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Max Barry wrote the novels Syrup, Jennifer Government, Company, Machine Man, and Lexicon. He also created the game NationStates and once found a sock full of pennies.

Blog

Tue 12
Feb
2008

Dear Leader

Max Two year old tyrant presenting good side for mediaAs a parent, I occasionally wonder where Fin might end up in life. She’s only two and a half, but I can’t help think about what kind of job she might gravitate toward. Based on recent trends, I would say she’s shaping up for a career as “Iron-Fisted Dictator.”

I’ve always been interested in social systems; I just never thought I’d get to see the rise of fascism up close. In the beginning, it seemed like nothing was wrong—sure, our small society was changing, but these were just natural responses to a changing world. Then one day we woke up and realized that every part of our lives had fallen under the sway of an increasingly irrational authoritarian overlord.

We vaguely remembered that life had not always been like this; that there had been a time when we had been free to express opinions such as, “I think it’s time for bed,” without fear of reprisals. In those days, we had been active participants in the decision-making process. We could go about our daily business without being stopped and asked to explain and justify our every action. But those days were over.

Looking back, I missed the early signs. One day, for example, I said, “Finlay, no feet on the table during lunch, please.” She responded by raising her feet approximately one inch above the table surface. “My feet aren’t on the table, Daddy,” she said, in the tone of someone just as amazed as I was. At the time, I was quietly impressed at her burgeoning ability to adhere to the letter of the law while flagrantly violating its spirit—I thought she was just shaping up to be a good lawyer. What I failed to realize was that testing the legal boundaries is classic behavior of the tyrant in training. Sure enough, the next step was the declaration of a state of emergency and the suspension of all civil liberties. And there we were, living under a regime that would make Mugabe blush.

It was because of those Little Princess books. Fin read a few tales of this loud-mouthed, demanding little girl who lives in a castle with a full staff of adults who rush to fulfill her every wish, and she decided that sounded like a blueprint for an ideal society. I tell you, Little Princess is like Mein Kampf for two-year-olds. We got those poisonous tracts out of the house right away, but it was too late: she had a vision.

Since then we’ve made progress. One of the most effective ways to fight tyranny, I found, was to not give the tyrant her pack of Wiggles stickers until she says, “Daddy, could you please give me my Wiggles stickers?” This was a big improvement on previous forms of request (“I WANT WIGGLES STICKERS!”), and proof, I feel, of the effectiveness of economic sanctions.

Now the air rings with, “Daddy, could you please…” She has figured out that I won’t refuse any request that begins that way. I have to wonder: as we shed the shackles of totalitarianism, are we are seeing the rise of special interest pleading?

Comments

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Lepidecko (#3428)

Quote: "why don't girls ever put the seat back up??"
Posted: 2424 days ago

Our 15 month old is becoming rather devious. Damian is beginning to show us his secret powers. Although he pretends to be too dumb to even swallow without chocking half the time, he gives himself away when he really wants something.

Case in point; he wanted to watch his Noddy DVD. He found the player remote (he apparently can distinguish between the seven remotes we have!) and pointed it at the TV. When nothing happened, he lay down on the floor. Which had us baffled. Then he slowly inched forward to presses the player’s on/off switch.

Now, we only used this switch once or twice in the last six months, and we used
it to switch the player off. Never on!

Tomorrow I’ll check what else he can do. I have a sneaking suspicion he might be able to fly.

Oh yeah, vote for one of the cool stories on:

http://brokenpencil.com/deathmatch/

(won’t tell ya which is mine :^)

Jane (#321)

Location: Melbourne, Australia
Quote: "Which is worse: Ignorance or apathy? Who knows? Who cares?"
Posted: 2424 days ago

Thanks for the heads-up. I will add Little Princess books to the list of things my son (now 18 months) shall never see. (Censorship is OK when applied to kid-tyrants-to-be, isn't it?)

PS. Max, any change you could provide us novice parents with a list of books that are safe to provide to our offspring? Thanks.

Machine Man subscriber Stathis Paraskevopoulos (#264)

Location: Greece
Quote: "Further Construction work is banned"
Posted: 2424 days ago

It seems to move to heavy handed negotiations that involve complex demands, a lot of posturing, some give and take that ultimately make the Middle East peace process look trivial. Example: Stefano (2,5 years old) broke his Playschool DVD. He demanded that I fix it which turned into go on plane to Australia to bring me another one (as we live in Greece). Thankfully after a lot of tooing and froing he forgot about playschool and watched the Wiggles. Until of course he wakes up tomorrow morning...



Phill Sacre (#1822)

Location: London, UK
Quote: "Computers are like air conditioners. Both stop working, if you open windows."
Posted: 2424 days ago

I think this is a great opportunity for you, Max - I can see it now: a series of children's books, "Well-Behaved Children do Nice Things for their Parents". Just get a decent illustrator and you're good to go.

Machine Man subscriber Todd (#3429)

Location: New York
Quote: "It's fun to have fun but you have to know how."
Posted: 2423 days ago

Keep up the Fin posts! You should offer to blurb the Little Princess books. I can see the back cover now: "'Mein Kampf for two-year-olds.' -- Max Barry". P.S. Has democracy been overthrown, or did you just replace parental tyranny with tyranny-by-child?

Kevin R (#500)

Location: MD, USA
Quote: ""the" - Max Barry"
Posted: 2423 days ago

I think the answer is clear. Make her a NS nation and see what she does to it!

Rob2Kx (#1125)

Location: Canada
Quote: "Anything for laughs even if it kills you"
Posted: 2423 days ago

wow... I remember this site before Fin was even born... they grow up so fast.

Rob2Kx (#1125)

Location: Canada
Quote: "Anything for laughs even if it kills you"
Posted: 2423 days ago

I mean kids. I think. Although, maybe I mean websites. Who can really say for sure?

Lottie (#3093)

Location: Sheffield, UK
Posted: 2423 days ago

I want my babies to have curly hair :(

Mike Shuttleworth (#751)

Location: Melbourne
Quote: "It's not the despair I can't stand--it's the hope."
Posted: 2423 days ago

"The rise of special interest pleading?" Nope. Benign dictatorship, I'm afraid...

SILVER CLOUD (#3359)

Location: CA
Quote: "Fortune Favors the Brave"
Posted: 2423 days ago

Maybe Fin would consider being a Actress, and star in all
Max's screenplays...after all Tinsel Town is a Nation unto itself and then Fin would conquer the Whole Wide World.
Mom & Dad might consider micro management.

james bullock (#2656)

Location: jacksonville, fl
Quote: "kiss me goodbye"
Posted: 2423 days ago

Think about it this way. Your daughter will eventually get her own statue. It's the worldly way.

Linnea1928 (#2654)

Location: Rosemount, MN
Posted: 2422 days ago

You are already doing better than most new parents by at least attempting to resist your child's every demand. I hate spoiled kids and their wimpy parents!
Stay strong, Max! Fight the power! Stick it to the man!!

Jen (#3323)

Location: Massachusetts
Quote: "sticking feathers up your butt does not make you a chicken ;)"
Posted: 2422 days ago

Never has hearing about someone else's children been so fun! Thank you for the update and for the continuously witty views of everyday life.

Machine Man subscriber Mike Kowols (#3435)

Location: Des Plaines, IL
Posted: 2421 days ago

Little Princess books? I'll have to keep that tidbit of information in the back of my head for when/if I ever have kids.

Joe (#2270)

Location: Campbell, CA, USA
Quote: "I'm subverting the system from the inside. I think."
Posted: 2418 days ago

So if she's Dear Leader, that makes you, as her father, Great Leader, right?

blab (#1632)

Location: The Sandwich Isles
Quote: "Adventure is just poor planning"
Posted: 2410 days ago

It's line in the sand time, Max. If you think 2 is bad, wait till 3 . . . or 4 . . . or 5 . . . or . . . and by the by, they don't need "Little Princess" books to get into the Dear Leader mode. It came naturally to mine.

Jared Squared (#3446)

Location: Boulder, CO
Quote: ""Never turned my back on society, society turned its back on me.""
Posted: 2404 days ago

The only problem now is if she learns by example and it backfires. Then she actually becomes the dictator by doing what daddy did, forcing the weak to chant mindless blather. Just observing the tails side of the coin.

Drew (#3448)

Location: NY
Quote: "Outstanding"
Posted: 2400 days ago

Maybe the funniest thing ive ever read, Comparing Little Princess to Mein Kampf, is simply win. I mean its weird, you left me at a crossroads with this one. On one hand, Hitler, bad, but on the other, comparing said book of evil to a toddler based franchice is with out a doubt funny. Isn't it? I'm not completely off base here am I?

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