Summary of the discussion May 3rd 2018
Our discussion touched on a number of topics, so perhaps leaving some needing to be dealt with more thoroughly at a future meeting.
Why are chemical weapons illegal, when others, such as drones or nuclear weapons, are not? The use of gas as a weapon in the First World War caused such revulsion that the Geneva Protocol of 1925 outlawed their use. This was strengthened by the Chemical Weapons Convention of 1993 which also banned their possession. There has not (yet) been international agreement to ban other weapons, which might be regarded as even more destructive.
Some children of the “Windrush generation” who had come to the UK as children on their parents’ passports and had not regularised their status, were now being threatened with loss of benefits or deportation. They have been caught up in the so-called “hostile environment” against immigrants caused by recent fears about numbers, economics and the EU, and the demand that net immigration should be less than 100,000. In the 1950s and 1960s fears about immigration were focussed more on the impact on this country of people seen as “primitive” or “uncivilised”. This was based on distorted 19th century ideas about evolution (that some “races” were more “advanced” than others). This in turn was a development of earlier interpretations of the story of Noah’s three sons in Genesis 9:18 to 27, where the children of Ham are cursed for their father’s sin. This account, usually ignored today, was seen in earlier centuries as justifying European conquest, with its accompanying slavery and genocide, in America, Africa and Australasia (whose original inhabitants were said to be descended from Ham). The stories of dispossession and genocide in (for example) the Book of Joshua (does God indeed command genocide???) today influence the way some in the modern state of Israel (and perhaps also some pro-Zionist Christian groups?) regard Palestinians.
Many modern children’s books deal with emotionally traumatic experiences, such as family break-down, social prejudice etc. This contrasts with earlier children’s stories, such as those written by Enid Blyton, or even “Treasure Island”, where threats to safety are often external (an antiques collector who turns out to be a con-man; pirates who plot a mutiny etc). Are the modern stories more helpful in coming to terms with experiences that many children face- and faced even in times when children’s writing avoided dealing with them? Or is a dose of escapism better “medicine”, not unlike the weekly visit to the cinema for many adults of an earlier generation?