Joel Klebanoff: Stuff & Nonsense

To worry is to be. To be is to worry.

Evil Childhood Dreams

When adults find themselves in situations where they are expected to talk to children who are not their own offspring, if they can’t think of anything else to say, mental processes, which seem to me to be autonomic, frequently kick in. These processes often lead the adults to ask some variation of, “So, what do you want to be when you grow up?”

I’m usually pretty good at talking with children. People have told me it’s because I’m so incredibly childish myself. I would prefer that they said childlike rather than childish, but it is what it is. Nonetheless, I’ve occasionally fallen victim to this syndrome too.

I always feel silly afterward because I’m sure the young children to whom that question is addressed are thinking, “What a facile, taciturn dullard! Is that the most sagacious query he could formulate?” What can I say? The kids I know have good vocabularies; often better than mine. It makes me feel self-conscious, but that’s OK because everything makes me feel self-conscious.

When asked the what-do-you-want-to-be question, some kids respond with unique answers, but there is also a set of stock responses that includes jobs such as fireman, astronaut, movie star, doctor, architect and multi-level marketer. Well, maybe not so much that last one, but you get the picture.

When I was a youngster, which was decades before kids started wishfully dreaming of growing up to be professional bloggers and tweeters, a very common response here in Canada, at least from boys, was hockey player. For about seven minutes of my youth, I too aspired to be a hockey player. Then I remembered that I was a short, weak and chubby kid with coordination that was about seven and a half notches below that of a bowl of wobbly unset jelly. As a result, I quickly recognized that being a hockey star was not in my future and I gave up on that dream. There was nothing else that I particularly yearned to become.

That having been said, for a while I did vaguely toy with the idea of becoming a comedian when I grew up, but I gave that up when I realized that humor wasn’t the reason that everyone was always laughing at me. I was a goofy kid in a nerdy sort of way. Fortunately, that has changed. Now I’m a goofy adult in a nerdy sort of way. But I’m still childish.

As you probably guessed from the title, all of the above is a rather convoluted segue into the topic of this post. What I was wondering is, do any children answer, in all seriousness, “demonic despot” when asked what they want to be when they grow up? I highly doubt it, yet that is what a few of them become.

For instance, when Kim Jung Un, now Supreme Leader of North Korea, was a tot in shorts, did he aspire to be a callous dictator who uses his power to gain personally from the oppression of the citizens of his country? OK. Bad example. He probably did.

Jung Un’s grandfather, Kim Il Sung, was a callous dictator. Oh, by the way, apropos of nothing, Kim Il Sung is still officially the Eternal President of North Korea despite having been dead for close to 20 years.

Jung Un’s father, Kim Jung Il, was also a callous dictator. With the Eternal President title already taken, Jung Il is officially known as only Dear Leader. More than a year and a half’s worth of death hasn’t deprived him of that title.

Because Kim Jung Un comes from a line of callous dictators, maybe his childhood dream really was to become a ruthless autarch. That career choice wouldn’t have seemed too far-fetched or unnatural to him. It’s the family business and it’s probably in his genes, but what about dictators who followed a more rags-to-riches path to achieve personal success as a national despot. I’m talking about the sort of dictator who got to the pinnacle of tyranny based not so much on nepotism, but rather on his cunning, intelligence, ruthlessness and hard work? What about, for instance, people like Sadaam Hussein, Idi Amin, Adolf Hitler and the like? Was despotic dictator the career they chose for themselves when they were children?

I find that very hard to believe. If that wasn’t their childhood dream and they instead aspired to other avocations, did they think of themselves as failures when they were in power? What do you think?

What? Are you going to tell me that not everyone wonders about stuff like this?


Categorised as: stuff and nonsense


  1. I am child with children, a mature person with mature people and an old soul with people who lived a lot longer than me. It’s better being childlike than being an ass of an adult.

    When I was child I wanted to be a teacher for 1-4 grades, but now I’ve come to realize that I am teacher despite not having a degree, a piece of paper will not take away the confidence of guiding and teaching other life lessons. About this I’ve written in my last post.

    Nice post, it feels like you stopped aging inside, you’re young inside of you. :)

    And about North Korea.

    A country of walking dead is ruled by dead guy, seems appropriate to me :)

  2. It is weird to think about what cruel dictators were like as children. The triad of childhood behaviors that supposedly predicts psychopathy later in life is bedwetting, fire-starting, and cruelty to animals. But seriously, I think being childlike isn’t such a bad thing. It’s whats kept me from becoming cynical, I think.

    • Yeah, it’s really weird. So, little Adolph, what do you want to be when you grow up? And stop playing with your toy soldiers when I’m talking to you—you know your not supposed to store them in the oven. I mean, really, what did they want to be when they grew up?

      Being childlike is good up to a point. Unfortunately, I’m not childlike at all. I’m childish.

  3. Jayme Art says:

    Hitler wanted to be an artist, or so I read.
    I think their were events and circumstances during his life that helped influence what he became.

  4. Mita Jain says:

    We all dream so many dreams as a child. And very frequently those dreams change as they should. As we grow our perceptions change, and hence, the change in dreams.

    However, some dreams stick through the years, the college degree, marriage, children, mortgage, pension-plans etc.

    Achieving these very dreams is important; maybe not in the full fledged form as we had originally dreamt of, but through incorporating them in our lives through some means. Like if a person had dreamt of world-traveling all his life, and his current financial status doesnt allow that, then maybe even one trip to some exotic land can bring in satisfaction. If someone had aspired to be the next famous pop-singer, posting youtube videos of their original songs can bring in happiness.

    And that’s when we gain that peace and contentment in life. That peace and contentment is all that matters in my opinion :)

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