Regarding Childism, or Child Hatred
We were all children once. Many of us suffered at the hands of the adults (and society) that held power over us, as children. Many of us are still hurting, even though we no longer are children and we are enjoying privileges granted to us based on age alone.
Why then, do so many project that pain, that suffering, back onto children? A child who is in the world, cherished or unwanted, is here. They have the same desire of personhood, agency, safety, love, care and well-being and connection that adults desire, yet they all have the least amount of resources to gain those things and they rely on the adults to provide them. Yes, even you. Even if you have no desire to bear or raise children, children still need you. They need you to advocate for them, to make space for them, to guard against others that mean them harm. Children need you to hear them, to see their vulnerability, to be in the world with them.
If you dislike children, if you actively participate in bigotry against them, you are participating in oppression. You are forgetting your own humanity, the memory of you as a child.
Puppet shows in the hills of Kabul
Yesterday I visited a great project, run by Save the Children, that gets children off the streets of Kabul, and into a space where they can be children again.
More than 20 girls of all ages squeezed in to a small dimly lit room on a steep muddy slope of one of Kabul’s many hills to attend the daily class. It is a space where children, many of which spend their days working on the streets, selling tea or soup, can come and play, learn – and be children.
Groups of over-enthusiastic giggling girls stepped forward to present puppet and drama shows or sing songs – many about the hardships they face.
It was great fun to be there – as it seemed for the rest of the class. But by having fun, the girls were also learning about their rights, and being provided a vital stepping stone from the streets to getting back into school.
One girl asked me, “What do you think when you see children working on the streets in Kabul?” I responded “I wish that they could all be in this class instead”. It must have been the right answer, because it was met with a huge round of applause.
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When Looks are Misleading
@LTO_Cambodia, a respected blogger on Cambodian events from the point of view of a barang, had an unfortunate experience the other day. He was falsely accused of being a pedophile while out with his two half-Cambodian children. Can’t imagine the rage he felt of being treated that way by an irrational, ignorant tourist he could not communicate with, who was harassing him and accusing him of something so outrageous in this context. Plus, having to delicately explain the matter to his children! He handled the situation amazingly well. Read his post on it here: http://bit.ly/tFTvjS
But despite my sympathy for @LTO_Cambodia’s during his retelling of the unfortunate situation, I still feel conflicted about his experience.
There were times when I was growing up in Phnom Penh or visiting Thailand, that I’ve seen questionable situations and not reacted.
As far as I know these “suspects” did not commit themselves to appreciating and respecting the host country and culture as much as I believe @LTO_Cambodia has, but what they do have in common, is that they are foreigners in a host country. This sometimes means that you have to abide by different cultural codes.
The fact that many expats in Cambodia forget that they’re guests of a country that’s paradoxically resilient and vulnerable at the same time angers me. Pedophiles who take advantage of children and take advantage of developing countries anger me too. I direct my anger at the criminals who have created this stereotype as much as I do towards this crazy, but perhaps well-meaning, Italian woman.
What is the best way to react to such a sorry, and unfortunately, common situation?
A German friend of mine who used to live in Cambodia was married to a Chinese woman and told us countless stories about hotel managers, restaurant managers etc. who have approached him to tell him that prostitutes were not allowed on the vicinity. How degrading is that! But it’s not all that different from @LTO_Cambodia’s experience.
Is there even a tactful way of approaching these issues?? It stands out enough that it incites or demands a reaction. But to force poor Mrs. K or @LTO_Cambodia to constantly defend themselves isn’t fair either.
In the case of pedophilia, while you shouldn’t jump to conclusions (just imagine how differently we would act if @LTO_Cambodia was a woman), since the stakes are so high, I would be prepared to potentially offend someone if I did not see any other way to deal with the situation. And if that person were to be offended and I was wrong, I would apologize and hope that the person would forgive me.
I wouldn’t, however, if it wasn’t clear enough, do what this Italian woman
did to @LTO_Cambodia. What a terrible experience.
Keep blogging @LTO_Cambodia and thanks for caring about Cambodia. I just linked to your post on flood updates on Cambodia. That was extremely useful.