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Sunday, January 14, 2018

A Place of No Return

Do you remember the scene from Pinocchio where the bad guys are recruiting children to go into their Sanctuary? (Yes, I'm going to call it a sanctuary, because it's a place where children are liberated from adults.)

The real problem with the proposition from the fox and the cat was not just that it was a misrepresentation of Pleasure Island as a Sanctuary free from care. The real problem was that it was a Place of No Return."They never come back ... as boys."

I know of a lot of places with a hard sell, but no right of return. They include sanctuaries for chimpanzees and old folks homes. These places are advertised as Pleasure Island where the isolated chimpanzee or elderly person can find friends of his own age or species, but they don't offer a money back guarantee or a free ticket home if you don't like it there. In fact, many old folks homes expect the elderly to sell their house and give them all the money. They have complicated contracts, so you can't just decide to go there as a vacation and then return home when you have had your fill. I have known a few people who went into those homes. They never come back out alive.

By this, of course, I do not mean that the institutions intentionally kill the elders who enter there. Most die of old age. But once you put yourself there, it is very hard to leave. The same is true for chimpanzee sanctuaries.

Once a chimpanzee enters the sanctuary system, he might be sent to a different sanctuary if the one he is in turns out to be a death trap, but he can never leave the sanctuary system. There is no going home. If I were a chimpanzee, I would be afraid to go there for that reason alone, much less what might happen to me during the first introduction to  other inmates.

"If you really respect Bow, you would leave it up to him to choose," my primatologist friend said to me recently. Really? And if I had a little boy like Pinocchio, I suppose you think I should leave it up to him to accept or reject the offer of the fox and the cat? Because after all, that is the libertarian position, right?

Wrong. Which brings me to the recent issue of age of consent that came up in my libertarian circles. Most of us agree that minors do need to be protected by their parents and should not be allowed to make irrevocable decisions about their lives without the help of a parent while they are yet too immature to be emancipated. Most libertarians, even the radical ones, understand that being a human does not automatically equip one to deal with complex, life altering issues from day one. Literate fifteen-year-olds are in most cases still not ready to sell themselves to the highest bidder.

"But if you believe that Bow can read and write, then why won't you let him decide for himself?" For the same reason I would not let any teen sell himself to a place of no return.

The truth is, if there were a place that Bow could go for a fun vacation, I would probably let him go. I would use that time to take a vacation, myself. But I am not shipping him off to Pleasure Island -- because if it were a good place, they would not have a no return policy.


  1. I loved your last point - if it were a good place, they would not have a not return policy.
    I also agree with you that, even though we believe that all people should have choices, there is a more subtle common sense consideration when you're speaking of children, including teenagers, that can't even make good decisions about when to go to bed or what to eat.
    "Let Bow decide"? In so many ways, Bow is still like a child, even though he's the age of a teenager. As far as I can tell, he's not savvy to what goes on in much of the real world out there, so how in the world could he possibly make that decision, even if you were to let him? How frustrating for you.
    It really is too bad though that there isn't a "chimpanzee playschool" where he could visit during the day occasionally.

    1. Hi, Kathy. I actually did once make a research proposal that I submitted to Frans de Waal for a chimpanzee preschool, where some chimpanzees would get to go home to their humans at the end of the day, while others remained in a chimpanzee only group. I wanted to test learning under the different conditions. Today, I would welcome having a community where enculturated chimps get to socialize with one another in a central location for chimps only, but come back to their respective human homes at the end of the day, or whenever they want. The fact that the powers that be have it set up where there is no return is what makes it impossible for chimpanzees to socialize with other chimpanzees by choice and not by force.

  2. I wouldn ot put my parents in a rest home because if have seen how these work. Some facilities are really good, but it seems to be part of this culture where people have kids, but when they are out and about they want to ignore the kids to talk to other adults. They want the kids to do lots of activities to encourage independence, which is a good thing, but it seems like when everyone turns eighteen it is all about having the kids move out. Then when parents become to old to take care of themselves, the kids put them in a rest home and rarely visit. I suppose I just prefer other cultures where several generations live together and take care of each other. I am not saying people have to do this, but I will not be putting my parents in one of those facilities. I would rather take care of them, or hire a nurse if necessary. I think Bow would not be happy in a sanctuary, and it seems these days they want everyone to become part of institutional living.

    1. Hi, Julia. I agree. There definitely seems to be a move afoot to institutionalize just about everybody, starting with infants, continuing with school age children, and then all the way down to our elders. When people did not have so many options for others to pay for their daycare and elder care, families stayed together throughout the lifespan.

    2. Today even families who have some money and run their own businesses, or have careers, want to stay together. My Vietnamese friend and her mom still live together because she was born there and believes in this way of life.

    3. Yes, Julia, I agree. It can be a choice that is dictated by love, not economics. But we are tempting those who have less to take a different path, because they are given money to walk away from their family members.