“Cruelty is inherent in mankind” – George Ryley Scott

Freedom_of_Angels_Surviving_Goldenbridge_OrphanageIn chapter ten of “Freedom of Angels” on “Why the Cruelty?” – by Bernadette Fahy, she opens with a quote – by George Ryley Scott, ‘Pain and suffering sear deeply; they engrave in indelible letters on the tablets of human history.’ Bernadette F. spent many years after she left Goldenbridge, not only trying to overcome the influences that Goldenbridge left on her, but also tried to understand the harsh regime that existed there. She found it unfathomable as to what led adults in the fifties and sixties to treat children in such an ‘uncaring and destructive’ manner. She asks: “Why did so many of us in religious institutions, which were the organs of the State at the time suffer so badly?” She wanted it explained how such a ‘barbaric’ childcare system came into being, and why did it last so long. She reckoned that answers could be found in the history of the Roman Catholic Church; in the social, religious and political context in Ireland, and in the psychology of the human beings involved in such a system.

The second paragraph ‘The Roman Catholic Church’ begins with George Ryley Scott and his book The History of Corporal Punishment, where the latter outlines the role of corporal punishment in the advancement of Roman Catholicism throughout Europe. Bernadette says that he provides a very interesting overview of the growth of Christianity and of the corrupting influence of power. Much of what he says, she gathers is relevant to the story outlined in her book about the cruelty at Goldenbridge. She found his work invaluable in her attempt to understand the background of Goldenbridge. She goes on to summarise some of his ideas.

In light of the knowledge learned about the author, I decided to google his name. I came upon the following Review by Robert, which I think is very interesting, if not questioning. I don’t condone violence of any sort on any human being, but that does not mean that I should not be open to what other people, such as Robert, have to say, after all, he’s entitled to his point of view, and one can agree to disagree. Even if in ‘the mild form’ it appears warped to me. Nonetheless, if Robert thinks that ‘mild forms of corporal punishment’ in the ‘socialisation of youth’ is acceptable, or, as ‘a form of social control in schools, and in prisons,’ I have to completely part ways with his thinking on the matter. A human being has no right whatsoever to lay a finger on a human being in any way, shape or form without consent. A grown-up person has no right to use the strength of their physical body on that of any small or big child.

Cover of: The History of Corporal Punishment by George Ryley Scott

The History of Corporal Punishment

“Cruelty is inherent in mankind”. That early statement by Ryley Scott sets the tone of this book, which catalogues in grim detail hundreds of examples of the application of the instruments of flagellation to humans. I have long been a believer in the use of mild forms of corporal punishment (CP) in the socialization of youth in their maturation into adults, and as a form of social control in schools and prisons. My belief in the efficacy of moderate and reasonable CP remains unshaken, despite Ryley Scott’s barrage of horrifying and revolting anecdotes of humanity’s savagery toward its weaker or criminal members.

Ryley Scott’s thesis is that humans are fundamentally driven to assert power and control over their fellows, and that they will always express this power and control in an ungoverned, sadistic manner. To amplify the problem, he says, many humans readily accept this dominance in a masochistic manner, thus providing a moral and legal basis for the infliction of CP.

The result is a proliferation of rampant cruelty and sadism throughout all the ages of human history and in all societies across the globe. Since these impulses to power and cruelty are basic to the human nature, he argues, all forms of CP should be completely abolished.

Ryley Scott’s history of CP is quite exhaustive, covering the subject from the earliest of times, among tribes of savages, through the Greek and Roman civilizations, into the middle ages, and on to the present era (the twentieth century, 1930s).

[1948 7th edition] Reading his account of the medieval orders of Flagellants, I was amused by his mystification of this seemingly nonsensical and bizarre behavior. I suspect that a good portion of Ryley Scott’s incomprehension of CP might have been alleviated by our modern understanding of the biochemistry of the brain. This research has shown the presence of a class of protein-like molecules called endorphins that are highly effective in dulling, and even mellowing, the effects of pain sensations. Thanks to endorphins, if the pain sensation is carefully applied to the body, an opiate-like trance may be produced in the recipient.


The child which has been whipped into obedience is a pitiful object 

By George Ryley Scott
From The History of Corporal Punishment (1996) Pgs. 241-243

There has probably never been an evil of any description for which it was not possible to dig up some argument in its favour, some excuse for its continued existence. The justification for the existence or extension of a practice lies not in the fact that it possesses certain virtues, but that those virtues outweigh its drawbacks, or that it serves society in some essential form for which there is no alternative method available.

By no species of argument can anything of this nature be claimed for corporal punishment. Its evils, its drawbacks, and its disadvantages, as we have seen in the process of our inquiry, outweigh hugely and in every possible way, its few virtues–virtues which are based upon the most dubious foundations.

The true fundament of any value which corporal punishment possesses as a preventive of crime is the fear which it instils in the culprit–actual or potential. Now fear is a powerful deterrent. It operates in the child, and in the adult, in the most primitive of races and in the highest stratum of civilized society. But there are many kinds of fear. Fear of death is a necessary and valuable preventive of injury and suffering. Fear of displeasing one’s parents is an admirable trait in the child. Fear of alienating public opinion, and fear of losing one’s liberty or one’s social position, are powerful antidotes to sin and crime in adult society.

But the fear induced by corporal punishment belongs primarily to none of these categories. It is essentially and pre-eminently the fear of physical pain. It is the fear inevitably associated with suffering of a degrading, deliberate and debasing nature. Fear which is associated with and restricted to physical pain, as a punitive factor, possesses no true reformative power…

The individual, whether child or adult, who can be kept good or moral through fear or personal suffering only, is a pitiful creature. His reformation, or his good conduct, is purchased at a price which is as terrible as it is deplorable. His existence is that of a slave. In the time of the ancient Romans whipping was deemed to be a form of punishment more to be feared, because of its inherent degradation, than the death penalty. Its brand was emblematic of subjection of the basest kind. Through the centuries it lost few of its debasing features. Well might Lord Justice Mathew, the famous nineteenth-century dispenser of justice, say that “the lash is the punishment of the slave.”

The dog which has been whipped into obedience is an object which can excite nothing but the most profound pity in every person who claims to possess any humane feelings at all. It is a cowed and dejected creature, and once it has been whipped into such a state the recovery of its former spirits and courage is impossible. It is exactly the same with the child or the man whose morality or reverence for law and order has been whipped into him. If no other argument could be advanced against corporal punishment, because of this one reason alone, the case for its abolition would seem to be clear and complete.

Reprint the above as PDF at www.nospank.net/scott.pdf

Produced by Parents and Teachers Against Violence in Education (PTAVE), P.O Box 1033, Alamo, CA 94507-7033 US.


More Harm Than Good: A Summary of Scientific Research on the …

the Inquisitions, witch hunts and torture – Things They Don’t Tell You …

“Fear is the basis of the whole – fear of the mysterious, fear of defeat, fear of death. Fear is the
parent of cruelty, and therefore it is no wonder cruelty and religion have gone hand-in-hand.” Bertrand Russell

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