You’re walking down the street and then suddenly you hear two loud voices shouting at each other. You turn around the curb and see on the opposite sidewalk, a parent and a child engaged in a lively argument.
« I’m telling you, you should be looking left and right before you cross the street ! »
« I did ! You just didn’t notice ! You’re just super stressed out, as usual. You underestimate me all the time ! »
« No, I saw you. You just crossed blindly without looking ! »
« I knew there were no cars around, I looked long before crossing, you just weren’t paying attention ! »
« You’re in denial. Very well. This proves to me that you can’t be trusted. From now on, you’ll have to wait at the crosswalk for my go ahead. »
« Like that’s going to happen ! I’m old enough to be responsible for myself ! Leave me alone ! »
« The hell I will ! If you don’t obey, no more pocket money for you, and you’re grounded ! »
« We’ll see about that ! I’ve just about had it ! I’m leaving ! »
« You wouldn’t make it a day without me ! You need me and you know it ! »
The fight continues on for some time. As a neutral bystander, you feel sorry for both of them. You can relate to the need to take care of your child, even to the point of worrying sick and behaving irrationally. At the same time, you also understand the strong desire of the child for independence, self-confidence, and autonomy. Striking a balance between these two is never easy, and is a natural part of the relationship between parent and child.
Now, what if I told you that the child was 5 years old ? How would you have reacted ? Would you have sided with the parent or the child ? Most probably, you would have sided with the parent, and interpreted the situation as a young spoiled « know it all » annoying brat who needs some common sense knocked into him.
What if I told you the child was 15 years old ? Now, the situation becomes a little less clear. At 15, you could say that the child is much more mature. Technically, it’s still the parents’ « child », but our society labels him as a teenager, who indeed is in need of discovering his autonomy, independence and self-confidence. You still recognize that the parent remains the legal guardian of the « child », but probably disapprove of the overly controlling behaviour of the parent.
What if I told you the child was 25 years old ? At this point, you might fully support the « child's » or rather, the young adults’ position. If at that age the parent is still busy harassing his child in this manner, then either his child is somehow impaired, or the parent needs to go and see a therapist to learn to let go.
And so rather than a clear cut answer as to who is « right » or « wrong », the situation is much more complex and depending on the age and developmental stage of the child, and especially, the entire relational background between the parent and the child, the fight can be interpreted in many different ways.
You may wonder what’s the point of this light story, which sounds like a pointless rambling about obvious things.
This story is rather a metaphor to illustrate the current relationship between citizens and their governments/corporations/power structures and ruling elites. In more and more countries, we are witnessing citizens rebelling against their States : Hong Kong, Iran, France, Venezuela, Chile,…
As bystanders, we are witnessing the « end » of a relationship (the parent/child as legal guardian and person in « power ») and the « birth » of a new one (parent/child on a more equal footing). And of course, States do not want to relinquish their powers, arguing that the « people » are immature, stupid, idealistic, irresponsible, that without them, without the police, judges and courts, that the society would quickly sink into the most horrendous type of chaos. The people, on the other hand, act with various degrees of « maturity », and it is very difficult to pin-point how it corresponds to the parent/child story above. Are the people more like the 5 year old, the 15 year old or the 25 year old ?
The point of this story is to shine a different light on what is happening. Moving away from value judgement of « good » and « bad », but rather to see these trends as part of a natural evolution of power relations between the « rulers » and the « subjects », which mirrors that of the relationship between a parent and a child. In the child’s first years, the parent is clearly a Monarch or King/Queen, which rules more or less despotically over his/her child in the sense that all decisions are subject to the parents’ approval and right of veto (and thankfully so, in many cases). As time goes by, and the child acquires many skills, his autonomy grows and the relationship can move on to a form of light democracy where the child has much more influence, but where the parent (the State) still has the final word, even if it should use it strategically. Finally, at some point, the child is ready to enter into a more equal relationship, where he gains more and more independence and autonomy. But between the stage where the child is a rebellious irresponsible teenager and the one where the child has become a young adult, the relationship between the parent and child lives through much drama. The same is happening to us now, on a much larger scale.
In conclusion : no good guys, no bad guys, nothing to see really. Just a fight between a more or less mature child and a more or less anxious and controlling parent. The situation will not result in the demise of the State/government or the enslavement of the people, but rather in, hopefully, a smooth evolution of the mentality of both parties into a mutually respectful one, mirroring the relationship a young adult has with his own parents, where both acknowledge the legitimacy of the other, and where power is much more balanced.