Monday, 8 September 2008

Don't ban force

It became obvious over the last few years to anyone with a brain that a vast number of people in positions of political power were absolutely unable to discriminate between smacking and beating

For the likes of Sue Bradford and Children's Commissioner Cindy Kiro, a firm open-handed smack on a child's bottom is no different than a beating delivered with a vacuum cleaner pipe or a piece of 4"x2".

So much for Ms Bradford's and Ms Kiro's ability to discriminate.

They provided further evidence of this mote in both eyes over the weekend, showing themselves utterly unable to determine any difference between a child initiating force against another child, and a teacher using force in defence of of that child -- ie., between violence, which is never justified, and retaliatory force, which is our right. [For more on the difference, see my 'Cue Card' on Force.]

When "top youth aid cop" Inspector Chris Graveson quite properly -- and in the current cultural climate, courageously -- pointed out that  "Teachers should not be afraid to 'man-handle' violent children if they pose immediate risks [to others], even if it means leaving bruising,"  Bradford and her confreres were ready to pounce.

    "You hear people saying, `You can't touch children. You can't do this, you can't do that'.  (But) if a child's being attacked, you're duty-bound to intervene," Graveson said at a New Zealand Educational Institute seminar in Wellington on Friday...

To which Bradford responded: "Teachers can use force to stop a child from causing harm to themselves and others [and I'm sure they're grateful for the Bradford/Key/Clark Act limiting that force] ... But what concerns me with the comments from the police officer is you can use force up to the level of bruising the child.  That might lead to some teachers using what I would consider unreasonable force."

And education minister Chris Carter responded: "There are policies to deal with disruptive and violent children... The problem with what the officer has said is he's taken a broad-brush approach to what is actually very specific and rare cases."

And the Office of the Children's Commissioner  responded that "it was never appropriate to bruise a child."

Never?  As the Timaru Herald asks, are they in the real world, these people? How will a "policy" help Hemi when Hone's beating him over the head with a chair?  How can it be "never appropriate" to drag Johnny off Jemima with peremptory force when he's beating her to a pulp (and as Graveson points out, "Serious sexual offenders as young as 12, who would be labelled paedophiles if they were adults, [for] preying on young victims")? 

How could one ever think it "unreasonable" to protect young victims from the classroom bullies and thugs who would take them over if the "sense" that Kiro and Carter and Bradford exhibit ever became too common.

The point is this: it's not just desirable to discriminate between force and defensive force -- between coercion and self-defence -- it's essential. Indeed, as Ayn Rand points out, it's the very basis of a rational politics:

Men have the right to use physical force only in retaliation and only against those who initiate its use. The ethical principle involved is simple and clear-cut: it is the difference between murder and self-defense. A holdup man seeks to gain a value, wealth, by killing his victim; the victim does not grow richer by killing a holdup man. The principle is: no man may obtain any values from others by resorting to physical force.

Don't ban force, ban the initiation of force -- because by making retaliatory force illegal, all you do is increase the violence.

See the history of pacifism for countless examples -- like this one.


  1. Retaliatory force (including pre-emptive and preventative force) is not just a right, it is a responsibility

    physical chastisement of children clearly falls into pre-emptive force.

  2. You are right to differentiate between initiation and defence but it's difficult to be prescriptive beyond that.

    You have to trust people to do their jobs without instructing them in the details of how to do it.

    The more politicans and their appointies try to interfere in the day to day happenings in schools the harder they make it for the teachers.

  3. "So much for Ms Bradford's and Ms Kiro's ability to discriminate."

    Silly PC, don't you know that it's wrong to discriminate or judge? Off to re-education camp with you!

    "Don't ban force, ban the initiation of force .."

    Exactly. But where would that leave the Sues & Cindys? ;)

  4. PC - in your link about how pacifisim kills you mention the dripping wet attitudes of a certain archbishop who like to do governor-general impersonations. It is interesting to not that historically the church takes a let soppy view on the use of force - CS Lewis once wrote a brilliant article entitled 'Why I am not a Pacifist' - I dont think it could be found online but here is a summay of the mans ideas on the subject


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