I used to wonder as a child, why one parent beat me up so often and even ‘mercilessly’, while the other had discussions with me especially when I did something they or everyone was not so proud of. The only time this other parent gave me a total of 8 lashes, was when I broke the TV set (unintentionally of course – but then again…) back in 1985 when TVs especially in my country cameroon in West Africa, were still a big thing. Back then, TVs slept in your parents’ room or were locked up in an iron cage in the living room for fear of robbers. I used to wonder if this other parent who would use phrases such as ‘I will skin you alive’, thought of the adverse childhood experiences that trauma could and indeed has come to have in my life today. My relationship with this parent is still strained today although we are on terms with that past (I have long made my peace with all of that); that with the other parent has survived and it is still on discussions’ level especially when there is any issue at stake.
With the above example from my own life, I want to look at the possibility of a violence free world if we become aware of what we get when we are violent in anyway. Was it worth it all those violent outbursts of anger and relay of frustrations on the kid I was and was just trying to be? What was achieved if anything at all? What is the consequences today, not only on our relationship but on the other ones we have with others?
I will again be candid here, intending to spark serious reflections into the imperative need to commit to a world free of violence starting right there in our home and not on the streets or in conferences.
The first answer to my own rhetoric question is no; no it was worth the ‘skinning me alive’ - all that made me more rebellious and ‘difficult’ to handle. I recall today I would just dissociate at some point and one day ended up collapsing and only found myself in bed all embalmed. I wish I could say that was the last time I was violated and abused as a child. What could be achieved after such violence? Hate, loathing, spite, urge for revenge whichever way possible, more rebellion and the list goes on. But, we have I must admit, a two side coined consequence. I emphasize on this ‘two side’ because it could have been a single consequence: ‘More violence’ even if only subtle say non communications or outbursts of rage and tantrums into adulthood and ruined relationships. But, in my case, I am happy to say while the relationship with parent took big hits and is still on its way to recoveryville, I decided long ago I wasn’t going to ever ‘skin any child alive’. Indeed, my 4 sons know I don’t do beatings, I hold discussions or find alternative ways of dealing with what issue comes up.
I couldn’t some how for the sanity of me ever understand why one parents had to ‘hate’ me so to find violence the only or best way possible to call me to order, which one I still don’t know since it would appear even up till date they still think I am ‘a lost case’ needing some further call to order.
Violence does not necessarily result only in violence; indeed it leads very often to worst case scenarios. Lives may be lost completely, or to a mental health disorder, relationships may be forever ruined, the children may grow up so volatile they become easy preys for gangs, armed rebellion, drugs and debauchery, in short any and all things contrary to what must have ever been foreseen in the beginning. Girls may grow up so insecure and fall prey to abusive relationships, unwanted pregnancies or further gender based violence. What kind of mothers and parents/partners can they be expected to become or replicate?
Non violence is possible. I enrolled in an online course on non-violent communication last year and it was such a turning point. When one of my sons was ‘mercilessly’ spanked by a teacher in school because as a 9 year active child he wasn’t expected to be talking in class when bored, I opted for non-violent but firm communication until the issue was resolved to my satisfaction. The teacher met with the dean of studies and myself, we reviewed what happened and why, we looked at alternative ways all that could have been handled, we appreciated the issue currently at stake and the consequences if I pressed charges both with the school administration and the national delegation of education, and he made all amends as tabled including apologizing to my son and his classmates. I organized a talk and he shared our experience in a light manner, encouraging his colleagues not to resort to violence in school again.
That is the commitment I am talking about. It is possible, we have to give it a chance; It however has to start from the ‘grass roots’ that is from our own homes. In my neighbourhood, I am known as the ‘lawyer of children’. When I moved in here in 2016, one particular neighbour made me have violent flashbacks because they were always on their 4 year old ‘skinning the poor child alive’. One day, I refused to ‘mind my business’, and stormed to their gate hitting same with so much anger in me. When they finally opened up, I told them I was calling the commissioner of police for our area because they had no right to beat up a child like that (it mattered not if it were their child as they initially insisted). Their spouse probably tired by then to make any attempt at getting the beating to stop, just watched as our ‘drama unfolded’. Anyway, my involvement put an end to those beatings and the news spread in the neighbourhood like a wild fire – even spouses ever on each other’s neck started reviewing all that thereafter.
I don’t beat and all the other kids especially the young girls who are still sadly over laden with the chores more than the boys, love playing in my compound or just being around me, especially those termed ‘difficult’. I hold neighbourhood gatherings as part of activities of my association Hope for the Abused and the Battered, as well the other one I am involved in as Secretary General called Ripples of love – a name I am proud to say I chose.
Love is all we need; love is what we get when we sow love and not violence; a violence free world is possible let’s all commit to giving it a chance and be the hope for the world we want. Let’s have discussions on the table and not use our hands, whips or guns.