Post 2 – for ReadKirklees
I’m interested in what people do or don’t believe – whether it’s matter of faith (or non-faith) or attitudes towards society and the world. Usually though, we only ever hear the views of the grown-ups; of them rattling on with their profoundities (and profanities if you’ve got a gob like mine.) So, I have to confess a bit of bias towards the children here for once. I really enjoy hearing childhood views and beliefs; the kind of things that they come out with before us grown-ups have gotten to them too much, before we have tampered with their natural inclinations and intelligence. I won’t however, bore you with the philosophical perambulations of my own children (my little boy’s spiritual views don’t really reach the heights of sophistication. No. They tend to run along the lines of; ‘Hey – did you know that ‘God’ is ‘Dog’ spelled backwards? Cool or what? I think I prefer dogs mostly, though.’)
But whilst hanging out in a convent this week (you think I’m joking don’t you..?) I stumbled across a book, in a dusty old corner of the nuns’ library. It was published in the 1976’s and was an analysis of what 70’s kids did and did not believe about matters of faith and about the world.
A few things struck me after reading it (and the biggest thunder-clap of all … I have saved until the end of the post, so just hang-fire.) But yes, first of all – it immediately hit me right between the eyes, just how much more self-assured the comments of the boys were during this survey. In general, their philosophical comments were far more concrete, more absolute. There was a lot more chat about science, fighting and killing than the stuff that the girls came out with. Time and time again, the girls would treasure the concepts of being good and kind and of fairies and of Christmas. They also mentioned the environment a fair bit more than the lads did. Now of course – we could get into a huge discussion about ‘nature/nurture’ here – i.e. ‘Own up. Who got to the girls already?’ And in the end, I have to say that quite frankly – I got sick of the more sycophantic ‘honour thy father and mother’ type of brainwashing that the girls kept trailing out in the survey.
Hence there being more quotes from males rather than females below. (And actually, there were quite a few lovely little lads who ranted on about how appalling the whole Miss World thing was – thereby redeeming themselves in my eyes). But my own observations are this; if you accept the fact that a lot of the terminology that the children were using way back then (‘Coloureds’, ‘pouffs’ etc) wouldn’t really be used by modern-day children, it amazed me how frighteningly similar some of the sentiments expressed below are to the stuff we hear from kids growing up in the 20-teens.
I’m not making any particular judgements here – I just found it to be a fascinating little snippet of the way kids who were aged 8-16 years in 1975, were already thinking about life. So from the many 1000’s of statements that were collected in this project, I’ve included some of the more interesting ones below – including their original spelling and grammatical mistakes in the essays that they were asked to write as part of the survey. We start with the oldest children first:
“It seems to me that everyone believes and preaches it but never makes peace or gives any love. I therefore come to the conclusion that most of the human race is hypocritical and by the way this definitely does not exclude me.” (Boy aged 16)
“I do not believe in Christianity, or Islam, or Buddhism, or Hinduism or Zoroastrianism or Skihism or Communism or Paganism or Spiritualism or any ‘ism.’ I simply believe in Him, what He is or where He is or why He is or how He is I dont know. I only know I need Him and perhaps love Him and He is the life and He must be wanted.” (Boy aged 15.)
“and then we appear on the scene, a perverted species. The only animal who kills for the joy of it, mates for the joy of it, puts other animals through suffering and hardship for his own pleasure. If God had wanted to wreck the Earth, he’s done it by putting us on it. I believe that any one who gets angry with a locust is a hypocryt.”(Boy aged 14)
“Friends are like grouves on a recourd. If the grouves were the same, the recourd would omit one note. But it is the combination of the different grouves which make the tune and it is a combination of different friends which make life.” (Boy aged 15)
“I am a firm believe in racial segregation. For this country I recommend that blacks should be deported…. Some people might argue against my idea’s using the statement ‘They came here with the slave trade, after we had did all those horrible things to them.’ We should keep them here now.’ To this I would reply ‘So what?’ I was not there at the time, it’s not my fault that they are here. I didn’t bring them. It seems to me that there is hardly any milk and honey for us let alone giving them away!” (Boy aged 15)
“It’s difficult to say what I really believe in because my views change so often.” (Girl aged 15)
“I belive in wild life and probably not many people relases that the beuty of mother nature is a beuty that no one can get better.” (Girl aged 15.)
“I believe in Boxing becaues it is the only thing what I can do.” (Boy aged 14)
“…A large, pride in England campaign should be started with renovations of Empire days and other institutions and every household should have a flag and mast.” (Boy aged 14)
“From 1981-1988 the devil or anti-Christ will rule the world. Any borderline cases will have to go around preaching the word of the Lord to go to heaven. In 1988 Christ will come down and take more Christians up to heaven and the rest with perish on earth when it explodes.” (Boy aged 13)
“Western mans values have struke me as strange to say the least. Not all but many men work from nine to give doing a job they hate going back to a house that looks the same as everyone elses, has dinner and watches the box, and he does this for 50 weeks a year until 65 for what? by the time he’s retired he is too old to do what he always wanted to do. I’m determined not to tall into this trap. I intend to drift around working when I need the money, staying rough and with the principle aim of enjoying myself and living my life to the full. It’s idealic I agree but that doesn’t make it any the less practical. And if I finally settle and marry or live with somoen I will make show I keep my mobility and that she keeps hers. (Boy aged 14.)
“I believe in being different and unequal because we are not born equal and even if we were all made equal after only a few weeks we would all be different again” (Girl aged 13)
“I believe in helping around the house as much as possible.” (Girl aged 12)
And I have to end the most memorable quotes with this 8 yr old girl. Sensible lass;
“And we have to help people if they fall over. And you have to help Mummy sometimes. When Mummy is doing something you have to leave her in quietness.”
So what do you think? Which child were you in this study? I’m hoping that you were a bit more like the lad who wanted to shirk off and doss about with a fully mobile lady-friend, as opposed to the boy who was banking on us ‘borderline cases’ having to roam around preaching the word of the Lord in a world under the clutches of the AntiChrist – until the planet explodes in 1988 (because to be honest, he sounds like a bit of a killjoy.) Could we track down some of these children? Did the little girl who wanted to help people from falling over end up marrying Ed Miliband? Is anyone else in agreement with me that ‘milk and honey kid’ turned out to be Nigel Farage?
Well, whatever you think – and however your only little noggin developed in terms of your own belief system from childhood to being a fully fledged grown-up – I’m pretty sure that there is one thing that we’ll all agree on. Take a look at the picture below and you’ll see what drew my eye to this book in the first place.
Yes, that’s right. Despite the excessive molly-coddling, the Disclosure and Barring Checks overkill, the safe-guarding and nanny-stating of children today – believe you-me, I’m kind of glad that we’ve moved on from the 70’s. I don’t think that any of the funny little kids (albeit some of them with their more outlandish and weird views) involved in this study ever got to meet Savile, but far – FAR – too many of the little souls did during this decade.
And I also feel right sorry for the author and the team involved in this study. Because it was a flippin’ ace read – and a warning to all of us who write books and who seek celebrity endorsement – perhaps the times should be a-changing on this kind of thing; particularly as the high quality self-publishing industry is booming these days. Perhaps we should instead, be mirroring the example of the 13 year old lad who said; “I believe in ME. I am one of the luckiest people in the world. Being unwanted as a baby, I was very lucky to have someone who would look after me and take me into their family. No one can wish for more than this…”
I believe in ME.
Hope to God that some of Savile’s victims – and any survivors of child abuse can somehow return to the innocent and funny little beliefs of their childhood, and reclaim their own belief in themselves.