Sunday, June 28, 2009

Criminality as an education problem 13/24
   The first reality: the way of the criminal

The ironic truth is that homage to the self is self-destructive, because the self’s deepest desires can only be fulfilled in communion with others. A good life requires joining, of which marital union and reproduction is the central metaphor, and to choose extreme independence is to choose a deathward path.

Samenow stresses that much crime is an educational rather than a social or a therapeutic problem. What the criminal needs is to learn new thinking patterns. Earlier approaches, relying on psychoanalytic techniques, did not change the criminals but instead created criminals with insight. Samenow and his colleague learned that what criminals needed was a change of heart, and that a criminal can accomplish such a change by making choices and exerting will over the course of his life. He can learn to tell himself different stories about what is happening and what he wants to do.

America’s most sobering educational challenge today is that many children are growing up learning only the poorest of moral codes. They do not learn a morality that they are not taught, and if they do not learn an intelligent morality they have little to guide them except the self’s insistent demands. This does not mean that all such children will grow up to be criminals, of course, but between criminality and a life of peace and joy there are many gradations, and a great number of young people are not taught the little ways that encourage happiness.

We know that juvenile delinquency correlates with low levels of moral reasoning on Kohlberg’s scale. A person who has not been taught to think in the larger scales represented by advancement up Kohlberg’s stages may be prone to criminal solutions to life’s problems, and this problem is made worse because once a person associates with criminals he enters a narrative environment where learning more powerful ways of thinking becomes unlikely.

Joining a gang can stunt an adolescent’s cognitive growth. Such gangs are neither as compassionate nor as warm as less criminal adolescent groups or as good families. They teach less intelligent traditions that are savage and self-destructive, and those who look for their answers among such people are unlikely to find narratives conducive to a peaceful world.

For people caught in the way of the self, their preoccupation with their own independence clouds their perceptions. Most ways of joining are felt as infringements rather than as fufillments. This does not mean that people at this level do not join movements and mobs, but only that their relationships with others are characterized by force and dominance, and it is to their self-interest rather than to the good of the whole that leaders seeking their allegiance must appeal.

It’s an ancient route to power, and no society is free of charismatic criminals looking for followers.

Posted by Michael L Umphrey on 06/28 at 05:30 AM
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© 2009 Michael L. Umphrey
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