The child feels the drive of the Life Force...you cannot feel it for him.--George Bernard Shaw
Have you heard the news? Nine European countries have outlawed hitting children, including Austria, home of Adolf Hitler, who was beaten hundreds of times a night with a hippopotamus whip. Germany's new liberal government has just begun discussing making it illegal to hit children, saying "The right of children to be reared without violence must be anchored in the law books." England has just been told by the World Court it must pass legislation against hitting children. And even here in America, No-Spank laws are beginning to have a chance of passage in some state legislatures. Who is behind all this?
Any literate person on the face of the earth will give just one answer: Alice Miller, midwife to the child's rights movement. Her books have been translated into so many languages, have sold so spectacularly and have been so widely discussed that she alone has been the beacon for children's rights to a loving and non-violent start in life. Indeed, I remember the thrill that went through me when I first read her words "the child is always innocent" and realized I had a real companion and even champion after I had published my book, The History of Childhood, a compendium of the violence and sexual abuse visited upon children throughout history. Since then, her insights into historical childhood as routinely abusive have been confirmed beyond doubt by childhood historians, including over the over 100 historians working publishing in The Journal of Psychohistory. Indeed, the first sentence of my new book, Childhood and History, could well have been written by Alice: "The purpose of this book is to provide evidence for how the main cause of human misery is a holocaust of children throughout history-how billions of innocent children have been routinely killed, bound, raped, beaten and tortured by their parents and caretakers, and then when they are adults have inflicted upon others the traumas they themselves experienced."
Perhaps not unsurprisingly, even Alice's attempts to replace the psychoanalytic drive-theory by a trauma-based theory have recently become fairly widely accepted within the psychoanalytic community. There has even been a special issue of The Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association devoted to how the analyst could very well believe the patient when they report sexual abuse in their childhood! As Freud once said, the small, quiet voice of reason eventually wins out! One may even hope that the current American media blitz to convince people that "parents don't count" and everything is due to genes or peers will be a passing fad too. One thing is certain: Alice's books, still best-sellers and reissued regularly, will play a big role in countering this temporary backlash against the truth of childhood.
A worthy legacy in life is something you are inwardly terribly proud of and which you often have had to fight for against tremendous odds. That Alice has received more than her share of opposition is beyond question. But that so many of her ideas and goals have recently begun to bear fruit is perhaps more surprising. One is not often allowed to witness the triumph in history of ideas to which one gives birth. For this, and for the inner truths to our own lives which she has given us, we celebrate our mentor, compatriate and midwife to history: Alice Miller.
October 1998, New York