To punish or not to punish

That is the question.

I agree with those who consider beating children as a means to discipline is bad parenting. I saw no difference between kids who were spanked and those who weren’t.

There was spanking both in my primary and high school days. Looking back, the spanking didn’t act as a deterrent. Many times, the spanking made no sense. I remember in high school, we came up with ways to cheat the teachers.

Those who think spanking is good for character formation should tell us why in the comments section.

In Tyranny of god, Joseph Lewis writes

The child is brought into this world from the insuppressible passion of two people, and surely without its consent, and it is absolute tyranny and barbarity to torment its mind or to punish its body, regardless of the result its action may have upon us.

To the little children that have suffered the horrible punishment so generally followed in that cruel and false book—the Bible—my heart goes out in pity, since words fail me to describe those savage characters that visit inhuman, tormenting and torturous treatment upon their unwelcome offspring.

If we were forced to perform the thousand tyrannies that are directed against the child during the day by cruel and thoughtless parents, the lunatic asylum would soon be our place of refuge. Such trivial things as a spot on the shoe, a speck of dirt upon the clothes, a mere tip of the hat, a slight turn of the scarf often give rise to such violent reprimand, and very often brutal punishment, that the savageness of barbarians is mild compared to such displays of temper.

My heart again goes out to you, little children, when and wherever you are, that must bear the brunt of brutal actions from stupid and thoughtless parents and guardians. These people seem to classify children in the matter of discipline as grown ups, thinking(or, rather, not thinking) that children’s undeveloped minds should be as strong as theirs, when they themselves are unable to practice the self-denial that they expect from mere infants.

How often does a child receive a slap in the face from a parent for the asking of only a simple question, when the parent is not in the “humor” to “bother” with him?

What a painful and terrifying beating does a child often get for disobeying some arbitrary command uttered by the one over him. To the child, “Don’t do this,” “Don’t go there,” “Stand up straight,” and “Say this” are commands that carry with them court martial and its severe and unrelenting punishment.

he also says, and I agree

Prayers are only wasted words on the desert air. The greatest mental crime ever committed is that of teaching a child, “while still upon its mother’s knee,” its duty and obedience to God. It would appear that for the amount of suffering it must endure, and in the face of its unconsulted coming, we should at least disregard God for his insolence, and impress upon the child the peculiar conditions of life. We should instruct it, that from time immemorial, Nature has been laboring through the most awkward process of reproduction, and has finally brought the child into existence, not to enjoy the benefits, or eat of the fruits of the earth, but to bear a life of continual strife and suffering. Not of God should we speak to our child, but of the importance of being prepared to do all in its power to help others to escape the torture, misery and hardships it must so painfully overcome. Is it any wonder that we grow up to be serfs and slaves? Before we are able to know or understand the very rudest fundamentals of life, our entire mental machinery is corrupted by unshakable fears and dedicated to the vilest and most sickening submission. Would that we were left alone, and free to follow the thoughts of our own minds, regarding the great problems of life. What a mighty, unhampered power we would possess to find the proper course of action, and possibly the real solution to the mystery of the Tyranny of God!

Got a question 

Most animals are not malicious. This does not mean they do not call their mates occasionally. They do. Recently a chimp was killed and eaten by members of his troup or colony?

My question is why are humans capable of expressing the whole range of behaviour from altruism to sheer unbridled malice? What is it about us that makes this possible? 

The rich man is a thief

The above is the conclusion of Basil of Caesarea, who in the fourth century wrote

 “‘Upon whom,’ he (the private proprietor) says, ‘do I inflict any injury in retaining and conserving that which is mine?’ What things, tell me, are yours.  yours? Whence did you bring them into the world? You rich act like a man who, being the first to enter a theatre, would keep all others out, regarding as his own that which was intended for the common use of all. For you appropriate to yourselves the common heritage, simply because you were the first occupants. Whereas, if every man took only what was sufficient for his needs, leaving the rest to those in want, there would be no rich and no poor. Naked you came from the womb; naked you shall return to earth. Whence your present possessions? If you say, ‘from fate,’ you are impious, since you do not recognize the Creator nor render thanks to the Giver; if you answer, ‘from God,’ then tell me why you have received them. Is God so unjust as to distribute the necessaries of life inequitably? Why are you rich and your neighbor poor? Is it not to enable you to receive the reward of benevolence and upright stewardship, while he obtains the crown merited by patience? Yet you fancy that you do no injustice when you gather all things into the fathomless recesses of your greed. Who is the avaricious man? The man who is not satisfied with enough. Are not you, then, avaricious? Are you not a despoiler? For you have made your own that which you have received to distribute. Is he not called a thief who strips a man of his clothes? And he who will not clothe the naked when he can,-is he deserving of a different appellation? The bread that you keep in your possession belongs to the hungry; the cloak in your closet, to the naked; the shoes that you allow to rot, to the barefooted, and your hoarded silver, to the indigent. Hence you have done injustice to as many as you have failed to help.”

Were the church fathers communists[pdf]? John A Ryan doesn’t think so.

Stealing from the poor presents quotes from selected church fathers and comments by readers.

Tribalism or identity politics

In his book, History of the Luo, Bethwell Ogot notes that ethnic groups and boundaries only make sense in relational terms, as a result of social interaction rather than isolation. Ethnic boundaries are not sustained because of traditional cultural differences, but because of political differences. Ethnicity is therefore, according to him, a political process by which people seek to form groups and differentiate one set of people from another, by appealing to the idea of ineluctable cultural difference.

In writing about tribalism, my friend Ngare, sees it as a tumor that must be removed. But I think he is being myopic. It is unfortunate that he and many others lost their homes after the 2007 elections. To call the violence tribal is to rewrite history. It is an attempt to change narratives to prove a particular end. One would expect a journalist with a national outreach to at least be factual. The violence after that bungled election was as a result of perceived and real injustices and found, in my view, a bungled election as a way to manifest itself. It is unfortunate that 10 years later, the issues have not been addressed and it is business as usual. And while my friend has an issue with a Luhya community meeting, he fails to mention that the current government is in place because of tribal associations.

In a country where successive regimes continue to marginalize areas deemed to be pro opposition and where appointments to government jobs are on the basis of one’s names, it boggles the mind how tribal alliances can be put to an end.

His other mistake is to look at history with a very dim lens. This country is a marriage of different nationalities: Luo nation, Kikuyu nation, Kalenjin, Swahili, Luhya, Maasai and many more. All these nations had their way of governance, and leadership systems. It is a mistake to think the British found us unruly and disorganized and helped us with their system. No, they didn’t and in many occasions, they adopted a divide and rule system, a system that the successive regimes have employed with great benefit. While you almost want to applaud those Luhyas who spoke against the meeting or did not attend, I consider them fools and pawns in a struggle for dominance. If anything, they should be whipped by their people. The colonial administrators forced a marriage between us, a marriage that for all intents, has not worked. Agents of change must begin by asking how can a forced marriage be made to work amidst perceived and real marginalization, nepotism, favouritism and so on. The problem, Ngare, is not tribal chiefs. That is the least of our problems. We have bigger problems such as having criminals in government. That is where you should start.

My other friend GC, wrote,

The reason why I’ve written so much about ideologies lately on this blog is because of identity politics and how dangerous I believe it to be. I think this is another direct result of that.

And I disagree with his analysis. it is not identity politics that is the culprit, no, it is years of oppression based on perceived or real differences that finds expression in such acts of violence.

He goes on to write

We put people into racial and gender categories instead of treating them like individuals and then we teach some of those categories that other groups are oppressing them. We even teach people that some groups are incapable of being racist, when that (power + prejudice = racism) clearly isn’t true.

Does this mean that there is no history of oppression? That however, people have just been taught about it lately? Maybe the 1st Nations in Canada, Native Americans or the Australian Aborigines  have only late found a benevolent teacher who has told them they are being oppressed. That before this, they as a group had no such knowledge. Or maybe I am wrong about all this. I have heard it said that a white person has no business in telling a black about racism. I don’t know to what extent this applies or whether it really is the case.

The culprit in both these cases is not tribalism or identity politics, but perceived and real injustices that have been perpetuated on people who belong to the different groups. To address the issues, we must start by addressing past injustices, working towards equitable societies where the colour of one’s skin or one’s tribe does not decide whether they get a government job or service or even how they are treated by the government operatives. Remember that these injustices are both perceived and real. So let’s focus our energy in creating equitable polities. The problem is not with whether one identifies as Luo or male, far from it.

Or maybe I am wrong in all this, in that case, I would love to be educated.