When I was three and Nulli was two, my parents moved to England for a year. We lived near Cambridge University, and I enjoyed English life as thoroughly as an under-five could in those happy days of the milk ration, nursery school and playing with keys at church. I am sorry to say I did not meet any of the great figures of Cambridge life in the 1970s--or if I did, I don't remember.
When telling my friends I was returning to Canada, one asked if I would come back, and I said "Yes"--which is probably the first time (and most definitely not the last) I made a rash promise probably impossible to keep. However, I did go back to England many times through books, starting with Winnie the Pooh, the Narnia series, The Hobbit, the Lord of the Rings and a lot of other books written by men who went to Oxford or Cambridge or by their daughters.
Unsurprisingly, this gave me a very antiquated view of Britain and what British people were like. Obviously I didn't think the modern day Englishman was quite like Aragorn son of Arathorn, but I did assume that the average Englishman aspired to be so.
I have long since realised this is not the case, and having watched British television for almost nine years, I thought I had seen the depths of British cultural decline. However I haven't, for these posters shocked me as much as anyone:
NHS stand for National Health Service, and the product they are pushing in the first poster is the "morning after pill". The second poster advertises condoms.
The general public has found the first poster offensive, but I think the second is even worse. And, unfortunately, many people find the first poster offensive merely because it suggests you have to choose between dressing up and having a baby. Their argument is that you certainly can wear those shoes AND have a baby.
Frankly I think wearing such shoes is appalling to begin with, not only because they are a public declaration of sexual "power" but because of what they do to your feet and legs. For the National Health Service to pretend that wearing shoes like that is desirable, let alone more important than motherhood--yes, even teen motherhood--is to have abdicated their own responsibility to the public.
But the second poster really upsets me for two reasons. The lesser reason is that it suggests to the English teenage boy that video games are crucial to his existence. As the obestiy problem skyrockets in the UK--an American friend of mine says all you have to do to get fat in the UK is breathe--it is outrageous that the National Health Service would hold up video games as superior to fatherhood (yes, even teen fatherhood).
The greater reason is the warning "Bware da baby trap". Bware da baby trap--in the country of Shakespeare, Milton, Austen, Dickens, Chesterton, T.S. Eliot, A.S. Byatt and Julian Barnes. Yes, of course it is also completely offensive to refer to readers' responsibilities to their potential children as "a trap". But it seems to me even more offensive to assume he enjoys being patronised in this fashion by an agency of the government.
I've entitled this post "Why We Fight" in a rather tongue-in-cheek way, as I do most of my fighting on a North American battleground. The people doing the real fighting to retain cultural standards in Britain are English and Scottish parents who either send their children to the best schools they can afford or homeschool them.
Unfortunately, British traditionalists and conservatives have lost battle after battle in the public realm. This strikes me as untenable; it's not as if traditional parents will be left in peace to raise their children as they see best. However, I am not sure myself what to do about that.
I've been lurking on your blogs for a while, and thought I'd unlurk as this struck a real chord with me, as my oldest is coming up for secondary school age. I'm not sure what the answers are either. We tried homeschooling for several years but found it problematic. Increasingly I worry the answer is to leave, but I wouldn't begin to know where to.ReplyDelete