Monday, May 17, 2004

Young Men in Shorts

An engaging article by Christopher Hitchens on Robert Baden-Powell can be found on the Atlantic Monthly website. Hitchens manages to cram in references to Flashman, masturbation, Hitler and Pink Floyd, and in so doing, he manages to give one much food for thought.

There is something alluring about the message of scouting, with its emphasis on a code of honorable behavior, physical activity and life outdoors - I can attest as much at first-hand, having at one point been an avid scout myself - but there is also quite a great deal that is disturbing about the whole thing, especially in the cold light of history. There's nothing like watching Triumph of the Will and seeing those enthusiastic youths singing "Uns're fahne flattert uns voran ..." to bring home to one the potential of the scouting movement for indoctrinating impressionable young boys in militarism, nationalism and the police state; nor is there anything at all surprising about this, given the historical pedigree of the scouting movement, as made clear by Christopher Hitchens.