Thursday, October 14, 2010

Sexual offences the price of moral ambivalence

There was today a story in the NZ Herald today about a disturbing sexual offence in Sydney. People are of course quick to judge in such cases, but thinking is always an after-thought.
I however want to say that these sex offences against this child are completely compatible with contemporary values. Hard to believe? Well let’s break down the story. Firstly, let me say that I am no way condoning these actions. My point is that – if we want to stop such acts, society needs to change their values. Clearly these parents went another 'mile', but fundamentally their values are compatible with a great many 'civilised' people in your community.
Firstly, let’s acknowledge that the man was probably sexually abused as a child. Let’s acknowledge that his partner was probably abused as a child as well, however in any respect they both had diminished self-esteem. Let’s acknowledge that they had reason to snub society because society is scornful of such behaviour, and tends to treat such offenders as ‘creepy’ rather than as victims. Sadly victims give rise to victimisation. Their whole value system has been distorted by their child experiences. The scorn of society was only destined to result in those values being pushed underground. i.e. They would initially have performed their acts as a clandestine act; eventually becoming more daring.
More interesting and shameful was the fact that the man was streaming the footage of his wife and son having sex. Sure he would have been doing it for his own sexual gratification, however it appears moreover he was turning it into a spectacle. This was probably normalised behaviour for him. We need to appreciate his perspective. He was showing signs of ‘control’, the same control that he wished he had when he was abused as a child.
The response of the judge was to lock him away for 9 years. This is silly for several reasons. There is no evidence of violence. The control was a reaction to his childhood. It would make more sense to place him on an island with other sex offenders rather than release him into the community in 9 years. The US has such a facility. Australia ought to have one as well, though I don't think it needs to be as high security as the $170,000 per person per annum would justify. Simply give them GPS trackers. If they escape the island, they go to a higher security prison.
So in what sense is this reflective of contemporary values? Well, we would like the man to have some sense of empathy for the boy. We would hope he would have some respect for the law. But consider the following:
1. The lack of empathy people have for paedophiles – it does not mean approving of their values – on the contrary it means understanding how they came to fall in their position, such that we might prevent others. This did not happen in this case...until it was too late. Why? Scornful social values resulted in this man doing as he pleased because he was invalidated by society.
2. The fact that there are too many kids in Australia or NZ who are placed in positions of risk by custodians who have no ideas; who are not conceptual thinkers, who don’t anticipate problems....because it’s not their problem...until it happens.
3. Consider how easy it is to spurn the law when it comprises the arbitrary, self-serving laws enacted by politicians. Might 'commonsensical' common land be undermined by the nonsensical statutory laws which are all too common.
4. Consider the first cause of the custodians, who enabled by lack of responsibility or insight, enabled their child/children to be abused. The reality is that its too easy for a pedophile to pick up kids. Parents really need to be vigilant. These predators are systematic is their objective, whilst you are perhaps distracted by other things. The sad reality is vigilance is the only protection.

The acts of his wife are not unbelievable. They are entirely logical from her perspective. She has low self-esteem, so the worst thing that could happen would be alienation from her husband. She has therefore a subjective sense of reality. It is therefore easy for her to place her appeasement of her husband’s demands before her child’s security or interests, which she can conveniently rationalise away if there is a greater value. If society had greater respect for objective values...this would be harder to justify. She doesn’t, they don’t, so abuse persists in society, and thus more innocent people become victims.
This is of course not a justification for sexual’s an explanation for why it happens. In this instance, there is sufficient evidence to develop a psychological profile for the offenders.
Society’s view is of course to be scornful of such acts....but why not take the next step and understand the causal nature of such offenders. The fact that such instances occur in society is evidence enough that we need greater moral vigilance. This is not how people think. Instead people just compartmentalise their life and do their own thing....concluding instead ‘what is right for you if your life, what’s right for me is something else’. i.e. This is of course the subjective values that these offenders endorse.
In society, we all face acts which test us. When we have bad role models around, its all the more probable that we will make bad decisions and be defined by those. i.e. If you have a prison sentence, you define yourself as a 'criminal' and you are tagged for life. Really, we are never so invested in people. This is part of the problem. We maybe it very easy for people to opt out of life, and very hard for them to join the human race. The whole structure of society needs to be rewritten. What I can tell you is that we are so off the course that you have little hope for a better world. With the power of the internet, let's give the world 50 years at least to turn this around. I might just live to see it. I guess I'm clinging to optimism.
You might ask why I am so empathetic of pedophiles. I think its because I expect so little from them....and so much more from you. I think that is why I like Japanese people more than foreigners. When you look at their social context, you kind of expect them to be weird and am more impressed when you meet a sane one. Try living in Japan and you will realise how perverted collectivism can make a society. This is not to imply you should have contempt for Japanese people. Even if their values are collectivist, they each have a personal context. The richness of your experience relating to them comes from empathising and understanding their particular context, not alienating them with scornful judgement. Of course we ought to appreciate that they are all individuals. I have met some very impressive Japanese people. Some might say 'very Western'...or simply 'normal', if you like that relativist standard.

The focus of this article is sexual or physical assault. The reality is that psychological assault is just as concerning, and its even more concerning when its perpetrators are the government, whom are systematically imposing their values on you through the education system, through the political system, and other institutions. More on this topic in our political blog.
Andrew Sheldon

Friday, August 27, 2010

The importance of information

One of the early lessons from my life was the importance of information. Actually my parents gave me very little guidance in life. They did model a strong work ethic, they did make sure I never lacked any material possession. The role of information was important in the following ways:
1. When I was 6-15 years of age I was working in my dad's printing factory, so I always had too much money as a child. This prompted questions of what to do with it. Of course I invested in passions like geological maps (after a fossicking trip) and canoeing (after a school adventure).
2. At the age of 11yo my father bought me shares in a company called Abroholis Oil, an oil explorer. I lost money on this, but I was soon following the stocks daily and eventually I was charting the stocks. I would simply buy low and sell high. Today my investing is a lot more sophisticated, but it gave me a strong reason to save, and to keep learning.
3. The biggest lesson was gained by reading the Australian Financial Review. In those times, it was far better with quality investigative journalism. Today, newspapers simply reprint press releases and political banter. There is no good lessons in newspapers anymore. Fortunately then my mother was studying marketing at university and so there was always a financial newspaper in the house. The link between following stocks, saw me devouring stock announcements.

This interest gained traction when I was 14-15yo and I was really incredibly ambitious about my main interests. By that time, I was still working at my dad's factory, but I was using all my savings for stocks and canoeing and geological maps and equipment. I had graduated from the newspapers to the Dept of Minerals & Energy library in the city, or I was going to the library at the Australian Stock Exchange. Info was very cheap then. I could read Stock Reviews for 50c each, but I learned quickly to use a whole set and basically read every review in every alphabetic letter in the day. i.e. I reviewed 20-30 stocks in a day, by which time I was exhausted, but without a doubt I had discovered some appealing stocks, whether they had moved yet or not. I quickly learned what was a good stock.

Some weekends I was going canoeing or exploring old mine adits looking for minerals. Actually I did not like field work so much, so I went into consulting, but in my university degree I studied everything I needed to set up a mining company. I had studied about so many mining entrepreneurs in the 1980s, I knew all their methods. I studied geology, geophysics, geostatistics, accounting, economics, accounting, mining engineering and finance. Then I was introduced to philosophy, and that passion took me off on a big tangent....which is only being expressed in the last 5 years, but it did not stop me developing this interest as a hobby for the last 20 years. I might have been working as a mining analyst and trader, but I was thinking a great deal of politics and philosophy. Analysing global problems and writing up solutions.

Too much is accidental for parents. Perhaps its time to develop a coherent strategy for how you are going to raise your kids. I would start years before they are born. The awareness of the issues and the strategic value are critical. It becomes second-nature.

The other important aspect is to preserve a critical perspective. That means trying to preserve your personal integrity, both so your ideas are personally coherent, but also so that reconcile with the facts of reality. Much science today is nonsense, so critical interpretation or appraisal is warranted....not just for science supporting commercial products like orthopedic shoes, but science supposedly backing political agendas. Kids seem to accept these assertions, so they need to be taught to challenge such claims.

I guess all of this started with a school boys natural curiosity, a set of encyclopedias in the home, a comfortable fireplace for reading, and a practical expression for using the information, i.e. The stock market.
Andrew Sheldon

How to educate or model behaviour to your children

When I read about successful entrepreneurs, it is interesting to reflect on the factors that impacted on them as children. They cite particular instances in the 30s, 40s or 50s which they remember being told to them with children. If these dialogues were so important to these successful people, it might behoove you to cite them to your children. Consider the following example from a Filipino entrepreneur:
"I grew up in a family where talking about business over dinner was a common practice. When I was 7 or 8, my father often went overseas on business. He would always bring back souvenirs like toys for me. He would say to me, “Out of these 10, take one for yourself and sell the rest to your friends.” In this way, he taught me how to do business".

You might not be able to discuss these things with your children..maybe you can frame the quote and hang it on the wall of your house, and every time there is a concrete life situation which pertains to it, you could refer your children to it.
Andrew Sheldon

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Using religion for a moral education

There are a great many parents who think that by sending their child to a Christian school or 'play-school' after church, will result in them developing a 'good Christian ethic'. I would like to repudiate this suggestion. The reason is that parenting lessons ought to convey reasons why something is good or bad. It is by conveying such lessons, and being proven right, that the child earns respect for the parent. More importantly, they develop knowledge, so they become a master of their own destiny. If their moral education is dogmatic assertions or disciplinarian action by parents, several problems arise:
1. The child does not develop knowledge, but fear of parental reprisal, or self-doubt because of their inability to deal with the situation.
2. The child does not learn to integrate their life experiences into principles, thus to be able to differentiate when to do what in different specific contexts. Fortunately, religion is not the only education they get, but to the extent that it dominates their 'moral education' is the extent to which it will impact upon their value judgements.
3. Their intellectual development is impaired. Faith is not an education, its an assumption of it without evidence, without foundation. It can only incite delusion and arrogance.
Image by Africa
It does not help that society's values are consistent with a Christian education. This makes it harder for people to develop more reasonable values, as they can't discern Christian values from Christian pretense. For more insights on religious education for parents, refer to my religion blog.
Andrew Sheldon

Friday, April 30, 2010

Should you love your child unconditionally?

From my blogs you will be struck by the need to fight an intellectual war against many facets of society. There is a great deal wrong with society. Those flaws are a product of our education system. Education however starts with parenting. Misguided psychologists are misleading parents into teaching parents that they ought to give their children unconditional love. The whole concept is a rationalisation for the following reasons.

  1. They establish an unhealthy dichotomy between mind and body. They say that the child is not bad, that they did bad things. This notion of course comes from reality, where man is a sinner and has to renounce material possessions. Philosophers have developed many such dichotomies to explain or justify their flawed conceptions. The reality is that bad actions are the consequence of bad values or flawed thinking. The consequence of such thinking is that a child is able to rationalise that 'I am not morally responsible' because I am a good person, who happens to do bad things. It also allows a parent to live in self-denial, which is sure to get worse as the parent's unconditional love is demonstrably flawed as a parenting strategy.
  2. The other issue is the idea that values are intrinsic. Things are not good or bad for a reason, they are just good or bad....because someone said so, or because you feel it. This is of course the first step in sabotaging your mind because it causes you to discard any justification for values. It results in people not developing a theory of values. In relationships I have had tremendous difficulty dealing with partners with whom you cannot negotiate values because they have no underlying reasons for theirs, and see no need for reasons. My precondition for negotiation is thus a basis for their condemnation of me, as I am making them feel vulnerable. This is the same damage you are doing to the self esteem of your child.

The question then becomes how does a parent morally 'condemn' their children without destroying their self-esteem. I suggest there are several steps:
  1. Stop making your values the standard of value. Treat them as if they are independent moral agents, and are expected to be so.
  2. Stop conveying the fact that you are always right, even if you are, as it creates a self-righteousness which implies (in the context of society) the sense that you give primacy to your consciousness at the expense of the facts of reality.
  3. Negotiate values rather than impose them; i.e. Convey that you are both searching for truth. Morally condemning a child does not convey any respect for facts, and creates an unhealthy focus upon their flaws.
  4. Validate the child when they get things wrong. It is a matter of justice to convey when and why people are good and bad. There is a load of nonsense which says you should praise 100x more than you criticise. Arbitrary nonsense. Just have reasons, and empathy and you will be ok.
  5. Do you disparage a child, and convey arguments like 'When I was young I made the same mistake...but I learned that....".
  6. Teach a child to anticipate - that is to think. My neighbour said of his child when he crashed the car for the second time "He'll eventually learn". My guess that so long as the parent and society don't teach kids to think, to anticipate problems, to prepare, to plan, he probably won't learn, or he'll be so diminished in self-esteem, he will fear learning and acting, and will pursuit concrete self-indulgences which make him feel good in the moment.
  7. Don't be a hypocrite. Live the values you teach. It ought to be apparent to most parents that kids have a keen sense for picking up any discrepancies in their parents thinking. If you model hypocrisy, you will be modelling self-indulgence.
  8. Don't disparage your kids. My parents modelled argument for me. When I used it against them because of their inconsistencies, they did not disparage me; they simply denied me validation (i.e. justice). You are not in competition with your children. Preserve some respect for reality, and yourself by not disparaging them. Intellectually lazy. Your kids can be your best teacher. Don't kill the messenger.
From this last point I hope you can appreciate the difference between good and bad conditional love. Healthy or objective 'conditional love' is about conveying logical values. Just as you should be giving objective conditional love, so should the child. They ought to love you for reasons, as you should love them for reasons. Logically asserted values conveys knowledge to the child, and gives the child a basis to love and respect the parent. You would be surprised how agreeable or reasonable a child can be when they respect a parent. Some of you have no in 10 years, when they leave the home, you are glad to see the back of them....for decades complaining about it. Oh my wife turned them against me. Incidentally, your romantic relationships ought to be founded on the same principles.

One needs to acknowledge that just as the field of philosophy is perverted, so is the field of psychology. There are good and bad psychologists. It all comes down to underlying values of the person. My favourites are Nathaniel Branden (self esteem) and Mark Levine (child psychology). It is rare that I can read a science book and not find flaws. These are two scientists who affirm in one's mind that there are intelligible rational people in the world. I'm sure they are others, but only 10% of books leave me thinking I have nothing to say to improve them. These people tend to be more empiricially or evidence based, i.e. They have recognised patterns in children, etc, but they have also retained healthy values. In more abstract topics, the 'pickings are slimmer'.
Andrew Sheldon