I am sure that being smacked (very seldom, as it happened) did me some harm, though I am equally sure there are some people who think I should have been smacked more than I was.
But the question is whether banning smacking will do more harm than allowing it. And that is much more complicated.
No sane person actively wants to smack a child. But a lot of sane, kind people have sometimes thought it wise to do so.
Children need limits and often crave them. They do not know where or when to stop
They have often regretted it afterwards, but more because of the effect it had on them than for the effect it had on the child.
I’m not talking here about the angry and obviously damaging violence you sometimes see in supermarkets, where an exasperated and furious parent, having long ago lost control of a child, lashes out in futile, disorderly rage.
I am certainly not talking about the use of a closed fist.
But children need limits and often crave them. They do not know where or when to stop. They often cannot tell the difference between mild risk and grave danger. They are sometimes very selfish and wilful, and will come to harm if they do not learn to control these things.
And when we ban smacking completely – as Scotland is about to do and as the rest of the country is bound to not long afterwards – we will pay a price for this.
We will raise a generation which knows few limits, does not know how to behave and can sometimes only be restrained by the superior force of the State, or by being dosed with powerful and dangerous drugs. In my view, we are already paying that price.
It is part of the colossal battle that has been raging for decades between the family and the State. The State is winning. Parents once had great power.
Now they have almost none. Fathers, once kings (or despots) in their own homes, have been declared officially unnecessary.
Stable, lifelong marriage vanishes from among us, scorned by our culture and the law. Step-parents, never quite the same as natural parents however hard they try, are more common than ever.
In such a world, even a well-intentioned light smack is half an inch away from accusations of abuse, the call to Childline, and the official dissolution of the family involved by police and social workers.
The ‘rescued’ child is then often plunged into a dismal chaos of neglect in authority-free ‘care’.
These cases aren’t anything like those of Baby Peter or Maria Colwell. But such horror stories have been used to grant greater and greater powers to the authorities to intervene.
A little-noticed report earlier this month disclosed the huge level of school exclusions concealed by official figures
Most of us think we approve of this change in the balance of forces. But are you sure? Since families stopped disciplining children, the State seems to me to have grown hugely in its willingness to threaten violence.
In the days of smacking, police walked around alone in tunics with no visible weapons. Now they make their rare public appearances in pairs or squads, clad in stab vests, clubs, pepper sprays and handcuffs.
Where parents are weak, all adults are weak. In the schools attended by the poor, and especially by those children who have very little family life and whose fathers are often absent, there is terrible disorder.
This is largely kept secret because nobody knows what to do about it. But it is occasionally revealed.
A little-noticed report earlier this month disclosed the huge level of school exclusions concealed by official figures. Everyone over 50 knows how much less safe and orderly our streets are now than they were.
I think these things are connected. I also think it is impossible, in the country we have become, to make a case for smacking. So I will not try to do so. But I will say there are times when civilisations have to choose between two unwelcome courses.
And we may come, in time, to regret having been quite so smug about how good and kind we thought we were in this era.
A painful reality our cops can’t dodge
Police moans about ‘lack of resources’ are at last being laughed at as the selfserving propaganda they are. Good. I have tried to make this point for years, and have,as a result, been dishonestly attacked.
Nobody knows what most of the police now do, since they are largely invisible, and the sight of them last week riding round in dodgems or painting their fingernails, while tens of thousands of crimes are filed and forgotten, just adds to the feeling that we are dealing with a badly run nationalised industry which has forgotten who it serves.
The next time you hear a police spokesdrone claim they haven’t the manpower, show them this chart, which proves that they did a far better job with far fewer numbers (in total and per head) in the past.
Nobody knows what most of the police now do, since they are largely invisible, and the sight of them last week riding round in dodgems or painting their fingernails
I don’t have the Scottish figures, but suspect they would show the same pattern:
1901: Population (England and Wales) 32.5 million; police strength (England and Wales) 42,484
1911: Pop 36m; police 51,203
1921: Pop 37.9m; police 56,914
1931: Pop 40m; police 58,656
1941: Pop (estimated) 41.75m; police 56,193
1951: Pop 43.75m; police 63,116
1961: Pop 46.17m; police 57,161 NB: Preventive foot patrol was abolished from 1964 by the Home Office. As this service was withdrawn, numbers began to go up.
1971: Pop 48.56m; police 95,759
1981: Pop 49m; police 118,081
1991: Pop 49.9m; police 125,294.
As the numbers climbed, the service got worse. And now, the latest estimated population of England and Wales is just under 58.4 million.
Police numbers in March this year were 123,142, plus 9,826 ‘Community Support’ officers and 58,831 white-collar back-up staff.
Time for a go on the dodgems, Sergeant?
Mass murder… what a joke
A disgraceful film was released this week, in which misery, pain, fear and mass murder are milked for feeble giggles.
It is not very good on its own terms, and – like so many modern comedians – uses the f-word repeatedly to jolt the semblance of laughter from its audience, much as you might make a corpse twitch with seeming life by plugging it into the national grid.
The Death Of Stalin makes a farce out of that wholly grim and squalid event. As the monster himself lies dying, a gang of slave-drivers, secret police monsters and gruesome toadies, plus a murderous paedophile, are portrayed as a kind of Carry On farce or a Monty Python sketch. Ha ha.
Well, the only question you need to ask is whether anyone would think the final days of Hitler, the other great European mass-killer, torturer and tyrant, would make a good comedy, with Goebbels, Himmler and the rest of the Nazi elite played for laughs. No, of course not.
But fashionable showbiz persons still can’t grasp that Stalin (Left-wing) was just as evil as Hitler (Right-wing). So they can’t see that either.
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