It’s comforting, when driving a vehicle, to control it, keeping it from barreling into pedestrians or buildings. Chefs depend on the control over their knives, creating food from ingredients instead of playing solitaire mumbletypeg at too close a range. Control is what turns a random bunch of folks with instruments into a marching band. And it consists of self-control, willingness to take direction, and presuming that the environment will cede to the needs of the group.
North Korea’s leadership believes it can only survive through armed bellicosity and total population control.
Costa Rica has no army, yet it sits on the drug route, and has neighbors with a long history of a penchant for conflict and control rather than cooperation. There’s a cost for not having an army: control of the borders depends on another country not taking control. The catchphrase used by Ticans, as the natives call themselves, is “pura vida.”
Parents have choices in their control. At the extreme ends are those who strive either to utterly control their children’s environments, or those who renounce all controls around what their children are exposed to, or choose.
A parent myself, I’ve been two out of three of those. What I’ve learned (the hard way, of course) is that attempts at utter control fail, unless participants accept it, and the environment allows it. And I’m proud to say that, despite some of my parenting ideas, decisions and methods, my children have flourished and are positive influences on their friends and society in general.
It’s important for parents to present and promulgate the cultural mores in which they believe. Letting children make all their own decisions based on their exposure to the environment is rather like opening Petri dishes and expecting every growth to be an antibiotic: there’s plenty of negative memes and practices in even the more “successful” culture (the definition of such is left to the reader).
It’s equally important for parents to let their children make their own choices. They may not like them, and their offspring might well rue them, but the outcome is a person who sees their cultural background as something positive, perhaps even something to be passed along to the next generation.
Whatever we may think, the result of oppressive parenting – or oppressive governance in religious or national settings – is a population with elements of oppositional behavior just because of the sheer energy involved in having to live to someone else’s ideas of right, correct and just.
Peace, personally and on the geopolitical scale, comes from ceasing to try and control the uncontrollable, and focusing on guiding, healing and mentoring children – or subjects – to allow them the emotional and mental space to come to a point where they can, if they wish, voluntarily accept whatever mores and laws presented to them.
Repression and compliance in fear do not promulgate a culture, they merely enforce it. And in doing so, plant the seeds of that culture. The outside world is too visible, too invasive, for xenophobic or cruel behavior to flourish. Even in the hinterlands of Waziristan, even in the hill country of Georgia, even in the town of New Square in New York, people can pick up on ideas from “the outside.” And parents – or leaders – attempting to expunge them result in pushing those ideas deeper, more solidly, into the cultures that would utterly reject them.