Tuesday, May 03, 2005

The Cult of the Child -- Worshipping at the Altar of "Little Me"

One of the first cynical realizations I came to as a kid occurred while watching TV one day and being assailed by a Midas commercial. The ad depicted a woman in her thirties driving a car on a rainy night, obviously stressed out by the treacherous driving conditions. When she finally had to make a quick stop -- to keep from ramming into a fallen tree limb, or something -- she turned, relieved, and looked at a couple of kids sitting seat-belted in the backseat.

Ah, the kids were safe.

And the first tendril of cynicism rose in me as I realized that the target audience for the commercial -- people in their thirties, and older, who drove on dark and stormy nights -- were so jaded that children had to be placed in peril in order to arouse any emotional reaction to the scenario. As though the woman's safety was irrelevant. As though the advertising vultures knew that their target audience would be sitting at home hoping the woman got into a fatal car crash because she reminded them of someone at work who beat them out of a promotion, or of someone who stole their boyfriend in high school, or said no when asked out on a date.

Therefore, the backseat of this mythical advertisement car had to be filled with kids. So innocent. So virginal. So goddamned good. Boyfriend-thieves in waiting. Office-soundrels yet to be. Children, which must be a Latin or Greek-rooted word that means, "Blank slates onto which maturity-addled adults may cast the skewed and pathetic visions of themselves in order to relive the pasts they never actually lived."

Hence this entire Cult of the Child that has swallowed North American culture like a marble going into a baby's mouth.

Adults don't matter. The safety of that woman in that Midas commercial was irrelevant. Violence on television is denounced because of its supposed negative effects "on the children." What about the vomitous procession of programs featuring one precocious rat kid after another, who are so hip and savvy in outwitting their zombie parents? Who's protecting me from that shit? No one.

I was once in Ann Arbor, Michigan on a book-buying mission. While perusing the shelves of a second story used bookshop, there came an ear-shattering cry from across the street, out front of a large chain bookstore. I looked out the nearest window, onto the street below, and saw a little kid lying face down, mid-tantrum, right outside the door of the chain bookstore. His fanny-pack-wearing, knee-socks-and-shorts-wearing, over-educated psychology major parents were saying to him, in such clear, rational tones, "Well, when you're ready to join us, you may come into the store." And they walked in, leaving the kid to his wretching screaming, disturbing the entire city block.

There should be city officials, much like dogcatchers, to deal with these situations. I'm not advocating a beating for the kid who lay at the bookstore door screaming. I'm advocating corporal punishment for the rat kid's parents.

The lives and comfort and pursuits of adults are held up as pointless, ridiculous, and unworthy of consideration when there is a child in the room or on the TV screen. More and more movie plots hinge on some child in peril who is the object of rescue by some formerly deluded parent who has wakened from his/her nightmare selfish existence, and will risk life and limb so that the kid can be returned to a life where some lobotomized redneck might proclaim about him or her, "Dude, you're getting a Dell!"

If you need children to prove your life has value, your life never had any value. If you have to hold up a child to prove you are a "bringer of life," then you were dead to begin with. If you think fawning and falling all over your "little me!" with gifts and understanding and Gap clothing, then you are a fraud for holding up your vaccuous, self-centered thimbleful of life as the zenith of human experience.

Whether I'm driving alone on a dark and stormy night, or captaining the Partridge Family bus filled with Gap children, my life is still worth something. My hopes and aspirations have meaning. I don't need "a little me to fill up with my thoughts," to quote Lou Reed's "Beginning of the Great Adventure."


Anonymous said...

Oh my, do I agree with you there! You know it's even more annoying for women like me (who have no desire for kids). Other women treat me like a freak of nature.

Anonymous said...

I think i love you.

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for writing this! It is so reassuring to know that there are others who feel the same way as oneself about the "cult of the child."

Anonymous said...

THANK YOU for having the courage to post this well-written piece. As a child-free by choice woman, I could never choose to do so without being barraged with accusations that I "hate children" (I don't) or simply not getting it (and therefore irrelevant as a human being).

Unknown said...

Thank you! i am so sick of the cult of the baby in this country. i'm sick of being told i'm not a "real" woman because i won't give birth to a child i can't afford, that due to my various medical conditions it would risk my life to have. i'm tired of being called selfish for daring to have hopes and dreams for my own life, for daring to think that my hopes and dreams matter. we need to rise up against this tyranny. childfree lives matter, just as much as lives that include children.

Anonymous said...

Heaven forbid you look at a child because you'll taint the "sacred ones".

Unknown said...

don't these people realize what little rat shits children are? why are we coddling them? then when they get to college if someone dares to disagree with them they have a total meltdown and sue the school for emotional damages or something. i learned to keep my mouth shut in college because intellectual debate was not possible with these morons. and yes, i told one guy his daughter was beautiful, and he threatened to "get a gun". a little paranoid there...she's probably in college right now, on her knees blowing an entire fraternity. hee hee!

Anonymous said...

Society lets the elderly starve and freeze to death while children are regarded as the spawn of JESUS CHRIST.

Anonymous said...

This REALLY hits home. We are now seeing an entire generation of kids hitting adulthood who have done NOTHING in life except play with electronic gadgets. They are above cutting grass, performing household chores, or anything else constructive. God help this society !