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Notes on caring under the society of control

2015

A response to Hans Skott Myhre regarding his article in August’s CYC-Online ( read it here)

Hello Hans,

In response to your article Notes on Caring Under the Society of Control, as per usual, your writing is spot on; very thought provoking and saliently illuminating how neoliberalism permeates every facet of human existence, even those we wouldn’t dream are structurally influenced to benefit corporate conglomerates.

I found the quote from Joanna Wasiak’s writing about Piaget’s stage model fascinating and was wondering what your thoughts are on the “American Question” and how the concepts of “marketing,” “branding” and so on were largely (I believe – correct me if I am wrong) developed and proliferated in the USA; spreading out and ultimately dominating the entire globe (globalization). “Leaders of the free world” is a quote often bandied about by American politicians and the horror of McDonalds (amongst others), the terrifying and soul destroying destination of many young people. Right now, as I write this, the USA has “given” Iraq fighter jets to “help” them fight ISIS. Now, I am sure, that most educated people will realise that those jets were paid for not “given.” The dollar has recently strengthened as the USA military complex reaps the benefits of war and destruction. If the apple is so rotten to the core, how on earth do we foster truth or help young people to reach some sense of self-actualization in a world in which the almighty dollar is God?

Reading about the “mechanistic” outward behaviours of smiles that are canned and repeated over and over again, brought to mind the idea of not having any control (outlined by some of Foucault’s writing) and the importance of authenticity in CYC work. Foucault does write that power does ultimately lie within the individual. I think that as CYC’s, we need to strive to be authentic, and help young people to realize their own authenticity without prescribing or encroaching on their own human rights and freedoms; not easy to do! At the same time, the paradox of the power that lies within the individual or the freedoms that should be afforded to the individual, and the questioning of power paradigms, could be viewed by some as promotion of “individualism” which some argue has ultimately lead to the current neoliberal climate we find ourselves in. I am really just scratching the surface here, and quite a novice with regards to philosophically understanding or discussing these ideas, but I would appreciate your input because I know that you will make me think!

I think that the internet (as you rightly point out) is probably most influential in preparing young people to “sell their bodies, their personalities” (Alan Mackie as quoted in your article), and I think that this is largely because “canned” moral values and principles are part of what young people are exposed to whilst browsing the internet. With no guiding hand or moral compass, young people are developing their ideas, principles, morals, desires, drives, interests and so on often in isolation; alone in front of a PC terminal. It is so critical for CYC’s to talk to young people about what they see, hear and absorb from the internet, and also for CYC’s to get them away from screens and into the real world doing something they find meaningful.

Helping young people to visualise something different is the challenge that faces all of us. Actually, helping ourselves to visualise something different is where the challenge lies; and if we are ever able to visualise this; how does this come about?

Thank you again for making me think!

Sincerely,
Delphine Amer
____

“Critical thinking without hope is cynicism. Hope without critical thinking is naiveté”. Maria Popova.

While I appreciate your trenchant and sweeping critiques of the world we live in and the world we work in, I also believe that it is not sufficient to only critique. In fact I think "we" know what the problem is. What is essential is that we fashion the solutions. These we do not know and, in many cases, they are yet to be fashioned.

To everything there is a season and to every action there is a reaction.

I observe that resistance abounds in many youth. It is found in the expressions of the young in the elements of the body that cannot be so easily coopted. These are young folks who constitute the ‘terminally abandoned and socially excluded’. They choose spoken word, hip-hop, street art and their own version of a digital ‘song lines’. They “sing the body electric” and often are exhilarating in their creations.

Foucault stated that resistance can and must occur at any point, despite the reach of the state which is all encompassing.

For CYCs I would humbly suggest that there are three levels of action that are required. The first is to observe the youth energy that is present, powerful and productive. Many young people are taking hold of the reins of their lives. They are forging new ways of being and ways of expressing themselves through various art forms and Internet vehicles. Their bodies are not so easily coopted nor their thinking. We need to traverse both the digital and generational divide in order to give witness, promote and celebrate such efforts.

Second the type of critique and analysis you offer needs to be woven into every CYC course as part of a critical lens through which all content is viewed and offered. CYCs need to have, as part of their tool kit, vocational skills, that support "critical analysis".

Thirdly, as CYC's that have roles as both practitioners and citizens, we need to wake from our long slumber and become active agents in the various political dramas that surround us. There are elections afoot in the U.S and Canada where I believe that the future for all of us is at stake in the most vital and essential terms. The very planet is an issue which cannot be ignored. “This changes everything” as Naomi Klein has suggested.

The future that we want is always up for question which is often eclipsed and overshadowed by the various "cults of fear" which are promulgated by the dominant ideologies. We are enjoined in Canada to protect the economy and protect our nation. We are directed to stay the course.

However the economy is simply an instrument to achieve particular aims. As it stands in the First World it achieves much for a few, little for many and absolutely nothing for the most vulnerable. We need to change course. The status quo is not an option.

We also need to appreciate that war waging, especially in the aftermath of a manufactured conflict starting in Iraq to serve the interests of the Bush dynasty and Cheney and Halliburton, serves no peace serving agenda whatsoever. War, no matter how conflated, can never lead to peace. Canada needs to return to our esteemed role as peacekeepers.

And peacemaking and keeping needs to be at the core of what CYC’s engage in on a daily basis. The city of Hull, U.K has trained over 25,000 youth workers in restorative practices and has declared itself the first Restorative City in the world.

Our professional associations need to craft positions around the economy, the earth’s health and peace. While it is a stretch to think in these terms for professional bodies it is incumbent on them to see that contextualizing child and youth work is vital to restoring and repairing the harms done to the young and youth, their families, schools and communities. Exclusionary economic practices that effectively deem some worthy and others expendable does not serve the greater good. Our associations need to stand up for peace in all its manifestations as a principle upon which to make statements to counteract the ill-conceived and self-serving sabre rattling. We follow Don Quixote at our peril.

Remember what happened in Iceland after the economic collapse in 2008? The populous refused to assume the burden of debt that issued from the bankers egregious acts. They threw the bankers in jail, kicked the government out of office, re-wrote their constitution and lived to work and produce another day.

Suggested readings:

Paul Gorski
"The big lies of school reform: Finding new ways forward for public education”
“ Reaching and teaching students in poverty: Strategies for erasing the opportunity gap.”

Henry Giroux:
On Critical Pedagogy (Critical Pedagogy Today)”
Youth in Revolt: Reclaiming a Democratic Future (Critical Interventions: Politics, Culture, and the Promise of Democracy)

Chris Hedges:
“Wages of Rebellion: The Moral Imperative of Revolt”

Ta Nahesi Coates:
“Between the World and Me”

Bell Hooks:
“Teaching to Transgress: Education as the Practice of Freedom”

Delmore Schwartz
“The Dreams Which Begin in Responsibilities”

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality… Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.” Martin Luther King

Rick Kelly


I respond to Rick Kelly (we both responded to one of Hans’ writing Notes on Caring Under the Society of Control) to thank him for reminding me to be hopeful. Yes, Rick, I agree, the pessimistic and gloomy world view does not serve our youth, and you are correct to point out the wonderful liberating ways young people individuate in music, art, poetry and dance.

Hope is the answer.

All the best,
Delphine Amer
...

Hi Richard
 
Yes, I agree that we need to pay particular attention to the emerging youth movements and activities that provide prescient possibilities of new worlds to come. I have made an effort in other columns and in other writings to make this point. That said, I don't agree with you that our field knows what the problem is. Child and Youth Care and Youth Work, as it is commonly practiced and theorized, is only just beginning to develop some reasonably cogent analysis of the actual situation facing young people today. If you doubt that, comb through this journal and the other key journals in our field and do a survey of how many articles and books provide any sort of political or economic analysis. Take a look at conference programs and note how many keynotes have anything to do with a political framing of our work. There are notable exceptions, of course, like the writings emerging from the Child and Youth Care Department at the University of Victoria and the work of Brian Belton and Tony Taylor among others, but generally I would argue that "we" don't acknowledge or know what the problem is. I would propose that we need both a cogent and sophisticated analysis, as well as attention to the practices of revolt engaged in by young people across the planet today. Foucault was once asked how we could overcome our sense of despair when faced with his brutally detailed descriptions of the mechanisms of control and discipline arrayed against us. He replied that to read his work in that way was to misunderstand him entirely. His point, he said, was that in every instance of domination and control there is a moment of resistance. That, no matter how encompassing the mode of oppression and subjugation, living force will exceed the capacity of any system to dominate it. I am hopeful that my writing might be read in that spirit.
 
In solidarity
 
Hans Skott-Myhre
...

Hello All,
 
I am a student of Child and Youth Work...a mature one.  Almost 40 years old now,  I’ve been 5 years old, I’ve been 12, I was 18 and I gave birth to a son at 25.  I’ve spent time working to support myself and my family, I’ve scraped together extra to live my passion of riding horses.  I’ve been anxious, on prescription drugs for depression, anxiety....etc. etc.  I’ve been bullied and did a little bullying myself.....I’m a dreamer, very spiritual...I’ve spent most of my life asking “why” and “how”.  I’m a problem solver, but I’ve been buried...
 
As I spend time now volunteering here and there..one thought suddenly came to me as I was helping the Horticultural Therapist tend to the gardens at a hospice I give time to...
 
There are so many therapeutic programs developed to help people find themselves and ignite their passions and feelings of purpose and worth...and people call themselves “this kind of therapist” and “that kind of therapist” and some of them donate their time and energy while still others charge....sometimes big bucks to spend time with people taking time to do something therapeutic.  Thank goodness for those who spend time and make programs like this available to those in need.  I have taken part and have seen firsthand the joy that programs like this bring to those who have been through trauma or who are dying.  Strangely though, this whole idea, I believe is the problem.  This is where we have gone wrong.  I think so...  I think that others think so too.
 
We spend so much time digging for predisposing and precipitating and perpetuating reasons why....why not more on another P.....Prevention.  We have created a society who puts so much stock in “what you do” and “where you come from” and “how much you have” and “how amazing your retirement plan is”.  To spend time living and participating in activities which are inborn passions,  and which make a person feel purposeful is looked at as “irresponsible”  or even “selfish”
 
Is it any easier to care for and try to reverse months and years of trauma and suffering?  Does it take any less time or money than working and dealing in prevention and individual empowerment for children and their families in all cities, in all towns and all villages?
 
I know that it does not.  Morally and ethically.....prevention is the key.  Waiting lists months long, costs and accessibility issues.  Is this really the way we want to keep going? 
 
Would I have stayed the course of health and happiness if supported for who I was and what I loved from birth?  Very probably yes.  Would I have felt despair about who and what I was going to be if not directed and pressured and brainwashed to follow the “norm”?  Very probably not!
 
The society of control says “do this”, “don’t do that”, “think this” and “don’t feel like that”.  “Be this”, “learn that”, “save this much” and “if you don’t vote, you have no right to complain”
 
UGH.  Is it really any wonder that resistance is EVERYWHERE??  Toddlers grow into little beings with the mindset to touch just what you’ve told them not to.  Naturally.  Do we really and truly want our children to fall into the “normal” category?
 
With things like Caffeine Withdrawal now being diagnoses in the new and laughable DSM...the fact that supports only come with labels and diagnoses should prove that we are moving in the absolute wrong direction.
 
The actual situation of the youth today is that they are living in a world where they are raising themselves with the support and guidance of the Internet while their parents work overtime for sports, vacations, things and basic needs.  People are pushed to their limits because God forbid, anyone takes time for themselves, to just be, to just do something that they love.  We wait until someone has hit rock bottom to offer those aforementioned therapies.  Computers and tablets and phones are doing all of the thinking, from math and spelling to vocabulary and conversation...is it really any wonder that cognitions have been severely warped and even deadened???  Schools expect complete conformity....in thought and thinking, comprehension and results.   
 
“Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”
  
The internet alone, has taken all that we were able to regulate and censor and keep from our children’s developing minds and has changed the way we look at everything.  People habitually posting pictures of themselves, their children and their every things, now WANT to be judged and compared and critiqued....at least they are acting like it....
 
I believe that it is quite obvious and shockingly simple...and that yes...we do know what the problem is.
 
We cannot just pack up and leave those who are already suffering stranded and alone.  But we can advocate and push and rally for prevention and support and guidance to ignite individual passions and bring up happy and healthy, well adjusted human beings.
 
It doesn’t have to be this difficult.  It does not have to be so tragic.
 
“Many of the people who will walk behind me will be children, so make the beat keep time with short steps” Hans Christian Andersen
 
Ally

...

Hello All,
 
Reading through all the posts beginning with Han's original piece Notes on Caring....(oh by the way Hans, if you read through my original comments, you will notice that I did write about Foucault's premise that power lies within - so I was largely agreeing with you) I think that something is beginning to emerge...the idea that authenticity is what really matters in the end and that helping youth to find their authentic selves is a step in the right direction.
 
I like all the different perspectives arising from this discussion; Ally, yours is a grassroots perspective about how simple it really is to just CARE; much appreciated. Richard - you remind us of the importance of collective action and Hans you rightly point to the "lack of political framing" that exists with respect to the work that is done in the field of child and youth care.
 
Hans, when I read your writing I know that your ideas about the process and lived reality of the children, youth and professionals in the field of CYC is visionary. Unfortunately, when I read the news and I look at our present situation as humans on earth, I do feel a little hopeless...but, "hope springs eternal."
 
Anyway, thanks again Hans for starting an interesting conversation.
 
Delphine Amer

...

I agree and of course disagree. I think we are having a conversation. The use of the term " we" is like the use of the f term "they". It is both elusive and amorphous. It reminds me of the words of the inimitable Pogo who said “we have met the enemy and he is us”.

When I suggested that “we" did know what the problems were, I meant this more broadly as a body of thinkers and activists often found outside of the CYW profession, but not always. However,it is true that there is a paucity of critical thinking in the normal "run of the mill" curriculum, professional associations and conferences. Whenever I have been overtaken by those facts I have found myself handing in my CYW t-shirt and badge and declaring myself quit of the whole thing! Now this does happen more in my head, than in reality. I have never actually quit the “work” . I have simply found myself at a loss and lacking a sense of solidarity and shared direction.

In the nineties when I was doing grassroots community development and building projects and health centres I thought that I was no longer a CYW. I found certain works that guided my thinking. They were by Lisbeth Schorr. One was entitled "Within Our Reach" and the other one was "Common Knowledge". Her thesis was simply that we knew what the problems were and even the solutions. She documented numerous comprehensive community based initiatives that aimed to prevent rather than find band aids for wounds. This was all done with a critical eye on the larger context.

Then I came back into the fold, put my t-shirt back on and clipped on my badge. Moving into a college role presented many dilemmas, and as always, opportunities. My challenge then was to take the conventional individualizing and psychologizing approach and infuse this perspective with a broader analysis, tools and examples. I found that this was where I could stake my ground, draw my lines in the sand and set up my tent.

I continue to have and do see signs of hope, and, of course, of despair.

The signs of hope and optimism that I find are young College students who are emerging as leaders who can very easily point to "the problem" and see that this young person in despair is a reflection of much larger dynamics. Many know that there are systemic issues but do not always have the language and analytic ability to finely parse these dynamics. But their nascent, intuitive sense, often forged through the lived experience of marginalization and exclusion, offer them the experience base which is their evidence.

I am also lucky to teach in a program and curriculum that is anchored to a human rights and anti-oppression pillar, amongst others. Additionally, cognizant of the issues of the demand for innovative solutions and the looming spectre of ongoing, precarious work, a Social Innovation Hub has been created over the past year, with the SSW program, dedicated to innovative responses to social justice causes. One of the components is a Restorative Practices hub called "Just Us". These developments are the culmination of various efforts to break through the more traditional ways of thinking about, teaching about and actually doing the “work: We also conduct a “Social Justice Institute” every two years for 300 Grade 11 and 12 students in the GTA which is enhanced by annual Youth Institutes and our sister program’s, Community Worker, newly created “Tommy Douglas Institute”. The last three keynotes were Henry Giroux, Judy Rebick and Chris Hedges to speak about “critical pedagogy”.

Now, admittedly, some of this is horn-blowing, but it also part of a larger point. I believe that "we make the path by walking it". We are attempting to walk the talk. We also need to talk the talk.

I also know that there are numerous colleagues both in universities, colleges and on the ground who do similar work, but often without profile. This needs to be highlighted and celebrated. We also need to find better ways of playing together!

So yes, there is a paucity of critical analysis. We are too often mired in the micro and caught in an existential aesthetic which finds us more "being there" and enjoying the poetry of relational moves. We can become lost in the weeds but we do need to come up for air.

Maybe the next national conference should only be dedicated to “glorious acts of rebellion, resistance, social justice and critical theory”. A modest proposal perchance!

'I am what I am because of who we all are'. Ubuntu

Rick Kelly
...

Re: Free-range radical academics and a conference

“What looks like politics, and imagines itself to be political, will one day unmask itself as a religious movement.”
― Søren Kierkegaard, Concluding Unscientific Postscript

The conference about liberation, resistance, and being radical is a great idea for those many courageous people who are actually taking risks to do something interesting and trying to do what is right, often under great pressure.

Entertainment at the conference will be provided by we Canadian academics and our graduate students, during session breaks. The rest of you can watch while we hunt first for our self-awareness and then for our sense of irony. It might take some time, so I recommend snacks.

Doug Magnuson
...

Hello Rick,

Along with Doug, I too want to respond to your proposal to have a conference that could focus on sociopolitical contexts as well as the micro, up close and personal contexts in which we work. I would love to see “us,” and here I mean those of us who prepare students to work with children, youth and families, engage in critical analyses in order to consider what else might be going on and how we could ethically respond to some of the crises of contemporary society. I am concerned that we often miss the forest for the trees, or, as you have suggested below, become caught in the weeds.

I also want to thank you for your horn blowing. You have much to celebrate. Thanks for sharing some details of the exciting projects you are working on. I definitely look forward to reading more so hope that you will publish more of your ideas pertaining to critical pedagogy and social justice practices.

As one of the Canadians who plans to attend the next conference, I certainly hope we can have some liberating, political, radical, and generative conversations.

Regards,

Marie Hoskins

___

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