Tuesday, October 23, 2012

I Did It My Way


One day I bet Noel Edmonds rips the mask that looks like his face and a massive Emperor Penguin will be exposed underneath - ready to unleash it's hellish campaign to take over the world.

I was stood waiting for my daughter to get out of school yesterday and the topic of conversation turned to the frightening danger of children seeing Ellen Degeneres. In this case the one mother was talking about how her teenage son had asked her point blank if a guy on Saturday Night Live was gay. Amusingly in her retelling of the story she couldn't remember the person's name so sort of grunted and made faces at the listening parents in the hope that they would guess from that which possibly-gay person she was on about. But as they didn't she immediately pivoted to talking about other gay celebrities. Which included Ellen Degeneres and, "that guy from CSI". Not the slightest idea who that is but I'm imagining a very odd storyline involving a character walking into the lab and their entire face glowing under the blacklight.

Then the one parent expressed discomfort about having to explain how it is that Ellen Degeneres is allowed on television. I was secretly hoping one of the other parents would sarcastically suggest that she's not actually supposed to be on there but has - through a blending of her magical gayness and atrocious dancing - managed to avoid being captured by the people in charge. Now she's transmitting her bland, pointless drivel with it's ever-so-slight references to her sexual-preferences against the will of the entire broadcasting Gods. Instead one parent agreed and the other said nothing - either not caring or not wishing to stir the pot. The initiator of the conversation then made reference to how difficult it was to regulate what kids watch on TV these days and repeated a line I've heard many times as if it were dripping with the utmost wisdom. that being, "You have to watch what you watch..."Then after a vague back and forth about the presidential debate it was repeated again that it's so hard to stop your kids seeing things that they just should never see.

This sort of thinking absolutely blows my mind. What would possess a parent from preventing a child from seeing or hearing anything that could potentially differ from a predestined set of things that a parent likes? All this does is assume that you know all that is right and relevant that exists in the world and that educating a child is just about transmitting those absolute truths. Essentially you think you're the one and only perfect body of learning and that to equip your children to make their way in the world you just have to get them to agree with and share your views.

There are a lot of things I think we have to eye with deep suspicion. Aside from penguins, people who like pumpkin spice coffee, that fake white crap on donuts that isn't cream and Noel Edmonds (mark my words - the day will come when he'll remove one of his vile, paisley shirts and reveal a suicide-vest which he will threaten not to detonate lest he be granted permission to personally start a sex-commune in Taunton) I have a limited set of things that I want my kids to avoid without argument. As easy and nice it would be on one level it doesn't really matter that - once they've developed their own understanding - that my kids share my views. I don't want Group Think at all. I'm a nightmare when it comes to absolutes anyway. As far as politics go I've jumped all over the map. I am - what a dear friend succinctly put it - "a twat".

Somehow I've managed to have convictions about things that are entirely different from what I believed a handful of years before. I'm like a bi-polar version of Ariana Huffington - except I look much better in a pantsuit (I'm guessing here). But people who absolutely know the Truth are mental. And their kids are demented for it because they have absolutely no analytical skills at all and nothing you tell them about why they are wrong about something makes a dent. It's the sort of thinking that says that teaching people about contraception gets people pregnant and that dancing equals Satan.

Go even further and my personal feelings/beliefs about religious faith are even more insanely schizophrenic. I've lunged from a solid Hitchens-concentrated skepticism, to spending evenings at a my own church telling curious people about my own Road To Damascus, to losing my faith entirely and finding enormous comfort in angry atheism, to being at a point where now I feel like I suffer from a weird form of christian epilepsy. If I followed the parental method of only relaying what I know to be right in order to prevent exposing my kids to things then I'd find myself having raised kids who are nothing like me at all. And lets just say I did manage to get them to be tiny replicas of me at this very point in time. What a horrible affliction that would be. Even a month ago I felt like I'd traveled out out the end of one set of known beliefs and was stronger for it.

Which is sort of the point. What matters is that I equip my kids to learn about different things and process that information to understand the world in their own way. Not seeing Ellen's horrible dancing isn't going to help with that. Forcing a This-Is-The-Truth filter over everything can only go wrong. It's that sort of thing that leads to parents teaching their kids about a world that doesn't actually exist. One where they angrily boycott books and demand that other people either agree with them or shut up. It leads to this inanity.


I remember years ago watching the Louis Theroux episode where he shone a light over a teenage white-power pop group called Prussian Blue. The point Theroux was making in that whole program was that these pretty young blond girls had been raised with a parental filter that taught them that unequivocally that white power was the only Truth. They were exposed only to one set of ideas. The belief being that if they were exposed to other things they would be fooled into thinking the wrong thing. The irony of course is that the kids in Prussian Blue have completely reversed what they used to believe and now say they are ashamed of what they were essentially brainwashed to repeat. So in the one sense you could argue that the Mom afraid of Ellen's presence on television will make her kid's think being gay is okay.

But that's not what that means at all. It just means that people believe different things. And that while there are universal truths about certain things (the Noel Edmonds point especially) just because you're uncomfortable with something it doesn't mean you get to dictate what everyone else believes. Especially your own kids. And especially as what you are arguing is insane. Because you're arguing that Ellen somehow manages to send gay-waves through the television that millions of people (shame on all of you) somehow manage to be unaffected by, remaining staunchly heterosexual despite her potent gay-ions permeating the entire country - but that your kids will be the only ones who will turn instantly gay upon seeing her. Basically you're saying Ellen is more influential on your kids than you are. You - who spend all that time with them - irrationally believe that a tiny exposure like that makes your parenting redundant.

All of which reminds me of a fantastic moment years ago when the Today Show tried to whip up hysteria about US downhill skier Bode Miller. I forget which pompous correspondent posed the question but essentially they asked, "but what do you think kids think when they see pictures of you drinking at 2 in the morning?" To which he responded, "I think - what kind of idiot parent is showing their kid photos of someone they don't even know drinking and making out with women in Switzerland when they are only 8 years old."

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