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need to tackle, at different levels, and with different “make peace exciting” using the symbols which sell

audiences. At its own level On The Beach may help to racial pride and the validity of violence. We can
breach that vast reservoir of fatalism and acquiescence demonstrate the arbitrary moralities which arise in the
which allows suicide to be the indefinite aim of our conditions of peace and war. Robert Shaw’s novel
governments. Revealing “the ways in which personal The Hiding Place does it brilliantly.
troubles are connected with public issues”, widening But let us start by dropping the theory that you can
the awareness of the average man, are not tasks which frighten people out of war. It isn’t how we go that
will necessarily debase the propagandist. We cannot matters; it is whether we go or not!

A Boy’s World—And Ours
Brian Jackson

This article describes the impact of the mass media on the sensitive mind and imagination of a young child.

ALAN AND GRAHAM are both ten. Each Tuesday afternoon departure. For Alan this was not so. He understood
I take their class for an English lesson whilst my own as an adult might.
boys move across the corridor for a music period. This troubled and puzzled me. I grew to feel, however,
During the half hour that we share, the boys are that though Alan was abnormally acute in this way,
stimulated to act, draw or write about their daily lives his was an abnormality of health—a premonition of
freely and spontaneously. But I had not been working coming maturity. I could see in what other ways his
with them for very long before I noticed that whatever personality could be assessed, but I came to believe
Alan drew or wrote or dramatised fell into a continuing that, though unusual, this was a right and not dis-
pattern. He was absorbed by the prospect of death. He figuring phase for one particular child. All the same
feared death intensely and was disturbed by it in the his rarer sensibilities exposed him more keenly to certain
form of accident or punishment. He needed to explore strong pressures from the adult world. He was most
the experience at the point of dying—and pulled many open to receive and learn from the images of violence
of his stories around to this characteristic situation . . . that he discovered in comics or films or papers. It is
“He was really scared now . . . The police shot them off
one by one . . . while he was lying on the stage, half dead for this reason that I illustrate his case.
and half3 alive, he must have thought . . .” I am compelled to ask myself whether the mass media
can, and do, damage children. By this I do not mean
Even in the most formal work offered to his own class whether they distract them from schoolwork, or aspects
teacher the controlling meditation breaks through . . . of home life, or valuable pursuits and occupations of
“I was lying in bed, I was thinking what would happen their own. This may or may not be so: but here it comes
when I was dead and how it would happen. And then I was as a secondary, if related, matter. I am primarily trying
thinking what the Romans, Picts and Saxons must have
felt like, and now they are covered with dust. They just
to decide whether, working every day with young
lie there and will be there for ever. And what it will be like
children, I can say that some of the forms of news
when I am there and covered with dirt, and all kinds of reporting, of fictional amusement and illustrated selling
things . . .” that our society permits, actively stunt or deform
I find this kind of need and perception most unusual growing personalities.
in a ten-year-old boy. Very seldom do children sense The multiple play of that society’s endorsements and
death with such a terrible finality. Of course it invades disapprovals, through the mass media, upon the
their activities at every point. But most children seem infinitely delicate texture of a child’s nature becomes
to feel it more simply, and with a shallowness natural difficult and elusive to record. But it is worthwhile to
to their years. Being dead is a form of absence, and try to do just that, and important that we don’t evade
perhaps not radically distinct from other losses by the perplexities by accepting too simple or comforting
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an answer. If a child’s handling of violence presses in his father’s paper was the true nature of the adult
itself upon me, and if I quell my doubts with a “boys will world into which he would grow and adapt himself.
be boys” kind of response, or if I accept that a child All the sanctions of his elders were, apparently, behind
somewhat affected by a newspaper treatment of death both the execution and the treatment of that execution
would probably be in the same position after reading in the morning paper. This, for a time, nourished his
the traditional Border Ballads, then I believe I am imagination and played some part in the movement of
employing such an evasion. Only a little thought shows growth.
how illusory these answers can be.
Let me return to Alan. He is a bright pupil with an
Particular Cases
alert interest in reading. At home he seems to draw I feel this all the more urgently when I look at what
deeply on the tabloid press. And in the vividly-lit world Graham, sitting only a desk away, was writing at the
that he can discover there, even the most gifted boy is same time. Graham’s life is rooted in richer soil. His
an innocent, and most open to the promptings and prose, with its multiplying perceptions, moves from a
colourings pushed out to him. The Marwood execution direct response to creaturely life and the natural world.
provided an instance. The treatment of that execution It is boyish and awkward in many ways—but surely it
affected several of the boys. One or two wanted to paint is also marvellously gentle in meeting the small accidents
hangings their stories were sometimes shaped by the of the world as a boy might know them . . .
event, and on the way to school one morning there was “The sun was shining down on our green carpet of grass
the single word “marwood” chalked on the paving in the back garden, where I was lying with my pet cat and
stones across the usual jumble of initials. rabbit. From my position the flowers looked like a mass
of mixed colours, reds, yellows, blues, pinks, and as many
The Treatment of Death other colours as you could think of. Suddenly my cat
pounced on something. It was white. It looks like a
How much did all this mean? Perhaps very little; butterfly. Yes it is! It’s a white one, spotted underneath its
but I was very quickly aware of individual cases where wings with black. I quickly picked the cat up. He had
the effect went deeper and was seemingly absorbed into the butterfly in his mouth. I opened his mouth to get it
the personality. Now this was not a question of pro- out. After a little while I got it out but his wing was
tecting children from death, or the facts of society as it damaged. So I kept it and it fluttered in my hand like
is—nor need we introduce the rights or wrongs of capital a piece of paper blown by a fan. I kept it until it was better
punishment. It was the treatment of death that mattered, then I let it out in my garden. It fluttered away on to our
a treatment approved by publication and by adult elm tree.”
purchase. These children were just opening themselves I quote Graham’s work to illustrate what I take to
to a fuller awareness both of death and of sexual be the proper direction of growth. He is hardly at all
relationships. It was from the mass media that many in contact with the more lurid aspects of the mass media.
of them were gaining their new and germinal impressions. His awakening curiosities of feeling find their satis-
What mattered was the feelings they were encouraged factions in home life and the natural world. Is it too
to have—or not to have. For when they gave themselves much to say that this nascent tenderness promises to
over to certain accounts of this execution—as they did flow through into adult life and the commitment to
do—you could not simply say that their feelings were adult responsibilities there? I think not. I think it
matters that the channels of feeling are kept open and
being manipulated. They were actually being taught to not discoloured in these early years.
feel in certain prime areas of human responsibility for There are other boys in the class like Graham, just
the first time. There could be—and sometimes was—a as there are also other boys like Alan. And within the
tainting of the affective faculties at their very source. ones like Alan one must assume, and work in the
In his sense of death and the need for a proper relation- interests of, the perpetual possibilities of something
ship towards it, Alan was both different and older than finer. This is what the general discussion on the mass
his friends. So in his case the struggles seemed nearer media might come down to—the human particular of
the surface and were certainly more articulate. Working this or that child growing up. It is difficult to document
with him one saw more lucidly quite what challenge was the charges that are made, but it can be done. I have
presented to a child’s nature by a full exposure to this argued from two markedly individual cases—but in the
world. end this is what we are pointing to and caring about.
His free writing had responded immediately to the Whatever the general effects may be, there are children
execution, and he projected himself directly into here and there in every classroom who by reason of their
Marwood’s situation, into possibilities of cold execution, needs or gifts or weaknesses, are placed in a peculiarly
hot spectatorship and human error. He followed these tense relationship to this facet of adult society. I am
Marwood stories with crude drawings of a man being not here interested in deciding whether this is or is not
hanged over which in imitation banner headlines he an aspect of society that we must accept. But I am
scrawled LET MARWOOD GO. claiming that whatever our ultimate decisions are, it is
Clearly the turmoil of feeling beneath and within his against the run of direct evidence to ignore the fact of
work was crossed by lines of protest. But his writing lost or ill-shaped human qualities in the passage of
was driven by the sense that what he had been reading childhood.
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