A whip for the horse and a bridle for the donkey,
and a rod for the backs of fools!
I don’t know if you remember, but there was a big story back in 1994 that got a lot of national attention. It was Michael P. Fay, and he was getting attention because he received the sentence of getting caned for vandalism he had committed in Singapore at the age of 18. There were a lot of Americans who were outraged because they thought it was cruel and unusual punishment. There were others who thought it was what he deserved because that was the punishment for the crime he committed in that country. Ultimately, his sentence got reduced from 6 strikes of the cane to 4 because American officials requested leniency.
I remember saying that if Americans got caned for vandalism, stealing and taking apart cars, there would be a lot less vandalism in America. Now that I’m older, and have some years of life under my belt, I’m still pretty sure that’s true.
I know that sounds harsh and cruel to a lot of us who are reading this post in America. But, let me speak from personal experience.
When I was a kid, I made a similar stupid decision. Under the influence of a neighborhood kid, I helped vandalize a shed and back door of a vacant house on our street. We found some paint in the shed, and painted the inside walls of the shed. I think we wrote our names. (I know, we were brilliant.) And then we were trying to get into the house, and threw bricks at the back door to try to get in. And it was about this time that we got caught by the owners of the house.
The worst possible thing happened. And it’s not what you’re thinking. The owners wanted to call the police, but they didn’t. They called my dad. I think I would have rather gone to jail.
Now, it’s not that my dad was abusive. It’s that my dad disciplined us as kids, and this was one punishment I most certainly deserved. Yes, I got a spanking. And yes, I got grounded for a week. And no, I never vandalized anything again.
And that’s my point. I acted like a fool. I did something very foolish. And I got punished for it. And I never did it again.
That’s the point of this proverb, when you do something foolish, you deserve to get treated like a fool. And you deserve to get treated like a fool until you learn to stop being a fool. Just like a horse will get treated harshly until it learns to walk the right way, so will we. But it’s a good thing.
It’s good because you want to be able to trust that the horse is going to get you where you need to go without throwing you off along the way. And as adults in society, we need to be able to do the right thing without screwing up the lives of those around us. Sometimes that requires harsher punishment.
But, if we start acting like with wise instead of the fool, it’s a good thing. To my knowledge, Michael P. Fay never vandalized another car in Singapore. Just as I never vandalized another shed. It’s a good thing.