NUMBER 257• 29 APRIL 2003 • GLOBAL MESSAGES
INDEX OF QUOTES
Do you remember the messages of the world in which you were raised; the values and beliefs which were conveyed to you by the communities or families within which you were raised; or the individual experiences you had and how important they were, in spite of the other messages you received? Do you understand how much these influences helped you to become who you are today?
So it is for today’s children: the influences of the global village, the communities and families within which they are raised and their individual experiences will help to shape them to be who they are as tomorrow’s adults. If we truly want to influence how they can be — rather than make guesses about how they might he we must pay attention to these influences.
I grew up on the west coast of Canada in the sixties and seventies. One of the consistent messages of the times was that we needed to care more about each other as human beings and less about our technology. Later, perhaps as a result of the frustration which was experienced from not changing the world, North America evolved an attitude characterised by the me-generation . The message about relationships with others was captured in a piece of poetry attributed to Fritz Perls who was a therapeutic guru of the time. In his words:
“You are you
And I am me.
We are not in this world
to live tip to each others expectation.”
“You go your way,
I go mine,
And if by chance we meet,
“You go your way. I’ll go mine. And if by chance we meet it's beautiful.” What did this message say about relationships and other people? It seemed to imply that the individual always comes first. That you consider yourself before you consider others. What kind of a message was that to give a generation of people about human relationships? What did this message convey of caring for others — “if by chance we meet, it’s beautiful”? Well, I guess maybe it will be or would be, but we will only know if chance decides that we meet. Being together is not something that we seek but is rather something that happens by chance. This was very much one of the messages of the “me”-generation. You probably recognise it, as well, as the message that America gave to the world. As Canadians, and as children growing up in Canada, we were very much influenced by the messages of this powerful country’ next door to us.
That was one of the global messages of the world in which I grew up. It wasn’t necessarily the message of the whole world, but at that time we were all very egocentric and thought North America was the world. The global messages which surrounded you when you grew up were probably different from mine. I offer mine only as an example.
What were the global messages that you received when you were growing up and how did they influence you to be as today’s adult? What are the global messages which surround your children today? Probably, because of the advance of communications technology, the messages they receive are even more global than the ones you and I received. As a Canadian child of yesterday, I was very much influenced by the messages from America. Today’s Canadian children are influenced by the messages of many other countries. What are the messages in the world today? What are we, as a global community, teaching today’s children? Is the message of the world that others are important? Are the global messages of love, of fear, of caring— or of disregard? What are we, in this world today, giving out as messages which will influence today’s children? What values are being conveyed by the behaviour of countries towards each other: for, make no mistake, the relationships of countries towards each other are both a reflection of, and a model for, how people should he towards each other. Do countries demonstrate understanding towards others? Do they model respect for differences? Do they teach us appreciate the special uniqueness of others? Or do they teach us to be suspicious, isolationist, controlling or intolerant?
When the Canadian government calls a special session of the House of Parliament to pass legislation which will allow them to reject a boat filled with refugees from another country, does it teach Canadian children to help others with problems or does it teach them to tell others to take their problems and go away? How we, as countries, behave towards the people of other countries, conveys to our children values about caring for others.
These are surely questions we must ask ourselves if we wish to understand how today’s children will be as tomorrow’s adults for surely these messages affect us all and help to shape who we will be with each other. If we care about who and how children will be, then we must acknowledge our own social responsibility to influence, as much as we are able, how our countries behave towards each other.
Garfat, T. (1988). Today's Child, Tomorrow's Adult, in Gannon, B. (ed.) Today's child-tomorrow's adult. Cape Town: NACCW, pp 9-10