Recently, Cassville, Missouri reinstated the paddling of students. Now, I am against this for myriad reasons, obviously. First, the overwhelming consensus of developmental and child psychologists are against it at the same level virologists are supportive of vaccines and climate scientists believe in global warming. It isn’t a question. It has been settled since the 1980s. Parents don’t know what is best for their children since parents often believe dying from measles is better for their child than living with autism. The best parents use peer-reviwed science to rear their children.
I saw a supporter of the move at a rally using a perversion of my religion to endorse the hitting of children “Spare the rod, spoil the child” which is not how the Old Testament works. Fairy tales are not about fuedalism, the moral lesson is from the narrative not the rules of the society within it. The Old Testament works the same way. It is like what Harold Bloom said about the School of Resentment when he talked about a hypothetical feminist analysis of Hamlet “You will learn a lot about feminism, and nothing about Hamlet” All you would end up doing would be talking about gender dynamics of 16th century Denmark which has absolutely nothing to do with the story. God does not want us to live as Bronze age Levantines but to learn from their mistakes.
My bigger concern was why it happened when it did. This was a populist reaction to social progress. Back in 2010, they wouldn’t have done this. This is a symptom of the decline of liberal democracy. We are on the brink of having many of the advancements of the late 20th and early 21st centuries reversed but the truly scary thing is not merely that because I would vastly prefer the real world of 1955 to the world they are grasping for. For all of the world’s then problems, 1955 America was a liberal democracy with an average middle-class standard of living. To his eternal credit, Strom Thurmond, for everything wrong with him, did not pretend he won the 1948 election for president and attempt a coup on that pretext. Had he done that, he would have been either tried for treason for committed to a mental hospital. The number of local election deniers is horrifying. That shit is now normal.
It is too overused I hate using it, but Hitler and his ilk of Mussolini, Franco, and the other fascists are a much better comparison than the hardline right of American history. Many on the left could not articulate the difference between a Dixiecrat of the 1940s and a fascist of the 1930s. Fascism is not merely an ideology but a alternative reality and fascism is not a reaction to particular social mores progressing but liberalism, itself. It is the result of the alienation of the individual in a modern, liberal, society without their community or its institutions. The psychology of a European fascist is described by Franz Kafka not Tennessee Williams or William Faulkner. For the record, “The Metamorphosis” is infinitely better than “A Streetcar Named Desire” and is much, much, cooler. Kafka, himself, was on the far-left and was not a fascist but his work does illustrate the alienation an individual tempted by the lure of fascism feels.
This is not about defending an old social order, it is about their self-esteem in the context of the alienation of contemporary liberalism. They want to beat children because they feel empty and sad on the inside. It is their lashing out at a nebulous and impersonal world of globalization that sees them as a statistic. They miss the old world where the pond was so small that no fish was insignificant. Alas, there is nothing, it seems, that will fill that hole in their heart and they shall continue to rage at the Rawlsian world which denies them a name and cares nothing for their soul.