Throughout the community there is a stir and excitement that is reflecting on the children. There are so many desirable luxuries in the world now, so many revealed by movie and symbolized by the automobile, the cabaret, the increasing vulgarity of the theater (the disappearance of the drama and the omnipresent girl and music show), a restless search for pleasure throughout the community even before the War, have not missed the child.
All these things make the lot of the housewife harder in so far as the training of her children is concerned. She is dealing with a more alert, more sophisticated, more sensuous child,—and one who knows his place and power. The press and the theater both have knowledge of this and a recent witty play dealt with the sins of the children, paraphrasing of course the classic of a bygone day, “Sins of the Fathers.” And a wise old gentleman said to his grandson recently, when the lad complained about his mother, “Of course you are right. Every son has a right to be obeyed by his mother.”
I am by no means a pessimist. Every forward step has its bad side, but nevertheless is a forward step. It is in the nature of things that we shall never reach a millennium, though we may considerably improve the value and dignity of human life. Democracy has a role in the world of great importance,—but the spread of education and opportunity to the mass may make it more difficult for the best ideals and customs to survive in the avalanche of mediocrity that becomes released by the agencies that profit by appealing to the mass. So, too, the rise of the woman and child bring us face to face with new problems, which I think are less difficult problems than those they have superseded and replaced, but which are yet of importance.
And a great problem is this: how to individualize the child and keep from spoiling him; how to give him freedom and pleasure, and keep him from sophistication.
POVERTY AND ITS PSYCHICAL RESULTS
In the story of Buddha it is related that it was the shock of learning of the existence of four great evils which aroused his desire to save mankind. These evils were Old Age, Sickness, Death, and Poverty. Theologians and the sentimentalists are unanimous in their praise of poverty,—the theologians because they seek their treasure in heaven, and the sentimentalists because they are incorrigible dodgers of reality, because they cannot endure the existence of evil. But Buddha knew better, and the common sense of mankind has shown itself in the desperate struggle to reach riches.
We have spoken of the part played by the physical disadvantages of poverty in causing the nervousness of the housewife. It is not alleged or affirmed that all poor housewives suffer from the neurosis,—that would be nonsense. But poor food, poor housing, poor clothing, the lack of vacations, the insufficient convalescence from illness and childbirth are not blessings nor do they have anything but a bad effect, an effect traceable in the conditions we are studying.