By Verna St. Rose Greaves
August 11, 2008
Trinidad and Tobago News Blog
Too many of us as adults believe that the only way we can deal with indiscipline in our children, is to literally beat it out of them. Religious references support our nostalgic recollections of being beaten to demonstrate it’s effectiveness, because after all look how good we turned out.
Stories are told of kneeling on graters holding up two big stones in the hot sun. Or of being ordered to cut the tamarind whip with which you were to be flogged. In the extreme the offending tool of choice a stout leather strap or the urine soaked and stretched penis of a bull; its’ impact so far removed from its’ original intent.
Men laugh as they as they rub trophy scalps, boasting the dexterity of mothers who could pelt pot spoons around corners. The deeper scars manifest in the terror or indifference they visit on their own families. Grown men denying childhood fright recall wearing four pairs of pants to reduce damage to buttocks, beaten bent over benches. Words of gratitude belie the turmoil they feel as they find little comfort in fear based, love hate, parent child relationships.
Can you explain an adult who holds a child’s hand over a lit stove as punishment for stealing a piece of meat? Or who cuts a child’s finger, then coats it with vile substances including ‘kakapool’ or fowl mess, and hot pepper in order to discourage finger sucking.
We expect children to like a place where they are beaten to learn, told how stupid they are, how sad their portion would be, and what a relief it would be to see their backs. My own nephew came home from Primary School with fever, his tiny body covered in wounds inflicted by a teacher who had left his class unattended to drive taxi; brutalizing children who misbehaved in his absence.
We pretend not to understand the unfortunate dynamic set up between police and community when the police were ‘jumbies’ instruments of fear used to frighten our children into submission and to beat them on our behalf?
I am weary of arguments put forward by mothers that it’s okay to beat our children once we tell them how much we love them. These same women cannot understand why our men feel no compunction about wanting to be intimate with us after a severe cut tail.
One man hit his teenaged daughter harder when she dared to guff up “playing man” for him. He baulked when asked if he was preparing her to be passive in the face of licks by her boyfriend or husband.
Mixed messages are forcefully delivered as we shout Shut Up while we pound them; ask if they want something to cry for even as their tears implore us to stop. They beg forgiveness for unknown offences, so accustomed to beatings based on suspicion, commission or just in case.
Something very frightening is happening when even as we are described as being among the most violent countries in the world we shamelessly advocate for beating up on those entrusted to our care because they dare to demonstrate our failures.
The fervor with which we pursue this question of corporal punishment must be transformed into dismantling the institutional frameworks that support, sanction, and perpetuate it. The beating of children is a manifestation at the lowest level of historical norms and the order of domination which the colonial experience has left us with and which we have failed to seriously challenge.
I don’t like to be hit. What about you?
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