Science Fiction Project - Free Culture
Analog - All editorials - John Wood Campbell
* * Back * *

BREAKTHROUGH IN PSYCHOLOGY!

Life magazine, a few months ago, announced a startling breakthrough discovery in psychology made at a California research clinic. Some psychologists there had come up with the amazing discovery that punishment - hurting a child deliberately, for cause - actually helps children to grow into sounder personalities.
This startling discovery comes a little late, however. It seems to have been anticipated some hundreds of millions of years ago, when mammals first developed from the reptilian predecessors.
The psychological doctrine of "Mustn't punish a child; it might hurt his precious little ego" derives strictly from the reptilian division of the animal kingdom. They never punish their young. They're apt to eat them, of course, if they encounter them - but there's nothing of intent to hurt; it's simple hunger that motivates them.
The greatest of the mammalian inventions was not live birth - some of the earliest sharks gave birth to live young. The mammals invented reward and punishment for their young-guidance. Punishment was the great mammalian invention - a substitute for being eaten alive when the individual made a mistake.
Of course, the Freudian notion that "sex is the only instinct" explains the young animal's tendency to seek the mother on the basis of an Oedipus Complex, overlooking the fact that young mammals are thermotropic and hungry and could - just possibly - have certain other instinctual drives.
After some 150 megayears, it's reasonable to suppose that young mammals have a built-in expectation of being guided by punishment and reward - and that failure to offer that guidance introduces stresses into the young mammal. Certainly failure to give reward - affection and attention - is known to have a literally lethal effect on human babies. It's been proven that babies given every objective necessity of life - food, warmth, cleanliness, excellent medical care - have a near one hundred per cent death rate if they get only the objective necessities. But a baby born in a cold drizzle, deprived of shelter, under-nourished by a half-starved mother, survives and grows - if that half-starved mother strives to care for it and keep it.
Isn't it reasonable to assume that if one half of the ancient instinctual pattern is necessary, the other might be, too? The worst kind of lie is a half-truth; if you are entering a strange environment, and I tell you only what you should do, and omit all warnings of danger, things you should not do, I could arrange very neatly to have you kill yourself.
The psychological dictum of "Punishment is bad; it is mere desire for vengeance" has, of course, seeped over into the sociology of our times. The trite and stupid argument that punishing a criminal does no good, because it's mere vengeance, and capital punishment is useless because, after all, it has never stopped murder, takes off happily from that psychological crackpotism. The argument that punishment doesn't stop crime is equivalent to saying: "We shouldn't try to stop drunken driving, because even when we have laws against it, drunks still drive".
It spreads and digs in deeper, and comes up with the wonderful idea that the young criminal shouldn't be clouted for his vandalism; he should be gently scolded, and encouraged to do better.
There's the old saying that: "Power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely". It's a false statement. Power has almost no correlation with corruption - they're completely independent variables. If it were true, then it would necessarily follow that God Almighty was the ultimate in corruption.
The true statement is "Immunity corrupts; absolute immunity corrupts absolutely".
The current clamor about "police brutality" stems from the basic idea that individuals should be free of punishment - i. e., that criminals should be immune.
The automatic consequence of that increasing degree of immunity is the observed increasing corruption, the increasing vandalism of JDs, which recently expressed itself in several hundred million dollar damages in Los Angeles. The City of the Angels turned up with some red-hot demons on the loose. It's worth noting that the total amount of property damage the Los Angeles vandals did to that city probably exceeded the total of property destruction the Vandals did to the city of Rome when, they sacked it.
The "brutal" actions of police consist of punishing criminal behavior.

We have problems - very serious and pressing problems - concerned with social relationships in our culture. And you do not solve problems by denying that they can possibly really exist, or by denying that their actual cause could possibly be the cause. If your car stalls because the ignition wire is broken, filling the gas tank won't restart it. Cleaning the carburetor won't get it going. Putting in a new battery doesn't help. You'll eventually have to repair the ignition wire, one way or another. You might kid yourself the wire wasn't really at fault by installing a whole new ignition system - but one way or another you're going to fix that wire before it runs again.
The immensely destructive riots in Los Angeles, Chicago, and other cities were not, at the start, primarily racial - they were mainly the young barbarians against the "police brutality" of authority that refused to grant them the absolute immunity they wanted.
Once started, it snowballed, and the older barbarians joined in happily. The true Vandal spirit was manifested in their delight in setting fires that burned out whole blocks of property. They were revolting in search of "freedom now" in one sense - freedom to do what they damned well pleased, with no punishment threats, with total immunity.
Ninety per cent of the Thoughtless Liberals' excuses for the JD, and for the arrogant defiance of law by many of the Negro "Civil Rights" groups, has been based on arguments about how terrible it is to grow up in a ghetto - that such crowding and dirty conditions inescapably breed crime. That it isn't the fault, or the responsibility of the colored people, but the natural consequence of such conditions.
That, my friends, is absolutely one hundred per cent obvious nonsense. It is totally wrong, and strictly propaganda guff. The simplest evidence is directly available in almost all of our great cities. It isn't a matter of how terrible it is to be physically marked by skin-color, either.
Take a look at the other "ghetto" of colored people you'll find in almost every major U. S. city. A ghetto densely populated by colored people who didn't have a Chinaman's chance, after they were imported to this country for heavy labor at starvation wages, for domestic servants, and the like. People marked by differently shaped features and by skin color, demeaned and rejected, crowded now into city ghettos.
No Civil Rights movements have sought to better their lot. Their schools have not been integrated - and until pretty recently, the White culture didn't offer their children much schooling anyway.
But the Chinese sections of our large cities, just as densely crowded as the Negro sections, will never be confused with them. In New York City, for instance, Chinatown doesn't remotely resemble Harlem. It's one of the cleanest sections of the city - and it has the lowest crime rate of any section. The crime rate there is lower than it is for the fancy Park Avenue apartment district. And it's clean and crime-free not through the special efforts of the City; the colored people who live there see to it.
I have heard of no complaints whatever concerning "police brutality" coming from Chinese (they discipline their own children, and don't wait for the police to try to do it for them).
It is absolute nonsense to say that a ghetto automatically produces dirt and criminals. The Chinese prove that that's a false notion.
There's been a lot of talk about civilian review boards to check on "police brutality". I have a suggestion. Since the accusations of brutality come to such a large extent from the Negroes, and are directed against White police, let's have a board dominated by racially neutral arbiters - Chinese. I have a strong feeling that the complainants would howl in dismay at the idea; the Chinese have the lowest crime rate in the city, which means a solidly established respect for law, order, and discipline - for non-immunity. They do not hold that punishment is "mere vengeance" and practice the alternative proposition, that punishment is necessary to guidance.
Another standard proposition about ghettos is that they automatically discourage individuals living in them from seeking or even accepting education.
The term "ghetto" originated with the Jewish districts in European cities. These sections were, therefore, characterized by high crime rates, excessive juvenile delinquency, and general rejection of education?
The number of Chinese who have somehow managed to become major scientists - despite the claimed impossibility of achievement starting in a ghetto, with a colored skin - is worthy of note.
The extent to which men from the Jewish ghettos somehow overcame that "impossible" problem of education to become a major force in every intellectual field of endeavor suggests that it isn't ghetto-living that prevents achievement.
And integrated schools obviously aren't necessary for achievement, either; the Jews were, for centuries, denied entry to nearly all the great schools of Europe - and yet somehow managed to turn out great intellectual leaders for all those centuries.
If you insist on blaming the carburetor for the failure of the car to start, when it's the ignition wire - you can not solve the problem.
If you insist that it's segregation and ghettos that cause the problem the Negro faces - you can not solve that problem.
Because that's not where the problem lies.
It's not skin color; the Chinese had that problem, and their young people are decent, law-abiding, self-disciplined youngsters who are well-educated and are achieving in many fields.
It's not ghettos and segregated schools. The Jews proved that didn't matter, centuries ago.
It's not that a history of being rejected and demeaned leaves a stamp that can't be overcome. The Irish, Jews and Chinese all encountered the problem. So did the Italians. So did practically every ethnic group that moved into this continent (including the original Scott-English settlers, who were very lethally rejected by the then-dominant majority).
The problem seems to he in this question: what's the difference between "punishment" and "torture"?
Unfortunately, that problem lies in the subjective, not the objective, realm. Each involves the objective fact of pain deliberately inflicted. But whether that pain reacts on the individual personality as "punishment" or "torture" depends entirely on the recipient's interpretation. A flogging rates as "torture" to the individual who cannot accept that he did anything wrong - and as "punishment" to an individual who recognizes his own choice and actions earned what he's getting.
If an individual holds "This is cruel and vicious vengeance this enemy is inflicting on me" he will undergo torture, and seek to avenge it in turn.
Another individual, with a different orientation, in the same situation may hold, "Well, they caught me at it, dammit. I knew they might - so I get a flogging". This doesn't mean that he agrees with his punishers - but that he acknowledges that they are punishing, not torturing, him. That doesn't keep him from continuing to be a rebel - but it does mean that he doesn't see himself as the victim of cruel and vengeful and wicked foes. He doesn't pity himself.

Now an individual oriented to the idea that punishment is always evil and is always mere vengeance - cannot be punished. He can only be tortured. To him, the police using force to restrain his vandalism are "brutally" interfering with his Natural Right To Immunity - they are torturing him by frustrating his desire to see that building go up in flames, to loot that liquor store, to smash the windows and grab those radio and TV sets. To him, any force used to restrain his unlimited freedom to do what he wants is torture and brutality.
Because - face it! - any discipline is painful. There are three kinds of discipline: Universe Discipline, Other People Discipline, and Self-discipline. But they're all painful. Stick your finger in boiling water, and you get Universe Discipline. A child who's slapped away from sticking his finger in a live electric socket is getting Other People Discipline. When he gets older, he'll keep his own fingers out of the high-voltage wiring - Self-discipline. But each kind is painful, for each is an imposed frustration of a desire, which is psychological or emotional pain.
The police have as their function the imposition of discipline on those who lack self-discipline. They rescue children who've fallen in the pond, or got stuck in pipes, or ran into the street and got hit by cars. They arrest burglars, rapists, and murderers. Their business is to supply the Other People Discipline required by those who lack Self-discipline.
To one who denies that discipline should exist, this is torture. It's deliberately inflicted pain - emotional pain of frustration at the very least. Therefore, the police are clearly being brutal; their brutality is inherent in the fact of their deliberately frustrating the non-self-disciplined individual's desires.
All of which orientation stems from that lovely piece of crack-pottery the psychologists introduced: "Punishment is always bad; it's mere desire for vengeance, and harmful to the child's ego".
The Chinese have a five-thousand-year old tradition of discipline. So do the Jews. They could, and did, live sanely and peacefully in the ghettos, in the close-packed living where every individual is constantly rubbing against every other.
The Irish, when they first came over here, didn't have that tradition. The Irish created America's first slums, and a reputation for being a brawling, undependable, dirty, ignorant people. It took them a couple of generations, but they started by disciplining each other, and wound up learning how to live as ambitious, but self-disciplined people.
The Chinese have, also, an ancient tradition of "Face" - of the importance of reputation. The Chinese felt strongly that the behavior of any Chinese was a reflection on the reputation - on the Face - of all Chinese (Madison Avenue's taken over the idea and calls it "Image"). Wherefore, every Chinese felt that the behavior and earned reputation of every other Chinese was his personal and direct concern. If one Chinese were a crook, a criminal, slovenly and lazy - why, it impaired the "Face" of other Chinese, by indicating that Chinese were such undesirables. If one Chinese were a cheat - it impaired the reputation, the Face, of other Chinese. Wherefore the other Chinese took steps to see that the cheat stopped damaging their Face.
Today, a New York businessman knows he can trust a Chinese businessman to meet his debts, and to deal honestly. If, for some reason, the Chinese does not meet his debts, one of the Chinese Societies will pay them in full for him. The Chinese Society will then deal with the defaulter. The reputation of the Chinese has been protected - and if the reason for default was an honest one, the defaulter will be aided in reestablishing himself. If he defaulted by reason of cheating, measures will be taken so that he does not have any desire whatever to repeat.

The brawling, slovenly, shiftless Irish were disciplined in a basically similar manner by their fellow Irish who, like the Chinese, felt that what any Irishman did was a reflection on all Irish.
Both the Chinese idea of Face, and the Irishman's feeling that he himself would be judged by the behavior of every other Irishman, rest on an absolutely one hundred per cent valid mechanism.
The simplest way to express it is in terms of what I call the "Elsa mechanism" in honor of Elsa, the Lioness. Many of you have, I'm sure, read the two delightful books about "Elsa" - "Born Free" and "Living Free" the biography of a wild African lioness who was raised from orphaned cubhood by a pair of white African game wardens. Elsa, as a full-grown lioness, was friendly, gentle, trustworthy, and fully cooperative with human beings. She was playful, but careful to recognize her own strength and weight. If you read those books, you'll learn how warmly affectionate and genuinely friendly an African lioness can be.
So the next time you're walking across the African veldt, and see a full-grown lioness come bounding toward you - what will you do?
Unless you're insane, you'll raise your rifle and do your best to drop the three hundred pound beast before she reaches you.
Of course, if it happened to be Elsa, happily bounding toward you in friendly greeting, that would be a cruel injustice.
It would be a case of an individual suffering gross injustice because of the reputation - well earned! - of the statistical group, Adult Lionesses, of which she was a member.
In other words, the necessity of real-world statistics will force any sane individual to react to the most probable situation - and the most probable situation is that a powerful carnivore is attacking with motivation of converting you to manburgers.
Statistically speaking, the Negroes lack self-discipline. Suppressing the publication of crime statistics does not change those statistics. The fact that some individuals are brilliant, highly ethical, thoroughly self-disciplined gentlemen in the finest sense of the word - does not negate the validity of the Elsa Mechanism. Those individuals will suffer gross injustice - because of the reputation their group has earned.
That injustice to individuals will, moreover, continue indefinitely, no matter what laws may be passed. Prohibition had a better chance of stopping the consumption of alcohol than a law has of stopping the statistically based reactions of human individuals.
When lack of self-discipline-revolt against any and all discipline - explodes into a vandal group sacking a major city, the loss of Face involved can not be repaired by passing a new law saying we shouldn't notice it.
If the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People wants to truly advance the Negroes - they might learn from an older, wiser people, and study the Chinese methods. Or the younger and more ebullient Irish, who solved the same problem, in the same basic way.
The Negro must discipline the Negro. So long as the Negro leaves the problems of discipline up to the Whites, the Negro will not be self-disciplined, and will feel that he is a victim of Other People Discipline, and Other People Frustration. He'll feel that, because he truly will be - forever and ever, world without end, until he himself takes over the job.
The Chinese and the Irish were right; what any member of a group does, does reflect on every other member, whether that other member likes it or not.
If a White group imposes discipline, the disciplined individual will inevitably have a strong tendency to feel that the aliens are imposing cruel torture. If a Negro society imposes discipline, it will come far closer to being accepted as punishment and guidance.
The deep and simple basic of the problem is - the Whites can not solve this problem, no matter what they do. Because anything they do is necessarily wrong.
Only the Negro himself can solve it - because it must be solved by self-discipline, and self-respect, and self-help.
The ones who suffer the greatest injustice now are those fine individual Negro men and women who, because of that Elsa Mechanism, are denied the acceptance their individual personalities merit. It's tough - but it is just as inevitable and inescapable as any other law of statistics. The individual Negro who can't stand the slovenly, violent, thieving ways of his Negro neighbors naturally wants to move to a better disciplined neighborhood.
But... the individuals in the better-disciplined neighborhood are inescapably going to react to the Elsa Mechanism, and identify him with the Negro neighbors that he himself wants to escape.
In seeking to move away from their neighborhood, he is trying to do what he so condemns - relegating his undesirable neighbors to a ghetto, geographically removed from himself.
Man-made legislation, seeking to contravene a law of Nature, can at the very best be futile. The Elsa Mechanism is based on the laws of statistics. Trying to change it by passing laws is about equivalent to decreeing that, henceforth, the value of "pi" shall be 3.0000...
Maybe somewhere... but not in this Universe!

December 1965

END