The notion of a Bad Seed – a child who has inherited evil – was both chilling and terrifying in the 1950s. Fast forward 45 years and it is pretty well established that psychopathic 9-years do exist. But the case is far from closed as to whether our environment or our genes are creating these children. It’s the ago-old psychological / biological question of nature versus nurture and the answer is “yes.” The research seems to be pointing in the direction of genetic make-up is important but how children are raised may mitigate or exacerbate hidden latencies and potential behaviors. In the end, there is little we can do about our genetics, but our environment we can greatly affect.
Unless you are a psychiatrist, psychologist, or psychotherapist, you are less concerned about the (fortunately) small population of sociopaths amongst us and more focused on living and leading a healthy life and creating the same for our children. The truism ‘we are what we eat’ similarly applies to our environment: to a large extent, we are what we see, hear, and experience.
As humans we live in the world of possibilities, not perfection. We have seemingly infinite capacity for kindness and cruelty, love and hate, higher strivings and base degradations. Genetics may bequeath us rudimentary tools, but with those we can literally build rockets to the moon and beyond. So, we have to ask the questions of ourselves before questioning others. What do we want for the world? What do we want for ourselves? What do we want for the future of our world: our children?
A stream of questions flows through my head … What are the roles of competition and cooperation? Why is seeing sex in a film more ‘offensive’ than a dismembered body? Why does violence sell so well? Where is the empathy for all living things? How should an individual live within a community? Why do we tolerate cruelty? Should we care for others who cannot care for themselves? How and why have we become so militarized? Why do gun sales spike after mass shootings? Who are the fear mongers and why do we listen to them? Should everything have a monetary cost associated with it? Should children be marketed to? Is the reason “because we can” really a reason? Why is societal amnesia so prevalent? How can we truly learn from our and others’ mistakes? Why endless wars? Why profit? What is motive and motivation? … How we answer those and many more questions on a personal level will create the environment for our children, of our future. Schools and governments, churches and NGOs, can and do grapple with these on societal levels, to a greater or lesser degree of success. But, in your home, you are ground zero.
Think about the questions. Thoughtful answers lead to informed decisions. Decisions have lasting consequences. Do this when you are loving your partner, caring for children, tending animals, working with colleagues, buying products, ordering dinner, deciding what movie to see, what book to read. Think and build a new world; react and perpetuate the same.
It is safe to say that few want to live in a culture of violence, a state of fear. Yet, it seems we are frightfully good at creating both. How can we move from negligent farmer to good shepherd?
Next: Culture of Violence
As the principal of Clayhaus Photography, Jeff Clay specializes in fine-art landscape, architecture, and travel images. He also does portrait and event photography as a partner in Perfect Light Studios. Finally, with a background in information technology and project management, and as sole proprietor of Clayhaus Consulting, he works with non-profits and small businesses to help implement Internet and social media campaigns. He lives in Salt Lake City, UT with his wife, Bonnie and their three wild and crazy retrievers.