Daisy stood in a meadow of tall flowers. Her sights settled on a blossom of such tantalizing beauty that for a moment it seemed like a princess with an entourage of loyal subjects in full bloom. She bent down to pick this flower princess from its throne in the garden court. What a stunning gown it had, with alternating petals of pink, deep blue and the purest white she had ever seen. The flower was like the sky on that sunny blue day, swirling with puffs of white clouds.The young ones are impatient, discourteous, reactionary, disruptive, and antagonistic to the variety of life. The older ones are nurturing, charitable, forgiving, mature, and grateful for the opportunities that life presents each morning—the innocent are either faulty or pure. The young ones are optimistic, wide eyed, concerned, willing to learn, gentle to the touch and excited by the chance of new discovery. The older ones are distressed, vulgar, depraved, deceptive, corrupt and disobedient—still, the innocent are considered either wanting or whole.
She felt a sudden tremor in the ground, and figured it must have been the flower court demanding their most precious princess back. In joy she began plucking the petals from this flower princess, counting to herself the rhythm of numbers she was practicing in school. The warm wind tossed her hair like gentle finger. Around her the birds chirped like a Sunday choir.
It was on the count of "eight" that she felt the heat. It was on the count of "nine" that the birds were silenced. She was deafened in an instant by the thunder in the clouds. She was blinded in a second by the light. And her breath drew still through the fire in the blast.
It becomes immediately clear that simple heuristics such as these can never adequately define or quantify the innocence an individual has at any given time in their life, whether they are child or adult. Any descriptor could just as easily be indicative of a child’s behavior or an adult’s behavior in the appropriate context. A child can just as easily knowingly disobey an authority figure as an adult can knowingly disobey a social law or a standard of morality, for instance.
Yet innocence carries with it a connotation of purity, an expectation that the individual under the stigma can do no wrong simply because they are considered not mature enough in their faculties to interpret the consequences of their activities. This presents a contradiction, for a child or an adult can not be both innocent and be knowingly aware of the consequences of their actions, as discussed above, and yet the innocence stigma is the one most commonly associated with children, regardless of aptitude or relative maturity. This presupposes that children, though biologically immature in relation to adults, possess neonatal or infantile cognitive reasoning and behaviors that are completely differentiated from those of adults, when it can readily be seen that even pre-operational age children are quite independent both in thought and action. So therefore, it is not necessarily the case that every child, regardless of age, is innately innocent.
If this is the case than why is it so common in the organization of our social constructions that children be treated as innocent, god-sent, or as possessing some benign part of human nature that other individuals have lost by some manner of social corruption? Why is it so necessary that so many provisions be made in our civilization for preserving the young, sometimes at the sake of the old, and oftentimes at the sake of the young ones themselves? Why does our society uphold the schemas of ageism at the sake of individual equality? Is it true that the innocence paradigm, in the case of children, is one thing responsible for why the world is so harsh for children to live in to begin with—the world outside the chain link fences? Is a Harsh World penetrating the bastion of security and corrupting children, or are children just born corrupted by the human spirit for which they share a piece.
Innocence is defined in a number of different ways. In the legal sense, a person is considered innocent when they are physically not guilty of a crime, and in most common law countries, are considered innocent via the legal system, which is considered a worthy criterion for determining physical innocence from physical guilt. Innocence also manifests itself as a label for non-combatants; that is, people who are in not involved in a battle. The soldiers in the battle are considered the combatants, and therefore are assumed to not be innocent. These conceptions of innocence are valid and intrinsic, because they can be objectively tested. One is either guilty of committing a crime or they are not, and such can be determined in a court of law. One is either guilty of doing a wrongful action or they are not, and such can be determined by whether or not they committed the fault. One is either a soldier or a non-combatant, and such can be determined by whether one is assigned to a troop, or one is a civilian. Another way innocence is often defined, as mentioned above, is in the form of another sort of intrinsic quality that is not be empirically measurable, but nonetheless is heuristically typified sociologically. It is this fact that makes this form of innocence so confounding.
For some reason, the same dualistic comparison is drawn once again to separate the childish realm of reasoning from the adult. This is the distinction I will focus primarily on, since it defines human beings not based on their position (that is, not by whether they are guilty or not guilty, or a combatant or non-combatant) that can be empirically determined. Rather, it seeks to define whole groups of people simply on their age, their relative amount of virtue or purity, amount of life experiences, life expectancy (the justification for the child’s prioritized status), and regards these people as intrinsic victims irrespective of the content of their life experience. The arbitrariness to this very common schema of human development poses serious questions about the legitimacy of innocence, and by extension, many of the provisions set aside for the explicit preservation of this trait in human life. A more satisfactory justification for these provisions requires exploration.
To quantify a person's relative innocence, cultures and individuals throughout history, from the Catholic Church to John Jacques Rousseau, have often appealed to certain criteria. These criteria seem like common sense but when understood deeper, they present inconsistencies and unintuitive results based on how our society understands child development in the modern era. All the following appeals are common arguments made to support the notion that children are more innately innocent than adults, or that children are the embodiment of innocence itself and adults have no affiliation with it. We will later see that this duality is mistaken, that adults and children are in almost every way similar, that their actions are relative in respect to the size of their inhabitable field, and because of that, they are relatively equal in the amount of innocence they possess.