Tuesday, January 02, 2007

What tales to tell today

This actually is an addition to the post about "The Fairy Tale Menace". I had already finished writing that post (and it's long enough as it is) when I wondered about what kind of stories to tell children today to prepare them for their lives.

The suggested stories about how you can make your dream come true through "hard work, perseverance and patience" don't sound more realistic to me than "a magical spell will make it all work out". I can see why she suggests such stories, they're still what our morale is about. But the real facts of real life are different. If today you're hard-working, perseverant and patient, you'll most likely lead a normal life with a normal family, have some kids and - if you're really lucky - a little house. If you're my age or younger and live in Germany, you'll have to be very lucky indeed to get a pension one day when you're old. If having a family and a little house of your own happen to be your dream, then it's okay, I guess. But if you happen to dream of having your own company one day, be rich or famous, then you still need to work hard, that's not wrong, but in addition you need to know the right people and maybe have a little less morale than most people (it's not necessary, but it helps...). And even then you'll probably need luck to make it.

So those stories will be fairy tales, too. Tales of a time either long gone or still to come, depending on how positive you see mankind on the whole. Stories about a society in which hard work, perseverance and patience were rewarded ... or will be rewarded.

I prefer the fairy tales we already have to those we could write ... because very soon the children do realize they're just made up, just there to send a message. They just have to take a look at the princes, princesses, kings and queens of today and will realize that there is no 'Prince Charming' and that 'Sleeping Beauty' and her sisters are long gone. They may dream about finding the right man, they may refer to him as Prince Charming, but they will know he's not going to ride into the office one day to sweep them off their feet and into the saddle in front of him to take them to his castle.

In the long run the stories about "the poor boy who made it to the top" or "the talented girl who became a famous actress" do more harm from my point of view. Unlike the fairy tales of old they sound as if they could come true, so the children will wait, they will work, they will give everything they have to the companies or some agency and gain ... nothing from it, in more than 90% of the cases. But they'll still believe in the fairy tale, because other make it come true (because they have influential friends or a lot of luck). They'll laugh about somebody speaking about her Prince Charming, but they'll continue to work in a variety of jobs, just because the 'big chance' in their business is just a heartbeat away. And when their dream finally dies, they will look around and realize they've spent too many years following it, because the stories told them it would come true some day, and have nothing else to look forward to.

Don't misunderstand me, I think everybody needs a dream and should work to make it come true, but people should also be realistic about their chances. They can and should hope for that little bit of luck, of meeting the right person, of being in the right place at the right time. They just should know that hard work, perseverance and patience alone are not enough to make all dreams come true today ... it depends very much on the dream.

No comments: