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+4 votes
I ask this because i find often in modern thinking this is a very loaded term. There's the straightforward definition, which is repeated, systematic, or isolated physical assault on someone, and i have no experience whatsoever with this except accounts i've read about from people who i don't know. However, the other definition is a purely psychological, which seems to describe relationships where there's some form of dependency, and the abuser is repeatedly being nasty and/or deceiving, and this can have varying levels or degrees to it. I find it only useful as a word [in both senses] when there are some pretty extreme circumstances involved, which i don't have any experience with either.

Always these emotionally incendiary topics that interest me the most! I should probably be on reality television...
unrelated to this really interesting topic (one that this anarchist finds important!) I like the idea of a Real World style anarchist reality show... twelve anarchists are put in a communal house together and have to figure out how to maneuver the dynamics - there would obviously be one hard-core red type guy (communist, syndicalist... who knows), an egoist, an insurrecto-bro, a nihilist and an anarcho-primitivist, and I am wondering what else would make it interesting... maybe an an-cap for the entire house to unite in hatred against? Oh, and Keith McHenry from FNB just kinda wandering around doing not much other than making vegan snacks, insisting on consensus meetings and the principles of non-violence
some immediate thoughts pop into mind. i should probably wait till i have something coherent to say... but why would i try to get all coherent now?‚Äč

there are the "dictionary" definitions of abuse. then there are the abundance of nuanced (and not so nuanced) ways that folks - particularly so-called radical folks - use the term. for example, identity politicians, including many that identify as anarchist, tend to use that term in ways that are questionable to me; almost always in the service of their politics (even if also to describe a particular situation). i guess it is analogous, in some ways, to the word "rape" (which is, of course, a particularly nasty type of abuse). to me it feels like the meaning gets diluted by the extraordinarily wide variety of contexts in which it gets applied these days.

i don't remember that being the case when i was a kid. there is no doubt that today, my parents would have been considered abusive (though not overly so). but i don't see it that way at all. i have seen and known far too many familial situations that i would actually consider to be abusive. maybe we ought to be talking about "the spectrum" for abuse.

generally speaking, i would say the term "abuse" can be relevant to anarchists; by almost any definition, abuse denotes behavior that is anti-anarchistic.

one use of the word that i often take issue with is "substance abuse" (and similar variants). the substance is not being abused (leaving aside how it was obtained), nor is the person being abused by the substance. in some cases, one could make a point for "self abuse" when they have a truly toxic and unhealthy (for them) relationship with a substance. which of course includes cigarettes, caffeine, sugar, pharmies, as well as pot, heroin, meth, etc.
just saw ingrate's comment above...  i love it!
while i think many parents have semi-abusive relationships with their children, the word just isn't fair to use for many of them, however i do hate it how so many parents in "developed" countries want to see their young adult children slaving away for someone even when its not necessary, im glad my parents aren't anything like that, despite the fact they made me afraid of so much dumb shit as a child :-/, not abusive, but safety sams!

and reality tv show, here's my version for the solo camera gossip interview

red-guy: im already disgusted with the an-cap guy, at breakfast he's talkin about who should do the dishes, but that's code for mad surplus labor, im starting to feel the historical determination, RIGHT HERE IN THIS HOUSE!

insurrecto-bro: i mean like, red-guys talkin about revolution, but he's bein a pussy about it, he's goin for mad adventurism! Realize how he's just talkin everyone up with, uh, ya know, the whole "the people" business, but im the only guy who punched the an-cap in the face!

Vegan: i can't get over how everyone in this house ate eggs for breakfast, every cent goes to those domesticated chicken enslavers! We have to go and buy leather-free shoes if we want to make a difference

egoist: hey, where are the eggs? (......)

anarcho-primitivitist: i keep trying to get insurrecto-bro to blow up the power plant, but he just keeps talkin about how he's gonna take down the us army

anarcho-capitalist: VALUE!
i don't use the word "abuse" (noun or verb) it doesn't have relevance to me in terms of my own expression.

i suppose it has relevance to me when other people use it, but i don't know if i can generalize (or specify) what relevance. at least not without a lot more thought.
it might help to "define" the term a little more fully than rs666 did in the question (that definition is a bit lacking, imo).

absuse can take many forms and intensities, and of course the subjective element is paramount. while i am not big on quantifying the unquantifiable, i think the term abuse ought to be somehow calibrated for the context in which it is being used, because it is such a loaded word, and it is used by so many to describe such a wide variety of behaviors.  i reiterate my comment that it may make sense to have a spectrum of abuse, as there is for autism. me calling someone an asshole is a far cry from me raping them. but both could be labeled "abuse". i realize that particular example reaches to the extremes to make a point (and the difference in intensity should be obvious to all), but there are infinite nuanced variations that may not be so cut and dried.

i personally only tend to use the word when i am being sarcastic.
good points, funky.

i wonder why someone needs a label. why not describe a situation? for example, if someone called you an asshole, they called you an asshole. if someone physically stronger than me hits me with their fist on a weekly basis, then i can describe that as well. if a father or mother yells at their daughter or son, and grabs them by the hair or arms almost every day, i can sense, feel, visualize, etc. the actions and emotions involved. if i hear that someone (or something - "the system", a company, etc.) "abused" another person, i have a hard time seeing much in my mind, or even feeling very much...only a vague sense of pain enters my consciousness.

i personally don't find much value in labeling something (whether "abuse" or "autism"or anything else) that includes a wide range of behaviors, relationships, and contexts. labeling, imo, tends to water down and make generic the actual people and actions involved. and then, one can only try to specify where on some range (1 to 10?) that generic label applies to a given situation. i don't know how to explain why that (labeling) bothers me so much, but it does.

edited to add:

the more i've reflected and pondered on words and meaning over my life, the more i've reduced my vocabulary. it often makes conversations more difficult with the majority of people i talk with (from their perspective....they often roll their eyes at me, or give up in frustration)...but i tend to enjoy life much more by eliminating many words from my speech and writing. i've added words too, but usually only those which i didn't know of before. generally, i've added words that help me to describe more specifically, while eliminating those that label without context. regarding "abuse" in  particular, i don't recall that i ever used it, unless referring to what someone else said.
i tend to agree with you, baa. labels bug me no end (i once wrote a little humorous piece on that, i'll try to find it). sometimes they can be good shortcuts, but only, i think, when context is not very relevant.

i think that works as an answer, baa, because the word "abuse" is more or less unnecessary.

It's better to say "her parents hit her everyday" or "her parents constantly badgered her about what she was doing and who she was", rather than "she was abused", because the previous descriptions have more detail and can allow for better help and treatment of the situation

edit: but, when were talking about "society", as dots answer alludes to, we can use the word to talk about the general society if we are writing or describing our culture in general, it's correct the talk about the nation state as an abusive entity

1 Answer

+1 vote
this answer will be as murky as the topic!

i think it does have relevance, because i think the very vagueness of the psychological definition speaks to the confusion around how we got to the state (pun intended) we're in. (but maybe that assumes a healthy human nature, which when put so baldly i don't think i agree with. i need amor fati to get in here and trouble the waters for me! ;) )

i would say that abuse is oppression writ small, it is both how individuals experience systemic inequality, and also how we become acclimated to oppressing others. but that doesn't help that much when we're trying to profile a particular instance, because while in theory it can be clear, in practice it's as (or more) subjective as it is apparent.

and i think that questions like these are part of why anarchy is more interesting than communism. just saying.
by (53.1k points)
i kinda like this: "abuse is oppression writ small"

not sure i understand this: "how individuals exerience systemic inequality"

is that to say that abuse, at an individual level, is (always?) a result of systemic inequality?
that is what i said, yes. my definition of abuse, at least for today.