HAVANA TIMES — Yesterday, while walking down a path cutting through a field of grass, I saw a little girl coming towards me and, all of a sudden, I felt my own past and future strike me like an enormous wave.
I remembered what I was like when I was that age, recalled how I looked at and what I expected from the world back then. It was pretty much nothing of what I ran into later, that is: vanity, uncertainty, manipulation, confusion, delirium and forlornness.
So many burdens that became an inseparable part of what I came to believe I was, so many false needs, freedoms that were ultimately prisons.
And I thought: how difficult we’ve made the world for our children! How far they will have to go to simply get to the starting line.
I asked myself how we could do things differently and began jotting down possible strategies for what I would call an “attempt at detoxication.”
– While the child is acquiring an identity as a name and as a member of a family and a society, they should be exposed to the concept of the soul, of consciousness, to the idea that, as human beings, we travel from mystery to mystery and that the interval between the beginning and end is full of surprises, changes and wonder.
– We should not restrict the child’s movements, as society does, obliging them to stand up or sit, but, rather, encourage their natural desire to explore all of their bodies’ motor possibilities. We should not inhibit that exploration with criticisms or mockery.
– We should not embarrass children if they do “weird” things, like talk to themselves or react in ways that are uncommon to their natural or social surroundings (when these reactions are harmless).
– We should encourage feelings of compassion, which expresses itself naturally at an early age.
– Sexuality should neither be repressed nor encouraged in children. Traditions and the media tend to hasten, condition and atrophy free sexual exploration.
– We should speak to children about the two sides of human nature, about good and evil, show them how acts reveal more than words and that all relations are put to the test of time.
– Marriage, nor any of the stereotypes of personal success, should not be imposed as a goal on children.
– Children are not born with racial, ideological or class prejudices. If children are taught that every human being is merely a being who is perceiving things and taking in different experiences on the basis of what they know, respect toward others will come naturally.
– Children should be taught that every individual is unique and that comparisons are counterproductive, that a person’s future is a mystery and that to try and condition them to adapt to a specific pattern is to struggle against the very nature of existence.
– We should respect every child’s calling, that mysterious expression of human destiny.
– The issue of death should not be taboo, even if speaking about it entails confessing our ignorance about what “comes after.” We should leave a door open, if not to a life after death or reincarnation, at least to doubt, which is the only thing we can be certain of.
– We should make children aware of the value of non-violence, a principle which is even more natural than instinctive violence, show them that it empowers individuals, that, as eloquently expressed by Gene Sharp (author of “The Dictatorship of Democracy”, a book that has never been published in Cuba, though it has been translated to 30 different languages), non-violence makes use of weapons too: psychological weapons.
– We should instill a sense of the value of truth in children, through examples as much as we can. Thus, children will be able to see for themselves how a person’s lies are condemned to failure, how anyone who lies becomes a less conscientious being, and how such a condition never affords one satisfaction or happiness. Children should be taught that collective lies can give rise to a kind of “virtual reality”, a reality sustained by a collective, self-perpetuating suggestion which is also doomed to failure because of its inconsistency.
– We should listen to children and teenagers, no matter what our experiences have been like, for, as Khalil Gibran said, they live in the house of tomorrow, a house we parents will not visit, not even in dreams.”
Of course, all of this would be torn down as soon as the child began going to school, or, at least, to all of the schools I’ve known. Within Cuba’s educational system, double standards are a golden rule and independent thought is often considered a crime.
In the seductive, prosperous and democratic countries, double standards will always find a niche to grow in and expand, if left unchecked, and autonomy can be a disguise that distorts (through admittedly sophisticated means) self-knowledge and will.
If these premises were put into practice, even if it’s only at home, they would work to undermine the effects of social programming and orthopedic molds of institutional education, the hypnotic trance imposed on us by the media and tradition, from within.
For the new generations, it would be easier to recognize the burdens of tradition that we took so long to identify, and we would thus be doing away with the old man, to give way to the New Man, in silence.