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A few nights ago, I watched a series on pay TV called " The Mill. " Like so many British period dramas, it was bleak, grim, disturbing and hard yakka to get through. 

It took me back to a time, sitting in my country school, back in the 1960's in New Zealand when my country teacher ( later my mentor and all round hero apart from my Dad ) asked one simple question. 

" Have you heard of Lord Shaftsbury? " he asked. 

Well, of course, I had not. Nor had any of my fellow classmates. After all, we were a class made up of children from widely diverse backgrounds. Most of my friends were Maori, Hindu Indian, Moslem, Chinese and Caucasian, from both sides of the financial divide.

I was fortunately on the kinder side of the line that divided poor white from my white. But my friends came from both sides of that curtain and both sides of the diversity curtain that now seems to hang like a shroud over what we once were.

It was one that no one really discussed or acknowledged. To us, as children no curtain existed. We were just friends. Enjoying and accepting life as it came and never really feeling anything other than my feet were no doubt warmer than my friends and wasn't I lucky to have red gumboots and not black ones? Not really considering that so many of my friends had no boots at all. 

It was a strange place to live. Nestled in the hills outside of one of the biggest cities in the country but so far removed from other people's lives it was unremarkable, save its " Diversity. " 

It was a market gardening community and had a strong and rich heritage of farming. Many of my friends ( from my " white " chums, were children of the soldiers who had returned from WW II and been given grants of small dairy farming properties. Others were the offspring of the Indians who came and were diligently planting crops of potatoes grown in the rich volcanic soil. 

The Chinese farmers were busy farming vegetables to feed the growing population - cabbages, cucumbers, pumpkins and all manner of things, depending on the season and time of year. 

 My " poor white friends " and my maori friends were labourers on the farms. I had friends who slept on beds made of hessian sacks that were used to house the "spuds " ( potatoes ) and they came to school in rags and had lunches made from roughly and hastily hacked bread with a slather of local butter and perhaps a dribble of locally harvested honey. 

They never knew the life that I lived, with my Mum and Dad, being greeted with love at the end of a school day. No, they went to pick potatoes, barefoot and they would fall asleep on a bed of hessian sacks whilst I was tucked in by Mum and Dad in my crisp white sheets and nestled down on a bed of comfort and love. 

Yes. I was more fortunate: I came to school in bright red gumboots and had slippers to wear on my feet in the chill and damp of the long and dreary, wet winter that set in every year. 

I was one of the lucky ones. 

This particular day, I went to school, took off my boots that had kept the chilly mud from my feet and hung up my coat that had shielded me from the frigid day outside. My friends had wiped their chillblains and limped into class and sought the warmth of the fire that was blazing in the classroom.  

Fueled by wood, cut by the boys in our class the day before, I might add. 

As we all sat, as 9 and 10 year olds, our teacher said " How many have you heard of Lord Shaftsbury? " 

No one put their hand up. 

Of course we would not. Who on earth, in this isolated and small rural community in New Zealand would have heard of this man? 

Lord Shaftesbury (1801 - 1855), the 7th Earl of Shaftesbury, also known as Anthony Ashley-Cooper, was a social and industrial reformer from England. He is best known for the Tenth Hour Act in 1833, which aimed to reduce the work hours of children. He was also the president of the Ragged School Union, offering education to children as a means of escaping poverty.

During his life he was a respected politician, celebrated for his passion, attitude, knowledge and rhetorical skills. Thanks to him, many acts were passed to improve the working conditions of children and women, as well as to help children go to school.

It was also mainly due to his efforts that contemporary psychiatric hospitals got investigated and made better to help people as opposed to treating them horribly.

Lord Shaftesbury was an important advocate of the Restoration of the Jews to the Holy Land, while he also played a leading role in the 19th century evangelical Anglicanism.

Lord Shaftsbury, a white man, advocated for Women's Liberation and Children's Liberation long before the current mob of leftie luvvies had even heard of the word " LIBERATION. " 

But more on him later in another post. 

Which, by way of this rather lengthy introduction, I bring you to the point of today's article: the treatment of children in times gone by. Part One of our new series. 

My Hindu and Moslem friends would turn 9. Yes Nine years old and they would come to school and tell me that they were very excited because they were going back to India to get married. 

They would disappear and I would think about them getting married and living happily ever after. Oh, how I dreamed about what life they were to have!  Bedecked with bangles, trinkets and jewels. 

I always implored them to write and they said they would. Of course, they never did., They just disappeared into the ether and were never heard from again. 

Over the decades, I have thought about my childhood friends from rural New Zealand and how they gave me bangles and laughed in excitement about going back " home " to marry at 9 years of age. How we clapped our hands and felt so envious that our friends were going to a castle to be treated as Princesses. 

Children are so easily deceived. 

I think my teacher was trying to tell us something. 

I remember him telling us about Lord Shaftsbury and, as my particular friend left that day walked up to shake his hand he said " Nandi, did you hear what I said about Lord Shaftsbury? "

And she replied " Yes Sir! Thank you. He sounds rather nice. "

And off she went, with dreams of going home to India ( a country she had never seen ) and being greeted like a returning Goddess. 

It has been 60 years since that day when she left and gave me some bangles as a gift to celebrate her approaching marriage. I sometimes shudder to think what awaited her as she arrived to be greeted by who knows what and who knows who. 

Every year, little Australian and New Zealand girls head back to the Middle East or other places around the globe with false hope in their hearts and images of joy in their minds.  

The question I have to ask is why do parents allow this? Why do our governments ignore it? 

Why do we allow children to be lectured to by bearded men chanting " Free Palestine " and encouraging their sexual fantasies under the guise of Storytime? 

Why do we allow men to compete against young women in sports? 

Have they not heard of Lord Shaftsbury? 

It has been 60 years since I bade my friend goodbye. And nothing has changed. In fact, it has grown worse. I grew up in a diverse community. How many lefties did? 

I speak with the voice of a life lived. How many of them speak from a life chanted?  How many care about the innocence of children ? Or is it just politics? 

Hmm....

 

 

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