The problem is so buried in our collective memory that we don’t even recognize it. In fact, evidence suggests most experience a pleasant pulse of “just desserts” the more the punitive punishment stings.
There is an understanding here, but it is extremely complicated; suffice it to say, its origin is in ancient realms of the brain. The problem is our predilection for and pride in punishment, played out in naked reality. The problem is punishment itself.
Human beings are stout and ultimately to be reckoned with, one way or another. Not all, maybe not even most, but enough will buck if pushed. This too, is so fundamental as to fade in plain sight.
The point is that punishment begets resentment. How a person understands and deals with resentment is a personal matter and challenge. In a system unfair, the fallback position is resentment spawning acting out, against oneself or others, or both.
In a world society cast by inequality and injustice, resentment and anger can give rise to murderous violence and widespread civil disruption. Resentment seen in the fourth-grade, cries out for understanding. In later years, it seems insuperable, occasioning terrible pain and suffering.
People need to be supported. Personal health is attained in society and lost there as well. Children need to be supported. The only question is when and how? About the time I came on the scene, a certain Dr. Spock was the supposed expert.
What does it tell you that in the midst of the last century, as we split the atom, there was no shared understanding as to the raising of human progeny? And, considering how things seem to have worked out, what’s a society supposed to do?
Looked at in bulk, humanity is blessed and blighted. If it were possible to imagine the worst, one would not survive. If it were possible to imagine the best, one would become incandescent. Over time, which is to say generations of lives lived and lost, we move, as in a school, through the shallows, shoals and depths of humanity’s experience.
It is here, in world human society, that we define ourselves and now define as well, the earth. At all levels, we have to provide for children. I mean we have to love and understand children enough and sufficient to foster their flourishing.
I used to think it a good idea to dedicate a year to the dog. Fifty-two weeks of learning and understanding the special relationship of humans and dogs over millennia, I thought a celebration that still seems worth doing.
But, why not a giant step? Why not declare a two-decade period of investment, support and trust in our young? Beginning in the womb, first-class support for a healthy birth. Beginning with the cutting of the cord, first-class support for a thriving baby. Beginning with the first primary-care visit, first-class support toward a healthy integration into society.
This moon-shot could be global. Despite our many and mundane differences and tastes, we all share a common faith: to make a better world for our children. A common, good faith effort would be judged and declared a miracle of efficacy.
Over the course of a generation, we would see the fruits of our regard revealed in ever greater approximation, year after year. There is, and always has been, an art and science of living; it is here that we have to give trust and free rein to human love, understanding and expression.