Posted on August 31, 2011 by


By Anthony Dean-Harris

I’ve been in an anti-child period for a little while. It’s not that I’m against the concept of children, but I am rather prone to stay away from them. I would hope that this is some evolutionary instinct for people in their 20s who deep down inside don’t want to be tied down so they shudder at the thought that every random cry they hear while riding public transportation could in any way, shape, or form be tethered to themselves. I heard long ago that that idea of having and raising children is to plan one’s own obsolescence. It takes a certain kind of personal commitment to dedicate energy to that. Anything outside of that looks pretty odd. Case in point—recitals.

I would like to posit that no one really wants to go to a recital without a true emotional investment. The aforementioned “I created or am related to this creature” is the primary attachment. Most anything other than this is just plain creepy. If an eight-year-old is learning the piano, one day that eight-year-old could be a brilliant pianist. S/he could play with symphonies, lead a great jazz trio, or have an extra talent that bodes well to the next time there’s a rampant wave of television shows that try to remodel and remake Sherlock Holmes ten times over and this audition could be a game changer for his/her career. However, that’s in the future. Right now, we’re talking about this eight-year-old sitting at the piano for his/her first recital. Do you (and pardon me for dragging you into this, gentle reader) want to attend this recital? No, I’m not going to give much more information than this. It’s a random child. S/he could be great, but chances are this is an average eight-year-old playing the piano. Most people probably wouldn’t attend this recital; that’s because they don’t care. This is the true equality of humanity. Unless you’re noticeably connected to me in some way, I don’t really care about you. We’re all connected at some level. There is the everlasting ties that bind us in the ubuntu sense, but when you get right down to it we aren’t out there supporting the dreams of every eight-year-old playing his/her first piano recital. This kid better be either exceptional, at least a cousin, or (depending on the branch of the family) both. The connection is crucial, otherwise it’s creepy. Imagine some anonymous patron of grade school music recitals, gallivanting throughout the city to hear the fledgling potential of children. The conversations parents have over punch and cookies. “So, which kid is yours?” “Oh, I don’t have a kid. I just love childrens’ piano recitals.” Get ready to call in an AMBER alert. People who regularly attend childrens’s recitals and plays are predators, not supports of the arts.

And let’s take this even further. It’s human instinct for us to not eat our young. We cannot (unless your last name is Dahmer or Thomas Harris is writing the narrative of your life) eat what resembles us. It’s sort of like food’s uncanny valley. If there’s anything that assumes humanity’s interconnectivity, it’s that. Yet, much like most of us being carnivorous, the connection fades the further we are from it. While I may not eat another human being, I may also not care about others to a certain degree. The main thread of the interconnectivity is present but the diversity of humanity affects the degrees of the strength of the thread. Most human mothers will not eat their young, but some care for their children more than others. Most people will not care for a child in the same way or with the same intensity as that child’s mother would, the degree of that level of care is the variable. Some adopt children from far off lands, others donate money to Sally Struthers, many others ignore the sad commercials altogether. Let’s not even get into the idea of pets.

Yet somehow, we as a people kowtow to the idea that children automatically require everyone’s collective attention at all times. It need it to be public knowledge that unless your child has done something truly exceptional, I need stories about children and their youthful innocence to be told sparingly. I don’t care to look at your kids on Facebook all too often (and they had better not be your profile picture). I don’t want you to make me stop what I’m doing to look at pictures of them on your phone. I don’t know your child except peripherally through you, which means chances are I will only care about your child minutely. Consider this a public service for the legions of people who are tired of hearing about other people’s children (and pets) about whom they couldn’t care less. I am among those ranks and I am a little bit tired of hearing about them, at least until I’m a little bit older and astounded by the God’s creation of human replication. I’m sure that clock will kick in any time now. But not yet.

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