The following is part of a series of articles on the rights and responsibilities of children and of families. On our site, we’ve published a Children’s Bill Of Rights, with all of the sections in the bill. You can take a look at Children’s Bill of Rights.
(To read additional articles about Children’s Rights and the specific rights recommended in the Children’s Bill of Rights, look through this blog, and at Homeschool Under Siege.)
Care and basic support
Every child has the right to be provided a safe, healthy and reasonably comfortable place to live. Every child has the right to clean water to drink and bathe in. Every child has the right to decent food decently prepared, and enough of it to not be ill, or usually hungry. Each child has the right to clothing that fits, that looks and is clean and is in decent condition, and which is capable of properly protecting the child from the elements.
And the argument begins. It is a battle fought between adults, one ideological group against another. On one side of the argument, the chant goes “as human beings, we all deserve the dignity of a decent life, and all of the necessities of that life.” The other side of the argument goes “it’s a tough world, and only the strongest not only survive, but deserve to survive.”
Both sides are sort of right. But where the safety and well-being of children are concerned, there really should be no competing ideologies. Children cannot generally make a living for themselves. They are not allowed to per the rules of civilization, those things that we call “laws”. They are dependents. They rely on their parents, or upon those people and organizations into whose power their lives are placed, for their daily needs.
In short, children must rely almost entirely on us, the adults of the world, to care for their needs. In failing to respond, we fail a basic test of our humanity. Pretty much every religion demands that we care for children, and well they should. The same can be said for nearly every philosophy and, indeed, nearly every belief system. State’s and nation’s governments universally make a noise about the children being the future, and how important their lives are. (They also send them off to war and in some cases, encourage slave labor of children to bring income into their nations – including child prostitution.)
The reality is patently undeniable and simple. No children = extinction. Poorly raised and cared for children = an adult population to come who will be poorly educated, incapable, and short lived. Such a generation of mankind could easily doom the species, and it doesn’t take a whole lot of imagination to see how.
What is it that we should make certain children are provided? What do they need from us, the adult world, to have a chance in life? The answers are as obvious as the question. We all must eat. If we have no edible food, we grow ill and eventually die which is precisely what happens to MILLIONS of children every year. Starvation is a horrible death. No one should ever suffer starvation, as there is more than enough food on Earth to feed the current population and then some. No one, least of all a child who cannot fend for himself.
We all need potable drinking water. The human body can do without food far longer than without healthy drinking water, as the majority of a body is water that needs regular replenishing, even at the cellular level. No one should ever die from a lack of clean drinking water – yet every day, thousands of people do. And the majority of them are children.
No one should ever have to live a homeless existence, even if their home be ever so humble. Exposure is a slow, painful death. Homelessness is an untenable way of life for the strongest adult. It is degrading and damaging. For a child, the impact is far greater, as he has no real defense against the sort of poverty that homelessness results from. By extension, our clothing also protects us from those same elements. The Earth can be a very harsh mistress indeed.
The resources undeniably exist. Anyone who says that they do not is simply lying. We could feed and house the entire human population, and many times over. But only if those who have a great deal come to understand their responsibility to those who have not.
And the argument drones on. The haves shout “I worked for what I have! Why should I have to give any of it up to others, especially “failures”, lazy people who don’t work as hard as I do?!” The have-nots mumble “you were lucky. Take a good look at us, pal. There but for the grace of God. And most of us work, and work very hard. (Which is absolutely true.) It’s not always just a matter of effort. Other factors intervene, even ‘luck’.”
There’s a lot more to these arguments. You’ve probably heard it all. These are the bedrock for political unrest and disagreement that rips countries apart. So I want to say right now and for the record that where our children are concerned, to hell with the arguments.
They are here, the billions of children we must confront. They need what they need. There is nothing so tragic as a young life ended by the neglect of those who should have cared. There is nothing so unknown as the contribution that might have been made to the world by a young person gone.
Again, the resources exist, and really, no one is asking anyone to lower their “standard of living” to accommodate those in need. There is plenty to go around, if we set economics aside for the sake of our children and make use of the fruits of civilization to reap and transport what is needed to where it is needed. It’s merely a matter of how much responsibility are we each willing to assume.
You would do it for your own child, of course. You would move a mountain with a dull spoon if it needed to happen to protect your own. And we all have our own lives and our work cut out for us, don’t we? Yet, hundreds of millions of good moms and dads make the time and resources available to encourage their own children’s survival and personal growth.
If we took the same stewarding attitude toward humanity as a whole, we would have in our hands the most powerful of weapons. We would end war based on the need of nations. We would end starvation, homelessness, and a dozen other evils that have no right place in the human experience.
And to you Social Darwinists out there, “survival of the fittest” can be defined in many ways. Any crowd is “more fit to survive” than any individual, no matter how wealthy and powerful the individual may be. In just the past year of 2011, powerful dictators in the Middle East discovered to their horror that the crowd will rule, in the end, right or wrong. History has emphasized this lesson repeatedly, but somehow, those who have far too much never listen until forced into it. From the Slave Revolt of Rome, to the French and Russian Revolutions, to the Arab Spring and the Occupy Movement, history has spoken and will continue to speak. Those who choose to not give a damn for their fellow men, those who instead hide behind their walls of greed, will inevitably be taught this lesson in the most brutal example of Social Darwinism imaginable.
It is a matter of mutual survival. Those who can care for those who cannot care for themselves. Or the number of the needy and desperate will grow to the tipping point and then, bloody history gets made.
Ultimately, children should in our eyes be above and beyond this tedious and destructive human travail. They should all be held to our mutual breasts as sacred. They should be treated as divine gifts, or the peak of evolution, or whatever you would have it be that would demand your respect, concern and action.