‘Mum, you be Ursula. Do the thing where she takes Ariel’s voice. I’ll be Ariel. Joe, you be Flounder. You do the things he does.’
And, at the behest of a three-year-old, her brother and I complied.
My sister and I used to play games like that, only we called it, ‘let’s say’.
‘Let’s say that that bit of the room is your house and this bit over here is mine. I’ll come and visit you.’
And no one had to suggest that we spoke differently. We just did.
‘Let’s say I’m a fairy and you’re a wee girl that discovers me and we become friends.’
And no one doubted that the fairy could fly or, indeed, that she could bestow the gift of flight on her new-found friend. It was a given.
When someone comes up with an idea that sounds as if it might be fun we tend to fall in with it. Suspension of disbelief is a kid’s playbook.
Watch kids play. Or, rather, listen to them. They are oblivious to observers, immerse themselves in their fantasy world and adopt accents and mannerisms, to enhance the game, without any sense of embarrassment. If they notice you watching, they either tell you to go away or carry on regardless.
Kids are amazing.
They carry all the potential of their lives, or any other life they choose to imagine, as easily as adults carry debilitating self-consciousness. We change at some point, or most of us do, to become less free in our play. Play becomes, for adults, either a hidden thing or manifests as a talent for acting or sports. We tend not to be as comfortable as children in the suspension of disbelief.
Except, perhaps, when we’re fantasising about winning the lottery or what it would be like to live in far-flung places or how life would be, if only, if only. ‘Let’s say we win the lottery, darling, what would you want to do?’
Perhaps we honour children in their unique capability to be all that we would wish. Perhaps we watch them and pity them, in the knowledge that their fantasy lives will prove to be just that. Adults tend to become jaded with life and, as if in resigned hopelessness, we let the kids, as a kindness, enjoy the world of imagination for the time that they may.
Santa gets to come every year, no questions asked, or, at least, are evaded until inevitable truth is revealed in some manner that always and forever is remembered. How old were you when you ‘discovered’ that Santa wasn’t who you thought he was? Bet you know. What about the tooth fairy? Fairies, per se?
How old were you when you realised that your parents did not have an infinite supply of money? How old, when you first had to do without something that you needed? Not wanted. Needed. If you were fortunate, money and need were supplied as required and your childhood belief of abundance remained intact for a long while. Perhaps you’ve never known what it is to go without. Lucky you.
For most of us, I would suspect, we know alright. We know that we have to work to earn the money to buy the things that we need. And, if we have the health and opportunities to do so, we get on with it. Lucky us.
It is becoming increasingly obvious that not all children or adults have either the means or resources to fend for themselves. There is a growing consensus that that’s just tough shit because those people probably brought that on themselves. At least, that seems to be the consensus among the Tory party. And, perhaps, large swathes of the public.
When did we get to be so heartless? When did we lose our empathy? Or even sympathy? Why do we not care that children go hungry? Here, there, everywhere. How is it possible, that on our doorsteps, families live without the security of a home, heating, food, basics?
Perhaps the government is playing games with the populace?
‘You be the poor people, right? We’ll be the rich overlords and we’ll do that thing that rich overlords do while you be all miserable and cry for mercy. Got that? Let’s say your kids are hungry, you beg for food and we’ll tell you that that is your responsibility. Let’s say you say that you have no work and no means of earning money to buy essentials and we say, is that our problem?
‘Let’s say you say, yes, actually, it is. You are supposed to make sure the economy functions for the benefit of the people you’re meant to serve. And we say, oh. Not part of the game.’
Let’s say that those who choose politics for self-interest have never really grown up. Let’s say that they are living in a fantasy world where the games they play suspend the reality of life on the ground.
Let’s say that we say, enough! Let’s say that we say, let’s find a better way. Let’s make believe that it is possible to do things in a different way, to make decisions that serve all the people rather than select people.
Our politicians seem to have forgotten that the word ‘politics’ derives from the Greek word for ‘people’ – polis.
It’s time the polis had a word with the Tories at Westminster and informed them of their right to remain silent but that their silence, in the face of mounting evidence, will be used to condemn them by every parent and child who too soon discovered that Santa doesn’t always come.
Anyone who wishes to cite irresponsible parenting as the source of family deprivation needs to look at the wider picture and the irresponsible governance that has allowed people to sink into an abyss of despair and hopelessness. Not without reason does mental health often focus on the hardships of life and coping.
No one really wants to depend on the government for handouts. Handouts have become synonymous with the failure of citizens as opposed to governance. We all should be able to depend on the government for policies that enable citizens.
Playing ‘you be, do, be, do’ is not service to the electorate nor society, at large. At best, it is infantile and, at worst, malicious.
Let’s say, we say, no, to more Tory incompetence, heartlessness, nepotism and greed.
Let’s say, we say, yes, to being a society that cares for all.
Let’s say, we say, yes, to compassion and mercy.
Let’s say, we say, yes, to a style of governance and policies that embrace society rather than fragment it.
Let’s say, we say, yes, to being humans of wonder and possibility.
Let’s, at least, imagine the possibilities.
We owe it to every child, including the vaguely remembered one within, to do and be whatever their needs require.