Tuesday, July 31, 2007

to save you from your old ways

Things that irritate me #4633 "People who beat/kill their children will still beat/kill their children after the anti-spanking/repeal Section 59 bill passes, so there is no point changing the law"

Yes, yes, perhaps I should have written this while the Repeal Section 59 debate was in full swing. But in my defense I'm a man who takes his procrastination seriously. After all, as an ex-Catholic I need something to feel guilty about, and possession all those pictures of Apathy Jack with the call-girl, the nun, and Dick Cheney just doesn't bother me like it used to (that's not his first name, people - it's an instruction). Anyway, the flaw in this argument is so huge I'm constantly shocked how many people use it in conversation - and we're talking ordinary joe public, not just mooks who are paid to obfuscate for a living like politicians and creationists.

Every day large numbers of people flagrantly exceed the speed limit, cheat on their taxes, and covert their neighbour's wives; heck, there's an average of a murder every three days in this country. According to the logic of the anti-abolitionists we might as well have no laws, because people will just go around breaking them, making a solemn mockery of the justice system. No, better to have complete anarchy, because then at least we aren't fooling ourselves.


I jest. The anti-abolitionists don't really mean that. They fall under the rubric of Things that irritate me #2579, "people who say one thing for rhetorical purposes, but actually mean something else". Here, what they mean to say is
"this law would be ineffective and therefore cause more harm than good"; which is certainly a coherent argument, and therefore somewhat surprising because I'd bet 85% of the proponents of it would also support the continued criminalisation of marijuana ... (Things that irritate me #2 "people who don't even have the decency to feel ashamed about their intellectual dishonesty").

And I tend to agree - this law has a high possibility of not affecting our appalling child violence statistics, for at least two reasons. Firstly, and it's a weird analogy I know, but I think we are in a similar situation to where we were with drink driving 25-30 years ago. It took a concerted public campaign to change the average punters' attitude to the point where (mostly) drunk drivers are vilified and despised. Now that the Government has won the legislative battle I not sure they have the stomach to go the extra distance with a public education campaign and media blitz on child violence. And while the drink-drive war had the police on the front lines, the spanking issue will mostly be fought down in the trenches by organisations like CYPFS, which often seem as welcomed in public opinion as child-beaters themselves. And just to make it harder, I believe that their is a long, thin streak of puritanism* in New Zealand society that helped to push the anti-drink driving message along. That same puritanical streak will most likely work in the other direction for bringing down child violence.

The second reason I think we will be fighting an uphill battle is because the root of child violence is the widespread acceptance in our society of violence itself - as a method of solving problems. This is a subject I would like to come back to another time, given the length of this post already.

My hope is that the repeal of Section 59 (I say repeal, but really the section has been rewritten, but the word repeal is indelibly imprinted into my brain after all those months of debate so just bear with me, you bastards) with serve two purposes:
  1. allow the police to prosecute parents who take to their children with riding crops, or who perform similar ridiculous, sadistic and dangerous acts in the name of "child discipline"; and
  2. slowly, but inexorably, change people's attitudes such that people like Simon Barnett, or anyone else who claims they are belting their children "for their own good", are vilified as the perverted weirdos they undoubtedly are. How the heck did that guy get on children's television? I feel all dirty now.
NB: In the wake of the Nia Glassie case, let's get one thing straight. Maori collectively have to do something about violence against children when white people sort out serial killers and white-collar criminals. Or just read the Herald article about the link between economic circumstances and violence and be done with it.

And while you're here you can bugger right off to Public Address and read Russell Brown's post on Corporal Punishment. Why yes, I do hold Family First in the same high esteem I hold Simon Barnett - right up there with fascism and botulism**.

* Having said I believe that there is a puritanical streak in NZ, I can't actually put my finger on why I believe it. Anyone want to try and retrospectively justify my beliefs?

** What? What? Oh come on, they're both "isms" aren't they?

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