Saturday, 18 February 2012

The evolution of childhood.

'N' gauge grain hopper. Once sold as a toy, long ago...

I've never seen a bottle of the Abbot's Choice whisky. Maybe it disappeared before my whisky days began. Never touched the stuff until I moved to Scotland and found out that there was far more variety than just Bell's.

I can just imagine the reaction if they used a slogan like 'Make it a habit' today. It would be as if someone said 'Drink bleach, it'll do you good'. It won't, in case you're thinking of trying it. Unless you consider 'agonising death' to be a good thing. Stick with the whisky, it takes a lot longer to kill you and it's a much more pleasurable way to go. In fact, if you drink enough of it, you might not even realise you've died.

In the Ordovician, when I was young, I had railway wagons with 'Guinness' on them. I have another of these hoppers with 'Haig' on the side. I still have a few Siphon G wagons with adverts for Palethorpes' sausages on the side too (rail geeks will know about Siphon G and nobody else will care). All these things must surely be banned from the modern child's playset because they will immediately become fat and drunk just by looking at them. It didn't happen in the old days but that's Progressive, I suppose.

What's on modern toy wagons, I wonder? Iceberg lettuce and tofu? I'll bet they are discouraged from having coal wagons too, and soon they will only be allowed to play with third-rail or overhead electric engines pulling goods trains full of mangoes, but only when the wind blows at the right speed.

Already those pop-guns and cap-guns we played with have disappeared. Some were very realistic. I had a double-barrelled shotgun with corks in the end, made of steel and realistic enough to get me riddled with police bullets in this ridiculous modern world. A revolver that took a ring of extraordinarily loud caps. One game with that today and you'd be dead for sure. Now, a child with a plastic toy gun with a bright red tip is regarded as a prototype Ronnie Kray and sent for counselling.

I wonder what future generations will grow up with? My youth was defined by black and white TV, the Woodentops, Bill and Ben, Andy Pandy. Programs that must surely have been dreamed up by Sixties hippies who were high on something  illegal. We sixties kids didn't need drugs, the mad stuff was there on the TV. We had little men made of flowerpots who talked like they were plastered and who had conversations with a plant. We had Spotty Dog who spoke by raising his ears and his owners, who were all made of wood, understood him. Why would we take drugs? How much madder could it get?

Then it moved on to something closer to a soap, with Camberwick Green and Trumpton providing the future addicts for Emmerdale and EastEnders. Sometime after that it moved to produce the first inklings of reality TV - Postman Pat, Bob the Builder, Fireman Sam... and those kids are now glued to the adult equivalents of watching someone go about their ordinary day. They are now the sort who would be riveted by a CCTV screen and ideal for the modern government job of keeping an eye on the neighbours.

What's coming? Well, Scalextric is not going to be the same when it's Prius vs. Smart with 30 MPH speed limit signs all over the track except where it's 20 past the little plastic school (if you go lower than 20 you are arrested as a kerb-crawling paedo), and train sets without steam engines are going to be dull. Neither of these things can be used when the sun isn't shining because they'll be solar powered.

No more armies of toy soldiers, no wargames with simple rules such as set them up, get the airguns, last one standing wins. No evenings spent putting together Airfix models of Churchill tanks or Flying Fortresses and especially no Stukas. Crochet and weaving will replace those hobbies, along with such Green pursuits as growing cabbages and smiling at birds.

Transgender Barbie will leave Ken and shack up with the Bratz lesbian collective, while Ken finds solace in the arms of Action Man, who has left the military and is now a peace protestor who lives in a tatty tent on a roundabout. He still has a wide flat willy but Ken doesn't mind because he has no willy at all. That tells you a lot - it tells you who is on top and it explains Ken's permanent grimace. They will adopt those indeterminate creatures from Sylvian Families to prove they don't consider humans to be some kind of elitist species.

Kids TV will have Vince the Taxman (Can he tax it? Yes he can!), Tarquin the Protestor and Puritan Pete. They will build models of yurts and of Cambodian villages full of soldiers whose guns fire sunflowers into the air and whose tanks leave trails of mung beans and brown rice everywhere they go. Their toys will be strap-on sex-changes and strike placards. All those 'Britains' tractor toys will be replaced with hand-drawn ploughs pulled by muscly men and equally muscly women and people in wheelchairs who pull from an adjoining concrete disabled-access ploughing path. No horses. That would be speciesist. I mean, it's not as if the horses get to eat the oats that grow there, is it?

Almost full circle. From the beginnings, which were mad stuff with no agenda, we end up with something from the Beatles' highest (in a drug sense) point but with an absolutely insane agenda.

The thing is, kids will still compete with each other, it'll just be about different things. They will fight over who has drowned the most puppies by pretending to forget to turn their bedroom light off before falling asleep. They will tally their polar bear kill by seeing who can strike a match and keep it alight longest. And you know what?

They will smoke. They will drink. They will eat banned foods. They will do absolutely everything they have been taught not to do.

Just like we all did when we were kids. Remember sugar mice? A mouse-shaped block of lightly flavoured sugar - and I mean solid sugar - with a bit of string for a tail. Even in the 1960s, my mother told me it would rot my teeth. She was right, I have enough mercury in my teeth to act as a human barometer but do I regret sugar mice? Hell no. I'd have one now. They were fantastic. Not least because the adults all regarded them as horrible.

In Future Child World, the sunflowers from the Cambodian guns will be made of lead and will flatten anyone they land on. Ken and Action Man will barbecue a Sylvanian and probably shag it first while swigging from a bottle of moonshine. Disabled ploughmen will veer off their concrete track into the path of the plough with predictable Halloween consequences. The Scalextric game will become 'outrun the auto-police-car'.

All this New World Order shit is adult-think.You can persuade a gullible adult into pretty much anything. The easiest ones are the ones who think they are not gullible.

Children will do exactly what they are told not to do. That will not change. Ever.

If there is hope, it is not in the proles. It is in the children. Oh, we hate them now, none more than me, but when it comes to saying 'Up yours' to the control freaks, nobody does it like a twelve-year-old.

You can indoctrinate children when they are small, but when they get to be teenagers they will rebel against everything they have been taught so far.

Okay, they might be feral now, but don't think of it as the end of an era.

Think of it as a new Stone Age.

Or maybe... 'Human race reboot'.


inin said...

The sweet cigarette with the red tip would get you shot today. Don't forget the madness of Captain Pugwash with 'Roger the cabin Boy!'

Oldrightie said...

Don't forget the EU future is one where everyone speaks a common European language and have a forelock!

Jeff11 said...

 Sorry... Urban Legend.  The cabin boy's name was "Tom".  :-)

Jack Gibbard said...

I teach children (yes, I was very bad in a previous life). Normal children don't believe what adults tell them until they've tried it out. Normal children will treat you with casual respect but  they see you as a necessary evil and don't take you very seriously. Normal children are fun, and easy enough to handle if you understand them. Normal children grow up. Children who sit quietly, do what they're told, and believe everything, aren't normal, and good teachers don't like them. They don't grow up, they just get bigger and turn into Puritans and Zealots.

Elizabeth said...

Ah the age of sixties innocence. I remember it well. Sitting on the door step with one of those  sweet cigarettes pretending to smoke just like mummy! Running down the street after the rag and bone man hoping to get a goldfish for a bag old clothes. Said goldfish lasting all of 3 hours due to being in tiny plastic bag with 2 inches of water. Oh happy days

Singleactsoftyranny said...

I think we had the same guns as kids! I recall a silver revolver with really loud caps.  

Funnily enough I showed young master SAOT (aged 2) an episode of Andy Pandy & Teddy from 1952 on youtube last week.  He seemed to like it.

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