Luna @ A Hopeful Pessimist on truants, prozzies, paternalism, and Social Darwinism.
Well, I’m back again. I didn’t intend to take this long to write again, but due to technological troubles, I was offline for awhile, thus making it impossible to post more entries. This is not ideal because my lead in story in this post is now somewhat older news. Anyhow, what I hope to do in this entry is combine several possible posts that I have been planning to do in the past, so hopefully, despite my lack on consistency in writing here, I will partially make it up by killing several birds with one stone, so to speak.
Okay, I want to start this post with a story I originally came across on attackthesystem.com, about an incident in Montgomery County in the grand old State of Texas, where a 17-year-old high-school student by the name of Diane Tran was sentenced to a day in jail and a fine for contempt of court (I believe) because of missing too many days of school. This despite the fact that the student in question was working two jobs to support her siblings because of her parents splitting up, and despite missing some classes over being extremely tired from that out-of-school work (Who wouldn’t be?), she apparently managed to make the honour roll. Anyhow this story became viral and spread around the world, prompting outrage and leading to some donation campaign set up specifically for Tran, with a website set up for that purpose. Anyhow, what eventually happened was that the charges were dropped, with Mr. Judge Moriarty backing down from his hard-line stance to some extent. Anyways, if you are curious about this story, there are more articles here, and probably even more if you care to search for them on the net. Now when I came across this story, I was immediately interested because I had read some articles about a county in Texas with a Judge who was well known for incarcerating students who were chronic truants from school, and I had planned to write a blog post about two articles about this 1, 2.
As I found out, this was in the same county though a different judge: that judge was called Metts, this guy Moriarty. I intend to comment on those articles later, especially because of the very different reception Metts’ actions got as opposed to Moriarty’s, as documented both in the articles and especially in the comments sections. It is for that reason as well that I want to go after the general population for their bullshit and inconsistency on this issue. Consider here some of the comments made by readers, many along the lines of how we must do this to the kids in order to make an example and how if we don’t enforce the rules society will crumble, etc, etc. It’s interesting, though, to see how when it comes to a sympathetic figure like Tran, suddenly “we have to break a few eggs to make a omelette” does not seem to apply. Also in this other article about Metts, there is a whole thing about the consequences of chronic truancy.
From the article:
Metts said 78 percent of current Texas inmates’ first interaction with law enforcement was regarding truancy. Furthermore, he said it was proven in the community that kids who were skipping school were getting involved in criminal activities, such as burglarizing homes, which is a second-degree felony.“If you’re in school, you’re not going to have that problem,” he told them.
Precinct 4 Constable Kenneth “Rowdy” Hayden agreed. Hayden works closely with Metts and many of the offenders who appear in his court. He praised the judge’s “firm stand against juvenile truancy in East Montgomery County, saying it was important to keep kids in school because “they’re our most valuable asset.” When truant, teens can also be a real liability.
“When we have truancy in the schools, the daytime crime rate increases,” Hayden said. “We’ve tied up a lot of our resources with juvenile truancy.”
Okay, that’s all good and nice, but what jumped out at me in that excerpt was something that I have said about the school system myself, which is that a large part of the function of school is merely glorified babysitting. Essentially, keeping kids in school so they are not a nuisance to others. I think its important to note at this time (for those who have not read the articles) that these students were not sent to a facility for juvenile offenders but rather to real jail, because at 17 they are considered to be fully-fledged adults by the legal system down there. So they must go to school because they are minors, yet at the same time they are treated like adults when it comes to being punished. This is of course not unusual because lots of people there support raising the age that people can fuck, drink, drive, smoke, etc. while at the same time wanting people punished more severely at younger ages: you know the whole “adult time for adult crime” cliche. The thing here too is that if someone is a fuck-up by the time they are 17, does it really make sense to think that one year is going to completely turn them around?
In addition, there is the idea that children must be made to go to school at any cost because we wouldn’t want them to wreck their future. Well, I have a little to say about that, so permit me to go off an a little tangent and rant here. Now, I was a good inmate (in school), never had an unexcused absence; well, you get the idea, and I can tell you that I don’t think it made a great deal of good in my life. If anything, I consider it now to be waste of some of my best years, and the hilarious thing (in my own twisted sense of humour way) is that I’m probably in a worse position than a lot of people who didn’t finish school. That leads me to another point here, which is that can you really say that someone is a success because they went through school, or is it that more intelligent and competent types are the ones that are more likely to finish school: you know, the whole correlation/causation thing? I would be curious, by the way, to see what conservatives of the politically incorrect persuasion who are big into IQ differences among race groups, genetic determinism, and social Darwinism would think about this situation. Mainly because such people tend to sneer at liberal do-gooder types attempts to improve the lot of (usually) non-whites by better programs, bigger class sizes, nicer teachers, and so forth, since they lean very heavily on biology as destiny. Being as that is, I would wonder whether they would see this as a waste of time, as that would seem to make sense from their point of view. I suppose they might like the rationale of keeping certain people in school for several hours of the day to keep them out of trouble (read: blacks and Hispanics). On that point, though, does it really make sense to keep kids stuck in school when they lack both the interest and the aptitude to perform well? In the past, lots of people got substantially less schooling than today, yet many of those people grew up and became very successful. My Grandfather let school at 13 to work, only returning many years later to finish school, yet he managed to raise a family at a much younger age than many people today, and later had a very successful career at a very high up position in his field of work. I also could point out the many bad things about school, such as the toxic environment of groupthink, mindless status driven competition, and the general lowest common denominator idiocy that predominates in these institutions, but I think most people that would read my blog and share my views would already know about that so I leave them unsaid. After a little digging, I found these articles that I had remembered discovering via Chris George’s blog Here they are 1, 2 .
Alright, now what does all that have to do with the first part of the title of my post. well the answer is that I see this incident as part of a larger thing and idea about punishment, namely in punishing people, we are helping them. I personally find this idea to be one of the more nauseating aspects of the therapeutic state and in many respects far more distasteful than just straight-up brutality. This little gem comes to mind when thinking about this issue, I knew I would incorporate it somehow when I decided to write this blog post. While it is certainly true that the war on drugs is a prime example of what I am referring to, this principle/policy applies to a whole assortment of things. Take prostitution, the other perennial vice. Now as a libertarian and a male, I know if I took about my views on these things, I will get a lot of shit from feminists, liberal do-gooders, conservatives, soccer moms, and so on; likewise for pornography. When I say things should be legal, I am put in the same category somewhere between Bin Laden and Ted Bundy, not exactly sure where I fall on the yardstick, but at the same time anything that happens to prostitutes as the result of the legal system. While it is true that many US feminists favour the Swedish model, where pimps and johns are punished while sex workers are not penalized, they still do not typically display much anger toward the legal persecution of prostitutes and nowhere near as compared to those who advocate the legalization of the practice. I find that whenever I come across a story about a prostitution bust in the American media, they always quote some ding-dong who always reiterates the point that these women are victims and are slaves and people who think otherwise are simply wrong, and of course when we put them in jail, we are really helping them. Here is a great example from the state of Arizona of the way in which the state “helps” those victims in such a humanitarian fashion, as opposed to the sick depraved monsters like myself who are apologists for the last remaining form of slavery in the western world.
One theme that seems to appear over and over to me is that of the idea that people must be protected from the innate consequences of their actions, but, at the same time, when the artificial consequences are foisted upon them by the state, suddenly people must take responsibility for their actions. I see this notion expressed, at least implicitly, so many times, and I have to say it really fucking annoys me. I mean, imagine if someone came out for punishing robbers because they might injure themselves while burglarizing a house in the dead of night (It’s dark, you might stumble on something and break your neck, don’t you know), or for punishing rapists because of the risks that they might catch HIV, most people would consider such things absurd, yet most people endorse the same sort of principle in other areas. As I said before, the whole punishing-you-to-help-you mentality, as expanded to a whole host of areas, especially among the young, puts an ever increasing percentage of people through the legal system. Take this article about a bust of underage drinkers in Plainville Massachusetts, who I should point out were mostly adults, that is 18 and over, with a fair amount of them being twenty. What’s even more interesting is even those who were not drinking alcohol could still be in trouble just for being at the party because they are considered to be minors in possession of alcohol. Now, the part of the article that is relevant to what I am writing about is in this excerpt:
Cops in Plainville have maintained a zero-tolerance policy toward underage drinking for two and a half years now, ever since 17-year old Taylor Meyer drowned in a nearby swamp after a night of partying. “What makes this case most disturbing,” Janet Wu of WHDH-TV in Boston told viewers, “is the tragic history this town has with these kinds of parties.” Reporter Sorboni Banerjee interviewed the girl’s mother, Kathi, describing her as “hearbroken” upon seeing the list of people arrested, many of whom were classmates of Taylor’s. “Why wouldn’t it stay with them?” Kathi Meyer asked
Okay, so some stupid kid got pissed and wandered off into a swamp and died, so the idea is that we need to arrest people and give them criminal records so a similar fate does not befall them, and, of course, these young people need to learn to take responsibility for their actions. Well how about taking responsibility for your actions when it comes to drinking? In the town, an electronic sign in front of the Plainville police station reads, “Zero tolerance, zero chances: You drink under 21, you lose.” Oh yeah? How about a sign that says, “You drink yourself into oblivion, wander off into a swamp, you die”? That’s the kind of sign I’d like to see! Here’s another one, just for fun: how about, “You jump off a thirty-story building, you die” as a warning to all potential suicide jumpers?
Yes I admit it, I do have a minor Social Darwinist streak in me, and I’m not a “nice person” either, but before you consider me to be all hate-filled and vile, consider the fact that these sorts of punishments can also screw up people’s lives, and indeed that was one of the concerns in the Tran case, about whether she would be able to get into a certain college/University because of the contempt charge so potentially screwing up someones education opportunities so that they sit in on on a few classes is good but horrors of horrors if that person is not coerced they might not go to school. You know it’s interesting that in this article, there is speculation about the traumatic experience Tran may have had in that one day of incarceration, yet somehow there is still the notion expressed that on some level it is all in the “child’s” best interest. I’m sure that in some of these issues that I have mentioned some people have had horrible things happen to them. I guess at the end of the day, you can’t say that one view is right and one is wrong, I think what it really comes down to is whether you want to live in a world where you are or are not shielded from your own choices, I certainly prefer the latter myself.
As kind of an epilogue here, I just want to make some of my views clear here, the first thing I want to say is that I am opposed to completely to all compulsory education of children, yes I don’t think kids should have to go to school, just to make that clear in case anyone reading this is wondering. As for all the horrible consequences of this, I really don’t give a shit anymore. I’m not breeding, and in fact lean towards antinatalism (though I don’t think it should be enforced) so I really don’t care too much about the long term future and there not even be one anyways. In my opinion, I don’t think that is being myopic, just realistic. The pessimist side in me is clearly overtaking the hopeful side, at least for now and I think that’s something that separates me from definitely both the left and the right as well as many libertarians. You know many conservatives claim that leftists and often libertarians are delusional Utopians who don’t see reality and don’t realize the utter futility of trying to improve the world, but I would argue that in fact most conservatives would fit that description much better than myself though there are exceptions on the right of course . But I think that, in general, that is one of the reasons that I am not that impressed by claims to have seen the light by defectors from the left to the right, because I suspect that, on a more fundamental level, they really have not not changed much of their do-gooder principles; they just believe to have discovered a better way to put them into practice. You know that, increasingly, I have rethought a lot about the sort of way that libertarianism has attempted to soften itself and become more sympathetic to left wing ideas and causes, and while I respect the work of people like Roderick Long, Kevin Carson, Charles Johnson, as well as others, I am increasingly drawn to the more anti-social aspects of the libertarian tradition; maybe it’s my more negative outlook , but I kind of feel like I identify less with this and more with this .
Well, that was a lot of writing. Anyways, I succeeded in what I set out to do, which was to combine several potential posts into one; so, in a sense, I have made up for my absence. I’d like to put out more material at a time, but, hey, it takes a long time write stuff for me; maybe if there wasn’t a drug war and I could write this blog hopped up on amphetamines, I’d be able to have more output here so I guess you can blame the government for my rather sporadic output.
Last little addition School Sucks Podcast