Everyone Gets Spanked

The three of us are close in age, but very different in temperament. One day when we were old enough to play together for an hour when my mom went out — meaning probably about 10, 9, and 7 — somebody broke something precious to my mom. It might have been a vase, but whatever… 

When she came home, saw the breakage, and got mad, she asked that whoever did this should speak up. 

Needless to say, nobody spoke up. We knew she would spank whoever it was, and nobody wanted to get spanked.

Now there were two issues: doing something wrong, and taking responsibility. So she tried again.

Nobody spoke up.

Now she was mad. So she launched an appeal to conscience. Knowing how close we were to each other (in rural Colorado, what other options were there?), she said that if the culprit did not speak up, she would spank all of us. Surely whoever had done this did not wish to punish innocent people?

Nobody spoke up.

So we all got spanked. Two of us were crying, with pain and outrage.

One remained quiet, got the spanking and went on with her day.

That’s why economic sanctions do not work when power-driven elites outrage the rest of the world. Indeed, the sanctions counterattack, creating enemies against the outsider where previously there were discontented powerless local citizens. Ruthless folks do not feel other people’s pain: that’s the definition of ruthlessness. They don’t pity their compatriots any more than they pity the defined out-group whose blood and tears have provoked outside outrage.

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2 thoughts on “Everyone Gets Spanked

  1. Hmm. Suppose instead of a punishment (spanking) your Mom had used the withholding of a reward. Suppose she said, “I brought home a chocoloate cake, but no one will get a piece of it until I get a confession as to who broke the vase.” Would that have worked better? Then the question is whether economic sanctions are more like administering spankings or more like withholding chocolate cake?

    • Good point. Part of sticking with spanking — a harsh, physically painful, insulting application of force — was to emphasize that when poor families lose their livelihoods under economic sanctions, it is harsh, physically painful, and insulting. Such trauma either arouses anger or sinks the spirits into hopelessness. Both results allow evil to prosper.

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