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Sands in Seychelles Today

Thin Skin Burns

S. Hanks

“Nothing is more curious than the almost savage hostility that humor excites in those who lack it.” ~ George Saintsbury

There is a childhood adage dating back to the mid-1800s that goes, “Sticks and stones will break my bones, but words will never hurt me”. Meant to arm kids with a tool to fend off the nastiness and name-calling pervading schoolyards and neighborhoods where children gather to play and taunt each other, it can work quite well. After all, words are just ephemeral bits of sound waves that bounce off eardrums or squiggles on a page that register in the brain as having some meaning, whereas bits of wood and rock can draw blood and literally break bones.

The tendency these days, however, is to attach all sorts of potential for injury to utterances, an attitude which can leave recipients in blubbering heaps unable to either ignore comments or to fire back with a biting retort, the lack of both a lifetime handicap. Being thin-skinned does not allow much bounce and makes people mean in their attempts to prove themselves perpetually correct and superior in everything.

Certainly no one should ever attack another person’s physical, mental, emotional, familial or whatever personal attributes another may have — that’s just rude and low, and says more about the commenter than the target of their vitriol, This, however, is far from a perfect world, so would it not be helpful if those earmarked for verbal assault were taught to deflect disparaging remarks in innocuous ways?

This is where humor comes in handy. Pointing and laughing can ricochet an insult off the thick, humor-armed hide of a victim of denigration, then slam it smack dab into the sloping forehead of a venom-spewing jerk at high velocity and packing a punch not soon forgotten. An effective quip, a barb dipped in sarcasm, a snide aside … all have the potential to disarm a tormenter and leave them a sputtering puddle of mortification without having to do any more than send a few well-chosen sound waves or squiggles in their direction.

Unfortunately, the sense of humor is not evenly spread throughout our species; some people just don’t get it, either through a genetic deficiency or having suffered a sagacity excision somewhere along the line. This is especially true when the taunting bully is shored up with self-righteous indignation they feel conveys some sort of carte blanche giving their views priority and protection against embarrassing come-backs. For reasons beyond comprehension and often contrary to the effectiveness of any original proposed point, this sort almost always lacks a funny bone, appreciation of well-placed irony and satire, so reactions to jests and jibes tend to go the way of obnoxious at best, and downright loathsome in many cases.

Due to objectives having less to do with civil discourse carrying potential for influence, but more about self-aggrandizement, this sort also vigorously and vitriolically takes part in social media and, absent humor, resorts to rudeness, threats, toddler-like verbal foot stomping (sans the humanity-leveling comedy routine that comes with “I know you are, but what am I?”, and “Neener Neener Neener!”), often ALL CAPS and, in typically cowardly fashion, under a fake profile assumed to absolve all personal responsibility.

Designed to intimidate, this does sometimes work, but many who have developed a sense of humor, honed it to a fine point and maintain its edge with practice, find it hilarious.

After all, sticks and stones …

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Sands in Seychelles Today

Where’s the Clock Tower?

S. Hanks

Do you remember the days when town was a pleasant place to be? When a stroll through the streets offered a mix of restful respite and an exciting sense of potential adventure? When a fun day in Victoria was a regularly scheduled event anticipated with delight?

No?

Me, neither.

Before the big screen TV went up and began bombarding visitors with adverts, before the traffic patterns were altered by what had to be some schizophrenic crack addict compelled to add sort-of-one-way streets, squeeze in extra lanes and install traffic lights set to back up cars from Le Chantier to Anse Etoile, Victoria was a quaint, slow little town with streets that encouraged meandering and people content to meander.

Meandering was required in those days, as straight-ahead shopping was, for all intents and purposes, simply not possible. Finding required or desired items took time, quite a bit of luck, and no little local knowledge.

For example, if scrubbing against a concrete slab had worn the crotch out of every pair of knickers you owned (washing machines being rarer in those days), vital shopping info included the fact that the place that sold undergarments for ladies could be identified by a stack of car tyres on display at the door, and although moulouk and samosas were ubiquitous, cheese that came in anything other than a blue box required serious hunting that was most often unsuccessful.

Those in the know knew where to go, though, so the pace was easy and, aside from Saturday mornings in the market, the crowds were thin and friendly, unless, of course, some new or long-vanished item was suddenly on offer; occasions that could, and sometimes did, result in mayhem.

Today, however, Victoria is far different; all hustle and bustle with some hassle and wrestle involved in making one’s way down Market Street or joining a ridiculously long queue in some bank or office. Frustration builds as nerves fray and folks have other places they were supposed to be an hour ago.

One result of these changes has been an ever-growing outbreak of a syndrome that could be called, were it ever officially diagnosed, Town-Avoidance, the symptoms of which include fever-like sweats at the very thought of the Trois Oiseau roundabout, exhaustion resulting from lost sleep due to pre-planning possible routes and parking options, and interminable must-do lists mushrooming frighteningly as a consequence of putting off any trip to Victoria for as along as possible.

Sufferers hail from as near as Macabee and as far as Takamaka and range in age from just walking to sensibly intolerant of jostling, although there does seem to be some immunity for those between the ages of 12 and 20, especially during school holidays.

At this point there is neither treatment, nor cure for this affliction, so sufferers must either cope with the agony of town days or fall victim to depleted supplies, incomplete paperwork and rumors that the clock tower has been relocated.

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