This week I watched Netflix Old enough, a thirty year old Japanese show that soon jumped among the ten most watched series on the platform, where kids ages 2 to 6 also get entrusted with complicated missions for me, missions involving busy streets to cross, shopping lists to remember, miles to go uphill with burdens and intense relationships with merchants and passers-by. The program is great, even for the glimpses it gives of small villages, large fish markets, temples or kitchens hidden behind rice paper doors. The cameramen discreetly follow children ruining the asphalt, being distracted by chasing stray dogs or crossing acres of orchards, and usually they do not notice them, but sometimes they do, and then they ask for directions or help without to notice them. the camera ..
In one of the episodes, which lasts an average of 10 minutes, two 4-year-old children, after running other errands, walk up a staircase of 202 steps to reach a Shinto temple, while my son at their age still has the gates with security blocking access to the spiral staircase. In another episode, a little girl under the age of five spends thirty minutes a night turning the roots of a cabbage to loosen it from the ground and bring it to her sick sister, while my pre-teen children, when we adults had covid, thought they never that I should not say that one should go out shopping, but not even take the contact out to go to meet the Gorillas bid.
In Italy, the format (now translated by Netflix with the subtitle) A big day) had already been tried in 2007 with the title Be careful … thank you: a warning based on the protection of the Mediterranean parent’s anxiety, combined with the helicopter parent’s not going to bed quietly if he has not refreshed the electronic registry app one last time.
The original Japanese title, on the other hand, is inspired by an illustrated 1976 book about a little girl sent to get milk, an act that notoriously in Italy does not represent the assumption of an obligation, but a disgusting excuse for to see her boyfriend. The original title, I said, contains the word Otsukai, ie the first commission, which in Japanese culture is perceived as an initiation ritual, while in Europe, where other countries have also tried to copy the format, met on the one hand the parents’ concerns, on the other hand the ironic tone. of conductors who treated the fairy tale only as an outspoken camera. In Japan, there is a real culture of children’s autonomy, and it is normal to meet six-year-olds in the subway, who seriously cross the city on their way to school with everything they need to spend the day alone. The crime rate is low, motorists are sensitive to the passage of groups of tiny students who often, as in the show, wave yellow flags to point out their presence on the roads. The sense of community is high among the children themselves, who throughout the country stop school after class to clean the classrooms (and are certainly not exempt from homework, thanks to decalogues of alternative teachers).
I’m sure many parents today who squeeze their kids between harp lessons and intensive ski weekends would find it shameful to use them for cleaning and would condemn teachers who dared to put a broom in their hand. The average parent is, in fact, a cross between a leader, a sherpa, and a hyperactive bodyguard, who even meddles in the equations assigned to the house, opens chats dedicated to any family experience that falls off his radar, and sees the autonomy, children are given as a form of neglect that risks causing fatalities.
In the West today, we have a strange way of trusting children. For example, there is a tendency to involve them in the so-called decision making: the archaic and annoying practice of continually making choices, and which we today import with this name from the United States and expand to emotional pedagogy. I throw with stones, but I am the first sinner: I have always asked my children for approval not only for the holiday, but also for the choice of the tablecloth. My mother once told me when she saw someone in the tram give way to a baby: I was a child in a world that respected the elderly, and I am old in a world that adores children. Indeed, our idea of asking our children for their opinion on a move may make them feel considered human, but if it is not balanced by a range of responsibilities, it ends up making them despotic. Therefore, I can not wait to leave them alone at home, at the risk of going on fire.
I have worked and am working with enthusiasm for American media companies targeting children, progressive in content and avant-garde in the business model, and I know that children should be treated as citizens of the future and that activism from an early age reinforces character and so does the perception of life more meaningful. The problem is that these kids, with the T-shirt that says “Dreams of the Future” and mom’s cell phone always in hand, are too busy doing their TikTok edits and training for regattas, too honored and individualistic to think that had to take care of the house, the meals, their family members or the miserable problems in real life: companies that do not perform very well by their standards of immediate satisfaction. They are too spoiled by apps to find their way around their neighborhood, and too afraid of challenges to go out and piss their dog in the evening.
It’s us who check their Google accounts in passing from under 13, to feel more at ease by knowing those sitting in the room, rather than on the street with the skate or ball. Basically, we feel more in control. Then we easily give a more subtle confidence than permission to go out: the connection time. And in order to tighten control over their physical security, we lose control over the language they are exposed to, the poses and ideals they absorb while keeping them confined. Thus, children are raised in their bedrooms by street rappers, with their cult of money, their woman and honor are not free to go to the supermarket, get an egg or get lost in the city streets at sunset.