A few years ago Garth George, writing for the New Zealand Herald, lamented that “as long as men and women…and children snarl and spit and belt one another in the home, there can never be peace in the neighbourhood.”
I could add, “And there can be no world peace either, for violence spreads like a ripple effect from the home into our schools, communities, work places, and governments – where it can be waged against another country in war.”
Adolf Hitler is an extreme example of this ripple effect of abuse. While many perhaps view his childhood as an unlikely seedbed for his evil acts, it is nevertheless where the seeds of evil were sown.
During pre-adolescent years that were pivotal in shaping the man he would become, Hitler found himself embattled against his father’s oppressive need to mould him into his own career choice as civil servant. In Mein Kamf (an autobiographical study of his struggle in life), Hitler wrote of his defiant proclamation that he would be an artist (a painter), at which “the old man began the relentless enforcement of his authority.” During this embittered battle he became a “fanatical ‘German Nationalist’” and wrote, “Germanism could be safeguarded only by the destruction of Austria.” 
Perhaps at the time Hitler unconsciously translated this into, “My individualism (and freedom to be who I am) can only be safeguarded by the destruction of my father.”
When Hitler wrote of Austria, “And who could retain his loyalty to a dynasty which in past and present betrayed the needs of the German people again and again for shameless private advantage?”  he could just as easily have written this about his father’s need to make him an extension of his ego.
Hitler played out his desperate need to preserve his individuality at his school in Austria, where the German children wore the “forbidden insignia of their own nationality” and were “happy to be punished or even beaten for it.” As the ‘Slavization’ of Austria progressed, Hitler became obsessed with the need for German unification and drew comfort by reading about Germany’s heroic battles towards this end during the Franco-Prussian War.
This was perhaps one of the seeds that grew into World War Two.
As for Hitler’s extermination of the Jews, his fervent rationalisation of his hatred of them hid the disturbing fact that his illegitimate father was suspected of being half-Jewish. Not only did Hitler symbolically kill his father millions of times over for the abuse and humiliation he metered out, he also organised concentration camps where people were treated as he had been treated as a child. 
How could the beatings Hitler learned to endure in silence (he once counted thirty-two lashes), and the other violence he witnessed throughout his childhood, not develop deep-seated feelings of anger, humiliation, shame, and hatred that would later find expression in the ‘final solution’ and the need for German ‘unification’?
Abuse can split the psyche of a child, spurring the emerging adult into a restless or relentless search for the inner unification of the split-off parts.
Unresolved childhood issues can be projected onto the movie screen of the world by being re-enacted (or reacted against) in family homes, schools, workplaces, communities, social settings, and on the national and international stage of politics. If we cannot see that, then perhaps we have not looked deeply enough into the roots of violence within ourselves or our homes – even if that violence is of the passive kind that sabotages happiness with fear, or robs a child of their dreams or talents.
Not only did the ripple effect of Hitler’s evil acts spread right around the world, but it now still ripples downwards through each generation. How could it not?
Millions of men and women suffered agonizing fates or lost their lives in the horrors of the war and the ‘final solution’ Hitler set in motion. And then our soldiers brought those horrors back to erupt with violent effect (as a result of PTSD, formerly known as shell shock) within our homes, or became numb within a shocked and angry silence so deep that as fathers, they became ghostlike apparitions within them.
And so new waves of violence and disconnection have spread out into our schools, communities, workplaces, and governments, and will continue to do so. Inevitably the violence will return again to the home as a result of bullying and stress in schools and the work place, violent assaults in our neighbourhoods, and stresses caused by government policies that negatively impact the family.
What can stop this cycle of violence?
For each one of us to say, “The buck of violence stops with me.”
Our future rests upon the foundation of choices we make today. Individually we can choose to be reactive and pass on the buck of violence; or to be proactive by learning to create peace within ourselves based on different choices and different ways of thinking about ourselves and others.
If enough of us made the decision to end the violence (even the passive kind) within ourselves and our homes, a new ripple effect of peace could reconnect us all as one and enable us to work for the highest good of all.
Our choices create our reality, and the choice is yours to make.
1. Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf (online download from:
http://www.hitler.org/writings/Mein_Kampf/) Vol. 1 Chapter 1
2. Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf (online download from:
http://www.hitler.org/writings/Mein_Kampf/) Vol. 1 Chapter 5
3. Alice Miller, For Your Own Good: Hidden Cruelty in Child-rearing and the Roots of Violence.
August 19, 2010
“We devote a lot of time to adult policies, trying to make a better world. But every reform is frustrated or perverted. The quality of life is not improved, because the people are the same. What changes people? …”
August 31, 2010
Violence in the home can create psychic wounds that may never heal. It can cause children to ‘harden their hearts’ by shutting down their feelings to enable them to survive it. It has also, I believe, created a silent epidemic of PTSD…
December 07, 2010
Along with steadily increasing incidences of family violence, are the spiralling economic and health costs it creates – not to mention the huge problems caused when drugs and alcohol are used to self-medicate the anxiety family violence creates. What can we do to end these cycles?