Infantalized diplomats / child chattels / autopia revisited
|Well now - Time to jump into the fray and rant. I threatened, and so the time is nigh. |
The subject du jour is none other than: The independent mobility of children.
Say what? Well you may ask. I know, this may seem like a bit of an oxymoron in this day and age...and moronic it is.
The independent mobility of children is just exactly that - the freedom to come and go...independently. On foot, by bike, skateboard, roller skates, dogsled, gerbil-powered little red wagon, whatever.
Long ago in America kids did this, en mass. They hollered at the back door some such howl about when they'd be back, where they were going, what they'd be doing, or perhaps not. Yet still they went.
Where they acually went, and what they did - was entirely their own business. And unless it was particularly criminal in nature, they very seldom brought trouble back home again, in the person of a constable at the door.
They went entirely under their own steam. And they arrived back again in much the same way. However many vehicles of any description resided in the driveway or garage, it was all the same to them - they were oblivious to the fact.
Motorized mobility was not necessary, and hardly welcomed.
You see - this busy activity of childhood had multiple purposes. It was involved in and concerned with the multitude of activities which served up all the requirements of a normal childhood - that of above all others, having fun. Fun was necessary - to ward off the stresses of domestic realities, schoolhouse trauma, and most other obligations requiring supervision, training, and guidance by adults. Fun required hanging out, alone sometimes and other times, in groups. Fun could be a specific activity, or absolutely no activity at all. It was something defined precisely by kids themselves, and none other.
In short, kids needed space and time away from their elders for all things kiddish. They didn't much philosophize about it - they just did it. And they did it speedy quick, in short order, with a minimum of fuss and bother.
One may well ponder this while viewing the modern world. I suspect this still goes on somewhat in small towns.
Perhaps it even takes place in larger towns.
However, this is not where most of America lives. We have arrived at the glorious state of having managed to suburbanize roughly three quarters of the population.
The only independent mobility in suburbia happens when one drives a car.
And there it is. Aw - the black irony of it. "Let's move to suburbia, honey - it will be good for the kids."
It will be so good that we'll have to tack a schedule to the fridge, and plan out the 47 different single trips it takes each week to chauffeur them hither and yon to every single spot their busy lives require them to be.
Not one of those places is reachable any other way.
It's a crying shame that the result of this is that we spend 48 hours a week in the car.
But the impact of that is softened somewhat, by designing the car interior to look more like a living room than the living room does. Keep the windows tinted, shaded, and the exterior world just fades away (except for the driver, hopefully.)
Parents complain bitterly about time-stress. Why do we do this to ourselves? Somehow, we just happened to make a soft landing onto a suburban lot - and the rest follows.
Consider the curly - kews of suburban street design...the endless weaving, winding, twisting crescents, cul-de-sac dead-ends (to ward off "through" traffic....great promotion for the safety of the kids on the street - except that the kids aren't ON the street....more on that later.)
The end result is that when little junior wants to vist his buddy who lives 500 feet away as the crow flies, it takes a mile of car driving to reach that destination, because it's all private property in between, and the streets were never designed for easy pedestrian access, anyhow.
How strange - that millions of square miles of this stuff came off the drawing board with no thought or recognition of the fact that humans happen to be bipeds. You'd think (they thought) we were all disabled and confined to wheelchairs.
I hear bad things about the state of growing childhood obesity in this nation. Bad diets, no doubt, but extreme lack of exercise, for sure. I would think most kids could get practically all the exercise they need just coming and going to school - other than being driven. Only that isn't possible in many cases. We wouldn't dream of expecting them to navigate the average suburban spread on foot. And we'd be correct.
But wait a minute. Kids didn't design this. They had absolutely nothing to do with it.
Collectively, as a society. Somehow we thought enough of it that it became the cause celebre, the right thing, the good stuff.
I think that at least two out of every three Americans would respond to that differently. They might actually admit that they never gave it a whole lot of thought...but they'd at least stand up and proclaim that they didn't vote for it (and they'd be right.)
So how did it happen? That's a long story. A very sad story. Too long for this piece, and anyway, I have to get back to my topic.
Kids have become the prisoners of the infrastructure. They have no way of getting out there and actually learning firsthand about the "public" domain they are a part of. (which makes them hardly a part of it at all.)
We have banished that possibilty. We have replaced it with something entirely different. Every outing becomes a supervised "lesson." Scrutinized. I would think that microscopic myopia would be an excruciating existence.
It would have driven me bonkers, as a kid...
But then, I grew up in a different time.
There are two things about this issue that really bother me (other than all I've previously stated.)
The first thing - is that no-one seems to mind - at least directly.
I can hardly believe that most people just adore the stresses of all that driving.
The risk of being taken for a curmudgeon howling upon the glories of the good old days is no small risk.
However, I will risk it.
In my small city, I grew from the age of 8 to 15 - a city where I howled to get out of the house as much as inhumanly possible, and often succeeded...in which my father's car remained in the driveway no matter where I was going....and in all those years exactly ONCE...was I driven somewhere. (and that one time to civil court, in order to preserve the crease in my dress pants.)
Well - I risked it.
The second thing that really bothers me - is the safety issue.
As if questioning and objecting to things as they are - is somehow desireous of all activity that puts children at risk.
Kids out playing on the street are kids at risk. Risk hides in the closet and under the stairwell. Risk will presently bite you from behind as you sit reading this.
We really created a safe world for our kids, didn't we? We did a fabulous job of that.
What we really did is create a gazzilion ways to make the world they inhabit less safe. We're very good at it.
I dunno....I get a real case of the heebie-jeebies every time I think of a kid crowding the age of 15......old enough for a learner's permit, and I ponder that this same kid will finally know and understand some microbe of the meaning of independent mobility - when they can finally drive (alone.)
And in the meantime, and before all that happens....what became of that joyful game of chance, curiosity, growth, understanding....looking at the world from a personal basis, live and in person?
Cyber-surrogated virtual unreal imaged value-added phoniness provides....just exactly what you pay for.
Gee, I remember that. Goin' somewhere for nothin'. Gettin' a damned good return for it, too.
just let me laugh when it's funny
and when it's sad, let me cry