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George Bernard Shaw: Children Are Slaves

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On the whole, whatever our theory or no theory may be, our practice is to treat the child as the property of its immediate physical parents, and to allow them to do what they like with it as far as it will let them. It has no rights and no liberties: in short, its condition is that which adults recognize as the most miserable and dangerous politically possible for themselves: namely, the condition of slavery. For its alleviation we trust to the natural affection of the parties, and to public opinion. A father cannot for his own credit let his son go in rags. Also, in a very large section of the population, parents finally become dependent on their children. Thus there are checks on child slavery which do not exist, or are less powerful, in the case of manual and industrial slavery. Sensationally bad cases fall into two classes, which are really the same class: namely, the children whose parents are excessively addicted to the sensual luxury of petting children, and the children whose parents are excessively addicted to the sensual luxury of physically torturing them. There is a Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children which has effectually made an end of our belief that mothers are any more to be trusted than stepmothers, or fathers than slave-drivers. And there is a growing body of law designed to prevent parents from using their children ruthlessly to make money for the household. Such legislation has always been furiously resisted by the parents, even when the horrors of factory slavery were at their worst; and the extension of such legislation at present would be impossible if it were not that the parents affected by it cannot control a majority of votes in Parliament. In domestic life a great deal of service is done by children, the girls acting as nursemaids and general servants, and the lads as errand boys. In the country both boys and girls do a substantial share of farm labor. This is why it is necessary to coerce poor parents to send their children to school, though in the relatively small class which keeps plenty of servants it is impossible to induce parents to keep their children at home instead of paying schoolmasters to take them off their hands.

It appears then that the bond of affection between parents and children does not save children from the slavery that denial of rights involves in adult political relations. It sometimes intensifies it, sometimes mitigates it; but on the whole children and parents confront one another as two classes in which all the political power is on one side; and the results are not at all unlike what they would be if there were no immediate consanguinity between them, and one were white and the other black, or one enfranchised and the other disenfranchised, or one ranked as gentle and the other simple. Not that Nature counts for nothing in the case and political rights for everything. But a denial of political rights, and the resultant delivery of one class into the mastery of another, affects their relations so extensively and profoundly that it is impossible to ascertain what the real natural relations of the two classes are until this political relation is abolished.

— George Bernard Shaw, A Treatise on Parents and Children (Emphasis mine.)

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Written by Sister Y

January 6, 2011 at 7:22 pm

3 Responses

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  1. wonderful.

    thanks for this

    revolutionaryandjoyful

    January 8, 2011 at 4:04 am

  2. Another good piece.
    I recently updated mine, if you want, check it out. I´ll be visiting yours recurrently, now.

  3. It is a shame and a disgrace that in a civilized country, parents are still allowed to use their children for slave labor.

    A child living at home should have to wash his own clothes, make his own meals and wash his own dish, and clean up any messes he makes, and that is ALL.

    Parents should not be allowed to force children to clean out the garage, mow the lawn, clean house, or babysit free.

    And no, the child does not owe the parent anything for living in the house, room and board,food. clothing, medical care, education, etc., because it is because of the parent's intercourse that the child needs these things to begin with.

    One class of people is still allowed to own slaves, and that class of people is irresponsible parents.

    Anonymous

    March 11, 2011 at 7:27 am


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