In the wake of the beating of a policeman in a sleepy New Zealand town, a meeting of citizens was held to plot a better future. One of the concerned members was heard to say that the source of the problem was shamefully clear: 'Too many bloody do-gooders'. He elaborated on this expostulation by ruefully noting the fact that we can no longer administer a sound thrashing to our children, as happily we could in the past, and that therein lies all that is wrong with our world. And I would like to suggest he was quite correct.
We have become too soft. Our children are too mollycoddled. They are misled as to the ways of the world and have come to think that life is all about them and that it should be pleasant and enjoyable and diverting, one endless stream of good times and satisfying moments. We may think it a service that we are doing them, easing their way, forming their fragile inner selves so that they are unshakable in their faith that around each of them revolves the planets and the stars. But this is no service. It is a dreadful disservice, for all of them will—with the odd, odious exception—at some time or other come terribly a-cropper on the very sharp rocks of reality. They will learn that life is no lark, that individually they feature pretty much nowhere in the grander scheme of things, and when they do learn this, they will be very annoyed. And rightly so.
We need only look to history to see what happens when we indulge our children in this way. Gibbon was only partially correct in attributing the Roman decline to indolence and luxury. It was at least as much to do with the lax views on child-rearing, of which little note has, unfortunately, been taken (historians having decided that their careers were unlikely to be promoted by focusing on domestic concerns at the expense of invading hordes of Goths and instances of gargantuan excess and licentiousness).
So what are we to do? The first step is to ensure that every child receives a regular beating. Perhaps once a week, regardless of behaviour or attitude. This will teach them that life is not always fair and that they should respect others. In the privacy of each home, all will learn to become worthy members of their families. But it is not enough that children learn how to behave in the home. They must learn how to behave as good citizens, as members of the res publica. To this end, the state must administer, for a time at least, some particularly stringent punishments for minor offences, to teach our youngsters that putting just one foot out of line will lead to most unpleasant consequences, whereas the straight and narrow path of blind obedience will lead to the contented bearing of the virtuous. What I have in mind, therefore, is that the next child caught shop-lifting or perhaps skipping class should be shot. Or hanged. It hardly matters how the punishment is carried out, although it should be done in public. What matters is that there is a brief but unrelenting demonstration of state power, for this will soon have the children back in line.
And so it is that only by administering a regular beating will we teach children that beatings are not to be administered, and certainly not to police-officers (who alone may administer beatings as they see fit). It may seem a paradox, but then so is life. Harden up.