Tuesday, September 30, 2014

When I was ten years old, my dream in life was to become the President of India and make everyone stop littering. Unfortunately I had to grow up and realize that a) the President in India is practically a non-entity and b) getting Delhi people to stop littering is improbable, if not impossible. But anyway, the point is, I shot high and mighty as a child, and embraced (or was strapped in a strait jacket to) practicality at a later stage in life. (Side note: my brother wanted to be an ice cream delivery man, so that should clarify the length and breadth of the intellectual spectrum in our house.)

Now, I have a ten year old cousin, in the prime of innocence, at the peak of her imagination propensity, and when I asked her what she wanted to be when she grows up, she said,
'I want to be a lecturer.'
It is not uncommon for children to want to be teachers, but a lecturer seemed like a deviation from the usual answers of I want to go to the moon or I want to eat dirt. So I probed further. Why? I asked. 'Because it's a stable job and I can work in the university forever.' This child had dreams of getting tenure at an age where my biggest concern was whether or not I would make it home in time for Spongebob Squarepants.

Behind her, her mother was nodding voraciously. She wanted to be an actress, the mother said, but we got rid of that silly idea, didn't we honey? The child nodded along, albeit hesitantly. I gained an insight into how indoctrination in North Korea must work.

Okay, so comparing the relationship between a slightly(?) controlling mother and her daughter to enculturation in a totalitarian regime is a bit of a stretch. The mother obviously wants what is best for her daughter.

But that is a dangerous concept, isn't it? I only want what's best for you, says the society that encourages engineering above literature.  I only want what's best for you, say the women in a village where female circumcision is encouraged.  I only want what's best for you, says the government that tear gases its civilians into submission. (Did that escalate too quickly?)

And when we grow up, we propagate the same skewed paradigm of the 'greater good', sending our children down the same morbid spiral of obedience, unawareness and limitation. At what point does our naivete end?