Babies just scream and you have to figure out what’s wrong. Sometimes you can’t and you just walk around singing and hugging them at 4 AM. Babies grow up, but I honestly don’t think human beings change that much. Even as adults, we’re often just screaming with words.
As adults, if we’re feeling bad, people ask “what’s wrong?” The answer is very often that we don’t know. Maybe we’re hungry. Maybe we’re sleepy. Maybe we’re not shitting right. The first things we check for in babies are the last things we check for in adults. But what changed, really? We’re bigger but we’re still bodies.
With complicated social problems, we look for complicated solutions, but what if we started where caring parents did? What if we made sure that people had food, that they had a roof over their heads, that they could rest, that they were healthy. Then we could check on what else is bothering them.
If that seems weird to you for some reason (economics! no handouts!) shouldn’t we at least be doing this for children? How can we even call ourselves a civilization if children are hungry, sleeping rough, and die of preventable illnesses? This seems like the bare fucking minimum to call our society organized. What we have now is just a concrete jungle, with rich people as apex predators.
I was reading a book called Beasts which had this disturbing observation about the few elephants that behave as humans do, cruelly killing and raping other creatures (as humans do). Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson said that the elephants only did this when they were traumatized themselves.
I was reading this and I was like, shit, we’re a really traumatized species. Just look into your own families and I’m sure there’s trauma somewhere. Then you can see that trauma persisting generationally, in my experience as anxiety. But it gets worse of course. Sometimes so bad the traumatic behavior repeats.
A lot of ‘ways to change the world’ involve getting traumatized, traumatizing adults to somehow change their thinking en masse. Many articles I read (and write) boil down to ‘if everyone thought this way, things would be fine.’ But try changing a parent’s mind about something. Try changing your own. It happens but it’s not standard. At some point, both our bodies and minds stop growing.
What we miss in all of these ideas is the great power of generational change. The human species literally regenerates, and much more than bodies. In Linguistics we learned about creoles. Children growing up in enslaved colonies where people didn’t really share a language would create a fully-fledged language within one generation, a creole. A whole-ass language, created by children. That is the power of regeneration within our infant souls.
What else could children remake? If we focused and just gave our all to raise the least traumatized generation possible, wouldn’t they become less traumatizing adults? Couldn’t they remake the world? Perhaps this sounds idealistic, but what I mean is very practical. Just ensure that every child is raised as our own. That they have food, shelter, medicine, education, and love.
My mother-in-law has found a second career as a counselor and she said most problems she sees go back to childhood. We were watching a Gabor Mate documentary together where he went to visit people in prison. A man there broke down as he recounted how his mother stood him up and whipped him. His mother cried as she did it. The man finally saw this as generational trauma. The abuses of slavery recurred in his home, then he went on to kill, then ended up back in a cage once more.
There are loops like this all over the world, and we’re not going to break out with ‘personal responsibility’. At some point in this chain of causation, you have to ask when is the individual responsible? Because we don’t all magically arrive at 18 the same way. Some of us are pretty hurt well before then. If we’re going to talk about responsibility for adults, then we have to take responsibility for children. All of them. We have to raise them as ours.
And that’s my point about ‘Socialism For Babies At Least’. It can get very theoretical talking about adults, but what I mean is that children should be cared for. This of course expands outwards. I was reading about four children taken away from their homeless mother. The state pays $3500 a month for foster care instead of helping that mother get housed. We’re obviously doing this wrong, and it’s criminal.
If we take as a founding principle that children should be loved, then loving-kindness naturally radiates outwards. Then parents can be supported because they have children to take care of, and childless people also because it takes a village. Caring doesn’t have to stop anywhere really. Just start with the cutest people for political potency, but no need to stop there. God knows this is the challenge of the future. Building a culture of caring, before we permanently befoul the petri dish we call Earth.
Today the world itself is screaming and we don’t know what to do. We’ve figured out that we need to change, but the “we” we imagine is adults, and adults are assholes and impossible, so the task seems impossible too. But humans are really caterpillars passing through time, if you view your life in time lapse you have multiple bodies, joined across the segments of life. The adult is probably the worst point to intrude, that’s where you’re most calcified.
The real creative potential is in the child, and if we want a better society, that’s the time we should socialize. What that means is that, even though we don’t know the answers, we can figuratively hold our collective children, comfort them, make sure they’re fed, comfy in bed, and healthy. Then it’s not a matter of changing the world, which is frankly what got us into this mess. It’s a matter of caring for life, starting with the cutest.