State funded National Radio (actually, I appreciate it immensely much of the time) broadcast an interview this morning on “research” into youth violence by Presbyterian Support researcher Sue Milligan. You can hear it for the next week on Radio NZ’s website. The research was based on 34 case studies and interviews with 40 people who worked with offending youth. This kind of qualitative research cannot properly be used to draw general conclusions about the population from which such small samples were taken. But such irritating patriarchal notions about science and knowledge did not stop Ms Milligan from blessing us with a full analysis of the relevant causes of the dramatic increase in violence and bad behaviour we are seeing in our youth (which at least she didn’t try to dismiss by quoting Aristotle). Apparently it’s all due to such factors as the stress our children endure, inadequate listening to them by teachers and parents, and the violence modelled by their families and society generally.
Of course, neither the researcher nor the interviewer thought it worth considering whether changes in discipline might have contributed to the problem. No mention was made of the banning of corporal punishment in schools and the steady deterioration in behaviour since then. The prediction that if we stop “modelling violence through physical punishment” then violence in society would disappear has been contradicted by events, but that didn’t stop the ideologues from illegalizing smacking and maintaining their over-reliance on simplistic modelling theory at the expense of other influences on behaviour such as punishment and reward.
So is this relevant to men’s issues? Very much so methinks. The idea that physical force equates to violence which is always bad is essentially a feminist ideological formulation. The role of men who can offer physical strength to intervene and to provide natural consequences for socially unacceptable behaviour has been resented and demonized, so now only uniformed agents of the state are allowed to use any such force. The demand by feminists that the state should usurp fathers’ roles (and make them pay for this privilege) required the promotion of beliefs that fathers are unnecessary and that their traditional roles in child rearing were not only useless but undesirable.
Sooner or later it will have to be acknowledged that policies based almost entirely on modelling theory are failing and that parents and teachers need the right to assert physical dominance over children at times in order to provide timely and effective behaviour-shaping consequences. We will need to recognize that pain receptors exist in part to assist in learning (hence we don’t keep touching hot objects or gorse bushes), and that a total, ideological restriction on taking advantage of pain receptors in socializing our children is foolish. We will need to realize that if people are not allowed to use physical force for responsible reasons, this will leave the violent criminals in our society much freeer to dominate the rest of us. No way will the police ever be able to replace that particular traditional male role unless every second person is recruited into the force.