Culture and Life
by Rob Gowland
Democracy, US-style. Or perhaps, civilisation US-style. Ric Keller, the Republican nominee for the House of Representatives from central Florida's 8th district, peppers his campaign speeches with gems like: "I think Palestinians are lower than pond scum." The leaders of his Party do not rebuke him, and when the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) calls his comments "outrageous anti- Arab racism" it's treated as a joke or at best an over reaction. Naturally, Keller heartily endorsed Israel's bombing of defenceless Palestinian civilians. Still in the US, the Los Angeles Police Department has revealed its new sophisticated approach to dealing with complaints of police brutality. On October 22, about a thousand people demonstrated against police brutality outside the LAPD's Parker Centre headquarters. The police attacked them with batons, horses and motorbikes. Still, it could have been worse: the protests — part of a national day of protest against police brutality — were also against the frequency with which the US police kill unarmed and often totally innocent people. At least, on October 22 no one was actually shot dead by the police. And some people think Australia growing more like the USA is evidence of progress! Christian schools are at it again, demonstrating their suitability to educate children in the 21st century. Hard on the heels of Central Coast Christian schools banning the popular Harry Potter books because they didn't denounce witchcraft as "evil" comes the news that some other NSW Christian schools are demanding the right to administer "discipline with love". Also termed "loving discipline", this means flogging a child on the hands, legs or buttocks with a metre-long length of cane wielded with all the vigour a "muscular Christian" can muster. Sutherland Shire Christian School and Nambucca valley Christian School are fighting a NSW law banning caning. They claim that school policy "includes as one of its many Biblical aims the discipline of our children with love". But to "discipline with love" — whether it be children or pets — means to use love to discipline them, not to use pain and violence while proclaiming your love for them. Such hypocrisy was much in vogue with domineering fathers in Queen Victoria's day. They were constantly telling their poor suffering offspring, as pater prepared to give them a merciless flogging, that it was being done for the "good of their immortal souls". Such floggers were also prone to make the equally ludicrous declaration: "This hurts me more than it does you." The Old Testament, often invoked to support this regimen, was a collection of Jewish religious texts that recounted, among other things, the recorded history and the mythology of the Jewish tribes of the region (much of the mythology was common to other tribes as well). It also contained moral and ethical precepts for slave society in that area at that time. It was Jesus' provision of radical new precepts based on love, tolerance and forgiveness — combined with his obvious concern for the plight of the poor and downtrodden — that made him such a potent preacher. It would be more than a millennium before the rise of the new merchant class would require a new ethical code and the replacement of the loving, forgiving God by a vengeful, wrathful God drawn from parts of the Old Testament and bits of the New Testament written two or three hundred years after Jesus had died. But by the 18th century, progressive-minded Christians would be fighting against corporal punishment just as they fought against slavery and capital punishment. Now, after two further centuries of development of human society we have the strange spectacle of Christian "educators" demanding the "right" to beat children with sticks. The children's parents also endorse what the school calls its "methods of nurture and discipline", convinced, as the Christian Community Schools group says, that corporal punishment is "biblically endorsed". Corporal punishment is cruel. Inflicting pain on another human being is barbaric and inhuman. It is still grievously common, however. The fight against torture, mutilation, flogging, solitary confinement, electric shock control and the rest of the barbarous means of inflicting pain and horror on the defenceless must include the fight to eliminate corporal punishment — everywhere. Claiming that it is part of your religion can be no defence. Driving into town the other day I found myself behind a car with a ten- centimetre-high notice emblazoned across its back window: "Fear God". Frankly, I have no fear of God (or any other imaginary being). But I find some of God's followers very scary indeed. What's best: Bilingual ed or "immersion"?