Sunday, December 28, 2008

The Protective Circle

It's been a while since I offered an essay. This is a work in progress, concerning how far off the mark the popular conception of child protection is. It has been postulated that more injustice against young people is done on the basis of this principle of "protection" than from any other force.


For children, there is no objective good. Often when people talk about protecting the innocence of children they assume there is one measurable standard of care that necessarily benefits them. This is in terms of popular consciousness, because any professional will attest to the fact that for children there are possibly endless forms of adult intervention that serve to benefit the individual child. Popular consciousness tends to deride certain interventions with children as necessarily harmful or helpful regardless of their observable effects. Acts that are considered helpful and those that are considered harmful are only schematic categories. The only undeniable proof of their categorical representation ought to be externally visible on real life children—not phantoms.

The child is nothing but a representation. If I were to say that children are harmed by sex, for instance, there is no specification of what children I am referring to, what type of harm is inflicted, to what degree the harm is inflicted, to what degree the harm can be reversed, and what type of sexual advance was administered. If these questions can not be answered, then what we are dealing with is a phantom child, a non-living spirit, a representation with no presence anywhere outside the mind, and an activity that also could be considered representational. What popular consciousness does is it replaces the real living and breathing child with a phantom representation, and asserts that some acts are necessarily harmful to it and that others are not. How can harm be inflicted on a phantom child? When we consider such statements as necessary truths, we show a great care for phantom children that we are depriving real living breathing children.

Killing Statements

The insertion of “perhaps” or “can” into our objective statements defang the beasts, but they still remain just as ravenous. The statement that children can be harmed by sex allows us to assert that some unjustifiable act, still of unknown specificity, has the potential to cause harm, still of unknown quantity, on phantom children. That is all well and good, but since real children are nowhere included in the statement, at the preference for phantoms, we are still forced to regard the objectivity of the statement as pertaining to phantoms rather than real children. Real children exist in the world of the living, not in the world of the imagination, or in the popular consciousness. One can not talk about what harms and what doesn’t harm, what threatens or doesn’t threaten children until one addresses specific examples of real children—the ones with names and faces. Otherwise, one is simply referring to phantoms.

To remove the maws and claws from this beast and truly render it limp, we have to strip away our preconceptions further. In other words, to keep statements from being harmful to children (seeing as that has become the justification for all human behavior these days) we have to back track to the foundation upon which it stands and rip the rug out from beneath it—to get it lying on its back. Simply adding in the precautionary clause “some,” as in some children can be harmed by sex, does nothing to slay the implication of the statement. We’re still forced to consider that only some phantom children can be harmed by sex rather than the whole lot of them. This is all well and good to know, but it should be real children we are concerned with, considering it’d be hard to prove a phantom child exists at all, never mind that such a spirit can be “harmed” by something we mortals do.

To fully lay limp this beast, we have to kill the statement. After we do so, we realize that statements can do no harm to phantom children any more than the acts that they imply, but to fully set our public consciousness toward assisting real children, rather than fooling around with these universal platitudes directed more toward spirits—it becomes necessary to kill the statement completely. To kill a statement, you simply propose to who specifically you are referring to. If you are making a statement in regards to a living entity, it ought to have a specific name and a specific face. If the object of the statement does not have either, then we are forced to concede that we have unwittingly created another beast.

Now the statement, for children there is no objective good, might be considered another beast, but it implies that very same source of confusion around marrying our constructions of reality to terms that is the focus of this discourse. It is true that our schematic representation of objective good is also a castle built upon a spider’s web just as much as the phantom children it focuses on, but it is not a beast because it doesn’t reference any supposed objective harm to those phantom children. What we are considering are statements that imply some objective harm to some general conception of children. The statement that statements are harmful to children is an example of a beast. Let's kill it.

Redefining Threat

The reason such statements can be considered “beasts” is an example of a human fallibility in preconception. In early human history, it became important to protect our specific offspring from creatures—real beasts, which could do real or objective harm to them. The savanna was a dangerous environment for the young of our species, as is nature—we didn’t need to have to state it to make it so. When the leopards were out prowling, it was understood what danger was actually there, it didn’t need to be conceptualized. Even if no harm resulted from a close encounter, it wasn’t a metaphorical representation of harm. It was a leopard. And when the young were placed in the center of the circle of armed guards, they were real live children, not a popular conception of children or phantoms. Somewhere in our history the popular values concerning “threats” to our children grew to become, on the whole, phantom beasts on the prowl for phantom children. One can easily picture a circle of armed humans in the modern world, protecting a pillar that is the universal representation of “children” (something faceless and formless—in the realm of ideas) from giant “pillars of evil” standing all around, also as formless and motionless.

While we arm the battalions to defend a formless entity from a formless evil (which has become the standard model of reasoning in this world of terror), one question I think crucial remains—where are the actual children and the actual evils? Over time in our history, as our civilization grew so did our awareness of harms to children, some which aren’t even physical, such as the leopard example. We have to realize that when research is done that connects a harm in the world to children, it is actually referencing a specific harm to a specific group or “sample” of children, and on those grounds, is actually a far more useful tool in discovering what is harmful from what isn’t than popular conception. It is by no means truly objective, but at least it recognizes its own fallibilities.

To Be Continued.

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