This blog grew out of two rather disparate things, a thread I followed on Twitter and a conversation I had with my second daughter over a cup of tea. Let me explain.
The thread began when somebody said they thought all living creatures had violence in their genes and that human beings were simply responding to the gene. I took issue with this almost at once, feeling instinctively that they were wrong and that there was nothing natural about human violence, although heaven knows there is plenty of it about. I tried to explain that many living creatures are indeed violent but always for a reason, in defense of their young, in competition for a mate – where the rules of the encounter are so obvious that it seems to me they are genetic – and in order to catch and eat prey. It was an interesting thread because we were all exploring the things we believed and testing them against one another’s opinions.
At one point one of the participants said that if you were a violent person and had hurt somebody else what you had to do was to say sorry to the person you’d hurt and go somewhere and get some help. ‘You are doing something that is perfectly natural’ she said. That filled me with horror, for I cannot see anything natural at all in one human being deliberately hurting another and I’m quite sure that all of us have inbuilt into us a tenderness and kindness that we saw during the Blitz and see now whenever there is a major accident or a terrorist attack. People rush to offer their help. They are kind and gentle.
But it wasn’t until I had tea with my daughter that my thoughts converged and made sense. We were comparing the behaviour of the men and boys in our family and it occurred to us that one of the nicest things they had in common was their capacity for affection and gentleness. We’d both seen it so often and sometimes in a very young little boy and it was a joy to remember it because we both knew where it had come from.
The two men I have loved most in my life were my son and my old darling and they both had it in abundance and gave it freely whenever it was needed, which is why we loved them so much. So I thought i’d put up a few pictures up of my gentle gentlemen. In this one they talking to one another in their gentle, intelligent way, as they so often did.
And the talk and affection began between them almost as soon as our son was born, I just love the total attention on my old darling’s face in this picture. It says it all.
So respec’ to all our Gentle Gentlemen. We are not all violent and you show it.