Saturday, November 9, 2013

The Things We Don't Get Told

Maybe it's the reading material or what I've been watching on television lately. Maybe it's a visit to an unexpected museum or two. It's put me in a reflective frame of mind.

The three catalysts. JK Rowling's "The Casual Vacancy". The movie, "The Help" and an exhibition that I saw in Wellington about survivors of the Holocaust.

It got me thinking about what we are told and what we are not told.

I'll start with the Holocaust exhibition - a photographic and musical exhibit documenting survivors stories. Stories that spoke of hope, despair, courage and fortune. They talked of having their humanity stripped away, being treated like numbers, cattle - being treated as if they were nothing. Moving, powerful stuff.

"What passing bells for these that die as cattle?"

I spent an hour watching each of the stories presented on screen. Men and women in their seventies, eighties and nineties, telling of the horrors to which they and their families had been subjected.

All you can do is bear witness and hope you can do everything in your power to stop this happening ever again.

You wonder how people deny there ever was a holocaust. It was the second time I've felt complete shame in 24 hours. The first time happened a few hours before in the other museum in Wellington - they had an exhibition about asylum seekers in New Zealand. Stories of hope and compassion.

There are Holocaust deniers out there. Despite the deaths of six million people, people still are saying this didn't happen. How? In the face of all the evidence, there are people who are adamant that this didn't happen. Or don't with to have the facts discussed or published.

"Only the monstrous anger of the guns. 
Only the stuttering rifles' rapid rattle 
Can patter out their hasty orisons."

It's like they believe if you say nothing, it never happened.


Next, the book, "A Casual Vacancy" which I've been trying to read for a few months now - I'd get so far and have to put it down. I finally finished it. Great book. A book about small town life, bureaucracy and perceptions. A great read, probably made better by starting over and reading it properly.

A book about cause and effect, about actions and consequence. A book that takes in all manner of society, from the upper educated echelon to the gutter dwellers. Really well done in many ways.

I then turn to my facebook page and see a friend angry about the new government repealing the school kids bonus - money that most parents in low to middle income families use to pay for uniforms, books and everything else that kids need for modern schooling.

"No mockeries now for them; no prayers nor bells; 
Nor any voice of mourning save the choirs, –
The shrill, demented choirs of wailing shells; 
And bugles calling for them from sad shires."

One of the central characters in the book, the daughter of a drug-addled mother, who barely attends the privileged school her location allows her has none of the trappings of most of the other kids in the book - parents who have the income to send them to private schools, the music lessons, the school trips - even the clean uniforms. Another character provided some hope in this girl. He included her, helped her on her way, saw the benefit of spending time and money on this person who would otherwise get lost.

As a childless middle-income earner surely I probably should be angry about the amount spent on education. However - I'm not. Publicly educated, I went through university when it was free. The kids of today should have the same access to the education I had - including the music lessons, art classes, libraries and the like.

Unless you are privileged, it appears these classes and choices, like learning languages or an instrument aren't not an option, unless you pay extra. These classes - the lessons that teach you about humanity and beauty,or similarities and differences - they aren't there for everybody any more.

What candles may be held to speed them all? 
Not in the hands of boys but in their eyes 
Shall shine the holy glimmers of goodbyes. 
The pallor of girls' brows shall be their pall;

I so want to live in a smart country - a country that nurtures excellence and thought and innovation for everybody, not just the privileged, the moneyed and the fortunate.

And then I hear about the repealing of the school kids bonus, the stripping of the scientists from the CSIRO, the dismissing of the Climate Change Commission (as well as the Aging Population Commission and a few other "left wing" councils") and the lack of a science minister in our government and I feel very ashamed and disheartened.

But if you don't tell people about it, don't publish it, don't put it up for comment, who's going to complain or know about it?


Then comes to movie. "The Help". Based in Mississippi in the early 1960's, a movie based on the coloured "help" who raised the children of the privileged white folk. It's a wonderful film.

At one point, I found myself tearing up as Abiline, the maid, comforted her small charge who had been admonished unfairly by her mother.

Looking her straight in the eye, she tells the child, "You is kind. You is smart. You is important."

Being a person who's had major struggles with self-esteem, of course I'm going to get all snuffly. You tell a child something often enough they start to believe you.

Until a few years ago, my mantra was "You are fat, you are ugly and you are stupid."

Think about it. If every child was brought up to believe that they are kind and smart. I'd like to add in a few more adjectives with which to tell everybody from a young age. Things like "You are responsible for every aspect of your life. You are responsible for leaving the planet better than how you found it. You are compassionate. You are forward thinking. You are selfless.

What sort of world would live in if everybody was brought up to think these things?

What sort of country would we live in if our government thought like this?

The line of thought continued into this morning when I went for my monthly massage. The conversation while my calves were being pummeled turned to politics. This often happens during massages. Elke and I talk about all sorts of things. It started with the rescinding of the school kids bonus and went from there. Elke and her partner have a school-aged child.

"I hate how this new government wants to keep everybody ignorant and punish the poor."
"You and me both."

Elke, a long term permanent resident is looking into becoming a citizen. She's had the issue forced.

"I can't stand by and let this happen. Why isn't this country screaming at the hypocrisy and injustice? I don't know why people aren't screaming about all of these awful changes. Why aren't there demonstrations on a daily basis? "
"Neither can I."
"You know that this is how Hitler started. Keep them misinformed. Keep them ignorant. Make them angry. Create a class war."

Their flowers the tenderness of patient minds, 
And each slow dusk a drawing-down of blinds.

It's being able to gain access the things that we don't get told - feeling all of the options and knowing the truth.

Such a big call.

So for the moment, I will keep reminding myself, out loud, hoping that others hear and do the same.

I am kind.
I am smart.
I am important.
I am responsible for my words and actions.
I am compassionate.
I am responsible for leaving the world in a better state than how I found it.

Looking at these statements, it doesn't appear to be that hard.

Even if at present the people of this country are treated like mushrooms, kept in the dark and fed on excrement, we can be the best kind of fungi we can be.With a bit of nurturing, we can be magnificent.

(The poem, Anthem for Doomed Youth by Wilfred Owen seemed apt. The youth of a hundred years ago had something to fight for, an were proud to stand and be counted. Can the same be said of us today?)


Elephant's Child said...

You have not pushed, but jumped on so many of my buttons today.
My father was a German Jew. He refused to talk about the war, but the impact was evident. To the best of my knowledge his father died in one of the camps. I don't know about his siblings.
I am so ashamed of this Government, and of us. We are accepting too much. 'We will stop the boats', but won't tell you anything about it. You will just have to trust us. And we will make our savings by shafting the needy.
And my self talk is bad. I really, really need to work on it.
Thank you - powerful and thought provoking post today.

Jackie K said...

Great post - all very true.
Like many I'm ashamed of the way our governments have been dealing with asylum.
It's so, so important to show kids the good in themselves. You can do a lifetime of damage to a kid by not loving them enough.