Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Paranoia Ends the Ice Rink

It is a bit of irony that just as YoungerWorld is doing a reasoned post on Questioning Child-Friendly Environments a news story comes out examplifying everything that is wrong with the very supposedly "child-friendly" approach. In a reversal best fitting of Orwell, things that are "well-meaning" become in fact very destructive to communities when they are motivated by paranoia.

One has to wonder if pedophiles are really to blame for dismantling the prospect of this ice rink, or if that was more done on the knee-jerk alarmism of a few preventionists. Paranoia this great can only hope to be stopped with a dose of rational thought and common sense.

Plans for a Christmas outdoor ice rink in Bath have been scuppered over fears it could be used by paedophiles to groom children.
Firstly, the proprietors of the St. Johns Prep school might have something to hide. The charge is so senseless it's hard to take their reasoning seriously, and we're forced to consider if there were other factors at stake in their decision. The threat of child molestation is a common scapegoat these days. Secondly, grooming is not going to happen in a public place out in the open. The only perceivable harm that could come out of allowing an ice rink to be built is the chance of it being a scoping ground. This fear is unjustified though, because any public place is a potential scoping ground, whether it's the surrounding parks or the grocery store.

More disturbingly, seeing as 50 percent of child molestation happens within the home by family members, getting an ice rink pulled isn't going to protect the majority of children from abuse anyways. What is unfortunate is that these things happen at the same time others are complaining children need more outdoor activities and less indoor screen time. So one has to wonder who's interests are really being served here.

Brian Cleary, director of Sygma Events said: "We feel that the child protection issues have been used beyond reason and the location for the rink poses no additional risk to children beyond the already busy Bath Leisure Centre, rugby and cricket clubs which are in close proximity to the school."

"It is more likely that with a well staffed and CCTV controlled rink the area would have been a safer environment than at present.

"It comes as a great shame when something as fun and innocent as an ice rink can be thwarted due to unfounded suggestions by a minority with a misguided agenda."

All this amounts to is another blow against normal childhood environments. Hopefully the generation growing up in these places won't be as ignorant as the older one has become.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Boy Meets Girl, Boy Gets Arrested

A middle school girl takes a naked picture of herself and sends it to a boy as text message on his cell phone. The 13-year-old boy gets caught with the image on his cell phone and is arrested for child pornography possession. The girl does not face any charges for the production and distribution of said "child porn," and it doesn't look like she will.

Here's a news story regarding this injustice.

If anything could represent the injustice of the sheer hypocrisy of the legal definitions regarding youth, this story covers almost all the bases for any rational argument against them in and of itself. First, we realize that child pornography laws do not protect children when they have the pornography in their own possession. Second, we realize that children are not always the victims of child pornography, sometimes they are the photographers themselves.

Thridly, we realize that children can be criminalized and otherwise held responsible for things they are not legally able to comprehend--that they can have these ridiculous laws out to protect them against being the victims of child pornography on the basis that they can't comprehend sexuality, but they can be held responsible for being sexual if it is convenient for arrest and conviction. Lastly, we realize that justice is not fairly executed in the state of Texas (not a shocker), that girls are not given the same treatment as boys, and that one boy can be targetted when it was multiple boys that this so-called child pornography was sent to.

“I know some girl was taking pictures of herself and sending it to multiple guys. Obviously, they’ve still got their picture on their phone because they are now getting in trouble,” said Bethany Mitchell, a classmate.

So far only the 13-year-old boy has been arrested.

If they are going to execute this ridiculous charge, they might as well have executed it fairly. Otherwise, this is just another example of how normal childhood and youth relations are increasingly being criminalized and made illegal. It's just part in a long chain of injustices carried out against a demographic that does not have the legal right to protest these actions. They are criminalized, and held responsible, but not considered incapable of responsibility when it can't be used to get a conviction. This is sheer hypocrisy. Youth are sexual beings, if you criminalize their sexuality, you are criminalizing their humanity.

This is unacceptable.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Commercial Childhood, or To "Serve" Kids

...on a plate.

There's nothing wrong with making money by marketing to children in and of itself. The problem is that children aren't given the freedoms in society at the same time they are expected to be consuming. In the eyes of the money-makers, this makes them a prime resource that can be easily manipulated and can not "complain" least not officially. This is not to say that children don't complain, it's just the child's been turned into a commodity, who's use value only stretches as far as their parents buying power can persuade. This renders their complaints on deaf ears.

"I have been assured by a very knowing American of my acquaintance in London, that a young healthy child well nursed is at a year old a most delicious, nourishing, and wholesome food, whether stewed, roasted, baked, or boiled ...” -Jonathan Swift (1729)

Now of course Swift was writing in jest when he made these comments in A Modest Proposal: For Preventing the Children of Ireland from Being a Burden for their Parents or Country, and for Making them Beneficial to the Public, and certainly in protest of other economic conditions.

But such a scheme is not so far fetched in the minds of those who exploit children as a means to satiate their own ends--for society has not considered the willpower of children, or even acknowledged it. They make children a victim of exploitation simply by not allowing them the autonomy to fully consent to their exploitation.

When people speak of child exploitation, they are normally thinking of those rogue members of society who are out to abuse children in some physical way--child molesters. The term exploitation, as far as children are concerned, almost always deals with the physical well-being of children. Could it be said that we have come to this ultimate narrowing of the idea of child exploitation because it has not officially recognized yet that a child has an independent will that can as easily be exploited as their body?

In adult relationships, financial systems, and governments, it is well understood that exploitation is not always abusive. Often exploitation is consented to by the party that is being exploited. Exploitation simply refers to the act of using something as a means in order to achieve ends or other means. The exploited person can be someone as harmless as an employee, or something as harmful as a rape victim. In either case someone else is getting usage out of the person being exploited. Not only humans can be exploited, but objects, both tangible and intangible, and animals as well. The connotation for exploitation nevertheless normally is negative, meaning that when the word is used it most often refers to someone using something as a means for illicit, illegal or immoral ends.

However, when the idea of child exploitation arises, not only are all other intuitions about the nature of exploitation in general disbanded, but so is all rational sense. It is thought that child exploitation refers specifically to cases of child prostitution, rape, and other abuses regardless of whether the abuser is actually exploiting the child or not. Pedophiles exploit individual children at one particular instance, or perhaps set of individual instances. Marketing experts for companies exploit millions of children, if not all of them, in this country and globally at times, and at all times, throughout a child's development. But who are made to be the demons of society, and who are ignored by parents? Which one is more universally threatening?

There arises this thinking that children don't have the ability to be exploited mentally, or have their own wills alienated from them, because they lack the mental sense.

But the marketing experts know better, and have been exploiting children's will for many generations, attempting to turn kids against their parents, turning children into billboards for their products, and otherwise distracting them from their complete lack of personal say by fattening their minds up with self aggrandizing slogans about "empowerment" that have little realistic meaning outside their use as turning kids into good little consumers.

"The bourgeois clap-trap about the family and education, about the hallowed co-relation of parent and child, becomes all the more disgusting, the more, by the action of Modern Industry, all family ties among the proletarians are torn asunder, and their children transformed into simple articles of commerce and instruments of labour." --Karl Marx (1884)

Children do not work as they did in Marx's day, nor was the concept of childhood as important in his day. Children are not considered candidates for "physical" work, but they have assumed a new "social" utility in this day in age. They are both consumers and marketable, and they work very hard perpetuating the regime that spends millions to molest their wills, their brains, their interests and change their sense of self (to one that is consumer based), gender (to one that is boys vs. girls), their parents (to one that is kids vs. parents), their education, (to one that is kids vs. teachers), and their age (to one that is young vs. old) in ways that are beneficial to the profit motivation of the company.

These are ways that are often opposed to the way parents and schools want to socialize children of all ages and genders and personalities to be productive, observant, thoughtful, and self-regulated individuals. Children are converted into dollar signs, and set to work for these corporations as soon as they are marketed to and asked to go beg their parents for those certain highly-prized ticket items.

They are alienated from themselves, their parents, their society, and other children, who are forced to compete with each other for prized high ticket items in order to find some sort of validation with their peers, and all but otherwise distract themselves from the fact that society has not given them any other way to validate themselves. Such more personally constructive means are not profitable, and therefore discouraged in the laws, because supervisors and volunteers are dissuaded from working with children due to laws to combat the scourge of paranoia.

But let me stress a caution, these companies would have a lot less influence if a child was recognized as having a legitimate individual will. At present, they do not. It is not so much the fact that children ought to be protected from this change in the very definition of childhood, which Marx would have called "Bourgeois," it's that they should be empowered to use their individual wills to their own extents, and not be held so captive to the suggestion of their profit-motivated corporate overlords who have no collected interest in fostering the child's positive development.

The more children are protected from things that harm them to the point where they can not protect themselves, the more vulnerable they are to these influences. Furthermore, because children do not have a mind of their own to give consent, the only way this transaction can happen in childhood is if it is coerced. This is the same situation society holds against pedophiles and child molesters. However, it seems to believe so long as child exploitation without their consent (simply because they can't give consent to such things) is profiting someone monetarily, as opposed to any other way, is perfectly acceptable.