Sunday, 16 January 2011

Learning From History...

This post kinda links into my previous article about the Huck Finn kerfuffle. In that post I discussed the censorship (or not) of removing all references to the word 'nigger' in future editions of Huckleberry Finn. One of the points I was trying to make is that sanitizing texts written from past times takes away from us some of the pleasure of discovering the perspective of those times.

Here is my example! My family (in their entirety) are involved in Scouting and my dad was given "Scouting for Boys", written by Lord Baden-Powell. This was originally written in 1932, and sets out the guidelines for how Scouts should behave. Back then it was deemed to be a very good handbook on how young men should live their lives. Reading it now provides much inadvertent amusement!

Let me give you some choice quotes - enjoy! (and remember - if we keep trying to pretend history never happened, we will miss out on gems like this, which are very much a product of their time and should be enjoyed as such).

Smoking and drinking are things that tempt some fellows and not others, but there is one temptation that is pretty sure to come to you at one time of another, and I want just to warn you against it.

It is called in our schools 'beastliness', and that is about the best name for it. Smoking and drinking and gambling are men's vices and therefore attract some boys, but this 'beastliness' is not a man's vice; men have nothing but contempt for a fellow who gives way to it.

Some boys, like those who start smoking, think it a very fine and manly thing to tell or listen to dirty stories, but it only shows them to be little fools. Yet such talk and the reading of trashy books or looking at lewd pictures, are very apt to lead a thoughtless boy into the temptation of self-abuse. This is dangerous, for, should it become a habit, it may lead to worse habits. But if you have any manliness in you, you will throw off such temptation at once; you will stop looking at the books and listening to the stories, and will give yourself something else to think about.

Sometimes the desire is brought on by indigestion, or from eating too rich food, or from constipation. It can therefore be cured by correcting these, and by bathing at once in cold water, or by exercising the upper part of the body by arm exercises, boxing, etc. It may seem difficult to overcome the temptation the first time, but when you have done so once it will be easier afterwards.

If you still have trouble about it, do not make a secret of it, but go to your Scoutmaster and talk it over with him.

By the way - these days any references to Scoutmasters has been lost because of the possible connotations of slavery. Yep, we have reached PC madness...

Here is another quote (and, yes, I am childishly bringing you all the toilet humour examples!):

And to be healthy and strong, you must keep your blood healthy and clean inside you. This is done by breathing in lots of pure, fresh air, by deep breathing, and by clearing out all dirty matter from inside your stomach, which is done by having a "rear" daily, without fail; many people are the better for having it twice a day.

And one example that is not toilet-humour-based, but tickled my funny bone (partly because I've experienced what modern day Scouts are like on camp!):

A camp is a roomy place, but there is no room in it for one chap, and that is the fellow who does not want to take his share in the many little odd jobs that have to be done; there is no room for the shirker or the grouser - well, there is no room for them in the Boy Scouts at all, but least of all when in camp.

Every fellow must help, and help cheerily, in making it comfortable for all. In this way comradeship grows. On service, if one fellow is out on night duty getting wet through, one of those left in the tent will be sure to get ready a cup of hot cocoa for him when he comes in, and that is the kind of thing every Scout should think of and carry out.

My last quote from this delightful little tome:

When you are travelling by train or tram, always notice every little thing about your fellow-travellers; notice their faces, dress, way of talking, and so on, so that you could describe them each pretty accurately afterwards; and also try and make out from their appearance and behaviour whether they are rich or poor (which you can generally tell from their boots), and what is their probable business, whether they are happy, or ill, or in want of help.

But in doing this you must not let them see you are watching them, else it puts them on their guard.

It is said that you can tell a man's character from the way he wears his hat. If it is slightly on one side, the wearer is good-natured; if it is worn very much on one side, he is a swaggerer; if on the back of his head, he is bad at paying his debts; if worn straight on the top, he is probably honest, but very dull.

I have loved this little excursion through history - the quaint ideals, the very proper language, the wonderful idea that young lads previously used to obey these rules (most of them anyway *winks*).

This is the sort of publication we are in very real danger of sanitizing out of existence. Let's not lose the joy of learning from history...

1 comment:

  1. I love finding stuff like this! What a shame for it to be censored.