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Rated: E · Essay · Family · #1835708
Undermined and dysfunctional social governance is
Recently a local city rag reported on a speech given by a leading retired jurist, where he opined that it was time to stop parents smacking their children. The following was my reply, emailed to the editor the following day:

"Self styled 'progressives' like ex Chief Justice Alastair Nicholson seem to have a genius for timing.

Yesterday one of his colleagues all but forgave a cowardly, violent and dangerous young offender for breaking the face of an old woman in her own home and stealing her money to buy booze.

Alastair Nicholson wants to prevent the one thing that might possibly have turned that young thug into an honest and decent man; the use of adult force to instill fear, respect and caution into his miserable character, when he was of an age where he might have still been susceptible to correction.

The ex Chief Justice's views on this subject, while unfortunately fashionable in some circles, fly in the face of countless generations of more often than not satisfactory, if occasionally stern parenting. It also ignores the obviously dysfunctional social product that comes with applying his views in practice.

It really is time the bluff of the Alastair Nicholsons of this world was called. They don't have the moral substance to tell the difference between chastisement and assault, or toughness and abuse. Nor do they seem to appreciate the odious consequences of their agenda and the enormous frustration and anger that is mounting against it."

The letter was not published.

As a postscript to this, there was a further story a few weeks later about the police response to a rapidly rising rate of alcohol fueled violence by often underage drinkers. The police spokespeople made it clear that they felt this problem was partly beyond policing. They suggested it was emanating from a lack of parental control, leadership and responsibility and that solutions would have to be a whole of community effort.

The police were trying to say that parents had to get back in charge of their adolescent children's values, social behavior and life routines.

This is going to be a very tough business because by the time children reach adolescence, the habits of respect for and obedience to parental authority need to have been already well entrenched. But unfortunately, not only has smacking fallen out of use, but the whole notion of parental firmness has virtually been delegitimized.  Much of this generation of parents to adolescents is so unprepared for a major confrontation with its progeny that there is quite a high chance that if it collectively tried to assert itself, it might lose the fight, cave in and become even more marginalised than it is already.

This state of affairs is not a product of merely failing to smack when necessary, but a result of long term white anting of the notions of authority, hierarchy and obedience, and their replacement by selling and marketing. This process of hijacking social governance by markets, which has been in assembly since World War 2, has been massively empowering for commerce, but devastating for traditional non commercial entities, and at least as intrusive into the body politic as the Maoist reversal of adult/child relations in the later 1960s Cultural Revolution. 

The difference is that the Maoist radical agenda ran out of steam, whereas the market one is still in full swing and consolidating its gains by entrenching socially unfettered consumerist behavior in ever younger and more vulnerable age groups, and systematically shifting their loyalty and respect from parents and allied authority figures, to media mentors, as seen on their favorite programs and sites.  Adolescents no longer see their parents as carrying the kind of weight that would entitle them to 'get heavy', let alone give them a boot up the bum.  They think they have got rights even where they palpably don't, because social rights generally have become so pervasive and ubiquitous.

So called libertarian 'progressives', who now 'mysteriously' control policy in our social welfare, legal and educational sectors, have been co-opted to provide legal/political respectability for this state of affairs.  The giveaway that these 'Libertarchs' are fronting a much larger master agenda is that while they throw rights about like confetti, they have dropped the discipline and  enforcement of the obligations that underpinned and gave life to them, by casually defaming them as 'repressive', 'authoritarian' and 'illiberal'.  And in doing this they entrenched indulgence as a social norm, turned moral reasoning into 'judgmentality' and transformed the young into long term Peter Pans and Wendys who are incapable of seeing beyond their own 'needs', as suggested to them by the commercial Pied Pipers of Cool, who themselves never grow up and never grow old.

The old Liberal Enlightenment that had brought the modern world the notion of the responsible citizen was converted into just another consumable freebie, whose purpose was not so much to empower with freedom as licence to consume, with as few limiting constraints as possible.  And the result was a loss of existential and social cohesion that made commercial colonization of the collective imagination much easier, faster, cheaper and more reliable.

We have now reached the point where traditional social authority is so diminished it can hardly operate at all.  When I was doing some emergency teaching four or five years ago, the principal told me that it was necessary for me to have an 'escape route' in the eventuality of a confrontation with a student. In my experience, It wasn't so long ago that it was the student who needed one.

Smacking recalcitrant children is simply the exercise of force when reasoning, persuasion, pressure, warnimgs, threats and bluff have failed. Force is the least desirable social lever, but the most decisive and rapid one. It needs to be used sparingly and as a last resort, when all else fails. But if that last resort isn't there, then bluff, 'compromise' and climb down is all that is left; in short retreat and defeat. If that happens often enough in enough places, the whole social territory becomes lost and can only be recovered at great cost.

The young have had such a taste of thumbing their noses at social authority, reversing this is going to require some very tough politics.  Retrieving social authority is ten times more difficult than keeping it intact in the first place.

But the thing is the young haven't really been empowered. Quite the contrary, for turning everyone into an overgrown adolescent leaves them totally at the mercy of their 'needs' and whims, and people who are good at manipulating those things; in short the market and its very formidable propaganda machinery.

That power is much greater than it looks, for it is an apolitical and a background running programme that isn't noticed until one looks for it.  And then one sees it hemming one in every bit as much as the traditional despotisms of the past. Privatised totalitarianism is here and now, shaping, manipulating and dooming its victims to an overfed, overindulged and dysfuntional life where everything is insecure and fragile, and everything has to be sacrificed to the worship of what we produce and consume.  It is as close as seculars get to cultism.  Shopping malls are its temples, adverts are its icons and prayers, and shopping its acts of worship.

This is really where the bluff has to be called. There is nothing more 'wrong' with capitalism than any other system we have invented. But any system that accumulates such overwhelming productive capacity and equally overwhelming need to get rid of its output ever faster, has to start testing the boundaries and capacities of the biological and cultural entities that interact with it. We and all our co-species are withering under the pressure of such overwhelming productive firepower, that keeps growing despite the casualties.

Capitalism has to cool it and lighten up, not just a little, but a whole lot, so that our terribly damaged social infrastructure, and nature as a whole, can be repaired or reconstructed; so that they can start to recover from the massive assaults they have suffered, particularly over the last three generations since the last World War.

So what is at stake here is not really, should we be prepared to spank our children to get some order back into our homes, but how are we going to get out the production warfare and the systematic 'carpet bombing' of consumer 'ordinance' onto ever younger 'civilian' markets, that is destroying social governance and the natural world we inhabit?

Improved social order and its vigorous enforcement where necessary, will be mainly a byproduct of solving that overwhelming question, as we resuscitate social governance by diverting energy from the lemming like march we now seem so overwhelmingly committed to, and call 'progress'.

In the end, this is a struggle we have to fight. And if one is prepared to go all the way in standing up to one's children and the tyranny that has taken them from us, the disempowering economic power game being played on us will need to be exposed and demythologized first, which is the really difficult bit.  The rest is just a straightforward power struggle.

In much the same way as those who had to tackle 'The Matrix', they first had to be able to actually get to grips with an enemy that was as elusive as it was powerful as it was deadly.  All its appearances were illusary, deceptive and littered with traps and mines.  Working out its modus operandi was the basic challenge, and once they had done that, they could start to score some hits against it.  It is thus with us in Consumerland, and its bogus liberal-democratic ideology, that creates legitimizing political frameworks and conceals the social control drivers that deliver reliable consumer management.

Getting our children back and slowing down the production/consumption assault are part and parcel of the same process.  The specifics of how we administer firm social governance is miles down track from that.  Without the consciousness of what is being done to us, any attempt at just 'getting tough' will merely reveal one's real weakness and the ease with which resistance to business-as-usual can be undone.

You will just get labelled as a 'child abuser' and it will stick.  It isn't worth getting diverted too far into the child smacking debate right now because the game is loaded by the forces of the status quo.  Demystifying the the current system of child removal into the market organism is the first step, because it reveals the real underlying politcal processes of social and economic control.    Opponents are then in a position to attack real targets with a strategy that has some chance of hitting them.  Then, and only then is one is in a positon to do some retrieving and re-establisnment of lines of authority and social enforcement.  At that point, the objects of that enforcement will know that they have nowhere to go and no legitimate source of 'appeal'.

The process of recovering our children from the market system of control and its legitimizing agencies is first, demystification, second, recognition of its character and weaknesses, third, attack those weaknesses hard and protractedly until discredited, fourth, start to restablish social governance norms and standards, and fifth, institutionalize the new governance norms and decommission previous impediments to them.

That is what is necessary to not only silence, but shut down the likes of judge Alastair Nicholson.  And by silencing, I do not mean preventing him from expressing his views.  I mean delegitimizing him so that no one takes him seriously anymore, because his ideas no longer have ideological traction.  And to shut him down is not to censor his views in the media, but to make him unsure of what he has done and come to represent, by subjecting his voice to collective disapproving silence or curt dismissal.

Whingeing and complaining about the Alastair Nicholsons are not enough.  Reactively defying his prescriptions is a recipe for defeat and discredit.  There are 60 to 70 years and more of momentum in what he is saying and to disestablish it will require a long, disciplined and tough campaign run in the end by a social movement with money, skills and plenty of foot soldiers. 

Nicholson is not alone and his ideas are still very powerful.  Do not underestimate him or them.  The forces presently lined up against him are presently weak,  inchoherent and just about on the floor.  They have to be organized almost from scratch.  It will be a long and difficult business to re-invent the social commons whose assets have been comprehensively trashed and looted over a long period.  And it will require a thick skin and plenty of endurance to rebuild in the face of the most successful totalitarian system of modern times; the one we are living in.

© Copyright 2011 Christopher Eastman-Nagle (kiffit at Writing.Com). All rights reserved.
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