Friday, October 6, 2023

Breathe, Grieve, Love, Repeat

We have very little direct influence over one another but we do affect one another in myriad ways that we often don't even notice.

I had a student once, about 15 years ago who I thought was a delight, as I did almost all my students. He was bright and funny and curious about history. He was also known to have significant gang involvement and may have killed someone by now or have been killed. Who knows. I can't barely remember anybody's name of the over 5,000 students I taught, so there's no looking him up. I likely had little impact on the general trajectory of his life, but I taught him a bit about the last century and solidified some writing skills. And maybe the fact that I warmly welcomed him into class on the rare times he showed up had a bit of an effect on him. I hope he's doing okay. 

About seven years ago I got into a big online argument about the meaning of a film, and it's was beautiful. We each had points and tried to persuade the other, and neither of us budged, and it got absolutely nowhere, but it was a delight to debate what we each saw in a work of art. Neither of us even considered name calling or threatening one another's life or getting all our buddies to destroy the other online. 

Remember those days?? It wasn't that long ago.

Because we can't always see how our actions will affect others in future, we have to take care with what we say and how we say it and watch for the direct effect on others. We have to be more careful online where we can't see one another's facial expression to check if they got that we were just joking or to notice the first sign that we're upsetting them. That concern with caring is waning -- I think largely because we don't get immediate facial feedback. But it's vital we get it back for the coming years. 

I believe we can feel something ominous in the air - besides all the wildfire smoke and Covid. It's not just masks and sex ed lessons fueling the antagonism. We feel it collectively, but we're not talking about it. Instead, we're choosing sides and aligning ourselves. 

I worry that we're preparing for battle. 

In the mid-1970s, Jane Goodall watched in horror as the chimpanzees she loved suddenly started attacking one another. They divided themselves into two groups, with some close friends split onto opposing team, and one group killed the chimps on the other side. Every single one. It took four years. It appeared completely unprovoked. There was plenty of food for everyone. 

There was a study done on it that concluded, 

"The two communities indeed split from one cohesive community, albeit one with incipient subgrouping. The degree of subgrouping in grooming and association networks increased sharply in 1971 and 1972, a period characterized by dominance struggle between three high-ranking males and unusually high male:female sex ratios."

There seemed to be some unwritten population number they knew of, some tipping point, something, that changed the way they looked at one another. It was just a few years of forming alliances before the deadly violence started. 

I see this alliance building with the anti-CRT group, which became the anti-mask group, which became the convoy group, which became the parental rights group, and it's all wrapped up in religion which is tricky for Canada. We really like to honour religious freedoms, sometimes even when they trample on equity rights. You won't find much about CRT or how to have a sex change in our school curriculum, but you will find this:

"Accommodations consistent with the board's religious accommodations guidelines must be made for students from various faith communities--for example, same-sex partnering for small-group activities may be required" (43). 

Anyone whose religion dictates that they avoid talking to someone of the opposite sex has to be helped to avoid interactions with half the class. Canada has a long history of bending over backwards to appease religious minorities going back to the Québec Act of 1774, crafted about a decade after the British took over this piece of land and tried to deny political participation rights to French Catholics, who were the majority at the time, and that didn't go over well at all. Instead of using force, they just changed their mind and gave them special rights, which are still lingering today despite our overt claims to secularism. 

I believe that nobody should be able to use religion to be exclusionary. Religion shouldn't be allowed to override any other human rights. But there it is.

And it's dangerous

eof of all things wrote this beautiful piece describing their current inner landscape, 

"I need to do laundry (I think the famine will worsen next year) and I should wash my hair (how long will we have water) and what do I want for dinner (is this the last year we can stock up on dry goods) and there goes an ambulance (is the ER functional anymore). 

I don't make future plans. I don't even pretend to make them for others. I work toward a future while holding the tension that we likely will not, leaving my body when someone tells me about their cruise for next year or 2025/2026. Looking at pictures of vacations (wondering if the water will take the island tomorrow). Seeing animal planet (wondering how long before they starve). Disney vacations (will someone see mouse ears in the rubble as they look for shelter from the heat). 

I think that's why they're so happy to let folks die of Covid and be homeless and starve now. They don't want to control huge groups of starving people. 

The guidebook for the apocalypse is this: as you are able, put one foot in front of the other each day, give what you can - if not money, give kindness. Do the next right thing until we die. This is all that we can do. Breathe, grieve, love repeat." 

We need to rise to the heights of our humanity and use our ability to reason and to plan longterm to help ease the suffering of one another until we can't anymore. That means masking to protect one another and reducing our impact on the environment as much as we can, along with checking in on neighbours and offering supportive words online. I'm hoping this noisy group currently setting up camp near Ottawa remains too small to start a civil war despite being supported by one high-ranking male and bankrolled (or scammed) by another. 

Right now, we're acting like naked apes out of control. 

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