In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

122 Chapter 8 Unmaking Misery I know he had unusual eyes, Whose power no orders could determine. Not to mistake the men he saw, As others did, for gods or vermin. —Thom Gunn If you believe that you can damage, then believe that you can fix. If you believe that you can harm, then believe that you can heal. —Rebbe Nachman of Breslov We need a kinder way of living and interacting with one another. Where shall we start? This chapter outlines some ideas for unmaking misery, following the analysis laid out in the book so far and connecting where relevant to other perspectives. Tell True Stories My thesis has been that certain stories engender misery. They motivate and legitimize harmful action. Therefore, storytelling per se is most assuredly not the solution to the problem of harm, as some would romanticize. But neither should storytelling be seen as the problem. After all, we humans rely on stories to make meaning. This book itself tells a story in which the understanding of a problem, gained in the first seven chapters , gives way to redemption in this coda. We should tell true stories. Stories are not true by virtue of faithfulness to some preinterpreted world, since they always occupy “the domain midway between the real and the imaginary ” (Bruner 1990, 55). By true stories I mean ones whose complexity approximates the complexity of lived experience. True stories integrate all one’s own feelings and ideas, all the allegiances and anchors of selfhood. They nod toward past, present , and future. The characters in true stories are ever on their way to becoming something else. This is the case—it is at least hinted at—even when the storyteller pronounces the story’s end. For the sake of unmaking misery, it is particularly important that storytellers acknowledge the dynamism of living. We have seen that target reduction freezes who the target—and often too the speaker—is. True stories suggest variable personifications , readings, twists, and endings. We also saw the dangers in claiming both power and powerlessness. True stories feature more authentic appraisals of one’s capacities and incapacities. It is as important to listen to such stories as it is to tell them. In this age of rapid-fire, often-canned (“LOL!”) communication , true stories may seem anachronistic. They are likely to be lengthy and unfamiliar, as storytellers weave together strands of experience and feeling in creative ways. It takes a bit more time to digest them. The exchange of new, true stories demands patience. Correctional and other forms of treatment would seem to be logical sites for moving stories toward greater truth, as they are efforts to promote change and often use talk as a means to do so. Instead of top-down treatment protocols where practitioners instruct clients on their erroneous thoughts and methods of reasoning (Fox 1999), I have in mind a discussion-oriented protocol and a sociological curriculum that interrogates harmpromoting discourses. Treatment programs for convicted offenders should “encourage participants to become cultural critics, appraising the story forms they have adopted” (Presser Unmaking Misery 123 2008, 155). Such programs have radical promise because they invite penal subjects to speak and they focus on such speech as opposed to static and solitary proclivities. In addition, the rehabilitative goal of a “good life” (Ward and Maruna 2007) reflects a truer story than the one that offenders are usually encouraged to tell, of “changing their ways.” The former gets real about the fact that “offenders” are like “us” and want what the rest of us want—to live happily, meaningfully, and without suffering. The latter—the status quo—tends to reduce people to problems. Yet, however modeled, corrections-based change does not go nearly far enough for my vision of harm reduction. Correctional programs deal with a minute sector of the harm-causing population . It is a sector whose harms have been overstated relative to other harms; the latter include indirect varieties instigated by planners and tolerated by the rest of us. As seen in chapter 6, drawing a distinction between correctional clients and the rest of us feeds the rhetoric of penal harm. So we need general forums where our harmful actions and arrangements are made perfectly clear, their underlying logics are interrogated, the connections between logics and harms are discerned, and feasible plans are made for change. Such forums might be sponsored by mass media or academia and convened in civic spaces such as online and face-to-face social...


Additional Information

Related ISBN
MARC Record
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.