Smoke on the Mountain

[A excerpt from Joy Davidman's prescient 'Smoke on the Mountain' - She could have been writing now, not 60 years ago]

Already our generations are being walled off from each other: teen-agers flock together deaf to all language but their own, young couples automatically drop their unmarried friends, whole magazines address themselves to age groups such as the seventeens or the young matrons or the "older executive type." Vast numbers of people think it "natural" to hate your in-laws, "immature" to ask your parents for advice after your marriage, "abnormal" to value the com­panionship of anyone much older or younger than yourself. And a thousand stories and articles testify to one of the greatest problems of modern life: father and son, mother and daughter, cannot talk to one another with understanding.


Still we are paying too high a price for our gains, paying in terms of juvenile delinquency and adult unhappiness, for those who have never known warmth and love when they were small are seldom capable of much love when they grow big. We pay in restlessness, in desperate pleasure-seeking, in the lack of moral standards—our teeth are set on edge by the sour grapes of our fathers eating. No gain in social efficiency can save a com­munity that offends against the little ones. And let us be honest about it: our modern cities have created a society in which children are in the way.

They are physically in the way, and therefore we find them in the way emotionally too. There are many who do not want them at all, like the girl who recently told this writer that a civilized woman can "realize her creative impulses through self-expression" without needing anything so dirty as a baby! Even those who do want them are sometimes rather shamefaced about it; pregnancy, once something in which a woman gloried, is now treated as a disfigurement to be concealed as long as possible; and giving suck, the greatest joy and greatest need of both mother and child, is quite out of fashion among us. "I'm not a cow!" some women will remark scornfully, as if it were preferable to be a fish.

Worse yet, perhaps, is the taming process we are forced to put our children through in order to keep them alive at all in city streets and city flats. In their infancy we must curb their play, and force adult cautions and restraints on them too soon in their adolescence, on the other hand, we must bend all our efforts to keep them children at an age when our ancestors would have recognized them as grown men and women ready to found families. Our objection to child labour is admirable when it prevents the exploitation of babies in sweatshops, but not when it keeps vigorous young men and women frittering away their energies on meaningless school courses and still more meaningless amusements. Many an eighteen-year-old has declared bitterly that the only time society recognizes him as a man is when it needs him to go out and fight.

Joy Davidman
Smoke on the Mountain (Hodder & Stoughton 1955)
Chapter 5 ‘The Serpent’s Tooth’

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