Readers' letters - December 28
Children must learn about cyberspace
Much is made of the misuse of electronics messaging by and to children.
However, nobody seems to mention how this is taught in schools.
In the old days, children were taught to read and write using paper and pencils.
Now it is essential that children are taught at that same age to communicate electronically.
There is an off switch.
Not everything you read on your device is true.
You must check everything;
Any idiot can publish and it will be given equal prominence with real information;
It is impolite to interrupt someone speaking to answer the phone.
Just as it would be impolite to interrupt someone at the table;
Bullying is just as much a nuisance on a device as it is in real life.
If it seems to good to be true, then it is;
Don’t discuss personal and private items on a device.
The whole world is listening. There is no privacy, whatever settings you use;
This is the best device you will own, but also the most dangerous.
Lessons from a classic novel
What could be more festive than to re-acquaint oneself with Dickens’ classic and thought-provoking ghost story, A Christmas Carol?
However heart-warming, at the time of the story’s publication in 1843, society’s sole answer to want and ignorance lay in the Poor Law which ultimately offered the abandoned poor the stark realities of entering the workhouse, being imprisoned or simply dying in poverty.
The second Spirit to visit the miser Scrooge is the giant ghost of Christmas Present.
When he opens his robes to Scrooge, two wild and ragged children tumble out, both emaciated, dirty and a horror to behold in their neediness.
Scrooge enquires about them and the Spirit replies that they belong to the whole of mankind, explaining that the children stand for the evils of man. The need for more that everyone feels is want, and ignorance is all things we ignore and choose to remain oblivious to.
He proclaims: “This boy is Ignorance. This girl is Want. Beware them both, and all of their degree, but most of all beware this boy, for on his brow I see that written which is Doom, unless the writing be erased.” At this point Scrooge cries: “Have they no refuge or resource?”
In response, the Spirit turns on him using Scrooge’s own earlier words and rejoins with: “Are there no prisons. Are there no workhouses?”
This episode is but a brief moment in the story, but it is surely a key moment as it plays a huge part of why the story is still so relevant, considering that ignorance and want remain the prime movers behind so many of the world’s ills.
Dickens was passionate about education for all and was a steadfast campaigner for public libraries.
I have no doubt he would be rightly disgusted to see how little some seem to value them now!
One suspects that Dickens was also ‘having a go’ at his complacent readers, chastising them about their own ignorance that was, in many cases, a wilful ignoring of the plight of their fellow men.
Fast-forward 174 years when thankfully modern society has rejected most of the Victorian horrors experienced by the poor unfortunates who made up the vast majority of the population.
Nevertheless, the unpalatable truth is that current statistics indicate that one in four children are still being brought up in poverty.
Dickens would find this abhorrent, given that he was such a strong proponent of taking care of society’s poor and downtrodden.
Were he to give his story a modern twist, might he not justly update Scrooge’s prophetic words thus: “Are there no soup kitchens? Are there no food banks? Are there no pound shops? Are there no night shelters?”
And particularly relevant in light of today’s homeless adolescent phenomenon; “Are there no sofas to surf on?”
Although A Christmas Carol certainly exposes much vice in human lives, it also depicts much virtue and, for those reasons, it remains way ahead of all its literary competitors, romping home first past the post in the immortal Christmas book stakes.