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For Your Own Good

“Fools think that this is just nonsense. Something left over, old-fashioned. But there’s always a purpose in nonsense.”- Ayn Rand

The whole philosophy of libertarianism is based on the Non-Aggression principle. No man should have the right to initiate physical force or its derivatives like threat of force or fraud against another. Needless to mention, such a natural law is valid always, everywhere, irrespective of the time, place and circumstances. Unfortunately, many are unwilling to apply this principle in the context of the rights of children, the most vulnerable section of the society. Most people think that when it comes to innocent children who can’t hit back when they are hit, anything goes.

One of the most horrifying aspects of Schools, which attracts its fair share of media attention presently, is corporal punishment. The case of Rouvanjit Rawla, a 13 year old student from La Martiniere Boys’ in Kolkata has brought the issue of corporal punishment to the forefront. Rouvanjit was driven to suicide by the principal of his school who caned him till the cane broke on his back. Principal Sunirmal Chakravarthi denied any link between the suicide and caning. He refused to resign, and claimed ignorance of the ban on corporal punishment by the Supreme Court. The school freed itself from blame by banning corporal punishment.

What is usually ignored is the role of the state, the greatest abettor of child abuse in such incidents. The laws we have on corporal punishment are not strong enough. They are not enforced strictly either. What is even more disturbing is the fact that the state has increased the likelihood of child abuse in many ways, which are often indirect. The Government has made schools in short supply through price controls and regulations. There is a huge rush to get into prestigious schools. Not surprisingly, schools treat parents and children as a positive nuisance. That’s what they are, when many are waiting to get in. When schools admit children, they are not doing it for gaining the business and be paid for it. They could have got students in any case any way. It is not rational self interest which motivates him, but “altruistic” concerns, if it could be put it that way.

There is no harmonious union of rational self interest between parents, children and the school authorities. The school authorities have no incentive to serve students better. They have all incentive to reduce the quality of the service rendered. Teachers are not forced to perform well. They meet their emotional and sexual needs through physical punishment and humiliation of children. Teachers in many private schools are paid a pittance, and they hate the students all the more for it. Enemies of capitalism usually blame the profit motive and commercialization of education. Little do they realize that it is the lack of the economic element which destroys the normal relationship between school authorities and children! As Stefan Molyneux pointed out, the state increases the likelihood of child abuse through the welfare state, war on drugs, government run housing projects, public schooling, taxation and government run agencies for children.

Many are shocked by the arrogance with which La Martiniere Boys’ dealt with the incident. “I am no criminal but a teacher.” said the Principal. Many came to defend the principal and school. “The boy was too sensitive. Corporal punishment didn’t do me any harm”, many said.Once at the recieving end of the rod, that’s all those wretches are good for now.This is the same old tactic of blaming the victim. The solution must be subjecting children to even more physical hardships to prepare them to deal with the worst sort of human beings. As a tormented young man inspired by the works of Ekkehard von Braunmühl, said to his cruel father: “To be consistent you would actually have to kill me, for someday I will have to die too. That would be the best way you could prepare me for it.” “Teachers are under a lot of stress”, was the common cry. The stress helpless children go through is not talked about. The solution perhaps would be more psychological counseling and therapy for teachers at the expense of the tax payer. Teachers, the Principal said, have only the well being of children in mind. “It is for your own good”. It reminds me of Hitler’s cry to the German masses, “How fortunate you are to have me!”

Physical punishment certainly has it’s origins in the Solomon’s dictum in Bible,’ Spare the rod and spoil the child’. It is no coincidence that Solomon was a child molester himself. How does it differ from rape? Physical punishment is no different from sexual harassment, other than it is done in so covert a manner. A rapist doesn’t make professions of goodwill. He makes no claims of benevolence. He is too innocent for all that. Corporal punishment, as it is in the case of all other tyrannies perpetrated on mankind, is done in the guise of a favor done for the child’s own benefit. Is it less harmful as it is capped and sugarcoated as that? No, it is even more so, and more shameful and offensive at that. There are even instances of children beaten to death or given electric shock. How could someone argue it all is done by some high, benevolent motive? One must be coming from a long line of dinosaurs to give it any other interpretation!

Man is too complex an organism, and individuals respond to the very same treatment through different means. In some cases, the victim feels alienated from his own body and normal sex becomes impossible. Compliant children, who are usually said to have turned out good, are the ones who suffer from such disorders the most, as they find no other means to relieve their emotional overload. No one speaks of these issues, which every one knows. Intellectual dishonesty in repressed psychological issues is similar to that of the way intellectuals react to other innovative concepts in social sciences. Even when media digs up such issues, no one dares to call it by its name. A Google search is all it takes to come across millions of pornographic websites with punishment as its underlying theme.

Often these issues are met by deliberate evasion, silence & ridicule. Alice Miller writes in ‘Breaking the Wall of Silence’, that most psychology students interested in dealing with this issue in their final papers are discouraged by their professors. Lloyd de Mause writes in one of his works of a brilliant Scientist whose path breaking work in childhood in America was met with scorn and ridicule by the media and academia that it finally drove him to suicide. Surely, a conspiracy of silence! Instances could be quoted of similar treatment meted out to the innovators in other branches of humanities too. It’s inconceivable that it all is done without any purpose. To quote Ayn Rand again, “Mistakes of this size are never made innocently.”

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