AFTER allowance has been made for abnormal circumstances. the
social institutions, ideas and habits of groups in the outside world are
to be found reflected in a Prisoner of War Camp. It is an unusual but
a vital society. Camp organisation and politics are matters of real
concern to the inmates, as affecting their present and perhaps their
future existences. Nor does this indicate any loss of proportion.
No one pretends that camp matters are of any but local importance
or of more than transient interest, but their importance there is great.
They bulk large in a world of narrow horizons and it is suggested that
any distortion of values lies rather in the minimisation than in the
exaggeration of their importance. Human affairs are essentially
practical matters and the measure of immediate effect on the lives of
those directly concerned in them is to a large extent the criterion of
their importance at that time and place. A prisoner can hold strong
views on such subjects as whether or not all tinned meats shall be
issued to individuals cold or be centrally cooked, without losing sight
of the significance of the Atlantic Charter.
One aspect of social organisation is to be found in economic activity,
and this, along with other manifestations of a group existence, is to be
found in any P.O.W. camp. True, a prisoner is not dependent on his
exertions for the vrovision of the necessaries. or even the luxuries of
life, but through &his economic activity, the' exchange of goods and
services, his standard of material comfort is considerably enhanced.
And this is a serious matter to the prisoner
he is not
even though the small scale of the transactions and the simple
expression of comfort and wants in terms
cigarettes and jam, razor
blades and writing paper, make the urgency of those needs difficult to
appreciate, even by an ex-prisoner of some three months' standing.
Nevertheless, it cannot be too strongly emphasised that economic
activities do not bulk so large in prison society as they do in the larger
world. There can be little production
as has been said the prisoner
is independent of his exertions for the provision of the necessities and
ltururies of life
the emphasis lies in exchange and the media of
exchange. A prison camp is not to be compared with the seething
crowd of higglers in a street market, any more than it is to be com-
pared with the economic inertia of a family dinner table.
Naturally then, entertainment, academic and literary interests,
games and discussions of the
bulk larger in everyday
life than they do in the life of more normal societies. But it would be