A friend of mine has been urging me to take up blogging again to share my thoughts so more people can benefit from them. It’s a nice idea, but what should I write about? Fortunately, providence stepped in for me as I was walking home from the chemist this evening. There in a shop window was a large sign saying, “Every child deserves a happy life.” After reading such a fascinating sign I realised that I would have to write about this as soon as I got home.
In context, this sign was asking for people to donate to a charity that provides Christmas presents to children from poor families. Clearly, they were engaged in some form of flattery to suggest that giving such an unfortunate child a gift from a random stranger would somehow also give that child a happy life. While such subtle flattery is a sound strategy to get money from people, it is with sadness that I suggest that whatever the root cause of the hypothetical child’s sorrowful condition will far outweigh the impact of one random gift.
That said, I commend the spirit of such a charity. It might not be capable of giving an unfortunate child a happy life, but it could nonetheless shine a beam of hope and gratitude into their heart which could help them find happiness for themselves later on.
However, the word that caught my attention the most was “deserve”. Do children, or anyone for that matter, deserve a happy life? It might shock some readers to learn that I don’t think anyone, even a child deserves to have a happy life. That doesn’t mean I don’t think it’s a good thing to work towards improving the quality of childhood for all children. Apart from the aesthetic argument that helping others is beautiful, there’s also a solid utilitarian argument for providing children with a safe, firm, and loving environment to grow up in. They’ll be kinder, wiser, more productive, and more generous adults if we treat them well as children. The architects of a better world. I think that if you have the opportunity, it would be better to make each child’s life a little better. However, that still does not change the fact that no child deserves to have a happy life.
If someone deserves something, then that is an entitlement. The irony of the advertisement was that if you take a child and teach them that they are entitled to be happy, you will end up with an utterly miserable adult by the end of it. There are no beliefs more toxic than those that say we deserve to have something. Certainly, if you earned it, you deserve it. But if you haven’t done anything to deserve it, and a child isn’t sufficiently developed enough to make the decisions for themselves that they need in order to deserve something, then you aren’t entitled to it. Happiness isn’t for you just because you might be young, look pretty, be a particular sex, come from a prominent family, live in a popular country, know certain people, dated someone special, inherited money, or anything else that you are or have been given. Happiness is something you get from making decisions that bring about a positive effect on you and others around you, and above all else, taking nothing for granted.
That said, I don’t know if that charity would agree to my revision of their slogan:
“Improving the quality of childhood improves the future!”