I've just been to a lecture on what is effectively my last module of my degree course, about the American Civil War. I think it is unique amongst the seventeen modules that I've taken in the last couple of years, in that I knew absolutely nothing
about the subject in advance. I must admit, it was a bit of lesser-of-three-evils choice that I didn't think would interest me very much, but it's beginning to capture my attention. The one piece of relatively trivial information I took from today's lecture was that the last survivor of the conflict died in 1959. This shocked me because the little information I had in the back of my head about the war was that it took place in the nineteenth century and was as far removed from the modern world as, for example, the Napoleonic Wars*.
When Harry Patch
died I remember someone on my friends list saying it was a poignant marker of the passing of time, the way the First World War slipped out of living memory. When I was K's age many veterans were still alive, and all my grandparents remembered the war. It still felt like something within a lifetime's reach rather than "history", which it has now become. I'm quite struck by the fact that when the last American Civil War veteran died, my dad was only five years younger than I was last summer, so it would be reasonable to suppose it had a similar impact on his generation as the effect of Harry Patch's death on mine. I suppose for K's generation it'll be the Second World War, or Vietnam. Both felt almost tangible when I was growing up - both my parents talked about their World War II experiences and Vietnam was still going on when I was born. It's odd to think of them sliding into the abstract. It seems so disrespectful just to let such important things go, and if I were ever called upon to justify studying history I think this would be one of my main arguments.
On an unrelated note, I've just watched Caught In The Web
with K. Children's Internet safety is all over the news today and it does worry me. I stopped K from using Moshi Monsters
the other week when I found out people she didn't know could send her messages. She still uses Club Penguin
, which has a system I rather like where other members can only send standard, pre-written "postcards" to people outside of their buddy list. It's hard to strike a balance between protecting her safety and frightening her. The programme we just watched frightened her a little and she said this evening that she didn't want to use the Internet at all any more. I can appreciate how she feels. I remember watching this
when I was about the same age and it frightened the crap out of me. As I mentioned on Facebook, Internet Paedos are the new Stranger Danger.
I guess it all boils down to the same thing. The reason the 80s video frightened me was that I didn't entirely get it. At seven, I had no idea why
dodgy looking men might want to lure me or any other kids into their cars, I just convinced myself there was one on every corner. Similarly, K hasn't got a clue why adults might want to pretend to be children in order to talk to her, but now she is afraid that everyone on the Internet is dodgy. I need to find a way of explaining to her why she needs to be cautious without worrying her unnecessarily and without going into age-inappropriate detail about The P Word. I'm not sure Caught in the Web
got it quite right, but I'm confident it will be something that gets picked up by her school.
Anyway, I think that's quite enough nostalgic rambling from me, and three posts in two days must be some kind of record for me. What were your favourite terror-inducing public information films, viewers?*Actually around fifty years apart.