“I was spanked as a child so I suffer from something called ‘respect for others.’”
I can’t take credit for the line although it resonates so strongly that I want to stand up and cheer. I don’t even know who to thank for the reality check; it showed up months ago as a humorous post in my Facebook feed.
Respect for others. Would that not solve a lot of our problems overnight? The problem is we can’t develop respect for others without respect for the authority that teaches us to respect others. And there’s the rub. Authority is the new N-word.
Remember the “Question Authority” bumper sticker that popped up a few years ago? Today it has all but disappeared because to question authority is actually polite. Today we don’t question authority; we scream at our professors to shut up. Well, not all of us scream, and it’s instructive to ask who screams and why.
Screaming is an interpersonal skill, or the lack thereof, and where do we learn our interpersonal skills? That’s right, in the home. Not “home” as defined by the Yale student who unleashed a torrent of F-bombs on her professor, the grand finale of which went something like, “You shouldn’t sleep at night! You’re disgusting!”
“Home” as she defines it is a warm and cozy campus environment where nobody’s feelings are ever hurt, and unicorns play with mermaids. Home as we authority-friendly types define it is a learning environment where parents teach their children to become self-sufficient, decent, contributing members of society.
So let’s work backward to try and imagine what a screamer’s home environment might be. Would it be feasible to posit that there aren’t many limits? That opportunities for developing self-control are given no merit? And this is in no way a political question. We all remember the mother in Baltimore who slapped her son for participating in the riots. Given the demographics of Baltimore and Yale, I think it’s fair to assume that both the screaming Yalie and the slapping Mommy are on the liberal end of the spectrum.
At the risk of being called something unpleasant, I am going to compare children with cows. Cows, when they are put into a fenced area, go around the fence inch by inch testing to see if there is any way out. Once they determine that they are, in fact, contained, they contentedly move to the center of the area and chew their cud.
Children need limits. Dare I say it? Children want limits. Limits equal safety. I can’t swear that cows are determining their safety because I don’t speak Cow. I can only observe their behavior, which is that containment equals calm behavior. Children with limits (usually) exhibit calm behavior.
Limits only exist in the presence of—wait for it—authority; ergo, authority in the home is antithetical to screaming at your professor when you don’t get what you want. In fact, in a home where parents exercise authority, screaming when you don’t get what you want is generally extinguished by about age four.
There’s a larger point to be made.
Authority is viewed as positive only by people who view institutional power as positive. The institutions of religion, family, law enforcement, and higher education, all have institutional authority, i.e., we respect the overall institution irrespective of individual incidents that run counter.
We live in a world where institutional authority is the Evil of all Evils and must be eviscerated from below, by the “marginalized,” i.e., those who are subject to the institution’s power. (That’s really all of us, but the marginalized think they have earned some existential right to be free of governance.) Marginalized equals a Get Out of Accountability free card, do not pass home or “home.”
Parents who cave to their children’s tantrums produce spoiled brats. Professors (and university presidents) who cave to their students’ tantrums produce so much blood in the water that the sharks go crazy. We are in crazy town right now.
When you see bratty kids in a restaurant, running around, yelling, disturbing the other diners, what’s the first thing you think? “Where are the parents?”
When you see entitled students on a campus, running around, yelling, disturbing the educational environment for everyone, the obvious question is, “Where are the authorities?”
Unfortunately, they’re hiding under their desks.
Donna Carol Voss is an author, blogger, speaker, and mom. A Berkeley grad, a former atheist then pagan, she is now a Mormon on purpose and an original thinker on 21st century living, especially 21st century women. Her memoir, “One of Everything,” traces the path through one of everything she took to get here. www.donnacarolvoss.com
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