Machiavellian Ethics of Child Upbringing

Listening to the same person talk for two hours in a class-room setting is not a feat to be undertaken by those blessed with ADHD. It is certainly not a feat for someone who is fasting. Few weeks ago, I found myself in that situation, and man! I could not wait for lunch. I had a good breakfast but the lecturers later sounds seem to be causing my body to vibrate at a frequency that all the breakfast I ate was being siphoned to a blackhole, unbeknownst to me. Not saying he stole my food, but I have a strong feeling he caused it to disappear.

It was lunch time and I thought “Munch Time!”. At the restaurant, a customer pays for a lunch ticket and then it’s basically a buffet; Buffet Time. There was queue. Patience, empty one; I told my stomach. Then finally got to make my order. Alhamdulillah. I had momentarily forgotten that queues are made up of people. I knew there was noise but my brain was wasting energy as it were hearing, it wasn’t ready to invest in figuring out the source of the noise. Ahhhh it’s people… humans.

Seated now. A child returns to the mother, beside my table, with a modest content of food on their tray. It was modest especially comparing with all the other dunes of rice, lakes of gravy/soup and scrap-yard of meat (excuse my metaphors). The mother scolded her under-performing child, and instructed the child get more food. I thought, here is a mother that wants her child to grow body mass. Then she spoiled my motherly opinion of her. She said “Oya, go and add more food jare! It has been paid for now. Add whatever you like!”. My heart was broken

Here is a kid who is learning the ways of the world from his experienced mother. She on the other hand is wired to think that because one pays for a thing, they must squeeze out the most they can from it, even if not beneficial to you. She probably sleeps better at night saying to herself “at least I didn’t let them make the most out of my money”. Now this child will probably grow up to be distrustful and a vindictive customer by default. Every money spent will be a wrong done, thus the vindictive customer must see to it that vengeance takes place in making life as difficult as possible to the paid agent. Outside the commercial sphere, this child is likely to have all sorts of cynical view of humanity, which will be confirmed by others with cynical views… and then they are trapped in a vicious cycle.

Niccolo Machiavelli

This is a problem I think we should look into; especially new-parents. A holistic approach would aim to correct the parent’s perspectives. That would be awesome, but as we know, dealing with oneself is the biggest struggle (Greater Jihad) there is. I propose an alternative, a lesser struggle, which is something we are good at doing, that is monitoring the kids. I call this the Machiavellian Ethics of Child Upbringing.

The famous Florentine statesman and philosopher Niccolo Machiavelli, like many philosophers, can be argued to be quite misunderstood. Today, the adjective “Machiavellian” implies deceit, ruthlessness and cunning, among other negative connotations. Some probably consider him the anti-Christ of morality. However, I subscribe to the understanding of Machiavelli’s “The Prince” as basically saying there are two sets of morality: one for the world, and the other for the Prince (King/Ruler). That is to say that a Prince is not subject to the same laws of morality that is binding on all others, because the prince has to put the welfare of the state (kingdom) first, even above his/hers. Yea, Machiavelli espouses having a double standard of morality; one for the populace, and a flexible one that adjusts to secure the welfare of the state. I said Machiavelli is misunderstood, I didn’t say I agree with him.

Back to the prescription of the Machiavellian Ethics of Child Upbringing. First parents must agree on the values they hope to impart on their offspring. Then they see if they personally act in contradiction to those values. If they don’t, then cool, all is well; no need for Machiavellian Ethics. If however, they act in contradiction to the intended values, then they could engage in Machiavellian Ethics.

Machiavellian Ethics simply instructs that, when in presence of your offspring, act in ways that encourage/build the values you hope to impart on your offspring. The kids will pick it up and your actions (or the hiding of it) will become the building blocks of your offspring’s internal morality. That means double standards of morality, but not one for you and one for your kids. Rather, one for you and one for the what you want your kids to see in you.

Back to the restaurant (I’m just finishing up my plate). What would I have the mother do in front of the child? She would first have to agree her reaction to her child’s plate is not proper for the world view her child ought to have. If she agrees, then she could apply the Machiavellian Ethics of Child Upbringing. Imagine all the possible reactions she could ‘ve gone with at the sight of her child under-performing…

Since it is difficult to fight a person’s habits and inclinations (i.e. the greater jihad), then some could embrace the double standard inspired by Machiavelli (i.e. the lesser jihad). Most of use spend most of our lives acting anyway. Many of us are fake, this is not a rap song so lets us not make a big fuss between the real and the fakes. All I am saying is, if the greater Jihad is too difficult for you, then settle for the lesser Jihad, by acting. Do it for the kids, do it for the future generation 🙂


1 Comment

Filed under Open Source Ideas

One response to “Machiavellian Ethics of Child Upbringing

  1. Aliyu Bugaje

    Well, I think the lesser Jihad option cannot be implemented by most people because most people cannot appear to be forging habits, you know it’s like this is not you, you’re simply borrowing this habit for the benefit of your child, for him to have a positive impression on you and as well for him to be brought up decently. What I am saying in essence is that most people cannot adopt a second or a temporary habit around their child or any other person simply because they are used to their actual habits. So what I’m suggesting here is that the greater Jihad should be implemented, people should pick up good actions and stick to them forever.

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