A Better World?
Wednesday, June 13, 2012 at 05:19PM
Dr. Harriet Fraad

First published in Tikkun Daily, October 11, 2010.

Psychohistorians believe in De Mause’s theory of the psychogenic pump. If children’s primary nurturers are given kindness, acknowledgement and support, they will usually treat their children well and the human race will flourish. When young brains and hearts are nurtured, children grow up without the terror that leads to pathologically frightened adults who dare not take the risks of inventing anything new or thinking outside of the strictures of their parent’s world. Petrified children become closed minded obedient, terrorized, and often pathologically uncreative adults. Support and respect for caretakers acts as a pump of progress improving the conditions for all of us.

If we look at the nations that most oppress women we will find that they bear this out. The norms of misogynistic societies are some or all of the following: early marriage and childbearing, rape, physical abuse, genital mutilation, HIV, infection gross inequality of educational opportunity for girls and the tight grip of orthodox fundamentalist religion. We also find on going wars. The most misogynistic nations currently are, according to UN statistics: Afghanistan, The Congo, Nepal, Sudan, Iraq, Guatemala Mali, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Somalia. Though many within these nations strive to make a better world they have been held back because they are stymied by appalling social conditions. In order to understand why people allow appalling social conditions to exist, we may look at a nation’s treatment of women and mothers and in turn mother’s treatment of their children which does yield clues. In studies of people who became rescuers of Jews rather than passive bystanders to Nazi atrocities, compassion and kind mothering were cited as reasons for compassion rather than conformity to cruelty. See here and here.

If we look at one nation among these nations, Iraq, we will notice that their psychogenic pump broke down in recent history. Iraq used to be the most advanced nation in the Middle East. Before the US invasion, 40% of professional jobs were held by women. The dictator, Saddam Hussein who kept the Mullahs in check and maintained a secular despotism, broke the iron grip of fundamentalist Islam. Women enjoyed greater equality of access to education than their neighbors. Now Iraq is in the toxic grip of a US-initiated war, with its omnipresent violence. Fundamentalist religion enabled by US support has forced girls to stay home from school in terror of rape and violence. Gains are erased.

The same forces that have ruined the future of Iraqis also operate at home. The US is retreating from our former leadership in innovation as our nation instigates endless wars whose funds flow while opportunities are cut because of “insufficient funds.” We have lost our edge on education and innovation. US women must work to survive. We work without the free quality childcare, health care, maternity benefits, paid family time, paid family vacations, and the other guaranteed supports that all other Western industrialized nations provide. US infants are placed in unsafe, unregulated childcare centers or in the temporary custody of whoever will baby-sit cheaply while mother’s at work, and three quarters of US women work outside of the home. Fully 75% of our young children of 11 years old are left all alone after school until their tired parents -usually mothers- return from work. In another dangerous development, according to the Bertelsmann Foundation’s Religion Monitor, the US is the most religious of the advanced industrial nations of the world. Our religious growth is not in religions that reach out to all in a shared spirit of peace, but fundamentalist religions and prosperity gospels that turn a deaf ear to a spirit of peace, tolerance or kindness. We are also, not coincidentally, the least economically egalitarian nation in the Western industrialized world.

North American dreams of advancement and possibility in work and in marriage have broken down in the light of massive cuts in job possibilities. People turn to the irrational when the world of reason and possibility are no longer reasonable. Many North Americans are turning against other groups such as immigrants, or African Americans, or homosexuals, rather than uniting to reclaim our nation for all of us. Every other Western industrialized nation enjoys basic protection for mothers and children. We are alone in so seriously neglecting parents and children.

I believe that our only hope is a new political formation, a movement to create equality of opportunity and an ethical commitment to respect for all. A primary commitment for such a movement is to ensure the family protections that allow the next generation to imagine and create a better world for every facet of our existence.

Article originally appeared on harrietfraad (http://www.harrietfraad.com/).
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