One of my favourite pastimes when very young was digging up road tar with a lollipop stick, aided by my curly-haired friend Anne from across the street; we probably licked the tar. When not profitably occupied with this, I used to play “alleys” in the gutter – rolling marbles to hit an opponent’s marble, thereby acquiring it. As I recall, the streets were quite dirty by today’s standards: dogs wandered free, no-one stooped and scooped and the gutters were replete with assorted detritus discarded by the less than fastidious inhabitants of Canton, Cardiff. I enjoyed my childhood, including the dirt; now I look askance at my children as they scrub the germs off my grandchildren with smelly antiseptic “wipes”. “A little dirt won’t hurt them”, I say, thinking to myself that they are being deprived of one of childhood’s pleasures – filth.
As an aside, it’s hard not to notice that as we become more obsessively hygienic physically, so we are becoming more polluted spiritually. Hand sanitisers are in every doorway, yet we live in a culture pervaded by pornography, one that holds up homosexual copulation as an exemplary pastime and one which actively suppresses any expression of Christianity in its civil institutions.
It seems that today’s children are deprived in two ways: they are physically too clean for their own good:
Children should be allowed to play in the dirt, research suggests
Scientists have discovered that bacteria on the surface of the skin play an important role in combating inflammation when we get hurt.
The bugs dampen down overactive immune responses, which can lead to rashes or cause cuts and bruises to become swollen and painful.
The findings support previous research which suggests that exposure to germs during early childhood can prime the immune system to prevent allergies.
The so-called “hygiene hypothesis” has previously been used to explain why increasing numbers of children suffer allergies such as eczema and hay fever in more developed countries.
And are being exposed to pollution that won’t come off in the bath:
Children as young as five are simulating sex acts at school because they are exposed to pornography on satellite television and the internet, a senior MP has warned.