Two Fathers who Fought in the Great War give conflicting answers to an all-important question
Should My Boy Play War?
Two Fathers who Fought in the Great War give conflicting answers to an all-important question
WHEN I see my boy playing with tin soldiers, and hugely enjoying the process of knocking them over with a toy cannon, should I dis-
courage this impulse toward war, especially when I believe in, and am working for world peace? That is the question that must be faced by every intelligent father. And to my mind the answer is just as difficult
as the question asked. In the first place, the sign exhibited by the boy is an inheritance of the ages, for it is now more or less well established that the growing child goes through all the processes that we see in history.
From the moment he is born his life is a history of the world in miniature, and the “toy soldiers” phase is a mere reflection of the warlike early ages of mankind. Such at least is the theory; and it follows that in attaining manhood my boy will also attain to the same position as his father: the desire for w. d peace. So also in the ’teen age he will manifest the same swashbuckling brawJo in the presence of the ladies as his great-great-grandfather did in the Middle Ages. And thus, you see, this playing at soldiers is simply a thing to be gone through by every normal boy.
Get Ready, Boys; It’s Your Turn to be Cannon Fodder
SHALL it be discouraged? Should the seeds of world peace be forced into the child now? Should pacificism and thoughts of peace take the place of the warlike thoughts? To that last I answer a loud and distinct: No.
For in so doing we should be deliberately misleading the child, and probably rendering him absolutely unfit for the task that is ahead of him.
If world peace were here, if there could be no more war, it would be all right. But when we know that the world is still far from peace, and not only that, but that the boy will surely have to take his place in defending his country, his womenfolk, his traditions of Anglo-Saxon civilization, we should be committing an incalculable crime against him in crushing this little flame of “militarism” naturally burning in him.
If your neighbor’s boy is being taught to fight, and your boy is not, and the little boy next door finds it out, your boy is going to be bullied and browbeaten, and will not only be unable to fight back and defend himself, but will be so bewildered that he will probably show cowardice, and become a sycophant and a fawn of the bully. If you don’t believe it, look into a schoolyard some day. As long as war is what it is, there never can and never will be peace on earth.
And after all, what is war? We hear a lot of high-sounding descriptions of it, but it is much simpler than any of them. War is simply international banditry, wherein, instead of the common footpad, we have a nation taking the same rôle. Why do we have footpads? Because some
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SUPPOSING one had a child who was interested in war stories and who was playing with soldiers and what-not, how would you answer his questions
with regard to war? How would you control the impulse toward war?
Does an interest in war stories and tin soldiers indicate an impulse toward war? Presuming that it does, would not a curb upon the impulse but increase the urge? If the junior displays any impulse for war, abrupt physical contact with a comrade of about his own size and ambition is the best solution.
I feel, however, that war is not a hereditary desire, and that even in those countries where militarism is a cult, the honest desires of the mass of their people are, and have been, to live in peace.
What the male child does inherit is vanity. From his earliest days he loves to strut and cover himself with glory, to acquire that glory through the expression of his manliness; and through succeeding civilizations the proudest way of making this expression has been in arms.
When a boy is knocking down tin soldiers, he is not preparing himself for war. He is not even preparing himself for defense. He is expressing both his vanity and his manliness through the media most happily available; but he is really more proud of his moral victory over thumbsucking than of having conquered an army of painted metal.
The Technique of Peace
HOW are we to answer our children? What are we to tell them?
That history belongs to the past, that war belongs to history; that a man may even yet be called upon to bear arms for his home and his country, but that manliness and courage are better displayed when men with grievances meet in endeavor to arrive at understanding than by carving each other and shedding blood. Show our children the futility of war and the quality and beauty of true sportsmanship.
I feel that if I can give my sons a proper appreciation of the simple things of life, teach them that in its short span there is no time for intolerance, and that happiness is our chief quest—then I shall have no fear for them. They will not be the less quick to sense injustice or defend their own, but they may have the ability to reduce things to right and reasonable proportions.
My children play soldiers. They shoot their wooden guns with a big bang, but the biggest part of the parade is the band. They love the noise. I love it, too.
It is the “March, march, march” that worries me. Where are they marching, these little brown legs? Is it with pride and gladness to a carven memory on a cenotaph?
How should I, one of a generation which stumbled into the ancient error, not apologetically, but with regret, answer their
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YES—By “ Red vers"
people have money and possessions, and some people haven’t, and the ones that haven’t are taking the easiest means of getting theirs. In other words, as long as there are rich and poor there will be bandits, and even after that there will be greedy people.
Might the Only Defense
WE CANADIANS are considered selfish today because we believe in keeping out undesirables, although we own a goodly portion of this world’s surface and more land than we actually need at the present time with our present population. On the other hand, the Italians, the Japanese, the Chinese, the Germans, and many others have not even enough land to keep their present population.
But are we letting the Japanese, the surplus Japanese that Japan cannot keep, come into this country? We are not. We intend to keep it for generations of Can-
adians not yet born, while the Japanese and Chinese starve in thousands.
Do we want them to come into our country, intermarry, intermix their civilization and code of morals with ours? We certainly do not.
How are they going to get land, then? The only answer, the inevitable answer, is: “Steal it.” And just as we wouldn’t let the German steal it, just as one generation laid down their lives to see that that land was kept for our children, so will a future generation have to do the same.
That growing boy, therefore, should be brought up to defend himself, to defend his country, and to carry on the tradition that this land is ours, and ours alone, and that just as we say who will and who will not stay with us in our individual homes, so do we maintain the same right as far as our country is concerned.
So that millions of our grandchildren shall be as healthy, happy, and prosperous as we have been in this generation, in spite of war.
NO—By Ernest Evans
questions. Honestly, admitting that my generation—Canadian, German, British, French—did not know how to live, what I hope they will work for and arrive at is peace.
The answer does not lie in the abolition of the tin soldier. Little boys may be playing with soldiers a thousand years after grown men have ceased to settle their differences by becoming real ones. The answer lies in the teaching of tolerance, in the education of the young to an appreciation of the rights of others, and in the instilling of desire for understanding of the other fellow—in times and terms of peace.
What About the Women?
GIRLS, I think, are no less given to heroics than boys. And they are given more to hysterics. This fact was not unknown to the propagandists of the Great War, and in the land of each of the participants the female of the species was urged to send her menfolk and to foster in them the proper fighting spirit.
Women love to suffer. Many of them prefer to gratify their souls by suffering in silence and being “brave about things,” but in silence or from the housetops the average woman cherishes her heartache. Our daughters must be taught that while it is noble to administer to the sick or wounded, to comfort the afflicted and to sorrow in silence, many of those events which offer the most opportunities for expression of this, side of their nature have their origin in baseness and in things in which neither man nor woman should take pride. They must be taught that those who won emancipation for them have given them greater opportunities of using their influence to the ends of peace; but they, too, must be taught tolerance. The young lady presents the toughest problem.
How many women today, particularly on this continent, have a thorough appreciation of what the war really meant? Look around your own circle of friends, without excepting those who suffered loss. Many of them will say to you, as has been said to me: “Well, it wasn’t all horror. Some of you men had a pretty good time when you were not in the trenches and when you were on leave.” Sure we did. We used to get drunk. We often set out with the sole intention of getting tight. And we had our other affairs. We often set out to have our other affairs. But, for all that, I do not think it would do any harm to show the little Florence Nightingales that a noble
act of self-sacrifice in time of war is no more worthy than ordinary honest effort to arrive at that understanding of the world and men and human nature in which the act of war is uncivilized and inhuman.
It was very noble and patriotic of us to push the supplies on the heavy trucks through the bullet-swept copse behind Kemmel. It was very fine of us, and we were helping our King and country all the time we stood behind the slimy breastworks; but I have seen groups, some silent, others whisperingly jocular, waiting for the zero hour and for the barrage to move forward. I have seen the good “sisters” work twenty hours at a stretch in a stricken ward. I know of the sacrifices made by those at home that supplies might go forward. I have seen a hundred and fifty of our own soldiers, young and old, mowed down by our own machine guns till not one reached the wire. I have seen my own pals killed and horribly mutilated at my side. I have seen gaunt, determined men set off on raids of the enemy line, hundreds of them; seen them, companies of them, slide their bayonetted rifles over a parapet and follow for a definite objective. I have suffered at the hands of many an instructor in bayonet fighting whose cockney tongue has tried to lash bank clerks and cowboys to savagery, but I have yet to see the lust to kill in any soldier’s eye; and I have seen the eyes of the attacking German, too.
Then if the lust to kill is not natural to the adult, why imply that it lies back of the child’s mind when he shows an interest in war stories and plays with soldiers and what-not? What he seeks is not war; it is adventure. Can he have an impulse for war if he has no impulse to kill?
So long as the little boy sits as God and disposes of the tin soldiers as he does his box of bricks he is all right. But if he becomes a tin soldier with them, then it is time to see that the war stories he is listening to or reading have been told from the proper perspective. There is no glory in war. It should not be glorified. Remembering that we all live fn the hero of the tale, some war stories are true propagators of the gospel of peace; others ... In deifying physical courage one should take care to present the event that called it forth in a manner consistent with our present enlightenment. Would you be less careful of what the child reads than of the kind of companions he chooses?
I answer the question thus: In the
heart of a child there is no hereditary impulse toward war. If he develops one, encourage him to go out and collect a punch in the nose. He will quickly realize the futility of it. My eldest son collected his some weeks ago. He is still the master
of his tricycle, however, but he knows that if he wants Freddie to make concessions, it is better to talk them over in terms of rides and promises to pay than to grab them off. He is learning to respect the rights of others.
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