Salient: Victoria University Students' Paper. Vol. 28, No. 3. 1965.
Most of us are afraid of something. Indeed it seems reasonable to assert that many of us are afraid of quite a number of things. Yet often we are afraid of quite the wrong things, and are not the slightest bit filled with fear when in fact we should be quaking in our shoes.
The term "we" is used with no limitation, but it may be applied with particular aptness, in this context, to the actions of preschool children. Last year 880 preschool children, who should have regarded bottles of poison with an absolute horror, chose instead to make a meal of the contents.
This had an adverse effect on the pre-school children concerned, and amongst the legions of people upset by this ill-advised imbibing, the Hawkes Bay chemists figured prominently. This conscientious group, knowing that the pre-school child cannot read, realised that emblazoning every harmful bottle with the word POISON would have very little effect. So off they set in their search for a symbol. They wanted something which the child who was too young to read would see and associate instantly with danger and fear. One has no doubt that they searched long and diligently.These middle-aged men may well have sifted thousands of symbols which frighten the under-five. And so came their inspired choice.
On a yellow background, in red, above the word poison, came this symbol which is to strike a chord of fear in the breasts of the so-very-young.
And the symbol—a Snake!
Now snakes terrify young New Zealanders. The country swarms with them, and from birth (or from an even earlier time, who knows?) the symbol of a red snake on a yellow background induces the greatest possible awareness of danger.
Some people, of course, may not agree with this. They may feel that, despite this country's superabundance of snakes, a heightened child-awareness of snake symbolism is needed. If this is indeed so, then our benevolent Government must again take over. The Hawkes Bay chemists have pointed the way: now the Government must take snakes around the play-centers and frighten all the little playmates into realisation.
One ugly little thought assails, however. We know that snakes are a symbol of danger. The Hawkes Bay chemists have told us so. So think what irreparable harm may have been done in the past, and is being done now. to the tiny tots who are encouraged must be psychological wrecks. The Hawkes Bay chemists had better look into it.