"What did you think of the death of Bin Laden?" I asked Zac, 15. His face clouded. "Terrible," he said. "We should have tortured him."
"What did you think of the death of Bin Laden?" I asked Ryan, aged 11. He clenched his fists. "We should have tortured him," he said, in a rage.
"Why?" I asked. "He tortured us," he said.
"Who tortured you?" his mother asked, with a smile. "Well, not me, but...."
Once war was all about the fact that the others were bad, but we were good. Decent. With high standards of courage, morals and fair play that always won out in the end. Fine, brave chaps like Biggles endorsed such. Torture? That was the action of the low, evil enemy.
Of course that was probably tosh, but it wasn't a bad idea to put some kind of standards of behaviour into the little barbarians' minds.
Of course Biggles was unacceptably racist, but one would think that judicious editing might clean that up, and make him acceptable again as a kind of role model. The only adult role model for boys these days seem to be, Heaven help us all, footballers.
But Biggles has gone, along with Grace Darling, Father Damien the Lepers' Friend, Oates, Scott, Florence Nightingale et al.
One consequence in Australia of the Vietnam war was the lowering of the age of majority from 21 to 18. This was because of the protests about 18 year olds, unfranchised, being conscripted. It's odd to recall that rather pleasant interlude between leaving school and reaching 21: privileges without responsibility. It's odd to think that that stage of life no longer exists, and I wonder what the ramifications have been. Certainly I find it absurd to read in court reports that "an 18 year old man was charged with...". I don't believe that there is such a thing in our society as an 18 year old man.
I wonder how the ghastly news and images that they have seen from Iraq and Afghanistan will shape these modern kids?