaps they just take the children as cabbages view I mentioned in my recent post on this.
But really, what has been called “permissive parenting” is a ghastly mixture of neglect, self-sacrifice, and “not saying no”, punctuated by bouts of explosive coercion caused by the stress and resentment that inevitably results from all that self-sacrifice.
As I have said before, about 3,502,304,983 times at the last count:
TCS is not “permissive parenting”.TCS is not leaving children to rot.TCS is not leaving children to grow “naturally” without “adult interference”.TCS is not neglecting children.TCS is not uninvolved parenting.TCS is not avoiding expressing one's theories.TCS is not never giving children advice – or criticism. TCS is certainly not avoiding expressing one's wishes! TCS is certainly not avoiding expressing one's wishes for fear of influencing the child!TCS is not merely the absence of coercion.TCS is not the commandment “never coerce”.TCS is not children ruling the roost.TCS is not parents giving in to their children.TCS is not consistent with game-theoretic conflict-of-interest analyses of decision-making.TCS is not “children are always right”.TCS is not “adults are always wrong”.TCS is not “children know best”.TCS is not “adults never know best”.TCS is not “children have all the answers”.TCS is not “adults have all/none of the answers”.TCS is not anti-intellectual.TCS is not the absence of judgement.TCS is not the absence of morality.TCS is not the absence of disagreement.TCS is not the absence of argument.TCS is not the absence of criticism.TCS is not consistent with tolerating intolerance.TCS is not consistent with moral relativism.TCS is not consistent with cultural relativism.TCS is not consistent with ethical subjectivism.TCS is not leaving children to suffer the natural (or unnatural) consequences of their (or our) actions.TCS is not a theory of “rights” (children's or parents').TCS is not “democratic parenting”.TCS is not “giving children choices”.TCS is not “making children independent”.TCS is not pedagogical/manipulative.TCS is not consistent with having an agenda for a child (which is independent of his own wishes).
All right, so what IS TCS?!
TCS is an educational philosophy in the tradition of the Enlightement.
TCS is a new idea of family life.
TCS is a whole new view of children.
TCS is a whole new worldview.
TCS IS the most involved parenting there is.
TCS is rational parenting.
TCS is the only way of interacting that doesn't involve devoting one's ingenuity to hurting and thwarting one's loved ones.
TCS is truth-seeking, knowledge-creating parenting – parenting in the light of the prevailing epistemological theory: it takes into account the logic by which knowledge grows, problems are solved, improvements are effected. Instead of anti-rationally discounting children's theories on the basis of their source, TCS folks strive to admit all the available competing theories to the discussion, judging them by their content, not their source. They strive to remain open to criticism and they take the view that if there is a disagreement among people of good will, such as in their family, prima facie, there is a problem to solve, and that a real solution will be one everyone involved prefers to all other candidate solutions they can think of.
TCS is expressing one's theories, wishes, preferences, criticisms.
TCS is parenting in the light of the fact that we are all, parents and children alike, fallible.
TCS minimises the destruction of knowledge-creating processes.
TCS parenting aims to create the conditions under which knowledge can be created, problems solved, and improvements effected.
TCS is about what to do in the face of conflicting theories.
TCS is also about how to think more generally, how to interact whether or not there is a problem to solve, how to live.
TCS parents are kind to their children.
TCS children are kind to their parents.
TCS is individualistic.
TCS is also very much about working together to solve problems jointly. The logic of the growth of knowledge applies just as much to a whole culture as it does to an individual mind.
TCS parents are trusted advisors to their children.
TCS parents are libertarians, fallibilists, rationalists.
TCS people are pro-progress, pro-reason, pro-science, pro-technology, pro-joy, pro-fun, truth-seeking, positive people who understand the importance of taking a generally optimistic (as opposed to pessimistic) approach to life and its problems.
TCS involves assuming that problems are solvable.
TCS involves striving to solve problems.
TCS is consent-based parenting.
TCS is no one ruling anyone.
TCS is no one deferring to or giving in to anyone.
TCS is everyone getting what they want.
TCS is the replacement of problematic situations (where there is disagreement) with problem-free situations (where there is no longer any disagreement).
TCS is solving problems by finding common preferences.
TCS families create a virtuous circle in which the more problems they solve this way, the more they CAN solve.
TCS is finding common preferences all the time, striving to improve even prima facie non-problematic situations.
TCS involves criticism (in the sense of philosophical argument as opposed to belittling).
TCS says coercion is harmful, not necessarily immoral. Sometimes coercion is the only moral course.
TCS parents take the view that there is objective truth in all spheres, including morality, etc., as well as in physics, etc.
TCS is about no one suffering, no distress, no boredom; it is about everyone in the family pursuing their own dreams, their own interests, their own concerns, and being the individual they want to be, growing and changing and improving by their own lights, and each supporting the others in their own lives.
TCS recognises not only that children are people, but that their parents are too, and that we must all do what we think is right in our own lives, for we are all moral agents in our own right. TCS frees adults from the crippling self-sacrifice that blights many parents' lives. It helps not just children to live their lives the best way they can, but their parents too.
...and a lot more besides, but one has to stop somewhere, and I want to go to bed now.
by RAMBLRevolutionary Anarchist Mom & Baby League

The radical environmental movement in the US is losing the next generation of families by labeling family issues as irrelevant and failing to see how parenting is a part of the revolution and kids are the next revolutionaries. We're frustrated when the movement for social justice steals our ability as mothers to continue to work as organizers and artists, while whining that not enough parents care about social reforms. We're tired of activists wondering where all the parents are when we're sitting at home with no money, no transportation and no childcare. That is why we have formed the Revolutionary Anarchist Mom and Baby League (RAMBL) to address these issues.While many of us are struggling for daily survival--looking for living wage jobs, affordable housing, quality childcare and healthcare for our families--the indignity from people who should be our allies has been particularly difficult. We expect to struggle against the world; we don't expect to struggle in our own community. This article is just a baby step in creating a community that is actively pro-family, pro-kid and pro-woman. In turn, we believe that we are crawling toward creating a more humane and just world.While the issues raised below impact all moms, moms who are women of color, queer, young, disabled and/or poor face disproportionately more oppression. Our collective voice in this article reflects experiences of individual RAMBL mothers. Our intent is not to provide your affinity group with a connect-the-dots solution. Rather, our intent is to open your eyes to our experiences. It is your responsibility to analyze and change privileged assumptions and exclusionary behavior.
Parenting in Our Scene
When we became mothers, our lifestyle options are were reduced. At times members of our activist community criticized us for utilizing the very fewresources available (like welfare), while doing nothing to broaden optionsfor activist mothers or create alternatives that are transformative and empowering for both parents and society as a whole.It bothers us that people have offered support but have never bothered to follow up. We don't want to have to beg people for help, but we do want offers of support to be real. We're tired of seeing other parents as the only people interested in baby-sitting or childcare.We also have a major problem with someone who doesn't have kids judging our parenting or methods of discipline, especially while failing to recognize the narrow bandwidth of "acceptable" parenting. A mom is called too lenient if she doesn't publicly castigate her child for "misbehaving" (i.e. talks at a meeting). However, this same mom is called too strict when she "makes" the child say please and thank you.Sure it's great to use cloth diapers, but as a stressed out single mama, it isn't always possible. Holier-than-thou purist advice about things like diapers is something we can't stand. Instead of commenting on how gross you think it is that a mom uses disposable diapers, why don't you help her get a washing machine so that she can wash reusable diapers. Instead of judging, try taking the burden off of her shoulders.
Responsibilities & Relationships
Being proactive and investing in women before a child is born seems like a good idea. Why isn't equal financial support from a baby's daddy an issue of social justice? Why is a father praised for doing anything with his child, but when a mom spends the same amount of time with her kid, she's criticized for not doing enough?Our scene fails to hold deadbeat dads in the movement accountable. The unpaid organizing work done by a baby's daddy is viewed by him and our scene as being more important than caring for his own kid. People have said that because a baby's daddy is an activist, he shouldn't be made to pay child support. Because many don't think of the work that a mother does--the invisible work of caring for another person and the wage work she does to survive--as important, no one thinks how the father's not paying child support oppresses the mother and her child. Many of us would love to be able to have the privilege of continuing unpaid work as an organizer, too. But most don't have the time or the money to pay for babysitting.We're tired of our community not recognizing emotional abuse or a partner's drug or alcohol abuse as valid reasons for ending a relationship. We continually fight against this idea that tf we're really anarchists, we should stay in a bad relationship in order to make ends meet.
Birth Control & Reproductive Freedom
We wish that there was more information about effective birth control and that the responsibility to pay for and use birth control fell equally on men and women. We feel that the community as a whole needs to respect individual choices about birth control, from Depro Provera and birth control pills to natural family planning methods.Especially, when there is so much pressure for women to use the natural family planning method because it's "natural" and it doesn't support pharmaceutical companies. At the same time, everyone we know who got pregnant was using this method. This method fails as a reliable birth control. It is specifically contraindicated for women who are very young and have unpredictable and stressful lives--like every woman in the scene--because these factors affect the regularity of our menstrual cycles. I wish that the risks of the natural planning method were talked about more openly because this misinformation disproportionately impacts us grrrls.Men need to take an active role in lobbying for male birth control. Where's the goddamn male birth control pill? It's not okay that men are pro-choice, as long as it's pro-their choice. We want the community to support women who chose to be parents and women who chose abortion.
RAMBL is working to engage our communities in a deep conversation about what it means to build a sustainable and accessible movement. RAMBL strives to be an actively pro-mama, pro-women, pro-kid organization in a world that is decidedly not. A revolutionary movement in a society that pushes down moms and kids should actively build a safe place for mamas.RAMBL women include: young, poor, queer, in recovery, on welfare, sex workers, going to school, working outside of the home, working at home, dropouts, pro-choice, trying to conceive and those who are in your face.We offer workshops and facilitated discussions on creating family-friendly spaces and organizations. We are a political organization fighting for freedom, autonomy and respect for all mothers. Recognizing that our daily survival is critical to our ability to fight for social justice, we are also organizing toy shares, homework and tutoring nights, childcare collectives,family friendly affordable homes and slumber parties. In the future we will be focusing on increasing support for incarcerated mamas.We'd love to hear from you!For more information, contact:RAMBL c/o ARISE! 2441 Lyndale Ave,Minneapolis, MN 55405; rambl@yahoogroups.com
And if you're a mama, give a kiss to your kiddo(s) from us.
mama revolutionto be published by the Earth First! Journal in the next press. spread the joy, mamas. anti-copywrite.


PART ONE OF A 4 PART SERIES: KIDS AND PROTESTSParenting versus Protesting: Are They Mutually Exclusive?By Kirsten Anderberg 2004 Is it irresponsible to take children to political protests? Some argue it is a good experience for children to participate, first-hand, inpolitical organizing, marches, protests, and the making of history. I am glad my mother took me, as a child, to civil rights protests, and actions against the Vietnam War, during the 1960’s and 1970’s. I do not believe textbooks can convey the feeling one gets when surrounded by riot police, while trying to peacefully demonstrate. I am glad I took my son to protests of the Gulf War in the 1990’s, and the Iraq War in 2003. I feel it was part of his education to see nonviolent free speech and riot police clash on his own city streets, while with his mom for safety. But could I really guarantee my son’s safety anywhere that riot police were present? Some argue that children should not be taken onto the front lines of American political change. But as an activist single mother, I could not just sit home, and not protest wars, simply because I had a child. And children are supposedly our hope for the future. Thus it seems essential to include them in our political struggles, if we want the issues to live longer than us. Are certain protests acceptable for children to attend, but not others? How does one determine which protest activities are appropriate for our children? How does a politically active parent balance their own needs to protest a war, for instance, with the responsibilities of parenting? I surveyed a group of activists on this topic, from different parts ofAmerica; from Chicago, New York City, and Seattle, as well as fromWisconsin, Maryland, California, and Colorado, and also from England and Canada. More in the group self-identified as anarcho-feminists, than the other categories cited, which included radical leftists, anarchist parent of color, anarchist, Green Party member, progressive humanist atheist, and others. Seven of the 12 people interviewed are street medics, and 10 of those surveyed are parents. And only two of those surveyed say they had parents who took them to political protests. So, basically, this article is written from the viewpoint of first-generation (except for two), politically-active, parents, and street medics. Yet even within this somewhat politically-homogenous group, the opinions on this topic of kids at protests differ. When asked if it is irresponsible to take children to protests, theoverwhelming response from those surveyed was it depended on the natureof the protest. Several respondents felt protests that directly affected children’s services, such as funding cuts at hospitals that treat children, or midwifery rights protests, warranted the strategic use of children at the protests. But many feel it is positive to involve children in a broad spectrum of political issues. For example, at the FTAA protests in Miami in November 2003, there was a Baby Bloc of mothers with children who marched together. One parent surveyed said, “I think it is not only safe, but necessary, to take children to (most) protests. As activists, and as parents, bringing up the next generation, we need to show our children that when things are going wrong, it is our responsibility to voice our dissent.” Another respondent said taking kids to protests was a good idea because “children need to know that their parents hold certain views, and that these views are not unique to their parents…” Some said it would be nice if the community could work together so that some parents can be medics and legal observers, while others could center solely on children at protests. Another mother surveyed said she had quit being politically active, then her adult daughter (who she used to take to protests as a child), asked her to go to a protest, and now she is protesting again. That went full circle! A distinction was made by some regarding direct actions and marches/demonstrations. Many felt large, permitted, labor union marches, for example, were safer than direct actions against corporations, like some of the FTAA or WTO protest actions. The former was seen as non-confrontational and the latter as confrontational. One street medic said, “I had to treat an 8-month old boy for tear gas/pepper spray in Quebec during the FTAA protests there and I don't want to EVER, EVER, EVER, have to do that again!” Yes, we all agree we do not want that to EVER happen, and that is why we need to talk about this topic seriously. Protests are not your typical family event, and we all know that. One respondent said protests are as safe for kids as they are for anyone else, “in other words, usually safe, often not, and usually hard to know in advance.” Some felt that large gatherings of people in any context, presented a danger to children, in general, and that protests were no different. One person said, “You could argue because there is sometimes trouble at soccer matches (in the UK), it would be irresponsible to take children to soccer matches, but 100,000’s go and get looked after by their parents.” “I do not think it is "irresponsible" to take children to protests. Ithink it is irresponsible for police departments, fellow protesters, and others, to not recognize that children have a legitimate right to be at protests. At the Feb. 15th anti-war march in New York City, several police officers made snide comments that we were being irresponsible mothers by taking our children to the march. However, there is something very, very wrong with our society if children do not belong and cannot be kept safe at marches for peace,” says one activist I surveyed. Two other people surveyed said, “I think that the police presence needs to be responsive to the fact that there are regularly kids in the crowd,” and “If the reality is that kids are regularly SEEN at protests, then the response from police might change.” And these are good points. If we can get police to behave as if there are children in their midst at all protests, perhaps they can rein in some of their random violence, and free speech would be safer for all in America. Most of the activists I surveyed felt if you were politically awareenough to protest for political causes, you should be astute enough to do proper research on a protest before bringing a child. There seemed aconsensus that parents needed to know who called the demonstration, what the political issues involved are, who would attend, what the agenda of the protest is, if the protest is permitted, what tactics are expected both by protesters and police in response, etc. All agreed “Safe Places” cannot be guaranteed, and one medic surveyed wondered aloud if the community should begin having kid-friendly non-violent action trainings. The parents surveyed felt you should have a clearly defined contingency plan with children, “from bathroom breaks to police attacks,” including what to do if separated. Suggested basic supplies to take to protests with kids included sunscreen, extra diapers, food, water, and proper layers of clothing. Some commented paying attention to weather reports was also beneficial, as a kid wet in pouring rain at a protest, or frying hot in sun, will not be fun, and thus proper weather protection is an issue as well. A basic knowledge of street first aid would be nice too, if you live somewhere you can get access to that, such as Boston or Portland. Other advice included “always be aware of where you are, the mood of the crowd, the mood of the kids (and other adults if in a group), and the mood of the police.” Many felt the best way to go for parents, kids and protests, were small affinity groups, where parents and children could collectively take care of one another. And although these are all good tips for parents and children, these are basics for adults too. This is Part One of a 4 Part Series on Kids and Protests by KirstenAnderberg. Watch her website, at www.kirstenanderberg.com, for the nextthree articles in the series, which will discuss Preparing Kids forProtests, Radical Parenting, and Teens and Protests. **********************************************************************************************For near-daily political ramblings from Kirsten, visit her blog atwww.kanderberg.blogspot.com or go to her writing website at www.kirstenanderberg.com. For emailalerts when articles by Kirsten are published, go to google.com and sign up for their news alerts in her name.



Index What's New Links Introduction Bibliography
PDF version of Section J.
J.6 What methods of child rearing do anarchists advocate?
Anarchists have long been aware of the importance of child rearing and education. As such, we are aware that child rearing should aim to develop "a well-rounded individuality" and not "a patient work slave, professional automaton, tax-paying citizen, or righteous moralist." [Emma Goldman, Red Emma Speaks, p. 108] In this section of the FAQ we will discuss anarchist approaches to child rearing bearing in mind "that it is through the channel of the child that the development of the mature man must go, and that the present ideas of. . . educating or training. . . are such as to stifle the natural growth of the child." [Ibid., p. 107]
If one accepts the thesis that the authoritarian family is the breeding ground for both individual psychological problems and political reaction, it follows that anarchists should try to develop ways of raising children that will not psychologically cripple them but instead enable them to accept freedom and responsibility while developing natural self-regulation. We will refer to children raised in such a way as "free children."
Work in this field is still in its infancy (no pun intended). Wilhelm Reich is again the main pioneer in this field (an excellent, short introduction to his ideas can be found in Maurice Brinton's The Irrational in Politics). In Children of the Future, Reich made numerous suggestions, based on his research and clinical experience, for parents, psychologists, and educators striving to develop libertarian methods of child rearing. (He did not use the term "libertarian," but that is what his methods are.)
Hence, in this and the following sections we will summarise Reich's main ideas as well as those of other libertarian psychologists and educators who have been influenced by him, such as A.S. Neill and Alexander Lowen. Section J.6.1 will examine the theoretical principles involved in raising free children, while subsequent sections will illustrate their practical application with concrete examples. Finally, in section J.6.8, we will examine the anarchist approach to the problems of adolescence.
Such an approach to child rearing is based upon the insight that children "do not constitute anyone's property: they are neither the property of the parents nor even of society. They belong only to their own future freedom." [Michael Bakunin, The Political Philosophy of Bakunin, p. 327] As such, what happens to a child when it is growing up shapes the person they become and the society they live in. The key question for people interested in freedom is whether "the child [is] to be considered as an individuality, or as an object to be moulded according to the whims and fancies of those about it?" [Emma Goldman, Op. Cit., p. 107] Libertarian child rearing is the means by which the individuality of the child is respected and developed.
This is in stark contrast to standard capitalist (and individualist anarchist we should note) claim that children are the property of their parents. If we accept that children are the property of their parents then we are implicitly stating that a child's formative years are spent in slavery, hardly a relationship which will promote the individuality and freedom of the child or the wider society. Little wonder that most anarchists reject such assertions. Instead they argue that the "rights of the parents shall be confined to loving their children and exercising over them . . . authority [that] does not run counter to their morality, their mental development, or their future freedom." [Bakunin, Op. Cit., p. 327] Being someone's property (i.e. slave) runs counter to all these and "it follows that society, the whole future of which depends upon adequate education and upbringing of children. . . , has not only the right but also the duty to watch over them..." [Ibid., p. 327]
Hence child rearing is part of society, a communal process by which children learn what it means to be an individual by being respected as one by others. In Bakunin's words, "real freedom - that is, the full awareness and the realisation thereof in every individual, pre-eminently based upon a feeling of one's dignity and upon the genuine respect for someone else's freedom and dignity, i.e. upon justice - such freedom can develop in children only through the rational development of their minds, character and will." [Op. Cit., p. 327]
We wish to point out at the beginning that a great deal of work remains to be done in this field. Therefore our comments should be regarded merely as tentative bases for further reflection and research by those involved with raising and educating children. There is, and cannot be, any "rule book" for raising free children, because to follow an inflexible rule book is to ignore the fact that each child and its environment is unique and therefore demands unique responses from its parents. Hence the "principles" of libertarian child rearing to which we will refer should not be thought of as rules, but rather, as experimental hypotheses to be tested by parents within their own situation by applying their intelligence and deriving their own individual conclusions.
Bringing up children must be like education, and based on similar principles, namely "upon the free growth and development of the innate forces and tendencies of the child. In this way alone can we hope for the free individual and eventually also for a free community, which shall make interference and coercion of human growth impossible." [Goldman, Op. Cit., p. 115] Indeed, child rearing and education cannot be separated as life itself is an education and so must share the same principles and viewed as a process of "development and exploration, rather than as one of repressing a child's instincts and inculcating obedience and discipline." [Martha A. Ackelsberg, Free Women of Spain, p. 132]
Moreover, the role of parental example is very important to raising free children. Children often learn by mimicking their parents - children do what their parents do, not as they say. If their mother and father lie to each other, scream, fight and so on, then the child will probably do so as well. Children's behaviour does not come out thin air, they are a product of the environment they are brought up in (partly by, initially at least, copying the parent). Children can only be encouraged by example, not by threats and commands. How parents act can be an obstacle to the development of a free child. Parents must, therefore, be aware that they must do more than just say the right things, but also act as anarchists in order to produce free children.
The sad fact is that most modern people have lost the ability to raise free children, and regaining this ability will be a long process of trial and error and parent education in which it is to be hoped that each succeeding generation will learn from the failures and successes of their predecessors, and so improve. In the best-case scenario, over the course of a few generations the number of progressive parents will continue to grow and raise ever freer children, who in turn will become even more progressive parents themselves, thus gradually changing mass psychology in a libertarian direction. Such changes can come about very fast, as can be seen from various communes all over the world and especially in the Israel-Palestine kibbutz where society is organised according to libertarian principles, and children are mainly growing in their collective homes. As Reich puts it:
"We have learned that instead of a jump into the realm of the Children of the Future, we can hope for no more than a steady advance, in which the healthy new overlaps the sick old structure, with the new slowly outgrowing the old." [Children of the Future, pp. 38-39]
By means of freedom-based child rearing and education, along with other methods of consciousness raising, as well as encouraging resistance to the existing social order anarchists hope to prepare the psychological foundation for a social paradigm shift, from authoritarian to libertarian institutions and values. And indeed, a gradual cultural evolution toward increasing freedom does seem to exist. For example, as A.S. Neill writes in Summerhill, "There is a slow trend to freedom, sexual and otherwise. In my boyhood, a woman went bathing wearing stockings and a long dress. Today, women show legs and bodies. Children are getting more freedom with every generation. Today, only a few lunatics put cayenne pepper on a baby's thumb to stop sucking. Today, only a few countries beat their children in school." [p. 115]
Most anarchists believe that, just as charity begins at home, so does the anarchist revolution. As some anarchists raise their own children in capitalist society and/or are involved in the raising and education of the children of other parents, they can practice in part libertarian principles even before the revolution. Hence we think it is important to discuss libertarian child rearing in some detail.
J.6.1 What are the main principles of raising free children and the main obstacles to implementing those principles?
Let's consider the obstacles first. As Reich points out, the biggest one is the training and character of most parents, physicians, and educators. Based on his clinical experience, Reich maintained that virtually all adults in our society have some degree of psychological problems, which is manifested somatically as a rigid muscular "armour": chronic muscular tensions and spasms in various regions of the body. One of the main functions of this armour is to inhibit the pleasurable sensations of life-energy that naturally "stream" or flow through an unarmoured body. Reich postulated that there is one basic bioenergy ("orgone") in the body, identical with what Freud called "libido," which, besides animating the tissues and organs is also the energy of sex and the emotions (we should note that most anarchists do not subscribe to Reich's idea of "orgone" - the existence of which, we may note, has not been proved. However, the idea of character armour, by which individuals within a hierarchical society create psychological walls/defences around themselves is one most anarchists accept. Such walls will obviously have an effect both on the mental and physical state of the individual, and their capacity for living a free life and experiencing pleasure). This means that the pleasurable "streamings" of this bioenergy, which can be felt when the muscular armour is relaxed, have an erotic or "libidinous" quality. Thus an unarmoured organism (such as a new-born infant) automatically experiences pleasure with every breath, a pleasure derived from perception of the natural bioenergetic processes within its body. Such a mode of being in the world makes life intrinsically worth living and renders superfluous all questions about its "meaning" or "purpose" -- questions that occur only to armoured people, who have lost contact with their bioenergetic core of bodily sensations (or it is distorted, and so is changed from a source of pleasures to a source of suffering) and thus restricts their capacity to fully enjoy life.
It is important for those involved in child rearing and education to understand how armouring develops in the new-born child. Reich points out that under the influence of a compulsive, pleasure-denying morality, children are taught to inhibit the spontaneous flow of life-energy in the body. Similarly, they are taught to disregard most bodily sensations. Due to Oedipal conflicts in the patriarchal family (see below), parents usually take the most severely repressive disciplinary measures against sexual expressions of life-energy in children. Thus, all erotic feelings, including the erotically-tinged "streaming" sensations, come to be regarded as "bad," "animalistic," etc., and so their perception begins to arouse anxiety, which leads, among other bad results, to chronic muscular tensions as a way of cutting off or defending against such perceptions and their attendant anxiety. Shallow breathing, for example, reduces the amount of life-energy available to flow into excitation and emotion; tightening the muscles of the pelvic floor and abdomen reduces sexual feelings, and so on. As these tensions become chronic and unconscious, piling up in layer after layer of muscular armour, the person is eventually left with a feeling of inner emptiness or "deadness" and -- not surprisingly -- a lack of joy in life.
For those who fail to build a stable physical and psychological armour around themselves to suppress these feelings and sensation, they just twist them and are flooded again and again with intense unpleasant feelings and sensations.
Muscular armouring has its most profound effect on back pains and various respiration problems. Reich found that the "normal" man or woman in our society cannot spontaneously take full, deep, natural breaths, which involves both the chest and abdomen. Instead, most people (except when making a conscious effort) restrict their breathing through unconscious tensing of various muscles. Since the natural response to any restriction in the ability to breathe is anxiety, people growing up in repressive cultures such as ours are plagued by a tendency toward chronic anxiety. As a defence against this anxiety, they develop further layers of muscular armouring, which further restricts their ability to breathe, and so on, in a vicious circle. In other words, it is literally true that, as Max Stirner said, one cannot "take breath" in our authoritarian society with its life-denying atmosphere based on punishments, threats, and fear.
Of course sex is not the only expression of life-energy that parents try to stifle in children. There are also, for example, the child's natural vocal expressions (shouting, screaming, bellowing, crying, etc.) and natural body motility. As Reich notes,
"Small children go through a phase of development characterised by vigorous activity of the voice musculature. The joy the infant derives from loud noises (crying, shrieking, and forming a variety of sounds) is regarded by many parents as pathological aggressiveness. The children are accordingly admonished not to scream, to be 'still,' etc. The impulses of the voice apparatus are inhibited, its musculature becomes chronically contracted, and the child becomes quiet, 'well-brought-up,' and withdrawn. The effect of such mistreatment is soon manifested in eating disturbances, general apathy, pallor of the face, etc. Speech disturbances and retardation of speech development are presumably caused in this manner. In the adult we see the effects of such mistreatment in the form of spasms of the throat. The automatic constrictions of the glottis and the deep throat musculature, with subsequent inhibition of the aggressive impulses of the head and neck, seems to be particularly characteristic." [Op. Cit., p. 128]
(And we must add, that the suppression of the urge to move all children have is most destructive to the 15% or so of "Hyper-active" children, whose urge to move is hard to suppress.)
"Clinical experience has taught us," Reich concludes, "that small children must be allowed to 'shout themselves out' when the shouting is inspired by pleasure. This might be disagreeable to some parents, but questions of education must be decided exclusively in the interests of the child, not in those of the adults." [Ibid.]
Besides deadening the pleasurable streamings of life energy in the body, muscular armouring also functions to inhibit the anxiety generated by the presence of anti-social, cruel, and perverse impulses within the psyche (impulses referred to by Reich as "secondary" drives) -- for example, destructiveness, sadism, greed, power hunger, brutality, rape fantasies, etc. Ironically, these secondary drives result from the suppression of the primary drives (e.g. for sex, physical activity, vocal expression, etc.) and the sensations of pleasure associated with them. The secondary drives develop because, when muscular armouring sets in and a person loses touch with his or her bioenergetic core and other emotional urges, the only emotional expressions that can get through the thick, hard wall of armour are distorted, harsh, and/or mechanical. Thus, for example, a heavily armoured person who tries to express love may find that the emotion is shredded by the wall of armour and comes out in distorted form as an impulse to hurt the person loved (sadism) -- an impulse that causes anxiety and then has to be repressed. In other words, compulsive morality (i.e. acting according to externally imposed rules) becomes necessary to control the secondary drives which compulsion itself creates. By such processes, authoritarian child-rearing becomes self-justifying. Thus:
"Psychoanalysts have failed to distinguish between primary natural and secondary perverse, cruel drives, and they are continuously killing nature in the new-born while they try to extinguish the 'brutish little animal.' They are completely ignorant of the fact that it is exactly this killing of the natural principle which creates the secondary perverse and cruel nature, human nature so called, and that these artificial cultural creations in turn make compulsive moralism and brutal laws necessary" [Ibid., p. 17-18].
Moralism, however, can never get at the root of the problem of secondary drives, but in fact only increases the pressure of crime and guilt. The real solution is to let children develop what Reich calls natural self-regulation. This can be done only by not subjecting them to punishment, coercion, threats, moralistic lectures and admonitions, withdrawal of love, etc. in an attempt to inhibit their spontaneous expression of natural life-impulses. The systematic development of the emphatic tendencies of the young infant is the best way to "socialise" and restrict activities that are harmful to the others. As A.S. Neill points out, "self-regulation implies a belief in the goodness of human nature; a belief that there is not, and never was, original sin." [Op. Cit., p. 103]
According to Neill, children who are given freedom from birth and not forced to conform to parental expectations spontaneously learn how to keep themselves clean and develop social qualities like courtesy, common sense, an interest in learning, respect for the rights of others, and so forth (see next section). However, once the child has been armoured through authoritarian methods intended to force it to develop such qualities, it becomes what Reich calls "biopathic" -- out of touch with its living core and therefore no longer able to develop self-regulation. In this stage it becomes harder and harder for the pro-social emotions to shape the developing mode of life of the new member of society. At that point, when the secondary drives develop, parental authoritarianism becomes a necessity. As Reich puts it:
"This close interrelation between biopathic behaviour and authoritarian countermeasures seems to be automatic. Self-regulation appears to have no place in and no influence upon emotions which do not come from the living core directly but only as if through a thick hard wall. Moreover, one has the impression that secondary drives cannot stand self-regulatory conditions of existence. They force sharp discipline on the part of the educator or parent. It is as if a child with an essentially secondary-drive structure feels that it cannot function or exist without disciplinary guidance. This is paralleled by the interlacing of self-regulation in the healthy child with self-regulation in the environment. Here the child cannot function unless it has freedom of decision and movement. It cannot tolerate discipline any more than the armoured child can tolerate freedom."
This inability to tolerate freedom, which the vast majority of people develop automatically from the way they are raised, is what makes the whole subject of armouring and its prevention of crucial importance to anarchists. Reich concludes that if parents do not suppress nature in the first place, then no anti-social drives will be created and no authoritarianism will be required to suppress them: "What you so desperately and vainly try to achieve by way of compulsion and admonition is there in the new-born infant ready to live and function. Let it grow as nature requires, and change our institutions accordingly" [Ibid., p. 47, emphasis in original].
As Alexander Lowen points out in Fear of Life, parents are particularly anxious to suppress the sexual expressions of life energy in their children because of unresolved Oedipal conflicts within themselves.
Hence, in order to raise psychologically healthy children, parents need to acquire self-knowledge, particularly of how Oedipal conflicts, sibling rivalry, and other internal conflicts develop in family relationships, and to free themselves as much as possible from neurotic forms of armouring. The difficulty of parents acquiring such self-knowledge and sufficiently de-conditioning themselves is obviously another obstacle to raising self-regulated children.
However, the greatest obstacle is the fact that armouring and other twisting mechanisms set in so very early in life, i.e. soon after birth. Reich emphasises that with the first armour blockings, the infant's self-regulatory powers begin to wane. "They become steadily weaker as the armouring spreads over the whole organism, and they must be replaced by compulsive, moral principles if the child is to exist and survive in its given environment." [Ibid., pp. 44-45] Hence it is important for parents to obtain a thorough knowledge of what armouring and other rigid suppressions are and how they function, so that from the beginning they can prevent (or at least decrease) them from forming in their children. Some practical examples of how this can be done will be discussed in the next section.
Finally, Reich cautions that it is crucial to avoid any mixing of concepts. "One cannot mix a bit of self-regulation with a bit of moral demand. Either we trust nature as basically decent and self-regulatory or we do not, and then there is only one way, that of training by compulsion. It is essential to grasp the fact that the two ways of upbringing do not go together." [Ibid., p. 46]
J.6.2. What are some examples of libertarian child-rearing methods applied to the care of new-born infants?
According to Reich, the problems of parenting a free child actually begin before conception, with the need for a prospective mother to free herself as much as possible from chronic muscular tensions, especially in the pelvic area, which may inhibit the optimal development of a foetus. As Reich points out, the mother's body provides the environment for the child from the moment the embryo is formed until the moment of birth, and strong muscular armouring in her pelvis as a result of sexual repression or other emotional problems is very detrimental. Such a mother will have a bioenergetically "dead" and possibly spastic uterus, which can traumatise an infant even before it is born by reducing the circulation of blood and body fluids and making the energy metabolism inefficient, thus damaging the child's vitality.
Moreover, it has been found in many studies that not only the physical health of the mother can influence the foetus. Various psychological stresses influence the chemical and hormonal environment, affecting the foetus. Even short ones, when acute, can have significant effects on it.
Immediately after birth, it is important for the mother to establish contact with her child. This means, basically, constant loving attention to the baby, expressed by plenty of holding, cuddling, playing, etc., and especially by breast feeding. By such "orgonotic" contact (to use Reich's term), the mother is able to establish the initial emotional bonding with the new born, and a non-verbal understanding of the child's needs. This is only possible, however, if she is in touch with her own internal processes - emotional and cognitive - and bioenergetic core, i.e. is not too neurotically armoured (in Reich's terminology). Thus:
"The orgonotic sense of contact, a function of the . . . energy field of both the mother and the child, is unknown to most specialists; however, the old country doctor knew it well. . . . Orgonotic contact is the most essential experiential and emotional element in the interrelationship between mother and child, particularly prenatally and during the first days and weeks of life. The future fate of the child depends on it. It seems to be the core of the new-born infant's emotional development." [Ibid. p. 99] It is less crucial but still important for the father to establish orgonotic contact as well, although since fathers lack the primary means of establishing it -- namely the ability to breast feed -- their contact can never be as close as the mother's (see below).
A new-born child has only one way of expressing its needs: through crying. Crying has many nuances and can convey much more than the level of distress of the child. If a mother is unable to establish contact at the most basic emotional ("bioenergetic," according to Reich) level, she will be unable to understand intuitively what needs the child is expressing through its crying. Any unmet needs will in turn be felt by the child as a deprivation, to which it will respond with a wide array of negative emotions and deleterious physiological processes and emotional tension. If continued for long, such tensions can become chronic and thus the beginning of "armouring" and adaptation to a "cruel" reality.
The most important factor in the establishment of bonding is the tender physical contact between mother and infant is undoubtedly breast feeding. Thus:
"The most salient place of contact in the infant's body is the bioenergetically highly charged mouth and throat. This body organ reaches out immediately for gratification. If the nipple of the mother reacts to the infant's sucking movements in a biophysically normal manner with sensations of pleasure, it will become strongly erect and the orgonotic excitation of the nipple will become one with that of the infant's mouth, just as in the orastically gratifying sexual act, in which the male and female genitals luminate and fuse orgonotically. There is nothing 'abnormal' or 'disgusting' in this. Every healthy mother experiences the sucking as pleasure and yields to it. . . . However, about 80 percent of all women suffer from vaginal anaesthesia and frigidity. Their nipples are correspondingly anorgonotic, i.e. 'dead.' The mother may develop anxiety or loathing in response to what would naturally be a sensation of pleasure aroused in the breast by the infant's sucking. This is why so many mothers do not want to nurse their babies." [pp. 115-116]
Reich and other libertarian psychologists therefore maintain that the practice of bottle feeding is harmful, particularly if it completely replaces breast feeding from the day of birth, because it eliminates one of the most important forms of establishing bioenergetic contact between mother and child. This lack of contact can then contribute in later life to "oral" forms of neurotic character structure or traits. (For more on these, see Alexander Lowen, Physical Dynamics of Character Structure, Chapter 9, "The Oral Character"]. Lowen believes that the practice of breast feeding should be continued for about three years, as it usually is among "primitive" peoples, and that weaning before this time is experienced as a major trauma. "[I]f the breast is available to a child for about three years, which I believe to be the time required to fulfil a child's oral needs, weaning causes very little trauma, since the loss of this pleasure is offset by the many other pleasures the child can then have." [Depression and the Body, p. 133]
Another harmful practice in infant care is the compulsive-neurotic method of feeding children on schedule, invented by Pirquet in Vienna, which "was devastatingly wrong and harmful to countless children." Frustration of oral needs through this practice (which is fortunately less in vogue now than it was fifty years ago), is guaranteed to produce neurotic armouring in infants.
As Reich puts it, "As long as parents, doctors, and educators approach infants with false, unbending behaviour, inflexible opinions, condescension, and officiousness, instead of with orgonotic contact, infants will continue to be quiet, withdrawn, apathetic, 'autistic,' 'peculiar,' and, later, 'little wild animals,' whom the cultivated feel they have to 'tame.'" [Op. Cit. p. 124]
Another harmful practice is allowing the baby to "cry itself out." Thus: "Parking a baby in a baby carriage in the garden, perhaps for hours at a time, is a dangerous practice. No one can know what agonising feelings of fear and loneliness a baby can experience on waking up suddenly to find himself alone in a strange place. Those who have heard a baby's screams on such occasions have some idea of the cruelty of this stupid custom." [Neill, Summerhill, p. 336] Indeed, in The Physical Dynamics of Character Structure, Lowen has traced specific neuroses, particularly depression, to this practice. Hospitals also have been guilty of psychologically damaging sick infants by isolating them from their mothers, a practice that has undoubtedly produced untold numbers of neurotics and psychopaths.
Also, as Reich notes, "the sadistic habit of circumcision will soon be recognised as the senseless, fanatical cruelty it truly is." [Op. Cit., p. 68] He remarks that he has observed infants who took over two weeks to "recover" from the trauma of circumcision, a "recovery" that left permanent psychological scars in the form of chronic muscular tensions in the pelvic floor. These tensions form the first layer of pelvic armouring, to which sexual repression and other inhibitions (especially those acquired during toilet training) later add.
The diaphragm, however, is perhaps the most important area to protect from early armouring. After observing infants for several years in a research setting, Reich concluded that armouring in babies usually appears first as a blocking of free respiration, expressed as harsh, rough, uneven, or laboured breathing, which may lead to colds, coughs, bronchitis, etc.
"The early blocking of respiration seemed to gain importance rapidly as more children were observed. Somehow the diaphragmatic region appeared to respond first and most severely to emotional, bioenergetic discomfort." [Ibid., p. 110] Hence the infant's breathing is a key indicator of its emotional health, and any disturbance is a signal that something is wrong. Or, as Neill puts it, "The sign of a well-reared child is his free, uninhibited breathing. It shows that he is not afraid of life." [Op. Cit., p. 131]
Neill sums up the libertarian attitude toward the care of infants as follows: "Self-regulation means the right of a baby to live freely without outside authority in things psychic and somatic. It means that the baby feeds when it is hungry; that it becomes clean in habits only when it wants to; that it is never stormed at nor spanked; that it is always loved and protected." [Op. Cit. p. 105]
Obviously self-regulation doesn't mean leaving the baby alone when it heads toward a cliff or starts playing with an electrical socket. Anarchists do not advocate a lack of common sense. We recognise that adults must override an infant's will when it is a question of protecting its physical safety. As Neill writes, "Only a fool in charge of young children would allow unbarred bedroom windows or an unprotected fire in the nursery. Yet, too often, young enthusiasts for self-regulation come to my school as visitors, and exclaim at our lack of freedom in locking poison in a lab closet, or our prohibition about playing on the fire escape. The whole freedom movement is marred and despised because so many advocates of freedom have not got their feet on the ground." [Ibid., p. 106]
Nevertheless, the libertarian position does not imply that a child should be punished for getting into a dangerous situation. Nor is the best thing to do in such a case to shout in alarm (unless that is the only way to warn the child before it is too late), but simply to remove the danger without any fuss. As Neill says, "Unless a child is mentally defective, he will soon discover what interests him. Left free from excited cries and angry voices, he will be unbelievably sensible in his dealing with material of all kinds." [Ibid., p. 108] Provided, of course, that he or she has been allowed self-regulation from the beginning, and thus has not developed any irrational, secondary drives.
J.6.3 What are some examples of libertarian child-rearing methods applied to the care of young children?
The way to raise a free child becomes clear when one considers how an unfree child is raised. Thus imagine the typical infant, John Smith, whose upbringing A.S. Neill describes:
"His natural functions were left alone during the diaper period. But when he began to crawl and perform on the floor, words like naughty and dirty began to float about the house, and a grim beginning was made in teaching him to be clean.
"Before this, his hand had been taken away every time it touched his genitals; and he soon came to associate the genital prohibition with the acquired disgust about faeces. Thus, years later, when he became a travelling salesman, his story repertoire consisted of a balanced number of sex and toilet jokes.
"Much of his training was conditioned by relatives and neighbours. Mother and father were most anxious to be correct -- to do the proper thing -- so that when relatives or next-door neighbours came, John had to show himself as a well-trained child. He had to say Thank you when Auntie gave him a piece of chocolate; and he had to be most careful about his table manners; and especially, he had to refrain from speaking when adults were speaking." [Summerhill, p. 97]
When he was little older, things got worse for John. "All his curiosity about the origins of life were met with clumsy lies, lies so effective that his curiosity about life and birth disappeared. The lies about life became combined with fears when at the age of five his mother found him having genital play with his sister of four and the girl next door. The severe spanking that followed (Father added to it when he came home from work) forever conveyed to John the lesson that sex is filthy and sinful, something one must not even think of." [Ibid.]
Of course, parents' ways of imparting negative messages about sex are not necessarily this severe, especially in our allegedly enlightened age. However, it is not necessary for a child to be spanked or even scolded or lectured in order to acquire a sex-negative attitude. Children are very intuitive and will receive the message "sex is bad" from subtle parental cues like facial expressions, tone of voice, embarrassed silence, avoidance of certain topics, etc. Mere "toleration" of sexual curiosity and play is far different in its psychological effects from positive affirmation.
Based on the findings of clinical psychiatry, Reich postulated a "first puberty" in children, from the ages of about 3 to 6, when the child's attention shifts from the satisfaction of oral needs to an interest in its sexuality -- a stage characterised by genital play of all kinds. The parents' task at this stage is not only to allow children to engage in such play, but to encourage it. "In the child, before the age of four or five, genitality has not yet fully developed. The task here plainly consists of removing the obstacles in the way of natural development toward full genitality. To fulfil this task, we must agree that a first puberty in children exists; that genital games are the peak of its development; that lack of genital activity is a sign of sickness and not of health, as previously assumed; and that healthy children play genital games of all kinds, which should be encouraged and not hindered." [Children of the Future, p. 66]
Along the same lines, to prevent the formation of sex-negative attitudes means that nakedness should never be discouraged. "The baby should see its parents naked from the beginning. However, the child should be told when he is ready to understand that some people don't like to see children naked and that, in the presence of such people, he should wear clothes." [Neill, Summerhill, p. 229]
Neill maintains that not only should parents never spank or punish a child for genital play, but that spanking and other forms of punishment should never be used in any circumstances, because they instil fear, turning children into cowards and often leading to phobias. "Fear must be entirely eliminated -- fear of adults, fear of punishment, fear of disapproval, fear of God. Only hate can flourish in an atmosphere of fear." [Ibid., p. 124]
Punishment also turns children into sadists. "The cruelty of many children springs from the cruelty that has been practised on them by adults. You cannot be beaten without wishing to beat someone else. . . Every beating makes a child sadistic in desire or practice." [Ibid., p. 269, 271] This is obviously an important consideration to anarchists, as sadistic drives provide the psychological ground for militarism, war, police brutality, and so on. Such drives are undoubtedly also part of the desire to exercise hierarchical authority, with its possibilities for using negative sanctions against subordinates as an outlet for sadistic impulses.
Child beating is particularly cowardly because it is a way for adults to vent their hatred, frustration, and sadism on those who are unable to defend themselves. Such cruelty is, of course, always rationalised with excuse like "it hurts me more than it does you," etc., or explained in moral terms, like "I don't want my boy to be soft" or "I want him to prepare him for a harsh world" or "I spank my children because my parents spanked me, and it did me a hell of a lot of good." But despite such rationalisations, the fact remains that punishment is always an act of hate. To this hate, the child responds in kind by hating the parents, followed by fantasy, guilt, and repression. For example, the child may fantasise the father's death, which immediately causes guilt, and so is repressed. Often the hatred induced by punishment emerges in fantasies that are seemingly remote from the parents, such as stories of giant killing -- always popular with children because the giant represents the father. Obviously, the sense of guilt produced by such fantasies is very advantageous to organised religions that promise redemption from "sin." It is surely no coincidence that such religions are enthusiastic promoters of the sex-negative morality and disciplinarian child rearing practices that keep supplying them with recruits.
What is worse, however, is that punishment actually creates "problem children." This is so because the parent arouses more and more hatred (and diminishing trust in other human beings) in the child with each spanking, which is expressed in still worse behaviour, calling for more spankings, and so on, in a vicious circle. In contrast, "The self-regulated child does not need any punishment," Neill argues, "and he does not go through this hate cycle. He is never punished and he does not need to behave badly. He has no use for lying and for breaking things. His body has never been called filthy or wicked. He has not needed to rebel against authority or to fear his parents. Tantrums he will usually have, but they will be short-lived and not tend toward neurosis." [Ibid., p. 166]
We could cite many further examples of how libertarian principles of child-rearing can be applied in practice, but we must limit ourselves to these few. The basic principles can be summed up as follows: Get rid of authority, moralism, and the desire to "improve" and "civilise" children. Allow them to be themselves, without pushing them around, bribing, threatening, admonishing, lecturing, or otherwise forcing them to do anything. Refrain from action unless the child, by expressing their "freedom" restricts the freedom of others and explain what is wrong about such actions and never mechanically punish.
This is, of course, a radical philosophy, which few parents are willing to follow. It is quite amazing how people who call themselves libertarians in political and economic matters draw the line when it comes to their behaviour within the family -- as if such behaviour had no wider social consequences! Hence, the opponents of children's freedom are legion, as are their objections to libertarian child rearing. In the next few sections we will examine some of the most common of these objections.
J.6.4 If children have nothing to fear, how can they be good?
Obedience that is based on fear of punishment, this-worldly or otherworldly, is not really goodness, it is merely cowardice. True morality (i.e. respect for others and one-self) comes from inner conviction based on experience, it cannot be imposed from without by fear. Nor can it be inspired by hope of reward, such as praise or the promise of heaven, which is simply bribery. As noted in the previous section, if children are given as much freedom as possible from the day of birth and not forced to conform to parental expectations, they will spontaneously learn the basic principles of social behaviour, such as cleanliness, courtesy, and so forth. But they must be allowed to develop them at their own speed, at the natural stage of their growth, not when parents think they should develop them. And what is "natural" timing must be discovered by observation, not by defining it a priori based on one's own expectations.
Can a child really be taught to keep itself clean without being punished for getting dirty? According to many psychologists, it is not only possible but vitally important for the child's mental health to do so, since punishment will give the child a fixed and repressed interest in his bodily functions. As Reich and Lowen have shown, for example, various forms of compulsive and obsessive neuroses can be traced back to the punishments used in toilet training. Dogs, cats, horses, and cows have no complexes about excrement. Complexes in human children come from the manner of their instruction.
As Neill observes, "When the mother says naughty or dirty or even tut tut, the element of right and wrong arises. The question becomes a moral one -- when it should remain a physical one." He suggests that the wrong way to deal with a child who likes to play with faeces is to tell him he is being dirty. "The right way is to allow him to live out his interest in excrement by providing him with mud or clay. In this way, he will sublimate his interest without repression. He will live through his interest; and in doing so, kill it." [Summerhill, p. 174]
Similarly, sceptics will probably question how children can be induced to eat a healthy diet without threats of punishment. The answer can be discovered by a simple experiment: set out on the table all kinds of foods, from candy and ice cream to whole wheat bread, lettuce, sprouts, and so on, and allow the child complete freedom to choose what is desired or to eat nothing at all if he or she is not hungry. Parents will find that the average child will begin choosing a balanced diet after about a week, after the desire for prohibited or restricted foods has been satisfied. This is an example of what can be called "trusting nature." That the question of how to "train" a child to eat properly should even be an issue says volumes about how little the concept of freedom for children is accepted or even understood, in our society. Unfortunately, the concept of "training" still holds the field in this and most other areas.
The disciplinarian argument that that children must be forced to respect property is also defective, because it always requires some sacrifice of a child's play life (and childhood should be devoted to play, not to "preparing for adulthood," because playing is what children spontaneously do). The libertarian view is that a child should arrive at a sense of value out of his or her own free choice. This means not scolding or punishing them for breaking or damaging things. As they grow out of the stage of preadolescent indifference to property, they learn to respect it naturally.
"But shouldn't a child at least be punished for stealing?" it will be asked. Once again, the answer lies in the idea of trusting nature. The concept of "mine" and "yours" is adult, and children naturally develop it as they become mature, but not before. This means that normal children will "steal" -- though that is not how they regard it. They are simply trying to satisfy their acquisitive impulses; or, if they are with friends, their desire for adventure. In a society so thoroughly steeping in the idea of respect for property as ours, it is no doubt difficult for parents to resist societal pressure to punish children for "stealing." The reward for such trust, however, will be a child who grows into a healthy adolescent who respects the possessions of others, not out of a cowardly fear of punishment but from his or her own self-nature.
J.6.5 But how can children learn ethics if they are not given punishments, prohibitions, and religious instruction?
Most parents believe that, besides taking care of their child's physical needs, the teaching of ethical/moral values is their main responsibility and that without such teaching the child will grow up to be a "little wild animal" who acts on every whim, with no consideration for others. This idea arises mainly from the fact that most people in our society believe, at least passively, that human beings are naturally bad and that unless they are "trained" to be good they will be lazy, mean, violent, or even murderous. This, of course, is essentially the idea of "original sin." Because of its widespread acceptance, nearly all adults believe that it is their job to "improve" children.
According to libertarian psychologists, however, there is no original sin. In fact, it would be more accurate to say that there is "original virtue." As we have seen, Reich found that externally imposed, compulsive morality actually causes immoral behaviour by creating cruel and perverse "secondary drives." Neill puts it this way: "I find that when I smash the moral instruction a bad boy has received, he becomes a good boy." [Summerhill, p. 250]
Unconscious acceptance of some form of the idea of original sin is, as mentioned previously, the main recruiting tool of organised religions, as people who believe they are born "sinners" feel a strong sense of guilt and need for redemption. Therefore Neill advises parents to "eliminate any need for redemption, by telling the child that he is born good -- not born bad." This will help keep them from falling under the influence of life-denying religions, which are inimical to the growth of a healthy character structure.
As Reich points out, "The Church, because of its influence on the sexuality of youth, is an institution that exerts an extremely damaging effect on health." [Children of the Future, p. 217] Citing ethnological studies, he notes the following:
"Among those primitive peoples who lead satisfactory, unimpaired sexual lives, there is no sexual crime, no sexual perversion, no sexual brutality between man and woman; rape is unthinkable because it is unnecessary in their society. Their sexual activity flows in normal, well-ordered channels which would fill any cleric with indignation and fear, because the pale, ascetic youth and the gossiping, child-beating woman do not exist in these primitive societies. They love the human body and take pleasure in their sexuality. They do not understand why young men and women should not enjoy their sexuality. But when their lives are invaded by the ascetic, hypocritical morass and by the Church, which bring them 'culture' along with exploitation, alcohol, and syphilis, they begin to suffer the same wretchedness as ourselves. They begin to lead 'moral' lives, i.e. to suppress their sexuality, and from then on they decline more and more into a state of sexual distress, which is the result of sexual suppression. At the same time, they become sexually dangerous; murders of spouses, sexual diseases, and crimes of all sorts start to appear." [Ibid., p. 193]
Such crimes in our society would be greatly reduced if libertarian child rearing practices were widely followed. These are obviously important considerations for anarchists, who are frequently asked to explain how crime can be prevented in an anarchist society. The answer is that if people are not suppressed during childhood there will be far less crime, because the secondary-drive structure that leads to anti-social behaviour of all kinds will not be created in the first place. In other words, the solution to the so-called crime problem is not more police, more laws, or a return to the disciplinarianism of "traditional family values," as conservatives claim, but depends mainly on getting rid of such values.
There are other problems as well with the moralism taught by organised religions. One danger is making the child a hater. "If a child is taught that certain things are sinful, his love of life must be changed to hate. When children are free, they never think of another child as being a sinner." [Neill, Op. Cit., p. 245] From the idea that certain people are sinners, it is a short step to the idea that certain classes or races of people are more "sinful" than others, leading to prejudice, discrimination, and persecution of minorities as an outlet for repressed anger and sadistic drives -- drives that are created in the first place by moralistic training during early childhood. Once again, the relevance for anarchism is obvious.
A further danger of religious instruction is the development of a fear of life. "Religion to a child most always means only fear. God is a mighty man with holes in his eyelids: He can see you wherever you are. To a child, this often means that God can see what is being done under the bedclothes. And to introduce fear into a child's life is the worst of all crimes. Forever the child says nay to life; forever he is an inferior; forever a coward." [Ibid., p. 246] People who have been threatened with fear of an afterlife in hell can never be entirely free of neurotic anxiety about security in this life. In turn, such people become easy targets of ruling-class propaganda that plays upon their material insecurity, e.g. the rationalisation of imperialistic wars as necessary to "preserve jobs" (cited, for example, by US Secretary of State James Baker as one rationale for the Gulf War).
J.6.6 But how will a free child ever learn unselfishness?
Another common objection to self-regulation is that children can only be taught to be unselfish through punishment and admonition. Again, however, such a view comes from a distrust of nature and is part of the common attitude that nature is mere "raw material" to be shaped by human beings according to their own wishes. The libertarian attitude is that unselfishness develops at the proper time -- which is not during childhood. Children are primarily egoists, generally until the beginning of puberty, and until then they usually don't have the ability to identify with others. Thus:
"To ask a child to be unselfish is wrong. Every child is an egoist and the world belongs to him. When he has an apple, his one wish is to eat that apple. The chief result of mother's encouraging him to share it with his little brother is to make him hate the little brother. Altruism comes later -- comes naturally -- if the child is not taught to be unselfish. It probably never comes at all if the child has been forced to be unselfish. By suppressing the child's selfishness, the mother is fixing that selfishness forever." [Neill, Op. Cit., pp. 250-251]
Unfulfilled wishes (like all "unfinished business") live on in the unconscious. Hence children who are pressured too hard - "taught" - to be unselfish will, while conforming outwardly with parental demands, unconsciously repress part of their real, selfish wishes, and these repressed infantile desires will make the person selfish (and possibly neurotic) throughout life. Moreover, telling children that what they want to do is "wrong" or "bad" is equivalent to teaching them to hate themselves, and it is a well-known principle of psychology that people who do not love themselves cannot love others. Thus moral instruction, although it aims to develop altruism and love for others, is actually self-defeating, having just the opposite result.
Moreover, such attempts to produce "unselfish" children (and so adults) actually works against developing the individuality of the child and their abilities to develop their own abilities (in particular their ability of critical thought). As Erich Fromm puts it, "[n]ot to be selfish implies not to do what one wishes, to give up one's own wishes for the sake of those in authority. . . Aside from its obvious implication, it means 'don't love yourself,' 'don't be yourself', but submit yourself to something more important than yourself, to an outside power or its internalisation, 'duty.' 'Don't be selfish' becomes one of the most powerful ideological tools in suppressing spontaneity and the free development of personality. Under the pressure of this slogan one is asked for every sacrifice and for complete submission: only those acts are 'unselfish' which do not serve the individual but somebody or something outside himself." [Man for Himself, p. 127]
While such "unselfishness" is ideal for creating "model citizens" and willing wage slaves, it is not conducive for creating anarchists or even developing individuality. Little wonder Bakunin celebrated the urge to rebel and saw it as the key to human progress! Fromm goes on to note that selfishness and self-love, "far from being identical, are actually opposites" and that "selfish persons are incapable of loving others. . . [or] loving themselves..." [Op. Cit., p. 131] Individuals who do not love themselves, and so others, will be more willing to submit themselves to hierarchy than those who do love themselves and are concerned for their own, and others, welfare. Thus the contradictory nature of capitalism, with its contradictory appeals to selfish and unselfish behaviour, can be understood as being based upon lack of self-love, a lack which is promoted in childhood and one which libertarians should be aware of and combat.
Indeed, much of the urge to "teach children unselfishness" is actually an expression of adults' will to power. Whenever parents feel the urge to impose directives on their children, they would be wise to ask themselves whether the impulse comes from their own power drive or their own selfishness. For, since our culture strongly conditions us to seek power over others, what could be more convenient than having a small, weak person at hand who cannot resist one's will to power? Instead of issuing directives, libertarians believe in letting social behaviour develop naturally, which it will do after other people's opinions becomes important to the child. As Neill points out, "Everyone seeks the good opinion of his neighbours. Unless other forces push him into unsocial behaviour, a child will naturally want to do that which will cause him to be well-regarded, but this desire to please others develops at a certain stage in his growth. The attempt by parents and teachers to artificially accelerate this stage does the child irreparable damage." [Neill, Op. Cit., p. 256]
Therefore, parents should allow children to be "selfish" and "ungiving", free to follow their own childish interests throughout their childhood. And when their individual interests clash with social interests (e.g. the opinion of the neighbours), the individual interests should take precedence. Every interpersonal conflict of interest should be grounds for a lesson in dignity on one side and consideration on the other. Only by this process can a child develop their individuality. By so doing they will come to recognise the individuality of others and this is the first step in developing ethical concepts (which rest upon mutual respect for others and their individuality).
J.6.7 Isn't what you call "libertarian child-rearing" just another name for spoiling the child?
No. This objection confuses the distinction between freedom and license. To raise a child in freedom does not mean letting him or her walk all over you; it does not mean never saying "no." It is true that free children are not subjected to punishment, irrational authority, or moralistic admonitions, but they are not "free" to violate the rights of others. As Neill puts it, "in the disciplined home, the children have no rights. In the spoiled home, they have all the rights. The proper home is one in which children and adults have equal rights." Or again, "To let a child have his own way, or do what he wants to at another's expense, is bad for the child. It creates a spoiled child, and the spoiled child is a bad citizen." [Summerhill, p. 107, 167]
There will inevitably be conflicts of will between parents and children, and the healthy way to resolve them is to come to some sort of a compromise agreement. The unhealthy ways are either to resort to authoritarian discipline or to spoil the child by allowing it to have all the social rights. Libertarian psychologists argue that no harm is done to children by insisting on one's individual rights, but that the harm comes from moralism, i.e. when one introduces the concepts of right and wrong or words like "naughty," "bad," or "dirty," which produce guilt.
Therefore it should not be thought that free children are free to "do as they please." Freedom means doing what one likes so long as it doesn't infringe on the freedom of others. Thus there is a big difference between compelling a child to stop throwing stones at others and compelling him or her to learn geometry. Throwing stones infringes on others' rights, but learning geometry involves only the child. The same goes for forcing children to eat with a fork instead of their fingers; to say "please" and "thank you;" to tidy up their rooms, and so on. Bad manners and untidiness may be annoying to adults, but they are not a violation of adults' rights. One could, of course, define an adult "right" to be free of annoyance from anything one's child does, but this would simply be a license for authoritarianism, emptying the concept of children's rights of all content.
As mentioned, giving children freedom does not mean allowing them to endanger themselves physically. For example, a sick child should not be asked to decide whether he wants to go outdoors or take his prescribed medicine, nor a run-down and overtired child whether she wants to go to bed. But the imposition of such forms of necessary authority is compatible with the idea that children should be given as much responsibility as they can handle at their particular age. For only in this way can they develop self-assurance. And again, it is important for parents to examine their own motives when deciding how much responsibility to give their child. Parents who insist on choosing their children's' clothes for them, for example, are generally worried that little Tommy might select clothes that would reflect badly on his parents' social standing.
As for those who equate "discipline" in the home with "obedience," the latter is usually required of a child to satisfy the adults' desire for power. Self-regulation means that there are no power games being played with children, no loud voice saying "You'll do it because I say so, or else!" But, although this irrational, power-seeking kind of authority is absent in the libertarian home, there still remains what can be called a kind of "authority," namely adult protection, care, and responsibility, as well as the insistence on one's own rights. As Neill observes, "Such authority sometimes demands obedience but at other times gives obedience. Thus I can say to my daughter, 'You can't bring that mud and water into our parlour.' That's no more than her saying to me, 'Get out of my room, Daddy. I don't want you here now,' a wish that I, of course, obey without a word" [Op. Cit., p. 156]. Therefore there will still be "discipline" in the libertarian home, but it will be of the kind that protects the individual rights of each family member.
Raising children in freedom also does not imply giving them a lot of toys, money, and so on. Reichians have argued that children should not be given everything they ask for and that it is better to give them too little than too much. Under constant bombardment by commercial advertising campaigns, parents today generally tend to give their children far too much, with the result that the children stop appreciating gifts and rarely value any of their possessions. This same applies to money, which, if given in excess, can be detrimental to children's' creativity and play life. If children are not given too many toys, they will derive creative joy out of making their own toys out of whatever free materials are at hand -- a joy of which they are robbed by overindulgence. Psychologists point out that parents who give too many presents are often trying to compensate for giving too little love.
There is less danger in rewarding children than there is in punishing them, but rewards can still undermine a child's morale. This is because, firstly, rewards are superfluous and in fact often decrease motivation and creativity, as several psychological studies have shown (see section I.4.10). Creative people work for the pleasure of creating; monetary interests are not central (or necessary) to the creative process. Secondly, rewards send the wrong message, namely, that doing the deed for which the reward is offered is not worth doing for its own sake and the pleasure associated with productive, creative activity. And thirdly, rewards tend to reinforce the worst aspects of the competitive system, leading to the attitude that money is the only thing which can motivate people to do the work that needs doing in society.
These are just a few of the considerations that enter into the distinction between spoiling children and raising them in freedom. In reality, it is the punishment and fear of a disciplinarian home that spoils children in the most literal sense, by destroying their childhood happiness and creating warped personalities. As adults, the victims of disciplinarianism will generally be burdened with one or more anti-social secondary drives such as sadism, destructive urges, greed, sexual perversions, etc., as well as repressed rage and fear. The presence of such impulses just below the surface of consciousness causes anxiety, which is automatically defended against by layers of rigid muscular armouring, which leaves the person stiff, frustrated, bitter, and burdened with feelings of inner emptiness. In such a condition, people easily fall victim to the capitalist gospel of super-consumption, which promises that money will enable them to fill the inner void by purchasing commodities -- a promise that, of course, is hollow.
The neurotically armoured person also tends to look for scapegoats on whom to blame his or her frustration and anxiety and against whom repressed rage can be vented. Reactionary politicians know very well how to direct such impulses against minorities or "hostile nations" with propaganda designed to serve the interests of the ruling elite. Most importantly, however, the respect for authority combined with sadistic impulses which is acquired from a disciplinarian upbringing typically produces a submissive/authoritarian personality -- a man or woman who blindly follows the orders of "superiors" while at the same time desiring to exercise authority on "subordinates," whether in the family, the state bureaucracy, or the corporation. In this way, the "traditional" (e.g., authoritarian, disciplinarian, patriarchal) family is the necessary foundation for authoritarian civilisation, reproducing it and its attendant social evils from generation to generation. Irving Staub's Roots of Evil includes interviews of imprisoned SS men, who, in the course of extensive interviews (meant to determine how ostensibly "normal" people could perform acts of untold ruthlessness and violence) revealed that they overwhelmingly came from authoritarian, disciplinarian homes.
J.6.8 What is the anarchist position on teenage sexual liberation?
One of the biggest problems of adolescence is sexual suppression by parents and society in general. The teenage years are the time when sexual energy is at its height. Why, then, the absurd demand that teenagers "wait until marriage," or at least until leaving home, before becoming sexually active? Why are there laws on the books in "advanced" countries like the United States that allow a 19-year-old "boy" who makes love with his 17-year-old girlfriend, with her full consent, to be arrested by the girl's parents (!) for "statutory rape?"
To answer such questions, let us recall that the ruling class is not interested in encouraging mass tendencies toward democracy and independence and pleasure not derived from commodities but instead supports whatever contributes to mass submissiveness, docility, dependence, helplessness, and respect for authority -- traits that perpetuate the hierarchies on which ruling-class power and privileges depend.
We have noted earlier that, because sex is the most intense form of pleasure (one of the most prominent contributors for intimacy and bonding people) and involves the bioenergy of the body and emotions, repression of sexuality is the most powerful means of psychologically crippling people and giving them a submissive/authoritarian character structure (as well as alienating people from each other). As Reich observes, such a character is composed of a mixture of "sexual impotence, helplessness, a need for attachments, a nostalgia for a leader, fear of authority, timidity, and mysticism." As he also points out, "people structured in this manner are incapable of democracy. All attempts to build up or maintain genuine democratically directed organisations come to grief when they encounter these character structures. They form the psychological soil of the masses in which dictatorial strivings and bureaucratic tendencies of democratically elected leaders can develop. . . . [Sexual suppression] produces the authority-fearing, life-fearing vassal, and thus constantly creates new possibilities whereby a handful of men in power can rule the masses." [The Sexual Revolution: Toward a Self-Regulating Character Structure, p. 82, emphasis added]
No doubt most members of the ruling elite are not fully conscious that their own power and privileges depend on the mass perpetuation of sex-negative attitudes. Nevertheless, they unconsciously sense it. Sexual freedom is the most basic and powerful kind, and every conservative or reactionary instinctively shudders at the thought of the "social chaos" it would unleash -- that is, the rebellious, authority-defying type of character it would nourish. This is why "family values," and "religion" (i.e. discipline and compulsive sexual morality) are the mainstays of the conservative/reactionary agenda. Thus it is crucially important for anarchists to address every aspect of sexual suppression in society. And this means affirming the right of adolescents to an unrestricted sex life.
There are numerous arguments for teenage sexual liberation. For example, many teen suicides could be prevented by removing the restrictions on adolescent sexuality. This becomes clear from ethnological studies of sexually unrepressive "primitive" peoples. Thus:
"All reports, whether by missionaries or scholars, with or without the proper indignation about the 'moral depravity' of 'savages,' state that the puberty rites of adolescents lead them immediately into a sexual life; that some of these primitive societies lay great emphasis on sexual pleasure; that the puberty rite is an important social event; that some primitive peoples not only do not hinder the sexual life of adolescents but encourage it is every way, as, for instance, by arranging for community houses in which the adolescents settle at the start of puberty in order to be able to enjoy sexual intercourse. Even in those primitive societies in which the institution of strict monogamous marriage exists, adolescents are given complete freedom to enjoy sexual intercourse from the beginning of puberty to marriage. None of these reports contains any indication of sexual misery or suicide by adolescents suffering from unrequited love (although the latter does of course occur). The contradiction between sexual maturity and the absence of genital sexual gratification is non-existent." [Ibid., p. 85]
Teenage sexual repression is also closely connected with crime. If there are hundreds of teenagers in a neighbourhood who have no place to pursue intimate sexual relationships, they will do it in dark corners, in cars or vans, etc., always on the alert and anxious lest someone discover them. Under such conditions, full gratification is impossible, leading to a build-up of tension, frustration and stagnation of bioenergy (sexual stasis). Thus they feel unsatisfied, disturb each other, become jealous and angry, get into fights, turn to drugs as a substitute for a satisfying sex life, vandalise property to let off "steam" (repressed rage), or even murder someone. As Reich notes, "juvenile delinquency is the visible expression of the subterranean sexual crisis in the lives of children and adolescents. And it may be predicted that no society will ever succeed in solving this problem, the problem of juvenile psychopathology, unless that society can muster the courage and acquire the knowledge to regulate the sexual life of its children and adolescents in a sex-affirmative manner." [Ibid., p. 271]
For these reasons, it is clear that a solution to the "gang problem" also depends on adolescent sexual liberation. We are not suggesting, of course, that gangs themselves suppress sexual activity. Indeed, one of their main attractions to teens is undoubtedly the hope of more opportunities for sex as a gang member. However, gangs' typical obsessiveness with the promiscuous, pornographic, sadistic, and other "dark" aspects of sex shows that by the time children reach the gang age they have already developed unhealthy secondary drives due to the generally sex-negative and repressive environment in which they have grown up. The expression of such drives is not what anarchists mean by "sexual freedom." Rather, anarchist proposals for teenage liberation are based on the premise that unrestricted sexuality in early childhood is the necessary condition for a healthy sexual freedom in adolescence.
Applying these insights to our own society, it is clear that teenagers should not only have ample access to a private room where they can be undisturbed with their sexual partners, but that parents should actively encourage such behaviour for the sake of their child's health and happiness (while, of course, encouraging the knowledge and use of contraceptives and safe sex in general as well as respect for the other person involved in the relationship). This last point (of respecting others) is essential. As Maurice Brinton points out, attempts at sexual liberation will encounter two kinds of responses from established society - direct opposition and attempts at recuperation. The second response takes the form of "first alienating and reifying sexuality, and then of frenetically exploiting this empty shell for commercial ends. As modern youth breaks out of the dual stranglehold of the authoritarian patriarchal family it encounters a projected image of free sexuality which is in fact a manipulatory distortion of it." This can be seen from the use of sex in advertising to the successful development of sex into a major consumer industry.
However, such a development is the opposite of the healthy sexuality desired by anarchists. This is because "sex is presented as something to be consumed. But the sexual instinct differs from certain other instincts... [as it can be satisfied only by] another human being, capable of thinking, acting, suffering. The alienation of sexuality under the conditions of modern capitalism is very much part of the general alienating process, in which people are converted into objects (in this case, objects of sexual consumption) and relationships are drained of human content. Undiscriminating, compulsive sexual activity, is not sexual freedom - although it may sometimes be a preparation for it (which repressive morality can never be). The illusion that alienated sex is sexual freedom constitutes yet another obstacle on the road to total emancipation. Sexual freedom implies a realisation and understanding of the autonomy of others." [The Irrational in Politics, p. 60, p. 61]
Therefore, anarchists see teenage sexual liberation as a means of developing free individuals as well as reducing the evil effects of sexual repression (which, we must note, also helps dehumanise individuals by encouraging the objectification of others, and in a patriarchal society, particularly of women).
J.6.9 But isn't this concern with teenage sexual liberation just a distraction from issues that should be of more concern to anarchists, like restructuring the economy?
It would be insulting to teenagers to suggest that sexual freedom is, or should be, their only concern. Many teens have a well-developed social conscience and are keenly interested in problems of economic exploitation, poverty, social breakdown, environmental degradation, and the like.
However, it is essential for anarchists to guard against the attitude typically found in Marxist-Leninist parties that spontaneous discussions about the sexual problems of youth are a "diversion from the class struggle." Such an attitude is economistic (not to mention covertly ascetic), because it is based on the premise that the economy must be the focus of all revolutionary efforts toward social change. No doubt restructuring the economy is important, but without mass sexual liberation no working class revolution be complete. In a so called free society, there will not be enough people around with the character structures necessary to create a lasting worker-controlled economy -- i.e. people who are capable of accepting freedom with responsibility. Instead, the attempt to force the creation of such an economy without preparing the necessary psychological soil for its growth will lead to a quick reversion to some new form of hierarchy and exploitation.
Moreover, for most teenagers, breaking free from the sexual suppression that threatens to cripple them psychologically is a major issue in their lives. For this reason, not many of them are likely to be attracted to the anarchist "freedom" movement if its exponents limit themselves to dry discussions of surplus value, alienated labour, and so forth. Instead, addressing sexual questions and problems must be integrated into a multi-faceted attack on the total system of domination. Teens should feel confident that anarchists are on the side of sexual pleasure and are not revolutionary ascetics demanding self-denial for the "sake of the revolution." Rather, it should be stressed that the capacity for full sexual enjoyment is the an essential part of the revolution. Indeed, "incessant questioning and challenge to authority on the subject of sex and of the compulsive family can only complement the questioning and challenge to authority in other areas (for instance on the subject of who is to dominate the work process - or the purpose of work itself). Both challenges stress the autonomy of individuals and their domination of over important aspects of their lives. Both expose the alienated concepts which pass for rationality and which govern so much of our thinking and behaviour. The task of the conscious revolutionary is to make both challenges explicit, to point out their deeply subversive content, and to explain their inter-relation." [Maurice Brinton, Op. Cit., p. 62]
We noted previously that in pre-patriarchal society, which rests on the social order of primitive communism, children have complete sexual freedom and that the idea of childhood asceticism develops as matricentric clan societies turn toward patriarchy in the economy and social structure (see section B.1.5). This sea-change in social attitudes toward childhood sexuality allows the authority-oriented character structure to develop instead of the formerly non-authoritarian ones. Ethnological research has shown that in pre-patriarchal societies, the general nature of work life in the collective corresponds with the free sexuality of children and adolescents -- that is, there are no rules coercing children and adolescents into specific forms of sexual life, and this creates the psychological basis for voluntary integration into the collective and voluntary discipline in work. This historical fact supports the premise that widespread sex-positive attitudes are a necessary condition of a viable libertarian socialism.
Psychology also clearly shows that every impediment to infantile and adolescent sexuality by parents, teachers, or administrative authorities must be stopped. As anarchists, our preferred way of doing so is by direct action. Thus we should encourage teens to feel that they have every chance of building their own lives. This will certainly not be an obstacle to or a distraction from their involvement in the anarchist movement. On the contrary, if they can gradually solve the problem of (e.g.) private rooms themselves, they will work on other social projects with greatly increased pleasure and concentration. For, contrary to Freud, Reichian psychologists argue that beyond a certain point, excess sexual energy cannot be sublimated in work or any other purposeful activity but actually disturbs work by making the person restless and prone to fantasies, thus hindering concentration.
Besides engaging in direct action, anarchists can also support legal protection of infantile and adolescent sexuality (repeal of the insane statutory rape laws would be one example), just as they support legislation that protects workers' right to strike, family leave, and so forth. However, as Reich observes, "under no circumstances will the new order of sexual life be established by the decree of a central authority." [Ibid., p. 279] That was a Leninist illusion. Rather, it will be established from the bottom up, by the gradual process of ever more widespread dissemination of knowledge about the adverse personal and social effects of sexual suppression, which will lead to mass acceptance of libertarian child-rearing and educational methods.
A society in which people are capable of sexual happiness will be one where they prefer to "make love, not war," and so will provide the best guarantee for the general security. Then the anarchist project of restructuring the economic and political systems will proceed spontaneously, based on a spirit of joy rather than hatred and revenge. Only then can it be defended against reactionary threats, because the majority will be on the side of freedom and capable of using it responsibly, rather than unconsciously longing for an authoritarian father-figure to tell them what to do.
Therefore, concern and action upon teenage sexual liberation (or child rearing in general or libertarian education) is a key part of social struggle and change. In no way can it be considered a "distraction" from "important" political and economic issues as some "serious" revolutionaries like to claim. As Martha A. Ackelsberg notes (in relation to the practical work done by the Mujeres Libres group during the Spanish Revolution):
"Respecting children and educating them well was vitally important to the process of revolutionary change. Ignorance made people particularly vulnerable to oppression and suffering. More importantly, education prepared people for social life. Authoritarian schools (or families), based upon fear, prepared people to be submissive to an authoritarian government [or within a capitalist workplace]. Different schools and families would be necessary to prepare people to live in a society without domination." [Free Women of Spain, p. 133]