Saturday, April 17, 2004

Growing up

The zeitgeist has got a little darker in the past month. Times like these I read as much as I can about current affairs, but find myself becoming more and more mute. So many words spilt in so much argument, and still power talks loudest of all. So, I read, and ponder the eternal nature of human stupidity, and how far we've come since Montaigne observed that "Man is certainly stark mad..." Though perhaps the presiding genius of our time is really Goya.

In my darker moments I look at my teenage children - Josh, who has grown into such a beautiful young man, writing passionate and sensitive stories about love, and Zoe with all her tetchy idealism (tetchy because she can't quite cope with the passions which engender it) - and I wonder what will become of them. (I hope they don't read this blog, because they will be angry with me for talking about them behind their backs...) I wanted them to be people with empathy, to be thoughtful, feeling and loving; and they are beginning to be adults with all those qualities. And it makes me fear for them: they would be safer and less troubled in this world if they were, rather, insensible, with their material self-interest firmly in front of them as a great good.

Zoe has spent the past two days standing in shopping centres with her friend Emily, persuading people to sign a petition against the increase of defence spending in the Federal Budget ("Books, not Bombs"). All very worthy, and naturally something I would agree with... They came home asking, "Who is Donald Rumsfeld?" I told these two lovely girls that if they wanted to be activists they had to know what they were talking about, and furnished them with some useful urls (newspapers and alternative news sources, etc) and advised them to read them every day until they knew who Donald Rumsfeld was.

It's easy to mock such idealism, the naive perception of injustice which desires simply to right the wrong: but there is a clarity in it which rebukes mockery. The loss of this clarity is nevertheless what marks maturity; we must put away childish things, and see through a glass darkly. This is no more than to say, that the world is more complex than the egocentricity of childhood allows (unless, of course, one is George W. Bush). But to grow into the shadows and to still maintain that clarity, unclouded by self-interest: now, that seems to me something to aim for. Otherwise, I'll stick with the Ramones: "I don't want to grow up".

Damn, seems I can only talk in generalities. I meant to write about other things, but my fingers misled me...

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