It takes a village ...

As the saying goes, it may indeed take a village to bring up a child. I expect that the speaker may have been pointing out whether one parent or two, in fact an entire community should invest in nurturing a new-born into becoming a fully-fledged contributor to a thriving society, no longer dependent but perhaps having dependents and certainly taking their responsible place in bringing up the next generation. How else would the wheels keep turning? Lately, however, I have been considering the nature of such a village. I am surely not alone in thinking that there are many assumptions being made here, and I would like to include a few as I may have interrupted your village duties with this blog-rant (brant?):

How does any village, proverbial or not, even know what to do?

A child is born and as far a I am aware, no manual arrives with the umbilical cord. So, how does any a parent, let alone a village, know what needs to be done to brinbg up that child? Nature or nurture. Is it innate that we know how to bring up children the 'right' way? If we interviewed 100 parents, I wonder what they'd tell me about that? For sure, I'd have 100 different ideas of what was the 'right' way to bring upo a child. So, now that we are getting a 'village' involved, how would that go exactly? Yet, I get it. The proverb wants us to be mindful that parents should not think of going it alone. Perhaps this suggests some sort of synergy exists between parents and the village or that on some level all parties wish the same for every child.

Is it to be expected that the Village actually cares?

As a child in Sunday School and pouting by my parents, it was preached to me that I should love my neighbour. Mostly, I have had wonderful neighbours, to be fair, but these days the mantra seems to be ‘every consumer for him/herself’. It took a pandemic just to remind us that we could think about others, even though the UK is among the most charitable societies on earth. Few even remember to fill out the tax relief forms so they can benefit from their giving. To be sure, the village must care and as we pan across the globe to consider where those caring villages can be, it does not take long to see why large swathes of people are looking outside their borders for such a village in which to bring up children. Does my village care? As a child, if I went anywhere my parents could track my movement through the neighbours. During a bus strike, I decided to walk miles along the bus route home all along the way strangers checked whether my sister and I were okay and I was a third of the long route when the police collected us off the streets and took us home. Even the bus conductor knew our name. How would that translate into this Internet age? Truly, we must now extend our proverbial village into ubiquitous online community, where safeguarding the welfare of children as well as adults is an ongoing battle. At the same time, here too we must assume a village may care enough to make this medium yet another resource in bringing up the next generation.

Next, can we assume that the village is fully capable?

Time, money, stuff, a village impoverished will struggle to maintain itself let alone bring up a child. The family unit may be the heart of a nation (not sure where I heard that from, but it remains unforgotten). The pace of life and the cost of living is enough to distract even the most devoted parent from focussing as much on their offspring as they need to, so what hope an entire village of busy, cash-strapped carers? I’m starting to think that whoever first had this notion about a village bringing up children came from some ancient society that recognised that as one generation aged and grew feeble and needy, the upcoming generation would need to fit and capable if they were all to survive. It is no stretch to think that such a clever people may in fact have devoted a section of their society to the task of doing nothing but training up the next generation of warriors, guards, and trainers, among other essential village needs. Being that there is ‘nothing new under the sun’ antiquity may present villages with little time and inadequate resource, as today, and so it became everyone’s job to do a little to ensure successful successions of capable citizens. Even today, some societies regard teachers in this way, acknowledging their role in preparing the next generation of productive adults such that educators are venerated, given special honours and societal privileges. A ready example in my mind was the fact that, while on holiday in Canada, I was given free access to museums and many tourist attractions soon as they discovered I was a teacher (to the chagrin of my wife, who had to pay). Whatever the case, it is not hard to see that a failure of such duties would never bode well for child nor, eventually, the village, if no investment was made in bringing up the next generation.

Must the child be of the village to be cared for by the village?

In a cosmopolitan ‘village’ as are many these days, the ‘child’ requiring the upbringing is very likely to belong to a newcomer or an immigrant. Does this change things? Should it matter whether the child is from the North or the South, the East or the West? If the village has a different language, culture, traditions, religion or politics, should any or all of this determine whether or not they assume any responsibility for bring up this child or children? What say the elders, those old people who have learn much and now pass on their knowledge and wisdom? Perhaps the answer lay in a visit to any professional body in any modern village, or a quick look at the university cohort at any degree level. They ask yourself how much it matters to the needy just who fulfils their need.

Who do we call should the village default on its undertaking?

So here we are with my final assumption. Every villager has a share in the success and therefore carries responsibility in case of a mage fail. As each village will have some structure of authority to maintain law and order, plan strategies and generally oversee its viability, then we can rightfully blame the leaders. Of course, culpability has a different colour depending on your politics, but ultimately, the buck must stop at the top, don’t you think so? The village cannot take the full responsibility because a village cannot give birth to a child, is my way of thinking. I feel that this is a partnership between the parents, who are part of the village and the Village itself. Partnership? Duty? Obligation? Privilege? Wishful daydream? Hard to say which, but certainly as inescapable as the fact that if that the Village will know about it if that child grows up into a serial killer or a great surgeon. I’m just thinking out loud here, but perhaps, where they haven’t done so already, every village needs to enquire of their Wise Ones and give heed to their teachers.