Justin du Coeur (jducoeur) wrote,
Justin du Coeur
jducoeur

The heck with the nanny state; what about the protective-custody state?

So there I was, a few days ago, driving around Cambridge, when I passed a sight that has stayed uncomfortably with me. It was a neat line of small children on the sidewalk, each maybe four years old. (I'm bad with ages: small, but big enough to be walking down the sidewalk escorted.) The line was neat because they were attached to a pair of ropes -- each child's wrist was tied into the rope, and each rope had an adult at the front and back, with about six kids between them.

My inner engineer marveled at the simple efficiency of this solution for keeping a dozen children safe while walking down a busy city sidewalk. But my inner sociologist squirmed uncomfortably.

Mind, the kids didn't seem to mind: their eyes were wandering hither and yon as they walked, largely ignoring their right hand held up slightly by the rope. But that's kind of the point -- children at that age learn from everything happening to them. So I have to wonder: what does this teach?

I confess, I find it creepy as all hell. The implicit message seems to be that captivity is right and appropriate, so long as it is intended to keep you safe. I suspect that most people would word that differently, but many would agree with it in spirit. It makes my skin crawl.

To understand a person, it's often best to understand their formative literature. If you want to understand me, I commend the novelette With Folded Hands, by Jack Williamson. (The basis for the followup novel The Humanoids.) It's fairly old (I confess, I last read it decades ago), but perhaps even more than 1984 it shaped much of my political philosophy. If the above scene does *not* make you squirm, the story might help you understand why it does me...
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