For all of his adolescent politics and utopian rhetoric, Bill Hicks made a great observation about the preferential view that the average person takes toward children:
“Save the children!…” What does that mean? They reach a certain age and they’re off your fucking love-list? Fuck your children; if that’s the way you think then fuck you, too. You either love all people of all ages or you shut the fuck up.”
I disagree with the last part—as I barely love anyone of any age and reserve my affections for animals and bands—but the core message resonates with me. While it’s ridiculous to hate children themselves (feeling that way about their presence on an airplane is different), to me it seems perfectly natural to hate the culture of child worship that exists undiminished in modern society. Some people think it’s creepy to not revere kids—let alone to simply dislike them—but in my experience the truth is exactly the opposite.
The most pertinent example would be the almost cult-like perception of children among convicts. It’s common knowledge that prison is especially dangerous for people who harm kids, with molesters and abusers ranking at the bottom of the food chain. I’ve never understood that. Most people in prison are scum by any reasonable definition, and so they hardly seem in a position to take the moral high ground on anything. If you were to subtract the inmates who are falsely accused, who haven’t harmed innocent people, and who realistically don’t deserve to be locked up, you wouldn’t have taken much away from the general population.
Why exactly does some guy who’s locked up for heroin dealing—or home invasion, or for robbing banks—feel morally superior to someone who is incarcerated for hurting a child? Burglary and drug dealing and armed robbery traumatize far more children than isolated cases of abuse do. Sure, the brutalization of children is repulsive, but if you flood a kid’s neighborhood with hard drugs to make yourself wealthy, then you massively increase the odds that said kid will one day jam a needle into his arm. To me, that’s not much different from putting it in there yourself, yet the guy who sells H will garner far more respect inside than the dope fiend who injected it into his four-year-old during a narcotic stupor.
Don’t get me wrong: I’m not saying that molesters and abusive parents shouldn’t fear for their lives while in prison. I’m just saying they shouldn’t have to fear any more than the average convict does.
A lot of people like to rationalize our collective double standards regarding children by pointing out their innocence. So what if they’re innocent? So are plenty of grown adults, and nobody gets all teary-eyed when bad things happen to them. When a child goes missing, an entire search party forms and goes looking for them, refusing to rest until they are found. When an adult disappears, nobody gives a shit. It doesn’t matter if the person was kind and caring or if they were disabled to the point of being about as likely as a child to find their own way home; as long as they’ve completed puberty, they’re on their own. Put it this way: If innocence is the criterion that you select for deciding whom to care about, consider that two percent of all children are psychopathic and therefore are likely to have tortured animals.
I honestly believe that kid-worship is more cultural than it is genetic; after all, many societies have treated their younger members as disposable, have sacrificed them to harvest gods for the greater good, and have sent them up chimney stacks to breathe soot and filth until they came down riddled with cancer. The Industrial Revolution, i.e., the very reason that we now have smartphones and tablets on which to tweet about that awful case of a mother stuffing her toddler in a washing machine before she went out gambling for the night, was only possible through child servitude and slavery, and those workers didn’t even have suicide nets surrounding their factory accommodations.
Given that it’s a fairly recent idea that every child is special, it’s likely that it may turn out to have been little more than a fad. As we reach the post-human singularity and surpass the need for biological reproduction, the idea of caring in particular about kids may well seem as absurd as the idea of getting all weepy when a homeless person turns up dead on the roadside. It will just become another modern inconvenience, something to overlook while skimming through the daily news. There’s a brave new world ahead of us, to be sure.