Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Why Enid Blyton is responsible for Brexit

When someone tried to blame Ladybird Books for the rise of Daniel Hannan, I waded in to defend them. Because Ladybird were probably the most progressive publishers of children's book of their era.

I ended that post with:
There are other children's books you can blame for the Brexit cast of mind - see my own exposé of Enid Blyton's proto fascism on the Guardian website - but Ladybird Books are innocent (in more than one sense of the word).
But Ella Risbridger had already pinned the blame for Brexit in an article for Prospect:
The Famous Five rarely face any kind of consequences. For anything. The Famous Five do what they want. The Famous Five go where they like. Footpath signs are nothing to them. They just turn up; sometimes pay the farmer a courtesy visit to inform him they’ll be building fires and trampling his heather into beds; ask the farmer’s wife (always the wife!) for a bag of buns and a bottle of ginger beer; and on they go. Sometimes they pay for the buns. More often the farmer’s wife is so happy to see such cheerfully-entitled little prodigies that she hands the buns over free of charge. 
In exchange, the Five will chase any other trespassers off the farmer’s land, or out of the mysterious mines, or wherever they happen to be. “Trespassers”? I mean: “gypsies,” “tinkers,” swarthy-looking strangers, people who work for the circus, people with non-RP accents, people who don’t speak English, foreigners in general. That sort of thing. 
We can go anywhere, you see, but we’ve got to keep the foreigners out. The political parallel is so glaringly obvious, when you look at it, that you can’t stop looking at it.
And she concludes:
White, middle-class English people in their fifties grew up on Blyton’s portrayal of a world built exclusively for them, and grew into a world far more diverse, difficult, and interesting. You see where the disconnect comes from: a sense of unfulfilled entitlement, subsequent resentment, and dangerously flawed leaps in logic. If the diverse world lacks this kind of childhood, then the diverse world is to blame; if we made the world less diverse, we would be enabling that kind of childhood.
I grew up on the books of Malcolm Saville, who offered a more benign, one-nation Tory version of that world.

He did not, for instance, share Enid Blyton's racist take on gypsies. As I once blogged:
It is not just that the Gypsies Reuben and Miranda are good characters in the early Lone Pine stories: it is that you can tell other characters worth by their attitudes towards them. Good characters like the Gypsies, but the baddies hate them.
So thanks a bunch, Enid.


Anonymous said...

when your political leaders make the world 'more diverse and dangerous' without any 'by your leave' you know that cheerful childhood -however unreal- is now taboo.

Jonathan Calder said...

A comment that supports Ella Risbridger's argument.