Gibran On Children

Suffer the little children #

Jesus Christ said:

Whoever makes himself as little as a child, he’s the one who is greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And anyone who welcomes one little kid like this one, in my name, also welcomes me.

“But if anyone is the downfall of one of these little kids who believes in me, it were better for him that he drowned in the deep of the sea with a great millstone tied round his neck.” (Matt 18:6)

It may not be definitive, but there are national stereotypes of how we raise children. The Africans have a saying:

“that it takes a whole villiage to raise a child.”

Unfortunately, it also takes a whole country to allow the sytematic abuse of children.

How does Australia rate?

MIKE CARLETON reported in 2014, the arrest of a 14-year-old Australian boy on drugs charges in Bali provoking none of the shock-horror headlines that exploded onto front pages and the airwaves at home. Another day, another tourist does something dumb.

There were some eyebrows raised by Julia Gillard’s phone call and the dramatic arrival of the Australian ambassador in Denpasar. The Foreign Minister, Marty Natalegawa, was asked if this was an intervention in Indonesian affairs.

“No it isn’t,” he said. “It is just a normal display of concern. But Australia must respect the Indonesian justice system.”

No argument there, then. Kevin Rudd said the same thing.

But if I were an Indonesian I would be shouting from the treetops about Australian double standards. The figures are elastic, but there are literally dozens of Indonesian teenagers imprisoned in Australian detention centres and jails, without charge, without trial, without hope. Indonesian Solidarity, an advocacy group based in Australia, says there may be as many as 70 of them.

They are not asylum seekers but crew members from the refugee boats that fetch up at Christmas Island. Most of them are barely literate village kids, many from West Timor, one of Indonesia’s poorest provinces. They understand no more of people smuggling than they do of astrophysics, but the smugglers offer them a fortune beyond their parents’ wildest dreams and off they go to sea, they know not where. No one tells them they are heading straight to the waiting arms of Australia’s Border Protection Command. Because they carry no identification, they have no way of proving their age if, indeed, they actually know it. So the Australian authorities go through a grotesque rigmarole of X-raying their bones and, in some cases, genital inspections, to try to determine if they are under 18.

This can take months and frequently more than a year. Many have been held in adult prisons, including Sydney’s Silverwater Jail, where they are thrown together with God alone knows what sort of hardened criminals. Not for them the solicitous prime ministerial phone call, the flurry of foreign ministers, the parents sleeping in the next room. As often as not their families have given them up for dead, believing they were lost at sea.

Let’s not mince words here. This is an outrage. It is an offence against all the norms of Australian law and, indeed, the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, to which we are a signatory. In condoning this cruel child abuse - even by benign neglect - the Gillard government is trampling fundamental Labor principles of decency and humanity.

Suzie Miller in her play Jailbaby, focusses on Incarceration in Australia. Even as the rate of offending in Australia has dropped, the prison rate has steadily climbed. Australia incarcerates a greater percentage of its population than China, Guatemala or the United Kingdom. The United States leads the world in per capita incarceration, but Australia has more people incarcerated who have not been tried or sentenced.

Children as young as ten are incarcerated in some Australian jurisdictions. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are the most incarcerated people in the world. Australian jails are brutalising. They ought to be a measure of last resort. But young people can be sent to jail simply because there are few diversionary programs in regional, remote or rural areas, or because rehabilitation programs may be full. And it happens in the dark, because newspapers seldom cover the lower courts, unless a celebrity is on trial.

Despite the fact that kids being in solitary confinement is illegal, WA, NT, Qld, NSW, and Victoria routinely place children as young as ten in solitary confinement for days on end.

WA Court Justice Paul Tottle said it causes:

“immeasurable and lasting damage to an already psychologically vulnerable group” and was the product of staff shortages, crappy infrastructure and lack of training over behavioural issue.

Queensland Labor MPs voted to suspend the state’s Human Rights Act – for a second time – with no committee scrutiny, to allow for the indefinite detention of children in adult police watch houses. 25/08/23.

Jails don’t make better citizens; they make better criminals.

And we consider ourselves a civil country.

British attitude to children #

Many children grew up in emotionally deprived environments, leading to an austere and callous disposition. Especially the well off would send them to boarding schools at the early age of seven.

See also parenting:

William Blake #

William Blake was never sent to school, so he was a child of nature. He commented;

Thank God, I was never sent to school, to be flogged into the style of a fool.

Blake advocated strongly for chimney sweepers, children who started as young as three and were old men by the time they were seven.

“He who shall hurt the little wren
Shall never be beloved by men.

It is highly likely that Blake’s poems were effective in reforming the use of child labour.

William Wordsworth’s The Preludes traces the history of Wordsworth’s life from his earliest childhood describing the innocent beauty of the untainted perspective of youth.

Coleridge, in his poem Frost, evocatively expresses his home sickness and loneliness.

While education is one of Coleridge’s great concerns, his own trauma is expressed by pejoratives, stern preceptor and “In the great city, pent’ mid cloisters dim”, evoking the lonely homesick emotions he suffered at boarding school in the city.

In his Lecture on Education he stressed.

”To work by Love, and so generate love. To strive for accuracy, truth and imagination. Little is taught by contest or dispute; everything by sympathy and love”.

Charles Dickens #

Great Expectations assumed to be partly biographical depicts how children are mistreated.

Pip begins life as an orphan, (as do Joe and Magwitch) predeceased by his Father, Mother and five infant brothers, alone and isolated with only a grudging older sister and her more gentle husband to care for him.

“home had never been a pleasant place for me, because of my sister’s temper” (100)

It is only Joe and his forge that provides it with more of a haven, refuge or sanctuary from the outside world. Though Pip is well fed and physically maintained, he is emotionally starved through Mrs Joe’s domestic tyranny. He is a reject - emotionally crippled.

His sister makes it quite clear that she doesn’t like him:

“I was always treated as if I had insisted on being born” (20)

“I think my sister must have the general idea that I was a young offender….to be dealt with according to the outraged majesty of the law”. (20)

“I had known from the time I could speak, that my sister, in her capricious and violent coercion, was unjust to me…..I had nursed this assurance … a solitary and unprotected way, ….I was morally timid and very sensitive.” (57-58).

His helplessness leads to alienation, self-condemnation and self-estrangement. Pip is paralysed by fear and guilt; the fear of Magwitch’s dire warnings and the guilt of stealing from Mr and Mrs Joe. Later it is his mere association with a convict leaves a “stain” on his character increasing his insecurity and self reproachment.

Churchill is a good example, (neither of his parents had much time for him) – he was a lifelong alcoholic depressive, obsessed by violence and motivated in his active military service by an obvious death-wish, and in his command by a relish for killing brown people. By the 1930s his life looked like a chaotic failure.

World War Two was the salvation of him, because it was the only moment in history when the outer world was more violent, deranged and insane than his inner one.

In particular, Prince Charles, a more sensitive figure than his father but whom Philip had nevertheless put through the rigours of Gordonstoun and the Navy, suffered from his father’s no-nonsense approach.

It was Philip who forced Charles to end public speculation and marry Lady Diana Spencer in 1981 and, when the marriage ended in divorce, much blame was attached to the exacting way in which the Duke had brought up his eldest son.

The crisis provoked by Diana’s death in 1997 brought criticism of the monarchy out into the open, but the Duke played an important part in planning the funeral that went a long way towards rebuilding public trust.

The Prophet - Kahlil Gibran #

And a woman who held a babe against her
bosom said, Speak to us of Children.

And he said:
Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.

They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of to-morrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them,
but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.

You are the bows from which your children
as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
and He bends you with His might
that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the Archer’s hand be for gladness;

For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
so He loves also the bow that is stable.

Kahlil Gibran Lebanese American poet (1883 – 1931)