From the first part of this article we can see the scientific evidence that confirms how our early childhood experiences — reflecting what is, ironically, called childcare — profoundly effect how we evolve as individuals, which in turn determines the quality and direction of our societies.
This means that in order to solve the major challenges we humans face – violence toward ourselves, toward each other, and toward the ecosystem our survival depends on – we need a revolution in childcare.
It is we who trained yesterday’s children to be today’s violent people. It is we who are, right now, training today’s children to keep right on butchering the future.
As Osho explains about this issue:
“It is one of the most fundamental problems facing humanity today; the future depends on how we solve this problem. It has never been encountered before. For the first time man has come of age, a certain maturity has happened – and as you become mature you have to face new problems.” 1
“Every society, until now, has been trying to indoctrinate every child. Before the child becomes capable of asking questions, he is being given answers. Do you see the stupidity of it? The child has not asked the question and you are providing him with an answer.
In reality what you are doing is killing the very possibility of the question arising. You have filled his mind with the answer. And unless he has his own question, how can he have his own answer? The quest has to be sincerely his. It cannot be borrowed, it cannot be inherited.” 2
As R.D. Laing once wrote, a couple of generations ago when nuclear war was the “only” major catastrophe facing us, “Long before a thermonuclear war can come about, we have had to lay waste our own sanity. We begin with the children. It is imperative to catch them in time. Without the most thorough and rapid brain-washing, their dirty minds would see through our dirty tricks.”
If you doubt that, just watch Alison Gopnik, professor of psychology and affiliate professor of philosophy at the University of California, Berkeley, describe how smart they really are. As she explains, babies are the “research and development” part of the human species while adults are “production and marketing.” In particular she says:
“Children can teach us that if we really want to learn about the world, we need to open ourselves up to new possibilities.”
In stark contrast to the view of not long ago, that children “should be seen but not heard,” here we have Alison Gopnik politely making a revolutionary proposal. If we adults want to smarten up, then we should shut the hell up and listen to what these uncontaminated young minds can teach us. Perhaps we could learn how to be open and flexible and able to respond intelligently to new situations…. Like living with uncertainty for example.
We find ourselves in a bizarre situation. Just about everybody says they love their kids and would want them to grow up in a world where they are not going to destroy themselves, or destroy others, or destroy the environment. Yet, that is exactly the outcome of the way these loving parents are bringing up their children. Which is the outcome of how these parents were brought up by their loving parents, and how their children will bring up their own children…. The ultimate species-threatening sorry-go-round!
What is the way out of this conundrum? First we need to understand it how this is happening.
Researchers from many different fields, like Robert Boyd from anthropology, evolutionary psychology and social change, and Peter Richerson from biology and environmental science, and Noam Chomsky from linguistics, philosophy, politics and cognitive science have clearly identified the main sources of conditioning: often politely referred to in the literature as the “agents of cultural transmission” or “enculturation.” (Don’t mention brainwashing! That only applies when other people do it, like in North Korea.)
But you see the problem here. Most people in the religions and in leadership roles in society, whether in industry, the law, education, or the media have achieved their positions of influence in institutions whose power relies precisely on the promotion of these same beliefs and values.
These “super influencers” are naturally highly motivated, perhaps unconsciously, to support the status quo.
As an interesting exercise, go to Google and search for unconscious bias. Nearly 40 million webpages on this topic. Clearly an area of high interest. Just to be sure what those pages are really about, we can put the search term in quotation marks and search for “unconscious bias” – and we still get two and half million webpages. Most seem to written by very well-meaning people searching for ways to eliminate the most obviously ridiculous examples of unconscious bias: when gender and/or skin color is used as an excuse for the “social domination” we discussed in the first part of this article.
However, now try and find out if anyone is actually addressing the root cause of this. A search for “causes of unconscious bias” or “origins of unconscious bias” and the number of pages in the results drops dramatically to a few thousand. And none of them seem to be really going anywhere near the “origins” at all. So, then try adding “parenting” to “origins of unconscious bias” and you get 7 results. Or add “childhood” – now that looks promising: 4,900 results. But when you start to dig into them, suddenly there are just 14 results on two pages. Or even add “child” to “origins of unconscious bias” and you get 3 pages.
Then we are offered results in “Google Scholar” for the “origins of unconscious bias.” Aha, those academics will be onto this, for sure. Really? 3 results, 4 results…. Basically nothing.
And none of these sources, like the non-scholars, are actually looking at childhood conditioning that we have identified as the specific issue to be examined!
Finally you might land up on the United Kingdom’s, Royal Society’s page, “Understanding Unconscious Bias.” At last, someone reliable. Here is the cream of the cream. The Royal Society has, since 1660, we are told, been promoting “excellence in science” for the “benefit of humanity,” with scientists who “continue to make outstanding contributions to science in many research areas.” Indeed!
And guess what? You can watch a three-minute video explaining how unconscious biases affect every part of our lives without us knowing because these biases are unconscious!
Do you see what is happening? The unconscious bias of these eminent scientists, not to mention all the well-meaning authors of those zillions of webpages above, is preventing them acknowledging the root cause of unconscious bias!
Perhaps it is all just an unconsciously biased Google algorithm creator. Ok, so let’s go for the jugular. We can type in any combination of the words for what we as a society are actually doing. If we type in, with quotation marks, “teaching children that white people are superior to black people” – there are no results. There is no record of anyone saying this simple truth.
Or is anyone on any of the zillions of web pages in the English language expressing a similar simple truth? “The moment you are born, conditioning starts, from your very first breath.” According to Google, only one individual is, Osho.
The conclusion is clear. There is so much talk about “unconscious bias” and how to deal with it, but our own unconscious bias is preventing us seeing the basic reality. These biases are imposed by us on each new generation. Yes, our own unconscious minds just refuse to go there: Excuse me! Are you saying we are brainwashing our own children? Yes.
As Osho explains so succinctly:
“The moment you are born, conditioning starts, from your very first breath; it cannot be avoided. The parents will condition you, the children you play with will condition you, the neighborhood will condition you, the school, the church, the state.
“And consciously not much conditioning is being done, but unconsciously the child goes on and on accumulating it. The child learns by imitating.” 3
So, it is clear, we cannot expect anything to change from the politicians, the media, the educational establishment, the religions, or the legal profession.
That leaves mum!
She is already struggling with her ever more rebellious kids who perhaps have understood what is going on. Now we are left depending on her to also unravel this mess. Maybe that is how it has to be. How many mothers or caregivers really want to see their kids grow up to be destructive rather than creative, to be ugly racists or misogynists? How many want to see their kids blown to bits for someone’s great ideology?
How many mothers, fathers or caregivers have the time to work out the connection between today’s “normal” upbringing and the latest horror on the news? The academics are the ones with the relevant research data on child development, and the parents are the ones who need to discover how this information can transform the way they bring up their children – the content of their evening news!
Here is the really good news.
At last the scientific foundations for a radical change in childhood upbringing are being laid. Not only is contemporary neuroscience, including the new understandings of epigenetics and neuroplasticity, confirming how sensitive children are to their environment, it is also showing that adults too can change.
In addition, many academics, such as Alison Gopnik who we mentioned above, Kabat-Zinn and Myla Kabat-Zinn, co-authors of their book on mindful parenting, Aletha Solter, Kristen Rice, and Shefali Tsabary – they are all widely disseminating the scientific basis for questioning the existing idea that the main role of parenting is to frog march little children into the existing model of adulthood, using force as required.
It is becoming clear that the usual game of bribery we play with kids’ minds, via punishment and reward, is unnecessary and counter productive.
These kids are already motivated by life itself, motivated to live their own lives, but not necessarily to live the lives that adults want them to live! Naturally they rebel and parenting turns into a war zone.
Of course, these new arrivals will need our help in distinguishing between a dangerous hot plate and a harmless cold plate. But rather than seeing the issue as only them learning from us, the world of contemporary parenting is beginning to realize that this learning process is a two-way street.
The flow of information between academics and parents is evolving as a revolution in taking care of children, often called conscious parenting. The result is the increasing realization that these children are very smart – they are just totally unfamiliar with everything and everybody, including whoever is taking care of them. Naturally, whatever they see, they see with completely fresh eyes, as yet un-programmed to see the world the way we do.
There are three extraordinary outcomes of all this.
Firstly parents are realizing that these fresh eyes are showing us adults who we really are – in a way other conditioned adults never can. Like a little “Zen Master” as Laura Markham, another academic and author in this area puts it. Kabat-Zinn makes the same point, confirming what Osho has long explained:
“Children bring freshness into the world. Children are new editions of consciousness.” 4
So, rather than parents assuming they have to “teach” their children, they are starting to realize that it is they who can learn from the children.
Secondly, caregivers and parents are starting to experience the results of this approach. They are learning to accept that these children have their own way of seeing things. The caregivers are learning to respect that unique view and are making sincere attempts to listen to the child and understand things from the child’s point of view.
The results are dramatic – instead of the home turning into a war zone, peace breaks out. In that peace, the caregivers can see that most of the conflict comes from leftover trauma from their own upbringing, which they can now acknowledge, see, and resolve.
Again, Osho identifies the crux of the matter:
“If you have to love even a small child, you will have to change yourself. To hold a little hand with love, you have to bring about a change in your life. You cannot remain the same person anymore. Love is a fire; it is bound to change you.” 5
The vicious parenting cycle of discipline and control, rebellion, more discipline and control, and so on, becomes a thing of the past. It is now being replaced by a virtuous cycle: respecting the child’s individuality, allowing the child to show us where we are stuck in our own past, while both caregivers and the kids can enjoy the amazing result of a mutual learning environment of discovery.
Thirdly, and most importantly, the child is allowed to discover the world in his or her own way. The parents keep the child safe but stay out of the child’s way as much as possible. At the same time the caregivers discover how they can change and dissolve all their own childhood traumas and misunderstandings about themselves. These left over issues are of course affecting not just their parenting but are also negatively impacting all the other areas of their lives.
As Osho explains,
“Up to seven years, if a child can be left innocent, uncorrupted by the ideas of others, then to distract him from his potential growth becomes impossible…. He will be well grounded, centered, strong enough…. You will be surprised to meet such a child. He will be as sharp as a sword. His eyes will be clear, his insight will be clear.” 6
Such children will never agree to impose themselves on others, any more than they will allow anyone to impose themselves on them. In particular, no one will be able to persuade them to become killers and rapists, to destroy themselves or others, or their environment.
The implications for our species are almost unimaginable. These children will create a different world, finally a world fit for human beings without all the havoc that plagues us today. It is in our hands.
You can read the original talks and see all the formats available from the links below:
1 Osho, Zen: Zest, Zip, Zap and Zing, Talk #14 – The Child: Father to the Man
2 Osho, From Unconsciousness to Consciousness, Talk #13 – What Is the Question?
3 Osho, Be Still and Know, Talk #7 – Thanks for the Compliment!
4 Osho, Walk without Feet, Fly without Wings, and Think without Mind, Talk #2 – A New Vision of Parenthood
5 Osho, The Way of Tao, Vol. 2, Talk #19 – To Live in Artless Spontaneity and Not in Doctrines and Decorum
6 Osho, From Darkness to Light, Talk #3 – Help Your Child – Protect Him from Yourself!