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Haircuts by Children

This excerpt of Haircuts by Children is a surprisingly engaging proposition to all parents whether or not they practice conscious parenting to recognize their children as enthusiastic progenitors of their own innate sense of wisdom and propriety. The excerpt focus is particularly on the necessity of society’s Legal culpability for giving all stages of childhood inadequate support for their own desire the celebrate the gifts of the universe by overly protecting the child and not more liberally letting them properly discern their own place in the world. DLM

Haircuts by Children and other Evidence for a New Social Contract

– by: Darren O’Donnell

 

 

Excerpt

 

“Adulthood produces the category of childhood…

…the idea of the autonomy of adults makes no sense without the lack of autonomy implied in the idea of children. We’ve seen the shape of universal subject change, however gradually or imperfectly, to accommodate greater rights for women, radicalized people, and increasingly, trans and other gender-variant folks. And we can. And we can likewise anticipate – if not actively work toward – the dissolution of the strict binary that is an adult and child.”

Feminist legal scholar Martha Albertson Fineman…

…points out that prevailing political and legal theories assume that the universal or typical human subject is autonomous, self-sufficient, rational and competent. It is this idea of the typical human for which laws are written – laws that, for the most part, do not apply to children, who are generally not legally responsible for their actions. Therefore, the universal human subject, around whom we understand human rights and which we consider the default, is an adult. Which is to say, not a child.

The first step to stop assigning essential and unchanging qualities…

…to either adults or children. Every adult and every child has the capacities and abilities they have: some adults are more childlike than others, some require the same care that a baby requires for their entire lives, and some children are at a young age, resilient, rational, and independent. Practically speaking, the best, safest approach to breaking down this binary may be to err on the side of caution and assume that adults, as commonly understood, simply do not exist.

We are all children, we are all vulnerable…

…and we are always figuring out how to cope with complex situations in ways that will be, in all likelihood, less than perfect. In the end, the Notions of childhood and adulthood are stereotypes, with all the coercion that being a stereotype and entails. But beyond a stereotype, childhood is a way to relegate a big chunk of a population to the status of eternal other, less than and separate from the rest of us.

As a way to address this otherness…

…Fineman argues that we need to look more closely at vulnerability, which is ‘universal and constant, inherent in the human condition. She suggests we position vulnerability as central to what we think of as a typical person, contrasting it with the individual imagined in liberal political theory, where the ‘typical’ person is understood to be self-sufficient, rational, always personally responsible, and not particularly vulnerable.

“Centering a vulnerable subject…

…like say a child reveals some of the brokenness of a society ‘conceived as constituted by self-interested individuals with the capacity to manipulate and manage their independently acquired and overlapping resources. Capitalism is absolutely reliant on the idea of this individual, a rational actor who trundles to the market every day to happily exchange their labour for a few dollars, the notion of the fairness of this arrangement hinging on this ideology of self-aware, rational self sufficiency.

“Fineman points to the idea of the vulnerable subject…

…as a ‘more accurate and complete universal figure to place at the heart of social policy.’ Vulnerability is typically a condition that causes the state and other institutions to intervene in the social sphere, and using a framework of vulnerability open things up to consider children the same way we consider adults. Imagine if vulnerability were central to our world view instead of a symbol of failure: it would become possible to shift the universal subject to include central aspects of the experience of children – which are also sure to be aspects of the adult experience.

Within a vulnerability framework…

…every child is one of us and, as such, has the same right to participate in the world, and any systems not amenable to their participation – capitalism, say – would be considered unfair. If the universal or typical person – the vulnerable – have a hard time getting their act together to be of use to capitalism, then how useful really is capitalism?


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