Thursday, January 03, 2019

To Treat People Like They're People

The compliment I receive most often from parents is something along the lines of, "You treat kids like they're people," which at first blush seems like the definition of a low bar. And it is, to be honest: treating our fellow people as people seems like it ought to be the minimum standard for civil interaction amongst the humans.

Of course, as a species we fail often and spectacularly to reach even this lowest of bars. There are some 40 million of our fellow humans, mostly children and women, who are today suffering under some form of modern slavery. The only way to fight a war is to assume your adversaries are somehow lesser humans. It shows up as violence, abuse, bigotry, and all other forms of subjugation. We see it in policies that leave sick people sleeping in doorways in our major cities or that keep entire categories of us perpetually impoverished and marginalized. Indeed, when one takes a step back, it appears that treating other people like they're people is more the exception than the rule.

I think what people mean when they say that I treat children like they're people, is that they see that I strive to engage them as fully formed humans with the same rights and responsibilities as anyone else, not merely as incomplete adults. I don't seek to rule or control children, nor will I allow them to rule or control me. I am not in any way their superior, nor are they mine. We are colleagues in this world, in this project of living, just as their parents are, just as, ideally, is every other human on earth.

This is not to say that we don't have things to learn from one another. I attempt to share, not impose, what wisdom I've acquired with these other people in my life, just as they share their special wisdom with me. And one of the things that I've learned from them is to strive, always, to treat people like they're people.

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