Posted by: terrapraeta | February 8, 2010


When a new life turns towards you
And the night becomes a bay
We shall remain forever
Everyone who meets his way
Oh, our love is like the flowers
The rain and the sea and the hours
Oh, our love is like the flowers
The rain and the sea and the hours

New Order, The Village

Last week I posted an old article entitled Our Political Family. In the years since I wrote that I have become, let’s say, a little less inclined to accept the validity of our governmental systems. Not to mention being far more skeptical of civilized systems having any honest capacity to function effectively for the benefit of people.

However, I posted it anyway because I do think that we all have these metaphors running around our collective unconsciousness, so in order to consider alternatives, we have to first recognize what we already “know.” That being said, if we are going to look for new approaches, what sort of new metaphors can we begin to adopt?

“Ora na azu nwa”

That is the original African proverb that Hillary Clinton snagged when writing her book It takes a Village. The Igbo, from whom the proverb comes, also name their children nwa ora: children of the community.(link) It seems to me that this might be a good place to start building a new model of family, community, relationship.

I’m recalling something I read once about child rearing amongst traditional native american groups. In fact, it was commentary on a specific village, by Europeans… and the thing I remember mostly is that the children were not protected in the way we think of it. Toddlers were not prevented from touching knives, nor was there concern over children drowning or falling and cracking their heads open. Younger children played with older children and kept up the best they could. And almost all play was roleplaying of adult behaviors. The comment was that because children were fully exposed to adult behaviors, tools, interactions, they could be trusted, from the youngest of ages.

This is hard idea for me to accept. I remember my own son’s young childhood and the need I felt to protect him from things dangerous. But I also recognize that I did nothing really to teach him of these things. It was not a thought that even occurred to me then. I also cannot help thinking about children and guns. When a child plays with a gun and hurts another, I am quite certain that that child has never been taught how to properly handle a firearm. Whereas children in rural locations that grow up with guns in their life as a matter of course, do not shoot other children.

Of course, there is yet more to consider. When children have an entire community of adults available to call on and depend on; or conversely, when an entire community of adults take responsibility for the safety, well being and learning of their children; those children are constantly monitored, without being caged, they are constantly taught, without being “educated” and they are constantly encouraged, loved and allowed to explore their world. If, in addition, children are raised in an environment that does not assume “the world is a dangerous place,” but rather where the world is seen as gifting life to the people in exchange for their own participation in the dance of life – those children are going to grow up strong, secure and self assured.

Now, looking at the family this way is not something we can just do. We cannot change our fundamental beliefs simply by deciding to do so one day. Enculturation is far too powerful a force to simply dismiss. However, as a mental exercise, we can ask if our perception of family roles were to change in this way, what would that do to our perception of government and politics?

First, it would eliminate entirely both Strict Father and Nurturing Mother. The simple assumption of hierarchical structures – the we need someone to tell us what to do, to protect us, to enforce good and evil – would fall away. Instead, we would perceive everything as a personal interaction. Depending on need, there would be a variety of different people that we could call upon. And a certainty that they would be there when we called. In fact, the more I think about it, I cannot imagine any metaphorical justification for government beyond that group. I can imagine a rhizomatic network existing in such a world. But as a function of practical usefulness, not assumed, encultured, validity or necessity.

Now I feel a bit like I have failed in my attempt to imagine new metaphors and perhaps someone else out there sees that metaphor that I am missing. Any suggestions?



  1. How about this? Kids raise kids. Running with the child pack works well. Older kids look after the younger ones. This modern obsession with entertaining them and hovering over them and controlling them via schools… bah. Let them be real people…

  2. Hey —

    Yes and no…. there is huge value in the inter-generational interactions that we so sorely lack right now. So yes, kids should be running together and learning from each other, but there should also be time for mom, for auntie fro grandma et al.


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