An email I received this morning at work informed me that November 20th marks the 25th Canadian anniversary of National Child Day, which commemorates the United Nations’ adoption of the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of the Child and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. These agreements acted as a commitment to help ensure that all children are treated with dignity and respect. They were supposed to ensure that children have a voice, are protected from harm, and their basic human needs are met. They were supposed to ensure that children are given every opportunity to reach their full potential. This day is devoted to celebrating children as active participants in their own lives and communities.
Apparently, by wearing blue, we are supporting children as active citizens who can and should meaningfully contribute to decision-making.
“As soon as you’re born they make you feel small
By giving you no time instead of it all
Till the pain is so big you feel nothing at all”
And yet, the reality that I have experienced (having lived on three different countries and in two continents) of how children are actually treated is drastically different. This hypocrisy makes me feel both intrigued and infuriated. Intrigued because of the language that we use to double-speak about certain topics is so propagandistic, and infuriated because of how successful it is in making us internalize it as truth, progress, civility. Let me clarify: I am not saying that children should not be active participants in their lives and communities; what I am saying is that they simply are not.
“They hurt you at home and they hit you at school
They hate if you’re clever and despise a fool
Till you’re so fucking crazy you can’t follow their rules”
How many parents do you know who actually actively listen to what their children are asking of them? How many teachers who encourage creativity? How many quizzes that nurture innate wisdom? How many institutions that allow room for individuality? How many parents who actively listen to their children and respond from a place of respect from what they are revealing?
In times like ours, I find it absolutely critical to ask ourselves the hard questions about the ways in which we are raising our young. What stories do we tell them about this word? About power? Do we teach them to question the knowledge passed down through institutions like family, school, media, or church? How do we prepare them for a world that requires them only to voluntarily slave away to support their endless consumption? What do we show them is their value as a human being? How do we show them to endlessly wallow in inexplicable anxiety, depression, fear, alienation? Do we allow them to question the realities that are fed to them as truth? Do we allow them to connect with their inner wisdom? Do we encourage exploration of inner truth, of instinct? How do we normalize the normal (or worse yet, the abnormal)?
I notice that in our society we demand of our children to surrender their curiosity and their willingness to live through their own truth. Through cultural conditioning we mold them and shape them into who we need them to be. By conforming them to a pre-exiting reality which we rarely dare to question, we (the adults) create and sustain the predictable and repetitive frameworks from which our children live their lives by. In this way, we know which box they belong in. We find comfort in the boxes, and we do not dare risk our children being the outliers, the weirdos, the outsiders.
As it turns out, cultural conditioning works because it keeps us all, more or less, the same. Conventional. On the other hand, living from an internally referenced space is dangerous to the status quo and therefore strongly discouraged. So what we are doing to our children is ensuring they trade in internal peace of Soul for the perceived safety and security of the normal.
Cultural conditioning, however, is a cunning bitch that keeps us locked into a life of inexplicable disconnect, discontent, and alienation. Or worse.
“When they’ve tortured and scared you for twenty odd years
Then they expect you to pick a career
When you can’t really function you’re so full of fear”
Our children are continuously taught to distrust their inner power, their instinct, their voice of truth. They are continuously silenced, made to question their own instincts so that they do not question authority. They will do X because someone bigger said so. They will not ask stupid questions. They will not express their uniqueness, their individuality, their essential nature to the world. They will not be equals, because they are young and short and therefore less relevant. They will not be unconditionally loved. Especially, they will not point to the hypocrisies present in the household. Or Else.
We have used aggression to control our children for centuries. This aggression is on a spectrum, of course, ranging from dismissing, distracting, silencing, withdrawing, alienating, pressuring, demanding, breaking down, blaming, yelling, pushing, victimizing, slapping, hitting, beating, isolating. And the list goes on and on …
So what do children learn? In order to ensure their survival, they end up forming physical, emotional, and spiritual attachments rooted in fear and conditional love.
“Keep you doped with religion and sex and TV
And you think you’re so clever and classless and free
But you’re still fucking peasants as far as I can see”
We, the adults, are not living up to our potential, and we can’t allow that our children do, either. Because we have not owned our own turmoil, our fears, our resentments, our aggressions, we are bound to go on repeating them. And on the cycle goes.
With social systems and institutions that regularly use double-speak to communicate, it becomes very difficult to see past the veils of confusion. Especially because, for the most part, us adults are too busy escaping our reality by eating junk or smoking dope or debating politics or feeling sorry for ourselves or blaming the infamous Other for all our problems.
“There’s room at the top they are telling you still
But first you must learn how to smile as you kill
If you want to be like all the folks on the hill”
How can we ensure our children reach their full potential when we continuously teach them to think and behave just like us? To chase the money, the fame, the illusion? The long-dead American Dream? Our consumption and unsustainable way of life? Cruelty and mass violence against each other in the name of religion, nationalism, or terror? Cruelty and violence against countless sentient beings? We teach them to conform and consume and repeat, day in and day out, because that’s how you Keep Up With the Jones’ (or is it the Kardashians, now? Sorry, I just can’t seem to keep up).
Then we wonder why we’re so disconnected and discontent. Why our children manifest anxiety and ADHD and diabetes.
What would happen if, instead of teaching our children to trade in their innate curiosity for a life of attachments that promises to keep them safe, we taught them to look within for the answers? What if we taught them that they are valued, loved, cared for, regardless of their external accomplishments? What if we taught them to question everything, including us? What if, instead of pressuring them to become someone we accepted them exactly as they are? What if we allowed them space to chant, to express themselves creatively, to play without restrictions, to care less about their appearance, to love themselves unconditionally, to love animals and Gaia, to befriend everyone, to trust their instincts, to always speak their truth, to connect to their ancestors, to meditate, to just be themselves?
What a wonderful world we would create.
“A working class hero is something to be”
In this blog I mainly focused on Western children who, apparently, have the right to rights. Children elsewhere seem to exist only to support the painfully unsustainable lifestyle of children over here. The fact that they have no rights and experience tremendous distress because of the direct consequences of our Western consumption seems to be less of a bother to us. While we all are intellectually well aware of this, we chose to not give a shit, because, I suppose, we are just too busy Christmas shopping for our new iPhone or WowWee Fingerling.
Just a normal day, keeping up with the Kardashians.
“If you want to be a hero well just follow me” – John Lennon
- Art courtesy of the lovely work of Jenny Dale.