A few years ago I overheard a highly instructive exchange on the 22 Bus.
A woman, whose South London origin didn’t require a Dr Higgins to pinpoint, gave a light smack to her misbehaving child.
That upset a middle-aged, middleclass German woman who clearly possessed all the self-righteousness of her social background. “In Germany,” she intoned, “ve don’t smack children.”
“In England,” came an instant rapier-sharp conversation-stopper, “we don’t gas Jews.”
As far as repartees go, this worked. However, like most such lines, it doesn’t quite stand up to scrutiny, especially its implication that gassing Jews is a constant feature of German life reflecting an immutable trait of the German character.
It’s neither. Propensity to do extreme, institutionalised violence is a universal corollary of extreme, institutionalised power. Absolute power doesn’t just corrupt, it also predictably turns its possessors into amoral, feral beasts.
The degree of amorality and beastliness is directly proportionate to the extent of power: the greater the latter, the greater the former. That’s why English laws over the last 800 years have been aimed at shifting power away from the state and towards the individual.
Most charters of Hellenic antiquity did exactly the opposite: they empowered the state at the expense of the individual, and if you look at the legal history of continental Europe you’ll observe elements of the same tendency.
That’s mostly why England has so far avoided some of the worst excesses of absolute power, including the one mentioned on the 22 Bus. But it would be wrong to assume that history has immunised England against that sort of thing in perpetuity. Constitutional history no doubt inoculates against tyranny, but this kind of vaccine must be constantly topped up.
Keeping this simple observation in mind, one should always be on guard against an inordinate growth in state power over the individual. We should never sink into it-can’t-happen-here complacency. It can – and, if we aren’t vigilant, it will.
It’s in this light that the latest diktat from the Children’s Commissioner for England Maggie Atkinson ought to be regarded.
Like the German woman in my anecdote Miss Atkinson doesn’t think smacking children is nice. Like any modern government bureaucrat, she believes that anything she doesn’t think nice must be criminalised. This is ominous.
The modern state invariably treats the family as an annoying competitor. It proceeds from the assumption that it can – and has the right to – bring up children better than their parents.
The state also feels justified in regulating the activity that used to have exclusive rights to producing children. The government now insists on squeezing its body of laws into every nuptial bed in some kind of monstrous threesome.
Government bureaucrats will tell the husband what kind of hanky-panky is allowed and what is not. It’ll tell the wife that a sharp word from her husband is a sufficient reason for an appeal to criminal law. It’ll tell both that their lives aren’t entirely their own.
All such measures are shots fired in anger at the very institution of family, the cornerstone of the traditional social order but a direct threat to modern spivocracy. The war against family is being fought on all fronts and with every weapon of mass destruction.
The welfare state, a blockbuster in the armoury of state tyranny, has effectively made the father redundant, especially in lower-class families. His provider role assumed by the state, the father fades away.
Soon he’ll become superfluous not only as a provider for his children but also as the procreator of them: cloning and artificial insemination can do the job nicely. In fact, the very terms ‘father’ and “mother’, along with ‘husband’ and ‘wife’, have been sunk into obsolescence by the perverse law allowing homomarriage.
The same sort of outrage goes on in child rearing. Conservative parents – unless they can afford to educate their progeny privately – have no recourse whatsoever when they object to the multi-culti, PC, leftie poison being pumped into their children at state schools.
They can’t, for example, withdraw their children from obscene, vulgar, soul-destroying sex-education classes whose main purpose seems to be priming the little ones for a life of sexual, and increasingly homosexual, promiscuity accompanied by multi-culti atheism.
Now Miss Atkinson wants to push through a ‘law’ according to which a parent who smacks a child’s bottom may go to prison. (The quotation marks around the word ‘law’ are a tribute to Aquinas, who correctly taught that an unjust law is no law at all.)
“Personally, having been a teacher, and never having had an issue where I’d need to use physical punishment, I believe we should move to ban it,” says Maggie Lite. I don’t know what subject she personally taught, though on this evidence it couldn’t have been English.
Neither was it logic: “Because in law you are forbidden from striking another adult, …but somehow there is a loophole around the fact that you can physically chastise your child. It’s counter-evidential.”
An adult’s relationship with another adult is fundamentally different from his relationship with a child: he has dominion of the latter, but not of the former. A man can’t tell a grown-up what to wear, what to eat or when to go to bed, but he’s within his right to instruct a child in those areas.
We already have a just law prohibiting violent abuse of children resulting in bruising or injury, and quite right too. But a mild smack is a time-proven pedagogical tool, and when it was applied widely if judiciously, children were manifestly better behaved than they are now, when the parents’ dominion over them has effectively been removed.
What ought to be expunged isn’t smacking but the post of Children’s Commissioner, along with other such busybody jobs. The implicit, if not explicit, mandate of all of them is to destroy what little is left of traditional virtue – most emphatically including the institution of family.