I’ve Come A Long Way

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“Balancing on My Toes” is an original column appearing every other Friday at Everything-Voluntary.com, by Angel M. Ethell. Angel lives in the Chicagoland area with her family: sons Teen (13) and Lil G (2) along with their little sister Cassie Pie (dog), and her partner Daddy G. She loves learning new things along with learning that she might not always be right… 100% of the time. Archived columns can be found here. BMT-only RSS feed available here.

I had a bad day today. Yesterday too. This was caused by a disagreement I had with my significant other and although an action plan for resolution was developed I was still feeling pretty cranky about it. I have to admit I was unpleasant and some things that would not normally upset me as much really made me mad. My older son stayed up all night playing video games but left all the lights on in the house all night. There was an issue where I became short and upset and I was kinda yelly. I don’t mean to be but sometimes I forget myself. Many people would tell me that this is fine. My cup needed filling and my unmet needs were manifesting in yelling at people I care about; that once in a while is forgivable and I should not feel too bad as long as I apologize. There are others that may say I was not setting a good example and I should not be showing my children such an undesirable way to behave; that I should have never let it get to that point in the first place.

The Truth is, They are Both Right

There was a time in my life where this foul mood would have set me off for days and I would yell and scream and not be able to control myself. I wasn’t really in control. As a child I was not given the tools to control my emotions nor was I given an example of how things are supposed to be. My parents were yellers. The rage yelling is all me though. So many years of suppression of emotions damaged my ability to control that part of my anger without some recognition and desire to be different. This desire to be different came recently. I wanted to stop yelling and try to learn a little patience. And learning some self-control has been rocky, but it is coming.

So Where Did It Come From?

One concept helped me more than anything else with understanding how to control myself. That concept is Self-Ownership. I am in control. My Step Father used to say, “You are in control of your own destiny,” mostly when he wanted to sound wise, but this ultimate truth is what led me to realize that it is no longer some one else’s fault. Everything I do is all me. I am an adult and it was time I started acting like the adult I wanted to be. I am in control. I do something great, I own it. I am proud and try to build on that, but if I do something not so great, I own that, too. How else are we going to grow and change if we do not take ownership of our faults too?

We Cannot, That’s How

There was once a time where I was so unpleasant for a long periods that my partner challenged me to 30 days without yelling at him. I almost wish I could go back to my younger self and tell her that there is a more peaceful future at my own fingertips if I only let it happen. Disappointment in life and almost every situation led me to be so cantankerous, but the problem is not disappointment, it was expectation and bad communication. I had to learn not to have expectations of others that I did not specifically outline and to communicate my intentions and expectations better. And I’m improving at that. It is happening for me but now because of so many years of bad control and blaming others for my lack of happiness I am starting to see how it affected my older son growing up. He has little self-control and visibly suppresses anger when he is mad for one reason or another.

He’s a Teen so These Emotions are Exacerbated, But…

Because of my lack of control he not only learned that that behavior is acceptable, he also suffered like I did through the episodes of verbal abuse and fury of his parent. And that is sad because it is not a cycle I would have wanted to pass on if I knew I was going to. Its sad only now I’m realizing this. I am just beginning to be the person I want to be and its not too late for my older son. Which is great. My younger son however will benefit greatly for having a Mother that realized she really was in control of her own destiny.


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They’re Catching On

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“Balancing on My Toes” is an original column appearing every other Friday at Everything-Voluntary.com, by Angel M. Ethell. Angel lives in the Chicagoland area with her family: sons Teen (13) and Lil G (2) along with their little sister Cassie Pie (dog), and her partner Daddy G. She loves learning new things along with learning that she might not always be right… 100% of the time. Archived columns can be found here. BMT-only RSS feed available here.

Its working! There was a news article this week at CNN that describes in a scientific, no nonsense way about how spanking children decreases their ability to control themselves because it decreases the amount of grey matter, a type of brain tissue, that forms which helps them self-regulate. In my opinion there are many things wrong with spanking a child and the first and foremost is because it is damaging to their healthy development. There are many countries around the world that have laws that protect children from this kind of harm but in America there seems to be almost a blindness to the problem.

“And that’s what’s wrong with kids these days…”

Have you heard this one? I have heard this followed by some of the most ridiculous statements. There is nothing wrong with teaching real respect instead of fear. There is nothing wrong with teaching a child a little empathy and compassion. These are the traits that take a child into adulthood prepared for their life ahead. Teaching a child to fear punitive punishment damages their ability and desire to self-regulate. This puts in them a sense of outside control, therefore they can actually believe that they act because of outside forces, not because they desired to perform or react in a certain way. An example of this would be blaming a sibling for having to walk over gravel when they were the one that chose to not put their shoes on when they went to go fetch them. This self-control is exactly the thing that is so valuable for mature adult life, and spanking and shaming really do contribute to an imbalance in this development.

“But I was spanked and I’m just fine…”

Okay, I’m pulling out the old hat example of how these things are passed along, but there needs to be an end to the cycle. Moms raise children who have children. Parents are trusted and advice is asked. This is fine and great for small things: diaper changes, and pajama choices, but there needs to be clear instruction on how to parent without the use of violence and threats to control. The reason there needs to be clear guidelines and help in place for instruction and support is because so many of us adults are taught that children are annoying bothers to be dealt with. I say we change that old way of thinking and start really giving our children the start in life they deserve.

Because after all, spanking and shaming are a form of bullying and no one likes a bully…

Parents that spank teach their children through behavior modeling that is its okay to hit others and shame them in front of their peers. Embarrassment can have severe lasting effects just like spanking, but can be made public which can give other bullies ammunition for tearing others down. Spanking is about anger and loss of control. If a parent were taught to regulate their own emotions then the children watching them would too.

Final Thoughts

There is a lot of science that says spanking and other punitive punishment is harmful to children. Unfortunately there is a large gap between what is known and what is practiced. There is a great battle to be fought if we are going to protect all children. Until then it is our job to continue to spread knowledge and model understanding and gentle parenting to those that need the role model and instruction.


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Learning A Little Disappointment

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“Balancing on My Toes” is an original column appearing every other Friday at Everything-Voluntary.com, by Angel M. Ethell. Angel lives in the Chicagoland area with her family: sons Teen (13) and Lil G (2) along with their little sister Cassie Pie (dog), and her partner Daddy G. She loves learning new things along with learning that she might not always be right… 100% of the time. Archived columns can be found here. BMT-only RSS feed available here.

Life can be rough sometimes. As adults we go through our lives and face many small disappointments throughout the day. The pop machine is out of our caffeine infusion of choice. We sigh and pick another one and move on. We get stuck in traffic and that is never fun. There are so many trials every day that thinking of them can make the head spin. In the morning the milk is gone, or my personal favorite, with just a few drops left in the container, or our mascara runs dry. These are frustrating things. Frustration is an emotion that many people are familiar with for most people are not so relaxed and ‘go with the flow’ types that they seldom feel its heavy weight. Children seem to feel disappointment more keenly than adults. Sometimes to the point that it seems silly to adults, but they sure do seem to be going through some things sometimes don’t they? And what do they do? They cry. They sometimes throw things and throw a fit and sometimes get very worked up.

Why do They Do This? Is it to Drive Us Crazy?

Of course not, but it sure seems like it sometimes. So as an adult what do you do? A parent that uses more ‘traditional’ parenting methods may get angry and begin yelling. They may even begin hitting their children. I’ve been victim to it; it happens. This parent may even say things like “I’ll give you something to cry about!” It is apparent in these methods that some parents were once children with very bad examples themselves. What is the culprit here? Lack of self control and patience and lack of a model of preferable behavior.

These children that are having troubles and that are met without compassion are truly at a disadvantage in life. Disappointment is a real feeling. Something that has to be worked through by those small minds and understood. If a child is made to repress those feelings and learns that their feelings and desires are not valid, they may have a harder time processing emotion as an adult and may even have trouble making decisions based on personal desire and not desire to please. Desire to please is tricky. A child may learn the desire to please the adults in its life but that may lead to something innocent as indecisiveness over a dinner location or much more dangerous than that; create a person that is so trained to repress emotion and disappointment they become a victim in their relationships.

That is a Huge Jump Though

So lets focus on some alternatives to traditional parenting methods for dealing with tantrums rooted in disappointment. Staying calm is the best thing a parent can do when a small child is experiencing big emotions. This provides a model of behavior to discuss and practice so that your child can reach a calm state where some reason can be resumed. Speak gently to a child that wants that cookie. Tell her that you understand that she wants the cookie and that you think cookies are delicious too, but that lunch comes first so if she wants the cookie she must eat some lunch. Then provide a safe place for her to process those feelings and return to calm. This gives the child a sense of security. As the child grows older a parent can talk about times when they have been disappointed. This is a powerful tool to help them understand that although there is disappointment it does not have to ruin a perfectly good day. Modeling this behavior is another tool. When a parent is disappointed in a child a conversation can be started about how even though you are disappointed you still love them unconditionally. This sets them up for success later when they have children that are having big emotions that seem silly. And another powerful tool to help children deal with disappointment is empathy and validation. Communicate that their desires are appropriate and valid. “I understand you want that cookie. Cookies are delicious. Mommy wants a cookie too but she hasn’t eaten her lunch yet. Now do you want to sit here with Mommy and eat so we can have cookies together?” Communication is essential for them to understand what is going on in their little brains.

Kids are Going to Face Disappointment

That is reality. Adults have more self control so we don’t express it as much but adults are allowed to be disappointed and so too should children be so that they can learn that the world does not end because they are disappointed. I don’t teach my son to share. Why? Because in the real world people get together and if someone refuses to let you borrow something you want you are not going to throw a fit. No, probably you should not have asked in the first place. I encourage my son to share his toys, but I teach him that it is okay to be disappointed if someone is playing with something that they do not want to share. I also teach him that if he does not feel like sharing he does not have to because its his stuff, but that is another discussion.

My Thoughts on the Subject

I think kids should be taught to handle disappointment. I believe it will help to solve entitlement issues that have seemed to develop over the last couple decades here in America. If I model appropriate behavior and stay calm during ‘I want something’ tantrums then my son will learn how to act when another person, or his child is throwing a fit or at the very least understand why he just cannot have everything that he desires. I believe that setting boundaries and sticking to them is best for my family but I am also very caring and comforting during these difficult times as well. I do what I can to mitigate disappointment as much as I can and am dong the best I can with everything else that comes our way.

What are your thoughts on entitlement and teaching children to handle disappointment?


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Los Fundamentos de Voluntarismo

Escrito por Carl Watner. Traducido por Pace Ellsworth, del original en Inglés, que se encuentra aquí.

El voluntarismo es la doctrina de que las relaciones entre las personas deben basarse sobre el mutuo acuerdo, y de ninguna otra forma. Representa un medio, un fin, y una visión. El voluntarismo no planta a forma específica de los acuerdos voluntarios; sólo que la fuerza sea abandonada para que las personas en la sociedad puedan prosperar. Siendo que son los medios que conducen al punto final, debe ser en forma voluntaria que uno busca el objetivo de una sociedad toda voluntaria. Las personas no pueden ser compelidos a aceptar la libertad. Por lo tanto el mercado libre, la educación, la persuasión y la resistencia no violenta son las formas principales de cambiar las ideas que la gente mantiene sobre el Estado. La visión voluntarista de que toda la tiranía y el gobierno se basan en el acuerdo común explica por qué los medios voluntarios son suficientes para lograr tal fin.

El Argumento Epistemológico

La violencia nunca lleva al conocimiento. Como Isabel Paterson explica en su libro, The God of the Machine, “Ningún edicto de ley pueda impartir a un individuo una facultad negada por la naturaleza. Una orden del gobierno no puede reparar una fractura en la pierna, pero sí puede ordenar la mutilación de un cuerpo sano. No puede impartir la inteligencia, pero sí puede prohibir el uso de la inteligencia.” O, como Baldy Harper solía decir, “¡Es imposible matar la verdad a balas!” El defensor de cualquier forma de violencia invasiva se halla en una situación lógicamente precaria. La coerción no convence, ni es ningún tipo de argumento. William Godwin señaló que la fuerza “es contrario a la naturaleza de la inteligencia, que no puede ser mejorada sino por la convicción y la persuasión” y “si el que emplea la coerción contra mí me pudiera moldear a sus fines por medio de argumentos, sin duda, lo habría hecho… El cree castigarme con la fuerza de su argumento, pero en verdad me castiga con su flaqueza.” La violencia no contiene ninguna de las energías que potencian una sociedad humana civilizada. Al máximo es capaz de expandir la existencia material de unos pocos individuos, mientras que reduce las oportunidades de la mayoría de los demás.

El Argumento Económico

Las personas se involucran en intercambios voluntarios porque anticipan mejorar su suerte; las únicas personas capaces de juzgar los méritos de un intercambio son los participantes. El voluntarismo sigue naturalmente si nadie hace nada para detenerlo. La interacción de los bienes naturales y los intercambios se traducen en un sistema de precios del mercado libre, que transmite la información necesaria para tomar decisiones económicas inteligentes. El intervencionismo y el colectivismo hacen imposible el cálculo económico, ya que alteran el sistema de precios del mercado libre. Hasta la intervención más pequeña del gobierno conduce a problemas que justifican la convocatoria de más y más intervención. También, economías “controladas” no dejan lugar a nuevos inventos, nuevas formas de hacer las cosas, o para el concurso “imprevisible e impredecible.” La competición del mercado libre es un proceso de aprendizaje que nos lleva a resultados que nadie puede saber de antemano. No hay manera de saber cuánto daño se ha hecho o que continuará siendo realizado por las restricciones políticas.

El Argumento Moral

El principio voluntario nos asegura que la posibilidad de eligir lo peor existe junta con la posibilidad de elegir el mejor. Nos ofrece la oportunidad de mejorar las cosas, aunque no garantiza los resultados. Mientras que dicta que no forcemos nuestra idea de “lo mejor” sobre otra persona, nos protege de la imposición forzosa de un ideal ajeno. El uso de la coerción para obligar la virtud elimina su posibilidad, porque para ser moral, un acto debe occurir libre de coerción. Si una persona se ve compelida a actuar de una manera determinada (o amenazada con sanciones del gobierno), no hay nada virtuoso en cuanto a su comportamiento. La libertad de elección es un ingrediente necesario para alcanzar la virtud. Cada vez que haya una oportunidad para la buena vida, el riesgo de una mala también tiene que ser aceptada.

El Argumento de la Ley Natural

El sentido común y la razón nos dicen que ninguna promulgación legislativa puede hacer justo lo que no es ya justo por naturaleza. Epicteto, el estoico, instó a los hombres a desafiar a los tiranos de una manera tal que la necesidad del gobierno en sí quede en duda. “Si el gobierno les ordenara hacer algo que su razón ponía, tuvieran que desafiar al gobierno. Si se les dijera que hicieran lo que su razón les habría dicho hacer de todos modos, no tendrían necesidad de un gobierno. ”Así como nosotros no requerimos un estado para dictar lo que está bien o mal en el cultivo de alimentos, en la de fabricación de textiles, o en la fabricación de acero, no necesitamos un gobierno para dictar las normas y procedimientos en cualquier campo de actividad. “A pesar de la legislatura, la nieve caerá cuando el sol está en Capricornio, y las flores florecerán cuando está en Cáncer.”

El Argumento de los Medios y Fines

Aunque ciertas servicios y bienes son necesarios para nuestra supervivencia, no es esencial que el gobierno los provea. Los voluntaristas oponen al Estado, ya que utiliza medios coercitivos. Los medios son las semillas que brotan como una flor y crecen hacia la fruición. Es imposible plantar la semilla de la coerción y luego recoger la flor del voluntarismo. El coerciónista siempre propone obligar a la gente a hacer algo, generalmente para aprobar leyes o elegir a políticos. Estas leyes y funcionarios dependen de la violencia física para imponer su voluntad. Medios voluntarios, como la resistencia no violenta, no violan los derechos de nadie. Sólo sirven para anular las leyes y los políticos al ignorarlos. El voluntarismo no requiere que la gente derroque violentamente a su gobierno, o utilice el proceso electoral para cambiarlo; simplemente que dejen de apoyar a su gobierno, por lo cual se caerá por su propio peso. Si uno sigue los medios apropiados, el fin se hará cargo de sí mismo.

El Argumento de la Consistencia

Es una observación comuna que los medios usados deben ser consistentes con el objetivo que se busca. Es imposible “guerrear por la paz“ o “luchar contra la política con convertirse a político.“ La libertad y la propiedad privada son conceptos íntegros e indivisibles que son arriesgados donde y cuando existe el Estado. Puesto que todas las cosas están relacionadas entre sí en nuestro mundo social tan complicado, si la libertad o la propiedad privada de un hombre pueden ser violadas (sin respeto a la justificación), entonces la libertad y la propiedad de todos los hombres son inseguras. El hombre superior sólo puede estar seguro de su libertad si el hombre inferior está seguro en sus derechos. A menudo nos olvidamos de que podemos asegurar nuestra libertad sólo por protegerla para el más despreciable y odioso entre nosotros, para no establecer precedentes que puedan llegar a nosotros.

El Argumento de la Integridad, el Autocontrol y la Corrupción

Es un hecho de la naturaleza humana que la única persona que puede pensar con tu cerebro eres tú. Ni puede una persona ser obligada a hacer nada en contra de su voluntad, porque cada persona es últimamente responsable por sus propias acciones. Los gobiernos tratan de aterrorizar a los individuos hasta que se sometan a la tiranía por capturar a sus cuerpos como rehenes y tratar de destruir a sus espíritus. Esta estrategia no tiene éxito en contra de la persona que albergue la actitud estoica ante la vida, y que se niegue a permitir que el dolor perturbe la ecuanimidad de su mente y el ejercicio de la razón. Un gobierno puede destruir el cuerpo o la propiedad de uno, pero no puede dañar a la propia filosofía de la vida. Además, el voluntarista rechaza el uso del poder político, ya que sólo puede ser ejercido cuando uno o sostiene implícitamente o utiliza la violencia para alcanzar sus fines. El poder de hacer el bien a los demás es también el poder de hacerles daño. El poder para obligar a la gente, para controlar las vidas de los demás — de esto se trata el poder político. Viola todos los principios básicos del voluntarismo: el poder no justifica; el fin nunca justifica los medios; ni tampoco puede una persona interferir en la vida de otro. Aún la cantidad más pequeña de poder político es peligroso. En primer lugar, reduce la capacidad de algunas personas de dirigir su propia vida a su manera. Segundo, y más importante desde el punto de vista voluntarista, es el efecto que esto tiene sobre la persona que maneja el poder: le corrompe el carácter.

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When Did That Happen?

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“Balancing on My Toes” is an original column appearing every other Friday at Everything-Voluntary.com, by Angel M. Ethell. Angel lives in the Chicagoland area with her family: sons Teen (13) and Lil G (2) along with their little sister Cassie Pie (dog), and her partner Daddy G. She loves learning new things along with learning that she might not always be right… 100% of the time. Archived columns can be found here. BMT-only RSS feed available here.

My older son is fourteen years old. He is a typical teen: he smells bad, looks greasy, would exist on junk food if he could and lives on video game time. Pretty typical. He is also graduating Junior High in a few days! When did that happen? This child makes me very proud. He has been though more than I ever wished him to although he did have a better upbringing than mine. I have explained before that I only recently found radical attentive patenting (or attachment parenting) and wish I could go back and change many situations in his life.

Some Things You Don’t Even Realize Will Be Harmful

I wish I could change the spanking. I cannot. With the spanking came yelling and shaming. These are terribly damaging things to children and the side effects can last a lifetime. I wish I could change schooling and homeschool him. My older son had a rough time in school even back in daycare. He was the kid that got bit, and the kid that acted out. He was not singled out many times, but his inability to sit still was a detriment. He had to go to daycare so I could work and go to school as I was a young Mom. I wish I could change his nutritional path; breastfeeding past a few months after bad advice from my then doctor, but the thing I would change if I had only one thing to do all over again would be to not have been away from him so much. I thought I had to at the time. This made him very insecure. Separation anxiety lead to real stress when he was younger although he always calmed once I had been gone a while. It didn’t help that I didn’t sleep with him, but we did room share out of necessity, but even still he had very little attachment to me even though I didn’t know it.

But Let’s Zoom Past Early Childhood

Once my older son hit about 5th grade he began to catch up to his peers. He was always a bit delayed, but not tremendously so. The previous year he was put on the Asperger’s spectrum (although later he was taken off) and given an IEP which basically admits that not all children learn in the homogenous classroom and need other options. He would cycle during the school year between compliant, eager and resistant. Later after he was taken off the spectrum he was given a diagnosis of oppositional defiant disorder, ODD. They call this a disorder, but when I did my research I found this was no disorder at all, this was the result of his traditional upbringing. Mistrust of authority, not complying with rules or circumstances even to his detriment, and no intrinsic motivation to do much of anything let alone what some authority figure tells him: these all stem from his detachment and negative attention. Kids learn to believe they only deserve negative attention so they will seek it out to fill their need. I wish I could have given him the love he needed to overcome those issues.

But There Are Things I Would Not Change

My son is a giver. At least before teen age set in. He would give his last anything to the people he cared about. He would willingly give hugs and kisses to his family and he loved to cuddle. He would always share his Halloween candy with his friends and family and was never greedy about it. And he is so loving. He is chill too. Often times as long as we talk about the things we are going to do in a day before he sets his heart on video games for the whole day and I can convince him to help do a chore or two before he leaves for la la land. He is a good person. He needs to be reminded once in a while to not be offensive while his brother is in the room, but on the whole this is a kid that would be a really great friend if he had the developed social skills to do so. That by the way is another aspect of traditional parenting that I have learned is harmful for a child’s future.

Even Though He Is Older I Am Now Trying To Make Our Connections

As I parent of my younger son I feel bad sometimes because my older son sees the way I am with him. The old techniques I ask him to not use. I can see his brain thinking they were good enough for him, so I have had that conversation with him a few times. I have told him he did not deserve the treatment he got as a child, but that I really didn’t know better. He kind of understands, but it is going to take a while to really understand fully, and that is okay. There is still culture that exists between us that I am moving to change. These things are triggers from my childhood I’m guessing. I was always yelled at and shown no patience and that comes out in our interactions sometimes. I am working every day to not yell and think with empathy which is actually happening. Slowly, but happening still. I am learning to think about situations from his point of view and giving patience. I have to try really hard because it does not come natural to me but I’m getting there and Joe will end up growing up to be an exemplary adult male. Of that I am positive.

To Sum Up My Point

It is not too late. We can watch our children grow up or we can actively participate in their upbringing. It does make a difference in their lives, but its never too late to try attached, gentle parenting. I would even say if your children are adults it is still not too late to begin the process of attachment so that you can really enjoy any grandchildren that come along. For the last two and a half years I have been working to educate and empower myself for my children. No, I did not start as early as I now wish I had, but we cannot change the past we can only shape the future. Its your future. Shape it. Model it and make the world a better place for future generations. It can happen.


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Dissing the Rich for Fun, Profit, and Public Policy

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“Win-Win World” is an original column appearing sporadically on Thursdays at Everything-Voluntary.com, by Russell L. Roth. Russell is a 30-year marketing veteran and graduate of Jay Snelson’s “Science of Human Interaction” course (he calls it “Win/Win 101”). He has owned and operated businesses in advertising, real estate and internet marketing. He holds a degree in Studio Art from the State University of New York and is seeking a music publisher for his portfolio of original Country/Folk fusion songs. A native of Central New York state, Russell currently resides in southern California with his wife, Valerie. Archived columns can be found here. WWW-only RSS feed available here.

I enjoy going online and engaging anti-Win-Win Worlders in discussions on Objectivism and libertarianism. I strongly suggest it for Voluntaryists, libertarians and Objectivists who have strong stomachs for ad hominem and false premises. Of course, I don’t hope for one minute that my little outreach will end up changing the minds of my adversaries. But it keeps my mind sharp. And by engaging in this public activity, perhaps some onlooker will be given cause to at least ponder what a Win-Win World might be like.

Recently in one of these sessions I encountered an individual who described herself as working for an agency that sets homeless people up with a place to stay. She asked me to take a look at an opinion article written by Daniel Goleman and provide her with my reaction.

Survey Said: Rich Folk Don’t Care

The essay was entitled, “Rich People Just Care Less” and was posted on The New York Times (surprised?) web site. The editorial began: “Turning a blind eye. Giving someone the cold shoulder. Looking down on people. Seeing right through them.”

I knew right there that I was in for a real treat.

So I read on. It turns out that “a growing body of recent research shows that people with the most social power pay scant attention to those with little power.” Researchers arranged get-acquainted sessions between high- and low-power folks and found that the “higher-status people” showed fewer signals of paying attention, and were more likely to “express disregard” and “take over the conversation and interrupt or look past the other speaker.”

The piece went on to report that this type of activity occurs even when we of lesser power have contact with those of lesser power than ourselves. So it isn’t just the upper 1% of us who are supposedly committing these interpersonal transgressions… it’s everyone but the absolute lowest guy on the totem pole. I guess he has to resort to kicking the dog… if he hasn’t already eaten it.

What’s more, a portion of this “growing body of recent research” indicates that “the more-powerful were less compassionate toward the hardships described by the less powerful.” It went on to say, “in general, we focus the most on those we value the most.” Poor folk are “better in tune with interpersonal relationships because they have to be.”

And the Moral of the Story is…

Goleman, and the researchers, then make the predictable leap: that the findings “suggest implications” in the forming of public policy. No proof as to the veracity of this claim is offered, of course. The connection is not scientifically made. Regardless, the writer goes on to infer this to be the reason for “the insistence by some House Republicans…. on impeding the implementation of Obamacare”. Heavens! You mean the House Democrats, who pushed it, have less social power than the Republicans? If it’s all simply a matter of income, what makes the Dems so damn compassionate?

One more fun surprise. The article admits a good portion of this research was done jointly by researchers at the University of Amsterdam and the University of California at Berkeley.

So you see where I’m going with this. This essay, and the research that spawned it, are textbook examples of liberal prejudice. First of all, “researchers” have no business suggesting and implying anything. All they are qualified to do, and all they ought to do is present the results of their research and let the rest of us draw whatever implications we can from their work. If it’s good solid research, it will speak for itself. Don’t overstep the boundaries of your research by speculating. That’s not the job of a scientist. Of course, no one among us would argue that they are scientists in the first place, I’m sure. But I’m just as sure they consider themselves to be.

One of the things that convinces me something is awry is the fact that the researchers and opinion writer use the terms “wealth” and “social power” interchangeably. Excuse me, but where is it proven that richer people necessarily have higher social power and poorer ones necessarily have less? What exactly is social power, anyway? When did this concept get invented, and who invented it? The article fails to address these issues assuming, I suppose, that these “truths” are a priori. But it seems to me that equating a financial or economic concept (“rich”) to a social concept (“social power”) simply begs some explanation.

No one can accuse liberals of the sin of being overly precise.

Another thing. Taking a step back, is it just me, or do liberals seem to have an unhealthy preoccupation with power? They appear to view social issues in terms of a battle between who they perceive to be the oppressed and the oppressors, between themselves and those who do not share their views, or those who try to hold their feet to the fire of rationalism. Liberals always seem to look for the differences, not the similarities. This is not the outlook of someone who wishes to work in good faith with all interested parties to find solutions that improve conditions. It’s not the outlook of someone who wishes to form alliances and engage in voluntary trade. It’s the outlook of a bully spoiling for a fight. This is win-lose philosophy in action. I am happy to grant their wish.

What’s the Why?

So, since apparently Goleman and the researchers are attaching a positive value to the ability to empathize, in the interest of fairness let’s turn the tables. Let’s now empathize with the rich as well as the poor. As much as I suspect the aforementioned researchers and article author would disapprove, I have done some independent thinking on this. Here are a few thoughts about the results of the study from the standpoint of the “socially powerful”.

Richer folk don’t pay as much attention to poorer folk as poorer pay to richer. Have I overlooked something, or does this not seem obvious and even, dare I say, a bit natural? After all, common sense tells us that we all have this “what’s in it for me?” outlook. Why on earth would I be interested in dealing (trading) with someone who has little or nothing to offer? Why would I not be more interested in dealing with someone who has equal or greater resources than I? This explains both the conclusion and its corollary: poorer people relate better because the potential for reward is so much greater.

Another reason for the apparent disparity in ability to concentrate upon the woes of others – admittedly a more cynical one – might be that many poor people have little to do all day long, other than involve themselves in personal relationships. Most wealthier people have precious little time for social pleasantries… they’re too busy struggling to acquire and protect their resources. Sure, I know that Hispanic “immigrants” clean our toilets. That’s tough work. Some hold down two or more jobs and have large families at home. I’ll bet those guys don’t have time to say “boo”, either.

Here’s one of my favorite explanations for the results of the research. The free market (including ones that are only kind of free, like ours) tends to favor the successful over the less successful. It’s social Darwinism (in its original, non-pejorative sense); societies that value success over failure are likelier to survive and thrive than those celebrating widespread failure. I suspect we are all hard-wired to revere and emulate the more successful, and avoid the less successful. Who wants to take the chance that failure will rub off on them?

As a matter of fact, I think for the purposes of the opinion piece, instead of rich v. poor, more social power v. less social power, the writer should have used the terms “more successful” and “less successful”. And then, of course, they should have defined what they meant by “successful.” This would have removed much of the taint of liberal bias that I am detecting.

Here’s another possible reason for the attention disparity. The successful are continually hit up with pleas and coercive demands to share the proceeds of their success—while receiving little or nothing in return. I think those of us who are less successful have utterly no idea of the kind of pressure this places on the more successful. They may attempt to deal with this pressure by keeping the rest of us at physical and emotional arm’s length. Who can blame them? As the research shows, I’d do the exact same thing myself in their shoes.

Any or all of these ideas could be the reasons behind the findings, such as they are. The author gives us very little information on the sources of this research, its methodology and any possible researcher bias. We are virtually powerless to check it first hand to independently judge the veracity of the findings. Any writing that presents research findings and suggests implications, but doesn’t give you a way to verify, is strongly suspect.

Regardless of all this, when it comes to performing and reporting this type of research, to paraphrase the Borg, persistence is futile. Research into the relationship between the rich and the poor as it relates to the formation of public policy becomes irrelevant in a Win-Win World. Of course, some folks will always gather greater resources than others in such a society. But without a state to act as nanny and redistribute wealth, the “suggesting” about implications on public policy is moot. There will be no public policy. Financial differences between individuals will be an accepted condition. Those wishing to increase their resources, wealth or “social power” will be free to utilize their intelligence and hard work to achieve the desired success. And studies such as the those discussed in the essay will share a place in the dustbin of history.

I can’t hardly wait.


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