So, as most of you know, I’m against spanking children because I’m against A) violence B) pain C) making someone else suffer. However, I had a interesting and disturbing thought this morning. Children need to learn that having violence directed towards them feels awful, so that they’ll understand not to direct violence towards other people. I was worrying, slightly, that only children who have never been spanked (or children without violent siblings) might never develop the degree of empathy to understand what it’s like to be the recipient of violence. This probably isn’t valid – I am curious how many mass shooters weren’t exposed to any violence, and how many were exposed to far too much. I don’t know of any way to get data on this, but it would be interesting to know whether mass shooters tend to come from abusive families, or families that never exposed them to the idea of violence.

One thing I do note is that the world in general seems to do a good job of trying to ratchet up fear and anger. A lot of our current political system seems to be designed to break people into two equal groups and make those groups angry at each other. Long term, it doesn’t seem possible for this to work.

Of course, I do feel a bit like a one-eyed man in the world of the blind. That no one else is even discussing value, only money, for example – that our government doesn’t discuss value on the floor of the senate and house, only money – that they make decisions that destroy value in order to make money, repeatedly, and no one calls them on it. That no one discusses the difference between their conscious experience and what’s actually happening.

One thing I do find encouraging is that I do see a lot of signs that a lot of people, or at least a lot of my friends, recognize that the world’s religions are fundamentally flawed. And just today, I read a article about how India is granting personhood to dolphins. I suspect personhood should be granted to any creature that we can get to prove to us that it is aware of itself. I don’t know exactly how to do this – people claim dogs fail the mirror test, although vision is not their primary sense and they do seem to pass a scent version of the mirror test. I’m pretty clear that dogs are people, and cats, and pigs. I’m not sure about sheep and cows. I know chickens are not people, and things with distributed nervous systems like crabs and lobsters.

Heinlien did a great discussion of personhood in the start of Moon Is A Harsh Mistress when he was talking about Mike the computer who was clearly a person, even though he wasn’t a human. In Heinlien’s theory, it takes a certain number of large associational neural networks, be they artificial or natural. I tend to think he had the right idea, although it’s a very interesting and odd thought that being a person is a emergent property. What’s really odd is that the human mind seems to have sufficient capacity to be several people (something I am more aware of than most people).

One Response to “Spanking”

  1. Alderin Says:

    My position on spanking was that it is necessary before full language skills develop, only applied to immediate events. The rules can’t be explained yet, the reasoning can’t be explained yet, but a slap on the hand is a lot less dangerous than, say, electrocution from sticking keys in the light socket, or reaching up onto the stove. As language develops, rational explained rule-breaking consequences replace the corporal punishment.

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