Have you heard the one about men thrashing children?

From an unlikely beginning in an unlikely place a discussion developed yesterday that illustrates how entrenched the culture of violence is in New Zealand.

It began on a Dim Post about Piri Weepu and breast and bottle feeding babies, moved to male bonding, and then a couple of quips.

“It’s common knowledge that male bonding with children begins and ends with sporting events.”

Wrong, it begins with a sound thrashing and ends with a clip around the ear.

As I have a habit of doing I questioned this.

I guess that’s supposed to be a joke but joking about violent child abuse these days is not a good look.

That was a deliberately mild rebuke as I didn’t know if ‘merv’  meant it as a joke (he probably did). A discussion (mostly crticial of me) ensued.

Gregor W: Agreed Pete. Because as I recall, violence against children used to be goddamn hilarious.
Top marks for sanctimony, Sir.

Gregor W:  I would have suggested saying nothing because it was very clearly, nay, blindingly obvious, that the comment was in jest. And for the record, I don’t consider ‘tsk-tsk’ing as offering a solution to a problem.

ieuan: I think most people reading the ‘sound thrashing’ comment will see it as a joke even if you can’t, for future reference why don’t you assume the average readership if this blog is say… a bit more ‘well rounded’ than some of the other blogs you spray your comments around.

Gregor W: Pete – for the love of God man, we get it.
1. Child abuse=awful
2. You are the arbiter of family values, common sense and good taste on the interwebs
2. You humour has been surgically excoriated and replaced with pomposity

Gregor W: Please address further questions vis-à-vis what may or may not constitute humour on this blog to The Department of Tedious Pedantic Buggers.

garethw: Dear Sir, s
I wish to complain in the strongest possible terms about the comment you have just posted about the male who clips their childrens’ ears. Many of my best friends are men, and only a few of them are transvestites.
Yours faithfully,
Brigadier Sir Charles Arthur Strong, Mr.
P.S. I have never kissed the editor of the Radio Times.

will: Oh come on Pete. I know Gareth can be a bit of a wet but it seems like a harmless joke to me.

Eric Blair: I think the gentleman who awarded ‘top marks for sanctimony’ possibly nailed the underlying issue that afflicts much of the mentality surrounding issues relating to child-rearing. It’s impossible to talk to people whose minds are so infected with ideologically-driven ideas of what is ‘correct’ that they unintentionally lampoon their own opinions and in the end jeopardise their right to be taken seriously.

merv: In most social groups a jokey comment about a ‘clip around the ear’ or a ‘sound thrashing’ is taken with the jest that is is given with.

I answered the last one:

Don’t you see that jesting about such things can be seen as social approval for actually doing those things – and we know there is a culture of thrashing kids in New Zealand. Jesting is a part of that culture, often inadvertent but nevertheless it supports the culture.

And merv – some of those who joke about thrashing their kids will be some of those who actually do thrash their kids, possibly remembering the laughs they got.

I’m sure that some people who joke about violence and child abuse are not violent people. But some probably are.

We have an endemic culture of violence in New Zealand. It’s obvious in the big news of deaths and serious abuses.

Like these kids.

But the Dim-Post thread illustrates that our violence culture is much wider and deeper than the worst cases. It’s spread even through relatively benign blogs like Dim-Post, embedded in our culture.

If we want to address the worst cases of our appalling child abuse we also need to address much more, including the passive and tacit approvals many of the rest of us provide the abusers.


I knew I was risking being accused of being an accuser, and that has happened:

merv: Oh and Pete, keep your snide asides alluding to my possible status as a child beater to yourself.

merv – it wasn’t intended as a ‘snide aside’ directed at you, it was stating something obvious in general. I have no idea about you specifically.

I remember an old classmate joking about giving his son a good belt around the ear at a school reunion, and everyone knew he was also serious.
I remember a sports teammate joking about giving his wife a fat lip for ‘giving him lip’, and everyone knew he was also serious.

In both those cases there were sparse grins and everyone else was emotionless – and silent. Tacit approval of a culture of violence.

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