Following on from a previous post, Ernest Hemmingway once advanced the idea there is a rite of passage a boy must go through before achieving Manhood. Four tasks to perform to become a ‘Hemmingway Man’. To father a son was a task that required a tick on his manhood list. I take issue with this shallow assignment and suggest that the first and most important task we need to complete before achieving mortal completeness is to raise a child.
An old Nigerian proverb says it takes a village to raise a child. This is an important truth as parents do not raise their offspring in isolation – our children’s characters and beliefs are largely shaped by the society into which they are born. For better or it could be for worse our children are brought up in the viewpoint of a far greater context than their home. We are witnesses to our flesh and blood’s deeds in the future.
Now that I am happily in a nest that is empty I take stock – pause and reflect on the job I have done and find it all too easy just to pat myself on the back. It is true that my children grew up with self-confidence, an education and straight teeth – all the pre-requisites for their fulfilling adult life. But was it enough – I ponder? They were not abused, did not go hungry and were clothed, mostly. That was the bare minimum, it was expected anyway. But I must go deeper and I have to consider the impact of the society I brought them up into. It is significant for their development. I must ask if I am living in a society that reflects what I want for my children.
Mankind is our business and how we raise our children now and in this time will shape society’s outcome in a thousand years from now. History repeats itself; despots and tyrants come and go. Genocide is not a modern history phenomenon; we have been doing it for centuries. So my child becomes everyone’s concern and each father’s child becomes mine to care for. Idealistic? Oh yes. The alternative is the inhumane quagmire and swill we inherited from the barbarian hoards in the Dark Ages. They taught us to rape, plunder and pillage. They also – like today, dumped unwanted babies in the garbage. They were taught the savage way from an invisible and brutal hand more than a thousand years before.
To raise a child today requires deep wisdom and thought. We are making the arrows that will find their mark in a future target we cannot see. What type of society do we hope for in a century from now? Will we be remembered as the generation that out did even the Age of Enlightenment? Highly unlikely. Regardless of our modern technology we are the same inhumane thugs as the ancient brutal army that besieged Masada. Ancient Greek prostitutes dumped their unwanted babies in the brothel sewers – humanitarian shame is not new. We just have Facebook.
But we do have a chance, we can raise our children differently, we can introduce our babes to hope. However we play it Mankind remains our business – but I am not optimistic. Raising a child takes a lot – a global village in fact. Idealistic? Oh yes.