The last couple of weeks have made me think lots about me, my childhood, my upbringing and how today’s society differs. My parents did a terrific job of bringing me up – or so I believe, anyway. My childhood was enriched with a diversity of experiences, love, travel, and probably most importantly a freedom to be myself. My earliest years were spent with a really close-knit group of friends who used to spend hours together, exploring, having fun, getting into all sorts of trouble, but in the most part, learning about life. I’m not referring to teenage years here, but back to when I was 4, 5 or 6 years old. We used to come back home at the end of the day tired, filthy, cut and bruised and more often than not to the chorus of my mother’s disapprovals. However, when I now analyse those times retrospectively, they played a huge part in the way I approach life today and I feel a tremendous sense of sorrow at the fact that today’s children are denied the opportunity to experience the ‘bread and butter’ of life.
I see two monstrous demons every day in our society; demons so great that they are a huge threat to our children’s and grand-children’s development; demons that are strangling the life blood out of today’s society; demons that are changing the so-called civilised human race so profoundly that I wonder if I may even start to see the consequences in my own years. What are these demons? We read about them every day in our newspapers, we see them stuck to our walls, we have to think daily about what we say and where we say it. One is that cowardly, evil monster that refers to itself as “Health and Safety”, the other is that slimy, hypocritical little bastard called “Political Correctness”. Why have I described it in such a way, you ask? Well answer this… where does it stem from, this ‘political correctness’? Of what stock is it bred? Who even conceived the term?
It’s a sad reflection when in today’s society, influenced so heavily by the media in all its forms, someone working for our most glorious institution, the BBC, describes a sportsman as looking like a Golliwog and gets disciplined for it. I had a Golliwog when I was little. It was one of my favourite little cuddly toys. I still remember it to this day, forty odd years on and it still holds many happy memories. Just through curiosity, my trusty copy of Collins English Dictionary describes it as “a soft doll with a black face, usually made from cloth or rags. :from the name of a doll character in children’s books by Bertha Upton, US writer and Florence Upton, children’s illustrator.”. Now pardon me for thinking this, but I look at some people and think they look like fictional characters, or comic-book creations too! I’m sure I’m not alone! If I were talking with friends in a pub, saying that so-and-so looks like an Eskimo, would the landlord be obliged to kick me out and ban me for racist behaviour on his premises? Surely not! Well, in my eyes, this is exactly what the BBC did to Carol Thatcher a couple of weeks ago. I know for a fact that if you call an Inuit an Eskimo, he may well be offended, in the same way that a Chinese person might be offended if you called him a Chink – and justifiably so! But at the end of the day, she did nothing of the sort, she simply used an analogy (off-air, incidentally) to describe what she thought an individual reminded her of. Good on you Carol! When working in Brazil a few years ago, I was often called a ‘Gringo’ to my face, but to be perfectly honest, it didn’t bother me in the slightest! I was in a minority, racially, and I was in their country, not my own. I used to smile and return the complement in a light-hearted way. It always resulted in a smile from both parties and no offence was ever taken.
Now staying on the subject of the BBC (why not), I have to add my few penn’orth to the Jonathan Ross debacle. My better half and I have watched his show for several years and last year, long before the furore over the Andrew Sachs insults took a hold, we commented about how he was becoming less and less enjoyable. His sole way of maintaining interest was to insult, belittle, and humiliate his guests and to try to shock people in his childish and reckless way. Years ago when he first started doing it, I have to agree, it amused us as we sat there thinking ‘he can’t say that!’ However, it all wore a bit thin after a while and the novelty diminished. He now bores me and to be perfectly honest, I think he has become somewhat pathetic, like a foul-mouthed little boy in a grown-up’s body. He is old enough to know better, surely, and his blasé attitude since his recent ban has completely extinguished any small urge I may have had to watch his show.
We recently ran a couple of stories on TheBabyWebsite about trends in modern parenting. One was about Fairy Tales and the other was concerning Playground Games. The results of a poll we carried out on each were interesting and, in many ways, refreshing, but what a shame that those aforementioned demons had stamped their mark on such fundamental innocence as the bedtime story and the playground game. Parents, not all of them, I hasten to add, but certainly some, actually thought that the story of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs was politically incorrect. Some of them felt that the story of Little Red Riding Hood was too scary for their children. The game of Conkers has been banned in most schools as it is considered to be too dangerous. My thoughts….. ? Absolute nonsense! In all my years of playing conkers, other than for a few minor bruises to the wrists, I never saw or knew of anyone who came to grief as a result of playing this game. British Bulldog likewise: we all absolutely loved that game. Many would go home with a little graze on the knee or even in the absolute worst case, a bit of a ‘shiner’ (black eye – for those who are too young and have been sheltered from the evils of playground society during your upbringings).
In the name of protecting children, so many parents nowadays take their little darlings from front door to school door every day, so that they are not exposed to the dangers lurking out there. Do they not realise how big a negative impact on their children, their environment, their own well-being they are having? Let the children walk to school, or if it’s too far, then take the bus! Let them learn as they grow up, not just academically, but learn about life, its dangers and its wonderful, exciting and fascinating glory. They will be very much better adults as a result.
I am a parent myself, and as I mentioned in my introduction above, I want my children to experience life in its good and bad guises. I really resent the part of society that advocates the wrapping up of our children in cotton wool to protect them from all risks. If they are not exposed to risk at an early age, how will they ever recognise risk when they are older and perhaps trying to educate their own children. Unfortunately, the same cronies who harp on about political correctness are probably the same ones who fuel our current litigious culture, where blame is king and as long as your shoulders are sufficiently greased to be able to shed any that lands on you, you’re alright!
For heaven’s sake…. (ooops, religious connotation – politically incorrect!) let’s all be human again! Let’s try and make our society as diverse as I remember it to be when I was little. It was a wonderful time, childhood, and I am upset to see my own children being denied the rich experience I so enjoyed when I was brought up as a nipper.