Posted by Richard Willett - Memes and headline comments by David Icke Posted on 29 February 2024

‘A Kids Book About Immigration’ is as Awful as it Sounds

On a visit to my local library at the weekend my eye was caught by a book with a flashy and colourful, albeit grammatically questionable, cover: a kids [sic] book about immigration, by M.J. Calderon. My children are the children of an immigrant; for years I also lived as an economic migrant in a foreign country; and in any case immigration is up there with the most salient political issues of our time. So I decided to take the book out and see what it has to offer its five- to nine-year-old readers.

I don’t really know what I was thinking. I am a father of small children in the mid-21st century West, so I have become accustomed to being disappointed and dispirited by the nakedly didactic drivel that contemporary children’s authors tend to serve up. Why, then, did I allow hope to trump expectation? I’ve no idea. But, in any event, while the book itself is worse than useless as an actual spur to conversation between parents and children about its subject matter, it does at least have value as an aid to reflection on certain currents within contemporary culture, which are not limited to immigration or kids’ (or even kids) books. Of these, I think there are three that are worth commenting on: first, the replacement of the embodied by the abstract; second, the weaponisation of ‘conversation’; and third, the use of the ‘education’ of children as a solvent to the barrier posed by the family against both the state and commerce.

First, then, a comment about a trend in our media landscape which I have noticed and reflected on from time to time, but which I don’t think is sufficiently widely recognised – the death of fiction per se as having the primary objective of telling a story about particular characters imagined as individual human beings in their own right, and its replacement by an understanding of the role of fiction as chiefly being a model through which to imagine an idealised future or to critique an idealised past. And this seems connected in particular to a preference for abstraction over embodiment: a need to break down the act of storytelling itself into its constituent parts – plot, character, dialogue – so as to maximally instrumentalise each. Story becomes significant only because of what it teaches us; character becomes significant only in the sense of what each character represents; dialogue becomes significant only as a vehicle through which good, or bad, ideas are exposed and taught or criticised respectively. The result is a dissatisfying, two-dimensional, modular approach to fiction, in which the enterprise is reduced to a fitting-together of bits in order to achieve an objective: this character has these characteristics, and so it is important that they be seen to be doing this in this particular moment, and important that they say that.

This is not, I think, how fiction writers of the past would have understood their task, because what they were doing was so much more implicit, intuitive and integrated into the whole. Read any interview with a great writer about his or her process of writing, and you will come across, again and again, the same kind of message: fiction is an exercise through which the writer first discovers the story (this is the word that is very often used) through the telling, and then hones and sharpens it until it is fit for public consumption. It is almost as though it is revealed, rather than invented. Of course, what is being revealed is all within the author’s own mind. But it is almost entirely unearthed from the unconscious rather than carefully plotted or worked out in advance.

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