Time magazine has taken one of the first steps for the U.S. mainstream in recognising children as human beings. This long awaited attribution of children as a class is slowly but surely becoming reality as the mounting reason and evidence, from the studies of social sciences, is accepted by the more rational among us.
Undoubtedly, children deserve the most exceptional of rights. Who would deny that they are born into biologically helpless, vulnerable and completely dependent circumstances? They certainly cannot escape as can a wife from an abusive husband. For a child, escape is impossible. It is years before a child can find work, clothe, feed and/or support themselves. As with any dependency there is great power for those upon whom the dependent rely.
Today, we understand that slavery and wife beating are wrong. We understand that all relationships should be voluntary and that the non-aggression principle applies to both women, men and adults in all relationships. Yet despite these great progressions of social ethics, we still see that children are still not counted as people to whom these same principles must also apply.
We would not advocate beating a man in a wheel chair, but rather find it appalling. Yet even the man in a wheel chair is infinitely more free and capable than a child in terms of seeking justice against his aggressors and escaping that situation, not to mention the capacity to avoid similar situations in the future.
With this in consideration, we can surely accept that able bodied adults in abusive relationships have even more freedom to seek justice and escape than that of the disabled, who may also be dependent. Then add to that the overwhelming support of millions who cheer at the rousing encouragement of television’s most admired, Dr. Phil and Oprah Winfrey, and who but the cruel and heartless would criticise them for leaving those relationships?
With this relatively infinite level of freedom in comparison to children comes the relatively greater level of personal and moral responsibility.
Parents can choose to have children, children cannot choose the parents to which they are born. Parents can choose to keep the child or find more suitable parents, the children cannot choose for the parents to keep them, nor can they choose the parents who might adopt. Where there is no choice there is no responsibility, where there is no responsibility there is total dependence upon the responsible.
It is often said that with great power comes great responsibility, I would say that with great responsibility comes great power and that what we do with that power, be it good or evil, is a choice that once made, cannot be unmade.
When we imagine the fact that the relationships children have with others as they grow up depends heavily upon the model of their very first relationship with parents (and that of the parents with each other); we can also imagine what children learn when the only people on which they can depend for all these most essential needs in such a new and confusing world, violate their boundaries, exploit their vulnerability and initiate the use of violence against them.
What might children as victims in these situations learn about trust? As they become adults, what will they have learned about being vulnerable and how to treat others whom they find vulnerable? What will they do when they find people who need something from them? What have they learned about the world and what choices they should make once the tables have turned, and they have found themselves in power?
These are all things to seriously consider and while I have very strong contentions with the irony of statist solutions to this problem, I commend Time magazine on this bold leap forward from the dark ages of parenting history and celebrate another win in defense of the non-aggression principle.