We live in a society where Children don’t laugh… at least in Australia.
As I walk around the streets I wonder, where is the laughter. Sure, I’ve heard teenagers laughing, I even hear adults laughing sometimes, outside of their nonsensical conversations about how good they are and where they’re going on their next holiday. But I don’t hear children laugh.
Now it’s no secret that children are “hidden” in our society. “Children should be seen and not heard” <- that’s what my father used to say to me. But it’s not true, Children should be seen and heard! And we don’t hear them. Danger is lurking in every corner, they might get lost, taken or murdered by paedophilic psychopaths, which is quite an astounding level of mental illness if you think of it. You have to have psychopathy AND be a paedophile, but let’s move away from that before I trigger someone with the word…
Anyway, Children don’t laugh. And why should they laugh? Well, aren’t they happy? No.
I’ve been living near a few children recently, as I live near a hotel and whenever they’re out on the balcony I hear one of two things. They are either crying, or screaming nonsensical garbage to try and get somebody’s (perhaps their parent’s) attention but they’re never laughing happily to themselves or seem to even be enjoying the day. And I wonder… is it just me?
Am I crazy for thinking that children experience joy? And want to express that joy whenever they can?
Now I know I don’t see these children 100% of their lives and I’m not around them constantly and that this is just one family in my little corner of the world. But that’s what I’m talking about: children aren’t allowed to experience joy? And they cry all the time. Is that normal?
Do we live in a society that suffocates children’s individuality and joy because it annoys us? I think so. I can never remember hearing a child laugh gleefully while on the street with their parents. But the number of times I can remember hearing a child being reprimanded, or see it running from it’s parent, or getting yelled at, is burned into my memory horrifically.
Children should be seen and not heard, not heard AT ALL apparently. And it’s horrifying. What kind of children are these growing up to be if they can’t freely express themselves in a public forum? Even just by something so simple and natural as laughter.
Recently I listened to a podcast and the question was posed: would a child who was born alone on a desert island laugh? Now putting aside the ridiculousness of this question, the answer I think to this question would be: No. And not for the reasons you think, I think it’s that they wouldn’t laugh in the way that we expect. They wouldn’t laugh in the way that is culturally expected, but they would still laugh.
See laughter is weird, there’s many many different forms of laughter. Laughter for an expression of Joy, laughter for the eradication of fear, laughter when you feel down and out like the world is against you. Now all those elicit some kind of joy surely, but there are differences, I think, anyway.
Now if we take all those categories and superimpose them on culture, you’ll see that certain people will only laugh when they think it’s appropriate. And what’s appropriate varies from individual to individual based on how they were raised.
I never used to laugh when people got hurt, and I don’t think I still do (haven’t checked) but I mean not laughing at someone else’s pain is a learned response I think. I think it’s more natural to be shocked and then to laugh out of shear fear that that might one day happen to you than to stifle all emotional response out of “politeness” or secular notions of “morality”.