Panopticism in Childhood

You better watch out. You better not cry. You better not pout. I’m telling you why. Santa Claus is portraying panopticism.

It does not have quite the same ring to it, but it is true. Yes, the most apparent example of panopticism embedded in our society stems from no other than the idea of Santa Claus. You did not expect that right, but now you see it so blatantly. To further prove my point, here are the lyrics of the famous song, “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town“. I will specifically point out the stanza, “He sees you when you’re sleeping. He knows when you’re awake. He knows if you’ve been bad or good, so be good for goodness sake.” If I did not know any better, I would not think this was about someone who brings joy and gifts. It is actually a terrifying concept when you take away the presents.

Realistically, this example is exclusive to children who believe in Santa Claus. Either way, the concept matches the definition of panopticism. Children are tricked into believing that they are being watched at all times, therefore forcing them to behave all of the time. Although the intentions of Foucault may be different from the parent’s intentions, they both trigger the same results. In many cases, parents take it a step further and threaten their children with the idea of Santa Claus by claiming that they will not get any presents. In this way, Santa’s panopticism is a more active rather than passive panopticism than Foucault’s. By this, I mean that the idea of a reward in Santa’s version of panopticism is more cruel than the prison version because in prisons, there is no negative reinforcement.

Now think about it. As a child, were you influenced to be good because Santa Claus was always surveilling you?

About Sasha

A realist passing through...
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