An age of innocence?

August 27, 2007

My illustration is from Swallows and Amazons, one of the classics of children’s literature. I will come to that series with some nostalgia later (and it is going to be one of those contrasts of which I am so fond), but I first want to thank Rob Freeth for bring my attention to this news story. The Australian Government spent $84m (Australian) creating a porn filter for all Australian families. Another report says it cost $189, but either way its a lot of money.

A 16 year old student took half an hour to break it and has some wise words:

Filtering pornography is going to play a part but the main things that need to be done are collaboration with kids, because the problems that we have are directly affecting kids, not adults, and unless you speak to them quite a lot you’re not going to do anything with any effect.

Now don’t get me wrong, we need to do something about internet porn, stalking and other such practices, but its not going to be achieved by rigid fences. Firstly the idea that kids will not access porn in whatever medium it is available is naive, it’s a part of growing up (and some never grow up, look at the so called Lads’ magazines in any newsagents). Tracking down and prosecuting child pornography and other forms of abuse is also key, although it can go to far as I discovered in Dallas once. However it’s is the restraints that you teach your children (and that you practice yourself) that are the real barrier.

Mind you one does from time to time feel nostalgia for an earlier age. While I was in Liverpool last week I picked up a complete boxed set of Arthur Ransome’s Swallows and Amazons series and am reading them through in sequence, cover to cover. The books were an essential part of my childhood and an inspiration for summer holidays and weekends. My sister and I with our kayak Tarka (yes we were Henry Williamson fans too) attempted to emulate the Walker children with a log of our journeys and hand drawn maps of Llyn Tegid and Traeth Penllech.

I doubt if anyone these days would create a series in which one of the main heroines is called Titty and mixed sex groups camp on islands and go on long sea voyages with balding old men. News that the National Theatre plans a musical based on the series is interesting to say the least, it may enable a generation to discover that sense of innocent adventure which the books convey so well. The knowledge gained will be abstract however, that life is no longer available, and it was only available in the early part of the last century to the privileged. So I will not be over romantic, but I will be nostalgic.

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