Coercion

Bood  obedience freedom  spontaneity  
compulsory schooling  Punishment hierarchy

Coercion is defined as the use of force to restrain, dominate or threat.

Coercion is incompatible with true happiness.

The belief that people will not work hard unless coerced is an insidious belief.

Anything coerced is not fun.

For example:

Forced sex is rape.

Use of physical force is abuse/violence

Would you enjoy food if you were force fed?

Forceable restraint of children (holding therapy) in the name of love is not therapeutic!

Compulsory schooling is incompatible with learning

Highest productivity cannot be achieved by force.

Threat of unemployment is coercion

Threat of punishment is coercion.

You cannot coerce curiosity.

Coercion creates learned helplessness.

You cannot coerce someone to love you.

You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make it drink.

War is when two nations are attempting to coerce each other.

Use of deadly force is destructive, and leads to chaos.

Coercion involves pain, and involves the discounting of feeling.

Obligation is forced relationships.

"Control breeds the need for more control, which is then used to justify the use of control. "  --from: Kohn, Alfie (1990)."The Brighter Side of Human Nature; Altruism Empathy in Everyday Life."Basic Books:NY. 400 pp.

Freedom is the opposite of coercion. Paradoxically, we must limit our freedoms in order to gain freedom. For example, we limit our freedom and all agree to drive on one side of the road. We write this rule down in a book, it is called a law. Through the enactment of this law, we increase our freedom of safe travel. Our responsibility is the observance of these rules that we mutually agreed upon. There are mechanisms for change, and it is the responsibility of government to be responsive to the people in enacting the most satisfactory system of law.

Socrates said: "Nothing of value comes if forced?" (from his Apology?) Something like this. I believe I saw the quote in one of Gatto's articles. Anyway, if Socrates didn't say it, I am! Why? Because if you are coercing a group of people to do an idea you have, you cannot be sure if it is good. Not only this!

Let me tell you a story. I used to work at one of the great research laboratories of the world: Bell Laboratories. This laboratory was known for its creative and independent thinking researchers, inventors and scientists. It has had at least 7 Nobel laureates on its staff. Yet, one day, I was standing in the large atrium of the Holmdel building, a huge soaring structure designed by the famed architect Eero Saarinen, the first all glass building of its type. The crown jewel of the Bell System. My Director, an upper level manager came to talk with me, actually he was confiding. I knew he was telling me something important, but until now, even I may not have realized its true importance. But I am telling you now because I know the answer to his question. He came up real close, nose to nose, which is uncomfortably close for an Asian like me, who prefers a larger interpersonal space, but I let him adjust his distance to what he preferred, not wishing to offend him. He said that he was annoyed that whenever he suggested an idea, the people in his lab would all jump up and volunteer to be the first to do it for him! He told me that his problem was that he did not know if his idea was any good, and yet all these people were jumping up to try be the first to please him, because he was the boss. Most of the people in his laboratory were like this. Not only his. Most of Bell Labs is like this! I couldn't tell him the solution to his problem then, but I know it now. You see, the reason why he had this problem was because you are all trained to please the teacher and be obedient! If you are not pleasing as you have learned in school, you know that you are not going to get rewarded. If you are not obedient, then you are going to get punished!

But, there is more to this story. Some years later, even he was forced to do something against his will. His boss, or bosses, I'm not sure how far it went up the chain, coerced him to do something he found distasteful, maybe wrong. I passed by his office. He called me in and started to talk. He told me of the problem. It was still legal to do this in NJ, but in other States, it is not. So who wants to be stuck with a possible lawsuit? But I couldn't do anything for him. I could see the stress he was under. There was the look of pain on his face. Beads of sweat appeared on his forehead as he spoke. The furrows on his brow seemed deeper than I had remembered. I even shook his hand as I left his office, and you know what, it was clammy and cold. Very yucky. I never felt a hand like that, but had read in psychology books that if you are under a lot of stress, then all he blood rushes away from your extremities. So even he was being forced to be obedient. Even he couldn't help but follow the orders of his boss too! Otherwise, he was going to be punished!

The reason I said that I didn't know how far up the chain it went, was because even his boss, the Executive Director, seemed to show signs of stress. I can only speculate, but at the time, on Christmas vacation, this man was involved in a skiing accident. Maybe he too was distracted by what he was being ordered to do by his boss! And we, the peons on the bottom, used to joke, because our department head had just been demoted to supervisor. We said, "When Xxxxx (the VP) said 'jump,' he forgot to ask, 'How high." So he too was worried that he was going to get punished!

I just thought of another story about this Executive Director. I remember attending a meeting, where he was dispensing various kinds of homilies. Very nice of him to meet with the troops. I was appointed secretary, and took down the minutes. No one seems to want this job, but I took it in stride. I already knew that the secretary is a very important position. Why? Because when you write the minutes, you can slant them anyway you wish. Well, when one of the attendees asked about the secrets of moving up in the organization, he gave the following piece of advice, which is very easy to remember, he said "Know what your boss wants. Do it. Let him know you did it." I wrote that and some other things in my minutes, and then distributed it to my organization. Well, later he called me into his office and said that he didn't say these other things. Well, I knew what he was saying, at least what he wanted to be understood as saying at that meeting. But you know, high level managers, politicians, etc. talk in "meta-talk." Meta-talk is talk that can be understood in two or more ways. It is ambiguous. It is a very hard language to understand. It is a way of talking so that you can deny what you said later on. For example, try this simple one on your friends: "Heads I win, tails you lose," and then flip the coin. You can do this at a meeting, substituting words for the appropriate topic and hardly anyone will catch it. You give two choices, which sound like opposites, but they are really the same. It is somewhat like a magic trick. I have even tapes of meetings where this has been done! Anyway, he didn't like the memo I sent out, so he told me to write another to correct the one I sent out, so I did, and I let him review it before sending it out.

The end.

Last updated 14 May 2000

Copyright © 1999-2000 by Duen Hsi Yen, All rights reserved.

E-mail: yen@noogenesis.com

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