Proven Guilty of Innocence (but not Naïvety)

“We all dream of being a child again, even the worst of us.” (Don Jose, The Wild Bunch)

Back when I was on Facebook, every morning, I’d be informed of which friends were marking a birthday. It became one of my daily rituals to post — on each of their walls — a question from legendary Negro League pitcher Satchel Paige:

“How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you are?”

As you might imagine, this birthday greeting inspired a fair amount of reactions — almost all of which involved versions and variations of this: “I feel and act much younger than my chronological age.”

Here’s the decidedly non-scientific conclusion I’ve drawn from this anecdotal evidence: Most of us are still very much in touch with our proverbial inner child and we desperately seek re-admittance to what André Breton once called, “the mysterious realm inhabited by children.”

This isn’t to say we desire to be naïve, mind you. Rather, it’s about maintaining a child-like innocence. As Shunryu Suzuki explains: “In the beginner’s mind, there are many possibilities. In the expert’s mind, there are few.”

Society does its best to perpetually encourage us to “grow up” but that usually entails surrendering our innocence while staying just naïve enough to not rock the mainstream boat.

“Every act of rebellion expresses a nostalgia for innocence and an appeal to the essence of being.”
— Albert Camus, The Rebel, pt. 3 (1951, trans. 1953)

To be naïve is to believe the hype.

To be naïve is, for example, to trust that the corporate media reports the news without bias, that the two-party system offers genuine choice, that cops are here to protect and serve everyone equally, that for-profit medicine promotes good health, that the standard American diet is nutritious, that a massive military budget brings peace, and that governments — along with the corporations and banks that own them — have our best interests in mind.

To be innocent is to recognize these universal deceptions — and comprehend the contemptible logic [sic] behind them. To be innocent is to still have faith that we can collectively cultivate concepts that create positive social change.

The Powers That Shouldn’t Be bank on us staying naïve. In that state, they can easily control our wants, our desires, and our dreams.

To be naïve is to remain asleep.

To be innocent is to dream while awake.

The naïve readily buy what the parasites are selling.

The innocent dare to dream in the face of global nightmares.

To borrow from an obscure songwriter, “You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one.”

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Mickey Z. is the creator of a podcast called Post-Woke. You can subscribe here. He is also the founder of Helping Homeless Women - NYC, offering direct relief to women on New York City streets. Spread the word. Read other articles by Mickey.