De chair et d'âme by Boris Cyrulnik

By Boris Cyrulnik

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In this way, it is insured that the unavoidable leisure shall cause misery all round instead of being a universal source of happiness. Can anything more insane be imagined? The idea that the poor should have leisure has always been shocking to the rich. In England, in the early nineteenth century, fifteen hours was the ordinary day’s work for a man; children sometimes did as much, and very commonly did twelve hours a day. When meddlesome busybodies suggested that perhaps these hours were rather long, they were told that work kept adults from drink and children from mischief.

Good nature is, of all moral qualities, the one that the world needs most, and good nature is the result of ease and security, not of a life of arduous struggle. Modern methods of production have given us the possibility of ease and security for all; we have chosen, instead, to have overwork for some and starvation for the others. Hitherto we have continued to be as energetic as we were before there were machines; in this we have been foolish, but there is no reason to go on being foolish for ever.

To cure all these troubles simultaneously, it is only necessary to introduce a communal element into architecture. The separate little houses, and the blocks of tenements each with its own kitchen, should be pulled down. In their place there should be high blocks of buildings round a central quadrangle, the south side being left low to admit the sunshine. There should be a common kitchen, a spacious dining hall, and another hall for amusements and meetings and the cinema. In the central quadrangle there should be a nursery school, constructed in such a way that the children could not easily do harm either to themselves or to fragile objects: there should be no steps, no open fires or hot stoves exposed to the touch, plates and cups and saucers should be made of unbreakable material, and generally there should be the utmost possible avoidance of those things that make it necessary to say ‘don’t’ to children.

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