Bloggers4Peace: Children

Kozo set the Bloggers4Peace challenge for April to focus on children.I will be honest my dears: I have struggled to write this post this month – because I can’t solve the problem. This is my fourth attempt and I have decided that time is running out so here it is. You see…

I know what I want to say about respect and dignity and broad horizons and love and hope.

I know I want to talk about children observing that the actions of adults are reflected in the words they speak; that my children see me walking the walk, or not; that those of us who claim to be for peace genuinely have to live our testimony to peace and justice and environmental awareness.

I know I want to quote helpful and inspiring people like the Dalai Lama on building world peace by teaching all children to meditate. (I think that’s right – if not, it should be.)

Oh my dears – I so want to say those things. But the hollow truth is that I don’t live up to those ideals, and all I can do is share my struggle. I have no answers to the difficult questions children ask about bullying and hitting and fighting and war. I can only say I don’t agree, and sometimes I can say why, but often I cannot even do that.

While the Offspringses were growing up we focused on peaceful actions and words, and attended Quaker meeting. We read about the awesome Ferdinand the Bull and avoided stories where violence was presented as a solution. We tried to live peace and sseriously explain war when they saw it on the news.

But school and TV and friends intervened. There’s a moment when your child leaves you to go to nursery or school and then returns a different person. Suddenly all the games are good guys vs bad guys and shooting and shouting; parental intervention is boring old news. I was glad of a classical education so that I could compare myself to Sisyphus. There were days it felt that bad.

Of course I don’t have to worry now. They have grown up and left home. Oh, who am I kidding? Of course I still worry; it’s in the job description!

My children do not appear to be psychopaths, so that is a good sign. They are articulate and rational, so that is a good sign. As parents we cling to such signs of hope.

I believe they have to discover their own truths, not just repeat mine, but I have made clear they can pursue any career with my blessing except a military one. It’s my line in the squelchy, North Yorkshire ground. So even my love appears conditional, although I have tried to explain I would still love them if they signed up, yet simultaneously be very, very disappointed. I’d have the kind of disappointed face you see on a small child who discovers Santa is not real and the puppy he thought he was getting for Christmas is actually a pair of socks knitted by Aunty Gertrude, who appears to think he is bilaterally asymmetric. Imagine that face. It would be mine if one of the Offspringses announced their new career in the machine of death. Honestly, they could even be an estate agent, I could cope with that.

So who am I to teach children peace? All I can do is admit it’s hard.

I’m just not sure where that gets us. Read these other posts for more constructive ideas!

Namaste.

Borrowers

cheers

EBL enjoys her pretend champagne

Yesterday I told you about how things were going with the Great Project. Well, in summary it all went live on schedule and by 17.20 I was settled in front of the television with a glass of pretend champagne and a sense of doom and futility as England decided that the best team to win the Six Nations was clearly the Welsh. As the pain of supporting a team so hopelessly erratic washed over me, I reflected that I would rather my project was successful and England not than the opposite, with all due respect to Stuart Lancaster. I’m sure he would say the reverse about me.  Admittedly I won’t rest completely easy until we get through Monday with real humans trying to break the system for a day.

However, now that the Great Project is over (or is it really? Conspiracies abound!), I find myself turning to thoughts of reintegrating with the rest of humanity.

I have my own pet projects of course: learning Anglo Saxon, getting back to my guitar, becoming Mistress of the Universe, one planet at a time, crushing the human detritus beneath my tentacles, and knitting. Always knitting.

It was the Anglo Saxon I was contemplating the most though, when a thought came slicing out of the dull, grey March sky and slapped me round the left ear. Anglo Saxon is mostly just English with different spelling and a bit of an accent. The next observation that tends to follow this is that all the common words, especially around labour and production of food, are A-S while the posh words around cooking and eating are French. Comparisons usually resort to Cow (A-S = Cu) and Beef (Fr. = Boeuf).

The use of foreign words in English is what makes it so interesting, to me anyway. Rara’s recent PromptForThePromptless on Schadenfreude was another example of the gay abandon with which English adopts and integrates words from other languages rather than coming up with a new word itself. I think it’s fabulous, very cosmopolitan, pragmatic and efficient. There are loads of these words, admittedly reflecting our colonial past as much as our open dictionary policy. So we have words such as bungalow and pyjamas from the Indian sub-continent, Schadenfreude as mentioned above, haute cuisine and nouveau riche, alcohol and algebra from Arabic and so on. These words are often called “borrowed” words.

And I thought: “Borrowed? Really? Really?

I mean…

It’s not like we’re going to give them back. It’s not like they’re shoved at the back of the shed along with Jim’s hedge trimmer and Jane’s camping stove that we borrowed that time because we thought we were going to have that big summer party with all the kids from Brownies staying for a sleepover in tents on the back lawn.

Do we expect M. Hollande to come knocking at the door of Number 10 asking Dave if he’s finished with the boeuf yet, because he’s got a few friends coming for supper and not a thing in the house to offer them. Dave might suggest he’ll hand to over in exchange for the “five o’clock” or even “le camping”, if Francois is going to be like that.

What if Dr. Manmohan Singh decided to take back all the bungalows next week? We already have a housing crisis here, and a crisis in care for the elderly, who tend to be disproportionately engaged in bungalow habitation. It would mean grannies on the streets and grandpas sleeping on park benches in all weathers. Madness, my dears, utter madness.

Certainly as a nation we are indelibly wedded to the enjoyment of Schadenfreude. Take away our joy in others’ misfortune and you take away our joy. Let’s face it, without it there is only so much soap-opera tragedy we can take seriously before we hear the Archangels sounding the trumpets for Judgement Day and the pits of Hell open beneath us. We are not psychologically equipped to handle joy for its own sake. This isn’t The Waltons, people, this is real life.

Let’s not even think about alcohol. We are a nation of drinkers. Any town centre high street at midnight makes that clear. And while uisge works north of the English border, and win is a good A-S word, along with beor and alu, I fear they all need a basis upon which to ferment. The withdrawal symptoms alone could destroy the NHS.

So here I sit, listening to the rain on the conservatory roof and wondering if we will ever see Spring sunshine, and wondering what to do without a Great Project, and hoping against hope that common sense will prevail and we can stop talking about “borrowed” words, acknowledge that we have pilfered them for good, that possession is nine-tenths of the law, and that after all we live in a global society. Really we have taken them as our own. I might not steal a car / handbag / television, (although I think the summer riots of 2011 may suggest otherwise for a percentage of the population) but I’m more than happy to copy and re-use a word or two. No one gets hurt. It’s a copy after all. Information wants to be free.

And that, my dears, in a nutshell, is why fighting media piracy is such a challenge. It all started when William invaded and murdered the rightful king.

Namaste.

Unique

We are all special, each in our own way. Some of us make the world a better place and some of us just cope with getting by. A handful of people contribute a net disbenefit, so to speak, but I am firm in my conviction that they are the tiny minority, even if they do occasionally seem to make the most noise.

Today there was some discussion of the child within, the unique person who can be seen emerging from the infant and growing into the adult, and latterly peeping out from the eyes of the elderly through their force of personality. We continue to feel much the same on the inside while our bodies start to ache and our brains become increasingly puzzled by the latest mobile phones.

My friend went on to propose that how we treat our children, by which she meant how society, as well as the actual parents or carers, treats its children, will create a secure child who feels loved or an insecure one who grows up with problems. I felt she was right. My own upbringing, while far from tragic, was also far from ideal and I am very insecure. The resulting chronic depression I live with is evidence in favour of my friend’s argument.

However, I decided to avoid that particular old chestnut today, and focus on the wonder that is a human being. This is probably because I watched my Cirque du Soleil DVD last night and am still in awe of what some people are able to persuade the body to accomplish. On the other hand I can touch my toes, so all is not lost.

Naturally, I cast my mind back to my youth in the green days of the last century. One text book I studied on Child Development had a poem by Aldous Huxley, which bizarrely I read the once and instantly memorised. My brain used to do that back then, just remember things for fun without me even asking it to do so.

“A million million spermatozoa,

All of them alive:

Out of their cataclysm but one poor Noah

Dare hope to survive.

And among that billion minus one

Might have chanced to be

Shakespeare, another Newton, a new Donne –

But the One was Me.”

The Fifth Philosopher’s Song

There is a final response verse which is less uplifting, but don’t worry about that here. The point is the same: we are each unique. Some of us (not you, obviously) may be uniquely appalling, but most of us aren’t. My tutor in Child Development would make that point, adding “Children grow up to function well in society, usually despite their parents rather than because of them.”

So here I am, and possibly here are you, and here are all the rest of us, getting by, each in our own way. We cannot mourn the possibilities that never were, but can only make best use of the ones we have. Where individually we have weaknesses, together we have strength.

Who needs another Shakespeare anyway? As he said himself, you can have too much of a good thing:

“If music be the food of love, play on; give me excess of it, that, surfeiting, the appetite may sicken and so die.”

Twelfth Night, Act 1, Scene 1

Namaste