We asked David Boyd Haycock to comment on his current work and ideas that have influenced him…
Which of your own ideas have you been thinking about most recently?
The idea that as (through year-on-year economic growth) the nation gets richer, it ought to be possible for individuals to work less, rather than to work more (which is what we appear to do); and the idea that we ought to be dedicating less of our time to the endless pursuit of stuff, and more of it to the pursuit of well-being – our own, our families’, our neighbours’, and the well-being of the environment as a whole. The current economic climate might have temporarily blown this idea out of the water, but the proposal of getting by on enough, rather than on more than enough, ought not to be the ambition of just the poor (or of the impoverished writer!) but of us all.
What idea of someone else has made most impact on you recently?
The idea that parents/adults are conduits for channelling, formulating and stimulating the developing emotions, behaviour and social awareness of children, and the rejection of the idea that ‘too much’ love or attention might somehow spoil a child. As the father of a young boy, ideas on child-centred childrearing have been uppermost in my mind, and they were originally brought to my attention by my wife, Susannah Wilson. Key reading has included, Jean Liedloff’s The Continuum Concept (1975), Oliver James’sThey F*** You Up: Surviving Family Life (2002), Steve Biddulph’s The Complete Secrets of Happy Children (2002) and Margot Sunderland’s The Science of Parenting(2006). All are packed with ideas on how we can create happier children, and (quite explicitly) a happier society.
What is the most important book/article of ideas that everyone should read and why?
Probably George Monbiot’s Heat: How We Can Stop the Planet Burning (2007) – an optimistic book filled with ideas, firstly on how to protect our environment, and secondly on what a future low carbon economy might look like. Whether we like it or not, the environment (from global warming and over population to increasing resource scarcity) will be the big issue of the 21st century, and this book gives plenty of honest ideas and possible answers.
And finally, each year we ask everyone involved – audiences as well as speakers – one question. Charles Masterman, Liberal Party politician and journalist, asked in his book The Condition of England 100 Years Ago: “What will the future make of the present?” What is your answer to this?
Wasteful – of the resources of the environment, and of our time; and of lacking foresight, in failing to plan for the future, whilst being over obsessed with our own well being. A century ago, the artist CRW Nevinson observed that English society was more obsessed with how much money a man had made, rather than what he had created. We’ve not changed much: money and all its trappings remain over emphasised, whilst the things that are provided for free – by the natural world – are too widely undervalued, underappreciated or overexploited.
David Boyd Haycock is the author of books William Stukeley, Paul Nash and now ACrisis of Brilliance. He has held research fellowships at Wolfson College Oxford, the University of New South Wales, the Centre for 17th and 18th Century Studies UCLA, and the London School of Economics. For almost two years he was a curator at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich. His interests include longevity, archaeology, the history of art, biography and the environment. www.davidboydhaycock.co.uk.