My Battle

My Battle

(That properly dead and gone swine can’t own those two words forever, can he? 10,000,000 lives AND an important pair of words taken out of circulation forever? No. Hell, no. We can’t get the lives back, but we can damned sure reclaim the words. I’m not famous or anything, I’ll do it first. You’re welcome.)

The point of this post will be to define my argument with the world, to try to establish my position (in opposition to any sort of punishment, especially of children) and to glean the position of those I might hope to convince. Suffice to say, I hear the objections a fair amount, yet I still can’t credit where the supporters of punishment are coming from as a considered position, it seems rather an un-focused one. That position is occupied by most of the world, though, so I guess it’s always going to be a moving target for me, no slight on anyone.

But I am getting a little desperate here.

In order for me to win this debate, there needs to be one. If the world of normal parents can’t see fit to choose a champion, block off some time and sit down with me to work through this, then, strange and counterintuitive as it may be, I guess I’ll have to help you, make your points for you, if necessary. Maybe if I misrepresent the POV, someone will be motivated to jump in and correct me.

It’s me against the world, of course it is. Even among the No Punishment folks, the few out there, there isn’t a lot of common ground. (The only other person I found with that search, ‘No Punishment,’ seemed to have no interest in my offered support for his position and only reacted to me as though I were either one of his students who needed correction, or maybe as though I were some sort of threat, as though I were his competition. Funny thing was, after his rebuff, I wanted to be. I got over it, though. Maybe he was just being a good critic. My first attempt at a book on this topic – being anti-punishment – which I sent him really was crap. He reacted as a prof., marked my book (a fail) and rejected my emotional support for his cause. It hurt me that my support for what I know to be a very unpopular POV meant nothing to him, he didn’t need or want it. It still rankles.) Maybe we get so used to hostility, opposition, and a lack of will to even try to see our stance that we end up so invested in our own status as outliers that agreement becomes a threat to our perceived uniqueness.* That is definitely part of the deal for me, so maybe not only me. Try as I may to assure myself and you all that it’s all about the content for me, all about the ideas themselves, I know I must always be aware that my personal need  for a unique identity is there, and makes for a conflict of interest.

Of course, these sorts of personal, internal conflicts of interest are everywhere. If you’re with me on this, then you may applaud my due diligence, the full disclosure. If you’re against me, then I guess to put it in fighting terms, I just gave you my back. That’s either a bad decision I’m making after taking a few hard shots, or it’s supreme confidence, make your own interpretation. I may be dumb enough to offer my back, but I don’t plan to give away the whole game plan! It’s a little of both, of course. Plus, the haters gonna hate anyway; he who has ears to hear, let him hear. That’s a lot of metaphor, but this isn’t math and rocket science, either.

So maybe it’s me against the world. Maybe it’s personal, as I said somewhere else, ‘the rantings of a developmentally arrested person,’ I mean, of course there is some component of that, but maybe that’s mostly what it is. That, however, may or may not matter; it depends on whether the ideas produced from this dysfunction stand on their own, doesn’t it? Many ideas we have, many good ones have likely evolved through error, but when the evolved idea works for us, who cares? If the idea has merit, the source isn’t important. If the idea is bad, the source may also not matter – we’re dancing around the logical fallacy of Appeal to Authority here. Just as a bad idea is a bad idea and selling it on the basis of its author’s good reputation is fallacious that way, so too is dismissing a good idea from an unknown source. So here’s my developed idea, which may or may not have come largely from my narcissism, as well as the opposing social idea, whose origin may also not be derived from either a divine or provable hard-scientific process:

MINE: (as well as a small percentage of people’s here in the US and Canada, I can’t speak to elsewhere. It seems, un-alienated aboriginal peoples the world over don’t beat their children as much as developed people, and besides Scandinavia’s improvement on our numbers, there may be other places in the world where the aboriginal attitude has survived better than among those of us from Europe and the middle East. I understand Hinduism and Buddhism to be a sort of evolution of aboriginal religion, still somewhat connected to natural systems. I don’t say most people practice it, but I think those religions haven’t ensconced corporal punishment of children into Holy Law at least.) Sorry – again:


Punishment is a source of psychological and social damage because it causes harm, by definition. The harms caused to people when we hurt one another are not limited to illegal, proscribed practices. When we harm one another for what perceive to be good reasons and for good purposes, we are still harming each other, and this harm stays with all of us. This is not only regrettable, I think it isn’t inevitable. I think we can get around it. If we did, I think we’d be amazed at what human beings with far less damage can do.

SOCIETY’S: (for lack of a better term. I’m going to bundle up what may be a large variety of attitudes not all of which will apply to everyone. The only criteria is that they don’t involve the complete abolition of punishing in 99% of its forms, as I do. I’ll try to control myself, but maybe you should expect to be insulted. Apologies in advance. Here’s the bias: I’m not going to try to make sense of it; this is not my side of the argument, I couldn’t do it justice, and why would anyone ever believe I did, or tried? I’m going to do the sad, cynical thing, present my side in as good a paragraph as I can muster at the moment, tied up with a positive  ribbon and bow – and present my strawman opponent’s view in a list of unconnected talking points. It’s not a dirty trick if I point it out, right, full disclosure? Fair again, or fair enough? Anyone who wishes to take up this side of the debate is invited to make the sense of it that they can, in as artful a way as they wish. Please do: if you believe it, you owe it to yourselves and your cause. Personally, I feel someone owes it to me! On the one hand, my opponent in this debate is so big he doesn’t even know I’m here, but on the other hand, I’m battling a phantom, an idea expressed so vaguely that it can’t be held in one place long enough to beat it.) Sorry again – again:


  • Punishment is an important and useful tool for:
    • Controlling bad behaviour and crime
    • Encouraging good behaviour and morality
    • Protecting ourselves from violence and crime
    • Promoting the society’s values
  • Punishment, when administrated properly doesn’t cause permanent harm
  • Children need to learn about consequences
  • Children need to learn right from wrong
  • Children need to learn to listen, so that they will in an emergency, to keep them from a road, a cliff, or a river
  • Punishment “works” where nothing else does
  • Punishment is “natural;” other animals use punishment
  • A program of punishment is required to “civilize” human beings, otherwise they will behave badly
  • Not all punishment is physical
  • Non-corporal punishment is not harmful
  • Punishment and abuse are different things, qualitatively, the difference is not simply a matter of degree
  • Not Punishing is negligent – there is a moral, social and/or religious obligation to respond to misbehaviour with unpleasantness
  • Punishments reinforce deterrents, stopping crime and misbehaviour before it happens

Wow. That wasn’t too bad for a guy who’s not down with this side of the conversation. I still wouldn’t count on me, I can be very devious. Trust, as some powerful swine once said – but verify. Still, a fuller and less abrasive list than I expected myself. Having said all that, beware, no waiting: here’s the trap.

I have arguments for everything on the ‘society’s’ list, except that I’ll allow one and one-half bullets from the very first thing on the list. Don’t get me wrong, that list looks great, and if half of the things on it were true, ah. What a wonderful world that would be. The thing is, if those things were true, someone out there, some Defender of Normal Parents Everywhere should be able to deconstruct them for me, show me why they’re true, how they work. Because I have done my own deconstructions of these scenarios, and I can’t see any way all that stuff could ever possibly work.

(Except, as I say, for some caveats contained in the very first point of the list:

  • Punishment is an important and useful tool for:
    • Controlling bad behaviour and crime
    • Encouraging good behaviour and morality
    • Protecting ourselves from violence and crime
  • The confinement part of the criminal justice system undeniably makes us safe from a particular convict for a particular time, true. That is not the same as saying the prison system makes for a safer society in general.
    • Promoting the society’s values
  • This also is certainly true, punishment can indeed be used to promote and even enforce a given society’s values and morals. That, while true, would be true of any society, some of which we may not approve.

So even those two aren’t as true or as powerful as my hypothetical proponents of punishment may have hoped.)**

For the rest? Pick one, somebody, please, and let’s break it down, see how it works. Or maybe, I’ll make a series of this, one point at a time? I’ll do it, you know. Don’t think I won’t.

So, thanks for reading, and please, share and retweet . . .


* Anyone know ‘Little Britain?’

** 725 of 1860 words between parentheses! Like, 40%ish. That must be a new record for me.

3 thoughts on “My Battle

  1. Reality Sandwiches June 7, 2015 / 2:05 pm

    I can’t follow what you’re actually trying to solve here….? What are you talking about? What is the goal? I think you can attract more likes and feedback!


  2. neighsayer June 7, 2015 / 3:47 pm

    hmmm . . . I’ll give it a quick read, then I’ll give you Jeff-today’s best guess!

    – I think it’s there in the second paragraph. I’m having a little trouble soliciting rational arguments to my ‘no-punishment-at-all-even “non-corporal” punishment’ arguments (of course I think I’m rational. Don’t we all?). It’s an extremely difficult topic, you can’t say ‘we can improve this’ without people feeling accused of abuse, or that I’m accusing their parents. Even when I’m saying everybody, the system – it’s still personal to everybody. And fair enough, too.

    I was just sort of hoping some internet logician would step up for the ‘discipline’ side of the argument so we could try to set up an argument for us and the world to move forward with. I know there’s no removing the emotion from the topic, and I’m not trying to. I’m just trying to start a logical debate as well.

    I guess I’m suffering under the fantasy that I have regular readers out there. I do have a ton of posts in here, but I have to say, the child-rearing ones are mostly a year or more old now. Maybe it’s time to start re-posting them.


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