When children become sexual slaves.
December 15, 2004
“Endgame” is from the language of chess. It’s the game left to play when just a few pieces are left on the board. Whether chess originated the term, I don’t know. It’s had other applications. Perhaps its most famous use was as the title of Samuel Becket’s 1957 play in the theatre of the absurd: Endgame. The word connotes an impending conclusion without necessarily predicting an inevitable outcome.
The ethical endgame is upon us when our focus shifts from duty to desire. The sexual exploitation of children is an expression of it. But the column is about ethics, not sexual practices; if I were to go into detail about the physical and emotional harm done to children who have been prostituted for sexual use, some of my nice, bookish readers might go looking for abusers with a baseball bat. My researching the subject would do me no good, nor my reporting on it do you any good.
The crime of child prostitution is big business, which means there is a market for it. Racketeers exploit children, but children aren’t their target. Their target is the people who will pay big money for the opportunity to victimize children. These people give the racketeers the money they want in exchange for the children the racketeers provide. The racketeers are evil people, but the customers who enable them also outnumber them.
We are left with the question of why, after fifteen hundred years of what used to be called Christendom - and is still so thought of in the Moslem world - this appalling practice not only survives but profitably thrives.
Nobody cares for the answer: the sexual exploitation of children is on a plane with feeding people to lions as entertainment in the Coliseum. Both practices express the ethical default setting of the human race, to wit: Other people, especially those I control, exist for my convenience and pleasure. Once that is accepted, even unconsciously, anything goes.
In computer language, the default setting is intended to rescue the computer from its own imperfections. The user can revert to the default setting. It’s popular and optimistic to think that human being have such a default setting. According to orthodox Christianity, we do not. We are so compromised that our default setting - “our nature” – when left ungoverned leads to the exploitation of others.
So far, legally, we do not allow sexual predators to do what they feel like because we do not accept their right to do it. When and if they are discovered in their crime they are not only punished but exposed to public shame. But the lines between which practices are acceptable and which are not is entirely artificial. If a culture accepts that other people are no more than adjuncts to the self, to be used and disposed of accordingly, then the lines between acceptable and unacceptable will move toward more accommodation, not less.
The prostitution of children has not become policy, but it has become practice. Laws will not reverse it. The only reversal is in a massive rethinking of how we deal with other people: not only our children, but also our employees, our neighbors, our prisoners, our allies, and our enemies. They are not ours to dispose of. They belong each to themselves. If we do not believe that, the very concept of ethics is nonsense to us.
We are in the endgame. The outcome is still open. If we do not reject our current strategy, we are going to lose.
About the Author:
Barnabas is never surprised at how bad things can get.
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