Basic Human Rights For All?
As a culture, we demand the basic human rights of freedom from violence, oppression, physical threat, and discrimination. Unfortunately, we somehow fail to include children as a part of humanity.
It seems apparent that many of us are seemingly imprinted with the notion that children should be treated in a less respectful manner than other human beings. As a matter of fact, even some egalitarian and existential positions still fail to include children as a part of their philosophy.
Many of us find it extremely difficult to entertain the notion that children should be afforded the same basic human rights that we demand for ourselves. This type of thinking predominates in spite of the fact that it would seem logical to grant children a greater leniency and tolerance with regard to their daily behavior. In light of the innocence of children, and their lack of understanding or knowledge as to how they should behave according to our culturally defined expectations, one would think that we would be less punitive toward children than we are toward ourselves on a daily basis. While they can be excused as novice students in the way of cultural expectations and the ways of the world, we adults, on the other hand, have no such justification for not following the rules of society. Yet, we adults demand that we not even be threatened with treatments of a violent nature… which I should add includes hitting, swats, whacks, taps, smacks, or spankings. Even our most murderous adult prisoners are legally protected from corporal punishment as a means of routine discipline.
It seems to me that if anyone is deserving of physical pain as a means of punishment, it should be us adults rather than children. After all, we should already know better while children are still trying to learn what’s expected of them. But, when we find ourselves forced to suffer punitive physical pain, we consider such treatment to be inhumane, cruel and unusual punishment, abusive treatment, and even torture in some cases. While many will support the idea of children being painfully struck as a punitive measure, these are often the same people who will scream ‘Foul!’ should they themselves ever be accosted for the same reasons.
Some people find it difficult to conceptualize a more esteemed view of our young. This prejudicial attitude stands as the major obstacle in the way of children becoming viewed as sufficiently worthy of being considered viable members of the human race along with the rest of us. Until we put such thinking behind us, it would seem fruitless to propose that we expand our definition of ‘fairness’ to include children under the umbrella of treatments we consider for ourselves to be fair, just, and humane.
The commonly held discriminatory ageist (prejudice based on age) view allows children to be held to a lower standard of treatment, which serves to explain why people find it acceptable to treat their own children with less respect than they would an adult stranger on the street. This double standard serves as the justification for people to deem children as being unworthy of being afforded the same protections from physical assault we’ve so vehemently demanded for ourselves.
I don’t believe any of us would deny the wisdom and humanity offered by the Christian tenet, ‘Do unto others as you would have them do unto you’. Most of us like that idea when it comes to interacting with other adults. But we all pretty much know that when it comes to treating others, as we ourselves would like to be treated, most of us exclude children as being people or ‘others’.
There was a time in our history when ‘we the people’ also excluded slaves, women, and Native Americans, as well as children. Well, times have certainly changed, and we can look with pride at the social progress we’ve achieved over the years in developing a greater degree of social sophistication. As evidence of this fact, we can point to the just fairness we’ve come to show toward minorities and women by affording them the same protections under the law, which had been previously enjoyed exclusively by white men.
It seems to me that if we are to remain on our path toward making continued strides in our social progress, a logical issue to now address should include one of our last remaining bastions of societal double standards, and discriminatory treatments… the lack of social-status afforded to the children of our society. Of course, there are developmental issues concerning children which serve to limit their full participation in this adult world of ours, but that fact doesn’t have a bearing on the unrelated circumstance involving equal protections under the law… those same protections we consider the most basic of our rights and freedoms.
There is certainly no reason why we cannot at least start talking about granting children the same protection from violent treatment we adults enjoy. As defined by the law of the land, a husband who spanks his wife against her will is guilty of Spousal Abuse, Assault, and Battery, and/or Domestic Violence. It’s a law designed to deter the violence-prone husband from physically disciplining his wife, and to serve as a means to further safeguard her well being in the future. I suggest we take yet another step forward by offering children the same level of protection from violence that we provide for adults. After all, such an added protection granted to children would provide us with yet another reason to feel encouraged about our continuing efforts toward social progress, as we become a society of greater social sophistication.
A note to spanking mothers
You want equality in your relationship with your husband, of course. You don’t feel it would be acceptable for him to spank you for disobeying him, or making repeated mistakes just because he is bigger and stronger than you are.
I totally agree with you. But, given this circumstance, I would like to ask, “What makes you more susceptible to being abused than a child?” You can state that you don’t deserve to be hit, but so would any child. That’s not much of an argument. You can say that the relationship you have with your husband is ‘different’. But, no loving relationship is ‘different’ when it comes to treating a loved one in a violent manner. You can say that you are ‘responsible’ for your kids as a justification for hitting them, just as I can take the position that a man is responsible for his wife, and should, therefore, have the right to ‘keep her in line’, to discourage her from embarrassing him in public, and to teach her to stop making the same stupid mistakes all the time. For every excuse you can state as a justification for hitting kids, I can counter with the same type of chauvinistic excuses for men hitting their wives as a means of discipline (as many husbands once did).
The difference is, you are ‘abused’ if you get spanked against your will, while your children are not. I’m simply asking what makes you think you’re better than a child, and therefore deserving of a more respectful treatment. Is it because you think that a spanking would be more harmful to you than it would be to a child?
We know from countless testimony (which young children are ill-equipped to provide) that all adults are emotionally harmed by threats or acts of violence to varying degree’s, regardless of whether physical injury has occurred. The sad irony here is that young children are much more vulnerable to suffering emotional damage as the result of assaultive acts (including threats) than are we adults.
Just as you moms would like to be legally protected from the threat of physical and emotional harm at the hand of a bullying husband, so should your children be protected in the same manner from the hand of a bullying parent.
A note to spanking fathers
Traditionally, it has been the male species that has been most guilty of denying basic human rights to those viewed as smaller and weaker. We men have practiced the philosophy of ‘might makes right’ from the beginnings of known History. Perhaps we’ve come a long way from our knuckle-dragging, cavemen ancestors, but men, it’s time we evolved further beyond such atavistic tendencies. We’ve already evolved beyond corporal punishment as a routine means of controlling law-breakers and our women. Let’s take the next step-up in our level of humanity by also putting behind us the corporal punishment of children as well.
The Ins and Outs of Double Standards and Discriminatory Treatments
For those of you who may not be aware, a ‘double-standard’ involves holding another gender, ethnic group, race, religious group, or age group, in lower regard than the one with which an individual identifies themselves as being a part. These societal groups of ‘less worthy’, ‘inferior’, ‘unsavory’, looked-down upon segments of humanity have historically been the victims of unfair and discriminatory practices by the majority, the ruling class, and/or those in power.
Our human past is filled with examples of various social groups being treated with a double standard within their particular society at large. And even though we can safely say that the existence of these double-standards have diminished over time, we have not yet evolved to the point of social sophistication that would have us putting an end to all unjust double-standards.
We now see that Western Cultures have reached a point where even the previously seen ‘lowly’ Woman (who was once denied the right to vote and was physically punished by husbands as a socially acceptable practice) has been accorded equal legal protections from all forms of violent treatment, whether injurious or not. Women, and especially wives, have been the victims of one of the most enduring double standards of all time, and still suffer expressions of this unjust, prejudicial attitude toward them by men in many parts of the world.
With the women of our culture now being generally granted the same respect, consideration, and protections that men have traditionally demanded for themselves, perhaps the time has come when we are able to move yet further ahead in our social evolvement by considering the notion that children might be worthy of a more respectful treatment as well. After all, children are the last remaining segment of our society being acceptably victimized by a double standard in terms of legal protections from the threat of physical and emotional violence. In this regard especially, children are being denied their basic human rights.
We should remain ever mindful that just a relatively short time ago in our history, wives being beaten with switches were not being ‘beaten’ as far as their husbands were concerned… they were being disciplined. The language that was then used as a reflection of a double standard toward wives is the same language parents now use in describing the treatment of their children under a double standard. Husbands didn’t speak in terms of hitting their wives… they spoke in terms of ‘correcting’ them, keeping them in-line, and having to show them who’s boss. People knew exactly what these terms and expressions meant, even though the language did not apply to a treatment of the male establishment. Men had a different language to describe such a treatment of themselves… Assault.
It’s not quite enough to have parents stop spanking without those same parents also experiencing a change in attitude toward children. While we would see less physical injury occurring to children as the result of eliminating the practice of spanking (granted, no small thing), we would still see the ravages of emotional damage occurring to children as the result of their being held to a double-standard. The continued existence of this double standard would still see children being treated with disrespect in the form of disregard, dismissal, insensitivity, and being regarded with the demeaning rejection of harsh demeanor. As we’ve seen occur in Sweden*, perhaps a legislated ban on spanking would motivate parents to increase the level of their parenting skills.
If we are to consider children a part of humanity, it’s time we brought them into the fold by starting to consider the possibility that our young might be even more susceptible to the emotional harm of being treated with disrespect than we adults.
The over-riding issue at hand here concerns the fact that all adults, even including the most vicious of incarcerated criminals, are legally protected from physical punishments as a disciplinary practice, while children are left excluded from such legal protections. This discriminatory inequity is the reflection of a prejudice against minor children on a societal level… it’s a prejudice known as Ageism.
Ageism is just as difficult a social issue to overcome as the bigotry of Racism or Misogyny because these behaviors represent the same behavioral characteristics (an irrational, misguided, and misinformed prejudice against others). While the targets of prejudicial intolerance might differ, the basis for group prejudices remains the same.
The male chauvinist views his wife as a sexually objectified possession who is also seen through an attitude which dictates that the wife is held in lower regard than his male peers. As a result of this prejudicial, discriminatory attitude toward the female gender, wives are subject to be treated with what is seen as a justified, deserving lower standard of respect and consideration. This lower standard of treatment is closely associated with women being designated a lower social status than men as a result of their being perceived as the inferior ‘weaker sex’. The ‘real man’ reserves his friendships for other equally deserving men… he rules his roost with an ever present aire of aloof superiority over an understandably diminished and bowed ‘little lady’, who dutifully meets his demands and satisfies his needs in her role as bought and paid for chattel to be used as a bed-partner, mother, cook, and housemaid. And, the basis for this problem lies with a man in possession of a superior attitude toward women.
We are all fairly familiar with the specter of Racism. The behavioral dynamics are the same as those comprising the prejudices of Ageism and Misogyny… the targeted group that’s regarded as being ‘inferior’ is held to a lower standard of social-status, while justification is apparent to establish an acceptably lower standard of treatment for the targeted population deemed to be inferior. I should reiterate here that throughout History, the rationalizations used as excuses for ‘physical discipline’ have been basically the same for slaves, women, and children alike. Typically, these excuses have included striking the offenders for ‘safety issues’, ‘disobedience’, or ‘defiance’.
In the same vein, Ageism involves a perception of children as inferior forms of humanity, and as such, they are regarded as being justifiably held to a lower standard of treatment with less respectful considerations… children essentially being devalued in human terms and forced to function in the role of ‘second class citizens’.
All the above-mentioned forms of group prejudice present a formidable challenge in terms of effectively instilling a raised understanding, a higher level of consciousness, or increased levels of empathy through an educational process. To begin with, these are seldom individuals who feel a burning desire to change their existing attitudes toward those they regard as inferior human beings. Secondly, these prejudices commonly represent deep-seated orientations that were instilled in these individuals during their early formative years… which is a time when learned behavior is subject to manifest itself as deeply ingrained beliefs.
It’s my feeling that we should strive to progress beyond the inhumanity of socially accepted ageism in the same way that we’ve already progressed beyond the inhumanity of socially accepted racism, misogyny, and homophobia. Given this, I support the notion that children should be afforded the same societal protections from violence as are enjoyed by the rest of society. After all, it’s simply a position calling for basic human rights for all of us.
#Basic #Human #Rights