To whom do we listen?
By Stan Stewart
For the last six months I have lived with my grandson and his Mum, and every day I have been their driver, and every day I have visited my son in hospital. I have done a lot of listening.
When it comes to world news and politics, my son has convinced me I have been listening to the wrong people. He’s not a conspiracy theorist. In fact, he’s a researcher and his opinions are based on significant sources. In our complicated world, I have taken the easy road, which has meant taking the mainstream media as gospel, but he has alerted me to other opinions and insights into world affairs. These come from reputable scholars and authorities whom the mainstream media tend to ignore.
Listening to my fourteen-year-old grandson has taught me much about how teenagers view the world, and, he has introduced me to basketball. I never had any interest in the sport, but now, because I have listened to my grandson, basketball is something that interests me. He is a player and I attend his every game with enthusiasm.
Like most teenagers, he is reluctant to talk at length about school. However, it is obvious that his school is strong in science and computing. I have also learnt some disturbing things. For example, my grandson knew nothing about Ned Kelly, and it gets worse as he had never heard of the Melbourne Cup, and Phar Lap, that great Australian horse, was completely unknown to him. To add insult to injury, he had no inkling that an Australian invented the pavlova! He knows all about WOKE culture and his brand-new school has unisex toilets, but the basics of Australian identity and culture are completely omitted. How can he ever grow up to be a fair-dinkum Aussie? I expect it’s up to me.
What I am missing in my current life is the input of children, toddlers, and babies. I miss watching them, and interacting with them sparks me up, so I am full of gratitude every time I see a pregnant woman. I want to go up and congratulate these people, but, although I am a little slow at times, I am not that dumb as to walk into a minefield of misunderstanding.
I am not a baby holder or a baby kisser and playing with small children on the floor is something I have seldom done. I am basically a baby and small children watcher. I watch them with appreciation and when I can, I engage with them through my eyes, and when this happens, they can sense that I admire them, and they respond positively to my attention.
For an hour or so every day, with my son in his wheelchair, I am in the in the foyer/lounge of this large public hospital. It is an attractive area, bright and airy with lounges and seating circles scattered through the space. Nonetheless, the atmosphere is often heavy with persons who have lost limbs, patients with various drips attached, patients in mobile beds and others confined to amazing wheelchairs, scattered around the area. However, I notice how the arrival of babies and small children changes the atmosphere. They come with family members or friends of a patient, and though there will be exceptions, they mostly radiate positivity as they smile, and beam and laugh. Today, twin girls, approaching two years old I think, danced, and sang and smiled at everyone who looked their way, and a three-year-old Asian girl did aerobics on the couches while her very ill mother smiled at her as I did. It is hard to be negative in the presence of babies and small children.
In 1937, when the world was moving every closer to war, Maria Montessori was continuing her work with small children. She was an Italian physician and educator best known for the philosophy of education that bears her name. At an early she wrote that, “the only way world peace could be achieved would be if nations valued their small children; more than that, listened to their small children.” Prior to this, in 1930-32 the anthropologist, Margret Meade was working with various tribes in the Sepik region of Papua New Guinea, where she noted that those tribes who cared for their babies and young children were peaceable and could be trusted. On the other hand, tribes that ignored babies and young children were treacherous and violent.
Men who are sure they know things, lead nations into war; hard men who think peace comes out of the barrel of a gun (missile, or bomb or rocket). Earlier in my life, when I was impressed by John Wayne and Dirty Harry, I believed that following smart, strong men was the only way to go, to achieve a better world. The idea of listening to and learning from small children never occurred to me, and I would have rejected any such suggestion as ridiculous. I have changed. Our babies and children are full of hope and zest, and people who listen to them become caught up in their joy and positivity. A result of this is they are less likely to want to resolve disputes with bombs, rape, and pillage. That’s the way I see it, and that’s why I am an advocate for listening to children.