When we hear about the horrible crimes that man commits against man, most people wonder why. What could possibly make people do the things they do? The answer is deceptively simple. We are what we learn.
We don't all grow up on the same level playing field. Some are much more disadvantaged than others by the way they're raised. The first seven to eight years of our lives are crucial in our development because that's when our basic personality is formed. So what our environment is, how we see people treat each other and how people treat us plays a large part in making us who we are.
Jerry West, the all-everything basketball player in West Virginia many years ago who went from there to the Los Angeles Lakers as player, coach and eventual general manager told a horrible story last week about the physical abuse he took from his dad when he was growing up. West had several brothers and sisters but for some reason his dad singled him out to be the whipping boy when he wanted to make a point. West said his dad would beat him unmercifully with a big thick belt, sometimes even crawling under the bed and pulling West out so he could beat him some more. Those who are his age remember that era as being the "spanking' era and none of us escaped having our backsides warmed from time to time. But West said his dad's attacks on him went far beyond spankings. These were out and out beatings and they happened regularly. They resulted in a life-long bout with depression and anxiety along with frequent thoughts of suicide. West said the only place he could get relief was on the basketball court because when he was playing ball, the rest of the world went away. His wife says West has a hard time expressing positive emotions towards anyone and very rarely ever tells her that he loves her.
The way West was treated by his dad continues today by other moms and dads and that's why many people are dysfunctional. When kids grow up to deviance being modeled for them every day by the people they care about the most, what else would you expect? When children are physically or sexually abused at home, when they see their moms physically and emotionally abused, when they have few if any rules, when their parents are poor role models, how could we ever expect these kids to grow up and be normal? If they're exposed to regular and habitual negative behavior at a young age and that behavior continues as they grow and mature, why are we surprised when they become just like the people modeling that kind of behavior?
And on top of that, this behavior tends to be generational. We're not born with a sense of values or norms or morals. We have to learn those things as we grow and mature and if we don't have anyone to teach us, then the chances of us getting them from somewhere else becomes highly unlikely. So we become like our mom or our dad or our sister or brother and then when we get married and have kids, we model this deviant lifestyle to them and then they model it to their kids and it goes on and on, from one generation to the next. That's why we have crime rates in some neighborhoods in our larger cities that haven't changed in a hundred years. Obviously, the people who lived there that long ago are all dead now but since there is low outward mobility in economically distressed neighborhoods, their children and grandchildren are still there, doing the same kind of behavior because that's what they learned.
So the question is, is this fixable? What can be done to turn this trend around? It can only be fixable if someone in the generational hierarchy changes their behavior. We can't be good if we don't know what good is. When a person grows up in a deviant family and that family lives in a deviant neighborhood where being bad is the norm rather than the exception, anyone would have a difficult time learning positive norms and values when you're exposed practically every minute of every day to the opposite. Some have even suggested forced sterilization for women in families that show a long history of deviant and criminal behavior. The logic behind this suggestion is just because you can have a child doesn't mean you have any idea about how to be a parent.
If we don't do anything, nothing's ever going to change because nothing's changed up to now.