Tuesday, February 21, 2012


I realize it has been a long time since I posted anything, but perhaps that will change soon. I've been keeping busy this past year with other projects, but I may soon return to this one with some new perspective. If there's one thing that's true about growing up, it's that if your perspective hasn't changed, it only widens. That's what I feel has been happening.

I thank everyone who has been commenting on all this backlog of postings.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Flash Mob Generation

It's been a while, but I just have to get this out.

The youth street riots in England show us what happens when government flat out ignores the needs of young people for too long. When government no longer seems to work for the people, regardless of age or social class, the people become disillusioned with it, and angry with it, and angry with the society that embraces it. The behavior of the rioters is reprehensible and by no means do I wish to endorse it, as there is no doubt it has nothing to do with legitimate protest. There's been a lot of speculation about the cause though, and a lot of accusations against indirect cultural influences, but no inciting incident or clear motivation can be tagged. This is simply because the uprisings are instead the inevitable product of years and years of pent-up social frustration with a civil society that has continuously sidelined the millennial generation.

It comes with great shame to me, being a member of that generation, that they have resorted to this, but while I can't endorse their unbridled destructiveness, I can at least sympathize with the spark of frustration that caused it. I seem to remember a year or so prior to this unrest, the UK government unequivocally shouting down mass youth protests--legitimate, non-violent protests--against the government's insistence on shutting down student loans and increasing interest rates on them, all while tuition in the UK is set to double by next year, and all while youth unemployment is up to 20% in the UK.

The old guard in government, who rode through college in the age of state-paid, free tuition, effectively see nothing wrong with sending young people out into the world with debts reaching up to six figures--and while that is good news for the same "old guard" special interests (who never have to share any of the fiscal burden), it is bad news for young people who would have to make the sacrifice. So the young people fought, and the government refused to listen, and when the government no longer listens, the young people got frustrated.

And they have a right to be frustrated, regardless of where they live. They have been given no reason to believe that government actually works for anyone other than the wealthy and the corporations, and it's because for decades the government really hasn't worked for anyone other than the wealthy and the corporations. With average citizens being unable to affect change against massive special interests who pay their way into politician's pockets, they lose faith in the system, they lose faith in democracy, and they lose faith in civil society. Once that happens, they constitute for themselves a civil disorder--and it may very well be a psychological release of pent-up energies, a joy ride of smashing and looting--but nevertheless, a riot.

What shames me about the riots is the indiscriminate path of their destructiveness, affecting small business owners and other private property in particular. These local merchants and residents did not deserve being so much as touched, as they had nothing to do with the government being unresponsive to the needs of young people. The young should have been using their social media to a call for non-violent resistance and organize walk-outs and sit down strikes. All they accomplished in pursuing violence was to throw their oppressive government into overdrive. Thousands of arrests have been made, and youth curfews have spread all over the world (Philadelphia for example). Instead of dismantling civil society, young people should stop it from being able to function. The government has to be starved by its disaffected until it realizes why it needs them.

If government no longer works for you, you ought to no longer work for it. It's called the social contract.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Increase Youth Right to Work

Missouri senator Cunningham wants to limit child labor laws in her state, and the critics are already making it seem like she wants to eliminate them all together.  It says nothing about "forcing" children to work (it will be an all-volunteer workforce), it says nothing about parental approval, it says nothing about allowing kids to work in dangerous environments like mines and quarries. All her proposed bill does is allow kids to work longer hours, and bars inspectors from checking up on the enforcement of child labor laws.

Maybe it's because the law has that word "labor," in it, which makes it sound like kids are being forced into the "labor" workforce and will be typically hauling boulders up hills rather than taking your order at the drive through. Or maybe it's because any mention of child labor laws inevitably invokes the image of the 6 year old black and white factory workers, and the idea that any tinkering will land us back to how it was 200 years ago. Neither of these gut reactions are true. More often than not, child labor time restrictions are an archaic hindrance on the job site--arbitrary time laws like "can't work past 5" (or whatever the hours are), make it difficult for actors who may need to film at night, for example. That's not exploitation, because often the kid wants to, but gets pulled off at the cut off regardless.

And if we're talking about exploitation, what makes it okay to "exploit" 14 year olds, but not 13s? What difference does a year make if we're talking about worker exploitation? That's a separate issue that's true for any employee of any age. 

Here's a summary of the bill as it reads:

SB 222 – This act modifies the child labor laws. It eliminates the prohibition on employment of children under age fourteen. Restrictions on the number of hours and restrictions on when a child may work during the day are also removed. It also repeals the requirement that a child ages fourteen or fifteen obtain a work certificate or work permit in order to be employed. Children under sixteen will also be allowed to work in any capacity in a motel, resort or hotel where sleeping accommodations are furnished. It also removes the authority of the director of the Division of Labor Standards to inspect employers who employ children and to require them to keep certain records for children they employ. It also repeals the presumption that the presence of a child in a workplace is evidence of employment.

It's simply allowing teens to work more than they're presently permitted to and that they shouldn't have to be kicked off the job just because the government says so. It beats them hanging around malls or growing up thinking that life is going to be handed to them on a platter with a Platinum charge card, or growing up feeling unable to determine their own circumstances. Nobody is saying that 5 year olds should be employable (because nobody would employ them), but at present, if one agrees to weed the neighbor's garden, everything is stopping them for being paid for the work (legally).

And of course we'll hear from people who will correctly claim that kids who work longer hours become less focused on school, but of all the things that are distracting kids from school, is being productive really worse? Let's swear off this notion that if kids aren't working they can all just go join "clubs or something"--particularly in an economy where those kinds of activities are quickly being slashed regardless of enrollment. 

Besides, you're not taking people's rights away by doing this, you're actually extending to them more rights. Although I do see that kids who are willing to work longer hours will outcompete more "traditional after school" -type workers, but this may be one of the first steps to giving youth the right to vote. The only thing I disagree with is the move to complicate inspections, which is a stretch.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Washing Out the Sand Lines

I can only imagine the typical conversation between a defender of artificial age limits and a liberationist ending one way--with an enlightened ageist. Those who defend artificial age limits do so because their imagination hasn't evolved past 19th century assumption. As an experiment, if you just present them with this statement by educator and advocate John Holt, you're guaranteed to hear a particular nuanced set of responses and be able to test the limits of their reasoning.

"I propose...that the rights, privileges, duties of adult citizens be made available to any young person, of whatever age, who wants to make use of them." -John C. Holt, "Escape from Childhood"
They will remark that children shouldn't have the right to vote, for example, because they lack the mental capacity for it. This wouldn't be such a bad argument if they were referring to the potential ways adults could scam children out of their votes, but this is not how they mean it. They mean it in the most simplistic way possible--that children shouldn't vote because they don't understand politics. The same goes for sex--children shouldn't have sex because they don't understand sexuality.

The liberationist will chide back with the rebuttal: what about a 17 year old one minute before midnight on the day of their 18th birthday (the year a child can vote in the United States)? Are they incapable of understanding politics right up to midnight on their 18th birthday? What causes them to be suddenly blessed with the ability and knowledge to vote? The same argument gets even more confusing with age of consent laws, where there is not just one, but hundreds of different age limits, where suddenly children are capable of having sex in one area, but a mile away across the border, the very similar children there are incapable. What manner of science could explain this phenomenon?

It will cause the ageist to scratch their head, possibly never having concluded that there's a difference between 2 year old children and 17 year old children that the law might have missed. In any case, the ageist will retort that they understand the confusion over the exactness and absolute nature of the "one minute before midnight" scenario, but will usually respond by saying, "it's not an exact science, but there has to be an age limit somewhere even if it doesn't match when a child is capable of voting." One should note that this already flies in the face of their previous rationale.

The liberationist will chide in immediately with an obvious rebuttal. If what the ageist said is true, that there in fact needs to be a set age even if it doesn't correspond to ability (contrary to the reason the ageist had given in the first case), then why does the age have to be 18? Why not move the age of majority in the US up to 20? Or how about 30, or 40? If we understand that the age limit is arbitrary, but also understand that it must exist anyways, why do we settle on 18 definitively?

The ageist will then come back with how 18 is closer to when a person is capable of understanding politics than 40, and will then normally pretend they agree with the liberationist by recalling particular teenagers who are far more politically astute than their own adult colleagues. They usually do this to show that they are not bigoted about young people, but it does nothing but add to the case the liberationist is making. It's simply the point in the argument when the ageist has run out of explanations, just before settling on the "it is the way it is" rationale, unknowingly forfeiting all their earlier assumptions.

Age limitations have nothing to do with human aptitude. They do not legislate human aptitude. They are merely artificial limitations invented by humans to keep other humans from participating in areas of learning and experience they'd rather reserve for themselves. Lifting age limits on children would not impose the weight of the adult world onto them, and thus become its own form of oppression as critics may suggest. Children who do not have the means, the mind, the capability, the maturity, or the motivation, to make use of the rights newly bestowed on them, such as the right to vote, simply would not vote--just as adults do when they have neither the means, mind, capability, maturity, or motivation to vote. Society has already made it such that adults who are deemed incompetent for any reason are not permitted to bare the burdens and responsibilities that would come with competence--there is no reason to believe that the liberated five year old would be treated any differently than the incompetent adult when it comes to running their own affairs.

In fact, what society fears is not that incapable children would be dumped with the pressures and responsibilities that come with human rights beyond their ability, it's that in granting them such rights, many more than previously expected may be found more capable than the adult world ever imagined could be. Adults would be in a real state of cognitive dissonance over their assumptions. While five year olds would be sure to fail a required driving permit written test, for instance, we may just find that fifteen year olds, rather than just sixteen year olds, are competent enough to pass it. Such a thing would be sure to send shock waves of fear through the hearts of adults who would like to maintain the millennia-old belief that they, modern men and women, are special among all living things. It would force them to conclude that they are not special just because they've reach some magic age of human fellowship, and that they spent a good many years squandering their ability in pursuit of a magic number.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Glenn Beck is a Bigot

Frankly, I don't care if you support the "Day of Rage" proposed for this coming March 12th or not. As far as I can tell, nobody can even find what Glenn Beck is talking about in this clip, and I've done some searching and haven't turned up anything. If there is to be a day of rage in America though, it ought to be every day--every day this far right bigot continues to be on the air. He's a mouthpiece for the John Birch Society, that's all there is to it.

So while I admit that I have no clue what he's talking about as far as any "day of rage" among America's youth, and can't even find information on it outside of Glenn Beck's websites and fanboy bloggers, what he says about America's youth here is absolutely without tact. He obviously doesn't have to worry about being a bigot, he's just playing to his core audience of senile boomers willing to believe the Communists are under the bed. And to think he calls young people stupid.

He's a lost cause.