Education

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What I really mean is, with apologies to Pink Floyd: “we don’t need no education.”  Actually, I am rather ashamed of this cartoon. When I drew it, I called it “Pussy Grab 100.” I was thinking of the need for sex education in schools and at all levels of society. Then I thought of all the ways in which people were actually learning to abuse each other, rather than learning what ‘the other’ is about and how to get on with her or him or them. Sometimes we forget that man is born of woman, not the other way round, in spite of the mysterious magic of the legendary Adam’s Rib. And remember: there was only one Adam and only one rib. In addition, not many people, adults or children, leap full grown and  fully-armed from the thigh of an Alpha Male Greek or Roman god. Respect for the mother and the potential mother, surely this is the first thing that every child in every walk of life must learn.

Men should be learning to treat women with dignity and respect, not to trample upon them and abuse their rights. Women should be learning to respect themselves and their bodies. In my book women should maintain control over their own bodies. If there is indeed an international code of human rights, and if it is indeed still being respected, then surely we should be thinking of a parallel international code of women’s rights. It would contain the right to self-determination, the right to be protected, not by superior male members of the same family, but by a code of laws that allow women to move forward as independent human beings with inalienable rights of their own. These would include  a right to health care for themselves and their off-spring, a right to education and self-education for themselves and their children, a right to a space in which to bring up their families in safety and in harmony with the earth and its more humane principles.

I hear a whisper in my ear … but the principles under which human beings live are the laws of the jungle, nature red in tooth and claw, might is right, entitlement to the amount of justice that humans can afford to purchase, the right of the powerful to grab everything they want and make it their own, the right of the male head of the family to determine the fate of his women and off-spring, the right to attend male sex education classes that begin with Pussy Grab 100 and continue with a series of lessons that would make the venerable Marquis de Sade blush and turn over in his grave. And remember, while the Marquis de Sade wrote in impeccable French, such modern day lessons can now be found online, in verbal and visual form, and for free.

Democracy: for me, one of the keys to democracy is the way in which the majority treats the minority (or minorities) over which it has gained power. Is there an understanding of the minority point of view, consideration of the needs and desires of the minority? If so, then democracy functions. If not, then cultural rights, language rights, educational rights, human rights are swept away, legislated out of existence, scattered like leaves before a hurricane force wind that shows no mercy. When that happens, we have de-mock-racy not democracy. When de-mock-racy happens, it’s winner take all, and may the gods help the hindmost to help themselves to scrabble for whatever remainders they can glean.

Hash Brownies

It’s funny, really … after years and ears of avoiding illegal recreational drugs, of urging students and athletes to be natural and clean, after politely and rudely saying “No” to pushers and pushing them aside … the least (so they say) of those recreational drugs (marijuana) is now legal and on sale in Canada in government sponsored and approved stores. Did I waste my life in the advocacy of cleanliness and health only to discover that what I was advocating against is now perfectly legal, and excellent, and good, and makes tax money and profit for the government?

One thing’s for sure: I’ve been clean since birth, and I am not starting now, not on recreational drugs that were previously illegal. That said, my friends who suffer, as I do, from osteo-arthritis assure me that the medical marijuana they have been using for years is better for them than all the patent medicines sold over the counter. I can see and hear the ads: “Blow dope for hope,” “avoid pills for your ills,” “smoke joints for your joints.” Or maybe  “eat hash brownies for your just desserts.”

So, on the first day that marijuana was legalized in Canada, I went into the garage, climbed the step-ladder, stood at the top, breathed deep, and came down again. I went back into the house and told my beloved: “There: I’ve just had my first legal high.” I was proud: high on top of a step-ladder and still legally, morally, virtually, spiritually clean.

Guess I don’t need strange smells hanging to my clothes. I can always smoke Gauloises or Disc Bleu if I need smelly breath and clothing, not that I have ever smoked either. I guess I will remain a rope-a-dope virgin … but I might yet be tempted by the miraculous possibilities inherent in hash brownies or peanut butterballs with an appropriate addition. Especially if the pain gets worse. And my doctor makes a strong recommendation for clemency.

Brexit 2

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So, I called Mrs. May, the British Prime Minister, this morning, in search of clarification and she very kindly agreed to send me the road map she had drawn up for Brexit. As you can see from the above photo of the road map, it is very simple: the truth of the matter is that in Brexit ‘the truth points the way’. So, just follow the arrows and you will arrive at a satisfactory solution that will please all parties.

Thank you so much for this road map, Mrs. May. It reminds of the RAC maps that led us through France to Spain by following one straight line that never deviated. I remember trying to follow that one straight line through Bordeaux one year, in the rush hour crowds that followed the end of a soccer match and a rugby match. Marvellous. I can’t remember how many times we got lost in the twisting turning narrow streets we encountered when we once took a false turning, away from the packed streets of revellers, while looking for our RAC booked hotel.

In the end we  picked up a street urchin and he drove with us for another half hour tour of the city before we realized that he too was ‘just taking us for a ride’, so to speak. In the end, we stopped outside a large, five star hotel, unbooked, and spent the night there. My my father and I were in the elevator, going upwards to the Nth floor. The elevator stopped and three large, husky, obviously foreign men walked in. They looked at my father in great surprise and one of them spoke to him.

“Tis the map of Ireland written all over your face,” he said in a thick Irish brogue. The other two nodded their agreement.

“Yes,” said my father in an even thicker Welsh accent that he had picked up working in the Rhondda Valley, “I am Irish, but I was born in England.”

Ah, road maps: they lead you anywhere and everywhere. You can always trust them. And they always turn out just right in the end. All you have to do is follow that one straight line for page after page and never deviate from it. Ask the RAC: they will tell you.

 

Brexit

 

What a mess! If anyone thinks that they actually do understand what is really happening, please enlighten me. Please, pretty please, with sugar on.

In my cartoon above, the road to hell is clearly paved with good intentions: but what are those intentions? To remove Britain from Europe under the donkey’s nasal bray that ‘the people once they have spoken may never again change their minds’? It would seem so. It would also seem that many are still speaking, and most of them at cross-purposes. I want to know what the conditions are that will  be applied after the British Exit from Europe? I haven’t seen them clearly set out nor have I been able to read the small print. The devil is in the detail, indeed, and the devil is waiting in the fiery furnace to the left at the bottom of the cartoon. 

Will the United Kingdom morph into the Once-United Kingdom? It certainly seems to be the Dis-United Kingdom at present. Once again the nationalist and separatist movements are waving their flags: Scotland for the Scots (and stay in Europe), a united Ireland with no borders, political or otherwise (and stay in Europe), Wales for the Welsh (and, according to Plaid Cymru, also stay in Europe).

I remember all too well the Quebec separation referendum here in Canada. The comedians called it Separation H (after a well-known medical application to a certain part of the anatomy). However, I saw the anguish and the hurt and the damage that the Quebec referendum brought to all Canadians and I would not wish that on anyone. Yet, the British people seem to be going through not the same, but a similar, deeply-felt existential anguish over Brexit. 

According to the proverb, in the kingdom of the blind, the one-eyed  man is king. So what far-sighted, one-eyed man or woman will rise to the top of the bonfire to sort out this mess? I crave enlightenment. I want reason to return to an emotional tangle of mashed advertisements, baffling propaganda, twisted tweets, and mingled myth and legend. 

Rex quondam, rexque futurus: perhaps King Arthur, the once and future king, will return with his knights of the round table to sort all of this out. One thing is certain: he’d better bring Merlin the Magician back with him, or nothing will get sorted, and that’s for sure.

Nota Bene: I no longer live in Great Britain and, as a result, I am neither for nor against Brexit. I would just like to understand what is happening and what the eventual results will be. Perhaps, as Blake once wrote

“I shall not cease from mortal strife, /
nor shall my sword sleep in my hand, /
till we have built Jerusalem, /
in England’s green and pleasant land.”

However, I notice that Blake didn’t mention Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales, nor did he offer us a timetable, nor did he say where the money and the [re-] construction material was coming from. Perhaps there is a glorious and wonderful future ahead for all of the people who live in Britain (no longer great and a kingdom no longer united)  … but, looking at the wild fires in California, and the hurricanes in Puerto Rico, and the flooding in the Carolinas, and the early snow outside my window, I somehow doubt it. I also doubt that, right now, smaller is better.

Snow Flies

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You hear it all the time: “we’ll do it before the snow flies,” let’s wait until the snow flies,” “when the snow flies.” Warning … Freudian Slip … I wrote “sow flies” and the spell check didn’t catch it. Maybe it was thinking “pigs on the wing”, pink pigs from Pink Floyd, or maybe pigs really do have wings. Why shouldn’t they? The hart does.

Anyway: I have spent a long time in Canada, more than half a century, much more than a teenager or a kid in kindergarten: horse flies, black flies, mosquitoes, hornets, green hornets, bud worm, butter flies, lard flies, yard flies, dragon flies, no-see-ums (felt but rarely seen), and many other types of flies, but I’ve never seen snow flies, though everybody talks about them. So  what do they look like? Alas, when I Googled them, I found nothing.

So, I imagined what they might look like and there, in the cartoon above, after close observation, you see a multiplicity of the Canadian snow flies I found in the garden during the first snowfall of winter. They are gorgeous, and only a scratch upon the surface. You’ll recognize many of them, of course, but a few may be new to you. But then, perhaps you’ve never thought about it: I know what a snow fly is, you say, and I’ve seen a no-see-um, and it’s only in Ontario that you die with the black fly playing an angel’s harp upon your ribs, and we live in the Maritimes, not Upper Canada.

Down here, in New Brunswick, it’s all dulse and dulcimer, and we know exactly what a snow fly is, don’t we? Well, make this an entry in Wikipedia, and everyone who follows this blog will know what a snow fly looks like, won’t they? But if we do nothing, nobody will know, and then when the snow flies, or when the snow flies hit the fan … nobody will know what’s happening … think about it!

Thinking Outside the Box

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Clichés, I love them.  Take one of our current Canadian educational clichés, for example: “We teach you to think outside the box.” I have met many teachers at various levels of education who tell this to me, and to their students.  Yet most of these teachers cannot themselves ‘think outside the box’. What they usually do, when teaching, is shut off the student’s original box by teach them to build a slightly larger one around it. They must now learn to think inside this new box in the way the teacher wants. Hence the cartoon above: We build bigger boxes and Building bigger boxes.

The central motif is, of course, the original ‘tiny’ box outside which the student must be ‘taught‘ to think. For ‘taught‘ substitute one of the following: persuaded, bullied, pressured, beaten, shamed, starved, embarrassed, … depending on the time and place, all of these words are sadly suitable and yes, in my learning career, I suffered at one time or another at the hands of teachers who used each of these methods, and others equally (or more) brutal, sometimes more than one at once.

What was inside that original box? Of course the contents vary with each individual, but creativity is in there, challenging authority is in there, self-belief is in there, a desire to ask endless questions, a childish wisdom to see the world as it is, not as the grown-ups say it is. I ask you, have they really ever grown up, have they ever escaped from their own hand-built boxes? Education: locking down the walls of that original box. Do away with creativity [not that way, this way!], free thinking [you mustn’t say things like that!], challenging  authority [cheeky, disobedient child!], asking questions [little children should be seen and not heard …. silence! … silence in class!] and finally, do away with self-belief and make the child dependent on the teacher [please, Sister Mary … please, Mother Theresa … please Father Maguire …] …

As the walls of the bigger boxes grow thicker and stronger, so it becomes more difficult to once again think as a child. Questions are answered by authority figures or on the internet with answers to FAQs and pre-packaged concepts. How do we regain our creativity? I assure you, we have never lost it. Where is it? Where is it hidden? In this world of folly and rush, of hustle, muscle, and busy bustle, so few of us have the time or can afford to take the time to sit and think, to undo those false walls that surround us, to find again the child-loving pleasure of thinking for ourselves, of discovering for ourselves, of being creative in the ways that we were so very, very long ago. Remember what Picasso said of his later paintings: ‘it took me a long time to relearn how to see the world as a child.’

Creativity: it is always with us. We must rediscover it. We must unwrap it from the tarpaulins that the system placed around it. We must dig it out from under the walls, the ruinous walls, with which the system surrounded us. It is still there, waiting for us to rediscover it. Believe. Roll up your sleeves. Dig deep inside yourself. And think for yourself. Then, when you have found that original box, open it, find exactly what is in it (the universal gifts to the new born), and become creative yet again. Only then will you have taught yourself (yourself, because others won’t teach you) to truly think outside the box, the multiple boxes, that the system and society designed to trap your creative spirit. Open the cage door: , release your creative spirit and let it soar to the skies.

Crow

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“What is this life, if full of care, / we have no time to stand and stare,” W. H. Davies wrote, expressing our need for solitude and silence. Sometimes we must just walk in the woods and be alone with our spirits. Too much excitement, too much Brexit, too much mid-terms, too much suspense, too much controversy, too much shallow thinking, too much knee-jerk reaction, too much emotion = too little time to be alone, to sit and think, to work things out for oneself … so, let the snow fall, let the drifts deepen, let the snowflakes accumulate.

There are so many things I want to do that I am not doing any of them. I must take some, make some, time to sit back and relax, I guess. The well is empty. It’s time to be on my own, to meditate, and to allow those inner springs to fill up and flow again. That may not take long. Woods, crows, cardinals, and the hushed whisper of falling snow will do the trick.

It’s been a long time since I last posted. I guess life gets in the way. A beautiful cardinal sat on my feeder this morning, but by the time I had found the camera, our family of crows had frightened him away. Here’s the last (of five) just arriving in the tree. He’s not as pretty as the cardinal, but he’s very stark against the falling snow, speckled too, in places. Vade mecum. I will be back.