“In a time of deceit telling the truth is a revolutionary act.”
~ George Orwell
Christmas time is approaching for many. We shouldn’t forget that for many, Christmas is not part of their traditions and beliefs, and for even more, Christmas, whether they believe on it or not, is just another day to survive through, sometimes through cold and hunger, sometimes through homelessness and war.
Some parents wonder whether it is time to tell the “truth” about Santa, Papa Noel or “el niño Jesus” (depending the culture)…some wonder whether it may be “fair” to “tell the truth” to youth about the future they face with Climate Change, resource depletion, economic collapses and the increasingly pervasive unemployment…with all the other “truths” about not having the same prospects as their parents had about housing, etc.
Thankfully, I grew up in a family where this issue never came up: nobody ever told me any deceiving stories about Christmas or anything else that matters, and I didn’t grow up traumatized. I do, however, have a spiritual sense towards Nature and a deep sense of social justice: there was no need for any fairy tale, just the facts. I was raised by people who fought for human and Nature’s rights beyond nice words and wishes: I knew from the beginning there were two types of people in this world: those who know and care and those who pretend to ignore and don’t care.
So back to the question whether is OK for us to share the “bad news” about the state of our world (and the future we all face and share, whether we chose to know and care/do something or to ignore/don’t care and continue the charade)…well, I have a few very recent experiences that may be the answer of what is possible if we are just honest, caring and open.
First I’ll talk about my own children: as in the case of Christmas time, I never had the issue of hiding/not hiding: they always knew. We do share lots of “fantasy” time together that has built a huge bond for us all: I am a LOTR fan and so they are. For us, there is no contradiction between living in a certain way (and being completely open and transparent about all in life, including tough issues) and loving hobbits, wizards and elves…they even talk to me on those terms: “Mom, those elves are all like you, all Nature and peace lovers”. So when I started to see “beyond the crystal”, when I decided to take “the red pill” about Peak Oil and Climate Change, I didn’t hesitate: I shared it all with them…after all, it is their lives that will be seriously affected, much more than mine. They need to know, and they need to know how to handle what is happening and what’s coming, what skills will be useful and which ones won’t…
Years ago, before immigrating to Canada, I used to be a high school teacher. I had a great relationship with teenagers: I always felt energized with their curiosity and ideas, many expressed an early intelligence that seemed to dissipate with time when they grew up and became “serious about life”…but between those magic ages of 12-19 and sometimes beyond, they seem to naturally differentiate between good and evil, they see the world with critical eyes and open hearts.
“You ask me what forces me to speak? A strange thing; my conscience.”
~ Victor Hugo, Les Misérables
I never lied to my students, and we would have the most intelligent discussions, much more interesting than some I would have with adults at that time…
Recently, I also had the wonderful opportunity to meet a loose group of young people who are starting their careers in Canada ( I met them individually, as a career counsellor and friend, some referred by friends, some contacted me through this blog). Some of them are immigrants, some were born in Canada. All are in their 20’s. I have been completely bare with them about the things that are coming, as well as the ones already here: as a career counsellor, community and social justice activist, I think it is more than fair for us to share these things instead of fuelling false hopes in them.
The response I got was similar to that from my children and teenage students: trust and curiosity, an intelligent response that looks beyond and outside the box and ask what can be done, how can we change…they don’t show despair…they come to me with frustration but start seeing hope once the truth is uncovered…
Through my recent involvement with Permaculture, I have seen many youth not just accepting these things, but truly involved in the repair or the building of a new paradigm.
While it is truth that there are many who choose to ignore and hide and fake, there are also many who don’t. I wonder which ones were “protected” from the truth by their parents and teachers…promised that all “was going to be OK” and told they deserved “everything”… and which ones were told the truth while being reassured they were worth and loved for who they were. I wonder which ones witnessed parents and teachers who would talk about Santa and the need for love and peace during Christmas time, while piling up unnecessary “stuff” and behaving selfishly, and which ones witnessed a bit of tough love in parents and teachers who lived as they talked, teachers and parents who cared so much for them that fought for what is right.
When a young person asks me how his/her future life or career will look like, I say without hesitation: “it won’t be like your father’s; you may struggle and may need to look outside the box to find what suits you and where you are needed most. The future will probably be difficult, even horrible sometimes, but we are going to be in this together, and if you learn certain tools now, you may even have the chance to help others and thrive.”
“Truth never damages a cause that is just.”
~ Mahatma Gandhi
“Say what you have to say, not what you ought. Any truth is better than make-believe.”
~ Henry David Thoreau, Walden