October 2, 2013, 4:56 pm
Filed under: brave new world, chronotopes, the sweet life | Tags: , , ,

HAVANA—Children play in the Plaza Vieja, 1998.
© David Alan Harvey / Magnum Photos

Over the past 50 years children in the western world – at least –  have seen their time allotted for play significantly reduced by marmy homework scolds and, in parallel, have suffered increasingly from neuroses like anxiety and depression: there is a link argues Peter Gray in his article The Play Deficit (which you can read – linked below).

Gray lays out further deleterious effects from lack of play some of which I highlight in the excerpts pulled below, including lack of empathy, bullying, passivity and fear, unfocused anger etc.

He describes how extant hunter gatherer groups who allow their children to play nearly exclusive of any other activity from the ages of four to 19 develop egalitarian, mutually beneficial tribes.

I could never argue for playing until the age of 19; the thing that freed me most in my life was – and is – education: reading, studying, writing. But still, play is waning and the kids are unhappy and we should do something about it.

Here is Peter Gray:

I don’t want to over-idealize children. Not all children learn these lessons easily; bullies exist. But social play is by far the most effective venue for learning such lessons, and I suspect that children’s strong drive for such play came about, in evolution, primarily for that purpose. Anthropologists report an almost complete lack of bullying or domineering behaviour in hunter-gatherer bands. In fact, another label regularly used for such band societies is egalitarian societies. The bands have no chiefs, no hierarchical structure of authority; they share everything and co-operate intensively in order to survive; and they make decisions that affect the whole band through long discussions aimed at consensus. A major reason why they are able to do all that, I think, lies in the extraordinary amount of social play that they enjoy in childhood. The skills and values practiced in such play are precisely those that are essential to life in a hunter-gatherer band. Today you might survive without those skills and values, but, I think, not happily.


Human children, when free, do the same thing, which makes their mothers nervous. They are dosing themselves with fear, aimed at reaching the highest level they can tolerate, and learning to cope with it. Such play must always be self-directed, never forced or even encouraged by an authority figure. It’s cruel to force children to experience fears they aren’t ready for, as gym teachers do when they require all children in a class to climb ropes to the rafters or swing from one stand to another. In those cases the results can be panic, embarrassment, and shame, which reduce rather than increase future tolerance for fear.

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my toy!
November 20, 2011, 6:17 pm
Filed under: brave new world, the sweet life | Tags: , , ,

When you’re a kid property is power.  When you’re two feet tall and can barely walk, authority is a desirable commodity.  It’s important to let a child maintain control over what is theirs because, really, it’s all he has as a very small person in a very big world.

This makes me wonder about grown up people and their relationship to property.  Are people who are very possessive of their property, and their personal space, exhibiting a prolonged adolescence or even childishness?

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better than my own kind
May 28, 2009, 12:55 am
Filed under: the sweet life | Tags: ,

Animals, even wild ones, provide for children who have suffered human treachery.  Our own kind and all associated trappings or values,  or what have you – comfort, family, home, love – haven’t helped these children who escape it all, or are thrown out, to live alone or with beasts.   Some, as here, prefer it to home; the mutual interest worked out, the simplicity, the peace. 

“In all my travels, the only time I ever slept deeply was when I was with wolves… The days with my wolf family multiplied. I have no idea how many months I spent with them but I wanted it to last forever – it was far better than returning to the world of my own kind. Today, though most memories of my long journey are etched in tones of grey, the time spent with the wolves… is drenched in colour. Those were the most beautiful days I had ever experienced.”

Quote from Misha Defonseca, a Jewish orphan who, from the ages of seven to 11, wandered through occupied Europe in World War II, living on wild berries, raw meat and food stolen from farmhouses, and occasionally teaming up with wolves.

-Feral Children by jfrater on

we bore him away
May 12, 2008, 7:32 pm
Filed under: brave new world | Tags: , , , , , ,

“Blithe was the morning of his burial, with bird and song and sweet-smelling flowers. The trees whispered to the grass, but the children sat with hushed faces. And yet it seemed a ghostly unreal day,—the wraith of Life. We seemed to rumble down an unknown street behind a little white bundle of posies, with the shadow of a song in our ears. The busy city dinned about us; they did not say much, those pale-faced hurrying men and women; they did not say much,—they only glanced and said, “Niggers!”

We could not lay him in the ground there in Georgia, for the earth there is strangely red; so we bore him away to the northward, with his flowers and his little folded hands. In vain, in vain!—for where, O God! beneath thy broad blue sky shall my dark baby rest in peace,—where Reverence dwells, and Goodness, and a Freedom that is free?”

~from W.E.B. Du Bois’ The Souls of Black Folk (1903) in which he describes the Atlanta funeral procession of his infant son