Time Travel Forward

Ranging through time has allowed us to see that children have it much better than they used to.  They aren’t treated like property, and have a much better chance of living to adulthood than they did a thousand years ago.  Even only a hundred years ago.  Getting away with murder is pretty much a thing of the distant past, as far as children are concerned.

And then there’s physical abuse.  Our society is getting better at finding out those people who are hurting their own children.  If you’re an anti-government fundamentalist who believes your home is your castle and you are the lord, tough.  A child is not property, and the rest of us hope that your child becomes a productive and happy member of society.  You may have created that child, but the rest of us are going to be working with him, meeting him for lunch, and maybe even marrying him.  It’s in our best interest to make sure you don’t deliver damaged goods to the rest of us.

And here’s where it gets interesting.  Because our time machine has shown us that parents can be tricky.  When murdering children got unpopular, parents simply sold their children off as apprentices or slaves.  And now that physical abuse is going out of style, those same parents (though born hundreds of years later) are turning to more subtle, less physical means of abuse.

I know of a young lady who is carrying some extra weight.  She’s young, and she’s had a tough childhood because her parents are idiots.  But the real issue for her is that her father is making his love (and financial support) conditional upon her losing weight.

To her credit, she has a good attitude (at least to me) and is making some effort at losing weight.  But she is also having to bear this handicap bestowed upon her by her father.  For the rest of her life she will think that it’s normal to play these tricks upon children, possibly her own children, in order to make them do what she wants.  Or worse, these psychological abuses will hurt her chances of having her own happy life.

We don’t know, and can’t, yet.  All I know is that this form of parenting is considered acceptable in our day and age.  Perhaps someday the father would be found guilty of abuse and stopped.  I hope so.  Perhaps we can use our time machine to make the world better for my young friend.

Except it only goes forward at one speed.

Normal.

 

Time travel gone right

Time traveling with you last week took us back into the dark ages where children were property, and their deaths went unnoticed.  One tragic reason I failed to mention was the fact that so many young women also died with them in childbirth.  Or that other medical complications, or illnesses they couldn’t understand would claim that same child within its first few years.  There was a good reason why parents couldn’t be too emotionally invested in their kids; there was a good chance they would be gone.

Today it’s different.  We can time travel to periods where we see children granted a bit more respect, but treated horribly.  The dawn of the industrial revolution is a great example.  Charles Dickens did a great job of depicting the hell on earth those children suffered through.  But what sort of emotional scars did those experiences leave?

We can only guess.  Jumping back to our own time, we now understand the importance of a good childhood upon adult behavior.  Abuse in its most gross form isn’t tolerated in our society, but back then it was probably tolerated.  But how many children today are being abused, physically, without recourse? without support? and without hope of rescue?  We don’t know.  We only know such things still occur because some of the victims eventually build up the courage to step forward.

Our time machine tells us that, someday, we will be protecting our children even more so than today.  In that sense we are going in the right direction.  But when will that happen?

Soon, right?

 

Time travel gone wrong

Understanding our behavior is not a task for the weak of heart.  In order to know what makes mankind tick, we have to peel away all the protective layers in order to get at the innermost mechanism.  And when we peer back in time, as we will in a few moments, we have to know that we might not like what we see.  We can’t let that scare us, because we are tough!  And the answers are going to be worth it.

The other reason we have to reach back in time is because that’s going to let us get a better understanding of where we are today, and where we might be tomorrow.  Time is like that, it allows us to see how things develop.  Grand time scales allow us to see our development on the largest scale, so that we can make even better predictions into the future.

Our first stop, ancient cultures about 4,000 years ago, such as: Egyptians, Babylonians, Sumerians, Harappan.  Dust yourself off and take a look around.  These are some of our earliest cultures, a time when gods ruled the land and monsters were real.  There was no understanding of health, and if a child was born unwanted, it would perish or be given away.  If that child was born deformed, it suffered until it died.  If the parents were merciful, they would kill it themselves.  This was not a bad thing, this was how people acted.  Children were plentiful, they were personal property, and they were expendable.

Next stop, only a few hundred years before the present.  Watch your step, and wear your mask.  We are somewhere in Europe, and the air is filled with smoke, because the industrial revolution is in full swing.  Take look inside that factory there.  See all the small hands busy at those machines?  Children.  Working long hours for meager pay.  By today’s standards this is cruel punishment, even for adults.  But here in this factory, they are happy to be earning pennies to take home to their families.  The good news is that if a child dies here, their parents may get a bit extra.  But the even better news is that the owner of the factory does not (technically) “own” the child.  He can’t walk over to a random kid and kill them.  Nor can the parents.  Society has matured to the point where those who murder children are considered criminals.  It’s alright to work them to death, and there is no such thing as abuse, but outright killing is frowned upon.

Step back into our contraption and take your mask off.  Yes, we’re back in our civilized and enlightened society.  I’m sure the air is perfectly safe.  And yes, children are also safe, in the historical sense.  It’s a very serious crime here to kill children, any children.  For one thing, kids are less plentiful than they used to be.  Another is that parents tend to love them more than they used to.  And there’s also that whole thing about educating them as an investment in the future.

You might point out, and rightly so, that there are still some cultures even in the present that don’t treat their children as well.  Some of the more radical and less mature cultures, we have heard, are killing and selling their girls, while also using some as fodder for their wars.  It’s true.  But overall children are at much less risk for getting murdered.

That’s time travel for you.  It allows us to see great trends quickly.

But what other trends are there?

Time will tell.

 

Funny Family Business

Anyone here know a family?  Did you come from one?  So did I.  Sometimes I wished I wasn’t, but overall it was a nice experience.  As a child there were many times I thought about running away and joining a circus, or the army, or any other family but mine.

Maybe you have your own family now.  How’s it going?  Mostly fun?  I sure hope so, because how much fun you have is up to you.

Here’s the rub, as far as studying behavior goes.  Your family is unique.  It’s an island almost all by itself.  Sure, you may visit a house of worship with other families, or belong to other such social groups, but most of the time it’s only your family.

All the rules and regulations that apply to behavior of groups have to apply to your family, too.  We don’t like to admit it, but a family is a very special kind of group.  In fact, we could argue that it’s one of the better inventions that evolution has thrown our way.

We need to learn all of these things so we can make a better family in the future.  The problem with evolution is that it’s just so darn slow!  If we wait for evolution to make a better family, it could take a million years.  Frankly, I don’t think we can afford the wait.

So, in order to learn better and faster, we should talk about things our families do.  But this is the funny part.  We don’t.  Almost everyone thinks that what happens in the family should stay in the family.  Shame things.  Hurt things.  Bad things.

This attitude does no one any good.  It protects the bad people, it tells the victims that they have no support, and it doesn’t allow any of us “do-gooders” to try and intervene or help.  My own extended family practices this form of self-inflicted pain, because my sister and her ex like to try and hurt each other by manipulating their children.  I see them suffer, and I know that their future happiness will suffer as well.  And I’m powerless to stop it.

Funny how that works.