This muse is sounding humorless, I know. It is not a pleasant subject, but it is a pleasant resolution. So bear with me.
Besides the thread of war in human existence, we also have a thread of maladaptive individuals living among us, regardless of the political/philosophical/religious/ orientation of a nation. The sum of these problems amounts to a solution.
Let’s ask ourselves, for instance, why do we have pedophiles in our midst? Why do we have those with antisocial personality disorder—an absence of conscience—among us? At the heart of it, I think it’s about rejection—both reality-based and perceived. The rejection/acceptance paradox is so powerful, it is one of the primary motivators—agendas—of human experience and interpretation.
A pedophile is stuck intimately interacting with certain underage groups. And their preferences seem to remain within a small age range. They are unable to intimately relate with people outside of those age ranges, even if their ability to relate to those within the preferred range is itself inappropriate. It’s as though pedophiles get stuck for some reason. My understanding (it’s not a novel thought) is that rejection has reared its ugly head at the age level just above where they’re stuck. So they rerun the previous stage over and over again, preying—often without knowing their predatory ways—upon the innocence in the pedophile’s preferred age range.
A person with antisocial personality disorder seems to get stuck as well, and likely at an early age. But they don’t prey on specific age groups, they just prey—often without knowing their predatory ways (it’s an ego-syntonic issue—they’re fine, everyone else is at fault). Again, rejection may be the key.
In both cases, another component, along with rejection, may be the lack of neural maturity, an inability of the intellectual and emotional centers of the brain to learn from rejection and move on.
Don’t get me wrong—I’m not saying we can do much, if anything, about pedophiles and antisocial personality disorder once it develops. But I am saying that we can do a lot to prevent these disorders in the first place. In fact, I’m saying that we can mitigate much of the negative behaviors that can drive human beings if we understand the power of rejection—and the threat of ostracization—as a tool to control ourselves and others.
Lots of goofy, bleeding-heart liberalism, eh? Didn’t I just say that that both pedophilia and antisocial personality disorder may involve a neural component? How can we do anything about the “failure” of neurology, short of medication?
Well, when we’re talking about prevention, we’re not dealing with “failure,” we’re dealing with development. Sometimes our biology and our neurology are impeded by the context in which we’re developing.
All right, let’s pretend that at some point we’ve figured out how to reduce the impact of rejection and the threat of ostracization upon healthy development. Won’t we still need to remove people who threaten themselves and or others from society? And won’t that societal dictum keep rejection/ostracization in play?
Well, what’s our agenda? What we’ve got now is we are either accepted, still being vetted, rejected on some level, or ostracized altogether. I offer that a failure of behavior not be treated as a failure of character—even if it is. If we have to incarcerate someone, let’s keep them productive—find what they can and will do to contribute rather than just have them sitting around lifting weights and getting schooled at what amounts to Crime University. They can be kept in detention, but not kept on ice.
Ostracizing does no one any good. If we’re going to reject, we reject behavior, not character, not another’s being. And we learn that rejection does not mean ostracizing—it means someone doesn’t agree with us. What I am saying is that both behaviors and biology can be altered by rejection and certainly by the threat of ostracization. We don’t have to accept errant behaviors, but we do have to accept each other if we want a better world. To do that, we need to learn how to reject and how to be rejected and we need to learn it yesterday. And we need to take the threat of ostracization off the weapon’s list.
Okay—that’s the muse, and if you don’t like it, to heck with ya.