Book review: Revolution Within
Published by Praxis, price £8. ISBN 0-9545 062 0 0
Sammy Kunina has written an impassioned plea for the child's right to be recognised as a person, and to have all the freedoms that personhood implies. She tells us that she often wept as she wrote, so strongly does she feel that children in our present society are prevented from developing, forced to absorb capitalist values, groomed to accept man's dominance over woman.
Kunina herself nearly died in hospital when she was a child, and she wrote books. These books were, she writes, 'illustrated with wax crayons, pictures sellotaped to the text, pages and pages stapled together, written in the language of make believe, loop after loop joined together in imitation of the grown up writing I had seen but couldn't read. Those words told the story of a dying child ,but nobody could read them. Even I forgot what they meant.' This book is her reaction as an adult to that incomprehensible text she wrote as a child.
Kunina quotes a passage from Of Woman Born, by Adrienne Rich, describing a short, happy period of family life without men, routine or rules. Her personal views are presumably based on similar experiences of her own, but she does not tell us about them. Her rhetoric is strong but she provides little evidence. She just appeals, over and over again, for a new, libertarian approach to parenting. The child must be free, whatever the cost to the parent. This, she believes, will result in the child being happy. Co-operation between generations she condemns as domination of the weak by the strong.
She longs for children to experience 'truly autonomous living and learning,' but she underestimates children's natural empathy and good sense. In her ideal family 'there isn't even a whiff of any expectation that children will please anybody except themselves.' She describes children's 'need to please their parents' as 'a requirement which all parents instil in their children, at some level, from infancy onwards.' The idea that children may love their parents and wish to please them for that reason alone is not considered.
Kunina's longing to put right the wrongs she suffered herself leads her to see similar suffering all around her; she writes about feelings, injustices, indoctrination and theories but she does not write about children.