WANT A BETTER WORLD TOMORROW, LOVE THE KIDS TODAY
By: J. Marlando
More and more people it seems are feeling more and more abandoned in our world of high tech, two family incomes, broken homes and broken hearts. What at least some professionals believe is that we are losing the "human touch" and becoming more machine like. I don't agree with this but I do believe that we need to rethink our present in order to create the future kinder, more secure, loving and yes...happier.
A few years ago I interviewed the world famous cancer surgeon and writer, Bernie Siegel, and we were talking about the world being so corrupt and cruel; about wars and all the terrible—and mostly unnecessary—human suffering. Bernie told me that if we want to change the world and make it a better, safer and more peaceful place we can do so within a few years. He said all we have to do is love the children now and they will take that love into the next generation with them. A very simple solution to complex problems but…close to being right on!
We’ve all heard the comment at least once in our lives and probably a few times, that kids aren’t like they used to be. This is certainly true in our culture and for other industrialized/technological cultures. As I understand it, the observation began at *The University of Tubingen in Germany with the professors suggesting that there had been a reduction in both sensory perception and general awareness. This consensus was followed up by an extensive study that continued for over twenty years that concluded that our human sensitivity to stimuli is decreasing around 1% a year.
What seems to be the culprit is two-fold---the constant access to intense brain stimuli such as video games and the constant association with electronics and lack of love and nurturing at home. This diminishing of **sensory sensitivity and conscious awareness is reflected in education. The vocabulary of a high school student in 1950 was 25,000 words, as we entered the new millennium that average level had dropped to 10,000—and in 1998 85% of all academic honors in the U.S. were taken by foreign students. It seems clear that the reduction of sensory sensitivity is being accompanied by deterioration of intelligence. The master teacher Joseph Chilton Pearce makes this observation, “All we have done in response to this astonishing cascade of breakdown, besides building more prisons, is increase to well over a million the number of daily doses of Ritalin and a whole family of pharmaceuticals designs to alter the behavior of children.”
I make the strong suggestion that it is not just an unhealthy relationship with electronics that is reducing the sensitivity of youth while increasing youths need for more and more intense brain stimuli, but the entire modern structure of the family unit. Television for example, has by and large, taken the place of family togetherness and the sharing of thoughts and feelings between parents and siblings. Incidentally, while on the subject of television a ***statistic tells us that by the end of elementary school the average child has watched 8,000 murders and by the time the child is 18, the average is around 18,000 television murders. And, speaking of this, a great many video games are based on the
* **Source: Joseph Chilton Pearce—The Biology of Transcendence—Paul StreetPress
***Source: Michael P. Ghiglieri—The Dark Side of Man—Perseus Books
same games that the military has their snipers play as part of their training to reduce their reluctance to kill in real life by reducing their “sensitivity” to their living targets.
The home computer also plays a role in the reduction of human sensitivity becoming one more relationship with the machine. Most typically, the human being, in this case the child, spends hours in isolation. Even if much of that time is spent in virtual game playing with distant friends there is no feely/touchy communication, no sounds of victory or defeat; no laughter, no tears, only the cold calculation of winning and the aloneness of losing; one more process distancing the brain from responding to the little sensitivities in life. Might we say that dexterity is taking precedence over having…heart?
Another contributor to the making of the modern brain is that kids do not play outdoors as much as they used to. They do not have the relationships that children once had with the trees, bushes and grass, the very dirt in their yards. (We will not even go into the sad story of youngsters born in the ghettos and projects where only concrete worlds prevail. We are mostly referring to so-called fortunate children here, kids born into average, mid to upper class home environments).
What I am getting at in the above is that today’s children have lost empathy with nature and things in nature, because they live so much of their lives in virtual realities. Sports are probably the major saving grace but not every child is sports inclined. And anyway, when the practice session or “competition” is over, most kids immediately retreat back into the world of high tech and isolated activities anyway.
Another deficit that is occurring for the modern brain is the loss of imagination. Once young children had to create most of their own toys turning sticks into swords or turning front porches into great sailing vessels or, in other words, they created worlds of their own to play in. Today they mostly turn on the telly and drift into worlds imagined for them or play with toys that operate most virtually on their own…for countless children texting has become an extension of their play!
None of this of course is ever going to go away. High tech becomes higher tech every year and it will continue to change our worldviews and how we associate and communicate with others. With these changes, arrives new views of ethics and morality; the old concepts of character have mostly been deemed obsolete because we are slowly losing the human touch. Another observation shared by Pearce is that children “in so-called primitive groups such as in Guatemala and similar countries that have severely low standards of living” were “put into a learning situation equal to those provided for our well-cared for children, the deprived children showed a three or four times higher learning capacity rate of attention, comprehension and retention than our ‘fortunate’ children. Deprived of advanced electronics, these primitive children were given the most necessary things—love and nurturing—and they played and developed continually to the maximum their society afforded.”
It is of course our “well-cared for” children who will be taking charge of our world in just another few years—we were given a taste of what that might be like with the emergence of the yuppies whose only real value was in the acquisition of money and stuff. While the term itself merely stands for young urban professional, the more complex observation is to say that the yuppie represented a group of young people who emerged out of self-serving mentalities with minimum human attachments and maximum attachment to financial achievement.
The more our current youngsters are raised without the attentiveness of love and nurturing in the home environment the more “heart” will be taken out of our realities as a people and as a culture; the more our intuitiveness and empathy will dissipate. It will simply take more and more intense stimuli to interest our brains while reducing our capacity for the compassion and human caring that belongs to the heart.
We are not going to stop or even slow down technology and the computer has already become an extension of both our private and public life; computerization, as amazing as it already is, is still in its infancy and will continue to advance with every turning of the world. For sure we will not be taking any steps backward in the future of extreme electronics and all these electronic changes that keep occurring are also changing how we think and feel about each other and the world; how our brains adapt and reshape their realities. Most certainly, when times change so does a culture’s morality and values. For example, lots of human action that was considered shameful in private in 1901America, is acceptable as moral conduct in public in 2001. But, of course, most moral rules are dictates of social mores anyway, but this is not the point. The point is that as the world of electronics keep expanding, our brains will continue to make their evolutionary changes.
We clearly see these changes today with the observation of how much less sensitive the human brain is becoming and how much more intense stimuli it needs to become responsive…perhaps even interested. What is also noted is that the evolution that we are talking about is, at least presently, almost exclusively belonging to youngsters of industrial advanced societies who are raised in at least middle to higher class environments; kids who have constant use of the electronic gadgetry and spend much—if not most of their time—in the isolationism that accompanies such use. Indeed, if we take this observation into extreme we can imagine a science fiction of children turning into Spock-like adults that lack all human emotion; who have grown up as extensions of those advanced electronics that they identify with more than living creatures.
This is of course an age-old plot but when we speak of the brain needing more and more stimuli to activate its processes we are talking about the seeding of this kind of human insensitivity unfolding in the future. Such a future would only produce greater social Darwinism than already exists in our cultures and this would certainly increase not decrease man’s inhumanity to man.
What can be done to avoid such a future?
Since electronics are here to stay and have even become intrinsic to education, the apparent answer simply doesn’t work—take away his/her electronic gadgets and toys at least for most of the time. This, in the least, will only cause resentment and rebellion.
What parents can do, however, is to be far more conscientious about how much time a child is spending in isolation—by being more insistent on spending quality family time together, talking and listening to what is being shared by each family member.
Above all else, refuse to permit watching television to take the place of sharing experiences together. At least spend time in the yard or go to the park if you can’t go to the beach or mountains for some reason. The point is to keep in touch with nature. Nature’s secrets unfold in the human heart—when we identify ourselves in nature we become in greater harmony with it and so with the world we live in. And being in greater harmony our capacity to empathize increases; our compassion for others and other living things expands.
Stop putting emphasis on what is right and what is wrong in your child’s life. What we call right and wrong changes as constantly as morality does and is, by and large, merely the mental products of social engineering and mimetic. Instead, take the time to teach your child what is kind and what is not. Kindness is the true mother of morality and righteousness anyway.
The way to teach kindness is through your words but more importantly through your actions. Demonstrate your own kindness in how you treat others and other living things. (Our prisons are populated by adults who themselves were never taught kindness and were not treated kindly as children).
Dare to instruct your child in that old-fashioned attribute simply called character. Character is the necessary foundation for self-assurance and self-esteem. You need to demonstrate character as well in order to gift your child with it. Remember in all these things, you cannot give what you do not have.
Take the time to hold your child, to be the voice of his or her encouragement, the healing touch that takes away his or her fear and pain. And above all else, love your child, remembering the words of Bernie Siegel who tells us all that our world of tomorrow will be better because the child will take the love given him or her into the next generation with them.
Technology by its nature is cold and unfeeling…we do not have to become extensions of that phenomenon (that is already starting to affect our brains) if we only keep the human heart from closing down in its wake.