Don't hit me!

Jan 23rd, 2008 | By | Category: Personal Columns

One day when Michael was about five I was so angry and frustrated with him that I smacked him. Smacks were few and far between and this one was not appreciated. He looked at me through tears and said, “Big people shouldn’t hit little people.”

It was a simple and powerful argument, something presumably picked up at nursery school or primary school. Resorting to violence wasn’t about trying to change things, it was about an admission of failure to change things. Our house remained a strict one without the need to slap. Shouts and sanctions were far more effective than smacks.

Even at the fundamentalist Christian school I attended it was apparent that their “spare the rod and spoil the child” philosophy simply did not work; the same boys were caned again and again, it never changed their behaviour. The fact that they were being punished owed more to the fact that they were stupid enough to be caught, than to the fact that they were the only people guilty of these wrongs. When an attempt was made to burn down one of the classroom blocks in January 1977, the culprit list included the frequent visitors to the principal’s office – the use of the rod had simply hardened them in their attitudes

Violence is about big and strong people dominating smaller and weaker people; whether me slapping Michael or governments using force to suppress groups they don’t like, it is not a solution to anything. Anyone familiar with the sad history of relations between Ireland and Britain will know that violence never brought solutions, whether in centuries of British repression or in the Republican philosophy that embraced bullets and bombs. Violence just builds up a huge storehouse of resentment which sometimes gets carried down the generations.

All of which arises from watching Suzanne Vega on YouTube this morning. Luka captures the fear, shame and resentment of a person subject to a barrage of beatings.

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  1. I want to comment, but I cannot.

    I thought I had left all that bitterness behind.

  2. Grannymar, I’m sorry if I hit a raw nerve.

  3. Ian this is so true but sadly so idealistic. I have another commenter on my blog who is a gun freak and believes that the only way to true freedom is the right to own and use a gun I find it sickening but there you go, it’s his constitutional right.

    And as an aside, we had a ‘naughty chair’ as discepline. Smacks were few and far between.My brother still has a belt with ‘cuts’ on it to mark the times he was caned! It became a source of pride not discepline!

    I love the way you manage to say things without naming names, I hope those at whom it is directed get the point.

  4. Baino,

    Outside my dad and my sister, my old friend Les, and some of the parish, there are only half a dozen people that read this stuff!

    Thommo, one of the blokes that was always in trouble at school, died in a motor bike accident when he was 17 – never did find out if all the beatings had done him any good.

  5. Never got a hiding from my Father when I was a kid his raging temper and one look was enough to fill me with terror. I vowed never to treat my kids in this manner or to hit them either. Its anger and frustration that makes us do it, I have managed to control this, My boys know when they have over-stepped the mark.Great song too Ian.

  6. You’d be surprised at how many people read it!! Regularly I advertise “For the Fainthearted” on my Sunday notice sheet and have passed on the address to a huge number of folk. What you say is: moving, challenging and encouraging. Nearly every day there’s something worth thinking about and sharing with others.
    With reference to smacking/caning: my least favourite argument, frequently used, is, “it never did me any harm”. I wonder how much the corporal punishment in NI schools in former generations contributed to the idea that violence solves problems….?

  7. Ian, you’d be surprised who reads your blog but sometimes, having a small stable of loyal readers is better. You get to know them and it stops you writing ‘for’ others rather than just voicing your opinions. Mine’s got off the track a bit lately. I’m going back to life in Oz and more personal recollections soon. It might not please the commenters but it’s what I want to do. And I love your blog, you’re my early morning inspiration for the lost and faithless.

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