We’ve all heard the wailing toddlers, other people’s if not our own. “But I want....!” is the cry of the frustrated child. “I want it now!” Small children want everything now. They have no ability to wait, and no desire to have things in a measured way. They don’t know yet about eating responsibly, and have yet to learn that their parents do not have infinite resources. All a small child can do is grab and demand, with no eye to what will happen to them in the next few hours as a consequence, much less over the coming years if they get their own way. If you’ve ever seen a small child make themselves sick on chocolate, you’ll know exactly how this works.
What do we do as grownups? We want more, we want faster, bigger, better. We don’t want to sit in traffic jams, we want to be able to drive as far as we like, as fast as we like. We want all the goodies of the world on our supermarket shelves all year round, we want to pay less for it and never mind if the farmers can’t make ends meet, or in some distant land children work in near-slavery to facilitate our lifestyles. We can’t see beyond our own short term desires to what this might cost us tomorrow, in the next decade, a hundred years from now.
It does not help that our mainstream politics are so short term, so obsessed with making the fast buck.
We don’t have infinite resources to answer the ‘I want’. We know that for everyone on the planet to have an average western lifestyle, we would actually need three or more planets. So obsessed are we with our demands for more of everything now, that we will happily carve up the countryside with a new motorway rather than sit in the traffic queues, or, unthinkably, maybe drive a bit less. We’ll cut down the rainforests for cheap beef, and fish the oceans to emptiness. Our collective unwillingness to even question whether we really need all the things we trash the planet for, is pretty shocking when you stop and look at it. So many things that were once deemed luxuries are now ‘must have’ and we revert to our toddler selves, screaming that we must have it and we must have it right now. As a culture, we urgently need to grow up a bit.
Anyone who has ever tried to resist a demanding toddler (your own or someone else’s) will know about the rage, violence, and howling that saying things like ‘no’ and ‘enough’ will produce. Those of us who stand up to the toddler mentality in our culture will face all the same backlash. One of the things about being a responsible adult/parent, is knowing that having everything right now is bad for a child, and you only have to look around to see the many different kinds of unwellness that glutting on instant gratification creates. The world has never been in greater need of some responsible parents (with or without children) to stand up to the toddler mindset and say ‘no dear, the planet can’t afford that just now.’