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Old enough

One Netflix show that was recently recommended to me by a tita is “Old Enough”, a Japanese reality series from around 2008 where one or two children are sent on errands and a camera crew follows them around and a narrator provides color commentary.

To be honest, the thing about the show that got me hooked initially was run time of the episodes, which could be as short as 10 minutes or perfect for a quick sanity break.

The first episode involved a 2 year and 9-month-old Horoki walking solo to the store located 1 kilometer away from home, to buy flowers, fish cakes and curry. Imagine a 2-year-old walking a kilometer per way, having to cross a street, go to a store, remember what needs to be bought and paid for.

I’m only a few episodes in, as I’ve been watching it with my teenaged daughter, but over those episodes that provide a quick hit of entertainment, it also made me feel bad about our country the Philippines, where such a show would be impossible because our towns and cities are poorly managed by public officials whose only idea of governance is the never-ending cycle of building, widening and breaking roads.

When I first watched the show, I immediately thought of today’s “helicopter parents” who cannot seem to let their kids out of their sight because to be honest, it made me feel like one. I still couldn’t imagine letting my kid who is hardly 3 years old walk 2 kilometers in total alone, to buy some things from the store. But apparently, in Japan, it is possible.

Yes, there is a camera crew following the kid around to make sure nothing untoward happens, but they try to stay as observers as much as possible. What is striking for me is how Japanese society is so safe that the show and its premise is possible. I don’t know how long it would take for such a show to be doable here, but my guess is maybe a century… especially if we keep on electing leaders who cannot even earn a university degree.

It may seem crazy, but if the Japanese can build their towns and cities that way, why can’t we?

They can have the show “Old Enough” because their streets and sidewalks are safe enough for children to walk in. They have may have narrow roads, but they still have safe sidewalks. Little kids can be taught to use the crosswalk properly and parents can trust that their society will keep them safe. There are no giant potholes or open manholes they can fall in. There are no stray animals that can scare or attack them. Despite their police force having no guns and not wearing battle-ready camouflage, and no bloody drug war necessary, there is no threat of killer drug addicts on their streets that would stop parents from having young children do errands.

In the show, the main challenge for the kids was remembering what they were asked to buy/get and not being distracted. Some almost forget the multiple items/stops. In one episode, a kid had to make a final stop at a vegetable patch to get some lettuce which was already prepared for her. All she had to do was pick it up but because she missed that instruction, she ended up in the field and spent almost an hour, as daylight was fading, trying to get a giant head of lettuce. The kicker here is that adults usually use a sharp knife to cut the stalk. The tenacious little kid spent 40 minutes twisting the stalk until it broke so she could complete her tasks and take the lettuce home to her mom.

Here in the Philippines, the main challenge would be getting to the store or destination. That is because we neither have the walking culture nor the infrastructure and systems to support it. Our sidewalks are dangerous, crowded, uneven, unusable for PWDs, and full of obstacles. Crossing the street is always a life-threatening proposition. Lazy Filipinos would rather hail a trisikad than walk 1km to the store the way 2-year-old Horoki willingly did. We are totally fine with the way things are so our leaders and public officials do nothing to make it better.

If you come to think of it, our society is old enough to know and do better but we and our leaders and city planners are content with our crappy streets and cities that are still inherently dangerous for little kids. That is my main takeaway from the few episodes of “Old Enough” on Netflix.

Aside from that, it’s a pretty entertaining show.*

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May 2022
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