Je suis L’ENFANT

Another act of brutality, a series of them, and the world comes together to protest.

To defy.  To unify.

People stand shoulder to shoulder in Paris, in shock, in bewilderment, in silence. We try to make sense of it. We box people: ‘Terrorists’, ‘Islamists’, ‘Cartoonists’, ‘Capitalists’. Blood begs an answer. We are so tired. Grasp for categories – does it help?

I think the time has come for us to change the mouldy old rhetoric, the old name-tags; and to speak of new things that are now known so very, very, very well. Media peddles its wares by staying superficial. Debates rage about ‘ideology’. As if an ideology can lead a person to kill, like a program inserted in the head. We know better than that.

We know the propensity for violence is not inborn. Nor can it be switched-on by reading a scripture. Rage, emptiness, loss of self, gullibility, lack of empathy…these necessary conditions for acts of violence are all embedded in human neurology. Violence tells the story of our childhood. No human was born to kill; our spirit was killed first. Unless there is healing, we act out as was first acted upon us. Is anyone listening? Child-development science has been shouting this from rooftops the world over, for decades!

Every war was first a war against children. Every act of terror was first the terrorising of a child. Every mocking and offensive cartoon was first an emotion of shame and violation.

Look around. Wherever in this world there is patriarchy, wherever there is authoritarian parenting and education, wherever there is punishment and shaming of children en masse, there will be violence. No, it is not about Islam. Not about Christianity, Capitalism, not about Rock & Roll. Unless of course, those are used as instruments of patriarchy and punishment.

Do this as an experiment. Look anywhere in the world where the culture is heavily patriarchal and the family dynamic is authoritarian. Tell me if such a culture doesn’t produce more violence than its neighbours. Tell me if the anthropologists and the brain scientists have been wrong all along.

As long as authoritarianism and patriarchy exist, there will be guns, bombs, petrol engines, coal stacks, chain saws. Violence is always given a brand. Islam. Capitalism. Etcetera. At the core, the driver is always the same. War and terrorism, (if we insist on making those distinctions) are not ideologies: they are SYMPTOMS.

Violence demands a response. But by the time the violence has happened, all responses bring an awful cost. That is because by the time the violence has happened, that is a very late indicator that something urgent has been left unattended. Something has been terribly neglected, overlooked, denied.  It has been left to fester, to brew. By the time we send the police, the warplanes…we are too late! We failed to pay attention when we should have. We have allowed children to be shamed, neglected, humiliated, enculturated, ‘socialised’. Then, we left the adults unhealed. In the name of ‘cultural rights’, in the name of ‘non-interference’, we abandon all care. We cloak our indifference and laziness in the banner of ‘tolerance’. Then……BOOM!

We respond to violence…because we have been too detached to PREVENT it at its source.

Wherever there is authoritarianism, wherever there is patriarchy, violence will be generated. And in this globalised age, there is no ‘far away’, there is no ‘over there’, there is no ‘them’. Violence towards children is everyone’s business. Patriarchy three thousand miles away brings a consequence, right here in our street. Our own neglect is instantly exported.

Democracy is not done yet. Neither is peace. These are not acts of Parliament. Democracy is a family dynamic. It is a way of education. Children’s rights must trump cultural rights, or we all suffer. Conservatives are punitive. But liberals are not much help either, when they accept and defend culture for culture’s sake.

I think it is time to be pre-emptive and pro-active. If we care to end violence, we need to insist on ending violence towards children. We need to balance gender dynamics and to democratise family relationships everywhere in this world.  Everywhere.

Can we declare that human rights are universal? What a question! The question presumes all humans aren’t human. So: if you exploit a man in the name of religion, then that aspect of your religion has to go. If you oppress a woman in the name of culture, then that aspect of your culture has to go. If you shame or punish a child in the name of tradition, then that tradition has to go. It has to go. Enough!

Children’s rights must trump religion and override tradition. Human rights must trump culture, no matter what the culture. West, East, Middle East, modern, ancient… for the sake of humanity we have to decide that no culture is exempt.

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8 Responses to Je suis L’ENFANT

  1. Nyree says:

    Bravo Robin, bravo! I nodded the whole way through that. Change can’t come soon enough.

  2. We need more Robin Grille. This is a terrific article and says it all. I am sending it to everyone I know.

  3. Kate says:

    Thanks Robin. Great article.

  4. I agree — the world needs Robin Grille. Please keep up what you are doing, Robin. The idea of psychohistory is so novel to so many people. I mention your observations in my own presentations, and so many people are clearly taken off guard. I love it. It takes them to a deeper level of insight. So just keep being you. You will know that I knit psychohistory into my own latest blog on terrorism, and that has so helped people think. I’m so grateful to you.
    Suzanne Zeedyk

  5. miki says:

    Hi Robin. I posted your post on my facebook page, along with some of my own reflections this has stirred in me. Thank you for speaking up and reminding me to.

    As a 13-year old I lived in a high-rise in the suburbs of Paris with my brother and father. My father was busy with his work, and I would spend a lot of my weekends with a circle of new friends.

    We were Swedish, French, Chinese, Algerian, Moroccan. We jumped off moving subway trains onto the platforms. We stole motorcycles. We broke cars. We were violent. At the end of my year in Paris, I was fairly fluent in verlan, the French-Arab vernacular.

    Some of my friends belonged to disaffected youth of the suburbs, many of whom had their roots in the former French-colonies of Northern Africa. Every day they faced racism. Police brutality. Hardness. Repression. Authority. Every day they were taught that their ancestry and religion was violent, foreign, unwelcome and backwards.

    My friend’s backgrounds had some similarities to that of Cherif and Said Kouachi, whose ancestry was Algerian and who recently killed 12 people in Paris. How do we respond humanely to this act of violence? How do we hold in our hearts all the daily reports of explosions, wars, drone kills in the morass of media? What allows us to go beyond the surge of emotions and meet this cultural wound at its roots and see what needs nourishment, better soil, more care?

    I’m not sure. But I do know that as a father there’s something important here for me to pay attention to. As a father I have a responsibility in teaching my children the difference between anger and violence. As a father it’s my responsibility to own the term patriarchy (the rule of the father) and turn it from it’s current meaning of control, punishment and authoritarianism to embracing values that nourish life, like unconditional love, generosity, guidance and presence. As a father I believe it’s my responsibility to conduct myself so that my children feel connected to all of life, not just to the privileged few.

    Psychotherapist Robin Grille, author of Hand-in-Hand-Parenting, has written a daring blog post called “Je suis l’Enfant” (I am the child), where among other things he states that to end violence we need to end violence against children. However that violence is expressed, whether physical or psychological. So that peace, harmony, inspiration and joy become our legacy as fathers.

    • Robin Grille says:

      Miki, I appreciate your sharing of personal experience. I am aware that when I see violence, I feel violent, I want to be violent. The violence I have felt comes to the fore. I think that is simply human. Various forms of healing can contain this charge and re-open the heart, so that creativity, building the new, and compassion rise up as neurological impulses (rather than as ‘good’ person responses to scripture). But when our own revenge urges spill over, we benefit from living in a healthy and strong community that will restrain us. Revenge is a feeling, that is normal. But it should never be acted out as a POLICY. Here is where we really fuck things up. We use jails as revenge. Not rehab, not rebuilding. Revenge. All punishment is revenge! That is the essence of patriarchy. That is why intelligent nations like Norway and Sweden have recidivism rates less than half of the rest of us. Their jails are therapy, not re-enactment. They have understood something deep, about human nature. They are just being realistic.

  6. JDoe says:


    I want to say so much more about your article, but seriously, I feel less isolated with what I know now. I literally feel like the only person in my life who has read Alice Miller, deals with childhood emotions, knows that violence is bred etc.

    I just want to leave saying that I felt all alone with this knowledge, but you’re article broke that isolation, and luckily it did the same for other people too.
    The more we write about this, the more likely change will start to happen.

    Thank you!!

    From another adult struggling from the effects of a “normal” childhood, somewhere else in this world…

  7. Robin Grille says:

    Hey, JDoe, thanks for reaching out. Everywhere around, I keep meeting and hearing from hordes and legions of deep readers of Alice Miller and all kinds of other compatible authors, and I hear from cohorts of individuals who are veterans of deep therapies and understand childhood – all saying the same: ‘I am alone’. Irony of ironies. Time to join the huge international family of gorgeous, powerful, dysfunctional and lovely beings who are in the same boat. Alone is…….relative to the usual voices that fill the air. Voices from an old paradigm that is starting to creak with age, to sound more hollow each day. Time to look elsewhere and link arms, JDoe, we are numerous and growing apace. You are not alone, and if you are not careful you will feel overcrowded! Modern tech gives us the means to seek and find. Alice Miller’s grandchildren are everywhere, or at least, their facsimiles. Then being alone will be a choice, rather than a state. We are here.

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