Tuesday, June 07, 2005


The day after Annie's birthday, she refused to go to school. Thought maybe she was flexing her teenage muscles, but it quickly became clear that she was panicked about going. After 20 minutes of simply refusing, she finally explained why she wouldn't go. There was to be a field trip that day. And during their last field trip, the Queen Bee of Annie's "friends" was pissed off about Annie sticking up for herself in some manner or another. So she excluded her from the group. And Annie was very afraid that this would happen again.

I comforted her, of course. Told her what shits her "friends" were for excluding anyone. Then we talked through strategies: what to do if it happened again. Annie is blessed with being an easy to like girl. Any other girl in her class would be happy to hang out with her. So, armed with that, I made her go to school. Physically assisted her out of the car. :-(

Everything turned out fine that day. She came home herself, happy and calm. But exclusion is still on her mind. And mine.

Excluding. What a lousy, crummy social construct. Is there any more basic human emotional need than to be with others? Why do we torture one another by deliberating punishing others with withdrawal? Power, I think. And feeling enough about yourself that you need to boost yourself in this way.

It is a very powerful feeling, excluding. You be mean to me? You do something I don't like? Well, I'll get YOU back. I'll get everyone to be nasty to you--or worse, just plain ignore you. You don't exist. I get to suck the power out of you and be bigger.

And what a way to keep people in line. Religions do this. Shunning. Disfellowshipping. Meidung. Cherum. They're all about punishing those who break religious laws of various sorts and protecting those who don't. It seems an incredibly unkind manner of enforcement to me. I suppose punishment isn't meant to be kind. Yet I thought religions, spiritual walks, and the like were to be disciplines. As in disciples, as in learners.

Being a parent I am, by default, a teacher. Punishment is the worst format from which to teach. All that is learned is guilt and anger. Consequences? I'm all for consequences. But jails are full of people who have received punishment, yet continually come back for more. Recidivism certainly indicates punishment doesn't cause a whole lot of learning.

It is powerful, though. Which brings us back to why both people and religions do it, I think. If I'm afraid of you, you can boss me around more. Pretty basic. Excluders and shunners and the like are bullies.

I am hoping my girl can tear herself away from the bullies.

Until tomorrow,


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