Sunday, 27 December 2009

Dumbing, dumbing, dumber

I'm listening to dreamily Christmas music on the CD which came off the front of the Classics magazine. It's sheer loveliness.

What I have to write is hard sloggery.

Santa dropped into my life the book Dumbing Us Down by the sainted John Taylor Gatto, and I have to - yes, I just must - type some quotations from it. The book is like a long cool drink of common sense in the desert of despair that we have been wandering and wondering in for what seems like all of the now-dying year.

From whence to quote? Pick a page, any page. Lovely, lovely, difficult words shattering more of my illusions and making sure that the shards are kicked around until they are mere tiny pieces of my once-accepted ideas.

"Private time is absolutely essential if a private identity is going to develop, and private time is equally essential to the development of a code of private values, without which we aren't really individuals at all. Children and families need some relief from government surveillance and intimidation if original expressions belonging to them are to develop. Without these freedom has no meaning."

That's from page 69. Rising up now is all my belief that young people need time away from school and the doings of schooling. My own children told me many a time. "Mum," they said. "We need time to be relaxing, time to be practicing piano, time to be thinking, time to play..."

How disastrous a society are we constructing if we don't allow the young time to leap about in play, and to stare out of the window without being criticised or controlled or stopped.

Just to be themselves. Not the pretend selves that they have to put on like a stiff uniform every school morning. Just who they are like the old clothes that they don in preference to any others when they are lounging around hanging about not doing much.

I recall conversations from the school gate where parents told me proudly that little Ellery was tired out from ballet rehearsals the previous day (a Sunday) when she'd been called in at 11.00 and let out at 6.00, and then there was the drive back of an hour and a half.

Something's got to give. Something. And that something will be Ellery. Never alone Ellery. Always surrounded by a crowd of strangers all dressed up the same and screeching for attention.

No wonder teenagers like to hang about on street corners moodily staring at the strangers who left them no time to watch the stars in a state of wonder.

Biometrics can describe a doll. Biometrics can describe the outer man, but what's that man really? Who is that man? Does he have an ego, does he have six wives, nineteen children, was he once a monk then he woke up in the middle of Central Park and wanted to be out of his cell, is he a frustrated actor rehearsing the words of Hamlet in the empty theatre he has constructed in his mind? Does he love a woman? Is she interested? Does she know him or he, her? Have they had children together? What's his faith? Does he believe in something greater than him or is it all grab because this is all we get and you'd better get it now and get as much as you can because everyone will think more of you?

Who is he, beyond the mere appearance and retina and fingerprint?

Is he anyone who has had time and put effort into defining himself?

Does he care that his fingerprints are stored to be fished out by a complete stranger, a bureaucrat? Does he care that the bureaucrat will never know the private him? Just a bunch of lines and codes? Is that all he wants to be?

Time. Time. Time to develop. To think about self. To extend self. And question self. And become self.

Is life getting quicker? Is it racing? Is it all things and getting the things done and buying things and buying more things because we define our lives by things.

Time. Time. Time to build a self and refine a self and learn how to be a self.

I've known people who cannot be alone. Not for a minute. They can't bear it. They can't become themselves because they won't be alone to develop a self. So they swim in people and blast their ears out with noise to avoid the need to be.

And all that from a quotation on page 69.

1 comment:

  1. a stirring read babes , quite how i feel too .

    hope you've had time to just be ...

    d xx