Monday, January 01, 2007

Pink Floyd - Another Brick In The Wall

Excerpt from the Preface of the British edition of For Your Own Good

“Yet there are people who did have a difficult childhood and still presumably were given sufficient opportunity to express themselves so they could become at least partially aware of how they were being manipulated. These people are capable of perceiving the dangers of “poisonous pedagogy,” particularly in our present –day life, and greet my ideas with great relief and hope. In readers letters I frequently come across remarks such as: “At last these things are being brought out into the open. I have felt this myself for a long time but never dared to say it. My whole upbringing was against my perceiving the insincerity and manipulation, the abuse of children by adults, yet I couldn’t help seeing it. I felt so relieved to find that this is no longer a forbidden subject.” People who can talk and write this are unfortunately not in the majority among our contemporaries, but their insight represents for me a hope for a better future in which the vicious circle of abuse might one day be broken.

In the British edition I should like to mention in the connection Pink Floyd’s “The Wall,” since its author, Roger Waters, is himself British. His song “We don’t need no education” achieved worldwide fame among the young in the seventies. Some of my readers have mentioned this song in their letters, and one was even prompted after reading my book to send me a German translation of the full text. I , too, am of the opinion that the words and music of Pink Floyd’s song repeat in their own way much of what I have tried to describe intellectually in
For Your own Good through examples and case histories.

Society’s invisible walls totally block off any awareness of the suffering of the humiliated and manipulated child. It is these walls, which I have tried to describe in my book, that also become visible in Pink Floyd’s song. Their destructive power will persist only as long as their existence is denied by people who live in an illusory, unfeeling world. Such people have been taught from birth to regard these walls as an absolutely essential part of life. But new people will come along who will see these walls, suffer because of them, and struggle against them, thereby calling their inevitability into question.

It is perhaps no coincidence that it was an Englishman who was able to describe these walls so movingly in a work of art and thus reach the hearts of countless young people. This fact proves at any rate that England is not just the land of sanctioned corporal punishment but the home of a critical younger generation able to recognise the poisonous aspects of their upbringing and not balk at describing them for what they are. This requires a measure of tolerance which does not automatically obtain in every country, nor in certain families, where fanatical ideas on child-rearing are applied beginning in infancy. In totalitarian regimes, just as much as in totalitarian family systems, everything that happens to citizen and the child must be accepted as good and just, because any criticism can prove highly dangerous. A little less rigidity and a minimum of democracy are therefore needed if suffering of any citizen in the state and the child in the family is to be articulated to any degree at all. This, of course, does away with the actual injustice just as little as the crimes of the old kings were absolved by Shakespeare’s plays.

Nevertheless, there is a difference between a notion that silently covers up the crimes committed in it’s past and one that creates an environment in which cruelty and injustice can continually be exposed, in order that they do not recur".

By Alice Miller

August 1983

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