I believe I have a duty to teach my kids how to be naughty. Not rude, or mean, or nasty. Just a little bit, well, challenging now and again. The phrase Rod for My Own Back springs to mind. Do I really want to raise children who challenge my authority all the time? Certainly not. But do I want them to be equipped to know when to ruffle a few feathers here and there? Why yes I do, that sounds rather marvellous.
People who make life a little harder for authority figures often get labelled as ‘naughty’, but their lives are no less ‘good’ because of it. Indeed, sometimes they live better lives than the majority of us. Please stay calm people – I am not after total anarchy – I like having a general understanding of the boundaries of acceptable behaviour. But equally, blind compliance with authority is not necessarily the ‘good’ path either.
The point that I am trying to get to is that, in my book
defining ‘being good’ as complying with the requests of the state, the media, your school your employer or even your parents only really works if those institutions are themselves worth complying with
But how do we decide when to comply and when to rebel?
Plato spent rather a lot of time chit chatting about virtue, goodness, justice and all that jazz. I have to say, Wikipedia kind of sums up how helpful I find this work:
“The Form of the Good is one of the most abstruse doctrines of Plato’s….and there is no scholarly consensus as to its meanings” Wickipedia
It’s in Wikipedia, it must be true, right?
However, what I do like about Plato is how he wants us to challenge the ‘facts’ as they are presented to us. Nothing illustrates this better than his analogy of the cave. There we are sat in a cave, where we are presented with shadows on the wall, and told that these shadows are the ‘truth’. You can decide for yourself who is casting these shadows: Corrupt Media Empires, Dodgy Politicians, whoever. But to really understand the world, you’ve got to (a) realise you are sat in a cave, being spun a load of crap, and (b) want to get out of that cave and have the means to get out of that cave in order to discover the ‘truth’.
If you have time, this Youtube clip sums up the cave analogy better. If you haven’t time, check out the first two lines of the Bay Watch Theme Tune – who knew the Hoff was so profound?
As a parent, I think I have a moral duty to my kids to guide them out of that cave (or, in the modern world, away from the idea that the X factor, mindless consumerism, and ‘news’ in tabloid journalism are reality). You might disagree, you might prefer the cosy comforting cave-ness of it all. But there is something in me that believes it is important that we can question the ‘facts’ as they are presented.
It is therefore pretty evident to me that I have a duty to ensure that my kids are able to think.
If your kids manage to find their way out of their cave, now and again they will pop back in to see some of their mates who still reside in aforementioned cave. Despite these cave-dwelling friends having acquired 10 A*s at GCSE, they will not have been taught the skill of thinking. The downside for the kids that leave the cave is that when they return, their friends will think them a little weird: “What? There shouldn’t be boobs on the pages of the tabloid press?? You’re mental you are”. So the second thing we need to help them with is courage: courage to say what they think, even if that means saying, “Actually person of higher authority, I don’t agree”.
Why is all this important? Well, when having a ‘good’ career goes hand in hand with spending limited time with the family; when you get a job in order to be a ‘good’ member of society, to find you still cannot afford to eat; when to go to an ‘outstanding’ school, you have to move, and have a mortgage debt that means you can rarely see the kids, it’s time to ask if the institutions that govern and inform us have our society’s best interests at heart. If they don’t, we ought to challenge the status quo, knowing that by doing so we could end up getting labelled as being a bit of a pain in the arse.
What I have established (in my own little mind at least) is that I would like my kids to think and to have the courage to challenge things that just ain’t quite right. If I raise them with the ability to be a little bit rebellious, a little bit naughty in the face of misguided/malignant folk in authority, I’ll have done a good job.
On that note, I leave you with the Hoff.