Saturday, May 17, 2008

Five Quick Musings

While being trained to be an XCORP daycamp counselor, my mind wandered a bit. Here's where it ended up:
  • Social Contracts & Youth: Unlike the social contract that is formed by consenting adults at the moment of codification (in, say, a constitution) or with implied consent (via immigration), youth age into an existing social contract. This partly explains the tendency of the young towards discontent in any and all systems, but there's a bit more to it than that. Youth transition into citizens, at which point they take on the burdens and are granted the rights associated with citizenship (can vote; must pay taxes and become eligible for military service). The citizen/state social contract is clear at this point, but the prior contract of non-citizen youth residing in a sovereign state is more anomalous.
  • Consent Politics, as Regards Sex: there's an editorial cartoon that ran yesterday in the Albuquerque journal that bothers me fundamentally. I'll be writing a letter to the editor about it later, but the point for now is that it looks favorably upon the quaint and hetero-normative polygamous cult, while frowning upon two adults engaging in BDSM. The trick with all this is that the quaint cult raped girls below the age of consent, and that adults engaging in BDSM do so consensually. I frown upon any demonization of consensual sex between adults (taking into account the condition that some decisions cannot be made by sane people, and so are invalid; "Rousseau also argues that it is illogical for a man to surrender his freedom for slavery"), and things that condone rape are, to put it lightly, evil.
  • Consent Politics, as Regards Governance: Social Contracts, as established, are between consenting adults, and later are between consenting adults and their institutions of governance. How does this contract apply to those unable to consent, either by youth or by some other standard of being mentally unfit? How is mental fitness determined, and how do definitions that have standards of mental fitness explain those standards?
  • Nanny State: I'm going to be working at a day camp, and fresh from a semester heavy on political science there is a striking contrast between how rules work for adults and how rules work for children. The structure, guidance, and explanations that make day camps and childcare and schooling work for young children would be rejected in full if forced upon adults. The rules for such institutions hinge upon the accepted fact (which I have no intention of challenging) that adults know what is needed to keep kids safe, and that adults have as an overriding concern the safety of children. Everything is secondary to this fact, but there is leeway - safety does not mean forcibly keeping kids away from everything scary; I've advocated quite the opposite here before. And camps that are nothing but knee protectors and padded walls would be no fun. But it does mean that, when safety comes into conflict with things like the freedom to act of children, safety takes priority. Adults hate this in their lives, as angst about smoking bans in bars (for this generation) and mandatory safety belts in cars (for a previous generation) prove. But with children, rules are different, and especially with children, the obligation of a caregiver is towards the safety of another adult's child, which will be enforced by the state.
  • State Allocates Responsibility: This came up partly during an episode of Boston Legal, and partly during a discussion over the cardboard gun fiasco. I was happy to see the student suing the school, as everything that was done seemed to demonize him, way out of proportion to an incidence that (I feel) needs no response, and has a kid screwed by horribly planned zero-tolerance policy and poorly executed APD action. Suing to me seemed appropriate, but Lia felt differently. She argued that the student had been at fault for making a stupid mistake (walking around and playing with the cardboard gun as though it were a gun), and that the police and school were also both at fault for how they handled the incident (poorly and with over-reactions everywhere). Rather than arguing which side was more at fault, her point was that the situation could only be rectified by all sides admitting their appropriate faults, accepting appropriate consequences, and then moving on, once everyone was in right relationship with each other. The legal system in the United States does not operate in this fashion.
    • Responsibility means liability means fault, and to claim responsibility is to accept the fault of an action, and especially the cost of that action
    • Having clear lines of responsibility allows an organization to punish the wayward individual and to operate in a legally safe bubble.
    • Admitting fault in any part of a case is close to admitting fault in all of it, and makes it much easier for the other parties to foist their guilt onto the admitting party
    • Day camp counselors exist in the legal limbo of protecting other people's children, who are sort of legally anomalous (sort of citizens? guardian law might evolved from property law? responsibility of the state to the point where they will punish abuse but not to the point where they will actually provide the day camp?), while working for a private employer (but a non-profit one), and all of this is overseen by a government. If a day camp counselor screws up, that makes at least 3 outside sources to which they are responsible.
    • This is the real reason why I never want to go to law school, despite living and breathing politics.


Christine Robinson said...

I didn't think the cartoon looked favorably on the cult family, it just made the point that it's tricky to say who "belongs in the culture."

V said...

Unlike the social contract that is formed by consenting adults at the moment of codification, ... youth age into an existing social contract. This partly explains the tendency of the young towards discontent in any and all systems

Not universally. Rising into an adult status (and social contract) is only a burden if you see yourself as entitled to have adult rights without adult responsibilities. If you've grown accustomed to having lots of rights and few if any responsibilities (as many American youth have, since the 1950s), of course you're going to chafe at being held accountable to society.
You would have found today's forum by Peter and Elizabeth Chestnut about their relations with NM's Pueblos very interesting, socially and politically. The Pueblos handle transition to adulthood differently, with arguably better results.