A Very Curious Thing image

A Very Curious Thing

Reports of the impact of lockdown on the mental health of children and young people abound; but our societal attitudes towards children are strangely ambivalent with or without covid. We need to do better.

A child is at once, though for different people or at different times, the most wanted and the most dreaded of objects. For those taught to believe in the desperation of infertility, children are that without which life lacks meaning and purpose; and yet for the unwelcomely pregnant or for those pregnant with children who are not perfect, they are a most dire threat to their lives, meaning, and purpose, of which they are taught to rid themselves. The modern child is desired but also dreaded. And he or she is also innocent and yet (especially if a she) sexualized to a striking degree; is protected by ever more constraining forms of surveillance and yet abused and exploited not only by random individuals, but systematically and commercially by trades in child pornography and prostitution (and even, most shamefully, within the church); is cossetted and treated as a pet on one side of the globe, while on the other side child labour supplies the goods that sustain the luxury those privileged children enjoy (or from which they suffer); and removed from the world of work in the West, yet placed in a system of education that seems more and more designed to manufacture the highly skilled workers demanded by our economies. The modern child is a very curious thing indeed.

    – Michael Banner, The Ethics of Everyday Life, p80


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