Hazing News

Golden Heart Tales: David Eastman’s immodest proposal is a case of Juvenal Delinquency

A Modest Proposal For Preventing the Children of Poor People From Being a Burden to Their Parents or Country, and For Making them Beneficial to the Publick,” commonly referred to in English Lit as “A Modest Proposal,” is a Juvenalian satirical essay written and published anonymously by Jonathan Swift in 1729.

After Parliament rebuffed his efforts to assist starving children, Irish writer Swift channeled his ire into this satirical pamphlet recommending butchering and eating children as a smart solution to solve the country’s famine woes.

When I heard that Wasilla Rep. David Eastman remarked that the death of a child might be of a cost benefit to society, I went online for myself to hear his off-the-rails — er — off-the-cuff spiel to an Alaska House Judiciary Committee.

Surely, this had to be bitter and ironic Juvenalian satire, I thought.

Swift’s target was his nation’s landlords who were gouging the poor. Many malnourished children died of hunger as the result. Swift’s tongue-in-cheek solution was to let poor children plump up and get nice and fat for later serving at the tables of the wealthy.

“A child will make two dishes at an entertainment for friends, and when the family dines alone, the fore or hind quarter will make a reasonable dish, and seasoned with a little pepper or salt, will be very good boiled on the fourth day, especially in winter,” mused Swift. “I have reckoned upon a medium, that a child just born will weigh 12 pounds, and in a solar year, if tolerably nursed, encreaseth to 28 pounds. I grant this food will be somewhat dear, and therefore very proper for landlords, who, as they have already devoured most of the parents, seem to have the best title to the children.”

Alas, it turned out that, in actuality, David Eastman was just not very Swift. I was wrong. It was merely a case of Juvenal delinquency.

Eastman’s diatribe, which I’ve titled “An Immodest Proposal,“ was to basically note that, oh well, we’re going to lose a few victims of child abuse along the way, but hey, it ain’t all doom and gloom, no sir. The abused victims, asserted Eastman, should be considered a “benefit to society” and a “cost benefit to the state.”

At this point, humor eludes me.

Hopefully, upon reflection Mr. Eastman now sees the stark horror of his remark. One death of an abused child is too many. To think the death of many abused children might save the state money is just plain wrong, wrong, wrong.

The House voted Wednesday to censure Rep. Eastman by a vote of 35 to 1.

“Alaska Native children make up the majority of foster children in Alaska and deserve the best we can provide to help ensure they are safe, healthy, and able to succeed,” said Rep. Maxine Dibert of downtown Fairbanks. “I am grateful my colleagues stood together to censure the representative.”

Amen. In fact, so abhorrent is the very idea of chalking up deaths as a cost saver that not even Jonathan Swift would have made such a proposal in jest.


Link to Fairbanks Daily News-Miner column

By Hank Nuwer

Journalist Hank Nuwer is the Alaska author of Hazing: Destroying Young Lives; Broken Pledges: The Deadly Rite of Hazing, High School Hazing, Wrongs of Passage and The Hazing Reader. He has written articles or columns on hazing for the Sunday Times of India, Toronto Globe & Mail, Harper's Magazine, Orlando Sentinel, The Chronicle of Higher Education and the New York Times Sunday Magazine. His new book is Hazing: Destroying Young Lives from Indiana University Press. He is married to Malgorzata Wroblewska Nuwer of Warsaw, Poland and Fairbanks, Alaska. Nuwer, former columnist for the Greenville (Ohio)Early Bird, finished a stint as managing editor of the Celina Daily Standard to accept a new position as managing editor of the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner in Alaska.
Nuwer was named the Ohio Society of Professional Journalists columnist of the year in 2021 for his “After Darke” column in the Early Bird. He also won third place for the column in 2022 from the Indiana chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. He and his wife Gosia, recently of Union City, Ind., have owned 20 acres in Alaska for many years. “The move is a sort-of coming home for us,” said Nuwer. As a journalist, he’s written about the Alaskan Iditarod sled-dog race and other Alaska topics. Read his musings in his blog at Real Alaska Daily--

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.