March 10, 1995 Halifax Herald

Applying common sense to behaviour modification

Personal problems? Not to worry, a behavioral expert has the answers for you. How many times, particularly over the last four decades, have we heard from this source the ultimate word on such subjects as how to raise children, conduct marital relationships, treat prisoners, and so on? Uncountable, right?

In the 1950s, when Dr. Benjamin Spock and an army of behavioral scientists started coming onto the scene in force, it seems we had societal problems we didn't even know existed. They had all the answers to these unknown problems and undertook to redo society to fit their image of how it should behave and function. In their estimation, all the old values, which had well served the human race since the beginning of time, were flawed and had to be either discarded or fixed; nothing was to be left untouched.

This was so, in spite of these facts: At that time, we still had a situation where one could feel quite safe when walking around the streets of cities, and violent crime was not a major worry. The people were more respectful of each other and they had a much higher regard for law and order. Children were respectful of parents and teachers; government was small and controllable, etc.

Of course, there were things that had to be worked on and conquered at that time. People of colour were widely discriminated against in Canada and in the States, segregation still had to be wrestled to the mat. Sex discrimination was blatant, and other forms of discrimination and oppression were yet to be addressed. However, in my opinion, this situation did not call for the creation of an elite clique that would be viewed as the ultimate authority on how our society should behave and function.

In their teachings, many behavioral experts use a philosophy which decrees that, for every wrong a human being commits there must be a person, thing or incident that is the root cause of it. They cannot appreciate that into this world are born, far more often than we would like to admit, individuals who are perfectly capable of skinning another human being alive for nothing other than the pure pleasure derived from doing it.

If this were not the case, then such monsters as Hernando Cortes, Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, and so on would never have been able to rise to prominence and perpetuate the grisly deeds they did. When reviewing the horrors they committed, we tend to focus on these men as individuals, and ignore the fact that they had tens of thousands of like-minded and loyal individuals who followed them blindly in their drives to lay waste to so much of humanity.

In recent times, I've seen televised and read news stories about people who were victimized by mind control. To say the least, I found it scary and shocking. These stories told of instances where children and adults had been brain-washed by their behavioral engineers into believing that they had been abused by parents or others. The most prominent person to have been falsely accused, to date, has been a Cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church. The engineer, in this case, was so effective that he had the young man believing he had been abused by someone he had never met.

Further, we have, on many occasions, been used as guinea pigs by mind engineers. For instance, one individual expert stated, in a book he wrote in the 1950s, a belief that spanking a child was a no-no. After the passage of several decades, which gave him experience as a father, he recanted his statement on a T.V. interview by revealing he had come to believe that, from time to time, a judicious paddling was in the best interest of the child and much needed. What happened to all the children who had been skipped because of his first pronouncements?

When it comes to raising children, because every parent and every child have different personalities, I don't believe there is a set way to do it. As parents, we find that some children need almost constant discipline and supervision, while others need almost none. As history relates, children who have become the world's monsters or saints have come from all walks of life; there is no set pattern. This same diversity applies to all our interpersonal relationships, and should be kept in mind by those who are trying to find the ultimate written word on how to do something which is mostly dependent upon the application of common sense and personal initiative.

Itís a nice experience to view the world through rose-coloured glasses but, in the end, we have to deal with reality. Part of this reality is that evil is alive in our midst and as such, will continue to be disruptive to law-abiding people for eons to come. With this in mind, when trying to come up with a blueprint for the future, we and behavioral scientists have to accept that to reach the ultimate plateau of ideal human behaviour is probably beyond our ability to realize. This doesn't mean we should stop trying to build a more caring and humane society; it simply means that we need to apply more reason and common sense to our efforts.

Daniel N. Paul


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