Why You Should Beat Your Children

This next part of my blog will be entirely speculative. I’m sorry about that. I offer it only as a possible analysis: “Blue Sky Thinking” (?!)


Many prominent radicals seem to come from happier homes. I suspect their early experiences of a warm and nurturing environment foster their self-esteem and give them the impression that the world is essentially benign in some quasi-religious numinous way. Misfortunes, they believe, are not the inevitable consequences of humanity’s limitations, but unnatural abuses: traps constructed and sprung by evil and abnormal people. In other words, someone must be blamed. And no matter what institutions they destroy in pursuit of these wrong-doers, activists assume the underlying society will remain well-meaning and nourishing.

In contrast, children from highly threatened households seem more likely to absorb the pervasive sense of anxiety and threat. Parents with serious money worries, insecure employment, substance-dependency, mental health issues, or who are abusive or neglectful or acrimoniously divorcing seem more likely to bring up sons and daughters who are too cautious and under-confident to be pioneering disruptors. They seem more likely to favour specific reforms and corrections of individual injustices than outright revolution. They are complainers. Their rebellions (those that have them) seem to be impulsive acts of destruction, driven more by despair than the campaigning spirit (and often committed from the collective safety of mobs.) 

In Britain, long-term social and political stability may also contribute to this feeling of confidence, The welfare state, critically underfunded and threatening to fall apart, still reassures us that it is natural to have automatic access to education, health care and financial support. No matter how much of the state apparatus we dismantle (defunding the police, for example) there will still be a safety net, a matrix of support services to fall back on. Your bins will still be collected on a Wednesday morning; supermarket shelves will still be well stocked. 

This makes modern activists very different from 19th century grassroots socialists, who often seemed driven by desperation and poverty to seek reform, but not necessarily revolution. It is also the position that their own parents may have abandoned as they grew older and took on the fearful responsibility of parenthood. 

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