Friday, November 19, 2010

Harry Potter: A Childhood Immunization Against Philistinism?

"Dont let the Muggles get you down."

Among the many life lessons of the Harry Potter books are these:
  1. Those who live outside the magical world are to be pitied.
  2. Those who stubbornly refuse to acknowledge the reality of magic are motivated by fear.
  3. The ability to work with magic is a gift to be cherished and cultivated, even though it might inspire fear and denial from non-magical people.
Obviously, Potter-mania flies in the face of the world-view of those who wish to stigmatize "magical thinking". And it's a good thing, too, since so many people today (it seems like an ever increasing number) boorishly insist on associating anything that remotely resembles belief in magic with mental illness or congenital stupidity.

Children who are raised on JK Rowling's writings, however, are forewarned and forearmed. The world is, indeed, full of "Muggles", who are either completely unaware that magic exists at all, or recoil in horror from it.

Rowling also, especially through the deeply humane and magnificently human example of the Weasley family, and Arthur Weasley in particular (as well as through the negative example of the ugly anti-Muggle bigotry of the followers of He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named), teaches us to be kind to and tolerant of Muggles, at least up to a point. All (indeed, most) Muggles are not like the Dursleys, and many Witches and Wizards, even non-Death-Eaters like Dolores Umbridge and a number of other apparatchiks at the Ministry of Magic, are nevertheless thoroughly contemptible human beings.