Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Harry Potter and the moral education of children and adults alike!

I feel so excited; I have finally managed to get hold of a copy of the long-awaited HP and the Deathly Hallows, courtesy of my friendly, local Malvern library! Of course, I have not finished it yet, barely begun, in fact, and I want to drag it out as long as possible to fully savour the experience... But in the meantime, I would like to take some time out to blog some of my reflections on the book, and the series, so far... ;-))
Children and adults both love it, and for different reasons, I think. Of course, children may miss some of the subtexts, which adults can pick up (as they probably also do with the Simpsons, in fact), but in the sub-texts lies, I believe, the real moral value of the work. Of course, it does not come across as "moral" in the preachy, didactic sense, and a good thing, too, or that would defeat its purpose, and turn everybody off! But, nevertheless, its subtexts contain a deep vein of morality and values for the 21st century, and therein lies its genius: hopefully these values will rub off, by osmosis, so to speak, on children and adults alike... ;-))
We meet a number of interesting characters and creatures throughout the series. We meet the house-elves (subtext: oppressed and enslaved workers who do not even realise the extent of their oppression and slavery: Hermione tries in vain to "raise their consciousness" to some sort of class struggle)... ;-P
We meet the werewolves: in particular the engaging Professor Lupin (subtext: homosexuality as a behaviorally unalterable condition that makes it impossible for him to continue at Hogwarts despite his tenderly affectionate and even paternal relationship to the young Harry)... ;-P
We meet those denigrated as "Mudbloods" by the cold and supercilious Slytherians, in particular our co-heroine Hermione (subtext: racism in all its forms)... ;-P
In the seventh book we also get to hear of a "Squib" (magically deficient wizard looked down upon by other more proficient wizards), the very sister of Dumbledore in fact, who suffered, interestingly enough, the "inverse fate" of Harry himself, finding herself locked up and hidden away by a wizard family, as his Muggle family had locked him up and hidden him away (subtext: intellectual disability)...
Hmm, do you see the moral and political agenda emerging yet, as I do?
One of my fellow disability workers agrees with all of this and identifies "He Who Must Not Be Named" as Hitler himself, and if we equate Voldemort with Hitler, then this seventh book must surely equate to the "holocaust", as the Mudbloods get rounded up, and everyone must have certificates of "racial purity", etc. Truly scary stuff! The Ministry of Magic overtaken and infiltrated by the Death Eaters now becomes Hitler's Nazi Party... ! ;-P
Of course, the Nazis liked to see themselves as all very "scientific" with their policy of racial purity, but we know it now to amount to a very dubious form of "pseudo-science" at best. Because the very idea of "racial purity" amounts to a form of evolutionary suicide. To deprive a breed, any breed, of a diversity of genes in its gene pool, is to shoot itself in the foot. For example, Eurasians seem smarter on the whole than either Europeans or Asians; mongrel dogs seem much smarter and better balanced on the whole than purebred dogs. Consider the very inbred European royal families (the Danish princess Mary at least brings an evolutionary breath of fresh air into this dismal picture!). I cannot for the life of me see why people, except out of a misguided sense of snobbery, would want to spend large amounts of money for a "purebred" dog, when they actually purchase a bunch of hereditary defects that will end up costing them even more money in the long run; you would seem far better off heading down to the local pound to pick up a regular, unwanted mongrel, who would in the end turn out healthier, smarter, less neurotic and a better dog all around, for life, and a better life span at that!
At first, in the beginning of book 7, the equation of werewolves with homosexuality, at least, seemed suddenly on shaky ground, when Lupin wanted to get married (I just thought, "What the...?"). But then that particular subtext confirmed itself yet again, when no sooner had he fathered a child with Tonk, than he wanted, strangely, just to take off with Harry Potter again... My lesbian friend assures me that Tonk in fact can look after, not only herself, but also her child, and has her own agenda! ;-))
Interestingly, Lupin, in the subtext, slightly ego-dystonic, i.e. a not very "happy gay", seems concerned that any child of his may also equate to "half-werewolf", i.e. he has concerns for a possible genetic component to his condition. The idea of a possible genetic component in homosexuality seems a two-edged sword for gays. On the one hand, if we do discover a gene definitely linked to homosexuality, hard-core homophobes will want to abort any child carrying the gene... as they might also want to abort any child carrying a gene for certain disabilities! On the other hand, the religious right may just find itself hoist with its own petard, and itself wondering whether to "abort or not to abort" a child who almost inevitably will commit what they regard as an "abominable sin"... They may well find the joke on them, and gays may well find themselves completely off the hook, for simply following the genetic dictates of their own nature... ;-))
You can preach against the evils of all these forms of discrimination till you get blue in the face, and, as long as people continue to cling to their ignorant stereotypes, history seems bound to repeat itself in all manner of "holocausts". But, as long as J.K.Rowling continues her "good fight" (much as she did in her 19thC past life as Charles Dickens, imho?), the consciousness of the masses will continue to rise with her leaven, disguised in the cunning form of a ripping good yarn... Interestingly, this time around, she does not need to churn as many books as she did as Charles Dickens (who himself singlehandedly instigated many much-needed reforms with his books, as the reforms of the notorious "poor boys' schools" in the north of England, with Nicholas Nickleby, for example), having got all her moral and political agenda down pat in a well-crafted series of seven ripping yarns! And, hopefully, as it leavens the consciousness of present and future generations alike, we need never repeat such unfortunate historical episodes as the holocaust, because people's moral natures will instinctively recoil from their premises... "Nie wieder!" The self-righteous fundamentalists who want to ban these books from their children's libraries, hearts and minds, do not realise the injustice they do their own children, by depriving them of a moral and political education based on real, as opposed to merely theological and religious values!
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