So much to blog about, but there was a very interesting piece over at Say Uncle about ass-whuppin’. (Note to Uncle: Turn in your Southern Boy card. An ass-whippin’ is what your momma gave you for misbehavin’, followed by another when your daddy got home. An ass-whuppin’ is what you get in a fight if you come out the loser.) Read the whole thing and the comments, but the heart of the piece is this:
The man I worked with was a licensed social worker with a graduate degree and before that he was a drill sergeant. No, really. One day, I said to him: What’s wrong with kids these days? They’re too quick to shoot each other or stab each other or club each other from behind. He says, and I am not making this up, that: Kids today are afraid to take an ass-whippin’.
He went on to say that, in his day and mine, if two teenage boys had a conflict, they’d meet on the playground after school and settle it. He’s right, we did. But no one ever got killed. No one ever went to the ER. We had black-eyes and were sore but we got over it pretty quickly. Then, the next day, we were friends again. Now, he says, kids are afraid of that. They don’t want to fight, because they’re scared of a little ass-whippin’. They’d rather attempt to kill someone than get their ass handed to them.
In a conversation with a co-worker several years ago, he related that when he was growing up you fought with your fists – no kicking. (Kicking was girlish.) Then kicking was OK. Then kicking when the other guy was down. Then using sticks or clubs. Then knives. Then guns.
He stopped fighting when they went to knives.
Commenter Ken noted:
I think he’s not exactly wrong but not quite right either. I don’t think it’s being afraid of an ass-whippin’ as such (hell, I was afraid of that too) but it’s a result of the whole “violence is BAD BAD BAD ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS” mentality forced on kids today, often to the point that self defense is punished (can you say “zero tolerance”?)
In the old days, as noted, boys would often just pair off, fight, and be done. Also, if there was a bully, the victims could team up and take care of it, and be done.
But if no distinction whatsoever is made between degrees of violence, or the ends to which it is put, then there is no reason for an adolescent to draw a distinction between “fighting back” and murder. Both are equally condemned, so why take half measures? (My emphasis.)
I’ve written on this topic before, in “(I)t’s most important that all potential victims be as dangerous as they can.” What Ken is illustrating is the social philosophy that cannot distinguish between “violent and predatory” and “violent but protective,” and it’s a philosophy most emphatically in evidence on the campuses of our primary schools – where even Dodgeball is banned because it’s violent and somebody might get hurt. While I’ll agree that there’s a growing number of younger kids who are willing to use lethal violence, I think that this is only part of the problem. Another problem for is the number of our yoots who grow up in a protective bubble, essentially never suffering any significant injury – certainly not one at the hands of another. From that Arizona Republic piece:
Kids often get hurt playing tag, said Sharon Roland, the nurse at Jack L. Kuban School in southwest Phoenix and vice president of the School Nurses Organization of Arizona.
They split their chins, scrape their noses and graze their knees, the expected injuries of childhood. But they also knock out teeth and fracture bones.
E’Lisa Harrison’s son, Grant, was 8 when he was pushed and fell during a game of tag at Kyrene de la Estrella Elementary School in Phoenix. It was an accident, but Grant spent weeks with a cast on his arm, missing out on a season of baseball.
While growing up, my sister broke her wrist. My brother broke an ankle and a collar bone in separate incidents. I broke a toe. Hovever I cracked my head a number of times (requiring stitches – which may explain my current personality), and even did a serious face-plant on the sidewalk once. Most of the kids I grew up with got injured – from cuts requiring stitches to one that was hospitalized after being hit by a car. We were active – and we learned that stupid hurts, pain is temporary, and chicks dig scars. I don’t think a lot of our yoots learn much of that today.
Part of that learning leads to empathy – you know what it feels like to be significantly physically injured. It’s a short leap to transferring that to someone else – and staying your hand, or intervening in a violent situation. But if you have no personal experience with pain, inflicting it on others would seem to me to be easier.
I last fought when I was about 10 or 11 years old. Neither one of us was noticeably injured. We were best friends before the fight, and we were best friends again afterward. (Well, within a couple of weeks.) But prior to that, I knew what being hurt was. I didn’t try to gouge out his eyes or kick him in the crotch, and he returned the favor. No knives, no clubs, no guns – though both he and I had fathers who owned firearms, and we both knew where they and the ammo were: in bedroom closets, unlocked and accessible.
In Potential Victims I quoted Grim from Grim’s Hall:
Very nearly all the violence that plagues, rather than protects, society is the work of young males between the ages of fourteen and thirty. A substantial amount of the violence that protects rather than plagues society is performed by other members of the same group. The reasons for this predisposition are generally rooted in biology, which is to say that they are not going anywhere, in spite of the current fashion that suggests doping half the young with Ritalin.
The question is how to move these young men from the first group (violent and predatory) into the second (violent, but protective). This is to ask: what is the difference between a street gang and the Marine Corps, or a thug and a policeman? In every case, we see that the good youths are guided and disciplined by old men.
Absolutely. Case in point, my father-in-law and my wife’s nephew. He’s a very small boy for his age, and he gets bullied in school. My FIL advised him to fight back, and if set upon by someone much bigger, gather his friends and take on the bully as a group. My wife, who has worked in the public education sector explained to her father that his advice was no longer acceptable. A fight in school no longer involves the principal and a few days suspension – the police are called and even children are taken away in handcuffs these days.
It’s insane. And it’s the end product of this kind of thinking:
I’m a follower of the “violence never solved anything” school of thought as a general rule. I don’t necessarily think two kids squaring off in the schoolyard is a productive way to end an argument, either in the short term of the long term. There must be more civilized ways to resolve conflict that let kids release steam but do it in ways that don’t involve anger and aggression toward each other.
And Ken responded:
But for Barry’s comment: I realize I didn’t express it very clearly, but I don’t (and I don’t think others did either) mean to imply that kids should ever have solved arguments that way. Violence is neither useful nor productive for solving disagreements, though one might make a case for minor fights being an outlet (I don’t, but it’s not implausible). But bullies are not typically deterred by nice talk alone, and certainly are not deterred by victims that don’t fight back.
No, bullies aren’t deterred by victims who don’t fight back.
Which negates the hypothesis that “violence never solved anything.” Violence does solve things, and it solves them pretty thorougly in many cases. Attempting to suppress violence in a population due to a philosophy that “violence never solved anything” and “violence is BAD BAD BAD ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS” has led the UK to be the most violent industrialized nation in Europe – because the bullies are not confronted. Violence in defense of self or others is a corollary of the fundamental human right, and it is RIGHT RIGHT RIGHT ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS. It is “Violent but PROTECTIVE,” and as a culture we’ve lost sight of that to a large extent – and we’re brainwashing our children with it more and more with each successive generation, leaving them defenseless against those who would do them violence.
Update: I have an earlier post along these same lines, too, I just discovered. Read the comments.