Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Dads Photographing their Kids

You're a father of two children and decide to take them to the park for a family day out, and as you watch your children play on the inflatable slide, you decide to take some pictures of them enjoying themselves. It isn't long before you're stopped by some irate women demanding why you're taking pictures of kids in the park. You insist you're only interested in taking pictures of your own, and a park official gets involved. The women call you a pervert and continue ignoring what you say and claiming that you're just going to put the pictures on the internet. Meanwhile, your kids are left baffled atop the slide wondering what's going on.

This is the state of the UK these days, a society on the verge of, and in need of a serious wake up call. It's hard to overstate the paranoia over children in the UK, because not a week goes by where something doesn't land in the paper critical of the bizarre and sometimes downright insane hysteria afflicting its law enforcement, its government, and a very vocal minority of it's citizens. In this story, even the police agreed with the father and allowed him to continue his legal behavior at the dismay and shock of all those attempting to stop him. Even the park official backed off once she'd seen that he was indeed telling the truth, so the outrage here (for once) doesn't involve what actually happened as much as it involves why it happened.

The argument could easily be that hindsight is 20/20, and that there's no way of knowing beforehand what some guy with a camera is doing, but it shouldn't make a difference. It is legal to take pictures of anything on public ground. And if they were concerned that much, just having the park official ask and perhaps review his shots is enough of an intrusion (which is all the police and the park official did in this case). You don't have to stand there and fight with him and call him a pervert, or steal his camera and smash it (which didn't happen, but I wouldn't put it past them), or stand around shouting "pervert!" to alarm everyone.
‘This parental paranoia is getting completely out of hand. I was so shocked. One of the police officers told me that it was just the way society is these days. He agreed with me that it was madness.’‘
People react to the obvious non-threatening situations like these because they are oblivious to the truly harmful things around them. The truly harmful thing here is that actual kids are growing up in a harsh world that is created by adults for their own protection. This is not a protection meant for "actual kids" (as in, the two kids on the slide), but one meant for the protection of the adult's perception of "children": children are helpless, strangers are dangerous, anything is justifiable so long as perceived harms are thwarted and those that are perceived as helpless are percieved as "saved." As you can see, little of it has to do with protecting actual children from actual harms.

In a world where most child predation happens in the home, between relatives and associates the parents trust, people pay a whole lot of attention to this "stranger danger" phenomenon than it actually deserves. But what else is new? People are scared of things they don't know--things they know to be harmless, as far as they are concerned, are harmless (even if they're not). All a child predator would need to do, knowing this, is gain the trust of a parent, and then it seems they'd have free reign.

But we can't blame parents for this. Parents are made to feel, in such a society, constantly intimidated for bringing their children with them anywhere, they're alienated from their parent responsibility and served with all kinds of needless "safety devices" (tags, microchips, leashes, content locks) that promise to do the work of parenting for them, and then called "perverts" when they try to do anything with their kids in public. With all this hysteria, it's amazing most people out there seem to agree that it has gone too far.

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