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Focus on the future? 

2014

Do you think the field needs to let go of the past and focus on the future?

The world is clearly broken, given all the conflicts going on in various countries. Those of us in mental health professions need to do something radical. Otherwise our children will have to live in a world with war, mental illness, and a damaged environment. It is time to question the status quo and let go of the past. New ideas have to be shared and put in place to shape the future.

You might think I am nuts and that our field has done enough. Is it not enough just to go about mundane tasks, paperwork and daily living? No, it is not enough. We need to give the children better values than the ones we were taught. We need to teach collectivism as opposed to egoism. Instead of competition, we need collaboration. We need to break some of the boundaries enforced on us so that love can enter the field. One of my teachers thought that love has no place in the field, but I disagree. Love is the only thing that can save this field.

Braden Freeman
...

I very much agree Braden.

Without genuine love for others and a burden for relieving the pain of others, we will quickly justify the lack of care behind limited time, energy, space, opportunity, etc. The past is great for learning lessons, but if you take it with you into the future it becomes baggage and everyone around you can see the baggage and not the lessons you talk from. If we cannot bring hope into the lives of children, we are mere case managers, while we initially entered this field to be much more than that.

I see a sense of entitlement with some youth where they may be either so used to fighting for their own survival or used to getting what they want, that they’ve lost the sense of our interconnectedness – that their behaviour affects others too. If they see the collaboration you talk of from us, this can already be an indirect influence. We do need each other, since we are also only human.

Thanks for stirring our sometimes heavy hearts.

Rika Swanzen
...

I couldn't agree more and offer the following from my Dec 2013 column on CYC-Net Online:

Hardt and Negri suggest that to undo the old forms of social identitarian love, love needs to be redefined as having new qualities such as “indignation, disobedience, and antagonism.” This would propose that we found our love, within our programs, on indignation at any ill treatment of those most radically different from us, on refusal to obey unjust and oppressive commands from administrators and funders, on antagonism towards any form of command that would require us to subjugate ourselves to norms and values that would create us as the same. To do this, requires that we engage what Hardt and Negri call the two powers of love: association and rebellion.

The power of association means that we in our collectivity form our work together. Our work would no longer not defined by abstract principles, demands of funders, or the dreams of bureaucrats, but by ourselves as a collectivity of creative young people and adults working together. This would produce what Hardt and Negri define as the “deployment of love . . . and new habits . . . formed through the collective organization of our desires, a process of sentimental and political education” (p. 190) Such a deployment of love is no longer limited to the emotional lives of the loving, but simultaneously a force that reconfigures social structures. It exceeds and overflows hierarchies of power and control and opens programs as truly participatory democratic institutions that serve people not policies. Love, as political in this way, is founded on consensus built out of difference that leads to self-rule by workers and young people. Care for the radically other creates a broader and more inclusive community as a site of survival within an increasingly fragmented and alienated social world of neo-liberal capitalism.

Such love Hardt and Negri tell us is “not . . . spontaneous or passive. It does not simply happen to us, as if it were an event that mystically arrives from elsewhere, Instead it is an action, a biopolitical event, planned and realized in common.” (p. 180) This is of course, not a simple thing nor will it be an uncontested set of actions. To love in this way is a serious violation of social norms and an assault on the existing regimes of dominance and control. For some, this is beyond the scope of child and youth care. I would argue that it is its central social function.

Indeed, to love in our work in this way will require acts of revolt and more than genteel negotiations with those controlling and dominating our programs. As Hardt and Negri point out,“ Love always involves the use of force or, more precisely, the actions of love are themselves deployments of force. Love may be an angel, but if so it is an angel armed.” (p. 196)

While the moment for such revolt may not be immediate, I would argue that it is coming. The question is, when they come to shut down your work, will you meekly walk away or will you find common force with the young people and their community and occupy the program? This is ultimately what is at stake as the political force of love in child and youth care. Such is the force of revolutionary love and the path to it joyful expression.

Hans Skott Myhre
...

Hi Braden,

I must agree with you, and I am sure most colleagues in the field will also agree.

I am wondering what thoughts you may have on how we can go about this? You sound like a very practical person, and I think the field needs very practical solutions to some of the problems we are facing. It sounds to me (and I could just be misreading) like some of your frustrations are related to organisational dynamics? This has been my single greatest frustration, that frontline practitioners have the least decision-making power while managers and strategist set the course for an organisation or agency, often with little input from the frontline staff (and even less input from the most important people in the process, the children and youth!) I think it also depends where you stand… I have worked on the frontline, and in management – and for a long time I did both at the same time. I can see both perspectives and argue both sides – and that is quite a contradiction in itself, because there really should not be “sides”. On the other hand, these contradictions may help to keep us alive intellectually, asking us to question, debate, and keep moving forward. If there were no challenges, I wonder how much we would really “grow” as a profession.

I would love to hear more of your ideas?

Regards,

Werner van der Westhuizen
...

BRAVO BRADEN! But love can only be experienced and expressed in relationships. Pretty radical stuff eh?

Gerry Fewster


Hi Braden,

I think it’s healthy to challenge the status quo – but perhaps we also need to work where people are at and find ways to empower them from within? I think the field is vibrant, and healthy and love actually has a place – I am drawn to Noddings work on the ethics of care – love truly has a place! http://infed.org/mobi/nel-noddings-the-ethics-of-care-and-education/

 John Paul Fitzpatrick
...

Braden,

Haha, who said teachers know everything? Teachers who claim to know everything are not true teachers, they are more akin to dictators, reinforcing the power dynamic that exists in our society, and thereby destroying the colour and creativity in your vision.

If I was your teacher I would say that you are on your way to finding the key success in this field, profession, discipline, craft, whatever. There is a reason why we call ourselves Child and Youth CARE Workers.. Caring is an act of love. Love is found in relationships, and when we come from an intentional place and enter into positive relationships with young people, we can be that light in a dark world.

Keep fighting the good fight Braden, I think you're on to something here.

Catlin Thorn

I appreciate the support because I did not always get such support from my teachers in school. I believe someone in the discussion mentioned that love is rebellious, which is probably why I have opposition.

Even the people at the top of the field have become frustrated, blaming the government for the lack of progress in the field. I tend to agree with the government though. If the children are not evolving, not gaining strength, feeling emptiness, why would the government give us money? We need to show the government progress, evolution.

I do not think I am the only one who can offer solutions, because all of you seem very intelligent. The hardest thing to do is to change a stubborn status quo. I guess all I can say is keep your eyes open, make sure your vision is clear and completely unclouded by the dead, mechanical traditions of the past.
To be honest, I think the best thing we can do is what we are doing right now. We need to get a powerful discussion going. Those people who are not in favor of reforms want to avoid any such discussions. It sounds to me that I am not the only one who has had frustrations, but I understand silence is the practical choice. We should support each other in rebellion.

No real discussion happens in the field, not among staff, or between staff and young people. I am heartbroken to see how many children are misunderstood because we are so tempted to find answers that we misdiagnose them. Children are suffering from a lack of love, just like the rest of us. Some mental illness is very real, but a large percentage of them can be solved through compassion and love. The structure of the agencies would also need to be looked at.

One of the barriers to love is hierarchy. Hierarchy can do many things, but it cannot allow for an open discussion of love. It can give consistency, routine, security, but never love. Dissolving the hierarchy would be impractical, but it can be adjusted. I do not think there is anything wrong with compassion being the foundation of a hierarchy. I think this is what Ghandi was trying to do with his movement.

Braden Freeman
...

I strongly agree, our field has not done enough. Children are still abused due to lack of Love. Protecting them is in the heart and not in an appearance. Loving them means doing appropriate and meaningful actions that would bring a positive change in their lives.

Bulie Moya
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