The way it was: Mothers of the world unite
Mian Ijaz Ul Hassan
One can of course also argue that in today’s world it is appropriate that parents should prepare their children for the harsh and hard actualities. It is best they are instructed that there are no rainbows in the world, only scorching disparities and the wretched smell of pain. It is a world where children have to defend themselves with stones and catapults against invading tanks
When Mustafa, one of my grandsons asks his mother, “Why are all the sad things happening in the world? First the twin towers, then the earthquake and now the astronauts have died,” what should one make of it? I feel quite shattered that a five-year-old should have these concerns when he is barely green. In our childhood most of us are gloriously content with physical animal joys. The urge to jump over tables, race friends, pick flowers without thought, climb walls, shout, laugh and create mischief. Isn’t it a shame that adult issues have encroached upon our children’s freedom? Children who were ready to dash up the rainbow and never thought twice before doing anything have now become cautious and concerned. Indeed, why are all the sad things happening in the world?
It is true that children in our age shed their innocence much earlier than expected. They quickly discern that adults don’t keep promises and more often than not, get away with lies. Social station in life is more important than personal worth. Teachers and elders have their prejudices and being better is often not considered enough. It is only fair that we allow our young, enough space to live their tender beginnings believing in endless possibilities, without making their environment any more repellent. Hoping they grow up not having hard thumbs but green fingers and dreaming of rainbows.
One can of course also argue that in today’s world it is appropriate that parents should prepare their children for the harsh and hard actualities. It is best they are instructed that there are no rainbows in the world, only scorching disparities and the wretched smell of pain. It is a world where children have to defend themselves with stones and catapults against invading tanks. It is a world in which a Mai Lai is enacted every day, a world in which it is propagated, “A massacre a day would keep the terrorist away.”
Rainbows however do exist. Fortunately unlike the unicorns and the miracles rainbows are not extinct as yet. Hopefully they will continue to exist, if only in the heart of children and across the arched brows of their mothers. Their colours have been muffled but not bleached by wars. So let us all say No to War and all those who treasure rainbows unite for peace. And who would be more willing to unite against war than the mothers would? I call upon American and English mothers, Iraqi, Israeli and Palestinian mothers and all mothers from Pakistan, India and rest of the world and say to them “Mothers of the world unite. You have nothing to lose but may gain your sons.”
It is amazing how our children, even those who lead socially exclusive lives are getting unusually politicised. The other day while one of the first cricket matches of the World Cup between South Africa and West Indies was being telecast my grandson Mustafa queried, “Mama, are they good countries?” Mina not understanding what her son was leading up to, asked, “Beta, what do you mean?” Surprised at his mother’s inability to understand a simple question, he rephrased his question and this time asked her directly. “Did they take over another country?” and then without waiting for his mother’s reply, loudly declared, “I am going to cheer for the country that was taken over!” They don’t cease to surprise you, do they? They are certainly much smarter than we were at their age.
Children can be cute but can also cause much embarrassment. Always hitting the nail on the head with your thumb getting in the way; speaking things out at the wrong moment or to the wrong person.
The Victorians were arrogant hypocrites and had their special ways of dealing with children. They had many other peculiarities. For instance, they were terribly priggish and found the stodgy legs of a piano, erotic and insisted that they be concealed under stockings or at least with socks. A piano was excused from wearing sandals, but slippers were not allowed. Hardhearted, vain and hypocritical, they felt uneasy in the presence of children. Those of them stationed in India liked killing tigers to rest their imperial foot while they had themselves photographed. However they experienced greater excitement in spanking the young.
Children were expected to dress and behave like grownups and if they failed to behave like adults, were sent to bed without supper. A Victorian gentleman insisted that, “Children should be seen and not heard.” An English mother, unlike our own tough and determined Jat, Kashmiri or even Arain women, was too petrified to intervene. All one can say in deference to our own ethos is that instead of children, the vast majority of adults need neither be seen or heard and should be kept away from children at all cost. That is why venerable public school teachers are of unanimous view that most children should be put in the boarding schools away from the bad influence of their parents. The Victorians disciplined their children through corporal punishment. They believed in the motto, “Spare the rod and spoil the child.” These severe measures were adopted because the Victorians were destined to carry heavy burden on their broad shoulders to colonise and civilise the world. Today the thankless responsibility of making the world safe and civilised has been entrusted by God to the US. We, contrary to the Victorians, discipline our children by stuffing their mouths with chocolates, or buying them expensive toys because we want our children to grow into slobs. We do the same to buy the silence of our women, by presenting them with expensive perfumes and ornaments. The bottom line is that truth must be silenced and hegemony imposed with chocolates, gold or fears.
Throughout history, fear has been the major tool in the hands of tyrants and bullies to subdue the weak. Today our world is threatened with fear and violence to an unprecedented scale. Weak countries are threatened to be taught a lesson with awesome weaponry, which would bring back the memory of Hiroshima. Here it would be pertinent and apt to quote Wordsworth who decried man’s faith in science. Addressing his friend Coleridge for whom he wrote The Prelude, he says:
To thee Science appears but in truth she is,
Not as our glory and our absolute boast,
But as a succedaneum, and a prop
To our infirmity.
Can we not use our minds to employ science for what, “in truth she is”, and not as a “boast” to terrorise others. If man must fight he must fight against ignorance prejudice and injustice and above all against those who boast of being “absolute”, claiming to be God. Should we not at all cost have peace and be painting rainbows to cheer up the sad world for our children the world over?
Prof Ijaz-ul-Hassan is a painter, author and a political activist