February 18, 2007

Baby–fied

You know how someone tells you that there’s a contagious rash going around and suddenly you feel itchy all over? Or you watch a documentary on spiders and find yourself checking the corners of your room? Well, I read this book on how we are all treated as big babies in society these days (Big Babies by Michael Bywater) and now the evidence is manifesting itself all over the place!

Bywater’s book has the effect of making you grind your teeth every time you hear the automated voiceover on the train say ‘please remember to take all personal belongings with you when you leave the train’ or see a yellow stand saying ‘cleaning in progress’ because no matter how much you try and deny it, there is an element of truth in what he has to say. The voiceover only needs a change in pitch and shrillness to turn it into your mother’s voice and the yellow stand is akin to, though perhaps more visually offensive than, the baby safety gate.

And the worst thing is that we are all becoming ‘baby-fied’ (new word courtesy of me) right here at university. Ever attended a seminar entitled ‘How to Write an Essay’? Or received a ‘courtesy notice’ from the library politely reminding you that you have a book due back the next day? We are being treated like babies, who have to do things a certain way because ‘mummy said so’. For some reason, we have to be reminded by the teacher at the end of the day not to forget tomorrow’s dinner money. When, of ever, will we be allowed to grow up?

But perhaps I’m being too harsh. After all, the respected library staff are only making sure we spend our money on more ‘important’ (yes, that fiftieth pair of shoes WAS important!) things than library fines, and attending a spoon-feeding seminar leaves more time for facebook – yay!

So why complain? I could end this article right now; go back to my playpen, have my nappy changed once in a while, and just goo-goo-ga-ga through life. Plenty have done it before me…

And yet, the grave danger lies precisely in the fact that plenty have done it before me. You see, each new generation becomes more and more baby-fied than the previous one. If our parents had pocket calculators to reduce their powers of mental arithmetic, we now have BlackBerrys to reduce our powers of mental just-about-everything. Not that I’m not in favour of technological developments but if it means that my child will be living on the moon and be unable to string together one grammatically correct sentence without reference to a screen of some kind, then I may have to qualify this.

Bywater concludes his book by giving us thirty-one actually ways in which we can stop ourselves being ‘Big Babies’. I, however, am going to do no such thing. What I will SUGGEST though, is that if you find yourself standing in front of a notice saying ‘no mobile phones’ with a picture of a red line struck through an archaic-looking phone accompanying it, and if, at that moment, by some fluke chance, this article comes to mind, then you might want to: firstly, realise you are being infantilised (can’t we, undergraduates at one of Britain’s top universities, de-code words without the picture accompaniment??), secondly, you may want to use your own discretion about using your mobile phone in that place rather than relying on the sign – and be grown-up about it! and thirdly, you may want to rebel in some way. I don’t mean vandalism I mean adult-like rebellion. Treat yourself and other students as you would treat someone whose brain has been developing for 20 odd years and not a mere 2. Don’t be afraid to turn right when your TomTom says left and then turn it off and discover the name of the road you are on by looking for it. It might lead you to great things. Who knows, you may even make up a new word, just because it captures what you want to say better than anything in the dictionary.


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