The local blogosphere has been up in arms about this; I've stayed quiet about it until now because really...what do you say? You cringe, not just at the depravity of the act, but at the smugness that tries to defend it. You cringe at the principal's suggestion that her action was justified because the children in question were supposedly indulging in inappropriate play. So what do you do? Shame and humiliate, without ever acknowledging that your action was, in fact, the perverse one.
That's not all that concerns me. No, even more telling is the response of the "man in the street" when one newspaper asked people to share their views on corporal punishment. The overriding opinion was that it was a-okay because children must be "disciplined and put in their place". Violence as discipline. Humiliation as a teaching tool. It's sickening. And while the Ministry of Education, very soon after the incident was made public, ran an ad making the point that "violence in any form as a means of disciplining children at home or in schools is stricly prohibited by the laws of Trinidad and Tobago", I wonder if it's it's too much, too little, too late.
We've already become a violent society, from our body language to our speech to our actions. Somebody gives you a bad drive, you carry on like a patient who just escaped from the St. Ann's mental asylum. Just walking down the street, your ears are assaulted by the one adjective that's in everybody's vocabulary. And then there's the action part, which allowed a six-year-old to be beaten to death and an eight-year-old to have his head held down and flushed in a toilet. Yet, we're surprised by the calibre of our youth; taken aback by the bullying in schools; floored by way in which those who are too small or frail to defend themselves - from children to women; the elderly to animals - are treated by those who are entrusted with their care. But why are we surprised? We are, after all, a nation that wants to bring back capital punishment. Suddenly, the corporal kind doesn't look so bad. After all, we're not killing them, right? Just roughing them up a little; toughening them up to face the real world.
I say different. I say we are killing them. We're killing their spirits, their faith, their confidence - in the people who are supposed to nurture and protect them, and in themselves. We're killing their goodness, their innocence, their freedom. Every single time we treat our kids as less than they are, we kill them. And they're not ours to kill. In the words of Kahlil Gibran:
"Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you."