modified: 9 february 2006 9(added link to 'creative democracy')

23 October 2001 order and conflict or something better than either?

15:52 Indoor cafe.

I'm surrounded by infants, and by the adults serving and directing their development, and amidst the sights and sounds of the children's wayward and exploratory actions, and protests, and the commands of the adults (stop it now! says a woman struggling to get infant and pram and baby to move through a narrow space between tables)...

As I experience some of the local power of this worldwide process, or improvised plan (of child care), that over-rides conflicts between the conscious aims of the adults and the likes and dislikes of the children, I wonder if there is any hope for new ways, however right or worthwhile, if they do not coincide with the wishes of those who guide, and often force, the direction of children?

One countervailing force is of course fashion and new culture - especially that which pervades in the centralised commercial media... But these thoughts are of little help - closer to despair than to hope, for the newas I envisage it - as nearly total change in the ways of control - or their replacement by 'something else'. By anarkia, by self-direction, and by the use of decentral media to enable improvisation to replace plan, and by 'creative democracy' to dissolve fixed roles in a hierarchy.

...the apparent chaos of what I'm watching seems to have invaded the writing - this is less clear than I'd like it to be...

Reading what I've written, still amidst the chaotic order of adult hierarchy succeeding and failing to accommodate to the limitless potentials of the children, I have an intuition that there is, hidden in this to me unsatisfactory mixup, perhaps the real answer. Yes indeed.

I decide to continue these thoughts in the next quiet moment when I'll be extending this note at the keyboard. In the meantime I'll just sit here and listen and watch what happens.

Two days later. Typing out and slightly editing the thoughts I noted on paper as I watched what was happening:

how did we adults change so greatly, become so static, so restrained and so dull?

what did we lose, or give up?

one mother's visible delight in surprising her daughters at a blind man's bluff game of some kind

disconnected yells... (is disconnection the character of all childhood or is it evident only in the indulgent childhoods of prosperous westerners, protected from necessity?)

infants not taught to observe (the adults usurp that function) so their children do not notice or adapt e.g. to movements of other people ('look where you're going' says the carer - but too late as she or he yanks the child out of the track of another person)

some limited exuberance in adult conversations, but not much

how food shuts the them up (is that why so much of it is given to children?)

but no one is obese or overweight here (unusual nowadays in a group of about 25?)

On my way back I moved a branch of bramble that was encircling and bending a young tree in a way that could distort or arrest its growth. I guess I was 'gardening' - an action I don't like - altering the wild systemic of nature, contradictory as it may be to our ideas of what is natural or orderly or good.

Later I was overtaken by two small boys riding their scooters on the pavement. And I am often annoyed by near-miss accidents of adults riding bicycles on pavements - which has now become a custom in London and no one seems to protest. What happened to the bicycle bell?

Then I remembered the teenagers shouting (and once fighting with knives) in the street outside the house where I live.

And then I remembered also the many places such as Northern Ireland or on the Israel/Palestine borderland where rival groups claim rights to occupy one place in their own kind of 'peace' and which the others invade or threaten with terrorism or war.

Thinking over all these minor liberties/disorders I asked myself why do we as adults or old people object to them - what exactly is being trespassed against?

I realised that in each case there is some established (unnatural?) 'peace' or 'order' that is being destroyed or threatened. For instance:

I expect people to listen and not to interrupt when I talk and not to disturb or make me change my path when walking on the pavement.

City cyclists suppose that they have a right to ride on the more 'peaceful' pavements to escape, where they can, from the much greater dangers and inconveniences of motor traffic lanes that are so unsuited to cycling.

Residents in a street expect relative 'peace and quiet' outside where they live, especially while sleeping - dull as that may be to young people who may have nowhere else to congregate away from the 'interference' of their parents...

So I asked myself what is lacking in all these cases - is there a common remedy?

I suspect that one essential is a shared belief or ethic of global self-restraint - the ability to 'let go of one's likes and dislikes', which John Cage often names as the one thing that enabled him to do as he did - and the lack of which still prevents even his disciples or imitators from making music that has the wonderful openness to life of his 'uncomposed compositions' if I may call them that?

Does the peace of this new world (perceived as being shared by everyone, and no longer by one class, or one tribe, or one nation) depend on so difficult and devoted a way of life as he led, as was and is led as yet only by (some of?) those living in monastic or holy orders?

Yes indeed. And I don't think it's impossible - no more impossible than the discipline and frequent bravery and unselfishness of soldiers, for all their wildness, or their sanctified brutality.

So is it another form of 'religion' or of 'war' that is needed? Yes perhaps. That could be the eventual outcome of the present traumas of mass terrorism achieved by suicide, of the undoing of the repressions or trespasses against assumed rights to 'peace and quiet' and to 'law and order'... they are all artificial.

And the first step? To begin to seek ways to negotiate and speak some of the present unspeakables, on the media as well as face to face, with everyone experienced and able to do and be his or her own judge and lawyer and police person and soldier and priest (aided of course by computernet) ... yes this is just another small step towards the 'creative democracy' that I can as yet envisage only in fragments and flashes of thought, and of image.

And where in this are the children - and their parents and carers?... I imagine that it won't work unless it fits child growth and child care far better than does the present mixture of inherited wisdoms of papa and mama and of expert and of teacher and of tribal chief and of industrial boss and 'representative' and of 'discipline' and of 'freedom' and of 'education' that govern so blindly and so confusedly the way we first experience the world and the way we later direct that experience.

'Now stop it!' 'Let me kiss you!' 'I can't concentrate on anything!' 'What's the matter?' 'Just enjoy what you are doing!'Screams and howls and 'take that!'... and then a lullaby... She stroked his back while he was washing the dishes. But they were all killed by the explosion... the attacker also... Is there anything we can do about it - yes of course if each respects each as a centre of this many-centred universe - needing infinite restraint and infinite freedom, self-decided. O what it is to be human!

Miranda: . . . . . . . . . . . O, wonder!
How many goodly creatures are there here!
How beauteous mankind is! O brave new world,
That has such people in't! . . . . . . . . .

William Shakespeare, The Tempest, Act 5, scene 1.