There is a toddler screaming its head off! It matters not a jot if it is a boy or a girl, it wants attention and means to get its way. You’ve all seen it in the local shops, on the high street or just about anywhere there are humans. Quite what it is that mum did – or did not do – is irrelevant, and any of us who have children will know how difficult it is to deal with an implacable toddler. There is nothing more embarrassing than a screaming toddler: there is simply no reasoning with them. It feels as if you have gotten everything wrong, especially with everybody’s eyes saying that you’re a bad parent.
My own tactic, at least when there weren’t too many condescending adults around, was to get on my knees and scream back at whichever of my two happened to be screaming at the time.
Being confronted with its own most powerful weapon is something that was so out of character that my kids stopped screaming. If only out of sheer bafflement. It didn’t always work, it did take a huge amount of courage to do, when it did, it was well worth it. When it didn’t, there was literally nothing else I could have done to ameliorate the situation. There were times when meeting them eye to eye and puffing in their face worked. But screaming was death to a tantrum.
Nothing lost save perhaps a little face in the public eye. I’ll tell you, it allowed an over-stressed parent to let off a little steam too: there are times when the things other people think are not orientated on the needs of society.
I mean, it’s not as if a toddler really understands the situation they face: at age two or three there’s not a huge amount of understanding of the world or themselves that can give them any kind of balanced outlook. In short, if the immediate situation really doesn’t suit the toddler, they are going to let you know about it. And they are going to do it in the only way possible: SCREAM!!
Plus some stamping of feet to add to the attention grabbing noise.
I mean, I was a toddler once, as attested by the fact that I am alive. I must add that my memories from that time are exceedingly thin: I have a memory from around eighteen months, one from age two and another two from age three. Not much to go on by way of conscious life-experiences, is there? Conscious reflection requires one to have experienced a little of what life has to offer – by the age of six, I recall watching my mother’s cat Tinker swinging on the top of the sweetcorn and our toboggan run down the slope of the railway embankment that marked the end of our garden, I was beginning to gather some experiential foundations for my conscious life.
Then there is the memory of my father getting his foot trapped in the railway crossing near our home: this had me genuinely worried. Little did I know that there was only one train a day. I simply didn’t know: the danger of a train was all too real and my conscious reflection on freight timetabling from St John to Montreal was non-existent. It’s not much better today. At that time I knew I lived in Canada, I didn’t know why. How can a kid know these ‘adult’ things? On that railway crossing I was simply scared that we’d be flattened by the next train. I was too scared to scream! Tantrums are an expression of a child’s inability to comprehend. They have nothing to do with fear.
I mean, this is what growing up is all about, isn’t it? Learning to understand what makes the world go around, learning to balance a happening – a foot stuck in between the rail and the wooden paving of the crossing – and the consequence: the likelihood of a train arriving in the next ten minutes. How was I to know that there wouldn’t be another one until well after dark??? All I knew at that tender age was that there were trains and that they were dangerous. It would be four decades later that I would get my first certificate from the Dutch Railways: my ‘Toegang Tot Spoor’ – my official permit to step on the tracks.
All of this is to say that learning about something can take a very long time – albeit that few of us need to go to the extent of professional certification to realize the realities of how many trains pass each day. That is simply a matter of experience: live in an area where there are regular train services and you will very quickly learn how many there are – if, that is, you’re paying attention.
Perhaps it was that distant memory that started my interest in trains? What if I had somehow come to see my father’s legs sticking out from underneath our motorcar and imagined to my terror that he’d been run over? What effect might that have had on my future life? My father wasn’t averse to poking around in the murky entrails of motorcars.
The point of this essay is to point out that just because we’re grown up, we don’t necessarily notice all that we need to. There was the time I couldn’t for the life of me remember what I had done with the end of my vacuum cleaner: it had vanished (1). My ability to think of where it might be was literally absent. I was clueless, and I spent no small amount of time trying to find it – looking everywhere it wasn’t. Somehow I must have inadvertently kicked it under the chair, only I would have felt that. Or more likely, moved the chair over it, I simply cannot tell. Either way, it was as unexpected to find the ruddy thing as it was a relief.
So we have the relative balance of someone who is both interested in the things that transpire around her, and the willingness to take note of them. And the willingness to accept the moments I got things wrong. Not everybody does: if there is one thing I am aware of, it is a person’s inability to see certain aspects of reality, that is to say, nature. Now it has to be true that there are areas of my own life that fit this category – and like my lost hoover attachment, there is literally no way in which I can be aware of them.
I will add that there is one subtle difference between myself and most people I meet: I am at least aware of the possibility. Even if I cannot be conscious of what that might be…
Most people I meet are simply unaware that they have areas of their life that are beyond their ability to conceive of. Bringing a person to this awareness is a frightfully painful process, a process I went through in my mid twenties and continue to this day, albeit that it has become a very real delight to discover the unexpected.
The dichotomy of non consciousness, the literal unawareness of one’s unconscious is coupled to the painfulness of becoming aware of it has become something of a toxic mix in our day and age. Thus we have the archetypal politician: a man who believes in a set of maxims – yet has literally no capacity to understand the position of his opponents. Their reasoning – and it is the norm for both sides view each other in this way – is that their politics is perfectly well reasoned out and since that is all there is to the matter, everybody else has to be wrong. Put in terms of the subconscious, the unconscious part of ourselves, this politician literally cannot perceive the facts upon which the other person has based their argument – and vice versa. And there is no way to bridge the gap: they are irretrievably at loggerheads.
This can lead to the phenomenon of propaganda, where a politician says: “I am right because there is no possible way to exist in any other way!” Subconsciously they are also saying: “and I cannot tolerate listening to you because of the pain such revelations would bring me.”
Today, you have America telling the world to behave as it demands because that way it doesn’t have to look to the very painful things it would have to become aware of if it did listen to what others have to say. It shouts ‘democracy’ at the top of its voice, forcing it on peaceful nations at gunpoint. It is very much an American idea of democracy, though, a democracy that shelters America from the very things it needs to deal with in its own society. The toddler in the supermarket is now screaming at the top of its voice, and poor Russia can only fold its arms and be patient. Russia isn’t much better, but its patience with America shows that it is the more mature party.
Out Of Sight Is Out Of Mind.
A toddler doesn’t scream because it has a balanced view of the world. It screams because it doesn’t. America is screaming because it has lost that balance, a balance that would tell it if its military equipment was equal to the job. But America’s capacity to reflect on these things has been lost, and having lost it, the only way to regain its balance is through a process that is extremely painful. All the more reason to shout at those who don’t agree with you. All the time America is ignoring some essential facts about its own capacity to deliver – but coming to terms with this ignorance would involve painful recognitions. The longer such a situation is left, the worse it becomes – the more powerful the motive to demand others behave as you need: the harder the screams.
The submarines of the Russian navy are far more advanced than the ones they sold to China – and even those ageing craft can evade detection by the US Navy’s sonar detection systems. (2) Half a dozen turbulence seeking torpedoes would put an end to three American aircraft-carriers.
The naval equivalent of me kneeling down in the middle of a busy supermarket and screaming back at my toddler. He simply didn’t know what had hit him.
(1) See my post entitled ‘Frustration’. [link]
(2) A routine reconnaissance flight inside the cordon of ships that surround an aircraft carrier like the USS Kittyhawk noticed a surfaced submarine. The crew were actively trying to gain the attention of the aircraft. Not because it needed help, but just to say ‘hello’.
The USS Kittyhawk, which had finest sonar and submarine detection systems in the US, had been unable to detect the submarine. This was also reported in November 2015. Read more here: ‘That’s Not Fair Play’ link.