It seems really obvious to me, having been a child, that children are not property. They’re not particularly intellectually or emotionally inferior, either—I have vivid memories of my childhood, actually. Ones where I can actually remember my own thought processes at the time. Most people don’t. They have vague memories of events: sights, sounds and feelings, but not of their thought processes.
At five years old, I went on a field trip to Six Flags in TX along with a Little Peoples’ Landing day-trip group and went on a roller-coaster, which basically made me hate the damn things for the rest of my life. As we were going up, I was sitting next to one of the women who worked at the LPL and I was nervous as hell; the shocks of our cars being levered up were rippling through my chest and I was so… focused. I decided, quite deliberately, to speak because I thought it would relieve some of the tension, so I mumbled over and over again: “I want my mommy.” I never called my mother “mommy;” it was completely unlike me to do this (to an observer)… it felt awkward calling her what I did at home (momma) and I wanted to convey it outwards: that I was freaked out. I did it fully aware of the social connotations of what I was saying—in part because those things were what I wanted anyone hearing me to think. All of this shit, going on inside my head.
And no, it wasn’t as laid out as this—that would have taken too long. All this recall-recognition thinky shit was going on inside my head all at once. Fucking simultaneously. That’s what I’m trying to convey—that my thoughts were incredibly intricate and self-aware, even from an age that adults think is basically drooling and pulling shit off shelves becuse it’s fucking shiny. I was calculating as hell, deliberately so.
I wasn’t a sociopath, however. When I was four, in Kindergarten, previously in the same school year (deductively; never had a head for timelines, but we moved out of TX after that), I got a “black card” one day at school. In a way that to this day, because of still wanting to rip my lungs out and throw them in the trash they feel so dirty from thinking about it, I have no qualms at all labeling “sexual abuse,” my mother came into my room, laid down behind me in my bed… and told me that she was either going to spank me or that I wouldn’t get to go to some amusement park in the area the next day with them.
And you know, that’s a pretty prime opportunity for a kid to be completely fucking self-centered—the war over not wanting to feel pain right now and wanting to go to Distracting Stimulation Fun Fun Land tomorrow. But I wasn’t having an issue with that, really—at least, that wasn’t all (or even most) of it. I was torn between several much stronger feelings: having her behind me, knowing I couldn’t escape, and feeling completely exposed and trapped and… pinned down. Wanting her out of my room as soon as possible because of how threatened I felt. And what finally made the decision for me—I didn’t want to inconvenience someone else, because although I knew the adults didn’t feel the same about the amusement park as I did, I didn’t want to force someone to miss out and have to stay home to take care of me.
That’s not what I’d call self-absorption, there. I fucking fought off feeling profoundly unsafe around my mother because I didn’t want to inconvenience somebody else. And remember: I was four. This was Texas. Supposedly, I wasn’t yet capable of such advanced powers of empathy. Or, at least, that I could convey via language—it’s a common mistake that people assume that if you do not speak their language fluently, you’re actually unintelligent.
But this is my point: my mental and emotional processes have not gotten more complex as I’ve gotten older. Because they were always complex as hell; years have added new intersections of conflict—sex, are there men around, will men judge me and threaten me, who’s seeing me, will somebody start a fight, tension, confrontation: avoidance/conscience, what about the cops, what if I can’t get away, will I lie awake all night brooding on this, will I be able to live with myself after this. But those intersections haven’t increased the intricacy of my thoughts; they’ve only made them more confused and less likely to move into action. More hesitant, not more intricate.
My thought processes—a lot of them, anyway, in the realm of critical thinking and not-believing-you-until-you-fucking-show-me—actually got more simplistic inside, and because of, school. I wasn’t supposed to question capitalism, or colonialism, or even the two-party system. I certainly wasn’t supposed to question the authority of my mother or my teachers.
So excuse me if, based on my vivid memories and experiences, I doubt the intellectual and emotional inferiority of animals. As a child, I was told that I was inferior, too, even when I could argue logic better than the goddamn adults—but my experience as an adult hasn’t borne that out: it’s proven it irrevocably wrong. I have no reason to believe that this prejudice against animals is right, and every wasn’t-handed-down-to-you-by-a-privileged-douche reason to believe otherwise. They said the same things about me, and I know they were wrong; and the way animals act, they’re wrong about that, too.
And, here’s a thought—maybe if your thought process wasn’t all that complex as a child, you’ve just deluded yourself into believing it’s gotten moreso because you think you’re smarter now, and you were never really all that complex or intelligent a person in the first place. That might be a bit offensive, but it’s a helluva lot better than deciding children deserve to be treated like property because they are Inferior Things.
Also, I refuse to believe that I am in any way a genius. It’s not that I rock—you just haven’t stopped sucking long enough to catch up to me. (Furthermore, it’s an interesting and useful way to defuse any latent I Am So Much Better Than You smuggity smug smugness. Angry I may be, but the anger kind of defuses my potential smugness when you are fucking torturing people to death because you think you’re so much better.)