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Abusive Governments

In 2008 a reader named Wayne wrote me and raised the issue of whether governments are abusive. (see below)

I wrote this in 2010.

Now it is 2015 and I have been thinking more about whether, and how, governments are abuisive.

Today is April 12 and I am still working on these ideas but for now here is what I have. I am editing what Wayne wrote to me in 2008, adding my thoughts and clarifying his.

S. Hein
Currently living in Uruguay


Last update April 13, 2015

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Aptil 13

I am thinking about 2 things...

1. Caring vs. Control - Delma, Back Up alarms

2. What it feels like to be living in an abusive or dysfunctional family when you are the only one who realizes the family is abusive or dysfunctional.

See more from April 13 below...

2010 Writing by S. Hein

In 2008 a reader named Wayne wrote me raised the issue of whether governments are abusive.

Wayne made comparisons between abusive relationships and abusive governments. I have given this some thought.

One essential component of an abusive relationship is the ability to stop someone from getting away from you. In other words, to control their freedom of movement and stop them from leaving the abusive relationship.

Being in Eastern Europe for two years now reminds me that the Soviets did not allow people to leave the countries they controlled. Now compare this to the laws that say teenagers under 18 also cannot leave the countries they happen to be born into. And compare this with a black person in the USA in the early to mid 1800's who was born into slavery.

Think also of the relationship students have to their schools. Can they leave when they want and need to? Or will they be punished? IE will they be hurt if they leave or try to? Will they be physically stopped from leaving? Or will they be threatened if they try to leave and told they must stay? Will they be punished if they don't attend the school at the government mandated times?

Most governments have succeeded in convincing the majority of the people that school is necessary, therefore it is acceptable to hurt, threaten and punish young people who do not attend school. Most governments also have succeeded in convincing the majority of the people that the laws that stop a teenager from leaving the country are for the teenager's own good. I wonder if the Soviets also tried to tell the people that the laws which stopped them from leaving were for the good of the people.

In South America I heard it said that "Te pego porque te amo". I hit you because I love you.

But I have never known a child to tell me that they felt loved when they were being hit.
(See "Good Mum" link below.) So who do we believe? The child or the adult? Do we believe the teenager who says they feel controlled and unfree or the government who says they are free and that it is all for the teenager's own good?

This reminds me of Alice Miller's book "For your own good." (Link below)

I have often thought of how when the people of Eastern Europe wanted to get away from the oppressive communist governments, they were literally shot, for example, if they tried to climb the Berlin wall. Instead of making the countries places where people voluntarily wanted to stay, they made it more painful for them to leave.

Many school systems now do the same thing. Instead of making schools more interesting and more pleasurable, they simply are raising the level of punishment for anyone who doesn't attend. I have seen a definite trend around the world in increasing penalties for not going to school, not a trend in making schools more interesting with a goal that more students will want to voluntarily go.

By they way, I have asked many young people around the world if they would go to school if they didn't have to and the majority say "yes". When I ask why, the number one answer is, "to see my friends." So this tells me that it would be relatively easy to get students to come to school because they already have one strong, natural incentive to go. It also tells me that if students don't want to go to school, it is more likely that there is something wrong with the school and education system, rather than with the student.

Traveling around the world has helped me see things more clearly. Listening to teenagers and children has also helped. As I travel I constantly meet people from other countries in the hostels. I share rooms with them for a night or two. I ask them questions about their beliefs, their countries and schools. Most of the people I meet are convinced that nearly everything that was done to them was done for their own good. Thus, they can be expected to do the same thing to their children.

I believe it takes a rare person to rise above their own society and culture. Or maybe it is partly luck and fortune. I certainly didn't plan to be a philosopher or try to help prevent teens from killing themselves when I sold my business at age 35 and started traveling. I didn't plan on making a website or writing a book. In fact, the Internet didn't even exist when I was 35. I suppose I had the "good luck" to have been born in the USA, during a time when there was still actually what now seems like a lot of freedom.

When I was 15 I could leave home and not go to school and almost nothing would happen. I am pretty sure I could skip up to thirty days without much happening. Now schools are reporting teenagers to the parents if they don't show up and most people just accept this and even think it is a good thing and necessary thing. If children and teens don't want to go to school, then we must force them to. It is for their own good right?

But I wonder how much pain we are willing to inflict on children and teenagers to get them to do what we want. I also wonder if we would accept this same level of pain for training animals. I suspect that many people would be shocked to see us locking up dolphins or dogs in a prison if they didn't do what we wanted. Yet few people in the USA are shocked that teenagers in some school districts can now be locked up for not going to school. I am encouraged to see, though, that Europeans and virtually everyone else I talk to from other countries find this almost incredible. Just like they find it almost incredible that teenagers are now being stopped from hugging in more and more schools in the USA. (Link below)

I really feel sorry for any intelligent, sensitive teenager living in a country where they can not hug their friends and where they do not have freedom of movement, and who does not have open minded parents they can talk to and get the permission they are required to have in order to meet their needs. That is an odd concept. A person needs permission to meet their own needs. I'd say there is something inherently wrong with that.

I'd say that if you are in any kind of relationship where you need someone else's permission to fill your own natural survival needs, including your emotional needs, then it is an abusive relationship. If you need permission to get away from someone who is hurting you, then it is an abusive relationship because those that have the power to stop you from leaving are stopping you from doing what is in your own best interest. Even worse, they are convincing most of you that actually what they are dong is in fact in your own best interest and that might be the biggest lie of all. I wouldn't say that most people who repeat such things are deliberately lying, though. Most of them sincerely believe what they have been told. Just like Muslims sincerely believe what they have been told, Jews sincerely believe what they have been told and Christians sincerely believe what they have been told. The problem is, or one of the problems, is that there are conflicting things being said. (For example, I was told by a Muslim that anyone who is not a Muslim will go to Hell. I have also been told by many Christians that anyone who is not a Christian will go to Hell.)

In a non-abusive relationship, a person would be free to learn about other beliefs. They would also be free to actually move to a place where other beliefs are put into practice. Yet teenagers are not allowed by their governments to move to places with other beliefs. For example, 17 year olds in Israel are not allowed to move to a country which doesn't believe in forced military service. Another example is that 17 year olds in countries where gays are not tolerated cannot move to Holland where gays can get married. For a suicidal gay teen, they may never make it to age 18 when they can legally travel without the permission of their parents.

For many years I have worked with emotionally abused teenagers. Some of them are so abused they have been convinced they deserve to be hurt and punished. A few of them, though, have realized they don't live in physically or psychologically safe places, yet they cannot leave. It is unnatural for us to stay in situations where we are being hurt or even frightened. It is natural for us to want to get away. The laws that stop teenagers from leaving are therefore unnatural. Those laws do not actually protect teenagers. They protect the status quo.

Just as the laws that stopped the Soviets and the slaves from getting away from those who were using, abusing and controlling them didn't protect either the slaves or those unfortunate enough to have been born in the Soviet Union, the laws that stop teenagers from choosing where they live and what they do don't protect them -- they protect those in power.

The way such laws protect those in power is as follows. If you cannot get away from someone, then they have access to both your body and your mind. As long as they can use both to serve their own goals, their status and power is safe. If they can use you to fight their wars, for example, and to defend and protect them, they are safe. If they can use you to perpetuate their beliefs, they are also safe psychologically. They don't have to feel threatened by beliefs which oppose theirs and cause discomfort for them. I heard someone say that the purpose of education is to reproduce society. If students' beliefs are carbon copies of those who control the government and the education system, then those in power can sleep more soundly at night. But if enough young people start to believe something new, then those in power will feel threatened and no longer will feel safe. This may especially be true in so called democratic societies because those in power can be voted out. Therefore controlling the schools is especially important. That might be why I have actually seen more freedom in the schools in post-Soviet countries like Estonia, Bulgaria and Romania than I see in the USA or England.

Through my travels I have seen different examples of abusive relationships. What I have never seen is a country which really gives freedom to teenagers. I have not yet been to a country which a) does not punish them for not going to schools and b) does not stop them from leaving before they are 18. Some countries are less strict about punishing them for not attending schools or for running away from abusive parents, for example, South American countries, where they don't have the resources to enforce the laws. But all countries with border controls will stop a 17 year old from leaving without their parents' permission. Imagine a Muslim parent giving their teen permission to leave a Muslim country and go to a non-Muslim country. It is hard to picture, isn't it? In the same way I would say it is hard to picture many American or British parents giving their 16 or 17 year old permission to leave the USA or England. People in such countries have been so convinced that all the laws are "good" and "necessary" that they now really believe in them. That is one reason they wouldn't allow their 17 year old to leave. Another is that some are afraid the teen might never come back. If a parent loses their children forever, then who will take care of the parent when the parents are old?

In the past parents depended on family members. If they treated their children so badly that the children wanted to get away from them, and never wanted to come back, then their chances of survival would be much lower. I suspect this was the original reason for passing laws saying a child cannot run away from their parents. I also want to point out, in case it is not obvious, that no child would want to leave a home that is safe and secure. If a child or teen wants to get away from his or her parents, there is a good reason. In other words there is a serious problem in the home. The child or teen's needs are not being met. If their needs are not being met, then they are not safe. If they are not safe, they need protection. But they need protection from their parents. In the USA they used to have a department called CPS - Child Protection Services. Now I believe they have renamed it. But one of their jobs was to remove children from abusive homes. Now we need some kind of international organization which has the power to remove children and teenagers from abusive governments.

Slowly the laws about abuse have changed. What was once considered normal parenting, for example, hitting your child, is now considered abuse in many countries. (Although in many states in the USA it is still legal to hit students in schools. See www.nospank.net for example). But though the thinking about physical abuse is changing, emotional abuse is still widely accepted. Calling a child or teen selfish, for example, is accepted without question by most people I talk to from all countries. Most people do not see it as abuse since most of them have been called selfish and think they deserved it.

I would also say that, generally speaking, government controlled schools are emotionally abusive. They are abusive because they are based on abusive relationships between school authorities and students. I won't detail all the ways I see the school-student relationship as abusive. I will just mention the ability to punish and to control the students' movements and even eating since students in many schools are not allowed to eat when they want to, but only at certain scheduled times.Such a simple thing as having a drink of water is even controlled in many schools. Students may not be allowed to have a bottle of water at their desk or they may have to ask permission before they get up and go get a drink from a fountain in the hall.

Schools, through their schedules, also control students' sleep. For example, the abused teens I have known typically have trouble sleeping at night. Yet even if they fell asleep very late, say four or five in the morning, they are forced to get up at around 7 or so in order to be at school.

So we can summarize that abusive relationships control your movements, your eating, your activities, and what you do with your mind. In schools they can also stop you from talking to people you want to talk to. It is natural to talk to your friends, but schools have been given the power to control this, too. Parents also can control who you talk to. With the Internet parents are facing a new threat - the possibility their teenager might get ideas from a far away country.... Ideas that radically challenge the parents' power base. Many parents are scared of the Internet. They say they are afraid of child molesters etc. But the greatest danger is actually the threat to the parents' belief system. As teenagers around the world become more connected, more united, more informed we may eventually see real changes in society. The teenagers may realize they are currently in abusive relationships and they may in time correct this by giving more real freedom to their own children. Those children, when adults, may even vote to change the laws which now support institutionalized abusive relationships such as those in governments and schools.

S. Hein
May, 2010

Links referenced in the above article -

Notes from "For Your Own Good" by Alice Miller

The Good Mum - How a child feels when her mother hits her.

Punished for Hugging

Abusive Environments

Emotionally Abusive Schools

Wayne's writing on abusive governments

Here is what Wayne sent me. I am just uploading this now, in 2015, though he sent it several years ago, in 2008 I believe. It makes more sense to me now than it did then. I apologize to Wayne and others that I didn't upload it sooner.

In any case, recently I took another look at it, after I found it by chance in my files when I was looking for something else (Wayne Payne's paper.) I no longer have the original email with his name and I am not sure he would even want me to publish his last name, but inhis mail, he said, in part,

Here are my thoughts on government. I wrote this a couple of weeks ago.

I would be interested if you think I'm on the right track.


I have taken out his writing on "Creation and History of Government Abuse" but you can read it in the original text he sent. I have edited it slightly, for example, dividing into sections, expanding it and adding some notes. I am still working on it as of April 12, 2015

S. Hein

Section 1 - In this section Wayne copied some writing which is found on many websites about abuse. Then he asks us to compare the writing about abuse to what happens in governments. This is a very interesting and useful excercise. - SH


Abuse and Battery are used for one purpose: to gain and maintain total control over the victim. In addition to physical violence, abusers use the following tactics to exert power over victims:

Dominance — Abusive individuals need to feel in charge. They will make decisions for you, tell you what to do, and expect you to obey without question. Abusers treat you like a servant, child, or even as their possession.

Does this sound like your government?

Humiliation — An abuser will do everything he can to make you feel bad about yourself, or defective in some way. After all, if you believe you're worthless and that no one else will want you, you're less likely to leave. Insults, name-calling, shaming, and public put-downs are all weapons of abuse designed to erode your self-esteem and make you feel powerless.

Does your government say only their experts can properly determine the “right” plan of action?
Does your government tell you that some individuals will always make the “wrong” decision and for that reason, they must make the “right” decision for everyone?

There was a time when most people thought that slavery was right and natural, while only a few poor souls thought that slavery was wrong.

Isolation — In order to increase your dependence on them, abusers will cut you off from the outside world. They may stop you from seeing family or friends, or even prevent you from going to work or school. You may have to ask permission to do anything, go anywhere, or see anyone.

* Does your government isolate (imprison) you and keep you from family and friends if you break the rules?

Threats — Abusers commonly use threats to keep their victims from leaving. Your abuser may threaten to hurt or kill you, your children, other family members, or even pets.

* Does your government threaten you with punishment if you break its rules? Will it takes things from you, even your children, your pets? Will it even take your home if you do not pay the government's taxes? Will it take your freedom by locking you in prison?

* Will it take things which are important to you, necessary and even precious? Will it take a loved one from you? For example, by forced military service, or forced schooling (which separates children from their families) or separating them from you with prison?

Intimidation — Your abuser may use a variety of intimation tactics designed to scare you into submission. Such tactics include making threatening looks or gestures, smashing things in front of you, destroying property, hurting your pets, or putting weapons on display. The clear message is that if you don't obey, there will be violent consequences.

* Are you intimidated by what you see the police and military do to others on the nightly news?

Denial and blame — Abusers are very good at making excuses for the inexcusable. They will blame their abusive on others
, even on the victims of their abuse. The abusers may minimize the abuse or deny that it occurred.

* Does it seem that your elected officials and other government employees never take the blame for what went wrong?


Cycle of violence

Abuse falls into a common pattern, or cycle of violence:

Abuse — The abuser lashes out with aggressive or violent behavior. The abuse is a power play designed to show the victim "who is boss."

* Have you ever felt that your government action were only meant to prove to its citizens "who is boss?"

Rationalization or excuses — The abusers rationaliz what they have done. They may come up with a string of excuses or blame the victims- anything to shift responsibility.

"Normal" behavior — The abusers do everything they can to regain control and keep the victims in the relationship. They may act as if nothing has happened, or he may turn on the charm. This peaceful honeymoon phase may give the victim hope that the abuser has really changed this time.

* Does your government blame the people for its failures, for the problems in society or rationalize that the problems are simply beyond its control?

* In what ways does your government act to "keep people in the relationship" with them? For example, does your government require you to send your children to their schools? Does your government require you to get permissions, permits and licenses to build a house, practice your profession, or drive a car or ride a motorcycle? Does your government require you or your children to have permission or a passport to leave its borders?

next item needs work/thought....

Fantasy and planning — The abuser begins to fantasize about abusing his victim again, spending a lot of time thinking about what the victim has done wrong and how they make victim pay. Then they make a plan for turning the fantasy of abuse into reality.

Does your government spend most of its time trying to figure-out how to control their subjects?

*** sph selling hope each new election
*** talking about god

Set-up — The abuser sets up the victim and puts their plan in motion, creating a situation where they can justify abusing their victim.

Do you suspect that police often use traffic laws as just another way government can make money? What about speed traps, for example?


Section 2

Control Freaks are the only ones interested in government power. You give them a little they want more. That’s why every year they put thousands of new laws on their books and rarely do they take laws off the books.

We must plan a way to free ourselves. For the alterative is to shut up and do as you’re told (slavery).


Posttraumatic Stress can develop after exposure to a terrifying event or ordeal in which grave physical harm occurred or was threatened. It is a severe and ongoing emotional reaction to a psychological trauma. This stressor may involve someone's actual death or a threat to the individual’s or someone else's life, serious physical injury, or threat to physical and/or psychological integrity, to a degree that usual psychological defenses are incapable of coping.

Do you believe the Rodney King beating was a real even?
Do you believe Waco, Texas, was a real event?
Do you believe the United States invasion of Panama, codenamed Operation Just Cause, was a real event?


Learned helplessness is a condition in which human beings have learned to believe that they are helpless in a particular situation. They have come to believe that they have no control over their situation and that whatever they do will be futile. As a result, the human being will stay passive in the face of an unpleasant, harmful or damaging situation, even when they do actually have the power to change their circumstances.

Do you believe that governments are a necessary evil?
Do you believe that no matter how unjust are incompetent our elected officials appear to be we must do as they tell us?


Wayne then talks about depression and control. He says

Depression is the belief that one does not have control over their life.

This is similar to other quotes on the net, but as of April, 2015 there was no exact matchfor that statement anywhere on the net, according to Google.

He then adds this widely quoted statement about depression:

Depression is a serious and often disabling condition that can significantly affect a person's work, family and school life, sleeping and eating habits, general health and ability to enjoy life.

And this, which is also copied from the net, but not as widely quoted:

Having depression is a major risk factor for suicide. In addition, people with depression suffer from higher mortality from other causes.

Then he asks:

Have you ever felt trapped by government rules and regulation, or by having to pay taxes for programs that you neither need nor believe in?

So what Wayne is suggesting is that to the extent we feel controlled by the government, it is understandable that we would feel depressed.


SH - I have added this section, which came from Wikipedia

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Power_and_control_in_abusive_relationships - Acces April 11, 2015

Using privilege

Main article: Privilege (social inequality)

Using "privilege" means that the abuser defines the roles in the relationship, makes the important decisions,

* Do those in power in your government write the laws, define the terms, and "make the important decisions" (for example, who gets arrested, put in jail etc?)

See below for more of the Wikipedia notes

Seems much of this could be said about most if not all countries... SH-

India: Is the justice system broken?


Despite well-written laws and legions of well-intentioned cops, lawyers, judges, and activists, the ... justice system is abusive, arbitrary, and above all ineffective.


Jason Overdorf

Jan 15, 2013 @ 1:56 AM

A wag once remarked that a trip through the Indian court system is as near to experiencing eternity as a living soul can get. But it's not just slow. Despite well-written laws and legions of well-intentioned cops, lawyers, judges, and activists, the Indian justice system is abusive, arbitrary, and above all ineffective.

In short, it's badly broken. And the only answer that seems to gain any traction is to make it tougher, or more arbitrary.  

The current arguments run that the death penalty to be meted out to rapists, or that juveniles should be tried as adults, or, as a cop friend pointed out, that the police must be freed from petty concerns about human rights, to strike fear of law and order into the hearts of criminals.

But consider some stats put together this week by the Wall Street Journal's Real Time blog, as part of a seris on the justice system.

India's prisons house nearly 400,000 inmates, but only about a third of them have actually been convicted of a crime. More than 1,000 have spent five years behind bars without ever even seeing the inside of a courtroom.

As Prem Shankar Jha points out for the Hindu:

According to the National Crime Records Bureau’s annual report Crime in India 2007, between 2003 and 2007 citizens filed 282, 384 complaints of human rights abuses against the police. Of these only 79,000 were investigated; only 1,070 policemen were brought to trial and only 264 — less than one in a thousand — were convicted. All but a handful stayed at their posts, free to wreak vengeance on those who had dared to complain against them. 

Here is something I am working on.... Comparing this to governments, poliice, judges... - SH


From Wikipedia


April 11, 2015


Controlling abusers use multiple tactics to exert power and control over their partners. According to Jill Cory and Karen McAndless-Davis, authors of When Love Hurts: A Woman's Guide to Understanding Abuse in Relationships: Each of the tactics within the power and control wheel are used to "maintain power and control in the relationship. No matter what tactics your partner uses, the effect is to control and intimidate you or to make you feel that you do not have an equal voice in the relationship."

Coercion and Threats

Main articles: Coercion and threats

A tool for exerting control and power is the use of threats and coercion...

At its most effective, the abuser creates intimidation and fear.

The victims are at risk of anxiety, dissociation, depression, shame, low self-esteem and suicidal ideation.


Main article: Intimidation

Abused individuals may be intimidated by the brandishing of weapons, destroying their property or other things, or using gestures or looks to create fear.

(or uniforms)

Economic abuse

Main article: Economic abuse

An effective means of ensuring control and power over another is to control their access to money. One method is to prevent the abusee from getting a job. Another is to control their access to money; This can be done by withholding information and access to family income, taking their money, requiring the person to ask for money, or giving them an allowance.

Emotional abuse

Main article: Psychological abuse

Emotional abuse include name-calling, playing mind games, putting the victim down, or humiliating the individual. The goals are to make the person feel bad about themselves, feel guilty or think that they are crazy.[8]
Control their movement. Ability to get away from you.
Control their food supply. Their sleep schedule.


Main articles: Social exclusion and Solitude

A psychological control is the isolation of the victim, male or female, from the outside world. Isolation includes controlling a person's social activity: who they see, who they talk to, where they go and any other method to limit their access to others. It may also include limiting what material is read. It can include insisting on knowing where they are and requiring permission for medical care, The abuser exhibits hypersensitive and reactive jealousy

Minimizing, denying and blaming

Main articles: Minimisation (psychology), Denial and Blame

The abuser may deny the abuse occurred to attempt to place the responsibility for their behavior on the victim. Minimizing concerns or the degree of the abuse is another aspect of this control.

Using privilege

Main article: Privilege (social inequality)

Using "privilege" means that the abuser defines the roles in the relationship, makes the important decisions,




April 13 Detail  

Who defines what "abuse" is?

Who defines what our "rights" are?

Who defines what "consent" is? " Married" is?

Will government try to tell us one day what love is? Will the politicians tell us they "love" us? Do they already tell us we should "love" "our" country?

Is it "our" country, or theirs?

what i wrote to soulriser...

today... i really wanted to get ur opinion on this thing about abusive govts. it is very "heavy" to me... very serious. the implications are huge...

i am thinking about abusive organizations. churches, cults for example.

i remember now watching a video called something like statism is a religion....

also thinking ... how do u tell ur family members ur family is dysfunctional, abusive? when they are all products of it and all believe in the importance of the family etc? and they all follow all the unwritten, unspoken rules?

but in governments, there are even writen, and spoken and explicit rules.

in faimillies the abuse is usually accidenttal i would say. the ways they control are informal rather than formal. and their is usually not a specific person or sub group in the family for what we would call "propaganda"

and there is a natural bond which could make it more likely someone will actually listen to yuu and care, or "love" youi. so they might care when you tell them yoyu are in pain.

they might also simply invalidate yiou... tell you there is something wrong with you, not the family...