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Discussion 2 on Meditation 32
Thoughts arising out of Meditation 32

by Guy Gratton

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Ihave a confession to make. I have read, so-far, all of the Harry Potter books. I have also read a great deal of Shakespeare which, whilst in this day and age a little less accessible, contains plots at-least as well crafted as those of Ms Rowling. I also grew up a fan of the works of Enid Blyton.

What these two have in common is complex plots, involving at-times improbably characters. They also both contain magicians, a wide variety of supernatural creatures, and occasionally either happy or unhappy endings.

At the time and place I went to junior school (Britain in the 1970s) some schools chose to ban the works of Enid Blyton. This was apparently because of a combination of a guaranteed happy ending, and the idealistic explanation of a comfortable middle-class lifestyle. There was also that bit about “Gollywogs” being the baddies in Noddy books, so they all got quietly re-written after Mrs Blyton’s death and if you buy a Noddy book for your child now the baddies have become “Goblins”, and the pictures of noddy and big-ears sharing a big bed have probably been chopped out as well.

Yet strangely, I haven’t heard a mention of new attempts to censor Enid Blyton for at-least 20 years, and in-fact recently happened upon a celebration at a Castle I was visiting in Dorset (apparently it was the basis for some of her books) and a very concerted effort to “push” the Enid Blyton books on any passing child – and why on earth not !

So, moralists have tried to ban Enid Blyton; Christians have tried to ban JK Rowling, yet strangely there is no record of anybody trying to ban Shakespeare.[1] Yet Bill Shakespeare with his evil Wizard in “The Tempest”; the incest, rape and mutilation in “Titus Andonicus”, and not to mention the evil witches in “Macbeth” goes far further than either of these, and is required reading in probably every school in the English speaking world.

So what conclusion can be draw from this? Well, the best I can achieve is that perhaps there is a breed of human being who finds security in stability, and does not wish to encounter change. Shakespeare is fine because he was around in our grandparents time. Blyton is now fine because she was around in our parents time, but for our parents generation there was a problem. Rowling is not fine because she is new and not yet become part of the furniture – I would be prepared to bet that in 30 years time the schools currently banning her work will be using her books as set-texts, just as they probably are now with Enid Blyton.

And religion has a similar aspect doesn’t it? An established religion (pick any one of your choice) has been around for a long time and has therefore the respectability of being older than we are. Somebody establishes a new religion (and as an Agnostic, who am I to argue that a new revelation and associated belief set is more or less sound than one 1000, 2000 or 3000 years old) and it becomes a cult to be put down. Look at the treatment of the Mormon church 100-150 years ago, whilst now it has perfectly respectable churches in most towns large towns in many countries. The Scientologists are somewhere 50-100 years behind the Mormons and no doubt in our grandshildren’s time will simply be another “world religion” to be studied and written about.

Even atheism, which would have somebody branded a social outcast – certainly here in England, a century ago is now a socially acceptable belief set (although it still has you banned from being a Scout leader!).

Can society as a whole find a better approach to accepting either literature or belief than how long it’s been about? Probably not, but it would be nice wouldn’t it !


  1. Editor's note: Banned? Perhaps not. But he certainly has been published in expurgated or bowdlerized versions. See Meditation 78 which was inspired by memories arising out of reading this submission.