In his 1990 book Lateshows, Frank Moorhouse ponders the dilemma of disciplining other people’s children.
After being bitten on the leg by his friend’s young daughter who he is baby-sitting he turns to Rousseau’s Emile for guidance. After ruling out reasoning with the child: ” reasoning is not real reasoning because children do not understand the premises of the process of reasoning. It denies the essential childishness of children”, Moorhouse instead fashions a cord into a small whip and cracks it. He then confides: “I cannot swear that the cord did not strike her body”.
Twenty years ago the disciplining of other people’s children was considered a doubtful act. Today, a mother taking to her own naughty kids with a wooden spoon causes a furore.
Lounging around in their Bugaboos (“Now Janice do you want caramel in your babyccino?”)and free of physical harm from vengeful parents, children’s rights are at an all-time high.
Whenever I hear a parent tell their complaining child: “You’re having water and that’s that!”, I’m horrified. Not giving your child a choice is depriving them of their fundamental rights.
If my children misbehave or whinge I always give them a choice: “It’s lethal injection, firing squad with machine gun, or nothing!” They take the nothing.
On the subject of firing squads, the Indonesians have a sense of theatre don’t they? They do it in a forest somewhere so if machine guns are used the corpses of the executed are immediately joined by those of a varying assortment of near extinct squirrels (are there Asiatic squirrels?) bats, monkeys and orangutans.
The West has a penchant for spectacle too. In an age of lightweight metal and weapons that can vaporise the entire planet we’ve been hanging people ineptly (the Clutter family killers both took twenty minutes to die: “They must have had a real mess to clean up”, Truman Capote heard someone say) on wooden gallows. Or slowly simmering our criminals in electric chairs (timber again), smoke coming out of their eyeballs.