Robert J. Burrowes Ph.D
IAEWP Vice President for South Pacific
In a recent article titled ‘Challenges for Resolving Complex Conflicts’, I pointed out four conflict configurations that are paid little attention by conflict theorists.
In this article, I would like to discuss a fifth conflict configuration that is effectively ignored by conflict theorists (and virtually everyone else). This conflict is undoubtedly the most fundamental conflict in human society, because it generates all of the violence humans perpetrate and experience, and yet it is utterly invisible to almost everyone.
I have previously described this conflict as ‘the adult war on children’. It is indeed humanity’s ‘dirty little secret’.
Let me illustrate and explain the nature and extent of this secret war. And what we can do about it.
Every day, according to some estimates, human adults kill 50,000 of our children. The true figure is probably significantly higher. We kill children in wars. See, for example, ‘Scourging Yemen’. We kill them with drones. We kill them in our homes and on the street. We shoot them at school.
We also kill children in vast numbers by starving them to death, depriving them of clean drinking water, denying them medicines – see, for example, ‘Malaria is alive and well and killing more than 3000 African children every day’ – or forcing them to live in a polluted environment, particularly in parts of Africa, Asia and Central/South America. Why? Because we use military violence to maintain an ‘economic’ system that allocates resources for military weapons, as well as corporate profits for the wealthy, instead of resources for living.
We also execute children in sacrificial killings after kidnapping them. We even breed children to sell as a ‘cash crop’ for sexual violation, child pornography (‘kiddie porn’) and the filming of ‘snuff’ movies (in which children are killed during the filming), torture and satanic sacrifice. And these are just some of the manifestations of the violence against children that have been happening for centuries or, in some cases, millennia. On these points, see the video evidence presented at the recent Judicial Commission of Inquiry into Human Trafficking and Child Sex Abuse organized by the International Tribunal for Natural Justice.
The opening statement by Chief Counsel Robert David Steele refers to an estimated eight million children trafficked annually – with 600,000-800,000 of these children (excluding both those bred within the USA without birth certificates and those imported without documentation) in the United States alone – and mentions such practices as ritual torture and ritual murder as well as training dogs to rape children and toddlers. He mentions the range of organizations involved from Oxfam and the Boy Scouts of America to ‘child-service’ agencies and police forces as well as various United Nations organizations, where pedophiles (those who prey on children) rise through the ranks to exercise enormous control. He also points out that many of the children bred or kidnapped into this system usually last about two years before dying (often after being raped several times each hour for some of that time) or being killed outright. He also mentions (with evidence provided in other video presentations) the forced removal of body organs from children of Falun Gong practitioners in China.
Steele, who is a former CIA operations officer, also points out that the 1,000 US military bases around the world are ‘not there for national defense; they are there to serve as lilypads for the smuggling of guns, gold, cash, drugs and small children’. The obvious and clear inference to be drawn from his statement is that the US military is heavily involved in child trafficking (as well as its well-known involvement in drug and weapons trafficking, for example), which means that vast numbers of US military personnel know about it too. And do nothing.
The compelling testimony at the Commission of Inquiry of survivor/perpetrator Ronald Bernard will give you a clear sense of the deep elite engagement (that is, the 8,000-8,500 ‘elite’ individuals running central banks, governments, secret service agencies, multinational corporations, terrorist organizations and churches) in the extraordinary violence inflicted on children, with children illegally trafficked internationally along with women, weapons, drugs, currencies, gold and wildlife.
In a particularly poignant series of moments during the interview, after he has revealed some of the staggering violence he suffered as a child at the hands of his father and the Church, Bernard specifically refers to the fact that the people engaged in these practices are terrified (and ‘serving the monster of greed’) and that, during his time as a financial entrepreneur, he was working with people who understood him as he understood them: individuals who were suffering enormously from the violence they had suffered as children themselves and who are now so full of hatred that they want to destroy life, human and otherwise. In short: they enjoy and celebrate killing people and destroying the Earth as a direct response to the violence they each suffered as a child.
There are more video testimonies by survivors, expert witnesses, research scholars in the field and others on the International Tribunal for Natural Justice website and if you want to read scholarly books documenting aspects of this staggering violence against children then see, for example, ‘Childhunters: Requiem of a Child-killer’ and ‘Epidemic: America’s Trade in Child Rape’.
For further accounts of the systematic exploitation, rape, torture and murder of children over a lengthy period, which focuses on Canada’s indigenous peoples, Rev. Kevin Annett’s evocative report ‘Hidden from History: The Canadian Holocaust – The Untold Story of the Genocide of Aboriginal Peoples by Church and State in Canada’, and his books ‘Unrelenting’ and ‘Murder by Decree: The Crime of Genocide in Canada’ use eyewitness testimonies and archival documentation to provide ‘an uncensored record of the planned extermination of indigenous children in Canada’s murderous “Indian residential schools”’ from 1889 to 1996.
Apart from what happened in the Indian Residential Schools during this period, however, the books also offer extensive evidence documenting the ongoing perpetration of genocide, including child rape, torture and killing, against Canada’s indigenous peoples by its government, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the Catholic, Anglican and United Churches since the 19th century. Sadly, there is plenty more in Kevin’s various books and on the website of the International Tribunal into Crimes of Church and State which also explain the long-standing involvement of the Vatican in these genocidal crimes against children.
Of course, Canada is not alone in its unrelenting violence against indigenous children (and indigenous peoples generally). The United States and Australia, among many others, also have long records of savagery in destroying the lives of indigenous children, fundamentally by taking their land and destroying their culture, traditional livelihoods and spirituality. And when indigenous people do not simply abandon their traditional way of being and adopt the dominant model, they are blamed and persecuted even more savagely, as the record clearly demonstrates.
Moreover, institutional violence against children is not limited to the contexts and settings mentioned above. In the recently conducted Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse undertaken in Australia, childcare services, schools, health and allied services, youth detention, residential care and contemporary out-of-home services, religious activities, family and youth support services, supported accommodation, sporting, recreational and club activities, youth employment, and the military forces were all identified as providing contexts for perpetrating violence against children.
Over half of the survivors suffered sexual violation in an institution managed by a religious organization such as places of worship and for religious instruction, missions, religious schools, orphanages, residential homes, recreational clubs, youth groups, and welfare services. Another one-third of survivors suffered the violence in an institution under government management such as a school, an out-of-home care service, a youth detention centre or at a health service centre. The remaining 10% suffered violence in a private organization such as a child care centre, a medical practice or clinic, a music or dance school, an independent school, a yoga ashram or a sports club, a non-government or not-for-profit organization.
Needless to say, the failure to respond to any of this violence for the past century by any of the institutions ‘responsible’ for monitoring, oversight and criminal justice, such as the police, law enforcement and agencies responsible for public prosecution, clearly demonstrates that mechanisms theoretically designed to protect children (and adults) do not function when those same institutions are complicit in the violence and are, in any case, designed to defend elite interests (not ‘ordinary’ people and children). Hence, of course, this issue was not even investigated by the Commission because it was excluded from the terms of reference!
Separately from those children we kill or violate every day in the ways briefly described above, we traffic many others into sexual slavery – such as those trafficked (sometimes by their parents) into prostitution to service the sex tourism industry in countries such as Thailand, Cambodia, the Dominican Republic, the Philippines and India – we kidnap others to terrorize them into becoming child soldiers with 46 countries using them according to Child Soldiers International, we force others to work as slave laborers, in horrific conditions, in fields, factories and mines (and buy the cheap products of their exploited labor as our latest ‘bargain’) with Human Rights Watch reporting over 70,000,000 children, including many who aren’t even, technically-speaking, slaves, working in ‘hazardous conditions’ – see ‘Child Labor’ – and we condemn millions to live in poverty, homelessness and misery because national governments, despite rhetoric to the contrary, place either negligible or no value on children apart from, in some cases, as future wage slaves in the workforce.
We also condemn millions of children, such as those in Palestine, Tibet, Western Sahara and West Papua, to live under military occupation, where many are routinely imprisoned, shot or killed.
In addition, while fighting wars we cause many children to be born with grotesque genetic deformities because we use horrific weapons, like those with depleted uranium, on their parents. See ‘“Falluja Babies” and Depleted Uranium: America’s Toxic Legacy in Iraq’ and ‘Depleted uranium used by US forces blamed for birth defects and cancer in Iraq’.
In other cases, we cause children shockingly debilitating injuries, if they are not killed outright, by using conventional, biological and chemical weapons on them directly. See ‘Summary of historical attacks using chemical or biological weapons’.
But war also destroys housing and other infrastructure forcing millions of children to become internally displaced or refugees in another country (often without a living parent), causing ongoing trauma. Worldwide, one child out of every 200 is a refugee, whether through war or poverty, environmental or climate disruption. See ‘50mn children displaced by war & poverty worldwide’.
We also inflict violence on children in many other forms, ranging from ‘ordinary’ domestic violence to genital mutilation, with UNICEF calculating that 200 million girls and young women in 30 countries on three continents have been mutilated. See ‘Female genital mutilation/cutting’.
And we deny children a free choice (even those who supposedly live in a ‘democracy’) and imprison vast numbers of them in school in the delusional belief that this is good for them. See ‘Do We Want School or Education?’ Whatever other damage that school does, it certainly helps to create the next generation of child-destroyers. And, in many countries, we just imprison children in our jails. After all, the legal system is no more than an elite tool to control ‘ordinary’ people while shielding the elite from accountability for their grotesque violence against us all. See ‘The Rule of Law: Unjust and Violent’.
While almost trivial by comparison with the violence identified above, the perversity of many multinational corporations in destroying our children’s health is graphically illustrated in the film ‘Global Junk Food’. In Europe, food manufacturers have signed up to ‘responsibility pledges’, promising not to add sugar, preservatives, artificial colours or flavours to their products and to not target children.
However, the developing world is not in Europe so these ‘responsibility pledges’ obviously do not apply and corporations such as Coca-Cola, McDonald’s, Kentucky Fried Chicken and Domino’s Pizza sell their junk food in developing countries (with the video above showcasing Brazil and India) loaded with excess oil, salt and sugar and even using fake cheese.
The well-documented report reveals corporations like these to be nothing more than drug dealers, selling toxic food to ill-informed victims that deliver a lifetime of diabetes and obesity to huge numbers of children. So, just as weapons corporations derive their profits from killing children (and adults), junk food corporations derive their profits from destroying the health of children (and adults). Of course, the medical industry, rather than campaigning vigorously against this outrage, prefers to profit from it too by offering ‘treatments’, including the surgical removal of fat, which offer nothing more than temporary but very profitable ‘relief’.
But this is far from representing the only active involvement of the medical industry in the extraordinary violence we inflict on children. For example, western children and many others are rarely spared a plethora of vaccinations which systematically destroy a child’s immune system, thus making their health ongoingly vulnerable to later assaults on their well-being. For a taste of the vast literature on this subject, see ‘Clinical features in patients with long-lasting macrophagic myofasciitis’, ‘Vaccines: Who’s Allergic To Thimerosal (Mercury), Raise Your Hand’ and ‘Vaccine Free Health’.
And before we leave the subject of food too far behind, it should be noted that just because the junk food sold in Europe and some other western countries has less fat, salt, sugar, preservatives and artificial colors and flavours in it, this does not mean that it is healthy. It still has various combinations of added fat, salt, sugar, preservatives and artificial colors and flavours in it.
Separately from this: don’t forget that virtually all parents are systematically poisoning their children by feeding them food grown by the corporate agribusiness giants which is heavily depleted of nutrients and laced with poisons such as glyphosate. For a taste of the vast literature, see ‘The hidden truth about glyphosate EXPOSED, according to undeniable scientific evidence’. Of course, in many countries we are also forcing our children to drink fluoridated water to the detriment of their health too. See ‘Research Exposes How our Water is Making us Depressed, Sick: Fluoridated water is much to blame’.
Obviously, organically/biodynamically grown food, healthily prepared, and unfluoridated water are not health priorities for their children, according to most parents.
As our ultimate act of violence against all children, we are destroying their future. See ‘Killing the Biosphere to Fast-track Human Extinction’.
So how do we do all of this?
Very easily, actually. It works like this.
Perpetrators of violence learn their craft in childhood. If you inflict violence on a child, they learn to inflict violence on others. The child rapist and ritual child killer suffered violence as a child. The terrorist suffered violence as a child. The political leader who wages war suffered violence as a child. The man who inflicts violence on women suffered violence as a child. The corporate executive who exploits working class people and/or those who live in Africa, Asia or Central/South America suffered violence as a child. The racist and religious bigot suffered violence as a child. The soldier who kills in war suffered violence as a child. The individual who perpetrates violence in the home, in the schoolyard or on the street suffered violence as a child. The parent who inflicts violence on their own children suffered violence as a child.
So if we want to end violence, exploitation, ecological destruction and war, then we must finally admit our ‘dirty little secret’ and end our longest and greatest war: the adult war on children. And here is an incentive: if we do not tackle the fundamental cause of violence, then our combined and unrelenting efforts to tackle all of its other symptoms must ultimately fail. And extinction at our own hand is inevitable.
How can I claim that violence against children is the fundamental cause of all other violence? Consider this. There is universal acceptance that behavior is shaped by childhood experience. If it was not, we would not put such effort into education and other efforts to ‘socialize’ children to fit into society. And this is why many psychologists have argued that exposure to war toys and violent video games shapes attitudes and behaviors in relation to violence.
But it is far more complex than these trivialities suggest and, strange though it may seem, it is not just the ‘visible’ violence (such as hitting, screaming at and sexually abusing) that we normally label ‘violence’ that causes the main damage, although this is extremely damaging. The largest component of damage arises from the ‘invisible’ and ‘utterly invisible’ violence that we adults unconsciously inflict on children during the ordinary course of the day. Tragically, the bulk of this violence occurs in the family home and at school. See ‘Why Violence?’ and ‘Fearless Psychology and Fearful Psychology: Principles and Practice’.
So what is ‘invisible’ violence? It is the ‘little things’ we do every day, partly because we are just ‘too busy’. For example, when we do not allow time to listen to, and value, a child’s thoughts and feelings, the child learns to not listen to themSelf thus destroying their internal communication system. When we do not let a child say what they want (or ignore them when they do), the child develops communication and behavioral dysfunctionalities as they keep trying to meet their own needs (which, as a basic survival strategy, they are genetically programmed to do).
When we blame, condemn, insult, mock, embarrass, shame, humiliate, taunt, goad, guilt-trip, deceive, lie to, bribe, blackmail, moralize with and/or judge a child, we both undermine their sense of Self-worth and teach them to blame, condemn, insult, mock, embarrass, shame, humiliate, taunt, goad, guilt-trip, deceive, lie, bribe, blackmail, moralize and/or judge.
The fundamental outcome of being bombarded throughout their childhood by this ‘invisible’ violence is that the child is utterly overwhelmed by feelings of fear, pain, anger and sadness (among many others). However, mothers, fathers, teachers, religious figures and other adults also actively interfere with the expression of these feelings and the behavioral responses that are naturally generated by them and it is this ‘utterly invisible’ violence that explains why the dysfunctional behavioral outcomes actually occur.
For example, by ignoring a child when they express their feelings, by comforting, reassuring or distracting a child when they express their feelings, by laughing at or ridiculing their feelings, by terrorizing a child into not expressing their feelings (e.g. by screaming at them when they cry or get angry), and/or by violently controlling a behavior that is generated by their feelings (e.g. by hitting them, restraining them or locking them into a room), the child has no choice but to unconsciously suppress their awareness of these feelings.
However, once a child has been terrorized into suppressing their awareness of their feelings (rather than being allowed to have their feelings and to act on them) the child has also unconsciously suppressed their awareness of the reality that caused these feelings. This has many outcomes that are disastrous for the individual, for society and for nature because the individual will now easily suppress their awareness of the feelings that would tell them how to act most functionally in any given circumstance and they will progressively acquire a phenomenal variety of dysfunctional behaviors, including some that are violent towards themself, others and/or the Earth.
From the above, it should also now be apparent that punishment should never be used. ‘Punishment’, of course, is one of the words we use to obscure our awareness of the fact that we are using violence. Violence, even when we label it ‘punishment’, scares children and adults alike and cannot elicit a functional behavioural response. See ‘Punishment is Violent and Counterproductive’.
If someone behaves dysfunctionally, they need to be listened to, deeply, so that they can start to become consciously aware of the feelings (which will always include fear and, often, terror) that drove the dysfunctional behavior in the first place. They then need to feel and express these feelings (including any anger) in a safe way. Only then will behavioral change in the direction of functionality be possible. See ‘Nisteling: The Art of Deep Listening’.
‘But these adult behaviors you have described don’t seem that bad. Can the outcome be as disastrous as you claim?’ you might ask. The problem is that there are hundreds of these ‘ordinary’, everyday behaviors that destroy the Selfhood of the child. It is ‘death by a thousand cuts’ and most children simply do not survive as Self-aware individuals. And why do we do this? We do it so that each child will fit into our model of ‘the perfect citizen’: that is, obedient and hardworking student, reliable and pliant employee/soldier, and submissive law-abiding citizen. In other words: a slave.
Of course, once we destroy the Selfhood of a child, it has many flow-on effects. For example, once you terrorize a child into accepting certain information about themself, other people or the state of the world, the child becomes unconsciously fearful of dealing with new information, especially if this information is contradictory to what they have been terrorized into believing. As a result, the child will unconsciously dismiss new information out of hand.
In short, the child has been terrorized in such a way that they are no longer capable of thinking critically or even learning (or their learning capacity is seriously diminished by excluding any information that is not a simple extension of what they already ‘know’). If you imagine any of the bigots you know, you are imagining someone who is utterly terrified. But it’s not just the bigots; virtually all people are affected in this manner making them incapable of responding adequately to new (or even important) information. This is one explanation why many people are ‘climate deniers’ and most others do nothing in response to the climate catastrophe.
Of course, each person’s experience of violence during childhood is unique and this is why each perpetrator becomes violent in their own particular combination of ways.
But if you want to understand the core psychology of all perpetrators of violence, it is important to understand that, as a result of the extraordinary violence they each suffered during childhood, they are now (unconsciously) utterly terrified, full of self-hatred and personally powerless, among another 20 psychological characteristics. You can read a brief outline of these characteristics and how they are acquired on pages 12-16 of ‘Why Violence?’
As should now be clear, the central point in understanding violence is that it is psychological in origin and hence any effective response must enable both the perpetrator’s and the victim’s suppressed feelings (which will include enormous fear about, and rage at, the violence they have suffered) to be safely expressed. As mentioned above, for an explanation of what is required, see ‘Nisteling: The Art of Deep Listening’.
Unfortunately, this nisteling cannot be provided by a psychiatrist or psychologist whose training is based on a delusionary understanding of how the human mind functions. See ‘Defeating the Violence of Psychiatry’ and ‘Psychiatry: Science or Fraud? The professor’s trick that exposed the ongoing Psychiatry racket...’ Nisteling will enable those who have suffered from psychological trauma to heal fully and completely, but it will take time.
So if we want to end violence (including the starvation, trafficking, rape, torture and killing of children), exploitation, ecological destruction and war, then we must tackle the fundamental cause. Primarily, this means giving everyone, child and adult alike, all of the space they need to feel, deeply, what they want to do, and to then let them do it (or to have the feelings they naturally have if they are prevented from doing so). See ‘Putting Feelings First’. In the short term, this will have some dysfunctional outcomes. But it will lead to an infinitely better overall outcome than the system of emotional suppression, control and punishment which has generated the incredibly violent world in which we now find ourselves.
This all sounds pretty unpalatable doesn’t it? So each of us has a choice. We can suppress our awareness of what is unpalatable, as we have been terrorized into doing as a child, or we can feel the various feelings that we have in response to this information and then ponder (personal and collective) ways forward.
If feelings are felt and expressed then our responses can be shaped by the conscious and integrated functioning of thoughts and feelings, as evolution intended, and we can plan intelligently. The alternative is to have our unconscious fear controlling our thinking and deluding us that we are acting rationally.
It is time to end the most fundamental conflict that is destroying human society from within – the adult war on children – so that we can more effectively tackle all of the other violence that emerges from this cause too.
So what do we do?
Let me briefly reiterate.
If you are willing, you can make the commitment outlined in ‘My Promise to Children’. If you need to do some healing of your own to be able to nurture children in this way, then consider the information provided in the article ‘Putting Feelings First’.
In addition, you are also welcome to consider participating in ‘The Flame Tree Project to Save Life on Earth’ which maps out a fifteen-year strategy for creating a peaceful, just and sustainable world community so that all children (and everyone else) has an ecologically viable planet on which to live.
You might also consider supporting or even working with organizations like Destiny Rescue, which works to rescue children trafficked into prostitution, or any of the many advocacy organizations associated with the network of End Child Prostitution and Trafficking.
But for the plethora of other manifestations of violence against children identified above, you might consider using Gandhian nonviolent strategy in any context of particular concern to you. See Nonviolent Campaign Strategy or Nonviolent Defense/Liberation Strategy. And, if you like, you can join the worldwide movement to end all violence by signing online ‘The People’s Charter to Create a Nonviolent World’.
In summary: Each one of us has an important choice. We can acknowledge the painful truth that we inflict enormous violence on our children (which then manifests in a myriad complex ways) and respond powerfully to that truth. Or we can keep deluding ourselves and continue to observe, powerlessly, as the violence in our world proliferates until human beings are extinct.
If you want a child who is nonviolent, truthful, compassionate, considerate, patient, thoughtful, respectful, generous, loving of themself and others, trustworthy, honest, dignified, determined, courageous, powerful and who lives out their own unique destiny, then the child must be treated with – and experience – nonviolence, truth, compassion, consideration, patience, thoughtfulness, respect, generosity, love, trust, honesty, dignity, determination, courage, power and, ideally, live in a world that prioritizes nurturing the unique destiny of each child.
Alternatively, if you want a child to turn out like the perpetrators of violence described above, to be powerless to respond effectively to the crises in our world, or to even just turn out to be an appalling parent, then inflict violence – visible, ‘invisible’ and ‘utterly invisible’ – on them during their childhood.
Tragically, with only the rarest of exceptions, human adults are too terrified to truly love, nurture and defend our children from the avalanche of violence that is unleashed on them at the moment of birth.
Biodata: Robert J. Burrowes has a lifetime commitment to understanding and ending human violence. He has done extensive research since 1966 in an effort to understand why human beings are violent and has been a nonviolent activist since 1981. He is the author of ‘Why Violence?’ His email address is email@example.com and his website is here.