Final Days

I listened to an African American kid on NPR yesterday give an essay for Youth Radio about being spanked by his father. He hated being spanked, of course, but he said in hindsight he deserved it and it made him sure that his parents cared enough to do something “that hurt them more than it did me.” He said all we have to do is watch the kids in the mall to know the difference it makes. White parents with kids who are out of control are prime examples of parents who try to bargain with their kids and talk to them about not doing this or that, rather than disciplining them, which he said is what African American parents do with their unruly kids by spanking them. He and his friends would brag with each other about who go the worse “woppin’.”
I really don’t think this kind of story would have appeared on NPR just 10 years ago. Corporal punishment, after all, is nothing more than child abuse, or so conventional wisdom would have us believe. Of course, when conventional “wisdom” bears no resemblance to reality it will eventually be overturned, but not without a great conflict. Kids need boundaries and consistency that provide guidance. Kids also need to know that their parents are adults/parents and will go to whatever lengths necessary to guide the growth and development of their children in order to prepare them for the real world – and to protect them from the real world. Kids also need to learn that behavior has consequences – good and bad – and that they will be held responsible for their acts, with a good measure of mercy, grace, and forbearance thrown in for good measure.
We are seeing the final days of Modernism – or at least the “Age of Aquarius” generational zeitgeist. We all know that Modernism and the ideals coming out of the Enlightenment were shown to be unattainable and fundamentally flawed throughout the 20th century. Utopia born of humanity continually improving through education, yadda, yadda, yadda, is not the reality of the world as we live in it. It just isn’t. That is not to say that education, and all that, is not important or that such things do not help or contribute to the overall improvement of society.
We are also bearing the brunt of the misunderstanding of human nature and societal dynamics that propelled common thinking in academia, government, and the social sciences and services organizations from the 1950’s through the end of the 20th century. Common sense is coming back into vogue!
I have also heard and read more and more about the demise of current understandings of “diversity” and cultural relativism. We are seeing the resurgence of belief that we can make moral and social judgments about what is good, just, and better. Some cultures really are better and more advanced than others, not just “different.” It is okay to say to immigrants that they need to adapt to American culture and learn English as the national language (or the culture and language of any country) – a melting pot and not a mosaic.
The danger, of course, is that reactionary forces will attempt to pull society back into some kind of fantasy world of yesteryear. Hopefully, the pendulum will not swing too wildly.