Whoever recognizes Plato’s “Republic” in the series of posts “The Antithesis of Combat“, even if it is only a small glimpse of it, with incomparably less philosophical and literary quality, is not in the face of mere coincidence. I have always admired the construction from scratch of Plato’s state in Book II of the “Republic”, and I think it came to my mind when I realized how inferior the adults are to children, and I decided to get rid of them (us) in “my state”.
Such a realization came during a vacation trip, when I stayed for ten days in a house with family and friends. Among them were four amazing children: my two nieces and their two friends. They ranged from 10 to 14 years, and it was such a bliss to have them around that when they left (I stayed to catch a plane by myself the next day), I could not help thinking how stupid we get when we get older.
The point of “The Antithesis of Combat” may be seen as a cliché, I must admit, but not quite as it might be implied. On the one hand, I do believe that property and sex are the cause of all evil (though I indulge in both). But on the other hand, while I believe that children are indeed the solution to all problems, if they are left alone under the umbrella of any educational system, they will eventually return to their flawed and biased nature as human beings. Especially if this system of education is life itself. Our educational system teaches them how to raise cattle or even how to make chocolate, but it hardly teaches the true importance of their toys.
The few who try to save the world focus on the education of children. Okay, sure, but how do we know what’s best for them? What kind of education did we have that enabled us to decide their education? Probably not a good one, because you can see how the world is — this is the world that our education has built.
I challenge our right to decide on the education of our children. It is easy to remove the problem from our shoulders and put it on our children’s. We haven’t saved the world with our education, but they might figure it out, won’t they? No, they won’t. Not if we teach them the same way we have been taught. We are not guilty of the education we have had, but we are guilty of the education we give the children. The problem with the “they might figure it out” mentality is that it eliminates any need on our part to become better ourselves. We can say that it is too late for us, but it is not. We still have many decisions to make before we die, and a single decision may be enough to change a lot. In combat, one slight press of the trigger at the wrong time can kill you; but at the right time it can save an innocent child. Any decision counts. So we’d better not be wrong.
Unfortunately, if we let our nature decide, we will make all the same mistakes again. Even without sex in the equation, as in my simplified tale, our materialist self will eventually spoil everything. Some argue that the need for power is the problem; I say that those who fight for power only do it for sex and property. Once a chauvinist woman told me that “what women look for in men is status.” I say that status is like the feathers of a peacock; it elicits mating, but that’s it. In the end, it will be property that will be decisive — property, much more than sex, because we all get old and bored. All we want is more toys.
What should we do to learn to live with property instead of for property? How do we educate ourselves? Only after answering these questions, or at least making an honest effort to answer them a part of our daily lives, just as we eat, bathe, and sleep, can we decide how best to educate our children. Yes, I think I’m saying we should all be philosophers. Our nature is flawed and we must make a deliberate effort to neutralize it. This effort is very much like combat too; at least, it is just as hard.
What I saw during those ten days with those four girls gave me hope, even though their parents have never engaged in a philosophical quest for growth and salvation. Instead, they worked hard and raised beautiful children. I know they are a small minority in the world who had access to the best of education, and who has made the most of it (even if it is not as good as I think it should be). Even so, I wonder what these children will become. I wonder if they will have a clear moral lexicon carved into their souls like the words of the Rosetta Stone, always guiding them to understand and judge what they see and hear in a world where words are fuzzy and usually much less than moral. I wonder if one day they will inspire the coinage of a word that signifies the antithesis of combat. I believe they will, but we must do more than believe. We must continue to learn, evolve and care for them until one day when we must die, we can look back and realize that we have not simply decided on the education of our children — we have educated ourselves and, in the process, taught by example.
We haven’t had shoulders of giants on which to stand, so let us therefore rise and be those giants ourselves, so that our children may have where to lean on.