Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Teach your children to hit

I started with this at the end and moved it. Just so I am perfectly clear if you beat your kids in the 21st century you are a bad parent and a fool. Ditto if you hit your girlfriend like some chump.

I've been thinking about the various domestic violence issues going around the NFL, which quickly flared up into the Adrian Peterson child abuse/discipline controversy.

This has devolved (of course) into a discussion about spanking or hitting children in general. The two main arguments I see against spanking are:

1) That physical discipline/punishment has no benefits over non-violent methods, and may be detrimental (the articles vary their condemnation vs. not spanking from "maybe worse" to "a tiny bit worse" to "they turn out shitty" in the pieces I've read. I'll save my criticism of social science posing as science for another day).

2) That it teaches children that violence can be used to solve problems.

I only want to address #2.

#2, the statement that hitting kids teaches them that violence can solve problems (all the articles use this phrase) is interesting. Implicit within it is the assumption that teaching children that violence can solve problems is wrong.

I think this is insane. Our entire social system, culture, society, and interpersonal relationships are enormously influenced by the implicit or explicit threat/use of violence. I'll throw it out as a presupposition of my argument that violence is very much proven to solve many large and small problems that are of great interest to a great many people.

While the socially correct form of violence to use is economic or psychological, the ability and willingness to inflict physical and emotional harm on others is endemic in our society at large and in virtually every subgroup.

It is very important to teach your children that this is true.

That does not mean that you need to hit them. You do not even have to raise your voice if Johnny is an angel his whole life.

Still, the correct response to violence is also violence. Socially, we prefer to use non-physical violence as retribution. This does not in any way change the underlying socially accepted justice of retribution for all forms of wrongdoing. We do not, as a social belief, think the punishment should be less than the crime.

If you want to argue that violence is bad, I will agree with you. And then nervously shift on my feet as I wonder how to fulfill my new commitment to zero economic or physical violence. Because they are the same. Making someone lose a job or be homeless is actually probably worse than punching them a couple dozen times. Refusing to commit any form of violence will make avoiding your own exploitation difficult.

None of that is my point.

To use the same word in two posts in a row, demanding a nonphysical response to physical violence is a way to rob humans of their agency. Your agency, your ability to control your own destiny, is more important than a removal of visceral violence from our culture.

Having all our physical violence carried out by proxies makes us far more likely to use it and to dehumanize those we oppress, both in our neighborhoods and around the world. Ask the people in Ferguson if outsourcing their use of violence for justice to the local government has worked out.

A firsthand knowledge of the violence that both props up and is a structural element of our society is almost, in my mind, a prerequisite for understanding. I am quite sure most chicken-hawk warmongers have never taken a punch, and more importantly they likely didn't throw one back.

Without some experience with physical violence, you are, like on most issues, just not going to "get" it. I'd even venture so far as to say that people who have a personal experience with physical violence probably have a better awareness of the oppression and yes, violence that is done to them and on their behalf.

I hope my daughters never ever get in a fight.If anyone ever takes a swing at them, I hope they knock that person on their ass.


  1. I can live with this.

    I always tell my sons walk away if you can, if you can't walk away, fight to win (read dirty).

    I also tell them if I ever hear that one of them was in a fight, and the other was there and didn't jump in, I would kick the ass of the one who didn't jump in

  2. And here is the absurdity of the Non-agression Principle espoused by goo-goo-eyed wobbleheads. Force and Fraud are the salient foundational rock solid principles of, not only capitalism, but human society, and life on Earth itself. You want non-agression as a style of life? Become dead. Otherwise sooner or later you're gonna hurt or kill something, and most especially unintentionally.

  3. I don't know if it can, should, or will be changed in the epochs to come. But the absolute best tool for gaining status and resources is aggression and violence. As our associate would say, accept no substitutes.

    We'll have to discuss 'can' and 'should' another day.