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Child Like Innocence?
Children, like the rich, are never innocent. For sheer, red-faced egocentric arrogance you cannot beat the newborn child. Only in very powerful and very rich old men will you see the sort of blank, unforgiving stare that comes from the eyes of everybody's baby but your own. Granted that the newly bathed and powdered infant, temporarily gurgling with sensory enjoyment and Freudian satisfaction does briefly look like a cheerful being, but this is only to delude its parents. They are the real innocents.
Delude them into believing that they are going to get a night's sleep, when in fact the little monster is planning to kill them both with insomnia. Freud was wrong, children want to kill both of their parents.
Let the little beggars grow up a bit, become independently mobile and it is soon apparent that all children arc natural vandals, by the side of whom Attila the Hun takes on the demure modesty of a Mother Superior. Books, china, carpets, wallpaper, furniture- they are all destroyed or disfigured with a speed and silent efficiency which makes Whelan the Wrecker look like the National Trust.
It was the Victorians who invented this idea of childhood innocence.
They were so incurably romantic that they found no inconsistency between oppressive child labor and the sentimental garbage about Little Nell and Little Lord Fauntleroy. And old daddy Wordsworth, the most gaga of the lake poets who should have been firmly booted into Lake Windermere, he wrote yards of pseudo theological daffodil-sodden pantheism about intimations of immortality from recollections of early childhood, telling us that 'not in entire forgetfulness and not in utter nakedness, but trailing', God help us, 'clouds of glory do we come'.
'Heaven', he would say to his sister Dorothy, downing another pint of foaming brookwater, 'Heaven lies about us in our infancy'. One wonders where the man spent his own infancy. Though come to th ink of it, he was born in the aptly-named town of Cockermouth. But did young Will never look around a school playground? About as innocent as the New York branch of the Mafia. Every school has its own Cosa Nostra, an elite of thugs who take their simple pleasures in bullying the other children. Thank God we do eventually grow up , if we're lucky. But as for the innocence of childhood, I find myself, for once in agreement with the tougher and more traditional theologians, who stressed the fact of original sin.