Tuesday, March 20, 2007

In the Stocks

Remember from your American history class that certain form of civic punishment that was meted out in pre-Revolutionary America: the confining of certain citizens to the stocks in the public square?  The stocks were two planks of wood with three half-circles cut in them so that when put together, they formed three complete circles.  Into these circles went a person's head, and his or her two wrists.  Then the two planks were lashed together and set upon a pole near the cross roads.  People could come and jeer at the poor sap thus pinioned, and throw rotten vegetables at his face during the day, and at night perhaps lower his trousers and bugger him silly.  Punishment like the stocks was reserved for the most innocuous of offenders, someone whose crimes were the most minor of misdemeanors.  In those days all felonies were punishable by death. 

These days we don't ridicule our citizens with punishments like the stocks, do we?  Unless they're supermodels or ex-pop stars I guess.  Mopping the floors and scrubbing the toilets of a New York sanitation substation I suppose could be compared to public humiliation like the stocks, couldn't it?  Meant to demonize, to ridicule, to humiliate, not merely to deprive the person of time, liesure, treasure, and the fruits of their labor, but also their pride.  To remind them that they're not such big shots after all.  So remember that, the next time you're tempted to strike your maid with your cellphone.

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