Verbal abuse

Sylvia Estrada Claudio
Verbal abuse
I guess we will have to teach the Philippine Boy Scouts not to follow the example of the Chief Scout

If as is usual, someone will say that President Rodrigo R. Duterte was only “passionate” or perhaps “warning the kids” when he gave his speech last April 3, 2017 to the Philippine Boy Scouts, I can only say that what really happened is that he has gone bonkers.

In an overdose of protectiveness he told the scouts he would kill anyone who would threaten the youth. He also assured them that he had killed before and that he was willing to kill again. He was angry, he said.

Then he threatened drug addicts who he claimed had been identified, to keep off the streets and hide in their homes. Because if he caught them, he would throw them in Manila Bay to feed the fish.

I have long been afraid that the President’s foul mouth would inure the nation eventually. After all, the man has acted toward the nation the way a verbally abusive man would act toward his family: shocking us with language, downplaying our reactions, ignoring our protest, and escalating it once we seem to have “accepted” the abusive language. Little did I know that, typical of abusers, he would escalate to include the children. And despite the media reports and the screams of anger, many still would excuse his words.

I will not. I have not fought abuse all my life not to call it as it is. And I refuse to be the proverbial frog in the pot who stays as the temperature of the water is raised slowly until it ends up being boiled to death.

Mr. President, you have verbally abused women and now you have graduated to our children. Verbal abuse does not only constitute abusive words toward the persons present. It can include having people witness violence. And what you did was to make the children witness to your verbal violence. (READ: #AnimatED: Bringing up Cain)

Harm to toddlers

Some of those children were as young as four year olds.

I know a little bit about four year olds. As a former Director of the UP Center for Gender and Women’s Studies, I was also the head of UP Diliman’s Kalinga Day Care Center. Top child experts from our College of Education, the Family Life and Child Development Department and the Department of Psychology helped through the years to put together our curriculum.

One of our important goals is to also ensure a safe and peaceful environment for the young ones.

Of all the speeches I have made, opening day and moving-up day speeches at the Kalinga Day Care Center were my favorites. They remain some of my fondest memories mainly because the audience cared very little about what I said. The doting parents hoped I would  not rattle on because they were really there to record their kids at the starting point of their schooling. The other part of the audience, the kids, cared even less.

Anyone who thinks too highly of themselves should try to give a speech while some young diva in a tiara is busy showing off her dance moves in front of you (they will try to catch her and take her off stage but she will run further onstage and end up dancing behind me where she will be joined by her “court”).

She would not be the only distraction though. Other kids would be running around, fussing with their costumes, creating scenarios the adults can only guess at. Often, some young ‘un would run smack into my knees while I spoke and give me the most adorable smile. They generally did that to benign things they would run into like, say, the stage curtains.

I enjoyed those moments because only carefree kids can create such mayhem. And only a director who loves to see carefree children would have a tacit understanding with the teachers to let those kids rip.

Imagine now invading the world of a four year old with the fear of killing. The thought that out there in the world there is someone your President has to kill to keep you safe. That addicts abound in their numbers and they are out to harm you. Would you even run into the curtains without wondering if the bogeyman addict lurks behind them? How would you play with such abandon? 

This is the harm the President has done. Of course we want to keep our children safe. But if we really care for them, we keep them safe without making them fearful. We would keep them safe while slowly teaching how to protect themselves. This would mean, when they are older, the proper understanding of justified violence and the reluctance to use violence. That is not accomplished by the evocation of perverse addicts and boasting about killings.

The protective parent protects against the actual dangers but does not call attention to these until the child is ready. It is a double burden really to be watchful and fearful for your children without breathing a word to them until it is necessary, until they can and must protect themselves. It is only a vain and self-indulgent parent who would pump himself up like this in front of 4-year olds. 

In truth, the recent and documented reports of the deaths of toddlers are as “collateral” in the President’s war an drugs. But the abuser never really admits to the abuse and the consequences of that abuse. But that is for another day.

Lessons of non-aggression

Our curriculum was designed to inculcate lessons about equality (along lines of gender, class and disability), love for the environment and peace.

One of the most important life skills we teach to achieve our goals, are non-aggressive ways to resolve conflict.

If someone steals your snack, don’t punch him or her in the face! There are better ways to solve the problem. If someone runs into you at play, you must not take it as an affront. See if this was accidental instead and then move on.

Non-aggression also lies at our efforts to stop bullying on the basis of class and gender differences. It is a starting base from which a child can be taught not to harm animals and to care for the environment. It is in these early steps of non-aggression that children will learn important lessons such as one does not rape. It is an atmosphere of peace that children learn the value of peace.

Indeed it is the aggressive kids we look out for because they signal to us family problems including family violence.

I will also inform the reader that more than half of our kids came from poorer backgrounds. So if anyone claims that only privileged kids deserve the luxury of a worry-free childhood then he is saying that the poor cannot have the basic entitlements that all should enjoy. Anyone who has worked in poor communities, as I have, will also know that such childhoods happen even among the less advantaged.

If our President wants to treat our children to shape a society of war and strife, he has certainly done a good start of it with the kids he spoke to that day.

Normally we also teach our children to obey authority except in those cases where they are being abused by the person in authority whether it be their father, the priest, the Chief Scout or the Father of the Nation.

I guess we will have to teach the Philippine Boy Scouts not to follow the example of the Chief Scout. I will remind their leaders that the philosophy of our day care center certainly coincides more with the scout oath and scout law than the mad ramblings of an angry and violent President. –





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