“Every generation western civilization is invaded by barbarians….  We call them children.”

-Hannah Arendt, philosopher.

There is a trick to civilizing little boys; and it lies in recognizing that they are just that – little boys. Trite though that may seem, getting this right is the only way to preserve western civilization. Alarmist, you say? Consider history.

Editor’s Note: Click here for Part 1, here for Part 2here for Part 3, and here for Part 4 in the series on the best books for boys.

There was a time when the inhabitants of Britain were a rather rough bunch of chaps.  When Julius Caesar first encountered them, he wrote this:

“Omnes vero se Britanni vitro inficiunt, quod caeruleum efficit colorem, atque hoc horribiliores sunt in pugna aspectu…” (In fact all Britanni stain themselves with glaze which produces a dark blue color, and by this means have a horrible aspect in battle.)

Over the next few centuries, of course, the Romans “civilized” the Britanni in the areas of the island which they controlled. Civilized them too much in fact….  (Visit sometime the Roman baths in… well… Bath, U.K., where it is easy to imagine the effeminate, paunch-bellied layabouts much of their manhood had become, dropping grapes in their mouths, and otherwise enjoying the good life.)

In the parts of the island the Romans did not control (north of Hadrian’s Wall in what is now Scotland, and areas in what is now Wales and Cornwall) Britanni boys were still being raised “to pick up a weapon and stand a post” as we say today, and thus posed a threat to their more “civilized” cousins. When the Romans left the British Isles, these Romanized Celts had to fend for themselves, a task for which they had not prepared their sons to accomplish. And so they hired Anglo-Saxon mercenaries to do their fighting for them. The rest is history…  English is spoken throughout the world, while Celtic languages only survive in the corners of Britain where the Romans couldn’t — or  wouldn’t — go.

The Romans left Britain because they were having some of the same issues.  They had to hire Goth boys to do what Roman boys could not, or would not do – face off against the surging Huns. Attila never sacked Rome, though he came close.  It wouldn’t have been much of an accomplishment anyway. Rome had already been sacked decades earlier by Alaric… the Goth.

Today, we may not need to train every boy to be a soldier (or sailor, Marine or airman) but we are fast approaching a time when we will be producing either unhinged savages or “failure to launch” basement-dwelling mama’s boys. In their book The Boy Crisis: Why Our Boys Are Struggling and What We Can Do About It authors Warren Farrell and John Grey point to some of the obvious causes of the crisis, such as dad-deprivation, ADHD and the feminization of culture, but the over-arching cause they call the “purpose void.”  (This, by the way, is what the main character in Johnny Tremain suffered from, until he found a purpose beyond himself in the cause of the Sons of Liberty. See this series’ previous post.)

It will be a long, hard road to correct the deep-seated cultural causes of the boy crisis, but there is something we can easily do right now – give our boys historically-based fiction that will not only seat them deeply in their own culture, but will be fun to read, and satisfy the cravings of a young boy’s imagination. The authors above pointed out that in the past,

“The traditional boy’s journey to self-sacrifice incorporated service to others, and required responsibility, loyalty, honor, and accountability. It created his mission. And his mission created his character.”

Are there historical books today for our boys that assist them on this journey – ones that will actually get and keep their attention? Damned few…  A quick glance online for YA historical fiction for boys yielded slim pickin’s.

One that caught my eye was Code Talker: A Novel About the Navajo Marines of World War Two by Joseph Bruchac. So I read it. Not bad, but the “listen grandchildren” point of view and the obvious, politically correct irony that the language discouraged to the point of harsh discipline in the reservation schools would become so valuable to the war effort, made the narration seem like the lectures of a high school history teacher. If you wanna write about Marines to grab the boys, try less talkin’ and more shootin’,  as in for example here and here.

If we go about blithely tolerating the attempts to twist our little boys into little girls, we should keep in mind that the day may come soon –and it will come – when we will have to ask those boys to secure a beachhead under fire:

And on that day, we will be praying that the “twisting” didn’t take.


David Churchill Barrow is a regular Liberty Island contributor and along with his wife, MaryLu Barrow, is the author of the young adult novella Silver and Lead.

Photo by vborodinova (Pixabay), Images via Strategoria Wiki and WW2 Gravestones.

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