The Attitude of Parents
In modern parents we must picture all the above factors contributing to an attitude of relative prostration before the child, and regard them as added to the influences already examined in the early chapters, which are common to all adults, whether parents or not. Nor, when we grasp the full force of these two sets of motives in combination, can we wonder that, in modern parents, child-adulation too often exceeds reasonable bounds and with the most regrettable results.
Moreover, it cannot be too emphatically stated that modern conditions have aggravated, in a way unparalleled hitherto, the already deplorable state of comparative paralysis regarding the child, which has been gradually creeping over parents ever since the inception of child-worship centuries ago. For modernity and Modern Thought, by advocating, embracing and spreading, with a sophistry hardly credible in a so-called "enlightened" age, the practice of contraception and its resulting birth-limitation, has so substantially augmented the proportion of three, two and, above all, one-child families in the population, that all the influences examined above have been multiplied a hundredfold by becoming focussed on a much smaller ground.
Just as a magnifying glass gathers the diffused rays of the sun and projects them in a concentrated shaft that burns all that it illuminates, so the limitation of families, especially among the hundreds of thousands with only one child, has gathered all the forces making for child-adulation in parents and concentrated them with destructive consequences on the few children that the average home contains.
No wonder Herbert Spencer exclaimed that the children of large families are more tolerable because their mother has less time to devote to each of them!
I shall now glance briefly at one or two difficulties Modern Thought imposes on the unwary which, by strengthening the power of the child's will in the home, proportionately increase the evils of the typically parental attitude described in this and the previous chapter.
The most obvious of these is the feeling, widely prevalent among the educated, and passed on to the uneducated by imitation or precept that, since the modern world displays in a great variety of different ways the muddle adults of the present and past have made of things, and since the confusion thus wrought testifies to adult incompetence and lack of prescience and wisdom, seniors in general can hardly presume to dictate to the child and, with confidence and authority, prescribe any course whatsoever to him.
There is a good deal of this feeling abroad, much of it probably still vague and half-conscious. It is a dim sense of guilt and deficiency which aggravates the already existing paralysis of the adult called upon to guide and lead childhood, and makes him diffident of giving a firmly directing hand to his juniors.
It is complicated by another defect in modern man. I refer to the growing consciousness of a lack of any definite goal or aim to existence. Whereas a century ago most adults could have stated precisely and in almost identical terms what humanity was striving for, and what was the object of all endeavour, we find to-day not only that there is no agreement on the matter, but also that the very existence of a definite goal is in serious doubt. We live from hand to
But this is the last imaginable state in which guidance can confidently be given to childhood and youth. For to fashion is to form for a purpose plainly envisaged. How fashion, then, how form, when no purpose is known? How point the way if you do not know it?
Even uniform and established values are a thing of the past.
At least the omelette-cook knows what he is breaking eggs for. But how can we confidently break in children when we have no idea of the kind of national or cosmic omelette we are preparing?
It is hardly practicable to conceal this state of affairs from our children. Even if they did not ultimately perceive it with their own eyes, our very hesitancy, our volitional weakness, our atomization as a people no longer knit together by a common faith or aim, would inevitably betray the facts to them. And, when once they grasp these facts, their own confidence in us as guides and mentors necessarily collapses. Hence the general and hardly concealed contempt for age in these times, a contempt which, as I shall show in a moment, is reinforced from another quarter.
Added to this there is an aspect of the Wordsworthian standpoint not so far mentioned, which tends to acquire a certain verisimilitude in an Age like the present. It is no more than a superstition; but, like the Wordsworthian standpoint, it is deeply embedded in European lore. It is to the effect that the child has a native wisdom which transcends the adult brand and is expressed in such texts as "out of the mouth of babes and sucklings hast thou ordained strength," and from Jesus's own remark to his Father on a problem of eschatology: "Thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes." It finds its parallel in an absurd and unfounded faith in children's instincts, as if a modern civilized child could have
It crops up in Modern Thought in lines like these from Whittier:
"God has his small interpreters;
The child must teach the man . . . . .
The haughty age shall seek in vain
What innocence beholds . . . . .
Alone to guilelessness and love
That gate [of heaven] shall open fall;
The mind of pride is nothingness,
The childlike heart is all."
Or in these from Ruskin: "Childhood often holds a truth in its feeble fingers which the grasp of manhood cannot attain, and which it is the pride of utmost age to recover." (See The Crown of Wild Olive, Sections 46, 4751, especially the latter, for Ruskin's belief in baby wisdom).
In an age of anarchy, aimlessness and confusion, this belief in the native wisdom of the child, however barbarous and superstitious it may be, acquires a certain colourable warrant, it almost achieves validity. Through its wide acceptance, however, it plays further havoc with adult authority and self-confidence, whilst it assails one of the most valuable privileges of childhood that garnering, storing and gleaning silence which, in the years before adolescence, is as necessary to the young as serene attention to food at mealtime. This did not escape the notice of that thoughtful writer, de Quincey, who referring to childhood, spoke of "That mighty silence which infancy is privileged by nature and by position to enjoy." (Collected Writings, Vol. I, p. 122).
Another influence, sprung from Modern Thought, which has strengthened the position of the child in the home and by this I mean increased his chances of exercising power and getting his own way is Feminism. For Feminism, by augmenting the authority of women in the home, gives relative autonomy to the one parent who is most prone to go astray in the matter of child-education.
As everyone familiar with my work is aware, I am far from ascribing the evils of Feminism, or even its very existence as a feature of our culture, to the "wicked" machinations of the female sex. Modern Man, especially in Anglo-Saxon countries, whether by his supineness, his volitional bankruptcy, his false doctrines, his degeneracy, or his radical mediocrity of mind and body, has forced upon women an ascendancy which they would and could never of themselves have achieved. His recession has meant their accession as inevitably as a lame horse allows sound horses to overtake and outstrip him. But, whatever we may say or believe about the origins of Feminism and I have sufficiently stated my views on this question in my Enemies of Women the fact remains that, as a Movement, one of its effects has been to increase the authority and power of women in the home and, by so doing, has tended to enthrone the one parent who, not only in my own opinion, but in that also of many competent psychologists, is most prone to play havoc with the characters of children.
Speaking of early childhood and of the mistakes of parents in dealing with this phase, Guilfoyle Williams (Op. cit. p. 48) says: "Little wonder that many a personality has been warped for life by the faults of the parents, particularly the
C. W. Valentine, in The Difficult Child and the Problem of Discipline (pp. 52 and 93) states that "over-petting, by the mother especially . . . often occurs in reports on home conditions of 'problem' children"; whilst the fact that he adds that "there is general agreement that the absence of fathers on war service, and the usually easier discipline of the mothers, have a bad effect on the development of some children," implies that, with the mother's authority alone some children are likely to become abnormal. Again on p. 91, he writes, "The mother is more usually the lax disciplinarian," and on p. 92, "it is usually the mother who does that extreme spoiling of the child, which is liable to make him a difficult child."
As long ago as 1909, the Chief Constable of Liverpool spoke of the "decay of parental control" to which "juvenile delinquency is almost entirely due," and since then there have been, as we shall see, any number of confirmations of this view. In speaking of the decay of parental control however, we should not forget that, by enthroning women as the authority in the home, Feminism has installed the parent most likely to err in child-education, and this whether the father is away on service or at home. For a father who has no authority is as good as absent.
I do not wish to imply that fathers are always good trainers of their children. This would be ridiculous, and I have seen too many bunglers to advance so unfounded a claim I merely submit that, generally speaking, if only owing to the simple fact that there is less narcissism in their love of their
In this respect it is important to refer to Dorothy Burlingham and Anna Freud's remarks about that "primitive tendency in the mother, which . . . is firmly rooted in the mother instinct, namely, the tendency to over-estimate the child." (Op. cit. p. 65), and above all Adler's unequivocal statement that "where a mother or a step-mother dominates, the results are abnormal." (The Education of Children, p. 111). For, as everybody knows, Adler was essentially pro-Feminist, and he would have been the last to make such a statement had he not felt it justified.
Long before Feminism, as we know it, made female power in the home as paramount as it is to-day, some educationists were, however, already aware of the enormous influence for good or for evil which mothers especially, by virtue of their position, are able to exercise over the growing family. No later than the third decade of the Sixteenth Century, for instance, the Spanish aristocrat, Juan Luis Vives, had already noticed this fact and warned his generation about it.
"It lieth more in the mother than men ween," he wrote, "to make the conditions [i.e., mould the character] of the children. For she may make them whether she will, very good or very bad." Again, he wrote, "O mothers, what an occasion for you unto your children, to make them whether you will, good or bad!" And he adds, "For you mothers be the cause of most part of [ev]illness among folks, whereby you may see how much your children are beholding unto you, which induce naughty opinions into them with your folly." Then he tells this arresting story: "There is a certain tale of a young man, which when he was led to be put to death, desired to speak with his mother. And when she came he laid his mouth to her ear, and bit it off. And when people that were by rebuked him, calling him not only a thief but also [ac]cursed for so entreating his mother, he answered
If the average gaol-bird, inmate of our Borstal Institutions, and murderer, were at the present day possessed of the insight and understanding of the young man of this story, there would, I take it, be more mature matrons running about with only one ear than I, at least, have so far noticed. (See p. 97, ante for Dr. Kate Friedlander's testimony regarding the major importance of the mother's influence).
Thus, it is difficult to escape the conclusion that not only is the mother the parent more likely to err in the task of child-education, but also that Feminism, by increasing woman's power, especially in relation to her menfolk, has contributed towards emancipating the child, or at least towards making it easier for him to get his own way in the home, and thereby to make sound education more difficult.
Nor should it be forgotten, as I have already hinted above, that although Feminism cannot be held wholly responsible for family limitation and the policy of Birth Control by means of contraceptives, it cannot be denied that the Woman's Movement, as we know it in western Europe and America, has done everything possible to advocate and promote this policy. If only as part of its programme of freeing women from home ties, it was committed to it and, by promoting it, has made a further contribution to the mismanagement of children by the female parent.
For, by reducing families in the vast majority of modern homes, to one child, or two or three children at most, it has so limited the outlets for the expression of the maternal instincts in modern women that this expression, by becoming unduly concentrated, is generally in danger of leading to excesses and to the prompting of irrational maternal behaviour.
Thus, Robert T. Lewis, in his excellent little book Romulus, p. 35, referring to this state of affairs as it relates to the one
I shall return to the matter of family limitation and its effect on women in my chapter on Discipline. For the moment I must complete my argument on the influences now contributing to the strengthening of the child's position in the home and to the corresponding weakening of parental authority. In this respect, I will adduce but three more instances of the loss of certain old props to parental self-confidence and power which has occurred within comparatively recent times that resulting from the exaltation of wealth, that which is the outcome of the break-down of tradition and another due to the behaviour of adults themselves.
The close relationship between the universal exaltation of merely pecuniary prestige in Anglo-Saxon communities, and the decline of the authority of the parents and of seniors generally, was more or less inevitable because of the purely adventitious quality of wealth. The moment the world, in estimating the worth of men, ceased from considering what they were, who they were, and what they could do, and confined itself merely to the question of what they possessed as Veblen puts it, "to a valuation of men in pecuniary terms" it banished purely personal characteristics such as wisdom, experience, insight, understanding, sound judgment, and taste, so completely from the schedule of venerable qualities, that these ceased to count in determining the respect a junior could feel for a senior. The world had
But where, such values prevail, as they do with us, respect for what age alone can give and often, despite the many old fools about, usually does give, is quite impossible. As Margaret Mead remarks anent the present worship of pecuniary prestige, "Once it becomes valued as a way of life, there is no respect for those things which must be learned. must be experienced, to be understood." (Growing up in New Guinea, p. 125). For what the Anglo-Saxon world has not grasped, and will have to grasp if it is ever to become more civilized, is that pecuniary prestige is, as a rule, quite adventitious. Remove it, and no other prestige is left. Nevertheless, the fact remains that, so long as it continues to be exalted as the highest achievement, respect for seniority and for what it alone can give, will be out of the question.
Coming back now to the break-down of traditions, when these are completely moribund, as they are to-day, there is likely to be among the general population, especially the young, a corresponding indifference towards past experience or contempt for it. For, in principle, tradition is what previous generations have found by experience to be ser-
The break with tradition thus implies disdain for past experience, an attitude which insensibly extends to all experience. This, however, carries with it a tendency to scorn age and seniority.
The swift changes of modern life which, without any conscious assessment of their forward or backward direction, are indiscriminately interpreted as "Progress," would, of themselves, have sufficed to endanger the prestige of age and seniority. For any faith in the necessarily "progressive" nature of rapid and constant change implies a disparagement of what this change has superseded.
Added to the breakdown of tradition in almost all departments of life, however, this attitude of uncritical favour towards all change involves in the young a feeling for people of ripe years which is little short of complete contempt. Among the more polite and well-bred, this feeling may be concealed, or veiled, or dissimulated under an appearance of respect or even reverence; but that it is there and deeply rooted is soon discovered if the feigned deference is put to a crucial test.
Since, however, the principal service that age can render to youth is to give it the benefit of its experience, it follows that in periods of contempt for age and seniority, elders are not only deprived of their function of passing on experience, but lack the very respect and deference which would make this possible.
Parents and grandparents to-day thus forfeit a major part of the prestige which naturally accrued to them in periods of less kaleidoscopic change and greater traditional stability. And, in view of the subtle dependence of love upon respect, it is probably true that they also forfeit a major part of the love on which once they were able to reckon. Nor, since love, as I shall show, is a determining factor in obedience, can they even expect any substantial modicum of sequaciousness in
Youth has, as it were, the bit between its teeth. It is completely cut off from that source of wisdom which consists in experience, and suffers as hopelessly from this isolation as statesmen and politicians would if they were deprived of the teachings of history.
No wonder we see youth scoring few successes in its independent and headlong drive towards its various goals at the bidding of its instincts alone. In marriage, to mention only one aspect of modern life, the consequences of this freedom from all senior guidance and control are clearly seen to be disastrous, and will become increasingly so as the anarchy progresses.
At all events, with the diminished respect for age and seniority, the relationship between parents and children has deteriorated considerably in recent years, and is steadily growing more difficult. The feebly disguised scorn for him who putteth off his armour has inevitably brought about a decline in the authority of age.
I do not suggest that grey hairs are or ought to be, as many would suppose, venerable per se. I know too well that bad wine does not improve with age and that there is no fool like an old fool. On the other hand, seeing that the only repositories of that wisdom which is the fruit of experience are the intelligent and thoughtful seniors in a community, the present contempt for age and seniority involves not only the loss to parents of a prestige that was once theirs by definition, but also the loss to youth of an important source of wisdom.
In this sense, even those children, who to-day have the advantage of a wise parent whose experience would be a valuable addition to their life-equipment, forfeit this advantage owing to the mood that is in the very air they breathe. To respect seniors is no longer the thing. It is not done.
Again, in this way, the will of the child in the home has
We should inculcate more respect for age upon our children?
What purpose would that serve? Respect cannot be generated by exhortation. To suppose that it can is one of the many errors of divine psychology. (Teste the Fifth Commandment). Respect is a natural and spontaneous reaction to what is respectable. If, therefore, respect for seniority has gone, this cannot be ascribed only to such external circumstances as the break with tradition and the kaleidoscopic changes of recent times interpreted always as "Progress." Something else must have contributed. Seniors themselves must to a great extent be to blame for having forfeited a regard which was once theirs in profusion, and in the next chapter I shall have a good deal to say on this point. Meanwhile, it will suffice for the present to point out that as regards that respect which is a reaction to superior wisdom, it is not unlikely that each fresh generation of adults for over two centuries, in England and America at least, has steadily been undermining it by their consistently false and unenlightened attitude to the child, an attitude the errors of which are palpable to every intelligent junior of seven or eight years of age. It has taken many generations to achieve the result, and the process of breaking down juvenile respect has been slow. But, in the end, even the densest child must perceive the folly of the Wordsworthian standpoint, as it is displayed in the demeanour of the average adult towards him, and the cumulative result of having recorded this folly for generations has probably been a determining factor in the evanescence of youth's regard for age.
I shall now conclude this catalogue of the difficulties under which parents at present labour by giving one instance of a
It is one of the many incidents in the long-drawn out attempt on the part of Modern Thought to teach its grandmother, the Church, to suck eggs, and consists in an eager appropriation by the former of a certain canting protest come down to us from a notorious and superficial rebel of the past. It amounts to the denial to parents of the gratitude which their children were once taught to feel towards them for the gift of life.
Modern Thought scoffs at this. It regards children only as a more or less welcome by-product of their parents' private pastimes, and almost tells the child to its face that he is as much beholden to them for his life as he is to Father Christmas.
This specious "profundity" can be traced right back to the middle of the eighteenth century. But seeing that it was then the product neither of a sage nor a scientist, but of a shallow and pretentious virago, it might well have been allowed a decent burial and forgotten.
The solemn female sophist who, as far as my researches have gone, was the first to be guilty of it, was none other than that wretched and disfigured invalid, Lady Mary Wortley Montagu. In replying in November 1751 to her daughter, who had expressed the very natural but commendable gratitude to her dam, which children were then encouraged to feel for their parents' gift of life, she rebuked her as follows: "You are no more obliged to me for bringing you into the world, than I am to you for coming into it, and I never made use of that commonplace (and like most commonplace, false) argument, as exacting any return of affection. There was a natural necessity on us both to part
So plausible! So original! So humorous! So silly!
But it was the apparent logic of it, its insolent obviousness, that Modern Thought could not resist. Truth to tell, however, it shows a complete blindness to the logic of the facts of life, and is compatible only with the kind of mind that first introduced the idea of vaccination against small-pox into England another of Mary's feats.
For the actual reality is very different. It is this:
All of us are caught up in an iron law which we can break only at our own peril. If we wish to keep sane and sound in other words, normal we must either become parents, or at least take all the steps necessary to that end. We must, that is to say, adapt our procreative functions. Mary Wortley Montagu, you, dear reader, and I, can no more escape this iron law than we can indefinitely put off eating and drinking.
But, since none can escape this iron law, all, according to this bright idea of Mary's, would be entitled to regard children as no more than necessary evils, incurred by submitting to the law. Why give them love and care? Why not give them a minimum of both? A pledge given under coercion is not binding. Why then, under the coercion of this iron law, must we do more than we need for its consequences? If we could get away with it, why not always put the consequence up the chimney like the unmarried mother who believes in infanticide?
Indeed, as we can readily discover, if we read our News of the World with attention, there are many parents, even among the married, who take this view.
The notorious Mary said, in effect, that since children did not ask to be born, why should they show gratitude to parents for their life? But were not the love and care that made that life a tangible reality for later years an essential
On the same principle which led our Mary to rebuke her daughter in these shallow terms, parents might say: "Since we are not responsible for the law imposing offspring upon us if we wish to lead normal lives, why give children love and care? Why not give them the minimum of attention which the law allows and which will suffice to keep the R.S.P.C.C. inspectors from the door?"
The fact that a vast majority of parents still refuse to adopt the logical consequences of the iron law, which binds all human beings, is proof enough that tenderness, love and care, over and above the minimum, are still regarded as a duty bound up with bestowing the gift of life upon children. It is still felt by the average parent to be a natural and essential factor in giving life. And children who are logical and rational enough not to separate the two, and are not taught to do so, may, in spite of Modern Thought, still feel that spontaneous gratitude to their parents, which Lady Bute felt, for having given them life on those terms.
But Mary Wortley Montagu sounded so plausible!
Thus one more brick, or ton of bricks, fell away from the foundations of parental prestige!
True, parents have shown themselves as incompetent in resisting Modern Thought as its advocates have been blind in accepting its dogmas. But incompetence and blindness have to be paid for and to-day, as we shall see, they are being paid for by both parents and children.
It is natural for parents to love their children. Not to do so argues a temperament so aberrant as to arouse suspicion, and when we behold parents not loving their offspring, we feel justified in assuming that something is radically wrong with them. In such circumstances the general consensus of
But although most people would subscribe to the view that it is natural for parents to love their children, and that for them not to do so is tantamount to a crime against society, it is extraordinary how limited is the understanding of what parental love should be. Still more extraordinary is what is commonly allowed, even among parents themselves, to pass as parental love.
One of the most essential elements of love is surely understanding. Whatever may be the facts about tout comprendre c'est tout pardonner, we may be satisfied that aimer c'est tout comprendre. That is why, incidentally, the "love" of the sexes, at the time of the body's greatest vigour, is so frequently devoid of one of its most essential elements. For neither the calm, the time, nor the objectivity necessary for understanding is vouchsafed either party to a young "love" match. Each is inwardly driven too hard towards the other. Too much transfiguration results from this inward propulsion. Careful observation and penetrating insight are impossible. Hence, perhaps, the high proportion of matrimonial failures in our generation 20 per cent. say some experts! (Daily Chronicle, 31.1.46). Because, when once detumescence allows of the requisite coolness for the dispassionate scrutiny of a life partner chosen in heat and haste, and without the guidance of experienced seniors, understanding too often means disillusionment. The young couple, in short, understand each other all too well. They know they have made a mistake.
If then it is to yield anything of value, the love relationship between adult and child and, above all, between parent and child, must be founded on understanding. Yet, for a variety of reasons, many of which I have already examined, in no relationship is this more difficult. It is difficult, above all, because, where the parent is concerned, the relationship is heavily charged with emotion; because the child belongs to a different order of beings from the adult, and because most adults to-day are subjective, have bad memories and are completely unaware of the motives and influences prompting even their own behaviour.
I speak of the child as belonging to a different order of beings from the adult. But owing to the inveterate subjectivity of the average modern adult, how few appreciate the extent of this difference! Speaking of the difference separating the grown-up person from the child, J. F. Herbart declares: "It is as great as the vast period of time which has borne mankind to its present state of civilization and corruption." (Op. cit. p. 25).
More often than not, therefore, parental love is devoid of its essential principle understanding. As Dr. Hirschfeld says: "Most parents know their children but very superficially." (Op. cit. Vol. I. p. 181). In countless families to-day, parental love is merely self-gratification, self-indulgence, and, above all, self-esteem.
Instead of behaving like a senior who, under the rule of the Reality Principle, has grown out of the Pleasure world of the child into Reality, and has learnt to balance his
And this happens year in year out in millions of homes!
Correction tends thus gradually to take the form of punishment. It is usually administered in anger i.e., with enough heat to smother for the moment the merely instinctive love impulses, and it is, as a rule, ill-judged, ill-timed, ineffective, and corrupting instead of educative. And why?
Simply because the correction, instead of being the guiding action of a senior with his eye on the child's future in the real world, is merely the reaction of an adult whose ruling pleasure principle the child has momentarily upset.
Where, in the homes of illiterate and wholly impulsive adults, there are, despite much passionate attachment, no vision, no self-discipline, and no understanding, whether of the child or of the guiding principles of sound child-training, the only possible salvation for the younger members of the
Is it, however, reasonable to expect understanding as an essential part of love of the child in the average couple who marry and start a family? What sound initiation have they had into child-nature, or into their own natures for that matter? What knowledge have they, whether as regards precept or example, in the management and guidance of children? What sound traditions still survive regarding these problems? Average adults are but rarely aware even of human psychology, a fact more or less true of all classes in the community.
Even the man who contemplates keeping poultry feels it incumbent upon him to acquire some preliminary knowledge of the requirements. He investigates the matter either by a study of the relevant literature, or else by consulting experts.
The average couple who start a family, however, regard themselves as above tuition and independent of information which, after all, is available. Their plight is complicated, moreover, by the fact that, as we have seen, they have usually absorbed an enormous amount of false data, especially in regard to the most important matter of all, child-psychology. But even of this falseness, they are usually blissfully ignorant. More often than not, therefore, they undertake parental functions without a suspicion of their immense social consequences. Like gamblers, they trust to luck or, at most, to Providence, and hope that with the advent of offspring the necessary wisdom and knowledge will be added unto them.
With irresponsible levity they trust to "instinct." The fact that instinct has frequently served them a dirty trick, if only in their mating, for example, does not chasten them or those that follow in their wake. Only wrong and specious inferences have been drawn by the majority, even of the educated, from the popularizations of biological science that have characterized the last hundred years.
If we sum up the faulty intellectual and emotional equipment outlined in the previous chapters, with which most adults start a family, how can we hope that they will be wise and successful child-educators?
Contemplate the average adult, man or woman, and try to judge each of them apart from this faulty intellectual and emotional equipment just as members of a community.
Does he or she display impressive self-discipline, self-knowledge, will power, consistency, objectivity, enlightened as opposed to unenlightened egoism, awareness of the unreliability of modern man's instincts, ability to distinguish discipline from punishment, and to regard anger as unessential to either? Above all, does he or she reveal any of the essentials of social obligations? From Herbert Spencer who, in 1861, declared that "the defects of children mirror the defects of their parents" (Education, p. 98), down to Guilfoyle Williams who, in 1946, stated that "the faults of the children are nearly always a reflection of the faults of the parents" (Op. cit. p. 58), all are agreed about the importance of emulation in child-development. How then can children be expected to grow up into normal social beings, if the models before them are defective in this respect? Even if the preceptory part of their education were faultless, which is far from being the case, how could the effects of a constant bad example fail to make themselves felt?
I sit eating in a quite fashionable restaurant, and along come two people who have just finished their meal and are on their way out. As they pass my table, one of them coughs all over me, and shows not the faintest sign of having gravely
I sit in a cinema, watching a news film, and soon there appears on the screen example after example of the appalling devastation and human suffering caused by the great floods which swept over whole villages and towns in the Thames valley and elsewhere in March 1947. As I behold the terrible havoc depicted on the screen, and the extremes of discomfort and damage endured by the inhabitants of the areas in question, I am forced, in spite of myself, to give vent to ejaculations of horror. I see mothers and young babies borne by the boatmen from the top floors of working men's cottages, women and old men wading through water above their knees to get their milk and other necessaries of life, roads obliterated and people having to climb from the rushing torrents into army lorries to reach their work or to discharge necessary errands. And, in the midst of all this spectacle of dire human suffering, laughter suddenly goes up from various parts of the theatre, apparently provoked by the sight of these hundreds of respectable fellow creatures forced into the quaint predicament of having to paddle, wade and struggle in rushing waters in order to try to carry on their daily life! Only once did I feel a real current of unanimous sympathy and concern run through the silenced audience, and that was when a dog was rescued by a boatman from an eminence on which it had climbed for safety.
For years I had to stand every Monday morning in a fish queue at a small Suffolk town. Not once, in this country where everyone boasts, and complacently listens to boasts, of the national love of "Fair Play," did I find the queue fairly conducted. There was always someone who tried to break it and often succeeded. Nor did I get any support from the crowd when I protested. Indeed, I always found myself alone in raising a protest and regarded as a "spoil sport" for doing so. In London whenever I visited it during this period, I found that bus queues were invariably run unfairly, and throughout the war, the only queue which I saw fairly conducted was that for the lunch at Bourne and Hollingsworth, where the French queue system of consecutive numbers was observed with perfect good order and success, and splendidly controlled by two of the superior female staff.
Everywhere, moreover, adults of every class betray by their behaviour, that they feel good manners to be bemeaning. To be ordinarily polite, they think, is equivalent to being servile. Apart from revealing the enormous prevalence of inferiority feelings in England a fact I already noticed in my book, The Secret of Laughter, published in 1932 this attitude betrays a misunderstanding so profound of what social life, or the life of Reality in a community, demands, that people who adopt it are worse than primitive barbarians. They have not even the sociability of aboriginal tribes.
Adler says that "social feeling is the crucial and deciding factor in normal development." (The Education of Children, p. 11). I believe this is true. But if it is true, it means that the majority in England to-day are abnormal.
Another feature of the crowd, which makes living difficult to-day, is the overweening self-importance of every individual composing it. It is largely this unbending, this disproportionate sense of self-importance, constantly dreading to be
Nor, even among the so-called "Freedom-loving Peoples," is it common to encounter the germ of a true appreciation of freedom. Most commonly, in England at least, the love of freedom means nothing more than the pursuit of personal freedom at any cost to the neighbour. No matter how other people's freedom may be curtailed, the individual tries to secure his own completely. This is to be observed in all places gardens, beaches, parks where crowds congregate. The freedom of others to enjoy these places is almost invariably ruined by the fact that each individual user acts on the principle of après moi le déluge, and leaves litter, rubbish, and sometimes even excreta, where he and his family have held their pitch, or else makes so much noise that peace for the neighbour is impossible.
The use of music nowadays is another instance of the extraordinary lack of social feeling that prevails in the multitude. People inflict their musical entertainment on you as if they took it for granted that you must enjoy it as much as they do. Which reminds me of one of Kant's excellent similes. Referring to the way in which the sound of music, owing chiefly to the nature of its instruments, spreads further over a neighbourhood than the neighbours may like, and therefore interferes with their freedom, he compares it with the scent a man puts on his handkerchief which others, whether they like it or not, are forced to inhale, "if they would breathe at all." (Kritik der Urteilskraft, 1880, p. 173).
A typical form of this unfree pursuit of freedom in England was brought to my notice during the War of Polish Independence (19391945). During the first year of the war, my official work in London necessitated my taking a very early train to the city on certain mornings of the week. On these occasions, in order to save time and trouble, I prepared my vegetarian breakfast overnight and took it with me to eat in
Nine mornings out of ten, however, my efforts were frustrated. Although at that hour the train was never full, smokers would constantly enter my compartment, and, as often as I pointed out to them that it was a non-smoker, not only they themselves but everybody else in the carriage, including those who happened not to be smoking, displayed resentment and indignation. No one ever sided with me!
Whispers, loud enough for me to hear, to the effect that I ought to have gone first class, or taken a taxi, passed round the carriage. Or there were references to Hitler and Mussolini, and the pious and resolute refusal of all present to have any of their dictatorial methods over here!
Not once did it occur to one of these "freedom loving" people that they might possibly have even less understanding of real freedom than the dictators they denigrated.
Examples of the prevailing lack in England of what Adler called 'social feeling' could, in fact, be multiplied almost ad infinitum and I cannot burden these pages with any more.
Suffice it to point out, therefore, that when we look on the average modern adult, in Anglo-Saxon communities at any rate, we see before us a creature who, not only in his intellectual and emotional equipment, but also in his behaviour, and in the values which prompt it, is so thoroughly unfit to prepare any child, either by precept or example, for normal social life, that if the children of this country were better trained than they actually are, if juvenile delinquency were more rare, and if manners and social behaviour generally were on a higher level than they are, it could only be as the result of a miraculous intervention of Divine Providence.
Apart from straining every nerve and sinew to live up to the standard demanded by modern taste, which means,
God forbid that I should be suspected of joining my feeble voice to the chorus, now thoughtlessly advocating "a sense of humour" in and out of season in all the major crises of life. But, apart from this questionable asset, what do these average adults, man and woman, possess, that fits them for rearing a family?
Even their physical fitness for the undertaking is frequently at fault nowadays! But this is neither here nor there.
Meanwhile, however, the world and the nation go on. Generation follows generation. And we wonder at the increasing friction and conflicts of our national and international life. We wonder at the atrocious manners and especially the bad tempers that suddenly break out and pull us up with a start even in the privacy of our own homes. We are shocked by the soaring figures of juvenile delinquency, dementia, neuroses, psychoses. We are appalled by such revelatory and damning documents as Our Towns, and the even more distressing description of one single gang of wayward London children in Marie Paneth's Branch Street! We know, moreover, that, in the opinion of most competent judges who had first-hand experience of the evacuees, both young and old, during the late war, that the first-named book was a gross under-statement.
But with true British escapism, we prefer to ascribe these untoward developments to the influence of two World Wars, in other words to the "knavish tricks" of Kaiser Wilhelm II and Adolf Hitler, than to exclaim mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa.