The Big Issue : Edition 489
THE BIG ISSUE 24 JULY – 6 AUG 2015 13 themselves. I recently attended a funeral where a three-year-old person sat in the second row in his Spider-Man unitard. Still, the very young cannot be blamed and should be cherished for their gaucheness. No one but a child can disrupt social order while provoking a smile. Even as the candour (“I hate you”), lack of tact (“Mummy farted on Daddy”) and poor funeral clothing choices of small fry can irritate me, like most, I am glad they are able to show us how constructed our adult world is. But children’s speech becomes irritating when managed by their parents. Parents and other admirers of parenting have long held that kids can ‘show us the way’. These are adults who probably fancy not thinking much, so they point to the least experienced thinkers on the planet as a source of advice. The insistence that a child saying “war is stupid” is somehow the bravest, wisest thing a human mind could possibly utter is a handy way to get out of understanding anything about statecraft. Oh, my child! He said “war is stupid”! Isn’t that special? Well, no. Because in the same afternoon your child could be heard to declare war stupid, he made the same charge of his sister, the cat and SpongeBob. Sometimes, when I have found myself in the company of parents banging on about the gift of children to ‘see the simple truth’, I have fantasised about what child governance might look like. I see the UN General Assembly soaked in red drink and urine, and all members of the Security Council exercising veto power on broccoli. Kids know nothing beyond kids’ stuff, and this is the way it should be. But women’s magazines and domestic conversation have long contained this idea that kids know everything. Now, thanks to the scourge of social media, this happens at an accelerated rate. Whether a child is used to promote the right-wing ideology of a relative I have forgotten to block on Facebook, or is pictured with a rainbow flag to celebrate marriage equality, I find myself angry. I become angry at the exploitative vanity of the parent, the simplification of complex issues into ones that kids can ‘solve’ and, mostly, angry that big people won’t let little people enjoy the time before one has to have an opinion. I remember the day I began having such opinions. I was watching footage of a famine and became convinced that if everyone just sent their little-lunch to Africa, things would be fine. This proto- socialism was something my parents found adorable (until I actually joined the Socialist Workers Party as a teen), but the event changed my life painfully. I now felt the responsibility to have opinions about big things and, dammit, if I haven’t been having them since... It’s good to raise people who feel implicated in the fortunes of the world, but it’s best to leave them running about in a red and blue unitard for as long as possible. It’s also good to keep your ‘wise’ children out of my Facebook feed. Nothing is so hostile to digestion as the proposition that a kid can save the world. Only Spider-Man can do that. “I now felt the responsibility to have and form opinions about big things and, dammit, if I haven’t been having them since...” RAZER Nappy Diplomacy PHOTOGRAPHSBYJAMESBRAUND CHILDREN, FOR THE most part, are quite tolerable people. They have, unlike their elders, the very good excuse of being children in order to explain their poor conversational conclusions. Their babble is not always insufferable and I sometimes find they have great expertise on matters like poo, fairies or the correct clothes in which to dress the cat. I will, if pressed, speak with them about such matters, and respect their opinions on whichever televised penguin/robot building/purple blob is courting their market dollar. But there are many topics on which average, or even exceptional, children are underqualified to comment. These include world peace, national justice and, often, the correct way to dress » Helen Razer (@helenrazer) is a writer, gardener and thinker. Also a Woman With Dangerous Ideas.