Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Assimilation: Passing the Buck

This week in my community two young deer met their demise and were found gory by the side of the road. A community discussion ensued, as people debated what could have happened to them and who could or should be called to clean them up. Apparently this is normally a job for our municipal staff, as the roads are municipal land. But really? Really, can we not just clean up a couple of deer by ourselves? Yes of course it's a grisly job, and nobody wants to do it (and the longer they lay there waiting, the more grisly it becomes), but if those deer were near my house I would haul them into the woods, dig a hole and bury them. I've done this a few times over the years. If it weren't for the stench of them, I'd just leave them to feed the wildlife that depends on just such fortuitous but gruesome circumstances for food. Actually I like to think that if the deer died of something other than illness and I found it soon enough, I'd take it for food, myself! But this hasn't happened near my house.

CBC reports that in Canada, Stephen Harper is more popular among men, and Justin Trudeau is more popular among women. Oh! Justin! Be still my beating heart! My son came back from school, eagerly reporting that some of the students had met Justin Trudeau in the city and had their picture taken with him! (Swoon.) He thinks most kids at his school now "hope Justin wins". But does he know what Justin's policy direction is? Um. No. But it's probably good because he's nice. He would do nice things for us; better than Stephen Harper. Right? And my son says he would vote green anyway, but he doesn't think the Green Party leader (what is her name?) is doing very much.

As a lifetime Green supporter, I was seriously disturbed by this. Because he's right. Elizabeth May isn't towing the popularity line. She's not offering to do stuff for people; she's not out making headlines every day, vowing to support renewable energy or families. She knows she doesn't have that Hollywood flair that will get Harper and Trudeau their votes. CBC also reports about Stephen Harper's little-known electric guitar collection. Oooooh. Elizabeth May just wrote a book. She talked to people face-to-face in our little community. But she doesn't clean up our dead deer.

I'm busy trying to advertise for our local Nature Club's AGM, where hopefully we'll get people to renew their memberships, support the Federation of BC Naturalists, listen to a great speaker, and then go out inspired in their community to explore, engage with, and protect our wilderness. They have to be members to join us on outings, because their membership form and fee means that we're covered by insurance, in case they are injured. Everybody understands this. Everybody knows that it's not safe to run an organization without insurance; that even if they wouldn't personally sue us in case of an injury, their healthcare provider would. So we're all OK with the insurance situation. We know we need protection. Especially in the woods because, you know, it's a wilderness out there.

I've been assimilating these diverse thoughts: Why is it that we (the rhetorical 'we') are so unwilling to take responsibility for our own welfare; our own policy; our own dead deer? And this morning on the way home from dropping my son off for a field trip, with his bag full of gear carefully prescribed by the ski hill he's going to, and he telling me that he knows he doesn't need the extra pair of gloves or snow pants; rain pants are much better... it hit me: They're training him to seek instruction instead of figuring things out for himself. Of course, I do know why the ski hill sends out the gear-list: They're covering themselves in case of litigation, and furthermore, they want the kids to be comfortable. But if he gets wet and cold (he will), that will be a far better lesson to him.

This morning, as I drove home, got the mail, and decided not to put my seatbelt back on for the remaining two-minute drive home, I realized that our choice to unschool is and always has been more about the future than the present. Yes, I'm aware that an accident is just as likely to happen in that short bit of my journey as it was in the longer part, but I wanted to do something on my terms: Take a small risk and feel the consequences (here I am; no accident, thank goodness). Isn't that what all of us are trying to do from the moment we're born?

Drawing by Taliesin
Unschooling is our choice to allow that risk-taking to happen; to allow ourselves and our children to face our own consequences, and to learn to pick up our own dead deer, instead of passing the buck. (Ha ha ha - couldn't resist.) When we raise our children in what is usually a school or other rule-based environment where they rarely have an opportunity to truly need to look after themselves, their own environment, or their own future, we strip them of the knowledge, wisdom, or skill to do that, and they (like we) become dependent upon other people to look after them. They will look for the most relatable or personable leader instead of the one whose policy makes the most sense. They will look for the leader who promises the most goodies. They will want to live on cruise ships, in master-planned communities, and fantasy communities, where no part of their experience is truly self-determined. They will want to sit back and watch life go by like a reality TV show, where the content is managed, the big moments are sparkly and the sad moments are either sappy or hidden.

But PLO's! But grade-levels! But how will I know my child will survive adulthood?! I don't. But for some of us, it is more important to know that we give them the tools to survive it on their own terms, than that we give them a structure to keep safe. Artists have known this always. In school we even give our children such media to read, like A Wrinkle in Time, and 1984. But then we tell them to pick apart the books and describe them according to somebody else's plan, and the point - the truly terrifying message those books carry - is lost. And our children write book reports about the rise and fall of the plot line and the conclusion and the social ramifications of the books, and they are graded and sent off to the next lesson, and here we are: billions of people following the track, waiting to be handed the next lesson; the next processed food item, without very much compunction to get up and drive ourselves.

We complain that we are being taken advantage of by the one percent, by corporate interests; by our bosses and insurance agencies and the rats who eat our chicken feed. (Somebody must be responsible for having introduced rats to this island, after all...) We fear that we are unable to adequately raise our own children, to defend our freedom, to grow our own food, or to properly dispose of some dead deer. And we pass the buck, preferring to watch crazy people on TV take risks we only dream of. It's time to realize not only our potential but our great beauty and wisdom. Each and every one of us has the capacity to be a sparkling leader in some way; to reach into our dreams and follow our passions. Each of us has the responsibility to pick ourselves up after a stumble or even a really terrible fall, and to clean up our own backyards. We don't have to look for greatness in leadership. We can be great.

1 comment:

  1. This is very relevant at the moment, and I have been thinking along the same lines. Thank you for saying these things and sparking new thoughts.


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