Social media was in a frenzy this past week following the declaration by the highest court in our land that corporal punishment in any form is unconstitutional.
Freedom of Religion South Africa (For SA) claimed there’s a distinction between chastisement and abuse and parents should be allowed to apply “reasonable” and “moderate” chastisement. The Constitutional Court disagreed and it is now illegal to spank your child as form of discipline.
The wide and varied reactions are a clear sign that South Africans have internalised violence so much that they get really worked up when the option to use it on their children is removed from them.
This cuts across racial lines. It’s a certainty that this Heritage Day will not end before someone out there is assaulted or killed violently.
The overwhelming chorus this week was “corporal punishment was used on me and my generation, and we turned out okay”.
No, you didn’t turn out okay if you rely on violence to have things done your way in your household.
On this Heritage Day South Africans will be resplendent in their cultural attires. On the surface all will look calm, but the ugly gory truth is that the picture presented to the world will be one that seeks to cover our violent side. News reports are that over 40 people have died on our roads this weekend alone. There is no outcry.
Like the frog that is being slowly boiled to death, we have become a nation accustomed to all sorts of violence. A matching number of people will lose their lives to murder through this weekend. Violence has become part of the building material of our society.
It is amazing that a religious organisation saw fit to fight for their right to be violent in a “reasonable” manner within their own households. It is amazing that it had to take the highest court in the land to tell us as a nation that violence towards children is not an acceptable means of raising them. Religion preaches peace, yet truly religious people believe they can set society right by administering violence.
There is a huge temptation to attack the Constitutional Court and claim their ruling is evidence that power is being taken away from parents within a household. It’s always claimed that government interferes too much in modern society, but what people forget is that, without laws, there is chaos.
Some parents become a law unto themselves. When violence is used to discipline children, the lesson to that child becomes that violence has a place in society’s ways of resolving disputes.
Who then becomes the arbiter of how much violence is justifiable in resolving a dispute?
One of the most brilliant arguments against the death penalty is that you cannot use death as a means of teaching people that killing another human being is wrong. It is nicely summed up in this question: “Why do we kill people who kill people to show that killing people is wrong?”
On this Heritage Day, it is about time we ask ourselves: “Why do we use violence to teach our children that violence is unacceptable?”
It’s all good to show off our heritage through our attire, through our food and cultural celebrations. But South Africa needs to sit up and take notice of the violence that we are allowing to be part of heritage through “acceptable chastisement”.
There is no doubt that some parents will continue to use the rod to avoid spoiling their children (behind closed doors of course), but then let’s not act surprised when our society continues to be violent.
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