Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Jane Goodall’

CCTV imageMy attention spans a couple of topics today I find related, although the tie might be a stretch for some.

Beginning with the recent spate of riots in the UK

There’s been no little finger pointing going on as London burns and sparks spread to other cities. As there seems little at the root of the “unrest” other than greed and boredom being acted out by some with no other agenda apparent, nothing less than a breakdown of society is cited as a major factor.

As my Yorkshire friend A.j. put it:

A few highly educated idiots got together and rewrote the book on parenting…and now we are reaping the results, nobody dared burn down the village before… This is the first of many. Kids have always pushed the boundaries to see what they can get away with, well now they know…

This was in response to an African proverb posted on Facebook that addressed the situation from an interesting angle:

If the young men are not initiated into the community, they will burn down the village – just to feel its warmth.

While some may consider the masked youths overusing their Zippos and grabbing everything they can marginalized, disenfranchised, others would argue the reverse; that they have been MAXinalized and franchised to within an inch of their lives, spoiled and pampered, steeped in excess with no requirement to contribute.

In trying to look from both sides, I have to admit to a problem with the first take. Of course there are issues of poverty, racial tensions, employment problems, the unequal distribution of wealth and goodies. Yep. Life is much harder for some than for others.

In a country where education and health care are free and food, clothing and shelter are provided with very little work required, endless bitching about how tough things are is disingenuous at best, and those who feel marginalized … and react violently to their plight … because they don’t have the very latest version of BlackBerry should be slapped.

The should-be-slapped contingent is well represented at the moment, as evidenced by the these charmers arrested in Manchester …

An 11-year-old girl, a woman with 96 previous convictions and the daughter of a successful businessman were among hundreds of defendants appearing before magistrates on Thursday in the wake of the recent riots and looting.

Add the ” … university graduate who had been pursuing a career in social work …” who boosted a TV, a ” … a 21-year-old law student … ” who trashed a restaurant …” and this brat …

On Wednesday undergraduate Laura Johnson, 19, was granted bail by magistrates in Bexley, south-east London, on five counts of burglary in connection with the theft of goods from stores in south London.

The former grammar school pupil achieved four A*s and nine As at GCSE and is the daughter of a successful businessman who owns a large detached farmhouse in Orpington, south-east London, according to reports.

and the idea presents that an opportunistic lack of sense and morals pops up pretty easily in the don’t give a shit minds of far too many.

But, then again, why wouldn’t it?

Giving a shit is something that must be learned, and to be learned it must be taught. If the reason for education is getting a high-paying job so one can buy all the goodies one could wish for, what’s to stop a university grad from the snatch and run? If the lack of such goodies is considered a personal failure, how can it matter where the plasma screen, the iPad or the BlueRay player came from? If one’s position in a community is determined by the amount of cool stuff one collects and respect is conveyed by accumulated property, what possible difference can it make if the wardrobe and gadgets were filched?

No more, of course, than it matters if a media tycoon lies and cheats or a powerful leader violates the human rights of his people.

In a ME, ME, ME world there’s no need for thoughts for the good of US, of the society, the community, but it’s not sustainable, not on this planet. It’s too small and there’s too many MEs, and, as we’ve seen, when that ME wants what another ME has things can get ugly.

The need for community is real, and it is strong. We’re not a solitary-living species, but programed through our DNA to live in societies. It seems, however, that we’re losing the knowledge of how to do that well, and it may be worth the time to rethink some of the methods of bonding as a community we’ve lost.

The initiation idea appeals, but does not mean some sort of group hug.

Initiation is a rite of passage ceremony marking entrance or acceptance into a group or society. It could also be a formal admission to adulthood in a community or one of its formal components.

A rite of passage … hm.

No mutilation, please, but humanity would not suffer from a training and testing ground between childhood and assuming the rights of an adult.

As Mircea Eliade put it when listing reasons and functions of initiation, they are …

“this real valuation of ritual death finally led to conquest of the fear of real death.”

“[initiation’s] function is to reveal the deep meaning of existence to the new generations and to help them assume the responsibility of being truly men and hence of participating in culture.”

“it reveals a world open to the trans-human, a world that, in our philosophical terminology, we should call transcendental.”

“to make [the initiand] open to spiritual values.”

In other words, it teaches the rules, the reasons for rules, and makes sure those who go through the process understand. If they don’t, they don’t get to play.

In most non-human primate societies, sub-adults … teenagers … are the most repressed, ignored and controlled group. Males that haven’t shown their worth don’t get sex and have the crap beaten out of them when they get out of line. If they’re mean to the little ones … which they rarely are knowing the consequences as they do … they’re in big trouble. Their mothers brook no shit, their fathers keep them in line and they learn to find their own food, make their own nests, form alliances, share, and generally prepare to be contributing members of their group.

They may be as big and strong as adults, but they’re not as smart, and until they learn what must be learned they are cut no slack at all.

Sounds sensible.

Which brings me to my second thought of the day … a meeting of the Committee on the Use of Chimpanzees in Biomedical and Behavioral Research happening now in D.C..

Spurned by a Congressional request last year, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) asked the IOM to form a committee that would evaluate the current and future need for federally funded research on chimpanzees – increasingly controversial in the public eye and legal in only one other country, Gabon. The committee held an introductory meeting in May, but got to the heart of the issues today, the first of the two-day meeting.

I have no doubt there will come a time when using chimps in research will be considered as much an abomination as the “studies” conducted on concentration camp inmates by the Nazis, and have hopes meetings like this will move that scenario forward.

“We wouldn’t be having this meeting if ethics wasn’t an issue,” said primate researcher Frans de Waal of Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, who detailed his behavioral research. Goodall enthusiastically described her field research and its benefits for the health of wild chimpanzees. But she does not support the use of chimpanzees held in labs, which she says are like prisons to them.

Like us, chimps have social living programed into their DNA. Like us, they’re meant to live in communities. Unlike us, they don’t run the show. Unlike us, their kids don’t foul the nest.

It will serve us well to remember that our community is our planet, that we share it with many others … and that everything isn’t about ME, ME, ME. We knew this once, but seem to have lost the wisdom somewhere between being part of something bigger and thinking life isn’t worth living without that new BlackBerry.

Read Full Post »

The strongest natures, when they are influenced, submit the most unreservedly; it is perhaps a sign of their strength.
~ Virginia Woolf

I came across this quote the other day and it’s been niggling at me ever since. Although I could rail against the idea of submission and would rarely put “strong nature” in the same thought, through the gestation process it has grown progressively more conspicuous in its sense.

It may be the weak we see as easily led down whatever primrose path might be laid at their feet, and there’s no doubt that happens. It takes only a glance toward the silly notions of religion and the fashion industry to note the queues forming in front of smoky mirrors, and the mass whiplash reaction to jingling keys is almost audible in many circles.

Like sheep to the slaughter, we’re accustomed to seeing the glazed-eyed caught in shiny headlights moving in whatever direction has been pointed, manipulated by the cheap, the easy, hardly bothering to question … rarely even forming a question … while assuming some version of free choice, perhaps even thoughtful consideration, when all the time it’s nothing more than simple manipulation that’s put them in line.

It happens en masse, as proven by the popularity of Britney Spears, muffin-top jeans on the overweight and the turnout at tent revivals (and their equivalent), but a one-by-one cherry-picked harvest happens, too, as evidenced by those in relationships so obviously made of nothing but the shifting sands of “Hey! Look over here!”.

This is, of course, not what Ms. Woolf had in mind.

Strong minds, when influenced and fully submitting can change the world. Although not all would agree, many would insist that those challenging the status quo in places like Egypt, Libya, Yemen and Syria might be strong natures influenced by circumstances into unreserved submission to a cause they find just.

It was strength that sent Jane Goodall to Tanzania forty-five years ago and her unreserved submitting to the importance of her work keeps her working today.

From Nelson Mandela to Martin Luther King, Jr. to Randy Shilts and other modern-day heroes, submission to a mission was nothing but a manifestation of great strength.

On a personal level, I’ve had some ponderings on my nature, which I consider strong, and the unreserved submissive stance I’ve taken from time to time. In my advocacy work it helps a great deal that I’ve “been influenced”, as when under attack for proposing what I know to be right I feel no need to qualify and can maintain focus for as long as it takes to get a point across.

The fact that I have paid for allowing myself to be duped into relationships, however, grates, and has had me questioning my strength … quite a bit lately … wondering if and why I can be so needy, so weak, that giving up bits of myself becomes something that feels okay.

It’s vital I acknowledge my vulnerability, step up and shake hands with the frail and insecure parts of me and go toe-to-toe with my deficiencies in dealing with loneliness, as there are lessons to be learned and still enough future left in the old girl to make avoiding any reruns a good idea, but in contemplating Virginia Woolf’s words I must also incorporate my strengths.

I’m choosing to see unreserved submission under the influence as a sign of just how strong I can be. I’m a woman of passions, and it takes balls to capitulate to those when presented with an option to run with them or away from them. Giving myself the freedom to surrender to feelings does feel braver than shutting down and living the rest of my days hunkered under a cloak self-administered anesthesia in a permanent state of numb even when the opposite ends up biting me on the ass and leaving bruises.

Yes, I face the paradox of me, but I’m a woman … strong/weak, ready to take care/needy for care of, confident/insecure, forgiving/unmercifully ruthless … and armed as such (I have two of them, thanks) I move through the days bolstered by strength and buffered by weaknesses.

Women are never stronger than when they arm themselves with their weakness. ~Marie de Vichy-Chamrond, Marquise du Deffand, Letters to Voltaire

Read Full Post »