Parenting and Books

Definitions

Perversion: the alteration of something from its original course, meaning, or state to a distortion or corruption of what was first intended.

Morals: 1. a lesson, esp. one concerning what is right or prudent, that can be derived from a story, a piece of information, or an experience.

2. a person’s standards of behavior or beliefs concerning what is and is not acceptable for them to do.

Society: the aggregate of people living together in a more or less ordered community.

 

Every reader, if he has a strong mind, reads himself into the book, and amalgamates his thoughts with those of the author”  — Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

 

“I will not let anyone walk through my mind with their dirty feet.” — Mahatma Gandhi

Garbage in, garbage out. I sparked a controversy recently by questioning the validity of a book. No, not the truthfulness of a non-fiction book, but whether a work of fiction was worth having been published. We live in a societal time when the very doubting of a book’s appropriateness brings with it accusations of censorship and banning. The point I was trying to make, that a book advocating for incest was not one I wanted my young teen to read, was buried under a knee-jerk reaction to the fact that I had criticized a book. When in fact, what I was criticizing reached far deeper than that, into the core of the society that had birthed this intolerance. When did it become not only acceptable to allow our children free range of whatever they might want to read, but unacceptable for their parents to be involved in what they do and don’t read?

“But it’s for the children!” they cry out, “don’t you know that in order to survive in this world, teens must read about abuse, violence, and perversity so they can cope with it in their own lives?” Reality does not back this claim up, however. Michael Baizerman, in a critical review of a book titled  Adolescents at Risk: Prevalence and Prevention, points out acerbically “Most adolescents are not troubled, in trouble, or troubling. The metaphors of adolescence feed the cultural stereotype now rejected by scholars: Adolescence is not a crisis period for all youth or even at all times for some youth. Most youth are not at risk.” So why, then do these adults, many of whom are childless, see the need for fiction as a therapy tool? Why not allow loving parents to be involved in their children’s lives, talking to them about the problems that child (and yes, for the purposes of this article, adolescents are still children) may have encountered? Wouldn’t that dialogue be far more helpful than a distant adult who allows their child to read books that glorify casual sex, predator/prey relationships, and suicide? According to studies, bibliotherapy is a useful tool (as those of us who read voraciously have long known) but only in the context of affective bibliotherapy, where books that promote healthy coping behaviours are read and then discussed. Without that discussion, bibliotherapy is not effective for the young.

“But they are going to read it anyway.” and  “Heinlein wrote books with incest in them.” Yes, he did, but they were for an adult audience. And yes, a teen will likely encounter adult books, and their parents should be prepared to discuss very odd issues with them without being shocked and horrified. However, it is highly unlikely that those particular Heinlein books will be shelved in the children’s collection of a library, which is where my daughter found the book I objected to. Any parent who is worth their salt knows they will get awkward questions from children at any age, from ‘where do babies come from’ up to ‘what’s incest?’ and the trick here is to be prepared to stay calm, even if you aren’t ready for “that” question. The right response is never to lose your mind at your child. Which seems to be what these people think I was going to do with my daughter. The reality was me looking the book up on Amazon, and telling her quietly, “Yes, I think that book should go back to the library, I’m kind of glad you found it boring, honey.”  Michael Baizerman has backed my mother-instinct up, as he comments in an article “That is, this king of listening is part of a presence and being-present that invites, allows, supports, a deeper moment between two persons, and this is good – good human be-ing, good listening, good practice, and a necessary element in lived-helping, lived-caring, lived-hope: it is part of ‘healing’ – in the fully human sense.”

 I’m not advocating banning, censoring, burning, or even removing these books from the shelves of my library. What I am questioning is why they are being written. We’ve seen a little of the justification of the children needing them to learn coping skills, and the reality is that not only is that a capricious statement, it is false, and the fantasies promulgated in this sort of fiction are harmful to a teen who is still developing mentally. In a study done on how adolescents use media to influence moods, the researchers point out that “During this period of intense media consumption, adolescents are developing ideas about who they are and how they should behave. Influenced by biological changes and social forces, youths are creating and reforming their self-identities and perceptions, their methods of self-expression and self-regulation, and their abstract thinking and judgement-making abilities” (Sad Kids, Sad Media? Applying Mood Management Theory to Depressed Adolescent’s use of Media) So then, do we really want to advocate that young adult fiction should glorify the moral traits we least want them to take on in their adult lives? That they should become perpetual victims, never learning courage, honor, and responsibility for their own actions?

We live in a society that has rejected the concept of morals, and instead chosen a paradoxical approach to child-rearing. While the TV and their books offer a seemingly never-ending stream of filth for their minds, we take away their choices to run and play with freedom. We submerge our children in concepts that relate to very few, until they are convinced that fantasy has become reality, and false memories of abuse become commonplace. Because of how our memory works, if we read something that evokes strong feelings in us, a study by C.J. Brainerd and V.F. Reyna points out that “when gist traces are especially strong, they can support high levels of phantom recollective experience for certain types of nonexperienced items – namely, items that are good cues for the gist of experience.” So it’s not ok for a child to play on a supervised playground with a ball, but it is ok to read books that may lead to them becoming convinced they suffered traumatic sexual abuse they have repressed?

 It is my job as a mother, your job as a parent if you are one, or as an adult in a society that is losing the moral high ground not by attrition but by throwing children to the wolves “for their own good” to look at what the children are exposed to. I had no idea until very recently what was in young adult literature. To my relief, the majority of it is not soaked in sex and violence. To my dismay, many of the books taught in classrooms, forced on young readers, are unhealthy. Isn’t it time we resisted the idea that parenting is bad for our children? Just because when we raise our voices in protest against a book, we are bullied and shouted to silence, does not mean that giving in to the bullies will make them go away. Like our children in schools, we do not have to put up with bullying. We do not have to give up our children, just like our children do not have to give up their lunch money. We have voices, and we can express disapproval and moral values without being hateful. I will mother my children, not abdicate to the bullies.

Works referenced in this article are listed below, with links where I could give them. I use a variety of databases, some of which are not open to the general public. I wanted to make them available for you to draw your own conclusions from, for while this is not a scholarly attempt, I wrote it with a depth of research intended to found it in fact rather than in my own feelings, which are a shaky foundation that is responsible for much of the fallacious arguments for the moral downfall of our society. “But if it feels good, do it!” has been the cry since the 1960s, and the repercussions cause the tree of liberty to tremble to the roots, and the tyranny of hedonism and pure sensation may yet overcome us.

Sad Kids, Sad Media? Applying Mood Management Theory to Depressed Adolescent’s use of Media, Carpentier, et. al, Media Psychology, 2008.

Fuzzy-Trace Theory and False Memory, Brainerd and Reyna, Current Directions in Psychological Science, 2002.

The Formation of False Memories, Loftus and Pickrell, Psychiatric Annals 25, 1995. 

Baizerman M. At Risk: A Reemergent Metaphor of Adolescence. Psychcritiques [serial online]. August 1992

Baizerman, M. (1999). It’s only “human nature”: revisiting the denaturalization of adolescence. Child & Youth Care Forum, 28(6), 437-448.

It’s wrong for Schools to be Banning Balls and Games at Recess, Caplan and Igel, Forbes, Oct. 8,  2013

 Betzalel, N., & Shechtman, Z. (2010). Bibliotherapy Treatment for Children With Adjustment Difficulties: A Comparison of Affective and Cognitive Bibliotherapy. Journal Of Creativity In Mental Health, 5(4), 426-439. 

32 comments

  1. Why is it unwise, unkind, and morally reprehensible to have a small child staying in a brothel or love hotel? Why do we forbid preteens entrance into bars and lounges, strip clubs and the sleazy side of town after dark? Why do we not let youngsters ride their bikes across busy highways? Why do you not let an almost-toddler crawl along a gutter with broken glass and discarded needles in it?

    1. Children are unable to adequately protect themselves, because they do not understand the dangers involved in an unprotected world. Just as a toddler who puts everything in their mouth isn’t going to understand the problem with reaching for a shiny needle discarded in the gutter, so teenagers are very vulnerable to the predators and pickup lines, con artists and lack of judgement after alcohol.

    When a man at a bar tries telling me I have beautiful eyes and can he buy me a drink – he ‘just wants to talk’, I know exactly what he’s really after, and he knows I know. I also know to look him in the eyes and firmly say “No.” Kids? Well, there’s a reason the sexual predators and deviants, con artists and drug dealers (including the opiate for the mind of marxism) on a college campus refer to freshmen as “fresh meat.”

    Just as I would not let a drunk hit on a friend’s child when we’re at a pub, and most certainly would NOT leave her alone in the presence of said drunk, I am not going to leave a child alone and vulnerable to the corrosive lies and persuasive arguments an author compiled to beguile and corrupt.

    2. Teenagers have a limited understanding of consequences, and limited coping skills. There are people who like to blame this on a still-developing brain, but after being and knowing a fair number of teenagers and fourty-year-olds who still think like teenagers, I support the theory that they grow out of this by learning from the experience of others, and the experiences they survive.

    Books, television, and movies aim to give you many an example of how to react and how to cope – and while it’s plenty fine to show protagonists, antagonists, and side characters who make bad choices, then react badly to them, and have spectacular failures of coping skills, it’s important to have enough engaging and attractive examples of good choice-making, good decision skills, and good coping habits to let a mind learn about the range of what people will do – and what they should do.

    Much as YA reviewers and authoritarian teachers love to hate Tom Swift, Nancy Drew, Huck Finn, Heinlein’s juveniles and the Hardy Boys – they cannot deny that these show far better ways to deal with life, and far better people to be, than George RR Martin’s crew and Abercrombie’s cast.

    3. Monkey see, monkey do. Who here hasn’t tried a food, drink, or song because they read about it in a book they liked? I have John Ringo to thank for introducing me to the band Cruxshadows, and how many goths run around wearing ankhs thanks to Neil Gaiman’s Sandman series? How many times have you heard people quoting movies, cartoons, and books? Knowing what an influence they an be, and how long lasting the impressions they can pour into the open mind of an immersed reader, why would I want to let sick and twisted filth flow in unchecked, unguarded-against?

    Pardon me, let me put this soapbox away, apologies for the length.

    1. We’re sharing the soapbox, and thank you for the length! I don’t know if anyone on the other side of the argument is listening, but I hope to give other parents the support so they don’t let themselves be bullied into silence any longer.

    2. Do you mind if I quote you?

      I do some blogging for a Catholic site, and would like to hold you up as an example of the “we’re not alone” theme I’m chewing on. (I’d be linking back to this blog post, but the difference is if I quote you or folks run into your comment on their own. :))

      1. Sure, quote away. If I’m going to stand on a soapbox in public, I’d better be willing to own my words, eh? 🙂

  2. I guess I’m A middle of the reader here. At the end of the day it’s the publisher who decides what gets published and that’s as it should be. I put the responsibility for what a child is reading on the parent. To me, what you did in correcting your child’s choice in reading said book was you job and you did it really well.

    I’m really big into a parent monitoring what a child reads because I know what I pulled as a kid. If my mom would have known a tenth of what was in those Mission Earth books she would have lost her mind. She didn’t know because she never asked. I anticipate a bunch of reading of stuff I won’t enjoy soon as I will be monitoring what my oldest reads soon. It’s my job, not the publishers.

    1. Jim, that’s exactly the approach I took when my son was growing up. Of course, I did it with the books he read — especially after I started seeing some of what the schools were telling him he had to read — the movies he wanted to see and the video games he wanted to play. What I found was that he usually had excellent taste in what he wanted to do. I also discovered that, when it came to reading, the questionable material almost always came in the form of the required summer reading lists from school, lists usually made up by administrators, librarians and businessmen — not teachers familiar with the age and maturity of their students. As for the questionable games and movies, those were usually because some friend had said it was “really cool”.

      1. That is a problem. If the school is promoting the work then that’s a separate issue (you had originally mentioned publishing) and needs to be taken up with the school board. And yeah, moveis/games get passed around. Dealing with that isn’t easy either.

    2. I probably phrased that badly. What I am questioning is our society, for making the publishers think that a book like that will sell. We seem to have an endless stream of books promoting the concepts of victimhood, and the true blame for their popularity is not with the publishers, who are, after all, only trying to make a quick buck, but with the society that buys these books and makes them recommended reading for children (not, fortunately, the book my daughter brought home, although I did find out that it is used in highschool classes. For what purpose, I cannot fathom).

      1. Yeah… there’s such a thing as those who feel that they have to change society, and see their position as “publisher” as one that gives them the power to affect the change they want to see. It’s feelings based aggrandizement of the ego.
        So, while “society” does have some responsibility for the general… zeitgeist? I guess? …let’s not also forget that what books are published, what books are written, is a choice being made by individuals. Publishers, editors, authors.

  3. I have to agree with Dorothy on the why of limits on what children are properly exposed to. It’s a matter of the child’s preparation, readiness, ability, whatever to handle the implications of the subject matter.

    It is the duty of society to place guardrails. To define by consensus what is and is not suitable for children. It is, however, the duty of the PARENTS (and, IMNSVHO, NO-ONE else) to determine when a child is ready to be allowed to the other side of the guard-rails. To allow otherwise places power in the hands of individuals without the incentive to use it wisely. Individuals who have, as a matter of fact, made manifest their UN fitness to the task.

    However… (what’s that Jefferson quote?) Oh, yes:

    “…I have sworn upon the altar of god eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man.”

    This is right and good. The principle it enshrines must be defended and defended absolutely without let. The cost of failure is utter disaster. This is why I believe that the answer to threats to children is to protect the children, not to attack the threat when it otherwise does no harm to adults.

    And thus my belief that the Internet is no place for children. It’s an adult place and trammeling its freedom will lead inevitably to tyranny.

    M

  4. I saw a story recently, though I can’t remember where the link came from, about Seattle libraries deciding that it was a “rights” issue to allow pornography to be viewed on the library computers and, interestingly, that it was actively wrong, somehow, to require the “adult” viewing to happen in a separated area. The porn viewing *had* to be allowed in the general use areas. Why? According to the article and several commenters it was because it was wrong to decide for someone else what they can and can’t view. That viewing porn in areas where children were expected to be (and apparently often enough jacking off, too) was deciding for someone else what they had to see seemed not to penetrate the consciousness of those declaring victory over censorship. That parents doing what parents were supposed to do would mean denying children use of the library *at all* was just… well, not their concern.

    Saying that parents ought to parent is, at the same time, both completely true and an inadequate answer. Of course they should. But making it as difficult as possible is not a neutral action that one is not responsible for on account of one is not the parent. Children are citizens and have a right to be in public. Demanding “adult freedom” at the price of excluding children from the public sphere can’t be shoved off on a “parents are supposed to be responsible, not me!” excuse.

    Books are different, of course they are.

    1. Books ARE different, because what I’m reading is not viewable by anyone but me. I can’t say I agree with porn being viewed in a public library, but I would not support banning it for home use. I wouldn’t really fight against a separate are in the library for porn viewing either, if some private citizen(s) donated/raised the money to build it. I mean, they have the right to view what they want as long as they don’t expect me to pay for it. There is a big difference here. You just have to be willing to see it.

      1. “I wouldn’t really fight against a separate are in the library for porn viewing either.”

        Doesn’t private enterprise already provide that? At reasonable rates?

        For the record, I’m one of those that says, enjoy what you like in privacy, but in the areas we share, behave yourself. Or we’ll call the police. Or your mother.

      2. Well, if the private citizens wanted to donate money to add a porn area to the publically funded public library, wouldn’t it be easier just to have them fund their own porn library/internet cafe?

        Of course, it would also be nice if librarians would call the cops or security guards whenever patrons break public indecency laws, and not just discourage the behavior but charge the offenders; but noooo, today’s librarians won’t do that.

  5. “But it’s for the children!” they cry out, “don’t you know that in order to survive in this world, teens must read about abuse, violence, and perversity so they can cope with it in my fantasy of what their life should be like?”

    Fixed it for you.
    (sarcasm/dark humor, folks; I notice that 90% of the time, “it’s for the good of the children” says more about the person promoting a thing than actual children)

    1. Remember Dave’s anecdote about the writer’s group that saw little wrong with the idea of YA needing more kinky erotica for teens?

      I think that you might be understating things, seriously.

      I have thought for a very long time that the part of the population I was getting measurements from were the sort that would be pedarasts if only their kink was exclusively of that sort.

  6. Books are different because a person (of whatever age) has to actually open one to read it. Inappropriate material isn’t going to be forced on unwilling audiences because they walked past the computers in the library or walked down the street past obscene posters or perverts exposing themselves.

    But…

    Making a parent’s job harder and then claiming that it’s the parent’s job to parent is still every bit as lame. We put ratings on movies, not to keep adults from their freedom, but so that people know what they’re getting and so that parents can get a good idea about appropriateness. From a parent’s point of view, limiting a child’s reading to anything the parent has time to read beforehand means that the child can’t read anything when Mom and Dad are stressed, busy, working long hours, dealing with other priorities or generally overwhelmed. I’ve come across enough of the attitude that “no one made you have kids” in response to that to be profoundly unimpressed. Because, it seems, having in mind the good or harm done to children in the community is an unacceptable cramp to adult freedom. Is it really so oppressive to have a social contract that values considering the good of others?

    Still, that’s not what Cedar was talking about, as I understand it, but that our professional “this is good for you” people, the educators and who-else, pick really horrible stuff and inflict it on kids and young-people. Because it’s supposedly really important for kids to think about being sexually abused or abandoned or redefine family or witness to horrible injustice. They have to read about racism and hatred and tragedy… for their own good.

    I think that C.S.Lewis said something about people who do things to you for your own good never resting…

  7. OK, enough of this shit.

    Any of you know how old *I* was when I was introduced to my own mortality?

    *Two and a half*. Thank you so fucking much, Mr. Spielberg.

    I sit here and listen to an unending parade of people bleating about how children need to be allowed to be children — well, I have a news flash for you: Most kids *don’t* get that chance. Whether it’s what happened to me, or the kids living in Third-World Shithole Moonscapes, the fact remains: The longer one hides reality from someone, the harder reality is going to punch that person in his fat, ignorant, stupid face when it finally *does* reach him. (This is where Leftists come from — hence the phrase “a Conservative is a Liberal who’s been mugged”.)

    I was fortunate in one regard — I never had to read any of the “informative murder porn” passing for YA; I made it a point to avoid English Lit classes which taught it (this is why I got _The Phantom Tollbooth_ instead of _Fucking Bridge to Fucking Terabithia_). Instead, I read history books — where I could find shit *ten times worse* than the lightweight pseudo-horror the YA jackoffs are trying to fob off as “meaningful literature”. I still relish the look on one teacher’s face when she saw me reading a book on the Sobibor Breakout in second grade — and when she asked me what i was reading, I was able to explain it in (literally) graphic detail.

    I say all that to say this: The problem is not the YA jackoffs writing “informative murder porn” — the problem is what the kids who read it are taking away from reading it. Most kids — as most humans — are submissive cowards; they read of stuff like this, say “well, there’s nothing *I* can do”, and walk away from the screaming. A handful, tho’, look at this and say “This is happening; this is why it’s happening; why in hell are we not doing something to prevent or alleviate it?” This smaller group are the ones who join groups like Civil Air Patrol, or the Boy Scouts, and later on join the military — “whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune; or to take up arms against a sea of troubles, and by opposing, end them”.

    I see here a bunch of people who think Ugly Reality should be hidden from children; I for one see an opportunity to ID the “sheepdogs” in the crowd — show them the Dark Side, then ask the question I so often ask:

    “WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO *DO* ABOUT IT?”

    1. I see here a bunch of people who think Ugly Reality should be hidden from children; I for one see an opportunity to ID the “sheepdogs” in the crowd — show them the Dark Side, then ask the question I so often ask:

      What you see is what you expect to see. Your personal pain is no reason to inflict that pain on other, defenseless ones– even if you were ill-treated.

    2. Really? Having a protected childhood never caused me to be less able to deal with reality when I encountered the bad parts. Having a strong sense of what was right and a deep feeling of security as a child helps people to understand when something is wrong. Granted, some people are about as empathetic as a brick, but they don’t become more empathetic by being made to wallow in awfulness.

      Also, I don’t think that people usually complain that books have bad things in them but that the book provides NO solutions or paths to solutions. Nihilistic crap isn’t going to result in young people reading it and going “What can I do to stop this horror!” because that’s not what nihilism IS.

      A story about abuse *could* be about someone helping and getting help and everything working out in the end, but then we’d be told it wasn’t realistic enough. A story could be about a healthy intact family so that children could have a pattern of what that looks like in case they don’t have it in their own lives, but that’s wrong too, because the story family is supposed to be screwed up, just like their family is.

      The thing is, kids learn what the world is FIRST, and if what they learn is that the world is full of bad things, then it will seem right to them. It just IS and children are figuring out what IS and will go with it. Children in horrific conditions don’t even *believe* in good conditions. I’ve heard young adults say that there are NO families like the happy sit-com families, that all of them are like the horrible sit-com families. Yet some of us, even if Mom and Dad weren’t the Huxtables, grew up in safe, secure, *loving*, environments with parents who didn’t fight and relatives who were all speaking to each other.

    3. I’m not much of one for the innocence or goodness of childhood. I recall preschool. I remember exactly how self disciplined we were, how much we subordinated our drives to morality.

      I do not say that children should never know such things. I benefited hugely from knowing such things, for reasons I don’t know that I feel comfortable describing here. There were some costs. Those and personality differences are why I do not say that everyone /must/ know such things, early. They are also why I am somewhat in favor of parents being free to make those judgments.

      Whenever I speak to minors, who are other people’s kids, I try to keep their parents’ interests and desires in mind.

      I am a proponent of teaching kids counter predation strategies, and how to make their own.

      What is my problem with YA, and related media, in line with what the rest are saying? The dominant message is weakness, victimhood and being prey.

      ‘Mummy is bringing home some creep, but the narrator will never hint it isn’t her right, or that the kids have any grounds to object, because it would not do to suggest that outside parties have any cause to restrict romantic arrangements.’

      The overwhelming message in the literature survey I did when I was a child was that children were to passively accept the arrangements adults made. Yes, there was ‘don’t talk to strangers’, which I reverse engineered to find a broader and more general rule. Adults of the time, in general, gave the impression that their consensus was that they were going to get what they were going to get, and hang the consequences.

      Yes, an adult is a very poor matchup for a child, but with, especially mental, preparation, one can at least make the bastards work for it, or risk more than they really wanted to.

    4. Speaking with some authority on “third world –holes”, the tribes in darkest bush Africa also allow the children to be children, barring famines and fleeing as refugees. But those are situations in which all humans are hard pressed to cling to their humanity – on an average African summer day, the impis are tending the cattle, and yes, that’s a chore and work, but they are loved and guarded by their tribes, raised with love and pride by their mothers and fathers, and allowed to run underfoot whooping and hollering and making mock war on each other. The girl children are no less loved, for all that they are not worth half of what a man is, and will always remain property of their fathers or husbands. They chatter and run about, doing their chores with the women and learning to sing the women’s songs, dreaming of their future hubands being powerful and handsome and kind, and raising babies of their own.

      In fact, there is much less of modern perversion and filth, abuse and abandonment, than the first world countries support and tolerate, because there is so very little margin between life and death. Which is not to say it’s a paradise, it’s a hellish hard life compared to ours, brutal and short, filled with death and disease and completely alien to the idea of individual rights… but not inhuman, nor does it prevent parents from loving their children and trying to guard them and guide them to grow up to be the best that they can.

      That is what civilization is, at its root – the banding together to survive, to help, to guard the weak and guide the young to grow into full, healthy, wise adults in turn. Abandon that and you have abandoned civilization.

      I agree with you that some people, unmoored from reality, take it too far and try to protect children from all the responsibilities and duties of adulthood instead of guiding them and helping them grow into adults. And when these kids hit the legal age with few coping skills, no fiscal sense, little to no understanding of consequences and having been actively discouraged from taking any responsibility, their ‘parents’ have done them a vast disservice. However, just as a binge-drinker’s death from alcohol poisoning is no cause to ban alcohol for everyone who likes a toddy now and then, so too proclaiming that cultivating naivete and irresponsibility in the name of innocence is a bad idea should not lead you to castigate and denigrate guarding children against the dangers of the world to heart, mind, and soul until they can be prepared to face them.

  8. The problem is that our society no longer polices itself. It’s outsourced that function to law enforcement agencies and personnel, and to ‘Big Brother’. The thought that Big Brother might actively seek to undermine the old moral order for his own purposes never even enters their little heads . . . which is why we have the administration we now have. Alinsky and his ilk did their work well.

    I’m from Africa. I learned a different way of doing things – where Luke 11:21 applies culturally and socially as well as criminally. For those who don’t know the reference: “When a strong man, fully armed, guards his own palace, his goods are in peace.”

    His family is, too. Let me tell you about one incident that occurred in my presence.

    The young daughter of friends was coming home from school one day in Soweto (the biggest black township in South Africa in the days of apartheid). She was accosted by a flasher, who exposed himself to her. In tears, she ran home and told her mother about it. Her grandfather was there – a Zulu mine supervisor, in his fifties by now, but no-one to be trifled with. Furious, he told her mother that two of his ‘work sons’ would be around the following morning.

    They were – six foot tall and the same across the shoulders, and none of it fat. The work team had all subscribed part of their wages to pay these two while they took a few days off to ‘take care of business’. They escorted this girl to and from school for the next three days, until on the way home she spotted the flasher in question and pointed him out. He took off running, which was fruitless, and they caught him. The neighborhood boiled out of their houses to see the fun, because by then the word had spread.

    They didn’t bother to call the cops. They merely led him over to the nearest waist-height stone wall, dropped his pants, stretched his organ over the top of the wall, and hit it, once, very hard, with a 20-pound mining sledgehammer. What was left was so mangled that the hospital had to amputate it. The cops came around next day, asking whether anyone had seen this ‘assault’. Despite their having been (by my estimate) something over 500 witnesses, nobody recalled a thing.

    The mineworkers went back to the mine, the family honor was satisfied, and there wasn’t a sex crime in that neighborhood for the next five years. Those inclined to try one knew better.

    What’s not to like?

    1. This may just be me, but I would have preferred a formal trial. I’ve somehow got a taste for the things, that I haven’t managed to kick.

      Relating to your first point, the police can’t be relied on if the police can’t be trusted. Police are naturally composed of a subset of a society’s adults. Where the bulk of a society’s adults have come to certain conclusions…

      1. Would you prefer a formal trial, or a formal trial that would return impartial justice? In Africa, I’m afraid, the latter have been, are, and will be in quite short supply.

        I love living in this land where I do not need to haggle with the fishmonger and the vegetable seller to avoid being given bruised and half-rotten produce for high prices, and where even as people submit to the official corruption of “speed traps”, they expect their police officers to follow the laws and to be able to get permits and move through life without having to bribe everyone along the way… and for their vote to not only count, but not put them on a “cleansing” list after the election goes the other way.

        America Aeterna!

        1. America forever.

          I understand.

          I understand that not all legal systems are equal. I have serious reservations about even America’s. Yet, it is still far, far better than one which gives someone like me a free hand.

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