Abuse

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Abuse

Postby astasia » Thu Mar 19, 2009 10:33 am

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/stor ... =101937985

Researcher Dick Sobsey, who studies violence against people with disabilities at the University of Alberta in Canadia, agrees. "There's really sometimes peer pressure for people to engage in abuse," says Sobsey. Although many good, caring people come to work at institutions, he says some cruel ones come, too. And they can sort of infect other workers.

"Where some employees are abusive and others are not, the ones who are not abusive, there's always a danger that they're going to report the ones who are. If everybody's abusive, then everybody's hands are dirty, and so they're safe with each other," Sobsey says.


I like to think that it is abnormal to want to abuse people. I like to think that most people would not participate in something like this. That "human cockfighting" using mentally retarded patients in institutions is something only done by sociopaths who lack human empathy and emotion. But, the abuse seems prevalent. Whether it is institutional systematic abuse of those with special needs and the elderly in facilities, or it is domestic abuse between husband and wife, it is incredibly pervasive.

What causes it? Have we always been this way? Is it, in fact, "normal" to be abusive? How can we change it? Why do some people seem to lack empathy?
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Re: Abuse

Postby ChooChooTrain » Thu Mar 19, 2009 1:36 pm

Is it normal to be abusive? To answer that question, we should observe man's actions. By his behavior, we learn his nature. If we look, we see men abusing, robbing, lying to, raping, and murdering each other. I think the obvious conclusion is that men are naturally selfish, evil creatures.

Thomas Hobbes said in Leviathan that, "The condition of Man...is a condition of Warre of every one against every one."
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Re: Abuse

Postby Neglected Shoe » Thu Mar 19, 2009 2:06 pm

astasia wrote:http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=101937985



I like to think that it is abnormal to want to abuse people. I like to think that most people would not participate in something like this. That "human cockfighting" using mentally retarded patients in institutions is something only done by sociopaths who lack human empathy and emotion.


I agree, to a point. I do agree that there is something mentally and emotionally wrong with people who partake in such violent and clearly abusive practices. However, I wouldn't go as far as to say that they lack human empathy and emotion. I'm not defending them; I'm just pretty sure some of those abusive people go home and kiss their wives, read stories to their children, and donate to charity.

Abuse has been a major part of human history, from Egyptian task-masters abusing slaves, to Romans forcing prisoners to fight animals and each other to the death, to soldiers in concentration camps abusing innocent prisoners, to workers in a mental facility pitting mentally challenged adults against each other. It's called sadism, and I think there are several ways to lessen it.

The best way is to just be human. Be empathetic, be reasonable, and be kind. Sadism usually is promoted through a perceived approval for the person's actions. If we act as human beings and speak out against abuse, it will help. However, the underlying mental instability of the people initiating these heinous acts will never entirely disappear.
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Re: Abuse

Postby Edminster » Thu Mar 19, 2009 3:19 pm

ChooChooTrain wrote:Is it normal to be abusive? To answer that question, we should observe man's actions. By his behavior, we learn his nature. If we look, we see men abusing, robbing, lying to, raping, and murdering each other. I think the obvious conclusion is that men are naturally selfish, evil creatures.

Thomas Hobbes said in Leviathan that, "The condition of Man...is a condition of Warre of every one against every one."

ChooChooTrain wrote:I'm a moral absolutist, so I believe that they would know what right and wrong were without needing to be told, but I do wish that I could perform an experiment like this and see if I'm correct.

So, you're saying that Mankind automatically knows that this sort of behaviour is off-limits, but are just being dicks?
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Re: Abuse

Postby Lethal Interjection » Thu Mar 19, 2009 3:38 pm

I don't like moral absolutism. I actually went to a colloquium on this topic about a month ago. My old professor is writing a book on authority and was presenting a chapter of his book. It ultimately talked about Kant's view of authority, which is tied closely to moral absolutism. The problem is that moral absolutism does not work well with authority at all. This was particularly clear when discussion afterwards led to parental authority. If children need not be taught moral behaviour, then why does the family structure even exist? I do believe in some sense of absolute morality, that ultimately somewhere we do know some general rights and wrongs, but we need parental (or other applicable guardians) guidance and teaching to bring out this proper morality. And in the case of abuse, to often it is learned from the previous generation, so obviously the parental guidance has been extremely flawed in this respect.
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Re: Abuse

Postby ChooChooTrain » Thu Mar 19, 2009 3:51 pm

Edminster wrote:
ChooChooTrain wrote:Is it normal to be abusive? To answer that question, we should observe man's actions. By his behavior, we learn his nature. If we look, we see men abusing, robbing, lying to, raping, and murdering each other. I think the obvious conclusion is that men are naturally selfish, evil creatures.

Thomas Hobbes said in Leviathan that, "The condition of Man...is a condition of Warre of every one against every one."

ChooChooTrain wrote:I'm a moral absolutist, so I believe that they would know what right and wrong were without needing to be told, but I do wish that I could perform an experiment like this and see if I'm correct.

So, you're saying that Mankind automatically knows that this sort of behaviour is off-limits, but are just being dicks?

That's what I'm saying. Is it so absurd? I think if you look around, you'll see this general pattern demonstrated over and over again.

Let's look at this specific case that the thread is about. First, we have to ask if there is something inherently wrong with "cockfighting" the mentally retarded. I think there is. Second, we have to ask if the people responsible knew that what they were doing was wrong. I think they did. They knew the behavior was off-limits, but they were, "just being dicks."

Lethal, are the things parents teach their kids actually true principals, or are they just convenient? When your parents teach you that it's wrong to steal, murder, and rape, are they telling the truth? Are those things actually inherently evil, or are they no different morally from any other action?
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Re: Abuse

Postby cheez.wiz » Thu Mar 19, 2009 4:33 pm

Theses three actions are wrong under a context.

Taking something from someone is okay. Doing the same without that person's consent isn't.
Killing an animal for food is okay. Killing an animal (humans are animals too, like it or not) "just because" (fill in with your own reasons) isn't.
Having sex with someone is "gr8 akshully". Having sex with someone without their consent isn't the way we roll.

So theses actions are absolutely wrong in their extreme forms, that we designed by the words you used, even if they aren't inherently wrong in nature.
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Re: Abuse

Postby Neglected Shoe » Thu Mar 19, 2009 5:02 pm

ChooChooTrain wrote:Let's look at this specific case that the thread is about. First, we have to ask if there is something inherently wrong with "cockfighting" the mentally retarded. I think there is. Second, we have to ask if the people responsible knew that what they were doing was wrong. I think they did. They knew the behavior was off-limits, but they were, "just being dicks."


I agree that what they did was wrong and the abusers most likely knew that it was wrong. However, I think to say that they were "just being dicks" is oversimplifying the matter (although I'm pretty sure you know that).

Let's take, for example, the Romans forcing prisoners to fight vicious animals. The person who originally came up with the idea for this punishment was probably a sadist through and through. They probably didn't even consider the prisoners human or have any kind of empathy for them. They probably also enjoyed the idea of watching someone whom they thought was beneath them kill or be killed violently. I believe that it's these types of people (whether mentally unstable, a product of their environment, or both) are the cause of these types of instances.

The same type of person(s) most likely started this event at the mental hospital. What caused other people to get involved, stay quiet, and take pictures with their cell phones? Peer pressure and morbid curiosity, both of which most likely desensitized them to the fact that they were playing with the well-being and lives of people who couldn't make the decisions needed to defend themselves. There was most likely a social aspect here, and I'm assuming it was similar to the affect of thousands of Romans gathering to watch someone being mauled to death. "Everyone else seems to be okay with it, so I'll sit back and let my morbidity be satisfied."

Deplorable? Absolutely. But it's a result of a complex psychological phenomenon that we don't fully understand. For example, most people have heard of the Milgram study years ago in which people were asked to press a button to deliver an electric shock to a person that they couldn't see but could hear. Even after hearing the screaming victim, when instructed to do so, 70% were prepared to increase the voltage. Well, apparently people haven't changed much. This may be an example of a reaction to authority, but I think it is more closely linked with the incident at the mental hospital. People do disturbing things when it comes to social pressure.

ChooChooTrain wrote:Lethal, are the things parents teach their kids actually true principals, or are they just convenient? When your parents teach you that it's wrong to steal, murder, and rape, are they telling the truth? Are those things actually inherently evil, or are they no different morally from any other action?


That depends on how you define "inherently evil." The trouble with thinking that there is some evil presence in the world is that it actually gives people a rationale to commit heinous crimes. While "the devil made me do it" isn't an accepted reasoning for any crime, there are many people who believe that when someone murders, rapes, or steals, the devil or evil is inside them. I guess my point is that saying something is "inherently evil" means that the people committing the crimes are evil people, and once a person considers themselves "evil," there is literally no end to the heinous acts of which they are capable.

My belief is that morality is based on both not causing pain or loss for another human being, as well as cultural norms and standards. People who torture, rape, and murder are either mentally unstable and responding to a desire that will cause pain or loss to another, or they are responding to pressures of social acceptance, fear of authority, or self preservation (such as murder in self defense). By looking at these dysfunctions and motives, you remove the power and superstition behind the word "evil" and begin to prevent these things from happening through understanding and education.
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Re: Abuse

Postby smiley_cow » Thu Mar 19, 2009 5:24 pm

I'm surprised no one's mentioned Stanford Prison Experiment yet.

It was a massive psychological experiment that recreated prison conditions in 1970's, the subjects were chosen based on their lack of mental issues, criminal records or medical disabilities. The experiment was shut down after only six days (it was supposed to last fourteen) when Dr Zimbardo, who was in charge, invited his girlfriend, who was a grad student, to come in and interview the subjects, and she questioned the morality of the experiment. Zimbardo said later, out of fifty people he came down, she was the only one to question it.

Wikipedia wrote:Guards forced the prisoners to count off repeatedly as a way to learn their prison numbers, and to reinforce the idea that this was their new identity. Guards soon used these prisoner counts as another method to harass the prisoners, using physical punishment such as protracted exercise for errors in the prisoner count. Sanitary conditions declined rapidly, made worse by the guards refusing to allow some prisoners to urinate or defecate. As punishment, the guards would not let the prisoners empty the sanitation bucket. Mattresses were a valued item in the spartan prison, so the guards would punish prisoners by removing their mattresses, leaving them to sleep on concrete. Some prisoners were forced to go nude as a method of degradation, and some were subjected to sexual humiliation, including simulated homosexual sex...

Several guards became increasingly cruel as the experiment continued. Experimenters said that approximately one-third of the guards exhibited genuine sadistic tendencies. Interestingly, most of the guards were upset when the experiment concluded early.
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Re: Abuse

Postby Lethal Interjection » Thu Mar 19, 2009 6:37 pm

ChooChooTrain wrote:Lethal, are the things parents teach their kids actually true principals, or are they just convenient? When your parents teach you that it's wrong to steal, murder, and rape, are they telling the truth? Are those things actually inherently evil, or are they no different morally from any other action?


That is a difficult question. Particularly because I can't stand in societal vaccuum and answer it.
Do I believe that they are? Yes. So I suppose that is a type of moral absolutism. On the other hand, as I said, I also believe that it requires social context for people to learn them.
But that comes more from a religious standpoint for me, which has different characteristics than a "state of nature" moral absolutism, which is Kant's baby.
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Re: Abuse

Postby Oldrac the Chitinous » Thu Mar 19, 2009 7:16 pm

smiley_cow wrote:I'm surprised no one's mentioned Stanford Prison Experiment yet.

Aw, I wanted to mention this.
I think it's some combination of the sudden, total authority over other people and the lack of oversight that makes people want to test just how far their power goes. I'd bet that the guards at Abu Ghraib were decent folks back home, too.

ChooChooTrain wrote:Lethal, are the things parents teach their kids actually true principles, or are they just convenient? When your parents teach you that it's wrong to steal, murder, and rape, are they telling the truth? Are those things actually inherently evil, or are they no different morally from any other action?

Don't confuse amoralism with moral relativism. They both start with the premise, "There are no moral laws written into the fabric of the universe," but they finish the sentence differently: "so nothing is fundamentally right or wrong," or "so I guess it's up to me to write some." In practice, though, the relativist's laws are just as real as the absolutist's. So, if I say, "I decree that it's wrong to go around stabbing people," it's just as good at informing my actions as if God had said it. Either way, people don't get stabbed. By me.
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Re: Abuse

Postby mountainmage » Thu Mar 19, 2009 7:49 pm

I think abusive tendencies are inherent in some people, and that things like abusive parents and peer pressure aren't helping the matter.
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Re: Abuse

Postby ChooChooTrain » Thu Mar 19, 2009 10:04 pm

Oldrac the Chitinous wrote:
smiley_cow wrote:I'm surprised no one's mentioned Stanford Prison Experiment yet.

Aw, I wanted to mention this.
I think it's some combination of the sudden, total authority over other people and the lack of oversight that makes people want to test just how far their power goes. I'd bet that the guards at Abu Ghraib were decent folks back home, too.

ChooChooTrain wrote:Lethal, are the things parents teach their kids actually true principles, or are they just convenient? When your parents teach you that it's wrong to steal, murder, and rape, are they telling the truth? Are those things actually inherently evil, or are they no different morally from any other action?

Don't confuse amoralism with moral relativism. They both start with the premise, "There are no moral laws written into the fabric of the universe," but they finish the sentence differently: "so nothing is fundamentally right or wrong," or "so I guess it's up to me to write some." In practice, though, the relativist's laws are just as real as the absolutist's. So, if I say, "I decree that it's wrong to go around stabbing people," it's just as good at informing my actions as if God had said it. Either way, people don't get stabbed. By me.

Moral relativism is an attractive idea because if it is true, then I get to decide for myself what is right and wrong. I don't have to feel guilty when I do wrong things. Instead, I decide that I think those things are right, and I get to feel great about doing them. I wish I could believe in moral relativism. It's just not tenable.

You are right in drawing the distinction between amoralism and moral relativism. A moral relativist says that each person decides their own morality and that morality is true for them and only them. We each get to decide what is right and wrong for ourselves. It seems great, but the problem arises as soon as someone wrongs you, Oldrac. If I broke a promise to you, or burglarized your house, you would be outraged because my actions are not in line with your morality. However, you could not complain to me about my actions, because your morality does not apply to me. Rather, I have decided for myself that deceit is a positive human quality, and so by your relativist beliefs I am a particularly virtuous person by demonstrating it. You may want to condemn me for my actions or seek revenge, but your philosophy says that no injustice has occurred. If you're not convinced by my burglary argument, consider some of humanity's greatest atrocities. If you subscribe to moral relativism, then you have no choice but to admit that actions like slavery, terrorism, and genocide can be ethical if performed by someone who believes them to be.

Oldrac, I have met many people who claim to be moral relativists, but I have met none who truly believe relativism. They all claim there is no absolute Right and Wrong, yet as soon as they are wronged, they appeal to some standard of moral conduct. If someone questions the morality of their own conduct, their response is never to deny absolute morality. They make excuses, and try to explain how their conduct does conform to the standard. For example, if I say to you, "Hey you took my seat. That's not right," it's not likely that you'll respond by saying, "There is no such thing as right." Instead, you'll tell me why you think you were justified in taking the seat.

Edit: Expanded the second paragraph a bit.
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Re: Abuse

Postby astasia » Thu Mar 19, 2009 10:40 pm

smiley_cow wrote:I'm surprised no one's mentioned Stanford Prison Experiment yet.

It was a massive psychological experiment that recreated prison conditions in 1970's, the subjects were chosen based on their lack of mental issues, criminal records or medical disabilities. The experiment was shut down after only six days (it was supposed to last fourteen) when Dr Zimbardo, who was in charge, invited his girlfriend, who was a grad student, to come in and interview the subjects, and she questioned the morality of the experiment. Zimbardo said later, out of fifty people he came down, she was the only one to question it.

Wikipedia wrote:Guards forced the prisoners to count off repeatedly as a way to learn their prison numbers, and to reinforce the idea that this was their new identity. Guards soon used these prisoner counts as another method to harass the prisoners, using physical punishment such as protracted exercise for errors in the prisoner count. Sanitary conditions declined rapidly, made worse by the guards refusing to allow some prisoners to urinate or defecate. As punishment, the guards would not let the prisoners empty the sanitation bucket. Mattresses were a valued item in the spartan prison, so the guards would punish prisoners by removing their mattresses, leaving them to sleep on concrete. Some prisoners were forced to go nude as a method of degradation, and some were subjected to sexual humiliation, including simulated homosexual sex...

Several guards became increasingly cruel as the experiment continued. Experimenters said that approximately one-third of the guards exhibited genuine sadistic tendencies. Interestingly, most of the guards were upset when the experiment concluded early.


So, you have to wonder, did these people have sadistic tendencies that were lying beneath the surface and the situation enabled those feelings to come out, or did the situation create these feelings?

If the situation created the feelings, then the idea of deinstitutionalizing people and opting for group homes for the mentally ill, for those with special needs, and for the elderly (even for prisoners, maybe?) would be ideal.

If multiple different people have a natural leaning towards sadism and abuse, then, no matter the circumstances, we can't really prevent it.
cheez.wiz wrote:Theses three actions are wrong under a context.

Taking something from someone is okay. Doing the same without that person's consent isn't.
Killing an animal for food is okay. Killing an animal (humans are animals too, like it or not) "just because" (fill in with your own reasons) isn't.
Having sex with someone is "gr8 akshully". Having sex with someone without their consent isn't the way we roll.

So theses actions are absolutely wrong in their extreme forms, that we designed by the words you used, even if they aren't inherently wrong in nature.


I think this is an interesting point.

Perhaps the more narrowly defined ways in which taking items you want, killing, and having sex is more of a cultural phenomena and the basics of taking, killing, and sex are things we just repress and only allow to come out in culturally acceptable ways. And, some of us are better at the repression than others, or some of us have less of an urge to do so than others.

But is the only reason we don't kill, rape, and steal because of cultural norms? Is there nothing innately good or compassionate in us as part of our DNA?
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Re: Abuse

Postby Oldrac the Chitinous » Thu Mar 19, 2009 11:25 pm

ChooChooTrain wrote:Moral relativism is an attractive idea because if it is true, then I get to decide for myself what is right and wrong. I don't have to feel guilty when I do wrong things. Instead, I decide that I think those things are right, and I get to feel great about doing them. I wish I could believe in moral relativism. It's just not tenable.

You are right in drawing the distinction between amoralism and moral relativism. A moral relativist says that each person decides their own morality and that morality is true for them and only them. We each get to decide what is right and wrong for ourselves. It seems great, but the problem arises as soon as someone wrongs you, Oldrac. If I broke a promise to you, or burglarized your house, you would be outraged because my actions are not in line with your morality. However, you could not complain to me about my actions, because your morality does not apply to me. Rather, I have decided for myself that deceit is a positive human quality, and so by your relativist beliefs I am a particularly virtuous person by demonstrating it. You may want to condemn me for my actions or seek revenge, but your philosophy says that no injustice has occurred. If you're not convinced by my burglary argument, consider some of humanity's greatest atrocities. If you subscribe to moral relativism, then you have no choice but to admit that actions like slavery, terrorism, and genocide can be ethical if performed by someone who believes them to be.

Oldrac, I have met many people who claim to be moral relativists, but I have met none who truly believe relativism. They all claim there is no absolute Right and Wrong, yet as soon as they are wronged, they appeal to some standard of moral conduct. If someone questions the morality of their own conduct, their response is never to deny absolute morality. They make excuses, and try to explain how their conduct does conform to the standard. For example, if I say to you, "Hey you took my seat. That's not right," it's not likely that you'll respond by saying, "There is no such thing as right." Instead, you'll tell me why you think you were justified in taking the seat.

Edit: Expanded the second paragraph a bit.


I call myself a relativist, but I think there are plenty of relativists wouldn't be too happy about my use of the term.
The biggest thing I'm claiming is that morality doesn't exist in a vacuum, but that it's made by people and civilizations. Functionally, what I believe isn't much different from an absolute moral code. A relative moral framework can have implications for other people, just like any other kind. So I'd say "I have determined that burglin' people is wrong," end of sentence, as opposed to "I have determined that burglin' people is wrong, so I will not personally burgle anybody." And it doesn't always preclude me from interfering with other people; If I saw somebody getting beaten up with a pipe wrench, I would be under a moral obligation to intervene that supercedes any obligation I have to let people follow their own moral compass. (I also think that, if you're adjusting your principles so that you don't feel guilty, you're doing something wrong.) The taking-of-seats example is a little different, I guess. In that case, I'm assuming that we are both operating under similar moral codes that we get from living in the same society. So it's this presumed shared morality that I'm appealing to, not some kind of universal absolute.
Is it a little solipsistic of me to claim that I can decide what's right and wrong for the whole world? Sure. But ultimately, I'm the only person I'm making decisions for, so it works out okay.
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