Hedionsim vs Stoicism … what’s the right approach when teens want to break the law for their own pleasure in search of a pain-free life?
In a month-long investigation into the fundamental flaws in Canadian law which allow for the easy transport of teens from one side of the country to the other, I find myself acutely aware of the issues in the Canadian “youth justice system.” These flaws perpetuate the prevalent issue of human sex-trafficking of young women between ages of 13-25.
On the one hand the argument is that “a teen is old enough to decide what they want” and that trying to reign them in per say is “tough love” and inappropriate. On the other hand there are strong, stable, loving parents who are woke and cognisant of the risks, dangers & threats targeting youth. These parents are fighting against the inherently corrupt system for the safety and well-being of their teens. The former opinion echoes a hedonistic viewpoint that all human beings have a moral right to seek out a pain-free life, seeking fulfillment of individual desires and pleasures. The latter is a more stoic perspective which holds that all life is suffering and humans can attain fulfillment by detaching from emotional desires, practicing self-control, and focusing on the good of the many over the good of a few.
While it’s up to the individual to decide their preference between these two extremes or some combination of worldviews, as a society we are still bound to common laws. Unfortunately, Canadian Children and Youth laws and actual real-world practice and application of these laws vary enormously, further complicating an already complex issue.
Provincial Laws Contradict One Another…Written Law is not Practiced or Enforced
Laws and their enforcement are legislated at the provincial, territorial or municipal level. Furthermore, just because it’s written in law doesn’t mean it’ll be enforced. For example, the written law in British Columbia seems to be in support of the Stoic approach by stating age of majority is 19 in British Columbia, whereby teens are expected to live with their parents (and practice self-control and obedience). The written law states that RCMP will find runaways and bring them home as many times as necessary. However, the day-to-day actual application of this law is more hedonistic in that 16 year olds are pretty much allowed to do anything they want “in search of pleasure, happiness, and a pain-free life.” The RCMP does not enforce the written law. (I have my suspicions why officers do this which I explore further in this article but go into much greater depth in upcoming articles on this blog.) The written law is stoic but the application promotes hedonistic behaviour in teens & the adults who support a runaway’s rebellion.
My research revealed that there are no universal federal laws for the age of majority in Canada but that each province has its own regulations. Here is a list of the things British Columbia law says teens can’t do until they are 19. Here is another link to an Ontario-based site called Justice for Children & Youth which outlines information and laws which are contradictory to the ones in B.C. Therefore, hypothetically, a teen who runs away from B.C. to Ontario can avoid the B.C. restrictions by claiming they are now an Ontario resident, even though B.C. still recognizes them as a resident as well. You see the tangled web? A lawyer in B.C. would state the teen is a B.C. resident and a judge would have to decide which laws applied. It’s a jurisdictional nightmare!
The most disturbing metaphorical WALL that I’ve come up against when I’ve spoken with police officers, bylaw officers, social workers, lawyers, family, friends and social justice advocates is a philosophical conundrum debated since ancient Greek philosopher Aristippus. He is known to be the founder of Hedonism: the view that our human fundamental moral obligation is to maximize pleasure or happiness. When teens leave a loving parental home, where rules are set down and enforced ,in search a more pain-free and rule-free existence, this is hedonism in practice. The adults who support a teen to do such things are of the belief that living a pain-free (albeit hedonistic) life is the ultimate moral obligation for an individual.
Interestingly, on a bit of a side note, the term ethical hedonism came about years after Aristippus and is most associated with the ancient Greek philosopher Epicurus (342-270 BCE) who clarified that pleasure received from such things as torturing another human being is not ethical. So apparently, even hedonists do draw the line at psychopathic torture of other humans & animals. It’s like…okay…you can do anything you want that brings you pleasure…but no waterboarding….that’s just psychotic. That’s against the rules even for hedonists. Unless you’re CIA. Then it’s okay? Additionally, in recent years we’ve seen a growing awareness of people with narcissistic or psychopathic tendencies which are defined as receiving pleasure from observing the suffering of others. Have our hedonistic laws & common societal practices bred a generation of narcissists? Could it be possible that a narcissistic family member would lure a teen into their home in order to cause pain to the teen’s parent; would the narcissist receive pleasure in seeing the pain they’ve created for the teen’s parent? … Just a thought….I guess that’s a topic for another day. Let’s get back to hedonistic Canadian teen laws in 2021!
What do these ancient Greek philosophers have to do with a hypothetical Canadian 16 year old in the year 2021? I’ll tell you.
Age-old Debate of Hedonism Vs Stoicism
The two camps of thought still influence society today to a large degree and the hedonistic worldview has not only shaped teen & youth law but it actively alienates stoic-minded parents from guiding their teens to an alternative, less pleasure-seeking way of thinking and living.
Hedonism is the idea that pleasure is the highest form of good, or even the only form of good. Hedonists usually focus on maximizing their personal pleasure, or if discussing societal values, bringing the most pleasure to the most people.
Stoicism is the idea that emotions lead to poor judgment and poor decisions. Followers of Stoicism focus on keeping their emotions under control, not displaying emotion, and not allowing their emotions to influence their decisions.
In the past month as I’ve been researching Canadian and provincial teen and youth law, (which incidentally defines a juvenile as under the age of 18) I keep coming up against this hedonist philosophical world view. Time and time again they share the same view – whether professional associates, family or casual friends – they tell me the parents of a teen should let them do what they want [if it makes them happy]. This means the general norm in society which is encapsulated into our provincial law is the idea that teens are permitted to follow a path to minimize their pain and maximize their pleasure. We are willingly accepting and perpetuating a culture which promotes and supports hedonism. Isn’t that odd?
Although the federal law states a juvenile is under the age of 18 and it’s against the law to move out of the house without parental consent, in reality when a teen turns 16 then police, social workers, lawyers, and well-meaning community members do not feel the law applies to them.
Truthfully, at this domestic level of the issue I feel strongly that “the law” cannot make an ill-intentioned person behave morally. Safety & security are somewhat arbitrary words & differ from culture to culture. The law cannot force people to change their morals or beliefs. And also everything that is legal is not necessarily moral (take slavery or women’s suffrage for example). The question of “where is the right place for a teen to live” brings up a plethora of strong feelings, emotions, thoughts and behaviours for everyone involved. No wonder it’s such a touchy legal and moral dilemma for any family with a teen runaway.
Although I seem to have an unpopular opinion, fortunately I’m not alone. I tend to lean on the stoic approach to life, living & parenting. Stoic individuals and advocates for tighter laws seeking to protect children & youth have been striving successfully and diligently for decades. To what end? That children & youth are taught to be responsible, conscientious and contributing members of a family, a community. A strong and loving family is the bedrock of a thriving community. A hedonistic pleasure-seeking life fundamentally contradicts a model of society in which people practice self-control, choose a degree of individual suffering in exchange for communal harmony, and use reason and rationale to determine positive action instead of flights of fancy of emotion.
What is Safety, Stability & Security? Who Defines it? Who Enforces it?
When I was looking into the mandated procedures of the Children’s Aid Society (CAS) of Ontario I learned from a social worker, Tanya Katch, that even if she does a wellness check for a 16 year old and discovers they are living in a drug-filled house infested with insects and dirt there is still nothing she can do to have the teen removed. She says the CAS mandate is to “protect” teens under the age of 18, however in practice this is not the case. She says there is nothing she/they can do. Again, isn’t that odd? Especially considering they promote themselves as being THE authority on child & teen safety and protection. Did you know that the CAS organization in Ontario is a privately run business contracted by the provincial government? They are paid (by the government) something like $70,000 a year for every child they remove from a home. The stats are staggering but, again, a topic for another time. Young children are removed from homes more often because foster parents and adoption agencies have a greater preference for younger children. The rule of supply and demand seems to be in full force here as our children are being treated as a valuable commodity, while our teens are being neglected or mistreated or mismanaged by archaic laws & practices.
So how does all of this create a nation where a multi-million dollar human sex trafficking industry flourishes? I’ll outline it in 14 steps although this is just the tip of the ice burg.
- Teens are encouraged by law, by societal norms, by friends & family to seek out a pain-free life, even if that means leaving a loving home, school and gainful employment to do so. Afterall, loving homes have rules, school is hard and employment is a lot of responsibility.
- Loving and stoic-minded parents are given no rights to their teen’s living arrangements by law. Reasonable laws that exist on paper are not followed by judges, lawyers, police officers or child protection workers in practice.
- Schools accept teens who have “withdrawn from parental control” without asking any questions. Sometimes schools let a teen enter a classroom as a new student even without a registration form or any proof that the adult accompanying them is a legal guardian.
- Police officers allow teens to do anything they want or live anywhere they choose in order to avoid strenuous paperwork, provided there is no evidence of criminal activity.
- Even if there are signs of theft or fraud, the Juvenile justice system strongly protects youth from harsh penalty and/or consequences.
- Social workers focus on children under the age of 12 and give a lot of freedom to teens, at times even encouraging them to break free from their family home in pursuit of a pain-free life.
- Nonprofit organizations and websites provide information to teens on how to find loop holes in the justice system so they can withdraw from parental control, without any evidence that this is in the best interest of the child.
- Airports allow children of all ages to travel without any evidence that the adult they are traveling with, or who booked the ticket, is a legal guardian. This is so shocking my head is still spinning.
- Phone companies (Telus specifically) allow 15 year olds to enter into a phone contract with any adult who shows up saying they want the teen on their phone plan, without requesting proof of legal guardianship.
- Provincial laws vary from place to place and there are very few (if any) youth protection laws at a federal level.
- Teens who lie can get away with whatever they want because no professional agency looks into the claims or seeks out facts & true information.
- Provincial Court-orders for parenting and divorce can be arbitrarily broken by either parent without consequence, making the documents fundamentally useless for child protection and seem to be just a money-making scheme for the family justice system.
- Once a child “runs away” there is very little anyone can do to compel them to return to the safety of their own home. At that point, unchaperoned and vulnerable they become VERY easy targets for predators recruiting new slaves for their flourishing human sex trafficking rings.
- There is “very little” which can be done but that does not mean there is NOTHING. Strong, determined, intelligent and stoic parents have successfully “beat the system” in order to protect their teens from going down hedonistic life paths. There ARE resources, supports and passion-driven people and agencies in existence right now acting in the REAL best interest of teens. Laws are changing. Society is maturing. What wasn’t possible 50 years ago is possible now. Yes, it is like walking with a small flashlight in a dark cave but still there is hope and there is enlightenment.
The Secret Epidemic Amid Viral Pandemic
I make a lot of claims here and will explore them in greater detail over time. The point I’m making is this: In Canada we have a quiet epidemic of human sex trafficking which is a heinous crime against our children & youth, especially young women. Our laws, societal norms, policies, procedures and practices do not protect or support average teens or their parents in developing strong and healthy relationships. Hedonistic philosophical views are enshrined in our antiquated provincial & federal laws which not only lure average teens out of their parental homes but also turns a blind eye to the abhorrent criminal behaviour of those who are trafficking teens for the purposes of sexual slavery. For a fascinating read in Global News check out this article with the headline “Fighting human trafficking ‘more urgent’ amid pandemic.”
It’s a well-documented scientific fact that adolescent brains are not fully developed yet, and function very differently than the adult brain. The frontal cortex, which is the decision-making part of the brain, is still underdeveloped at age 16. It’s not until the early 20s when the brain matures and begins functioning more adult-like. The Baha’i Faith defines the time of youth between ages 15-30. I want to know why Canadian law and societal practices give so much autonomy to 16 year old youth who have underdeveloped brains? Who benefits from these laws which pull teens away from loving & supportive parents? What’s really going on here?
A personal curiosity in March 2021 led to this month-long investigation into the laws and practices of our country. I was shocked and horrified by what I discovered. I hope this short introduction into the nature of the issue helps to open the readers’ eyes.
It leaves me with the question: what can be done? Where do we go from here? That will be explored in more detail soon.