Thursday, February 21, 2013

When One Man Spanks Another

'Belt' photo (c) 2010, Aurimas - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/

Alight, I know from the provocative title that you might be expecting kink, but this article is actually about class and adult vs child status. 53-year-old Ron Kronenberge, who is a landlord in the southwest Ohio village of Waynesville, has admitted to spanking a male tenant several times on his  buttocks with a belt.

One of his tenants fell behind in his rent by 2,800 dollars and so Kronenberge told his 29 year old victim, to place his hands hand on a chair and hold on.  He allegedly added, "if you're going to act like a child, I'm going to treat you like one," and then beat the man four times on his buttocks with a belt. Kronenberge has been charged with with misdemeanor assault.

Kronenberge has been described as a pillar of his community.  Clearly, he at the very least had class privilege relative to his victim.  The very idea that it is childlike and irresponsible to fall behind on one's bills is absolutely classist.  Kronenberge's position is hardly unique, as the poor are continually demonized and infantalized in everyday discourse.  This based in the fallacy that meritocracy exists and that everyone has the same opportunities for success.   This is far from the truth and the fact is, no matter how hard a poor person works, they can never catch up, because the system is designed from start to finish to ensure a small elite, with a large class of workers to support their privilege. Poverty in this unbalanced system is not a moral failing when it is absolutely the purpose of the capitalist system.


This is further complicated by the fact that we are taught to value money and possessions over people.  If this were not the case, there would not be a single homeless person, children going to decrepit schools, people going hungry and an host of other social problems.   Some states have even brought back a form of debtors prison.  All of this is occurring in a country in which the minimum wage, isn't even a living wage.  Walmart, the nations largest employer, has full-time employees relying on Food Stamps for subsistence.  People aren't living above their means; they're trying to survive but the wealthy will never admit that and often balk at the suggestion that they aren't paying their fair share.  College and university degrees, which used to be a path to a middle class existence, are pushing out more students each year, who find that despite their accreditation,  they cannot find a job in the field in which they studied, let alone a job. Despite all of the evidence regarding the absolute irrationality of this system, people like Kronenberge continue to drink the kool-aid, firm in the belief that their capitol imbues them with inalienable rights over and above the working poor, and the underclass.

The other thing which drew my attention to this story, is the fact that Kronenberge was actually charged with assault.  Don't do a happy dance yet folks.  The only reason Kronenberge was charged with assault is because he spanked another grown man. Had the same situation occurred between  Kronenberge and a child, it's likely that the police would not have been involved.  Children are regularly spanked with implements and it is legal in several U.S. states for children to be spanked in schools.  None of this is understood to be assault, or a violation of a child's bodily integrity and right to a life free of violence. Spanking, unfortunately is understood to be a reasonable method of discipline.  There has been study after study about how harmful spanking is and yet it continues to be normalized socially.  The only reason Kronenberge's victim has any chance of justice today, is that his adult status provides him with a legal recourse. 

What is it about adulthood that suddenly grants the right of personhood, that children are lacking?  If anything, the very vulnerability of childhood should mean that children that society should be going to even greater lengths to protect them, rather than institutionalizing violence against them. The bottom line is the very vulnerability of children is what makes it acceptable to be physically violent towards them. Children cannot vote, they don't work or earn their own money and are absolutely dependent upon the benevolence of adults to survive.  In every aspect that you can think of, children are understood to be second class citizens.

In the linked video, one person commented that they would have spanked the victim as well, if they were owed that kind of money.  People are always looking for a way to justify violence, as though it doesn't cause emotional and physical harm to the victim because admitting the truth, would be a reduction in privilege and power.  Whether it's the daily spanking of children or Kronenberge's alleged assault, this all comes down to power and a desire to express it in the most heinous manner. 

I sincerely hope that Kronenberge's victim gets the justice that he is due, but I also hope that this will spark a conversation about the irony of the state punishing a man for spanking an adult male, while condoning and supporting the spanking of children.  It's time for society to start challenging those who use their power to oppress.  It's time for all people, regardless of their various statuses to finally be treated with basic human dignity.