We all need to go back to preschool. We're missing simple moral points a four-year-old would understand. Points like:
- Two wrongs don't make a right
- Do unto others (as you would have done unto you)
Children are taught these three lessons by adults who don't follow them. We should really practice what we preach. From inequality to incarceration to migration, these preschool lessons have vast implications for the world.
Take vaccine equity. I've been arguing myself hoarse about why we should share vaccines, but then I realize that I've been telling my children the same thing. It's actually not that complex a lesson. Just take markers. Or, more to the point, don't take them all.
This morning my son was sitting around with a dozen markers and not sharing. He's just defending them from his sister and not even drawing. It was just hoarding and waste. So I tell him clearly, like it's some obvious fact, just share. Take the markers you need, and share with your sister. It'll be better for all.
In my head I'm like "uhhh, he'll grow up someday", but do adults actually behave like this? We won't even share vaccines during a pandemic. Our entire economy revolves around billionaires hoarding more wealth than billions of people. And I'm telling my children to share markers? We're dumber than toddlers, and we require needlessly complex arguments for simple things. Just share.
2. Two wrongs don't make a right
My son is three-years-old—the imperialism stage of child development—and he does not give a fuck. He picks up a marker and bonks his sister on the head. She's more woke but even she has limits. She pushes him back. Now I have to teach another lesson to her. Two wrongs don't make a right.
But who am I, serious adult from the serious world, to teach her anything? Is this how we behave? Our entire 'justice' system is based around the exact opposite idea. It's punitive justice. If you do something wrong, the state will do something wrong to you. Thus I should really be teaching my children this: if your brother does something wrong, put him in a cage.
You can write all the laws you want, but we're violating a basic moral principle here. We expect children to understand restorative justice, while adults make jokes about prison rape. We've forgotten the simple rule we expect babies to remember. Two wrongs don't make a right.
3. Do unto others as you would have done unto you
The root of all these rules is the golden one. It's the little thought experiment that makes complex morality intuitively obvious. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Would you like to have markers to play with? Yes. Would you like to have vaccines? Yes. Do you want to be put in a cage? No.
We try to teach kids to empathize, because then they don't have to learn a million different rules. They can put themselves in someone else's shoes and intuitively understand the right thing to do.
In our marker situation, I try this out. I'm like, "Miro, if Akka didn't share with you would you like it?" And he's like, "ROAAAARRRRR."
And so I sigh. He's just a child, someday he'll understand. But will he? How much do adults empathize? His attitude right now would make him a good President or CEO. "Pay the workers more! SHARE BUYBACKS ROAAARRRR!" In our capitalist, imperialist world, you're a sucker if you practice empathy. It's all you-do-you.
I'm nearly 40 years old and I break this rule all the time. I don't really empathize with the poor, or else I'd be giving much more away. On a national level—at the conceptual level of citizenship itself—our societies are based around breaking the golden rule more than anything else. We literally have different sets of rights for citizens and migrants, and the latter get no empathy at all. Even from former migrants.
The US and Australia—genocidally migrant nations—run concentration camps. They certainly wouldn't want to be in there, but no one thinks like that. Europeans—for whom the term refugee was invented—actively drown people at sea. They certainly wouldn't want water in their lungs, but they never imagine it happening to them. We all want our own visas approved and the freedom to move as we like, but we don't want other people coming here. It's a rank hypocrisy that wouldn't be tolerated in playgroup, but it polices every border in the world.
The golden rule lies shattered somewhere, next to a child's bones, at the bottom of the Mediterranean sea.
That's why I say we need to go back to preschool.
We have a lot of academics and intellectuals debating these issues, but they miss some really simple points. We don't need a ton of economic data to understand what we tell children. Share. We don't need a novel reconception of justice to understand what we tell squabbling toddlers. Two wrongs don't make a right. We don't need a dozen UN resolutions to affirm one ancient fact. Do unto other as you would have done unto you.
These aren't graduate lessons, though books have certainly been written about them. That's how I got to these conclusions myself, and I've certainly expended pixels talking about these issues, but I should have just paid attention when I was a child. We should never stop teaching these basic truths. Because, honestly, adults need it more.
We raise children the way we want to be, while remaining the greedy, cruel, and selfish way we are. And we proudly call this being 'grown-up'. Honestly, we should really grow-down. You don't need a grand education to be a decent human being. Chew some paste, piss your pants, and just remember these three golden rules.