Thursday, May 15, 2014

#BringBackOurChildren

I share the horror and dismay over the 200 young women kidnapped in Nigeria, just because they were attending school. However, my horror does not stop there. It hardly even registers there.

Millions of children all over the world are forced into sexual slavery or heavy labor every year. Pre-teen girls and boys are smuggled into India, where they become the playthings of traffickers. American children are brutalized for pornography -- babies, even. Kids make bricks, dig gold, pick cocoa beans and coffee. They sew hair on Barbie dolls and make sneakers.

When did children cease to be important, except as commodities?

One of the most chilling books I've read in recent years is this one, about a boy in Sierra Leone who became a child soldier. But there's no smirking from me on this side of the pond. Camden has child soldiers too.

When did children cease to be important?

I submit that the brutalization of children began when the world population grew to saturation point. At some time in our past, there must have been more food than there were people to eat it. This was before recorded history, so we have no way of knowing when that time might have been. Then children were valued. Then their education and health were important. Both genders.

Last night, I was looking at Facebook and someone had posted a picture of a child's skull that still had all its adult teeth. The caption was, "They really are aliens." I sat there aghast. That skeleton with the adult teeth still up in the gums represents a dead child, one who died at a very tender age. Little do we care. Call it an alien, make it a joke.

Again, far be it from us to point fingers at Nigeria and cry for justice there. Our culture has a pervasive anti-child bias as well. From the age of three children are told to sit still and learn their letters and numbers, sitting ever stiller for ever longer as they grow, facing ever more rigorous school work, until many of them need drugs to be able to stand it. Their play has become regimented, their imaginations usurped by technology. There are 12 children under 10 years of age on my block, and I never see them outside, just playing. They aren't making bricks, but they're not being kids, either.

Lately I have noted another interesting phenomenon, as well. Two weeks ago or so, there was an outcry over a rape scene in Game of Thrones. After that I saw several earnest editorials about the cavalier rapes in the book and on the television show. But I have not seen one commentary on the heroine Arya Stark, who is a killer by age eight. As I read that series, I grew ever more uncomfortable with Arya. She is a child soldier, and we root for her to kill people. Maybe if I wasn't acquainted with Ishmael Beah, I wouldn't mind Arya's role, either. But kids don't belong in armies any more than they belong in brothels. And they populate both. Seems alright if they're killers, especially if the victims are adults.

If this episode in Nigeria does anything, it should remind us to put a value on childhood. We grow too soon old in this world. And yet still we rush the process along. It is our worst sin.

7 comments:

Lucretia said...

Value on both childhood and on children AS children. YES.

When did so many of us stop caring about this, or even noticing?? I'm ashamed to say I have no idea. When my son was growing up in the 90s, playing outside was still something the neighborhood kids did, at least the ones we knew. We probably had one of the only computers in the neighborhood (my ex is a hardware engineer), but everyone had TVs, and the kids still played outside.

I haven't watched "Game of Thrones", and I'm glad; it just sounded boring before, now it sounds appalling.

JACKIESUE said...

I worry about the children in the deep south who's parents are so deep into meth and oxycontin that the go hungry because money was spent on drugs..it happens every where.. breaks my heart.

Athana said...

I think the abuse of children -- and most of our ills -- can be explained by "Starvation Culture" -- a way of life begun when much of the world was starving, and therefore all niceties went out the window.

Almost all that bedevils us can be explained by Starvation Culture: our pervasive stealing (war is stealing, rape is stealing), our social hierarchies (younger men are the last to die in a starving group, and therefore become the leaders), our hoarding, our bulimia, our switch from goddess to war gods (when millions starved, people thought Mother Earth had abandoned them).

Children and the elderly both are big-time burdens when you're starving -- and they therefore became lesser-thans.

Love,
Athana

Davoh said...

Anne, it's a big planet.
We (as individuals) can't "save all the children" on it.
Have just watched a local Australian Four Corners TV episode about young boys in Pakistan.

While my heart may bleed - have no authority there.

Doubt that anyone has. Since WW2, America tried to assert military "authority" in more countries than i care to mention.

Tried to assert 'cultural' authority in more countries around this planet than i care to mention.

Bit like the 'Romans' in Europe.. around the rather interestingly named "Mediterranean" (middle sea).

From my perspective - rather like the vast, and complex entity and various 'gods', goddesses - of the "South Pacific".



Anonymous said...

Ah, a giant YES to your post.

I was just thinking about this topic myself. I blame the tech boom and the testing crap beginning in the early 00's.

I feel like I'm part of the last generation of people who grew up without the pervasive influence of computers and technology. We played outdoors and with actual physical toys you could hold, touch, and manipulate instead of 2-D images on a screen.

Not only is our culture taking childhood away, it's also taking away our relation to the natural, tangible world, rendering it flat and abstract, also flattening emotions and abstracting thought.

It's up to parents to teach/model empathy and other humanizing qualities and yet they increasingly don't have the time.

By the green mantle of Mother Earth, it's sad. Children are the future as the saying goes but now it's just lip service. The future they face is to be tools of the machine.

Anne Johnson said...

Yes, thank you kind readers, it's all here: Imperialism, the starvation culture, the ripping away of imagination. But mostly the starvation culture. If suddenly everyone had enough to eat, and the security that more would be forthcoming, our value placement on children would change completely.

Anonymous said...

Which means it's because of fear. Fear is the mind-killer, as they used to say on Kung Fu (the TV series). Fear of starvation, fear of not knowing how you are going to live. With our economy going the way it is, this is just increasing here in the US and many other places.
--Kim