MANN TALK: Simplism Is a Conservative Frailty

by Perry Mann
Perry Mann
Perry Mann
The real solution to discipline, drugs and bullying in schools is: “Put fathers back into the lives of our children and most of the problems will go away.”  

 How does one go about putting fathers back into the lives of children? Children that have no fathers are deprived of one because their fathers left them for one reason or another. And often a stepfather is more of the problem then he is the solution.

Two parents in the home is the solution. Homes with no father and a single mother produce the majority of problem children, it’s asserted.  But it could be that the problems that led to no father and a single mother are the very causes of the problem children. Not what some assert are the causes.

Discipline is lacking in the homes, it is argued.  Mother can’t do it. It takes a father. One relates an anecdote to support his argument: “My father solved any discipline problem at school with a ‘drug problem’ for me: He drug me across the coals, metaphorically, and literally placed me on the receiving end of a belt when necessary.” That is, the father didn’t spare the rod. The Pharisees preached the unsparing use of it eons ago.  

Discipline does not evolve from fear of corporal punishment. Fear has never produced much that is positive and productive and inspiring. Real and positive discipline comes when an inspired person has a goal and knows that to achieve it he must live within the boundaries of his  own making and subordinate, within reason and propriety,  all else in order to realize his ambition.

 If the rod or the fear of the rod created disciplined people, this country should have an abundance of them. But the reality is that, although this country has more people in prison per capita than any other civilized nation on earth, it has more crime than any other nation. Recidivism is high; that is, many of those who have suffered the discipline of decades in prison upon release commit another crime.  Havelock Ellis remarked perceptively: “Every nation has the criminals it deserves.” And I suspect that this nation has all the problem children it deserves and the fatherless households it deserves.

Can we trace drug use, promiscuity, crimes, domestic violence, lower test scores, and more discipline problems in school to the deterioration of the family? Probably, but what has caused the deterioration of the family?

 A hundred years ago the divorce rate in this nation was miniscule. Today it is gargantuan. The cause of the change is that families no longer have to stay together in order to survive. And the reason for that is the creation of great wealth, the move to the city from the hinterland, all of the great labor saving devices, modern medicine, the facilitation of travel, the emancipation of women and lately the cell phone and the computer.

Once, a man and woman married in order to have children, for children were needed to help them to survive and to take care of them when they aged and became invalids. My grandmother and grandfather, who began life on forested and rocky acres and who had ten children, six of whom reached adulthood, struggled to survive the eight decades of their lives with little relief except in the hope of some ease in Heaven.  

Whatever problems arose between them were resolved by the exigencies of survival. The concept of divorce was aborted before birth. No marginal farmer ever had even the fantasy of a trophy wife or a clandestine affair. And no woman burdened with a household and multiple children even dreamed of a prince charming and escape to some idyllic island where she would be served instead of existing on the plot where she slaved.

“It does not take a village to raise a child. It does not take a school to raise a child. It does not take drugs to raise a child.  It certainly does not take a court ruling to raise a child. It simply takes two loving parents that decide together what is in the best interest of their children to raise a child.”

How can anyone literate enough to write the above quote not have the perception to understand that it is egregiously simplistic? Two people in a cave even 10,000 years ago would have known better than to say: “We two can raise this child with no help from anyone.” Today, for one to say so suggests that he has the percipience and imagination of possum.

Where does a child’s food come from, its housing, its schooling, its doctoring, its medicine, its entertainment, its fellowship, its local protection, its global protection, its everything that two loving parent cannot provide? No one is an island unto himself. Everyone is part of the main. So never ask for whom the bell tolls, for it tolls for thee.

  “There is no accountability for individual actions.” Accountability is the problematic premise of conservatism. The word conjures up the concept of free will, which is, in the conservative mind, that which everyone has. So, whatever one does is the result of a free choice. And thus one should be held accountable for what he does. This is the ultimate simplism. The belief that the every act of a person is willed in a vacuum, free from the influence of one’s genes and environment, is medieval and has been totally rebutted by modern science.

Simplism is an evil, for it is a distortion of truth; and it leads conservatives to specious conclusions. Also, it induces them to create thoughtlessly the very problems they deplore and to blame them on liberals.         * * *   Perry Mann is a former teacher, a lawyer, a former prosecuting attorney of Summers County and a columnist for Huntington News Network. He lives in Hinton, WV. He  was born in Charleston, WV in 1921.
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