When they tell you children are like angels - blank pages in books of purity and innocence that Life and Devil start to write on their dark messages in black ink around teen age - please do not believe them. Every fool who has held a newborn baby knows children scream when they want something. They scream for food, love, affection and toys. When they grow up they learn to push aside their competitors - other babies, small dogs and a-month-old kittens - to get to the desired goods.
One important thing about children you should really know - scientists confirmed recently that besides being cry-babies babies are also racists. If you read that article you'll find out the reason why:
“The idea of in-group bias is well established in behavioral science, and it has its roots long ago, in humanity’s tribal era.”
From the moment they are born, children learn to distinguish between the people in their group and the outsiders. It only gets worse as children grow (until their Prefrontal Cortex develops and as adults they become aware of their bias and learn to correct it). Which brings me back to my story about school uniforms.
In Russia a school uniform for girls looked like this:
While in Latvia it looked like this, a whole class:
- Ah, - you'd say. - I see no big difference! Its just a uniform!
Well, it's easy for you to say. The eyes of 8-year olds are like those of an eagle, discerning the smallest difference from the furthest distance, anything that would give them clues to start an abuse of The Other. Have you ever tried to enter a classroom, full of 8-year-olds, dressed in the wrong uniform? On September 1st, after my return from Sakhalin to Latvia, I did just that and instantly was tagged as The Other. When the teacher asked me to introduce myself to the class, and I said ... :
- Hi, my name is Signe Baumane. My family recently moved to this town from Sakhalin...
... the 35 of my future classmates detected Russian accent in my Latvian speech which gave them permission to hate me. After 1941 Latvians considered Russians as representatives of occupying powers and harbored quiet but bitter resentments towards the privileges and entitlements the newly arrived Russians enjoyed. Of course, being a second class citizens in his/her own country no Latvian could express openly their hostility towards any Russian. But I was a perfect target - a Latvian speaking with a Russian accent. And so the bottled up resentment was unleashed on me.
Or, perhaps I am giving political overtures to something that was more simple: I was awkward, ugly, quiet, not very bright and my Mom was a teacher at the same school (kids of teachers were also hated - they were perceived as having unfair advantage).
Whatever happened on that first day, I was not able to shake off the tag of The Other for the next 10 years, however I tried. Observing my sufferings stemming from social exclusion my Prefrontal Cortex grew to develop bias against populars.
But wait, I just watched Blank on Blank interview with Kurt Cobain (animated by Pat Smith) and he said: " i felt so different so crazy" in school. Curt Cobain? You'd think in high school he was an incarnate of the populars, no?
Most of my friends felt different and crazy in school, excluded from the popular circles. But WHERE are those populars? Perhaps the people we perceived as populars also felt miserable and excluded? Have they lived to tell their tale?