I argue that 15-17 year olds are the most oppressed group in the West. Not only is ageism everywhere, permeating every space, infesting every mind, even those of the oppressed — this oppression is still enforced by the State. Imagine if we still had forced racial segregation. What teens face from the State every day is similar. I know many might say it’s not as bad, but I have philosophical reason to disagree. More on that later.

You have to understand that laws are ultimately enforced with deadly force if the disobedient will not yield. The government will escalate force until you die if you are serious about disobeying a law. That is, if you refuse to obey, and you refuse to accept the invalid actions of the State in response, they will kill you. Let me provide a concrete example. You know that being forced to go to a facility against your will simply for being, say, 17 years old, for 40 hours a week is an extreme violation of your civil liberties. Therefore, you don’t go. The government sends people whose job is to commit violence on behalf of the State, to commit violence on you. At first they will try to restrain you. You’re probably not strong enough to resist, but say you can knock these people out. They’ll shoot you. Their protocol says to spray you with the whole magazine-worth of ammunition. That’s what they’ll do. Maybe if you’re lucky, you knock one out for laying hands on you for illegitimate reasons, the others (they always come in packs) will aim their guns at you because you’re dangerous to them with just your hands. Most will probably just kill you right then and there. They have “qualified immunity” and won’t face any repercussions, because you were “belligerent” and “dangerous.” Maybe they’ll yell at you to get down. They won’t go away though. They’ll probably surround you and if you try to leave they’ll get “scared” and boom you’re dead. The point is they will escalate violence until it’s life or death. They ultimately enforce the law with the threat of murder.

To my knowledge, this is the only way a State can have laws. Hell, advanced restraining sounds more nightmarish than this. The point is that State enforced oppression is a big deal. If you are a 16 year old who decides that it’s your moral right to be able to travel as you please, and you try to use this right, the state will ultimately escalate violence until you are dead. They will lynch you like for exercising your civil rights. In contrast, the most decentralized oppressors can do is refuse to associate with you under various conditions. Sometimes it’s unfair, but it’s a lot different than the State sending a death squad after you for minding your own business.

So. Are teens the most oppressed? Yes. Teens are virtually treated like criminals on account of their age, similar to black people before 1960. They are treated like children, similar to women before feminism. Yet unlike criminals and children, teens don’t deserve it. Oppression is unjust subordination.

If you think they do deserve it, you’ve fallen prey to harmful, pseudo-scientific narratives that should make old-fashioned racial phrenologists blush. I debunk these narratives in my book, An Empirical Introduction to Youth. The gist is that all of the data agrees that the brain is developed by the age of 15. Even 13 and 14 year olds have judgment capacities that rival certain adult demographics. This makes sense because it would be weird for evolution to make people idiots until the age of 25 with mature, dangerous bodies. The pseudo-scientists and the media who talk about these studies lie about their findings, similar to how Stephen Jay Gould claimed that Samuel Morton lied about his phrenology findings even though he didn’t. They do this because of who pays them: foundations like MacArthur and Johnson which are run by the owner class and their hired-brains, the PMC. The owner class set up the education system in order to offload corporate overhead, such as cost of training, onto tax-payers. The PMC were and are hired to improve this system using their brains, among other things. In the process of doing so, they inject their own desires and attempt to reduce teens and young adults to something like their slave-class, which exists to make them look important, to pay them tuition, low level work for them, and so on.

If this sounds extreme, just read Foucault! Power corrupts knowledge, and deceit is a fundamental tool of power. The point is to manage your opinions and to manufacture your consent. The :”default” view on this issue, like many issues in fact, is not to be trusted. Said view only benefits a small class of masters, and is extremely harmful to teens.

Anyway, to recap: yes, teens are the most oppressed identity group. What should we do about it? I leave that to a future writing.


Sorted by Click to highlight new comments since: Today at 2:48 AM

As a sixteen year old, while I appreciate that this is being talked about and am a massive proponent of teens having more rights, I think your central point is fundamentally wrong—while we're forced to go to school every day, we certainly don't get death squads for minding our own business. To my knowledge, teens being sent to juvenile detention for habitual truancy is extremely rare, and it seems like a massive stretch to argue that teens are physically restrained and forced to go to school, especially by threat of death. With parental permission, for example, I can unenroll from school. Society giving parents ultimate authority over their kids is a different thing, and I agree that that is harmful; but I think you can combat that directly instead of railing loudly against the state's potential for murder and destruction to teenagers.

While your other claims seem somewhat valid, the exceptional hyperbole on this is fundamentally driving people away from your argument, and I think you'd find potentially orders of magnitude more people willing to hear you out if you focused more on your argument that teen mental capacity is near-fully developed. (For example, it would be wonderful if you campaigned for no-fault emancipation without parental consent and the rights of teens to unenroll from school). Your book seems, at a glance, better for this than this post.

All the violent-state-oppression stuff applies to every law equally; I don't think it gives a special reason to focus on laws affecting teenagers. Are you trying to convince us to become anarchists, or that the treatment of teenagers in rich countries is particularly unjust even within a statist framework? If the latter, I think it would be more productive to focus on the evidence you think shows that people's beliefs around teenagers' capacity are false; just linking your book doesn't do much.

Even accepting the broader framing and the claim that teenagers are treated unjustly, you don't make any case that this is competitive with other top causes. Even if we're focusing on societal justice within rich countries (which I don't think is good cause prioritisation), would-be immigrants seem more oppressed than teenagers to me.

(FWIW, I'm basically opposed to compulsory schooling after age 12, think teenagers should be given many more rights than they are, and tentatively think that parents should have substantially less power to override their children's wishes on various things.)