Thursday, June 01, 2006

MORE HERESY from a leftist

Do you hate people who pretend that children are like adults, too? Who pretend to pretend that children are like adults. They know children aren't like adults and that's the reason they do it. They want to use them. It's not just those ironically misnamed "pedophiles" who most certainly don't love children. Advertisers, markerters, fast food and entertainment companies, youth sports and those sordid beauty pageants we found about when the little girl was murdered in Colorado, they don't love them either. All of them fall on the same continuum of adults and industries turning children into commodities and business opportunities.

Judges and the law too often go along with the pretense of the pretense. Pretending that children are little adults because that's how their bread is buttered. They pretend to be standing on high principle while allowing the violation of children's' most important right, to be protected from creeps and their business partners.

Children aren't little adults only because they're too small to protect themselves physically, they aren't able to reason at a level sufficient to see through con men. Even at the fairly advanced age of their teens they can't talk themselves out of doing the first dumb thing that seems attractive. If you need proof, just ask a public health nurse what happens to her teen pregnancy case load in the months after the carnival comes to town. Children being targeted by advertising are a lot younger than those. Toxic consumerism is turning out to be the major health threat facing children in the developed world.

The religion of free trade has successfully hidden some of the worst child abuse for profit. Children kept as slaves still produce a lot of what is sold here. It's not just the discount junk either, they produce some of the higher ticket stuff too. The trade in children as sweatshop workers isn't that far removed from the trade in them for sex, there is a lot of cross over between the two. When not enslaving children directly, their parents are kept from caring for them with long work hours at too little pay to feed or house them. That is happening here in the Unites States as well as across the third world. That is what is hidden behind the happy face of advertising and the trained voice of the corporate spokeswoman who WAS chosen for her gender.

Children are seen by corporations as either disposable robots for maximizing profit by cutting production costs or as easy marks on the consuming end of the production cycle. In the post Reagan-Thatcher world we live in the legal system and larger society threat them that way too. How bad are conservatives for children? Never forget, Thatcher blocked action that would restrict children being used as soldiers. Conservatives are filth.

The most important right that children have is to the protection of adults, their parents, their community and the world. For children that is more important than the entire Bill of Rights. Without it they have no life and no chance to pursue their own happiness free of deception and the worst forms of abuse. They have a right not to be lied to by mass media. This is so clear that it shouldn't ever have gotten lost. It might be prettied up in legal nice talk but too many law professors, judges lawyers and the constitutional purity industry have chosen corporate profits over the protection of children. Theories of freedom of the press concerning commercial speech are part of it. And that's over. If they insist on presenting my choice as between children's safety and Lady Chatterly's Lover, the book goes. Handing that crap over to the far right for them to throw against real, important First Amendment protections is one of the stupidest things that the free speech absolutists do. Theories of the market and its artificial rights are the rest of it and the far right isn't going to do anything to endanger those. Civil libertarians aren't so stupid that they can't come up with more nuanced ways to protect children and the right of speech while keeping corporate interests from deceiving us all at the same time. But it's not possible until you stop making believe that corporate "speech" deserves the same protection as the lives of real people.

Theories are supposed to help clarify the truth, not to shield degenerate behavior. Any legal theory that leads away from a society protecting every child here and around the world is the come hither call of a carny barker and a brothel Madame. Corporate lawyers and spokespersons who tell these lies don't belong on the morning shows chatting with Diane and Matt, they belong on the grainy footage of the Dateline camera.

Judges and the law too often go along with the pretense of the pretense. Pretending that children are little adults because that's how their bread is buttered.

One of the things that bugged me most as a kid was the whole "kids doing adult crimes should do adult time" movement.

When I was a kid, I wanted to be treated in accordance with the maturity I felt I possessed. In particular, I felt that, since I kept up with politics, I should be treated like an adult and be given the right to vote. When I complained about this, people would say "well there are other ways for you to get involved in politics" -- but I did not want to get involved in politics per se, I just wanted to have my say.

I was a responsible, generally well-behaved kid ... yet did my responsibility allow me to be treated as an adult? No! And perhaps this was correct after all even I surely wasn't ready for adulthood.

And yet, what irked me, was that even as I, having IMHO "earned" some of the rights of adulthood by being responsible and well-informed, was treated as a kid, those who demonstrated their irresponsibility and lack of maturity by committing horrendous criminal acts were precisely those kids society thought were deserving of "adulthood". I couldn't help but think -- "who do you have to kill around here to be treated as an adult".

I thought, and still think, that it sends the wrong message to kids, who long to be treated as adults, that we treat kids as adults precisely when they demonstrate a lack of adult responsibility. While, for practical reasons, it is important to, e.g., give kids certain adult protections for doing adult things (e.g. the ability to obtain birth control or abortions on their own -- I don't want a girl to have to beg her father not to knock her up or to have to face a scary legal system in order to avoid that begging), I find the "children who do adult crimes should do adult time" movement, etc., to very definitely send the wrong message to children.

OTOH -- it would be interesting for someone like Rev. RMJ to step in and give us a little cultural history lesson about "childhood".

As to the issue of what children are exposed to, though -- I tend to think today, even with our "permissive" "sexually explicit" society, we still shelter our children more than throughout most of history. After all, for most of history kids lived on farms and saw a lot of ... well, hot animal sex. Plus families lived in one room houses and had lots of kids ... think about it for a bit ... I am not saying how things were done in the past is always right (I am not that conservative), but people in this country who are afraid of what kids are exposed to nowadays (especially the so-called "conservatives" who dominate today's political right but who really don't want to conserve much of anything good) maybe should have some perspective on what kids were exposed to in the past. Again -- not that that makes what kids are exposed to today OK ... but it may not be such a big deal compared to what kids have survived for eons.

Maybe when I become a father (rather than merely the presumptive father of my girlfriend's adopted daughter) my views will change ... but maybe not even then ...
alberich, I'll never be a father but I hate what is done to children for profit. I know it was probably as bad or worse in the past, a reading of Songs of Experince would show that. But children need to be protected. It's one of the most important things that a society can do.

I can't believe that you were a bad kid. I on the other hand was a brat.
By the way, alberich, I chose this template because the comments seemed to be too complicated for the average troll to navigate.

I think that plan might have worked too well.
Everyone thought I was a good kid.

I was really a brat.
Now, that's what I call a successful childhood.
Interesting post and discission...

I attended the Bat Mitzvah of a friend's daughter last week. After taking her place to read from the Torah (which she did flawlessly-two years of Hebrew School), she announced with great solemnity:

"Now, I am a woman."

She cannot vote, leagally marry in my state, or get a job, but in her religious tradition, she now claims and is accorded the responsibility of an adult.

IIRC, childhood as we know it (extending into the late teens)is a relatively recent (19th century?) western phenonmenon.

M friend's thriteen year old daughter is a bright child, no more consumeristic than average and considerably less than most, as her family places a low permium on conspicous consumption of any stripe. She is not an adult. A century ago (well, she wouldn't have been Bat Mitvahed...), her statement could have been much closer to the truth.

Have children changed and society, recognizing that, changed with them? Or has society changed and in turn dictated, to its immense profit, that children will be children longer?

I don't want to see the return of ten year olds in factories or on farms, by any means. But I wonder sometimes, if we've set the bar too low for our children and mae them more vulnerable to the vast network of exploiters that are out there.

Its something I've been going over with my husband and fourteen year old daughter, with my eleven year old daughter listening intently. How much freedom is to much for a young woman to have? At what point does valid parental concern cross the line into isolating overprotectionism? Could I live with my daughter making the same kinds of mistakes I did and just hope she's as lucky as I was?

Its like playing vegas odds to just allow your child to experience growing up. Curfews gonna stand and companions will be fully vetted. Computer and TV viewing receive moderate, unannounced monitoring. Her room is her castle, unless I have suspicions backed with evidence.

Etc., etc.

Its hard to let them go, but to do less is an injustice to the person they have the potential to become.
How much freedom is to much for a young woman to have? At what point does valid parental concern cross the line into isolating overprotectionism? Could I live with my daughter making the same kinds of mistakes I did and just hope she's as lucky as I was? left rev.

I don't have children but I do have nieces and nephews. I have recurring dreams in which they are lost or in danger or running away, just last night as a matter of fact. One of my nieces was severely mentally ill from an early age. We didn't recognize it as an illness until she was about 10 and didn't handle it well. She died when she was 30 after sixteen years of horrible sickness including eating disorders. Going through the experiences with her, and the rest of the children has taught me more about the responsibilities of adults to children than all the words written on constitutional rights put together.

One thing I've learned is that a society that doesn't face the obvious truth that children require more than the rights included in the constitution will fail them. One of those is that they can't think on an adult level. They require protection and the consequences of not giving it are horrible.
left rev. I left off something. It's scary being responsible for children and I'm just an occasional baby sitter ("uncle strictest", I'm know as around here). The world is becoming increasingly child hostile and so good at seducing them away from even the best efforts to introduce them to common decency and common sense. I wish everyone the best.
She cannot vote, leagally marry in my state, or get a job, but in her religious tradition, she now claims and is accorded the responsibility of an adult. - Left Rev.

Actually, in our tradition (well actually in our tradition I shouldn't be at work but rather I should observing the holiday today) the age of Bar or Bat Mitzvah is only the age where you are considered an adult for the purposes of being accountable for following Jewish religious law in general. There are many cases (I forget all of them at present) where, in Jewish law, one must be 18 (the Hebrew letters representing the number 18 spell out "Chai" which means "life") to be considered a full adult. Judaism never considered a 12-13 year old senior enough to have all of the responsibilities or privaleges of adulthood. Judaism only considers children at such an age old enough to be accountable in matters of ritual observance.

Actually, back in the day, adulthood usually coincided with puberty which, due to poorer macronutrition, usually occurred at an age old than with which we associate in now. The age of Bar/Bat Mitzvah is kind of a lower bound on the traditional age of puberty -- the idea is that one must be ready to take on the responsibilities of adulthood before it hits and must demonstrate in ritual terms that one can do so. But one doesn't actually have to take on those responsibilities until one is sure to be near complete physical maturity (18 even in those days was almost always post-pubescent and is near the end of adolescence as marked by the age of one's latest "normal bedtime", typically around 20-22).

As for further discussion of these matters, which olvlzl and left rev seem to have touched on nicely, didn't we have a long discussion on this subject at Adventus a while back?
the age of Bar or Bat Mitzvah is only the age where you are considered an adult for the purposes of being accountable for following Jewish religious law in general.

I'm sorry I wasn't clear enough, Alberich. That's what I meant.

Just as an ending note to all of this-I am disappointed that thre are so few rituals, such as the Bar/Bat Mitzvah, to mark significant events as a child moves slowly into adulthood. The Chirstian "equivenlent" (and very roughly at that) would be Confirmation, the time when they "confirm" the vows made at their Baptism, or choose to accept Baptism for themselves, and join the Church as a confessing member. The last class I had the privilege to teach was only ten weeks long. Not near enough, in my mind, for kids in the sixth -eighth grade to explore the tradition thouroughly and to determine for themselves if they are ready to make that committment. It is, in many churches, a pro forma thing. I think it is very important to mark these milestones in a oyung person's life, or they may never realize when they are adults.
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