Democracy vs. Domestic Violenceby Robert A. Yourell, MA | May 14, 2008
Consider three perspectives on domestic violence (DV), or any pattern of violence and crime occurring in a population. One is a basic statistical view. This view answers questions such as, “What percentage of the population experiences DV?” This view can be more refined. It can slice and dice statistics by looking at subgroups like homosexual relationships or people in a given socioeconomic class. It can look at diagnostic categories such as antisocial personality disorder or post traumatic stress disorder. This helps clinicians become sensitized to issues, and have a better idea what questions to ask in developing a plan. It informs social policy experts and program developers.
To be better informed, and more effective, people are also looking at how we are affected by the groups we belong to that are treated unequally and subjected to various kinds of stress and discrimination. This is called intersectionality, because it refers to intersecting statuses. To understand it, just imagine if Hurricane Katrina had flooded a wealthy area such as Beverly Hills. If you think the largely white and connected inhabitants would have gotten more respect and not been treated like dangerous refugees when they tried to escape across a bridge into a nearby community (turned back at gun point by the authorities), I think you would be right.
Of course, intersectionality can be more subtle, and even show up as discrimination within minority groups. A friend of mine with fibromyalgia who suffered from a great deal of disabling pain was attending a disabilities conference. She was insulted by someone in a wheel chair, as if her disability was not valid somehow. A woman in the deaf community began a lesbian relationship and suffered rejection and verbal attacks, and even being spat upon, because of attitudes toward homosexuality in her particular community. Wikipedia has a nice entry on intersectionality if you’d like to learn more.
Let’s take this to the third, final, perspective for this piece. Consider how poor education, cognitive difficulties (that can be caused by the higher levels of contaminants and drug exposure in poorer communities), post traumatic stress disorder (that can be caused by exposure to heightened levels of violence in poorer communities), and unremitting stress (that can be caused by trying to survive in an area with low employment, gang activity, getting into and out of jail, and poverty), and violent enculturation (that occurs in communities that are without good economies and educational resources for extended periods of time, and that have substantial numbers of people who have been in prison) contribute to domestic violence and other violent and criminal behavior.
Think about how the gutting of social programs (that have been shown to actually be an investment because they recoup their costs many times over when done right) contributes to sickness and disease, poverty, violence, drug addiction, crime, and the ability of organized crime and gangs to build power. Think about how the power of global corporations is used to influence the public through media controlled by those corporations (think Fox News and Rupert Murdoch, for example), and through elections that require massive funding, and through political parties that have had many decades to become funded, incested, and orchestrated by those corporate interests (think, “Impeachment is off the table” per the democrats in the U.S.).
Connect the gutting of social programs with the corporate coup taking place in the U.S. What we see is a boil of social problems taking place in populations that are used, abused, and discarded in whatever way suits the powerful interests at the helm. This would just be paranoia, if it weren’t for the extensive documentation of these trends people like Noam Chomsky and Howard Zinn, and reporting by people like Amy Goodman of Democracy Now.
If I had started this entry by saying that unbridled corporate power causes domestic violence, I might have just sounded simple minded. But do I sound like I’m letting perpetrators of DV off the hook? I can only say that anyone who is unwilling to look at all the factors that contribute to DV is insular, stuck in the past, and being simple minded.
Part of the solution to DV is a political one. Part of the solution is restoring democracy in the U.S. Would a national strike be therapeutic? It was for the horrible conditions of child labor in America. I think it would be for many of today’s ills as well.
The VoteStrike.org site has information about the rationale of strikes, and is helping to coordinate a national strike on 9/11/09.
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