KEEPING THE GENIE IN THE BOTTLE

We all have a lamp.  Sooner or later, all of us learn that if you rub the lamp, you will summon forth a genie.  In a perfect world, we would all make this discovery organically, at no one else’s prompting, at a time in our life at which we have been appropriately armed, by our parents or someone else with our best interests in mind, with a sophisticated understanding of the consequences, both good and bad, of summoning that genie.

But that is not how life works.  It never has.  Because others know that they have a lamp, they also know that everyone else has a lamp.  Some will show people their lamp when they shouldn’t; others will ask to see our lamp.  Even more will talk a lot about lamps and genies, and will inevitably make the genies sound even more mystical than they are.   And once freed, it is impossible to get the genie back in the bottle, and that genie, once freed, can cause havoc for individuals, families and society.

So we have to arm our children with an understanding of genies as soon as they are capable of understanding them.  We can’t wait until we think they might have otherwise been inclined to rub the lamp, because there are sadly others who might be looking to rub their lamp themselves.  And we have to keep that dialogue going, with increasing sophistication, always arming them with information about the genie that is appropriate to their capacity to understand.

It is not an easy task, and parents have the central role in this process.  Whether they know it or not, how they model healthy lamp management by their deeds will probably impact their children even more than their words, but their words matter as well.  But we cannot leave this task to parents alone, because not every parent can or will model or teach good lamp management, and the societal impact of unmanaged genies is simply too high.

The school system offers an appropriate place to reinforce or, if necessary, introduce lessons about managing lamps and genies.  Creating curriculum to do this is difficult; not every child and adolescent of the same age is at the corresponding same stage in terms of their lamp-awareness.  But again, their vulnerability to predatory lamp-rubbers is unfortunately often inversely correlated to their own level of lamp-awareness.  Genie lessons will inevitably be revelatory and unsettling for some, but necessary.  Parents need to make themselves aware of what their children are learning about genies, and provide context, both culturally and morally, for what they are learning.

Parents might well be challenged by their children when the context into which they cast that learning conflicts with a more inclusive view of genies that they might have received at school.  Parents might find themselves having to concede that others in society take a broader view of what you can do with your genie than they do, and might be required to make the case for that more restrictive view of what their child may wish for from their genie.  This may cause some conflict in the home, but far less strife and conflict than that which can arise when lamps are rubbed without any understanding of the power of the genie that is being summoned.

Doug Ford became the Premier of Ontario promising that parents will be left with the power to decide when the genie is released from the bottle.  Sadly, history has shown that no amount of lamp rubbing will ever give anyone that power.

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