This one was, in parts, really interesting. But in others, a mixture of depressing and terrifying. It started out as I pulled in to a strip mall complex. “Strip mall” had a different meaning here I guess as many of the businesses were combinations of a strip club and something else. Like a strip grocery store, strip nail salon, and strip burger joint.
Nothing about it seemed absurd to me during the dream as if this was some weird trashy future in which that’s common place. I walked across a dirt lot where preparations to construct a new business were underway, and found just outside of the burger joint a rough looking man with a mullet eating lunch with his son.
His son was throwing a fit. He didn’t want to eat his fries. His father insisted. The boy threw his fries at the man, whereupon the man stood up and began beating the shit out of the kid. He escaped and ran, but the man pursued him. He produced a wooden paddle and began swinging it at the boy whenever close enough.
I got a baseball bat from my car and got between the man and the boy. “You don’t understand what he’s like” the man said. “You don’t know how difficult it is to raise him, he’s a nightmare to take care of, he deserves this.” I wasn’t having it and told the man it was his turn to receive the same treatment.
I then chased him around with the bat, swinging it at him, connecting on occasion with his leg, hip or shoulder. Eventually he sought refuge in his truck and drove off, leaving his son behind. I didn’t anticipate this and now had to figure out what I was gonna do with this kid.
I asked if he had any other family I could take him to. He cryptically said that he just wanted to go to the tree place. That his father never let him go there. That it’s safe there and I could come too if I wanted. So, reluctantly, I got into my car with the kid riding shotgun and had him give me directions.
We pulled off a dirt road, then offroaded across a field after many miles of driving. He directed me to an opening in the foliage, which I drove into. To my surprise we entered a clearing and were surrounded by treehouses. Both complete ones, and others under construction by kids around his age, some younger and some older.
Some of the older ones surrounded the car with crude spears. The kid told them how I saved him, and they relented. I was told I couldn’t live here because I was too old, but could stay the night. Apparently it was a refuge for kids from violent, dysfunctional home situations.
A few had run away together, not anticipating the brutal difficulty of living on their own in nature. Some died, but the rest survived, learning by experience how to gradually form their own civilization with all the amenities of a preindustrial village. There was a well, a set of clay ovens, wash basins, etc.
I was welcomed by the rest, fed, and given a room to sleep in up in one of the tree houses. They were astonishingly elaborate. Travel between them was achieved either by rope bridges, zip lines, or simple gondolas traveling along tight cables. They must have stolen a lot to build all this but I didn’t say that out loud.
Some time during the night, I heard a commotion outside the structure I was in. My heart rate increased. I apparently had some medical condition because I got a pump out and began hooking it up to ports in my chest presumably meant to assist my heart, should it stop or beat erratically.
Just then, a man burst into the room. Dressed all in black except for a lime green stocking pulled on over his head. He grabbed me, and I suddenly awoke in a panic. If I had to guess, it was the man I’d chased off, come to retrieve his son and get revenge on me. For all I know it was justified as I didn’t really know all the circumstances when I intervened.
I sort of wish a place like that for abused kids really did exist. Making them wards of the state is better than leaving them where they are, at least sometimes, but it’s undoubtedly a scary prospect when you’re that age for your family to be forcibly dissolved and to be taken into custody by strange, suited people you’ve never met.
There are some kids who are sent away to bad places by their parentsand it’s totally legal. They can’t be saved from those places because again, it’s 100% legal, and where would you return them to? Their parents? They would only be sent right back.
So I’ve often dreamt of a secluded village they could go to instead where they could live as they wish and not be abducted in the night (as I was at the end of this dream) by strange men and taken away, with the government’s OK. It’s a nice fantasy but irl it would get located and shut down very quickly.
There were also a lot of times when I was young that I wanted to run away from home. I made one or two pitiful, short-lived attempts but didn’t make it more than a block as I was very little. I was never beaten per se but was spanked and shouted at. My autism was undiagnosed at the time and I think I just seemed wilfully obstinate to my dad.
There was a lot of mutual incomprehension going on. He didn’t understand the sensory issues that made me a picky eater and dresser, nor what a meltdown was. I just seemed like an especially unreasonable, stubborn, bratty child to him. And to me, he seemed like a randomly violent, angry beast.
I often wished somebody bigger than him would come take me away. It’s only been as I’ve grown older that I’ve been able to understand him better, man to man, and become friends with him. In the process I learned his own father was also impatient and violent with him, only much worse.
In light of that, it’s an accomplishment that he restrained himself as much as he did. Now it’s on me to restrain myself completely, should I have a son, and raise him in a nonviolent way which does not reinforce the idea that hurting people is the way to get what you want from them.
That may be idealistic, as children are not paragons of reason and some times will become violent themselves or do radically dangerous or socially inappropriate things, and won’t stop simply by verbal instruction.
If I ever have to physically discipline my kid I hope it’s only necessary once, as I’ve known what it’s like to be on the receiving end at the hand of someone who resorted to it at every opportunity, and don’t think it was helpful to my development.
In general, more and more I have been gravitating towards a voluntarist perspective. I can’t respect authority which resorts first to violence rather than reason. If somebody obeys you it should be out of love and/or trust, not fear.
Anybody in a position to enforce anything with violence should first thoroughly ensure that it’s really necessary and that they have not misunderstood the situation in some way. Maybe that’s easy to say right now. Maybe there will be situations where I am spread too thin and swift resolution is necessary.
I still think I am liable to use violence much more sparingly than my own father did, as he did with me, by comparison to how his own father raised him. There’s this great quote from a TV show called God, the Devil and Bob:
God: “Look, I know your father was a jerk to you but you don’t know what was in his heart.”
Bob Allman: “Oh, don’t do this. Don’t give me that crap. I don’t care what was in his heart. He never shared it with me.”
God: “You’re right and you’re right to be mad at him but it’s not your job to forgive him, it’s mine.”
Bob Allman: “Yeah, well.”
God: “Did you know your grandfather?”
Bob Allman: “What? No, he never talked about him.”
God: “Now he was a scary guy.”
Bob Allman: “Oh, so that makes it ok for my dad to treat me bad? Hah, liberals.”
God: “No, that’s not what I’m saying. Look, bob. Ok, picture this long line of fathers and sons stretching from Adam all the way down to Andy. Now they’re all passing down this punch. From one generation to the next, father to son, and the trick is to pass on a softer punch.”
God: “Your father passed on a softer punch.”
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