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Children with no sense of childhood

By M. Abdessalami

            Hadj T’hami, our neighbour, is a ninety-year-old man who enjoys talking to people because no one of his generation is still alive. One day, I had some time to spare before school, so I decided to keep him company for a while. Happy as he was, he welcomed me and asked me about my parents and siblings. Wrapped in his dark red Bernous* with his back to the wall, he was gazing at a group of kids in the shade not far away from him when he intermittently sighed in anguish.

            The kids were sitting each one by himself bending over their mobile phones while their fingers were hammering on them in such an incredible swiftness that it was impossible to follow their rapid motion. He turned to me moaning and said,

- "Can't you see those boys over there? They are busy killing their childhood with persistence using those satanic technological gadgets. To my mind, they are just wasting their time. Are they enjoying their childhood like that? Who knows? May be they are. Well, I guess times change. When I was their age, my friends and I wouldn’t sit still -like this- even for a short moment without moving. We were much more active, vivacious and adventurous. Now, all that I see is a bunch of "elderly" boys waiting for death … somehow … like me!"

            I didn’t venture to say anything in replay lest I should utter something upsetting, so I kept silent. I assume that when old people start talking about their infancy; just listen attentively to what they have to say. You’ll surely be amazed how fantastic and innocent their childhood was, but also how lively, cheerful and imaginative they were. It’s true that they didn’t have much, but they felt satisfied and contented. Hadj T'hami glanced at the kids once again with a piteous look and he began to speak, he said,

- "You know, son?! When we were kids, we used to enjoy and entertain ourselves amply. Unlike kids today, we used to be sociable, extroverted and outgoing. For every season we practiced different interesting activities, mostly outdoors…

… In the autumn, for instance, we used to play marbles and spintop in the dusty streets and at school during the breaks. We also used to collect things like post-cards, stamps, old coins and different stuff…

… During the winter chilly nights, we used to sit down, like angels, around a big bonfire to listen to fairy tales old people used to recount beautifully and eloquently with suspense and excitement…

… In the spring, we used to be creative. We used to sit in the shade of giant trees to make things with our hands like puppets, marionettes, scarecrows, dolls, vehicles, poultry as well as slingshot and traps for hunting birds in the bush. In the afternoon, we used to go to the fields for hunting using our handicraft…

… At the summertime, we used to practice lots of various other outdoor activities such as playing hide and seek, swimming and fishing in the river or in the lake. We also used to be silly; we used to throw stones at windows including ours… Oh, I really miss those awesome days when everything was simple but extraordinary."

            He stopped for a while rewinding his past childhood events or what remains of it. It was obvious that he had missed that splendid age dearly. He sighed again and resumed,

- "We used to have plenty of leisure time and a lot of imagination. In brief, we used to live life fully, freely, happily but instructively."

            He turned to me with a disdaining look and shouted,

- "Look at you, now! You, poor wretched creatures! You no longer enjoy outdoor activities. You become very passive and negative. You are simply addicted to your technological devices. You are constantly busy either watching TV or using those smart-phones for distraction and for … destruction. Poor you! You don’t enjoy playing marbles any more, neither do you play spintop or hide and seek. Those activities are completely unknown to most of you today. You prefer to play video games instead. You no longer sense the magnificence of the seasons; you are constantly connected to virtual social networks or you are busy surfing the net for videos, clips, songs or pictures of famous singers, football players, actors and actresses, and maybe for other things. The other day, my grandson explained this to me when I asked him what he had been doing while I was telling him a story. Alas, they no longer want to listen to us. The satanic magic box tells them stories with pictures to kill their imagination. My grandchildren never listen to me, and I am sad for us all."

            He took a short break as he felt exhausted. He closed his eyes, and took a deep breath before he resumed, but this time with a different tone as if talking to someone else,

- "Nowadays, almost no one of these poor kids can invent anything manually any more. They don’t make up wire cars, bikes and other things like we used to do when we were kids. They don’t collect things, they don’t hike, they don’t draw pictures, they don’t go on picnics, they don’t go fishing or hunting, and they don’t read or listen to poetry. In brief, they are almost dead because they don’t do anything of value. They don’t have hobbies in the practical sense of the word. They are prisoners of their technological gadgets. I think they’ll certainly regret it one day. They will have nothing to recount to their children if they had the opportunity to have some, and maybe their children won’t have time to listen to them in the first place. They will lead a very miserable life, I'm afraid."

            I think he was right, as kids, we quickly feel annoyed, bored, sad and frustrated, and that's not normal for children of our age. It's too much. Lately, one of my buddies has confided to me, "I hate belonging to this technological era. If only I could invent a time machine, then I would travel back in time to those wonderful epochs when people were real human beings, not cartoons or mere 3D figures."

            In short, I think Hadj T'hami's right. His wise words sent an encoded message to the future. We have no idea what normal childhood looks like. We live in a trance like state of mind exhausting our energy for volatile futilities, and wearing out our sight and hearing with our constant connection to those electronic devices. Most of us will be disabled soon physically and psychically. Our senses will be severely harmed and our brains formatted. When we grow older and try to remember our infancy, what will we have to recall? Nothing! We will feel shallow and poorly up-brought by technological devices, and this is the worst of all the calamities people could imagine happening to them. Nothingness? !!!!!!!


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