Sunday, March 29, 2009

Pedophobic UK Police State

At least the critics are already harping on this one. It seems Scotland Yard has come up with a new way to turn the United Kingdom from a country where crime happens to a country where crime is the axis upon which their society functions and revolves. Gary Pugh, director of forensic sciences at Scotland Yard, and ACPO spokesman, wants to register all children in the UK as potential criminals, rating them based on risk factors, genetic makeup (from DNA), and other supposed causes of conduct disorder and criminality ("the younger the better" he explains).

Under a Pugh society, every child, as young as five, would be DNA screened to identify potential future offenders, and dealt with (hopefully) appropriately to safeguard society from the "potential" harm they could "potentially" cause. Apparently the UK isn't strapped enough as it is trying to deal with actual criminals who are actually out harming society, apparently it has plenty of time to start going after people who haven't committed any crimes yet.

Thank goodness universal sampling is at current prohibited by logistical concerns.

Pugh's call for the government to consider options such as placing primary school children who have not been arrested on the database is supported by elements of criminological theory. A well-established pattern of offending involves relatively trivial offences escalating to more serious crimes. Senior Scotland Yard criminologists are understood to be confident that techniques are able to identify future offenders.

Readers of this blog may remember I wrote on a strikingly similar practice within the United States that is nowhere near universal or even talked about as being universally necessary, but is problematic nonetheless, the Mosaic2000 controversy. The word "pedophobia" was introduced as the explanation for this need to vilify youth, as stemming from an irrational fear of children. This commits all the same sins, but is being talked about in the UK as universally necessary. That's your first sign of trouble.

We've seen countless times how trivial misbehavior has been seen as criminal, with kids being suspended and even arrested for such behavior like pointing a breaded chicken finger at a teacher and saying "pow pow pow," and for farting during class (it happened again too!). If this is what they mean by "trivial offense" then I don't see the crime rate dropping in the UK any time soon, if the US and UK make for a good comparison. Now do these trivial offenses make the student a criminal or does actually doing a crime make the student a criminal? Under a Pugh society, both would. You don't have to be a criminal to be a criminal, all you have to be is alive. One you make a trivial mistake (as a young person), criminological theory states that you will be the next serial killer.
Chris Davis, of the National Primary Headteachers' Association, said most teachers and parents would find the suggestion an 'anathema' and potentially very dangerous. 'It could be seen as a step towards a police state,' he said. 'It is condemning them at a very young age to something they have not yet done. They may have the potential to do something, but we all have the potential to do things. To label children at that stage and put them on a register is going too far.'
Well said Chris. An issue related to stigmatizing youngsters is that normal childhood and adolescent behaviors, such as disobeying parents or the process of individuation (otherwise called "teen rebellion") could be reinterpreted as acts of pathology if a child should be labeled from such a young age as a potential criminal. These children's behaviors are stigmatized and attended to as if they were pathology, while the children exhibiting no signs or symptoms of such pathology are more and more ignored as trust in the "database" for locating criminals increases.

So why would they go so far as to stigmatize children under the pretense that doing such would make society safer? The article reveals the real answer:

Pugh, though, believes that measures to identify criminals early would save the economy huge sums - violent crime alone costs the UK £13bn a year - and significantly reduce the number of offences committed. However, he said the British public needed to move away from regarding anyone on the DNA database as a criminal and accepted it was an emotional issue.

It always comes down to penny pinching. In hard economic times it's easier to incarcerate, criminalize, and marginalize youth than to spend large amounts responding to their needs when they act out or resist authority. Furthermore, it's not entirely clear the plan would even reduce the number of offenses committed, seeing as it is much more common for a man of Pugh's age to commit a crime than the five-year-old he wants the DNA of, and by focusing all the resources, money, and manpower on ranking every child in the UK on a potentiality scale for criminality based on what their DNA says, aren't we forgetting those who are actually out committing the offenses?

Last week it emerged that the number of 10 to 18-year-olds placed on the DNA database after being arrested will have reached around 1.5 million this time next year. Since 2004 police have had the power to take DNA samples from anyone over the age of 10 who is arrested, regardless of whether they are later charged, convicted, or found to be innocent.

See, it has nothing to do with averting crime, protecting the innocent, or any of the age-old excuses. That's no surprise. If it did, it wouldn't continue to treat the innocent as if they were criminals. It seems the authorities are always ready to classify an individual as a criminal at the slightest move, and even before they've done any criminal acts (as a potential criminal), but when a person is innocent of a crime, they seem less vigilant about restoring that person's classification as an innocent human being. It has nothing to do with guilt or innocence. The governmental agencies in the UK simply want to shepherd their flock, "the younger the better."

It's time for some honesty in the UK. Terrorism has deeply affected the psyche of everyone in command, and they've discovered more and more ways of exploiting it to control, monitor, and subjugate their population than any other free country Earth. Those measures they haven't taken to yet, they are dreaming of each and every day, and they have no reservations against turning their own children into terrorists either. Of course, the majority of the British public knows better.

The question is, for how long will they be able to voice their dissent?

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Alfie Patten Not the Father

The awaited DNA results for the "schoolboy father" Alfie Patten have finally been reported to the press, and it says that he's not the father after all. Alfie Patten was announced to be the father, at the age of 13, last month in a media firestorm that swept the UK. Conservatives decried the country's slipping moral standards, people expressed concern for all involved, social workers swooped in and supposedly didn't provide enough support, and some people made or stood to make a whole lot of money from courting the media and perpetuating the blitz until a wise judge put a stop to it.

Let us reflect on what made this story such a sensation after all, and the real problem with society that had a hand in creating it. Teen pregnancies are not such a rare occurrence that they inspire swarms of journalists to go out and pay handsomely for exclusives and in-depth coverage, and interviews--much less inspire the levels of corruption and exploitation that occurred in this case. Throughout this whole affair, it was the adults who acted with indiscretion, not the two youth in question. The mother of the baby, Chantelle, gave birth to a child, fathered by some young man. From this fact, the whole thing was blown out of proportion as almost every adult in the picture rushed in to capitalize on the UK's ageist reactions to this news to emotionally crushing levels. We can only hope that Alfie is able to pull through this after the devastating let down he's been forced to be dragged through.

He's been demonized and picked on all over the world, made a symbol for all that is wrong about society, and all because his "young looks" were selected based on their ability to "sell the story" to an age-suppressed society like the UK. Furthermore, now that it is known for sure that Chantelle has not been faithful to Alfie, she'll be demonized not only for having unprotected sex, but for having sex with multiple partners. It's clear though, that none of this should of ever happened--not so much the pregnancy itself, but the media firestorm surrounding it. Teens get pregnant every day. They are biologically capable of this. The only thing this proves is that though teens may not always be ready for the social responsibilities of parenting, neither is the modern world ready for teen parents.

Let's act cordially and extend our best wishes to this now undetermined family, to Alfie, and the families involved. Let's also hope that going forward, this whole incident has taught us, as a society, a valuable lesson in respect.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Free Range Kids

In this day in age, is a child walking 1/3rd of a mile to soccer practice such an irresponsible crime?

I just had to share something from the newest addition to my list of websites helping to make the world a better place for kids. It's a blog called Free Range Kids by Leonore Skenazy, subtitled "Giving our kids the freedom we had without going nuts with worry." It is these kinds of blogs that I consider to be part of the solution, the dialogues encouraged there strike at the crucial issues facing youth in this era of raving over-protectionism with some reasoned parenting and good judgment. Good judgment isn't leashing your kids, nor is it totally abandoning them--it's knowing their limits and allowing them to work within them.

This is where irresponsible Protectionism has gotten us:
Dear Readers: The following is an exchange I had earlier this week with a mom who wrote to this blog. It shows how those of us who trust our own eyes, and guts, and neighborhood, and children can get beaten down…and rise up again.

A WOMAN NAMED LORI WROTE: I went searching for your story after an experience last night. My 10-year-old son wanted the chance to walk from our house to soccer practice behind an elementary school about 1/3 mile from our house. He had walked in our neighborhood a number of times with the family and we have driven the route to practice who knows how many times. It was broad daylight - 5:00 pm. I had to be at the field myself 15 minutes after practice started, so I gave him my cell phone and told him I would be there to check that he made it and sent him off. He got 3 blocks and a police car intercepted him. The police came to my house — after I had left — and spoke with my younger children (who were home with Grandma). They then found me at the soccer field and proceeded to tell me how I could be charged with child endangerment. They said they had gotten “hundreds” of calls to 911 about him walking. Now, I know bad things can happen and I wasn’t flippant about letting him go and not checking up, but come on. I live in a small town in Mississippi. To be perfectly honest, I’m much more concerned about letting him attend a birthday party sleepover next Friday, but I’m guessing the police wouldn’t be at my house if I chose to let him go (which I probably won’t).

If you read on, you find out the mother recieved an apology from all who were involved in this needless incident. When you consider that things like this happen every day, you have to wonder how much of our society's resources are being used up on such things that could be out there preventing real harm from happening. Child autonomy is not a crime.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Boxer: Child Rights in the US

It appears that the new administration in the US has been inspiring some change of pace thinking on some old issues. Senator Barbara Boxer (D. Ca) is pushing the congress to finally vote on ratifying the UN Convention that has gotten away from the US for a number of a years. The ever-needlessly controversial UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Since this comes from Fox News, we know it is going to have a conservative slant. The title of this article, "Boxer Seeks to Ratify a Treaty that may Erode US Rights" could just as well be stated "Boxer Seeks to Ratify a Treaty to Ensure Child Rights." Since that is the core reason why the United States continues to be the only country with a standing government to not have ratified it.

Fears that it will erode US autonomy are unfounded, seeing as no other country has had its right to internal sovereignty violated in the 20-year history of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. It has nothing to do with how the US values its children, and everything to do with the all-too-typical US pattern of pathological paranoia over everything that could serve to make the world a more decent place. The low regard that many groups within the US have toward children only escalates the tension.

What are some of the real reasons the US hasn't ratified this convention though? Critics claim that the convention will override internal US authority and thereby "strip rights" from individual states, and even more absurdly, from individual parents:

"Whether you ground your kids for smoking marijuana, whether you take them to church, whether you let them go to junior prom, all of those things . . . will be the government's decision," said Michael Farris, president of "It will affect every parent who's told their children to do the dishes."

It does no such thing. Nowhere in the actual UN convention is there a clause that states how parents are to authorize their children do dishes. The document talks about rights children have as human beings, including the right to life, identity, education, opinion expression and to have them acted upon when appropriate, to be protected from abuse or exploitation, privacy (as such their lives may not be subjected to excessive interference), to have legal representation, and protected from capital punishment.

Furthermore, the Convention outlines parental rights as follows: "Parents have the right to exercise parental responsibilities." The failure to accept children as human beings in the US is not a threat to parenthood. It is an unfortunate side effect of the last vestiges of adult-centric thinking and typical US stubbornness.

The autonomy of the United States, nor any other country, is not threatened by this convention. There is no reason why the US can't ratify it but offer a "right to hold reservation against any part that conflicts with the rights of US states and territories." The Middle East in particular has ratified it with the expressed intention of reserving any part of it that conflicts with their Sharia Law practices. There are numerous other ratifying nations who have voiced "reservations" and even outright "objections" to particular and general areas where they feel doing such would violate certain autonomous rights within their country.

If there are any objections about this UN Convention, which generally holds true for all UN Conventions of this sort, it's that territorial sovereignty is too much a limitation on its powers, rather than it being a limitation on governments' rights. This is the only way it can be done, still remain effective, and not be too limiting on UN member sovereignty. The alarmist calls of "threats" are not justified. Consider how the Convention is being addressed in Canada.

The United States has already ratified two optional protocols of the convention, concerning child soldiers and child pornography. It's more than about time to ratify that children have basic human rights.

Luckily, though the US doesn't officially back the Convention yet, there is a silver lining:’s important to point out that the government’s attitude, and the high prevalence of physical disciplinary measures in American schools and homes, conceals the fact that many of the world’s most ardent campaigners for children’s rights are American citizens.

There is a Campaign for U.S. Ratification of the Convention on the Rights of the Child which is supported by partners from 29 academic institutions and 173 organizations, including the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Psychological Association. Many religious groups support it as well.

Friday, March 6, 2009

A History of Fences- Child Protectionism

As all manner of nightmare brewed in the dreamland of the adult popular consciousness, we failed to wake up and see objectively the harm that we posed to children in our trance. We invented institutions in society such as Protectionism that created beasts out of simple statements and then set out to save all children from the supposed evil they suggested was necessarily out on the prowl, lurking in the dark, hiding, waiting to pounce at any minute!

We felt powerless before the growing threat and were desperate to do anything to protect ourselves from having to fear any longer. Institutions were set in place to take care of that for us. Now we leash our children, drug them, lock them in, supervise their every move, restrict them from certain areas, set curfews to keep them in, build up fences around the play grounds three stories tall, and all manner of desperate acts to keep us from having to worry. The subtly here is that we know none of these actions truly keep them safe, and so we continually retreat back to our nightmares to dream up new ways to confine, control, suppress, and keep our young hidden from the light of day and subjected only to our darkness under the covers.

When children disobeyed us, retaliated, hit back with a vengeance, we turned them into a threat. Now it was possible that our children were not even safe from themselves, and only one wrong move could set one off on a shooting spree, cutting themselves and developing all manner of adult psychopathology in the process. We leveled blame for the threat at the audacity of our freedoms and set out to further criminalize, suppress, marginalize, censor, and dehumanize—not only against society but against our own children—to protect them from themselves. When they fought back, we fed them behavior altering medication, sent them to reeducation camps, arrested and incarcerated them in the adult justice system, censored their artwork and writings, enforced stricter codes on apparel and expression, developed technologies to track their movements, lowered curfews, latch-keyed, and gave them less useful playthings to distract themselves with until even those were considered a threat to children. Then we fought among ourselves about whether our own institutions originally set up for their protection were harmful to them, and used them as political weapons to advance adult agendas. When they fought back, we feared our children were threats to our children.

Making the matters worse, those so-called leopards were still out on the prowl, and were often able to utilize these institutions set up to keep them out, as well as utilize the children who formed their small resistance against it. Whenever you hear of how a child agreed to meet up with an online predator, as the media trumps up the incident to spread concerns of such a “growing threat,” rarely is the question asked why the child would agree to do such a thing that does not concern pinning the blame to yet another so-called social ill. It seems that as we build our fences three stories tall to keep the so-called evil from coming in, there’s nothing stopping a child from squeezing out the bend in the bottom. Thus, the institution of childhood remains intact just as the individual children within it remain free for the picking.

The reality is that fences built around children exist to keep the sanity of paranoid adults more than they do for the benefit of children. If we built a fence around a child, we can calm our trembling hearts that the child is safe from all external hazards, and then effectively divest our responsibility for the child to the devices. These fences replaced the human “protective circles” that used to shield the children in the midst of a threat out prowling. As paranoia increased the possibility that a threat could happen at any time, we entrusted the fences with providing that protection at all times for us, thereby killing our need to worry whether the children are safe so long as they are contained within it. From within the artificial circle, children are actually no safer, and perhaps even more jeopardized in the lack of caretaker regard. They are preyed on by whatever can manipulate the circumstances within the protective circle for its own ends, often producing economic gains for itself and still remain public approved—it is a “fence” after all.

The truth about our artificial fences is that they are merely an illusion. There are none that can be built high enough to protect all children from all harms all the time. It is about time the western world wakes up from the nightmare scenario and retreats back to that age of reason when we only concerned ourselves with actual harms on actual individual children, rather than assumed harms on phantoms. It’s about time we cease building these metaphorical fences as surrogate “protective circles” to stand in place for us. Human beings are capable of doing what a three-story fence can not—exercise responsibility for individual children and empower them to protect and feel responsible for themselves.

It’s about time we wake up and accept the fact that children get hurt, people get hurt, and focus our efforts on working with those individual youth rather than on building our three-story fences, child protection industries, and medical industrial complexes. Whether or not we can wake up and reverse our irrational behavior will be determined by how economically, politically, and personally convenient it will be to stop using fear tactics as a means to inspire movements in popular consciousness. Whether or not that will happen is a question of whether human nature can be persuaded.