100 Things about Kapitano, Part 4: Stupid Things Adults Told Me When I was a Child.

16) When you die you'll go to heaven.

One day, when I was four or five, I asked my mother what happened to a person after they died. Her answer was long, rambling, hesitant and embarrassed, and I didn't understand most of it, but the gist was: I, but not my body, would live forever in paradise, which was known to be a nice place, even though no one knew anything about it.

Exactly why she felt the need to tell me this is unclear, because she didn't believe a word of it. She'd been raised in the vaguest religion in the world - Church of England style Anglicanism - then asked some very basic questions about it in early teen years, and getting no answers, jettisoned the whole thing. I followed the same path.

17) You must always tell the truth / You must always be polite.

This pair puzzled me, because the truth usually isn't polite. Eventually though I figured it out.

"Tell the truth" actually meant "Always confess to wrongdoing when accused by adults, even when you didn't do it". "Be polite" meant "Adults are emotionally fragile creatures and don't really want to know what you think anyway, so tell them reassuring lies".

So in fact, both imperatives meant the same thing: Tell adults what they want to hear. Lie to the grownups, but only on their terms.

18) Struggle makes you a better person.

Between the ages of four and ten, I went to a school run by a headmaster who regularly got all five hundred of us to sit in the big hall, and listen to him give some strained parable about how you'll only be able to cope with the world if it almost - but not quite - destroys you.

The reasoning ran like this: The world will try to destroy you, and you'll only survive if you've got the strength you got from the last time it tried to destroy you, which you survived because you had the strength....

I suspect this leads back to the old notion that enlightenment comes from suffering. That personal tragedy makes you a better artist, sticking needles into your flesh brings you closer to the gods, and what doesn't kill you makes you stronger.

Thus people who overcome disabilities are heroic, but those who don't are embarrassing and should be hidden away.

19) If you try hard, you'll succeed / If you do your best and fail, that's okay / Failure is unacceptable

This trio of mutually incompatible ideas formed the basis of my school life. The teachers couldn't decide whether I was diligent or a dropout. I suppose in effect I was both.

20) You must pretend to believe in Santa Claus, even though everyone knows you don't.

This one had a lot of variations, such as:

* You must visit your grandmother, even though she's a daft old bat and the adults don't want to see her either.
* You must go to church and sing the hymns, even though it bores the shit out of you and you don't know the lyrics.
* You must eat everything on the plate even though you're not hungry, and you must never ask for more even when you are.

In other words: Only appearances matter. It's all bullshit, and everyone knows it's bullshit, but as long as we all pretend, it'll somehow work eventually - so pretend, dammit.

The same idea came back in teen years as "You're not gay because if you were and the neighbours found out they'd think we weren't respectable".

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