23 February, 2013

Discipline is good?

Isabel Marris, ed.

A relatively old book, dating back to 1911; a collection of essays, as the title indicates, which were originally published as individual pamphlets, as far as i can tell, probably over a series of years. The general theme, as can be surmised from the title of the collection, is the relatively poor quality of the upbringing of the current generation of young Britons, how that contrasts with the past, and the deleterious effects this lack will have on the national and imperial life. The essential complaint is that children, largely boy children but girls also, are not being taught the value of discipline, both self and imposed from the outside, and are less able to understand the duty they hold towards their parents, elders, leaders, and nation.

As i read, there were two thoughts that came continually to me, with variations, and provide the background to my enjoyment of the essays. First, as anyone surely would, i related the complaints to those of the present day; allowing for the differences ~ no Empire today, and physical punishment almost completely done away with, the assumed natural superiority of Britons specifically, Whites generally, to other peoples no longer an active (though certainly passive) ingredient in society ~ many of them could have been written or published in 2011 rather than a century earlier. I forget who it was first said it, but every generation takes pleasure in pointing out the shortcomings in the raising of the two following. Second, i kept on remembering that the children whose lack of discipline and duty is decried in these essays became the adults of my grandfather's generation, the adults who defeated Germany twice in forty years; i wonder, then, what will become of the generations currently being raised with so little discipline and duty.

A point of real interest in the essays is the scope of the authors; the publishers of the original series managed to get a good cross-section of the top of society, including a variety of churchmen, civic leaders, peers, soldiers, to write for them; in addition there is an appendix of supporting blurbs from a huge number of people, Churchill and Baden-Powell and Conan Doyle among them, people who were willing to have their names listed as adding their support to the central message of the pamphlets and the means suggested for retaining Britain's greatness in future generations. Such an enterprise simply would not be possible today ~ were it desirable ~ and that fact alone, i believe, shows that some of the fears of the authors have been realised, as society is fragmented, the individual is far more important than the country or community or, even, family, and internal and external discipline, while admired, are hardly practised.

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