Nothing reminded her of the solemn festivities of her childhood that had filled her with illusions about her family. Although she did not celebrate Christmas anymore, Maria enjoyed herself at a very different kind of Christmas party in Mexico. There were Mariachis singing, there was dancing and then a delicious meal with a welcome chance to talk with others beyond just formalities. During in a conversation about global warming, where her friend Sam was explaining the latest shocking news to her and Juan, a woman sitting quite removed at the end of the table suddenly interfered: “Oh Sam, are you again spreading the truth? Come one, stop it. We have had enough of it. This is not the time; no one wants to hear it.”
There was a moment of silence between the three – what had just happened? Then Sam continued with his voice softened to tell that scientists, who recently had traveled below the Artic ice shield, had found out that it is getting thinner at even a much more rapid pace than previously feared. He informed them about the devastating consequences for the oceans. When the ice Artic shield melts, it cannot reflect any longer those large amounts of sunrays, which this enormous field of ice used to send back, away from the earth. Instead, the oceans have to absorb them and will get warmer even more quickly.
Maria is very concerned about Global warming and her children and grandchildren’s lives on an endangered planet where the future of mankind was threatened by all sorts of problems and disasters resulting from global warming. So a year ago, she installed on the roof of her house a photovoltaic system that provides all the electricity she needs, except for cloudy days and when guests stay with her. Then she returns to the grid to recharge the solar system’s batteries for an hour or two. She has also learned to use electricity more efficiently. The washer and electric dryer only run when there is sunshine and at night, only one lamp lights the house. She has hardly used any gas to heat her hot water because she now takes showers, so that there is almost always enough hot water for all the needs in the house. Reflecting on those satisfying changes and indignant about the intolerant, rude interference, she decides to write an article about her solar system, how she feels about it and how it has changed her life.
Now it was time to play a game and the twenty or more party guests gathered in a big circle inside of the house, in the living room. Each guest had brought to the party a gift for a small amount of money; they were all wrapped and gathered under the unusual, feisty, bright red Christmas tree sparkling with red electric lights. Each guest had picked a number and the one who had number one opened the first gift. The others followed, unwrapping the gifts, and if they did not like their gift, they could go around and take another gift that they liked better from someone else. The most popular gifts were a bottle of Tequila and a pretty vase.
Just as with global warming, Maria is concerned with the violence that leads to so much needless suffering and killing all over our planet. She is engaged to work to create awareness about the suffering of children and how physical and emotional violence against children creates violent and cruel adults. The gift that she had brought to the party was a book that had been given to her as a Christmas gift twenty-five years ago by her mother. “For Your Own Good” was the most important, influential book she had read in her life. It had a life-changing impact on her life. She understood how cruelly she had been treated as a child and that the beatings and degradations, which she had endured as a child had not been “for her own good.” Thus, a strong and profound change had happened inside of her that steered the course of her life into a new direction: She had felt as if her mind and body had become connected because something that she had always known deep inside could read her brain and turned into conscious knowledge. She had often given this book to other people, and as Christmas celebrates the birth of a child, she thought it to be a good thing to reach the minds and souls of someone else with this invaluable information about childhood.
So together with a nice address book, “For Your Own Good” waited in a pretty bag under the Christmas tree. Walter chose this bag when it was his turn. As he sat, with Yolanda between them, almost next to her, Maria did not observe his reaction. Suddenly, she saw the book in the hands of a woman obliquely opposite from her. Becky looked at it with disgust and shook her head, as if someone had handed her a piece of crap. The book was passed back to Walter who put it back into the bag with the intention to hide it, as if it was a shameful thing or some kind of garbage that he had to hide, and he commented: “This book should be burned.”
Maria froze with horror. She had expected that some people would not be interested in this book, but this offensive and cruel reaction stunned her. Where she came from, in her country of origin, sixty years ago, barbaric people had burned piles and piles of books with derisive scorn and jeering if they contained unwanted and hated truth and creativity. It was one of the many dark crimes that marked her country’s past and that had set her mind on the quest for answers how they were caused. Of all the many books she had read to find answers, “For Your Own Good” was the only one that made real sense to her because it showed so clearly how physical and emotional violence and hatred are inflicted and thus taught to children. Over the years, she realized more and more how this unconscionable violence is committed without a bad conscience by parents, teachers and other authorities, often also religious authorities, all over the world in the euphemistic disguise of “education” and “discipline,” filling children with guilt and fear.
The memory of the burning books and the evil intentions and characters of those people, who were capable of unspeakable crimes, cut through Maria’s heart. Had she shown how she truly felt and what she truly thought as a child, she would have been attacked in similar hurtful, degrading ways. So at first, the old childhood guilt – that she must have committed a terrible offense for expressing the truth – kept her quiet with fear. Her first reaction were still, sadly, the child’s adaptation and desire to be a “good girl” that does not disturb a Christmas party with her shock and anger over this insult. She could not even think of asking: “Why would you burn this book?” Walter had not read the book or taken a real look inside. How could the cover, with a moving painting by the author Alice Miller and an under-title that said “hidden cruelty in child-rearing and the roots of violence” indict a book to go up in flames?
Maria had seen this title as interesting for anyone concerned about the problem of violence in our world. Other book-gifts at the party looked more elegantly but did not have the depth of enlightening information that “For Your Own Good” provides. She thought of Al Gore who had handed out Alice Miller’s first book, “The Drama of the Gifted Child” to many people because it so had moved and changed him and opened his eyes, also for the cruelty inflicted on the environment. Maria knew that not only she but also many others consider Alice Miller to be one of the foremost thinkers and therapists of our time, if not the most significant one. In the end, the address-book and “For Your Own Good” reached a young woman who was delighted about the address book and open for psychology.
In the night, she woke up with horror as the scene of the previous evening flashed through her mind. She began to write down how she felt about it, and after some writing her soul asked her to write a short story about it. The next morning, Maria’s left lower back and left hip – the place where she had been beaten so often as a child, not only with hands but also with objects like dress hangers – hurt so bad that she could barely walk. During her favorite walk in the afternoon in the Botanic Garden, she had to sit down again and again because every step was excruciatingly painful. She realized that her body was showing her the pain that she had not yet accepted and admitted to herself – how she felt beaten, hurt and insulted, just as in her childhood, for the revealing the truth. She could have understood if someone was not interested to read the truth about childhood, children’s feelings and childhood reality. But why would anyone want to burn a book, on top of that a book of such profound meaning? She felt that she was in shock and talked with two people about the incident that understood what a terrible experience it had been for her. She felt reassured when one of them said: “It is not you who did something offensive, as you still seem to believe somehow. You brought a unique gift to the party that was not received with kindness and an open mind. This man at the party acted in a rude and intolerant way. Although he did not know that you had brought the book and did not attack you personally, he slapped you because he insulted the giver of this gift and the freedom of thinking. He must have a closed and frightened mind.”
After that understanding comment, the hip pain was gone. She walked without any pain through the town to do her errands, and in the afternoon she walked all over the enchanting Botanic Garden, enjoying the beautiful views and a picturesque sunset. It was a warm, sunny, gorgeous December day. She reflected on all that she had changed about herself and her life because of this book. She had entered therapy and liberated her life from submission, drugs, diseases, hurtful relationships and unnecessary pain. She had become a creative writer who enjoyed to pass on knowledge about childhood suffering and its consequences for adults and societies. She knew that the truth is not an “inconvenient” monster to be feared and silenced – on the contrary – because when we learn about and accept the reality of a suffering planet and of suffering children, we are inspired and motivated to make true changes, be it on behalf of a respectful treatment of children or of the environment by honoring their true needs.
She realized that she was not intolerant but a coward if she did not speak up about intolerant behaviors and attitudes. She had worked so hard because she always wanted to liberate herself from the greatest curse that her childhood had forced upon her – the fear that kept her from speaking up and expressing herself. Never again did she want to be this silent coward without courage, who does not dare to voice the truth. As she walked, Maria began to draft the short story in her mind. She felt joy about her life and determination to continue her path of bringing awareness and light into the darkness that still surrounds for so many the reality of global warming and the consequences of violence against children.
When Walter talked of “forgiveness” and “spirituality” after he had read her story, this false, misleading and destructive balm brought out her anger and indignation with strong vitality because these elaborate sounding but empty words cover up reality, burke the child’s voice and truth and serve the forces of silence and denial. Over and over again, Lina encountered these destructive attitudes of denial, ignorance and looking the other way. They hide behind popular pleasantries that conceal a profound lack of compassion for children and a sad cold-heartedness towards their plight. Unmasked as a “wolf in sheep’s clothing,” they remind her of the poisonous pedagogy that she could not see through and rebel against as a child. Adults use them all too gladly in order to turn a blind eye to the suffering of children and the roots of human violence. The absurd and treacherous gown of “forgiveness and spirituality” does not lead to action on behalf of oppressed and tortured children but serves as an excuse to stay faithful to subservient, desperate, confused childhood beliefs about how one should deal with “higher powers”. They provide their self-righteous believers the entitlement for their continuation of the ignorance, denial and blindness soaked up in childhood.
Like the child in Andersen’s fairy tale, “The Emperor’s New Clothes,” Lina now can see clearly that these cowardly, phony words are not a dignified gown but reveal a carrier bare of compassion and void of indignation over the crimes committed against children, which are not called by their true name. Forgiveness is not the answer to the fact that more than 90% of mankind's children are physically assaulted, many already as babies, and that this reality creates the violence which causes so much destruction to individuals, societies, nations and our planet. This scary denial and this stifling silence are responsible that children must suffer unjust, inhuman violence every day, everywhere in our world, and not a single religious or spiritual belief has ever changed this unacceptable, scandalous reality.
Lina has studied the human brain and learned that it is an historical organ that develops 90% during the first 4 years of life by making neural connections, called synapses, between the neurons of the brains, which already exist at birth. How these synapses between the neurons, their migration within the brain and their myelination are formed depends on the experiences of babies and children, so it matters profoundly how humans treat them, especially at life's beginning. The violence we see all over the world is nothing but a reflection of how people have treated and what they have taught their children.
Lina’s has dedicated her life to the work of informing others about the consequences of cruelty against children, and she cares passionately that this devastating, unwanted truth must become more and more common knowledge. As a child, Lina had not been able to escape people who preached to and hurt others with ignorance, arrogance and cruelty – but today she can and does avoid them, and she has found ways to speak up and have a voice. The encouragement that she receives from open, caring people, whom she can reach and who understand her and support her cause, fills her life with joy and meaning.