The Slap by Christos Tsiolkas


Originally from http://xamberfire.blogspot.com

Link: http://www.allenandunwin.com/default.aspx?page=632

The Slap is a new book written by Award winning Christos Tsiolkas, but I'm not just here to talk about the book and how good it is - truth be I havent finished reading it - but I watched an interview which he did (of which is a rough transcript of a section of it in the above link) and felt that perhaps there are a few things I would like to... get off my chest so to speak. This isn't criticism, just a 'conflicting perspective' I suppose you could put it.

Before I begin, people who have looked at this blog at all may perhaps realise that I am a young person myself - a more middling member of Generation Y. In the excerpt of the transcript, Mr Tsiolkas says: "I was writing a book about family, about the relationships between young people and their elders." This somewhat struck a cord with me since I see myself as a fairly conservative type of young person (I don't think you see that many these days though, really).

But I'm getting ahead of myself. Above all, the book is about middle-class suburbia. I have to admit that perhaps I am a little more well off than the characters presented in the book, but not necessarily. I am not Greek, Indian or simply 'Australian' but I have my own cultural identity. As an asian, and as Chinese, we perhaps have our own ways of discipline. For me, if I did something which was marked as 'bad' in my parent's book, then there were a number of possible punishments. First was the cane, which was a narrow piece of bamboo which she hit over out hands - front and back - if we were particularly 'naughty' (I put that in inverted commas because it wasnt necessarily like yelling or misbehaving - in fact I dont think I hardly ever did that much, it was mostly arguing with my brother, probably), and the number of times depended on the severity of what we'd done - or how loud we were, I suppose. So, from a young age, there was this discipline in our lives. If we didnt stop even with the threat of the cane, we would have to kneel (we were allowed to kneel on the carpet at least), not allowed to sit on our feet, and hold our earlobes, without putting too much stress on them (i.e. pulling on them, but who would with the threat of stretched earlobes?). When I spat out a mussel once because I really didnt want to eat it, I got the generally common punishment of no dinner.

But a recount of my punishments isnt what I'm here to say either (and staying up to say either). It's to make a point, either the cultural differences, once again, or perhaps benefits and disadvantages of discipline. In a way, I've always been afraid of the touch of a cane again and so seek to hide secrets from my parents, but in a way, I am always unfailingly polite to everyone. So in relation to my relationship with my parents, that isnt the greatest relationship ever, and I feel more fear on my part for doing something 'wrong' than anything - although now I'm more afraid of the yelling than the cane - but my relationship with my elders, I believe is superb.

I have had my own small share of experiences with the 'younger generation' so people of my age group like to coin it. Younger grades of children treat senior students without respect which seek for even us to go 'what has gone wrong with the world'. Most of my grade is also respectful of their elders, yet juniors in lower grades can push past us without bothering to say 'excuse me' or 'sorry'. Although not exactly weaned to be polite - I was never taught to stand up and give my seat or in certain mannerisms, but these are things which I have picked up of my own accord, perhaps because of this slightly irrational fear of 'adults'... initially anyway. (Ok, I wasnt afraid of being hit or anything, I simply found adults to be commanding and intimidating and they were to be obeyed almost without question).

"How was it that these young men had not been taught one of the basic universals of human culture, respect for our elders? Or was it best to raise a generation critical of their elders? What did the incident say about my generation as parents, mentors, teachers, citizens? The people that come off worst in my novel are my own generation, those of us at the tail end of the “baby boomers” or “generation x”. I will leave it to the individual reader to decide if I have been too harsh about their selfishness and myopia. I will suggest that the most hopeful voices are those of Connie and Richie, the young people. I did that deliberately. Young people get a bad press. I wanted to point that wagging finger at myself."
In a way I'm happy to see that the young people in the novel get a more positive light shed onto them, and yet also not. In a way, we ourselves are to blame for our behaviour. You can be raised in certain ways, but who is to say you cannot go out there and find out for yourself what is right and wrong. Upbringing certainly plays a strong part in it, but because I was hit occasionally (I know I make it sound like I was beaten or something, xD, but my parents were good, even if I feared that cane) doesnt mean that not I should cower away from all adult contact or something (hard though, seeing as I'm growing up). We form our own identity. I acknowledge this is hard in certain circumstances, but one shouldn't always try to move with the majority (if this paragraph is making much sense at all. I'm very sorry).

Something I dont think I have mentioned - I go to a public school. For sure, it's a Selective one, which means that it isnt the usual school with the usual rumours of vandalism and drugs and smoking in the grounds and so on, but we have our share of smokers even if most of us (me included) are much too ignorant to notice anything going on. I have seen girls smoking and been absolutely astonished. There's not such a great divide as we might think. I have friends from private schools and one girl who now attends my school attended a private school prior to year 7. Simply because of the stigma surrounding private school students says that these types of students are stuck-up isnt necessarily true. They act as normal as any other student that I know of. The only difference I can see with the school I attend and a so-called normal public school is that there is a lack of vandalism (from our own students) and drug-related issues, plus lack of boy-girl issues, as we are a single-sex school. :)

I know this discussion doesnt exactly run smoothly, but those are the issues I wanted to discuss. This cultural difference of course may play an impact somewhat, and all families will have their own way of discipline. The way I see it, no discipline is not a solution, but overly so is, of course, a problem. Overall, I would probably prefer my parents method: "strike fear into their hearts" than simply letting a child off and being violent. I see Hugo as being wrong, as may many others, whether or not that was or wasn't the singular purpose. A 'wild child' like Hugo who feels no qualms at kicking and hurting others and yet doesnt like to be hit himself is just wrong in my opinion. I am of the school of, you could say, what's fair is fair (I can't remember what I really wanted to day). If you inflict pain, you must be willing to recieve it. I like the question posed just after the slap. Was it alright for Hugo to kick and hurt people, yet it also be wrong for Harry to discipline the child with a slap?

I can see the instinctive reaction rising already. The first response is, of course, violent and aggressive. Perhaps its my own upbringing that makes me feel that a bit of shock in this instance would work - but what other way is there to discipline a 'hysterical' child? Hugo is beyond reason, there's no explanation for it, but he is simple uncontrollable unless he has his mother's nipple in his mouth. This image presented is off the molly-coddling mother and the kid who always runs to his mother. Overprotection won't do, but neither will leniency.

I dont speak from experience, how can I apart from facing discipline to myself? But I do have an imagination and a strong point of view towards the way 'elders' are treated. "Where has 'respect your elders' gone to?" What we all need to do, perhaps, is build up our EQ in order to be able to think rationally in such a situation. Of course, reason may not work, but hitting should be a last option. I, for one, see no real option, to be honest, in such a scenario apart from hitting the child and 'smacking some sense into him' so to speak.

Such a minor case is not assault. Bother the police with more important things. They have better things to do.

Just to get this off my chest, I feel that Hugo deserved that slap (and many more!) thoroughly! I may only still be a child myself, but I cannot stand out-of-control children like that - which is why I will never become a teacher. xD