Interesting posting on Facebook the other day – oh, aren’t ‘all’ FB postings fascinating, my children? – pertaining to the fact that we didn’t have all this societal nonsense like crime, drug abuse, sexual assaults etc. back when parents still whaled the bejeezus out of their kids.
Knee-jerk crap, was my initial response. Yet it set me to thinking about the realities of when I was growing up – that golden era in which there was no juvie crime, drug abuse (alcohol’s not a drug, is it?), sexual assault and so forth – in which parents and teachers ruled their respective roosts.
And that was all to do with ‘respect’, no?
Don’t know about your case, but in mine it was largely due to fear.
My old man – admirable guy in many regards and worthy of respect – scared the shit out of me when he was angry. My mother, no, she was a pushover, but Dad was not Ward Cleaver or Sheriff Andy Taylor in which he and I would sit down and have a nice ‘chat’ if I’d transgressed.
Nope. It’d be a tirade of what nowadays is called verbal abuse. Nope, no beatings or anything physical, but somehow the words hurt more. At such times I quite literally hated his guts. But, by the same token, I largely towed the mark and did as I was expected to. And so did most (albeit not all) of my friends vis-à-vis their paters familia. Those guys had been brought up in a harsher era and still imposed the only rules they understood.
And, the teachers. The strap was still wielded in elementary and junior high schools, and I wasn’t a complete stranger to it. It was sadistic and quite terrifying – especially for an essentially good kid like I was. My principal when I was teaching maintained the strap was ineffective because it truly only worked on good kids. For rotten kids – and yes, we had them even then – it was almost a source of pride.
“Yep – 27 on each hand, and I didn’t even wince. I just looked the bastard straight in the eye the whole time.”
My relationship with my father improved once he and I both realized I was bigger than he was. Yet, you know, I regret the ethic of the day because it always rather tainted my view of the man who sired me. It kept me for a long time from wanting to know him better.
And as harsh as parental and teacher discipline might have been, then there were the cops. Cops evoked a lot of uneasy feelings in the gut in those days. And verbal abuse and lack of basic kindness in dealing with the young was pretty much the norm in my experience.
So, did all of this abuse lead to a better society? Are frightened kids showing respect because they actually respect the institutions of their world, or because they’re afraid to be caught.
I have no answers for this, but I suspect the civil crime rate was relatively low in Nazi Germany, so I reckon those who advocate harsher measures might see draconian punishments as being worthy.
But, ironically, actual crime rates, including by juveniles, are lower now than they were when I was sporting acne.