JOURNAL OF A MOM – WEBER FOR TODDLERS

Without mommies in plain view, the shift in the authority figure somewhat changes so that some kids start practicing absolute authority and enforcing obedience. Whereas some abuse their physical strength to ensure superiority in the playground, others rule with absolute power based on their age, i.e. height, which boils to the same thing. Or they simply think they are right and you can’t make unequal things equal, can you? After all, ‘some animals are more equal than others.’

“Achieving a particular form of political order in any democracy depends on prevailing conditions ‘in which different forms of society cohere’ and different ways ‘in which consensus is achieved’ (Jeffry Ocay). Since a consensus is mainly reached by parents (or teachers or nannies), oppression and cruelty take its place when they’re not around and consequently achieving my kinda order is the goal of all goals, whether there’s a consensus or not. This normally implies the rule of law that all (or most) must obey, using all possible means to accomplish the goal, from open animosity to passive aggression, slamming, crying (with or without tears), punching, pinching, rolling, hiding, blackmailing, stealing and so on.

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The sociologist and philosopher Max Weber distinguished ‘three types of authority: traditional, legal-rational and charismatic, each corresponding to a brand of leadership operative in contemporary society.’ He probably didn’t have kids in mind when he coined the terms, but we’ll see that same rules pretty much apply in the playground too.

According to Weber, traditional authority implies ‘the presence of a dominant personality and it is the prevailing order in society that gives him the mandate to rule.’ Parents are dominant because they are parents. On the other hand, children in the play area frequently listen to (obey) other kids who are seen as apt by the majority, and because everyone else already does, so they just follow. I didn’t give my son B. the mandate to rule so it’s only natural that I should bitch when he presides at our home meetings (or elsewhere). A republic/parliamentary democracy is still a form of government that is nearer and dearer to my heart than a monarchy so, despite being my Little Prince, he does not automatically have a hereditary right to the throne. We’re not gonna abolish monarchy altogether, though, since ours is not the absolute, but the constitutional one (thank god). Tradition is tradition, right? Besides, it’s good to be the queen. However, what B. apparently does is copy my behavior and I can tell you he’s damn good at it. Or he just has a domineering streak. Hm…I’ll get back to that…

Second, Weber’s legal-rational authority is grounded in clearly defined laws. ‘The obedience of people is not based on the capacity of any leader but on the legitimacy and competence that procedures and laws bestow upon persons in authority.’ Having this in mind, it seems everybody who wishes to become president might as well do so, however insane, inept and inadequate, because the state institutions and laws say so. And we can’t question them, right? Kids, like adults, often follow not because of what leaders are capable of but because their ‘authority comes from widely accepted impersonal and impartial rules.’ The one who’s pronounced competent by say parents or other kids, not necessarily proving or having to prove their competence, may become the most reliable and trustworthy person to fix, open and close things in the future. As opposed to adults, children are not biased toward one over another. On the contrary, being open-minded, tolerant and anti-discriminatory, they give everyone equal chances to show what they can do and accept suggestions especially when coming from bigger and older guys. Apart from this, they are very practical. I saw you’re more successful and faster; I’ll step back and let you do it/show me. You have to admit it’s time-saving and more efficient in the long run (and intelligent too). After all, it’s all a part of the learning process and more than ok to be second best.

Last but not least, ‘charismatic authority is a trait that makes a leader extraordinary. This type of leader possesses the superior power of charisma to rally diverse and conflict-prone people behind him. His power comes from the massive trust and almost unbreakable faith people put in him.’ In the playground, like in the world of adults, such kids are often likeable, communicative, sociable, confident, charming, and above all popular. However, they might also be or turn into real despots, stingy, antagonistic, controlling, confrontational, intolerant of differing opinions and prone to oppressing their subjects (that is playmates) by for example not allowing them to climb the slide, pushing them down the slide, grabbing their miniature replicas of vehicles and silverware, while not sharing their own, screaming (to the disgust of their parents…or not): ‘It’s mine. I don’t want to share. I’m a miser.’ Weber’s charismatic authority has what he calls Herrschaft or ‘the power to compel people to obey’ so when the leader says loud and clear: ‘I am your voice,’ his supporters cannot but hypnotically nod and enthusiastically and loyally cheer: ‘Build the wall.’ Furthermore, charisma is, in Weber’s opinion, irrational. ‘Like the mystic, the charismatic leader is believed in because his message goes against common knowledge of how the world works.’ Luckily, he concludes, ‘charisma requires perpetual reanimation’ and is ‘temporary because, like magic, its appeal and its efficacy only last as long as it is seen to be successful.’

The bottom line is the whole society plays an active role in shaping an individual. Consequently, every child has the potential to become an alpha. Being a benevolent alpha parent is, on the other hand, quite normal. Being dominant in the relationship implies, among other things, being protective and comforting and should not be confused with being domineering. The alpha in a wolf pack is the one who protects the pack, not the one who bullies and intimidates.

Still, I can’t help but wonder what the childhood of notorious world leaders was like and how their parents acted when their needs weren’t met. So, here are a few tips for (future) parents to try changing bratty behavior, if possible, with an additional request not to judge parents by how their kids behave:

  • If your children defend their position by repressive means, tending to control almost everybody at home, rest assured, they’ll, unless you teach them differently, turn into control freaks one day, controlling everything in the state as well, should they show interest in becoming presidents. The question is whether they’ll become absolutists, unjust and cruel rulers, or usurpers, illegitimate ones.
  • If your kids show a tendency to be despotic, make sure you satisfy their need to be in charge every now and then by offering them creative alternatives to the bossiness. It’s all a game to them anyway so play along before it stops being funny. The crucial thing is that they get the attention they crave (your way, not theirs).
  • Mind how you talk in front of the kids. You can initiate a positive change by changing the tone in which you ask each other to do things around the house (yes, Bojana, you too). Instead of ‘Take out the trash already,’ why don’t you try something like ‘Hun, can you please…?’ It won’t hurt (always). Other times, you’ll probably be too mad to even bark an order, just putting the trash forcefully on the floor in hopes that he trips over it. There, I said it. Now, if you could see our trash can, I’m sure you’d be more supportive and understand why I have to nag. Now, shut up and keep listening.
  • Say yes whenever possible. Too many no’s may prove detrimental in the long run. Just as offering alternative sources of healthy foods if they prefer x to y, you should offer game alternatives to choose from. You can’t play with mom and dad’s toys, but why don’t you try this?
  • Use positive reinforcement to promote good behavior. Don’t punish bad behavior and failure. Concentrate on the process rather than the outcome. Good job, honey! How didn’t I think of that?
  • Anticipate problems by observing your kids, not to say spying on them, especially when they start bringing friends home: who, where, when, how. Someone’s always to blame for their disruptive/unusual behavior. You shouldn’t feel guilty. Look at democratic societies eavesdropping on the rest of the world and learn. If you’re caught red-handed, deny everything. If espionage becomes a bit too obvious, resort to transparency as your obligation to share information, tell your kids it’s for their own good and make the spy-bugs smaller.
  • Finally, try being effective democratic parents, whenever possible. Although democracy is not as flawless a system as many western governments present it, do not change it or, even worse, turn to tyranny. It is your duty as a parent to offer protection, love and guidance (discipline too) and promote tolerance and freedom of expression if you want your kid, family and society to thrive. Long-term peace, stability and equality can only be attained when everybody’s rights are respected. Why don’t we start with our children? That being said, we might just stop producing more loonies (than necessary), provided you’re not one, in which case we’re screwed, and electing more tyrants presidents in the future.

POETRY MATTERS

Our lovely Susan recently reminded us that April is National Poetry Month in the States, inaugurated by the Academy of American Poets in 1996. This month, I’m joining this unique celebration of poetry in hopes of inspiring more people to read and celebrate it throughout the year.

BTW, Susan’s outstanding poem Letches was shortlisted for IS&T Pick of the Month, so I’ll kindly ask you to read it and show how wonderfully supportive of one another we are by voting here until April 15.

Now, I would like to contribute to Poetry Month by drawing attention to some bloggers/poets I love besides Susan herself and magnificent Wulf she mentioned who are a must for serious poetry fans. If you love poetry or don’t but are open to new experiences, please check out these guys: Wilde Taylor at thereckoning and her poem Marrow, Silent Hour by Basilike Pappa, How Demons Get their Wings, highwaybloggery by David Redpath, The Happiness Report, A.G. Diedericks and his poem An Existential Exposé and Moonlit Pieces by Eli Kyoko and her Panic. Make sure you check out Morality Park too where you can find all five, and so much more.

I generally love poets who make me think and tackle controversial topics and social injustices, also using humor as a powerful weapon against oppressive forces. Ted Hughes described one of my favorite poets Adrian Mitchell (1932 – 2008) as “a voice as welcome as Lear’s fool… Humor that can stick deep and stay funny.” Today, I give you a statesman of literary protest and his thought-provoking:

 

A TOURIST GUIDE TO ENGLAND

Welcome to England!
England is a happy country.

Here is a happy English businessman.
Hating is money, he spends it all
On bibles for Cambodia
And charity to preserve
The Indian Cobra from extinction.

I’m sorry you can’t see our happy coal-miners.
Listen hard and you can hear them
Singing Welsh hymns far underground.
Oh. The singing seems to have stopped.

No, that is not Saint Francis of Assisi.
That is a happy English policeman.
Here is a happy black man.
No, it is not illegal to be black. Not yet.

Here are the slums.
They are preserved as a tourist attraction.
Here is a happy slum-dweller.
Hello, slum-dweller!
No, his answer is impossible to translate.

Here are some happy English schoolchildren.
See John. See Susan. See Mike.
They are studying for their examinations.
Study, children, study!
John will get his O-Levels
And a O-Level job and an O-Level house and a O-Level wife.

Susan will get her A-Levels
And a A-Level job and a A-Level house and a A-Level husband.

Mike will fail.

Here are some happy English soldiers.
They are going to make the Irish happy.
No, please understand.
We understand the Irish
Because we’ve been sending soldiers to Ireland
For hundreds and hundreds of years.

First we tried to educate them
With religion, famine and swords.
But the Irish were slow to learn.
Then we tried to educate them
With reason, poverty and unemployment.

They became silent, sullen, violent.
So now we are trying to educate them
With truncheons, gas, ribber bullets,
Steel bullets, internment and torture.

We are trying to teach the Irish
To be as happy as us.
So please understand us
And if your country
Should be forced to educate
Another country in the same way,
Or your own citizens in the same way –
We will try to understand you.

POETIC JUSTICE

There are problems that challenge our ingenuity. There are events that challenge our attention. There are people that challenge our beliefs. And then, there is art that challenges the imagination, touches the heart and engages the brain.

It started with a challenge set up by Brooke who dared Tom to upset the universe by inviting him to take part in a poetry game. Both earthquakes brought about by their poems resulted in damage of varying severity with violent shaking extending to far-off locations. The ground shaking is expected to cause landslides, and avalanches in days and weeks to come. The cup was then passed to Wulf whose poem was felt across great distances, apparently thousands of miles from the epicenter. The ground opened up and there were numerous instances of severe injuries after people had fallen into fiery pits. He then passed it to Susan whose poem led to a deadly quake, with a warning made only minutes before it struck, causing total destruction and most likely permanent changes in ground topography. The cup, one of the lucky few survivors, was passed to me yesterday evening. I’m still wondering how I made it.

I am honored beyond words to have been chosen to join this wonderfully unique tribe. I like big challenges and they rarely come much bigger than this. You set a high bar, my dear friends. Please take into account the fact that I was in junior high when I first attempted at writing poetry. Needless to say, this is when my endeavor to be something I was not ended.

Anyway, this is my first poem ever since. So, be gentle.

Let’s challenge the rapids together, my fellow rafters, shall me?


 

WHERE I’M FROM

I am from witches. I am from bitches
I am from demons. I am from ghosts
from cockroaches and from moths
from snakes and from dragons
from seraphims with flagons
I.AM.

I am from water and from flights
from eastern darkness and southern light
from northern distance and western might
from betrayals and from trusts.
I am from smiles and from frowns
from flaws and from scars
of perseverance and wishful thinking I am composed
I wish, I wish…
of non-perfection. I.AM.

Once upon a time, I was killed from the air.
Big Daddy’s whim.
An attack with a knack by someone with a flair for external decorating
someone who didn’t care about fellow Earthlings in a kingdom far far away
you’re not my masters nor the heirs to the throne of the world
you who blare up in the air, paired up with like-minded spirits. Beware, for
you’re just numbers for many out there. We shall all die one day.
Despair no more. We’re square.

I was stuck with a needle, I was tied to the bed
I lost my head (too much to mention)
aching, I said,
I need a med
I bled, I shrank, a shadow of my former self
oftentimes I fled (too much unsaid)…
Until one day I saw a flickering light ahead
and thought: ‘Drop dead!’
I’m off to get some French bread.

I’ve traveled afar, but
was out of range and out of reach
out of touch
away and apart, broken asunder, disjointed, disconnected, split in half, torn to shreds.
Touched by new friends. Strangers once. Skinheads for all I care.

I am from my son, from my women and my men,
from a profound silence, a profound chasm,
from profound sleep awoken
A profound thinker who renounced reason (sees no treason)
howling at the Moon. The rooster going cook-a-doodle-doo!
at the crack of dawn, ah bon?

I’ve dived to the ocean depths and aspired to great heights
I’ve touched the bottom
I’ve reached for the stars
I am not from here, I am not from there
I’ve seen paradise and been through hell.

I am from connections, separations
taking action to desperation
I am recollections. I am retrospections;
from equations to tax evasions
from elections, masturbation;
invaded, misdirected.
I am the stroke of a pendulum repeated in a back-and-forth motion.
A request I am
Redirected to a different department.
I am confessions over coffee
From a connection to an obsession
One Direction
One Conviction
A black Caucasian with a Persuasion. I.AM.I
who cries

Fuck colonialism, imperialism, absolutism, fascism, nationalism, radicalism, terrorism
Fuck racism, sexism, immoralism, determinism, egoism, ageism, heterosexism, classism, ethnocentrism, plagiarism, hypothyroidism and veganism
Fuck communism, fuck capitalism
Fuck ME baby, please fuck me! (Oh, fucking hell!)
Hail altruism, pacifism, humanitarianism, criticism, hedonism, onanism, conceptualism, if you will.
Atheism or deism? (If God were a DJ)

I am from sensibility to utter nonsense
from the utter limit, I utter a growl. I utter a ‘no.’
Utter bliss. I see an utter fool that is me.
Utterly in love with words. In love with the silence.
In love with the absence, in love with the presence.
In love with the Sun, over the moon.

I am yours but don’t fucking belong to you
I am myself, and you are too.


 

Aftershock…after aftershock…after aftershock. The ground is weak and giddy long after a sequence of strong earthquakes prompted by their poetry. So far, it has been shaken by an idealist, a visionary, a romantic, a philosopher, and a realist/wishful thinker.

It’s my turn now to pass the cup to the next poet. I spy with my little eye…..(I can feel seismic waves traveling through the Earth already)…

… a star-gazer.

Everyone’s a story, born, unfinished. What’s yours Tanya?