14 December 2016

Does Santa Claus really exist?

Belief in Santa could affect parent-child relationships, warns study
Hannah Devlin, Science correspondent
theguardian, Wednesday 23 November 2016

Spoiler alert: this article contains sensitive information about the existence of Santa Claus. Children may wish to look away now.

Parents, though, are being urged to re-consider the ethics of the great Santa Claus lie. In an article published in the journal Lancet Psychiatry, two psychologists have raised the spectre of children’s moral compass being permanently thrown off-kilter by what is normally considered a magical part of the Christmas tradition.

The darker reality, the authors suggest, is that lying to children, even about something fun and frivolous, could undermine their trust in their parents and leave them open to “abject disappointment” when they eventually discover that magic is not real.

Kathy McKay, a clinical psychologist at the University of New England, Australia and co-author, said: “The Santa myth is such an involved lie, such a long-lasting one, between parents and children, that if a relationship is vulnerable, this may be the final straw. If parents can lie so convincingly and over such a long time, what else can they lie about?”

Levelling with your children so close to the big event may put a bit of a dampener on festivities, but parents must sometimes take the long view, according to McKay. “There is potential for children to be harmed in these lies,” she said.

McKay’s moral stance on Santa may collide with real life in the near future if her three-year-old goddaughter makes inquiries on the subject. “She believes in Santa at the moment and it’s not my role to go against her parent’s wishes,” she said. “She’s never asked me about Santa ... when she does, I’ll tell her because I want my goddaughter to grow up knowing that there will always be safety and honesty with us.”

The article’s first author, Chris Boyle, a psychologist at the University of Exeter and the lead author, has a less hard-line position. “I’m not planning to go through the streets of Exeter dropping leaflets through doors,” he said, and admits that he would probably play along with the story if he had children of his own.

However, he is critical of those who invoke Santa’s potential no-show as the ultimate punishment for bad behaviour. “Some parents use it as a tool of control when they’re under a bit of pressure in the lead-up to Christmas,” said Boyle. “It’s potentially not the best parenting method. You’re talking about a mythical being deciding whether you’re getting presents or not.”

The authors advance several psychological explanations for why the “collective lie on a global scale” persists. First, humans have a strong tendency to conform, even when a behaviour is illogical. Second, all the evidence suggests that even adults have a strong urge to escape reality through make-believe. “We’re trying to hark back to our glory days as children,” said Boyle.

The two are not the first to question why society perpetuates the Santa myth. Richard Dawkins has previously questioned whether children should be encouraged to believe in Santa and scientifically implausible fairy tales. “I think it’s rather pernicious to inculcate into a child a view of the world which includes supernaturalism,” he said in a 2014 talk. However, Dawkins later said that Santa could, in fact, “equip the child to reject supernaturalism when the time comes”.

23 August 2016

15 years on from 11th September 2001 ("9/11")...


Lee: My name is Lee Hanson.

Eunice: I’m Eunice Hanson.

Lee: We’re here to talk about our children - Peter, our son, Sue Kim, our daughter in-law, and our granddaughter Christine Lee - who were all killed on 9/11 while flying on United Airlines 175. The morning of the eleventh we got up and we were having breakfast. We were talking about the kids taking the trip and it was Christine’s first trip in an airplane. And um, the phone rang and it was Peter, and he said: “Dad, we’ve been hijacked”. He said: “I think they’ve already killed somebody and I don’t think the pilot’s in control of the plane.” I hung up and I called the police and they said: “A plane’s crashed into the World Trade Center and you ought to turn your television on.” Uh, then I waited. I didn’t want to call Peter because I didn’t want to attract any attention to him. He called again and told me he thought they were going to crash into a building because they’d been talking about it. He said: “Well don’t worry Dad, if they do, it will be quick.” And, just after that, Peter very quietly said: “Oh my God, oh my God, oh my God.” Then I heard what sounded like a woman screaming, and everything was cut off. We turned to the television.

Eunice: And we saw the plane burst into flames and the building explode. And uh, I wanted to reach out, I said: “my kids are on that plane.” I kept shaking my head. “This isn’t real, this can’t happen.” To this day, Peter’s friends are in contact with me, and, I get cards and pictures of their children. I should be happy for them, and I am. But I think “I don’t have that anymore.” I have nothing of the people I love the most. It had to be that they stayed together right to the end, died in each other’s arms.

7 April 2016

Remembering the Easter Rising...

Afficher l'image d'origine
A rebel is executed...

Easter, 1916 by W. B. Yeats

I have met them at close of day
Coming with vivid faces
From counter or desk among grey
Eighteenth-century houses.
I have passed with a nod of the head
Or polite meaningless words,
Or have lingered awhile and said
Polite meaningless words,
And thought before I had done
Of a mocking tale or a gibe
To please a companion
Around the fire at the club,
Being certain that they and I
But lived where motley is worn:
All changed, changed utterly:
A terrible beauty is born.

That woman's days were spent
In ignorant good will,
Her nights in argument
Until her voice grew shrill.
What voice more sweet than hers
When young and beautiful,
She rode to harriers?
This man had kept a school
And rode our winged horse.
This other his helper and friend
Was coming into his force;
He might have won fame in the end,
So sensitive his nature seemed,
So daring and sweet his thought.
This other man I had dreamed
A drunken, vain-glorious lout.
He had done most bitter wrong
To some who are near my heart,
Yet I number him in the song;
He, too, has resigned his part
In the casual comedy;
He, too, has been changed in his turn,
Transformed utterly:
A  terrible beauty is born.

Hearts with one purpose alone
Through summer and winter, seem
Enchanted to a stone
To trouble the living stream.
The horse that comes from the road,
The rider, the birds that range
From cloud to tumbling cloud,
Minute by minute change.
A shadow of cloud on the stream
Changes minute by minute;
A horse-hoof slides on the brim;
And a horse plashes within it
Where long-legged moor-hens dive
And hens to moor-cocks call.
Minute by minute they live:
The stone's in the midst of all.

Too long a sacrifice
Can make a stone of the heart.
O when may it suffice?
That is heaven's part, our part
To murmur name upon name,
As a mother names her child
When sleep at last has come
On limbs that had run wild.
What is it but nightfall?
No, no, not night but death.
Was it needless death after all?
For England may keep faith
For all that is done and said.
We know their dream; enough
To know they dreamed and are dead.
And what if excess of love
Bewildered them till they died?
I write it out in a verse --
MacDonagh and MacBride
And Connolly and Pearse
Now and in time to be,
Wherever green is worn,
Are changed, changed utterly:
A terrible beauty is born.

  • For a reading of Easter, 1916: click HERE!
  • What is this poem about? Click HERE!
  • Click HERE to know more about Yeats (Nobelprize.org)!
  • What was the Easter Rising? Click HERE for a video explainer from The Guardian!
  • For a more detailed history of the Rising, click HERE (The Telegraph)!
  • 100th anniversary celebrations: click HERE to read an article and watch videos (The Telegraph)!
  • Can violent rebellion ever be justified? Click HERE to read an article in THE DAY!